Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 the year of books

So, following on from last years tradition, here are the books I have read in 2010. I would say this list is probably the best advertisement for travelling on public transport I could make. You get so much extra time, I can't understand how people can just listen to their ipod's really loud when they could enjoy the other worlds books create. I hadn't read in ages, I am guessing this is what happens when you can't get a daily paper as well! Also, if you read Grannies tend not to ask you as many questions.

Marcus Clarke - For the Term of His Natural Life

Easily the winner this year. I had never read this “Australian Classic” but it really was a great read. Starting out the tale of why/how many white Australians came to be. How a man would not let others beat him by staying proud and strong. For any Australian, a real must read. 9.5/10

Goscinny and Sempe – Nicholas
Goscinny and Sempe - Nicholas Again
Goscinny and Sempe - Nicholas and the Gang

Ok, I will review all of these together. These are simply fabulous books, adorable illustrations and seriously, I had never heard of them until I came to Poland where they are in the folklore of the world here. I adore them and recommend them to anyone who was once a kid or who has kids now (hence all of you). Do yourself a favour, don’t buy the American versions, only the English ones as they are far funnier translations. 8.5/10, each of them!

Giles Milton - Edward Trencom's Nose

Milton is probably my writer discovery of the year. He is more a historian than an author per se, but that just means he does excellent research. This was his first fiction publication and the topic of cheese is almost always going to attract me, add history, a family business and travel to it and you are on a massive winner in my books. 8.5/10

Rudyard Kipling - Captain Courageous

Having only read the Jungle Book when I was about 10 or so, I found this 100 year old book in a London book store for 1 pound! Hey, you can’t go wrong for that, I thought. It was nice to read a book with tea stains and dogged ears, the odd tear in a page and a big dent in the hard cover. It was also nice to read a well written novel from the 19th Century. I was surprised how gripped I was. I really didn’t want to put it down. 8.5/10

Tim Harford - The Logic of Life

A really great book. This is one for anyone who likes statistics and likes to question the world around them. I have to thank Darren Cheesman for giving me this when he visited. It made me think that economists could actually make interesting people! A great book that I quote from all the time, I am sure I will re-read this one and pull things out for my classes all the time. 8.5/10

Giles Milton - Nathaniel's Nutmeg

This sounds like a follow up to “Edward Trencom’s Nose” but you couldn’t be further from the truth. It is the story of the spice race, it is a historical book from accounts, diaries, company reports and anything else you can imagine to combine. It was really a super interesting thing that made my then trip to the Netherlands that much more interesting. If you like history and learning about who, how, why, when of world politics, war, food, royalty and adventure, then read this one tomorrow. With bells on! 8/10

Peter Mayle - A Good Year

This was a book I read after the movie, which normally is a silly thing to do. I actually did enjoy the movie with old Rusty in it, and also was pining to have a rich French living uncle, alas after checking my family tree, no such luck. But the book is a really lovely read and makes you dream of getting away from the rat race and grabbing life. 8/10

Anthony Wild - Black Gold: The Dark History of Coffee

A really great book, I started reading it years ago, and got distracted and never finished it. So I picked it up in Adelaide and re-read the start and finished it off. Really as a coffee drinker or a coffee hater, you should read this. Truly scary, funny, odd and interesting throughout. 8/10

Roald Dahl - Boy

Ok, I love Roald Dahl, but as a boy he was even funnier! Great combination of his letters home and diaries. Traditionally as a style of writing, I really don’t enjoy a diary/letters combination. But this was so well spaced out and covered some fabulous stories of his childhood, I giggled all the way. 8/10

Michael Sand - From Here You Can't See Paris

I am sure you can pick up a theme in many of these books, it was all about the food and the country. There is plenty of books on France, and cooking, and moving countries. This was a really interesting study by an American of all people in the South of France about how the poor towns and the folk of working classes in the region are doing it tough but still live their lives with great passion. The story of a restaurant that does wonderful things. Truly a gripping read for anyone thinking of moving to a foreign clime. 7.5/10

