Monday, 29 September 2014

Why I keep Dreaming that I'm in the Tour de France!

In case you missed it I went to see the Tour de France this summer:

EG loved it!

So what better book to read than Le Tour by Geoffrey Wheatcroft. This book was first published in 2003 but it was updated for the 2013 Tour - so a good choice I thought. The only drawback is that I keep dreaming about the Tour de France, sometimes I'm meant to be in it but am late, other times I'm just watching. Fine, but stressful if you're late because you are being chased by an Egyptian statute that came to life when you broke into an Egyptian tomb.

Anyway in Le Tour I have reached 1935. Only a few more years to go until I see some names that I recognise. You may have seen that this isn't the only cycling book that I'm reading. What I am hoping this book will do is to help me understand how cycling became the sport that it was when David Millar turned pro. Between us EG and I have collected a number of books about Lance Armstrong and the doping scandal surrounding him. I don't want to start on reading them until I have finished this book and have a better idea of how the sport developed.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

When a Hardback Really is a Hardback

Another book that I have been reading is The Prince of Thieves by Alexander Dumas (it seems to be Dumas week!) At only 126 pages I thought this would be a quick read, but several months on I am only just over half way through. This is because the publishers went for a column layout for each page. Oh and really small text. So I reckon if this was a normal book with normal layout it would be twice the size. Thus I feel justified in having taken so long with it.

When I first got the book the first two things that I noticed were the interesting picture on the front cover and the thickness of the cover. It is the thickness of a board book that you would buy for a baby.

So as anyone would do with a book I flipped it over to read the blurb. But there was no blurb. Instead an ad for lifebuoy soap, which I've just found out still exists.

Anyway I shall continue to work my way through this odd book. The storyline of the book is also interesting and definitely not what I was expecting, but that is a story for another post.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Who is Madame Giovanni?

I've been trying to read The Journal of Madame Giovanni by Alexandre Dumas. It is a travel journal of a French lady who goes with her husband to New Zealand and from there to various other places. Travel writing is not my cup of tea on a normal day, but I love Dumas so much that I was willing to give it a try.

A brilliant front cover!
As I have read on I cannot help but wonder who Madame Giovanni is. The account that Dumas gives has rings true of being not just fiction but reality. So I am wondering if Madame Giovanni was a real person, maybe with a different name.

Having pondered this for some time, it occurred to me that there might be a note or something in the book that would tell me if Madame Giovanni is real. And lo there was. A little note in the front of the book tells me that it is a record of her adventures and that she has changed her name to avoid being recognised.

So now I can continue reading, no longer plagued by thoughts of who Madame Giovanni might be.

If only I had thought to check the front of the book sooner...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

What League?

For a while now I have been reading A Life's Ambition by Alexandre Dumas. This has been fun, and very easy to read, even if I am worried that my copy is about to fall to pieces! It hasn't fallen apart yet and I hold out hope. The main character M. Gustave, an aspiring actor, travels around a lot - often not by choice. I have no problem with the travelling, but I do have a problem with his travelling in leagues.

Until recently (this last week) I did not know how long a league was. It's very difficult to sympathise with a character who has to walk eight leagues or so if you don't how far that is. However, thanks to my cunning idea of reading Les Mis I have discovered that a league is just over three miles.

Hooray! With this knowledge I can read on with peace of mind. For those of you out there that have also been wondering how far a league is, I bet you are relieved to have finally found out. That is if you didn't do the sensible thing in the first place and google it, rather than waiting for the slight possibility that another book might explain it for you. Or you might not care how long a league is - in which case you can carry on with life uninterrupted by this news.

Monday, 22 September 2014

More Mountains to Climb

Announcing a preview of a challenge to come in 2015!

For my birthday this year EG bought me a book called 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs or something like that. Well next year we are thinking that we may try and do some of those climbs (probably not all of them though - that would be excessive).

I am defiantly more excited about this than EG. Training has begun on the hill outside our house. Improvement is going to be needed before we tackle the challenge. 

Oh forgot to say, we intend to eat coffee and cake with each climb - probably after the climb in order to avoid seeing the cake again.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

What you get when you mix books with cycling

A book about cycling that is what you get. In case anyone has forgotten, EG and I went to see the Tour de France this summer:

Apart from the excitement of seeing Mark Cavendish (he is in the pic to the left) and of course Froome we got excited about seeing some weird stuff too:

A car in the shape of a clock. Why? Who thought that that was a good idea?

I've been reliving my Tour de France memories as I have been watching the Vuelta a Espana. I've also been reading David Miller's autobiography Racing Through the Dark. He wasn't racing in the Tour de France, but the Vuelta was his final Grand Tour before he retires. At the end of the final stage's time trial he was very emotional, understandably. I'm enjoying reading his autobiography, and although I am glad that he came back to the world of cycling after his drugs ban, I am sad that he is now going to retire.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

It would be a Crime...

