Gamiila (gamiila) wrote,

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This year's book list (so far)

Got a letter saying my application for unemployment benefit has been approved, and I can look forward to receiving a monthly pay-out equal to 70% of my previous income over the next 6 months, after which it will be brought down to 60%. But weekends are not included in the calculations so the actual amount will in fact be less than that. Still, it means I won't have to worry about meeting my mortgage payments, while I'll just have to economise on everything else. I've already started on reducing my spending by cancelling all standing orders for donations (sorry, Red Cross/World Wildlife Fund/Brooks Hospital/Greenpeace, but I just can't afford to give money away now), shopping for groceries more sensibly, and walking the 2 miles into town instead of taking the bus. We'll see if it's made a difference by the end of next month, as this month I received my severance and vacation money, and I'm still waiting on news of a small but under the circumstances very welcome tax refund.

One thing I won't be able to economise on though, is books. Those, I can't do without, so this morning I walked into town and got two, which I hope I won't read in one sitting or I'll have to go and get some more by Friday. I suppose I could take out a public library card again (haven't had one since my schooldays), but I prefer owning books to borrowing them, so for now I'll just keep on buying. And of course, I won't be spending any money on shoes before I'm gainfully employed again, or that's the plan. Whether or not I'll stick to it, remains to be seen.

I'm slightly ahead on my reading this year, thanks to the events of four weeks ago. Here we are in week 21, and I'll be starting on my 25th book as soon as I'm done typing this.

01) Diana L. Paxton, Ravens of Avalon - a bad beginning to the new year, an immensely boring continuation of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon-saga, which I started to read in my late teens when I went through an Arthurian fiction phase. This volume deals with the story of Boudicca but it's even more of a fantasy than Manda Scott's trilogy, and not half as well-written. I usually enjoy historical novels set in ancient times, but to me, it does have to have historical plausability; and because I trained as an archaeologist, I can honestly say this lacks it completely.
02) Anita Shreve, Testimony - a novel about how easily careers and even lives can be destroyed by the mishandling of the sensitive issue of false accusations of sexual abuse in a school. I liked this a lot.
03) Norah Lofts, Crown of Aloes - a historical novel of the life and reign of Isabella of Castile, that I enjoyed reading.
04) Marguerite Duras, The Lover - a classic of French literature, apparently, which I found a little on the meh-side
05) Paul Auster, Travels in the Scriptorium - I also went through a magic-realistic phase during my schoolyears, which frankly, I've never really come out of. This book is up there among the best of the genre, I think.
06) Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall - another historical novel, charting the career of Thomas Cromwell, as he tries to find a solution to the King's Great Matter. Most enjoyable.
07) Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant - describes the friendship that comes into being when a lieutenant with an interest in astronomy gets sent to the penal colony in Australia and meets the native population there. I liked it.
08) Mary Beard, Pompeii. The Life of a Roman Town - 'Britain's best-known classicist' has published several books on Rome and Roman history, all of which I have read with great enjoyment. No wonder then, that I had to read this one too. It didn't disappoint, even if it didn't teach me anything new.
09) Alexandra Potter, Me and Mr. Darcy - fluff. Modern girl meets Mr. Darcy and finds out he's not so wonderful after all.
10) Peter Ackroyd, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein - purporting to be a sort of journal-cum-memoir of dr. Frankenstein in which he explains his motives for the creation and ultimate rejection of his monster. Very enjoyable read.
11) Graham Robb, The Discovery of France - sort of a cross between a history and a travelogue of France. Interesting, though a bit tedious.
12) Ben van Baalen, Irritaal - I won this as a prize in a competition at work. It's about jargon and common grammatical errors in contemporary Dutch that the author finds particularly irritating and seeks to eradicate through publishing this compendium. Amusing, though ultimately futile, I think.
13) Karen Slaughter, Martin Misunderstood - a free gift with the purchase of a dvd. A whodunnit, not my favourite genre, but an okay read.
14) Joost Zwagerman, Duel - another gift, this year's Boekenweekgeschenk - each year a different author gets asked to write a novella as a promotional gift for bookstores up and down the country. Two years ago, it was Salman Rushdie, e.g. Duel is about the director of a contemporary arts museum trying to save his reputation by covering up a fraud. Good book.
15) John Waller, A Time To Dance, A Time To Die. The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518 - a bargain basement buy. One of those 'this might be interesting'-purchases that I would most definitely not have paid full price for.
16) Tracy Chevalier, Remarkable Creatures - I've never yet read a Tracy Chevalier book that I didn't like.
17) Leanda De Lisle, The Sisters Who Would Be Queen. The Tragedy of Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey - a new study explaining what made the sisters such a political threat to the Tudor state. Very interesting.
18) John Banville, The Infinities - ultimately disappointing, but the premise sounded good. Nothing like as hilarious as Gods Behaving Badly, though.
19) Sheila Kohler, Becoming Jane Eyre: A Novel - a well-written account of the literary career of the Brontës, focussing on the life of Charlotte. I liked it.
20) Anne Brontë, Agnes Grey - bought on the recommendation almost of the previous author. Gives a good idea of what a governess did all day, but I really wish the protaganist wouldn't have been so bloody meek and righteous all the time. Though I know she was just conforming to the ruling conventions of the day, it made reading about it quite dull.
21) A.S. Byatt, Possession - this is more like it! I'd been wanting to read this for years (I always enjoy an A.S. Byatt book), but had never got around to it. Two literary sleuths try to unravel the past of two 19th-century poets while trying to stay one step ahead of the academic competition. Very good and enjoyable book, even if the verses got a bit long at times.
22) Margaret Drabble, The Red Queen - another version of the modern woman whose life gets touched by events that happened in another's life and time, in this case, an 18th-century consort of the Crown Prince of Korea. Highly recommended.
23) William Fiennes, The Music Room - a memoir, the author's account of his childhood where growing up in a castle with a brain-damaged older brother is nothing out of the ordinary. Very movingly and lovingly written.
24) D.C. Pierson, The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To - two teenaged boys let their imagination run riot and then find out it's all too real. Magic realism again, or sci-fi. Loved it.

The following two have just been added to list, to be read in the next few days:

25) Bee Rowlatt & May Witwit, Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad. The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship - apparently, the condensation of an e-mail exchange between an Englishwoman and an Iraqi woman lecturer extending over several years, in which no subject was taboo and that describes how the simplest daily chores became far-fetched objectives in the wake of the invasion - occasionally, I like to read these current affairs/women's studies books, esp. when they deal with the Middle East.
26) John Boyne, The House of Special Purpose - chosen because a) I liked his The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which I read last year, and b) it deals with the Romanovs and their massacre in the House of Special Purpose in Yekaterinburg, and I haven't read a novel based on that event before, I don't think.
Tags: books, unemployment

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