Joanne Harris – Chocolat

The book that made the film that made the big push on all high streets, and into our lives. Changing something that had been a sweet into an art form rather than simple block food. All the artisans came out of the woodwork then, or maybe it was just that we started to notice them….. either way, a really lovely book. As always, slightly more fun than the movie. 7.5/10

Joanne Harris - Gentlemen and Players

The first Joanne Harris I read and, funnily enough, it is one of her later stories. It was a really interesting “who done it” old school style of mystery. I think I had figured it out earlier but I wasn’t sure. Really an enjoyable read. 7/10

Arturo Perez-Reverte - Captain Alatriste

Quite an enthralling tale of honour, valour, braveness, and great sword fights. Maybe time to get out the Viggo Mortensen movie and see how it compares. Come to think of it, he is probably the perfect character as an individual to play the Captain. 7/10

Gordon Ramsey - Playing With Fire

I know, I know. Celebrity Chef come playboy, come wanker, writes a book. La Di Da, well it actually was interesting! You have to look through Gordo telling us how awesome he was and how hard he works/worked. But it was more important to learn that basically he would never have made it this far if it hadn’t been for his father in law, the best accountant and business manager he would have been able to find. Now, all I need to do is somehow find how to use my father in law to make me millions……. Oh well, either way, it actually was interesting apart from the bits about Gordo…. Haha. He won’t win a Pulitzer, but hey, who will!? 7/10

Stuart Macone - Pies and Prejudice

Stuey, the big Northern lad, had a beef. Luckily, it was in his pies. He used pies as a link to his life as a Northerner in the South. Quite an interesting book as luckily I have lived in the North and the South of England, and surprisingly, you can notice a world of difference in such a small country, and no, not just the accents. If you have been about England or are just interested in the internal culture, chuck it over the peepers. 7/10

Frances Mayes - Under the Tuscan Sun

The book has two, no, maybe three, things I really like. Food, renovation and Italy. Hey, what could go wrong? It is an award winner with many Oprah devotees around the world, right? Well, Frances has a great story, but kind of slips facts in at randomly chosen times. “We paid far too more money than we could afford, for the house” one minute then “We hired the best artisans to craft for us” the next. I did want to just punch her by the end of the book, as she did complain a lot about things she should have expected, but she was one of the first to go on the buy-old-and-renovate junket in Southern Europe. 6.5/10

Joanne Harris – Blackberry Wine

Mrs Harris has a rather consistent style throughout her books. This was the second book I read of hers. The style is nice, but I think after two I will give her a miss for a while. Here we had an interesting character based on her previous book, Chocolat. It was a nice read and made me think a little of me running away to France to start a little something. It helped that I read many books about moving to another country this year. Mostly France and Italy. 6.5/10

Peter Mayle - French Lessons

An interesting book about kitchens, language and life, all French-based of course. Peter Mayle obviously has a great affinity for France but this one didn’t get me dreaming as much, I did get hungry a lot though, reading it, as with “A Good Year”. Still a decent read for a foodie 6.5/10

E.V Cunningham - Alice

Another cheap buy from a London book shop. It was about a pound, I think. It was a classic 60’s style murder mystery sort of thing. A Hitchcock movie in a book. Really not a bad buy for just a random choice. 6.5/10

John Reader – Cities

I do love facts, and I do love history (now). So this book was a really interesting read about some of the earlier civilizations around the world. It gave me some great insight as to why cities started and what made them increase in size or decline to nothing and just archaeological ruins for someone with a PhD to buggar about in. A good pick up and put down book and a great conversation starter. 6.5/10

Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland

After so many years on this earth, I wondered “How have I not read this book?”. So I bought it in Australia at a book fair and, well, here it is. I had been a little tricked by the Disney movies about how is was more straight forward, that said I haven’t seen the latest adaption of it. I am sure that Mr Burton made it interesting, and all the advertising for it was part of the reason to buy it. Plus I want to have copies of all the classics with really great drawings like this one. The story is a little more off-the-wall than I remember from the cartoon. It is a little dark and a little scary. I am sure Mr Carroll was taking some sort of heavy hallucinogen whilst writing it. The story itself was ok, the pictures were great. 6.5/10

