Speaking of which, did you know Robin of Sherwood will finally be released on DVD in the US on March 13th, 2007? Just thought I'd mention it.
Of course, looking back on it now, 2006 hasn't been totally devoid of fannish activity on my part: in March and June I saw Depeche Mode on their Playing the Angel Tour (and bought a bag I never use from their official merchandise stand); and in October I followed Common Rotation on their mini-tour of the UK again. All in the company of my very best LJ-friends, too -- what more could anyone wish for?
2006 has also been the Year of the mp3-Player for me: from the moment I acquired it in May till the moment it went and died on me 2 weeks ago, it's not only been my favourite toy, but the one thing that helped keep me sane and keep my spirits up when the daily commute would otherwise have worn me down to nothing. I sent it off to Creative last Friday and they've promised to send me a replacement within the next 10 days, so hopefully I won't have to go back to work with nothing but my book to keep me company on the trains and busses on the way there and back again.
Actually, probably as a direct result of having my Zen with me every day, I haven't read as much as I did before. A mere 27 books have been stored in my bookcase and in my brain this year (or 26, as there was one I found totally unreadable among them):
Isabel Allende Zorro
This novel mixes fact, fantasy and magical realism to explore the makings of...Zorro. Ideal action-packed beach reading, told in Allende’s characteristically brisk, dizzying style.
Alessandro Baricco Lands of Glass
From one of Italy's most brilliant and most inventive writers comes the story of two visionaries of the mid-nineteenth century. Mr Rail is a small-town entrepreneur and glass-maker, and Hector Horeau is the Parisian architect who commissions him to make the glass for the Crystal Palace. -- interesting premise, but I couldn't read it at all.
Julian Barnes A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
'Frequently brilliant, funny, thoughtful, iconoclastic, and a delight to read.' A woodworm stowaway aboard Noah's Ark gives his account of the voyage; a guest lecturer on board a cruiseship is faced with a dilemma when terrorists take over; 'The Wreck of the Medusa'
Alex Butterworth & Ray Laurence Pompeii. The Living City
This is a very well written, lively account of what life was like in the town of Pompeii. Based on historical facts and with the help of modern archeology, along with texts from classical Roman writers, the two authors have been able to create an excellent portrait of Roman life.
Lindsay Clarke The War at Troy
"The people who lived in those days were closer to gods than we are, and great deeds and marvels were commoner then, which is why the stories we have from them are nobler and richer than our own. So that those stories should not pass from the earth, I have decided to set down everything I know of the stories of the war at Troy -- of the way it began, of the way it was fought, and of the way in which it was ended."
Umberto Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Yambo, a sixty-ish rare book dealer who lives in Milan has suffered a loss of memory; not the kind of memory neurologists call 'semantic' (Yambo remembers all about Julius Caesar and can recite every poem he has ever read), but rather his 'autobiographical' memory: he no longer knows his own name, doesn't recognize his wife or his daughters, doesn't remember anything about his parents or his childhood. His wife, who is at his side as he slowly begins to recover, convinces him to return to his family home where he promptly retreats to the sprawling attic, cluttered with boxes of newspapers, comics, records, photo albums and adolescent diaries. There, he relives the story of his generation: Mussolini, Catholic education and guilt, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Cyrano de Bergerac, and tries to regain his own history.
Ellen Feldman The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank
On February 16, 1944, Anne Frank recorded in her diary that Peter, whom she at first disliked but eventually came to love, had confided to her that if he got out alive, he would reinvent himself entirely. This is the story of what might have happened if the boy in hiding survived to become a man.
Margaret George Helen of Troy
'With dramatic recreation and extensive research, George retells the story of Helen and those bloody, heroic times'
Robert Graves King Jesus
Published in 1946 - but never mentioned. Roots Christianity in Jewish and Hellenistic traditions. Like most of Graves' work, a monumental reconstruction that resonates with scholarship. Totally ignored by other biblical and cultural commentators. Never assimilated because he is too challenging, his knowledge of poetry and myth is too deep and encyclopaedic. Easy reading this ain't, especially while you're first trying to get into it, but it's hard to think of a more rewarding way to spend your time and intellectual effort. The research is astonishing, the hypothesis is brilliant and revelatory, the theology flawless and the narrative lucid and inspiring. Moreover despite Graves' atheism the novel remains utterly respectful of Jesus Christ.
Philippa Gregory The Constant Princess
Splendid and sumptuous historical novel from this internationally bestselling author, telling of the early life of Katherine of Aragon. We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story.
Robert Hicks The Widow of the South
An epic unrequited love story set against the madness of the American Civil War. Based on fact and meticulously researched.
Nick Hornby A Long Way Down
'Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block?' For disgraced TV presenter Martin Sharp the answer's pretty simple: he has, in his own words, pissed his life away'. And on New Year's Eve, he's going to end it all. But not, as it happens, alone. Because first single-mum Maureen, then eighteen-year-old Jess and lastly American rock-god JJ turn up and crash Martin's private party. They've stolen his idea, but brought their own reasons. Yet it's hard to jump when you've got an audience queuing impatiently behind you. A few heated words and some slices of cold pizza later, and these four strangers are suddenly allies. But is their unlikely friendship a good enough reason to carry on living?
