Monday, December 21, 2015

My books of 2015.

So, let me start by saying sorry. Sorry brain. Sorry for I have not read enough this year. Moving houses meant changing forms of transport to class, literally changing. 3 or 4 changes each morning rather than the normal 1 or 2. This meant it was harder to get a seat, and to stay concentrated on the book at hand. Of course, these are all just excuses, damn fine ones, but excuses none the less. So here the gangthe gang they all are in their glory, a colourful bunch indeed.

Last Orders: Graham Swift. 324 pages. Paperback.paperback coverpaperback cover

The story of long term friends and family members giving a post death duty to a friend who died of a long terminal disease. It was interesting to me as it was set in areas of England that I had spent some time in. Also, I often ponder about death and the impact it has on those around us. What do I want done to me after death? What is a good thing, what is a bad one? Should I care? It was interesting and showed how you could maybe even use your death to do things you couldn’t do in life. Pleasant enough.

Conversations in Bolzano: Sandor Marai. 294 pages. Hardcover.sleeve coversleeve cover

Ok, I won’t blame the author who originally wrote this in Hungarian, as I am sure it is hard to find a good creative Hungarian translator these days. I mean, people struggle to translate simple movie titles in English to Polish and vice-versa. Therefore, maybe it was the translator and not the book…. But if it was the writer, then he really was a challenge to read and I am surprised it was even translated in the first place…. Boring would be an understatement. In fact, I never even finished it, I couldn’t stay awake long enough.

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The Cloudspotter's Guide: Gavin Pretor-Pinney. 303 pages. Paperback.

This book really tricked me as I thought maybe it would actually be a story, as it starts with some nice poetry and colourful descriptions. The problem was it then turned into an actually practical book about clouds! Which I think I will come back to, but after Conversations in Bolzano I couldn’t bore myself again and had to move on at about a third of the way in.

Names for the Sea - Strangers in Iceland: Sarah Moss. 358 pages. Paperbackpaperback coverpaperback cover

The word Iceland (thanks, Asta Gudrun) in the title or description will almost always get me to read the book. After reading the wonderful Halldor Laxness and having some great friends from there, I really love the place. This book was the story of someone moving from the UK and taking up a life in Iceland. She and her family took the opportunity, thinking that it would be really quite simple. Alas, just because somewhere is rated as a great place to live doesn’t actually mean it is such. It was a really interesting read for me, as I have often pondered escaping the “real world” and heading to Iceland. I wanted to study volcanology for a long time just so that I could do that…. Somehow I realised my maths and physics weren’t up to it. But a great read for anyone who is/has been/or is planning to be an immigrant to somewhere a little different.

The Land That Never Was - Sir Macgregor and the Most Audacious Fraud in History: David Sinclair. 358 pages. Paperbackpaperback coverpaperback cover

A fabulous story that if it weren’t actually recorded in history you would never believe it true. A true Scottish trickster played the world to get rich, and the way he did it was really incredible. I love history now compared to High School, because this is the sort of history we should have been learning! Also good because of what he was selling and where and to whom. Not too heavy, not too light. The story was written just right.

London Under: Peter Ackroyd. 200 pages. Hardcover.sleeve coversleeve cover

Ever since I read Thames by Peter Ackroyd I have continued to follow him and read a few extra books of his. Again another historical novel based on the world that exists below London. I feel he could have gone deeper, yes, pun intended. Still, it was pleasant and something that I would tell anyone who likes London and a bit of history to get into. It had lots of things I would never have thought of and maybe that is why I liked it. Mind the gap.

The Fall of Troy: Peter Ackroyd. 215 pages. Hardcover.sleeve coversleeve cover

Just like London Under, this is another Peter Ackroyd story. This one, however, is fiction. It is really interesting how historians can learn to write a really solid story as they have been exposed to so many great moments in history, many of which were/would have been unbelievable. An interesting time in the world to read something like this. With ISIS blowing up all sorts of history in the Middle East, this kind of shows us how many in the region have seen it in the past.

Falling off the Edge - Globalisation, World Peace and Other Lies: Alex Perry. Paperback. 354 pages.paperback coverpaperback cover

Don't let this long and convoluted name fool you, this is a truly riveting piece of writing. Perry is an ex-Time writer and got access to some amazingly fascinating people and a lot of it before the current "explosion", yes, pun intended, of terrorism. Which makes the reading all that more relevant and applicable. I really didn't know what to think of this when I bought it, as I bought it purely because it was on sale and seemed a topic I had never really read about.

The Prize of All the Oceans: Glyn Williams. 264 pages. Hardcover.sleeve coversleeve cover

This year seems to be all about history rather than fiction. I do find it hard to find a fictional writer that I like. So here I returned to one of my favourite times, the great Exploring Era. When Europe was pillaging the world for all its riches natural, and enhanced. I do love a real story of Piracy and this one is certainly worth popping your peepers over. Pretty short, but well researched.

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Irish Journal, A Traveller's Portrait of Ireland: Heinrich Boll. Paperback. 127 pages.

Who ever would have thought that a German traveller in Ireland in the 60s would write something so amazingly miraculous. Of course this is a translated version, and wonderfully so, but I have heard from my good German source (Mr Pape) that it reads wonderfully in German as well. He writes in a way that is serious, funny, heart warming, factual and cold in its reality. The translator did a wonderful job to give the same feel, maybe it is lucky that much of German and English are shared in some form. If you love the whimsy that is Irish humour and character, and love to see this from an all new perspective, Heinrich is the man for you. Wrap your peepers around it.

Island of Fire: Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe. 222 pages. Hardcover.sleeve coversleeve cover

I returned to Iceland and my world of volcanoes here. A story about historical eruptions and the potential danger to all of us in the future as well. Did Iceland cause the French Revolution? Well, you’ll actually have to read this book to see if it was possible. Geology has a lot to answer for the world over, Iceland is responsible for lots of the pain…. apparently.

Cities for People: Jan Gehl. 270 pages. Hardcover.hardcoverhardcover

My birthday present and a truly fantastic book. I am BIG on town planning and cityscapes, this book is written by the famous Danish town planner who really made, helped make, Copenhagen one of, if not the, most liveable cities in the world. I think this book should be taught in schools, especially in Poland so that people can understand that even if the weather is cold and bad you can still have somewhere to live that is great. Love, love, love this combination of psychology, architecture, archaeology, and sociology. Get into city planning, people!

The Diary of a Nose: Jean-Claude Ellena. Hardcover. 150 pages.sleeve coversleeve cover

If you had said to me two years ago that I would read an abridged diary and enjoy it, I would laugh in your face. If you had said it would be the diary of a perfumer, then I’d have had you taken to a shrink. But having a wife who works with fragrance and who is able to open my narrow mind is a great thing. This is/was a great book to read, it isn’t going to teach you anything about how to make an award winning perfume, as that really is just up to trends and the market. But, the book will actually make you happy, genuinely happy. For a man who is considered one of the greats of the fragrance world, he is really humble, interesting and great with words. I rarely say this, but I will be returning to this book again, as there were some quotes that give you great insight into the world in here.

The White Tiger: Aravind Adiga. Paperback. 276 pages.paperback coverpaperback cover

I have never read much about India, and there is little I know about the society there. So this book was a great insight into some of the challenges that are faced by people from the lower castes. It is funny, charming and although quite a light read it still managed to give me good value for my time and I felt that I came away with something positive. Even though it can be no holds barred, it still felt fun and a little frivolous.

N.B all the photos apart from the first one are sourced from a google images search for the covers that I have.

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