Tove Jansson - Moomin Summer Madness

A nice introduction to the Finnish world of mystery, that is the Moomins. My first ever experience with them. Tales of woe and happiness, all in one. 6.5/10

Tove Jansson - Tales From Moomin Valley

My second book, as Marty thought it was a good idea to learn more about the Moomins. I agreed and enjoyed every minute of it. Great stuff for the kiddies. 6.5/10

Gesine Bullock-Prado - Confessions of a Closet Master Baker

I guess seeing the name Bullock, you think, wow, just like the actress. Well done, Einstein, it is her sister. That said, the book starts off really interesting, but you do just seem to find her whining by the end of it. It passes due to good recipes 6/10

Robert Hughes - Barcelona the Great Enchantress

Robert Hughes, the most un-Australian of all ex-pats, writes here in really lovely flowing terms about the world of Barca. The Home of the Catalans. He basically tells us that he loves it the most in the world, then still lives in New York…. Ok, but he did give some nice new information about a place I also like. 6/10

Andrzej Stasiuk - White Raven

A story of some boys drifting about the Southern Highlands during the communist days. It was better than Fado and talked in detail about how it was growing up in those times. It didn’t have that much attention grabbingness, even though that isn’t a word. 6/10

Andrzej Stasiuk- Fado

This was a rather short and easy read but didn’t make any literary impact on my little brain. I can only remember it was pleasant and that I smiled while reading it. Hence, it shan’t score well 5.5/10

Thomas Kohnstamm - Do Travel Writers Go to Hell

If it wasn’t written by a massive pompous arse, this would have been a really good read. One I think a Mr Simon Pilkington, if he reads this, could relate to and write better. It had the usual cringe worthy backpacker stories and the laughs about idiotic tourists, yes, some Aussies amongst them, but this just sounded like a guy trying to tell the world he was god’s gift to women and that he got lucky because he “knew people”. Either way it wasn’t solely horrid nor was it filled with soul. 5.5/10

Multiple Writers - A House Somewhere - Tales of Life From Abroad

A Lonely Planet book that we bought just because we didn’t pay for it. If that makes sense. By getting three books we got one free when we ordered online and we chose this one as the top up book. And……. well…… it was ok. I thought being someone who has moved country now and again it would be interesting. I have been trying to figure out a way to get enough money to buy a house in Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Australia, and maybe Great Britain. All coming up blanks. This book just talks about some specific incidents as well as some larger concepts. But not groundbreaking and shaking. 5.5/10

Muriel Barbery - The Gourmet

Story of a gourmet critic who is dying and how he is seeking for meaning in his life after living such a tough existence as to eat all day and night in France’s finest! Passable. 5.5/10

John Fowles - The Ebony Towers

A collection of short stories. I didn’t even know it was when I first started reading it. Decent enough, gets you through your commute with some funny one liners and some varying subjects. 5.5/10

Antoine De Saint Exupery - Wind, Sand and Stars

I am very sorry to my darling wife. She got this book to read as it was one of her favourites growing up. I guess being an Airforce child and a massive plane lover, it is perfect for her. For me, I struggled to stay awake. Luckily, the book isn’t really that long. 4.5/10

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - Hugh Eats it All

Ok, I am the first to say I love Hugh. I think the River Cottage is basically my dream life. I would love to be able to have my own animals, grow random vegetables and conserve, preserve and reserve the best of everything. I love talk of hedgerow foods, and eating from the wild. But this book was just a collection of his articles and rants. Mostly not that interesting. Sorry, Hugh, but I love your more practical work! 4/10


Carmen Posadas - Little Indiscretions

Just couldn’t get into this one at all. Really not sure why, it may be the style, as subject matter should be interesting enough! 1/10

D.H Lawrence - Full Score

I started this one, got about 20 pages or so in and realised it was far too heavy for reading at 0600 in the morning on the metro! TBC/10

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