Bettany Hughes Helen of Troy. Goddess, Princess, Whore
As soon as men began to write, they made Helen of Troy their subject; for close on three thousand years she has been both the embodiment of absolute female beauty and a reminder of the terrible power that beauty can wield. Because of her double marriage to the Greek King Menelaus and the Trojan Prince Paris, Helen was held responsible for an enduring enmity between East and West. For millennia she has been viewed as an exquisite agent of extermination. But, who was she?
Mineko Iwasaki Geisha of Gion
'I want you to know what it is really like to live the life of a geisha, a life filled with extraordinary professional demands and richly glorious rewards. It is a life in which I was a pre-eminent success; many say the best of my generation. And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave. It is a story that I have long wanted to tell. My name is Mineko.' For more than four decades, Mineko Iwasaki has lived within the confines of powerful but invisible constraints. Bound by an ancient, unwritten code - 'by the robes of tradition and the sanctity of our exclusive calling' - she and thousands of other women over the course of three centuries of Japanese history have shielded their extraordinary lives from public view. In Geisha of Gion, Mineko is the first Japanese geisha to shed light on the fascinating and arcane geisha tradition. Captivating and poignant, Mineko's book captures her earliest memories, beginning with her move to the geisha house at the tender age of four and her initiation into the profession that she would perfect. As we follow Mineko's gradual blossoming over the years from 'Little Princess' to the brightest of stars, we learn all about the intricate training and rigid education system by which girls become geishas, the specific duties and performances required of the women and the extraordinarily vast foundation of wealth upon which geisha culture rests. Filled with moments of great strength and delicate beauty, Geisha of Gion is a brave and luminous revelation.
Jeanne Kalogridis The Borgia Bride
A sumptuous historical novel of passion, betrayal, scheming and incest, set in the Vatican during the 15th century.
Robin Lane Fox The Classical World. An Epic History of Greece and Rome
Robin Lane Fox's spellbinding history spans almost a thousand years of change, from the foundation of the world's first democracy in Athens to the Roman Republic and the Empire under Hadrian. Bringing great figures such as Homer, Socrates, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Augustus and the first Christian martyrs to life, exploring freedom, justice and luxury, this wonderfully exciting tour brings the turbulent histories of Greece and Rome together in a masterly study.
Cynthia Lennon John
The most intimate portrait of John Lennon by his first wife Cynthia. John covers their life together, divorce, John's death, and the aftermath for both her and their son Julian.
Michelle Lovric The Remedy. A Novel of London & Venice
Two people meet in a crowded London theatre one night in 1785. They quickly become lovers - and slowly discover that neither is what he/she at first appeared to be.
John Man Attila the Hun. A Barbarian King and the Fall of Rome
The first popular biography of the great warlord, Attila the Hun.
Anchee Min Empress Orchid
To rescue her family from poverty and avoid marrying her slope-shouldered cousin, seventeen-year-old Orchid competes to be one of the Emperor's wives. When she is chosen as a lower-ranking concubine she enters the Forbidden City. But beneath its immaculate facade lie whispers of murders and ghosts, and the thousands of concubines will stoop to any lengths to bear the Emperor's son. Orchid bribes her way into the royal bed, and seduces the monarch, drawing the attention of dangerous foes. Little does she know that China will collapse around her, and that she will be its last Empress.
William Napier Attila
The dawn of the 5th century AD, and the Roman Empire totters on the edge of the abyss. Already divided into two, the Imperium is looking dangerously vulnerable to her European rivals. The huge barbarian tribes of the Vandals and Visigoths sense that their time is upon them. But, unbeknownst to all these great players, a new power is rising in the East.
Amos Oz Panther in the Basement
Set in the summer of 1947, this is a rites-of-passage novel about a lonely boy growing up in Jerusalem in the last years of British rule. From underground resistance he is drawn into friendship with the enemy, in the form of a British soldier to whom he teaches Hebrew in return for English lessons.
Lance Parkin Doctor Who: The Gallifrey Chronicles
The Doctor's home planet of Gallifrey has been destroyed. The Time Lords are dead, their TARDISes annihilated. The man responsible has been tracked down and lured to Earth in the year 2005, where there will be no escape. But Earth has its hands full - a mystery signal is being received from a radio telescope, there's a second moon in the sky, and a primordial alien menace has been unleashed. The stage is set for the ultimate confrontation - for justice to be done. The Doctor and his companions Fitz and Trix will meet their destiny. And this time, the Doctor isn't going to be able to save everyone. This is the last in the continuing series of original adventures of the Eighth Doctor.
(Penguin Epics) Sagas and Myths of the Northmen
When a dragon threatens the people of the north, only one man can destroy the fearsome beast. Elsewhere, a mighty leader gathers a court of champions, including a noble warrior under a terrible curse. The Earth's creation is described; tales of the gods and evil Frost Giants are related; and the dark days of Ragnarok foretold.
Tracy Quan Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl
Follows the life of an Upper East Side call girl who has been balancing her life, work, and relationships well, until she becomes engaged to her boyfriend, who has no idea what she really does for a living.
Julian Rathbone Kings of Albion
England, 1460: The War of the Roses. Rival factions - Lancastrians and Yorkists - are hacking each other to death in a conflict that only the English could name after a beautifully-scented flower. It's not an ideal climate for tourists - but three exotic travellers from the Far East are not here for pleasure. They've come to find a missing kinsman. The English, however, are truly strange.
Anne Rice Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt
In Israel, in the turbulent first century, a baby is born to a humble Jewish family - but to a great destiny. His is an uneasy childhood, as he begins to come to terms with his extraordinary powers, and the whispered mysteries surrounding his birth.