I've been reading The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (about half way through it) and as my first experience of crime fiction it has been a good introduction. However, it will be a tough act to follow. Galbraith aka J K Rowling is planning the Cormoran Strike detective novels to be a seven book series. The second one The Silkworm, is already out. Thankfully I have it lined up for when I finish the first one, thanks to a loan from a friend.

I've never read the Harry Potter novels, and they don't appeal to me enough for me to ever read them. So I have no idea how the writing style in the Cormoran Stike novels compares to that in the Harry Potter books. I suppose if you want to know that you will have to read them both for yourself.

One of the reasons I've never read crime fiction is because I was worried that they would not measure up to what I thought of as a good read. Well, I got that one wrong. But I have taken reading this one slow because I do have that small fear in the back of my mind that I will be disappointed.

The second half won't take me as long to read because there will come a point when I just want to know who did it. Have you read it? What did you think? Don't spoil the ending though.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The doorstop problem

Well it's a problem for EG. I don't see it as a problem. I have all the books that I'm reading stacked up by the side of the sofa, they reach the top and I can use the stack as a shelf. An actual sofa shelf. Brilliant. EG says that if I have to read multiple books at once I could at least avoid reading books the size of doorstops. She could have a point - she is way ahead with the reading challenge.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Sofa Shelf

I have one new book on the shelf this week - trying to pace myself!

The Cross of Christ - John Stott

I've started it and got about three chapters in. The chapters that I have read have been about the centrality of the cross to Christianity, why Christ died and who was responsible for His death. It is a bit of a doorstop, but so far more readable than I first thought that it would be. Anyway should be a quicker read than Les Mis!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

What's on the Shelf?

A Book of Narrative Verse - compiled by V. H. Collins

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

Racing Through the Dark - The Fall and Rise of David Millar

A Life's Ambition - Alexandre Dumas

The Journal of Madame Giovanni - Alexandre Dumas

The Prince of Thieves - Alexandre Dumas

Le Tour - Geoffrey Wheatcroft

On Looking - Alexandra Horowitz

Time Warped - Claudia Hammond

The Neapolitan Lovers - Alexandre Dumas

How to find Fulfilling Work - Roman Krznaric

Intuition Pumps and Other Think Tools - Daniel C. Dennett

Mastermind - Maria Konnikova

How Children Succeed - Paul Tough

Thinking - edited by John Brockman

Manage Your Day-to Day - edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

Give and Take - Adam Grant

Possession - A. S. Byatt

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Why I don't like poetry but enjoyed the Rime of the Ancient Mariner

If you have been following my progress through A Book of Narrative Verse you will know that I have been finding it hard work. You will also know that I am not a fan of poetry.

Why? I have no idea. It may be because I am unwilling, or too lazy to work out and fully appreciate what the poem means. I persist with it because I don't want to miss out on something beautiful.

This morning that persistence paid off. I read the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. My Dad likes this poem and when I was growing up he would quote lines from it. When he quoted them it sounded like those words reverberated through time. I think at some point he studied the poem.

I also know a little bit about Coleridge. I think he used to turn up at Wordsworth's house to indulge his opium habit. Something his wife didn't appreciate, hence why he didn't do it at home.

Anyway when I came to read it this morning I found that I could understand it and that I enjoyed it. In my mind I was all at sea with the Ancient Mariner and the Albatross! Maybe I need to know something about the poem and the poet before I try reading poetry.

Friday, 12 September 2014

An extension...

EG and I were supposed to bring our book challenge to an end at the end of September. However, neither of us are going to achieve our targets. So, our new plan is to give ourselves until the end of the year. EG has read 37 of 64 and is probably more likely to reach her target than I am! I have only read 27 of 66. In the new year we will try some new challenges. Will let you know what they are soon...

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Top Ten

I got nominated on Facebook to do this:

“Pick 10 books that have impacted your life. Don't take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the 'right' books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends and include me so I can see your list." 

So I thought that I would put what I wrote on here as well as on facebook:

1. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy - because when I read it I had no idea about Russian literature and I loved it, although I failed to read it in under two weeks as I had planned.

2. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote - because in a weird way it is compelling and has stuck with me ever since I first read it in 2009. 

3. North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell - because both the book and the film make me homesick.

4. The Screwtape Letters - C. S. Lewis - because I think it is pure genius. Well done Mr Lewis. 

5. Thinking for a Change - John C. Maxwell - because it was given to me when I was 15 and I still remember much of it. It is probably responsible for my lists, sorry Em! 

6. The Black Tulip - Alexandre Dumas - because what happens in this book is ridiculous and could never happen in real life but Dumas makes me believe that it is real.

7. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins - because I thought that I would hate this book and I ended up not being able to put it down.

8. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - because my mum made me read it when I was twelve and it opened up a new world of reading for me. I'm sorry now that I was so reluctant to try it.

9. Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks - because it was different to what I normally read and I enjoyed it more than I thought. 

10. Beau Geste - P. C. Wren - because this is the book that I read after A Tale of Two Cities and it was easier to read! 

Comment below and let me know what would be on your list, even if it is just your number one.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sofa Spotlight - Sweet Poison, David Gillespie

What's it about?

This is one about sugar, and why it might not be good for us. The theory in this book is that it is a diet high in sugar that is responsible for making people fat, rather than a diet that is high in fat. Although I'm not convinced by everything in this book, Gillespie has done his research and his theory is worth taking into consideration. He splits the book into two parts. The first is about why sugar is so bad for you, and the second is what you can do about it. As well as discussing the research into sugar, Gillespie also looks into how sugar substitutes came into being.

What was good?

Gillespie provides another viewpoint on weight loss diets that focus on low fat intake. Not only is there evidence for sugar being responsible for obesity on the rise, but he also looks at the research that was used to promote low fat diets. Although I'm not sure about a couple of his ideas, it was worth reading because I had no idea how much sugar is in food and how much I eat without knowing it. It has put me off sugar, and also sugar substitutes. Just not worth the problems that they cause.

What was bad?

Even though Gillespie did a good job in making the science/biology parts of this book easy to understand, there were some parts that were technical information heavy. Having said that, I think those parts were needed, and it was worth working through them.

Who is for?

I read this because I discovered, thanks to EG, that I was consuming over a pound of a sugar a week by what I was drinking. This is the book that I chose to try and work out what I had done to myself, and why there was so much sugar in the stuff I was buying. If you have a similar interest then this book is for you, but I think it would be good to read even if you don't have that interest. It can't hurt to think about what you're eating, or in my case, drinking.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sofa Spotlight - Basic Christianity, John Stott

What's it about?

This is a well titled book. It has four parts and eleven chapters in all. The four parts cover Who Christ Is, What We Need, What Christ Has Done and How to Respond. Stott looks at what the Bible has to say about what it means to be a follower of Christ. He explains why Jesus had to die on the cross, and why the evidence for the resurrection stands up to scrutiny. This isn't a book that you can just read, absorb and move on. It is not possible to leave without making some sort of decision about Jesus, even if it isn't an obvious choice.

What was good?

It isn't a hard book to read. I've been reading on the train and I've had no problem breaking off and picking up again. With only 182 pages it won't take long to read (eleven days if you take a chapter a day). If you do read it quick I would try and make some time for processing what you're reading, it isn't a light subject.

What was bad? 

Not much... I wasn't that keen on the cover...

Who is for?

For anyone who is curious about what Christianity is about, or Christians who want a reminder.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Diner Time

Last weekend not much reading happened because I was eating this:

It's a hard life. This is where we went:

I recommend a visit.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sofa Shelf

Basic Christianity - John Stott

This is the 50th anniversary edition of this book, which was first published in 1958. Like the title says this is a book about the basics of Christianity, the key subjects that help us to understand what Christianity is about. It is less than 200 pages long so I don't think that it will take me long to read it, but I hope to get a lot out of it.

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Reading this because, well it's there. I haven't read a beast of a book for a long time so I shall relish the challenge. I've seen part of the film, I fell asleep half way through, lets hope the book is able to keep me awake! Heard mixed opinions on this book, will have to read it to see. Maybe I will have finished by Christmas! 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Reading on the Shelf

A Book of Narrative Verse - compiled by V. H. Collins

I just don't like poetry. I am persisting with it, but it is hard work and I can only manage a little bit at a time. It seems that I can't even manage an entire poem in one sitting, although I did make it through Thomas Parnell's The Hermit in one go.

Mark's of the Messenger - J. Mack Stiles

Finished this one, this is what I thought.

Tom Brown's Schooldays - Thomas Hughes

Finished this one, this is what I thought.

Manage Your Day-to Day - edited by Jocelyn K. Glei

Getting through this one at a fair speed. Although a lot of it isn't new information there are some things in that I hadn't thought of, so on the whole it is proving a useful read.

Possession - A. S. Byatt

So far so good. I've heard many bad reviews. EG says she gave up on it when she tried to read it, but I am determined to get through. I'm about 200 pages in, and the only bits I don't like are when there are lots of letters from the poets to each other. I find them hard work to read. But other than that ok so far.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Book of the Month - August '14

It doesn't seem to have been a long month, but out of the books that I have read this month No Guts No Glory is the book that is book of the month. I am reading a few books that are compilations and this was the first of the current phase.

Even though I'm not involved in youth or children's ministry this book was worth reading. Unless you're involved in something it is hard to know what it is like or what has to happen to make it work. This book has a double positive in that it is good if you are involved or thinking about getting involved with youth work, but also if you just want to know what the thinking behind the ministry is. Having read this book I have a lot more respect for people who work with children and youth.

There is more about what I thought about this book and why you should read it here.