Friday, 31 October 2014

The Sofa Shelf

There is a new book on the shelf this week:

Having only read one page I can say very little about it yet. All the same it has joined the other books on the shelf and at some point will get my attention. Of late my attention has been taken by the heavy smell of menthol as EG has fully become the bug ridden snuffle monster! Hopefully this weekend will see her return to health, and me finishing some of the books that I have started - there is hope!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

The Rise of the Bug Ridden Snuffle Monster

Or how Jane Austen cured my cold.

I enjoyed my extra hour in bed this weekend by waking up at three in the morning with a sore throat. It has been a case of me sounding worse than I feel, but it has meant that I have had all the annoying stuff that comes with having a cold. Bleugh. So Les Miserables was the only suitable thing to read because I did feel miserable (granted probably not as miserable as the characters in this book who have so far spent most of their lives in proverty). EG kindly named me the bug ridden snuffle monster.

So having snuffled my way through work on Monday, I settled down for fifteen minutes of reading Les Miserables only to be interrupted by EG who decided that we should watch Air Crash Investigators, and I have to confess that because of where I am up to in Les Miserables this was the most interesting option of the two. Also one of the pilots had a cold, and at that moment I could empathise.

Having watched half of the programme, I went to spend the rest of the evening watching Bones. Which is brilliant, although my friend and I always make the mistake of sitting down to eat just as they find the body and thus we eat less because we feel so sick. Due to the increasing amount of snuffling that I was producing we didn't watch as much as normal, but it did make me feel better. Bones always makes me feel better, but in this case it could have been the half bar of chocolate that I managed to consume.

Last night the snuffle monster began to retreat, and I enjoyed reading a bit of The Real Jane Austen. So at the moment of writing I think it must be Jane Austen that helped cure my cold. Although it has to be said that the title of bug ridden snuffle monster has now been transferred to EG.

Looking back at the weekend I am disappointed that the snuffle monster stole some reading time, but I did still manage to finish A Book of Narrative Verse, so not all was lost.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

What's on the Shelf?

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 Thinking 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

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

The Real Jane Austen - Paula Byrne

Saturday, 25 October 2014

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

At last! I have been reading this book since March and it has been a drag. Just to give you an idea of my pain, have a glance at the list below that I have had to wade through (I've stared the ones that I liked):

The Nonne Preestes Tale - Geoffrey Chaucer
The Pardoners Tale - Geoffrey Chaucer

I don't know who wrote these:
King John and the Abbot of Canterbury
Sir Patrick Spens
Thomas the Rhymer
Edom o'Gordon
Young John
Jock o' the Side
Edward, Edward
Mary Ambree
The Battle of Otterburn

The Cave of Despair - Edmund Spenser
Sin and Death - John Milton
Cymon and Iphigenia - John Dryden
The Hermit - Thomas Parnell
The Rape of the Lock - Alexander Pope
*John Gilpin - William Cowper
Peter Grimes - George Crabbe
Tom o'Shanter - Robert Burns
*Michael - William Wordsworth
Flodden - Sir Walter Scott
*The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Prisoner of Chillon - Lord Byron
The Eve of St Agnes - John Keats
The Keeping of the Bridge - Lord Macaulay
Maud - Lord Tennyson
*Morte d'Arthur - Lord Tennyson
The Italian in England - Robert Browning
'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came' - Robert Browning
The Glove - Robert Browning
*Sohrab and Rustum - Matthew Arnold
The White Ship - Dante Gabriel Rossetti
*Atlanta's Race - William Morris
St. Dorothy - Algernon Charles Swinburne
The Ballad of 'Beau Brocade' - Austen Dobson
The Sacrilege - Thomas Hardy
Ticonderoga - Robert Louis Stevenson
A Ballad of John Nicolson
Tomlinson - Rudyard Kipling
The Battle of Stamford Bridge - Laurence Binyon
Lepanto - Gilbert Keith Chesterton
John Masefield - The Rider at the Gate
*The Highwayman - Alfred Noyes

I suppose that poetry lovers out there would see heaven in that list. As you can see I didn't like much of what I read, although I liked Wordsworth, so maybe not all is lost. What surprise me about Atlanta's Race is that it reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Wonderbook & Tanglewood Tales and that may have been why I enjoyed it.

 My favourite was The Highwayman although that probably has more to do with hearing my Dad recite it when I was a child. I think that for me it might be that I need to hear the poetry out loud in order to appreciate it. However, I am not quite ready to put this theory to the test just yet. A break is required, lasting some time.

What do you think of the above list? Have you read any of them, what did you think of what you read? I am more than willing to have my mind changed, but I'm not sure it will happen.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Reading on the Shelf

Not much has been happening this week, but here are my highlights:

I started a new book - it's called The Real Jane Austen by Paula Bryne. You can find the two posts that I spent raving about it here, and here. I'm hoping to get to read some more this weekend, but at the minute I'm caught up in the France/Paris of Les Miserables so who knows what will happen. 

This week also saw me edge ever closer to finishing A Book of Narrative Verse. Now only twenty pages from the end, which equates to five and a half poems, I am determined that this weekend will see me reach the finish line. There are few books which I have been glad to see the back of, but this will definitely be one of them.

In case there is worry that another large book has been added to the shelf and may cause its imminent collapse, I managed to get one finished. The Cross of Christ by John Stott made an appearance in the Sofa Spotlight this week, you can check out my thoughts here.

I also discovered that I need a new bookcase, or alternatively start selling some of my books. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sofa Spotlight - The Cross of Christ, John Stott

Well this doorstop has been checked off the list. I had a real sense of achievement when I finished this one. (Evident in that I have felt the need to tell most people all about it when I see them). This is a thirteen chapter book (well fourteen if you count the conclusion, which is not in any way brief - definitely classes as a comprehensive conclusion), but I wouldn't recommend reading one a day.

In part because I think it would take all day to read a chapter and then re-read parts because you either didn't understand what Stott said or because it was so profound that it almost made you cry. So in the interests of day to day living you might want to think of a new plan. If I was to read it again/when I read it again I would maybe go for a chapter a week, in order to get plenty of thinking time.

So what is it about? It is about understanding why the cross is central to Christianity. Something that Stott thought was important. In the early chapters he talks about how you cannot avoid the centrality of the cross when dealing with Christianity, and this was in Jesus' mind too. Stott gives a very detailed description of what happened on the cross, dealing with who was responsible and what Jesus' attitude and reaction to the cross was. This was the bit that almost made me cry.

The middle chapters are where it gets tricky and serious concentration is needed. In essence they look at why the cross was the only solution to the problem of sin, and how it works. On the whole I understood it, but it was mind bending and took some time to get my head around. The key thing to remember in these chapters, and what Stott keeps repeating, is that sin is serious - certainly more serious than I realise.

At the end three or four chapters were given to application, starting with what it means to have a right view of ourselves - we are not worthy of what God has done for us, but nor are we worthless. He works through applications for loving our enemies, and how the cross sheds light on why we suffer. Bringing it all to a close he describes how the cross has something to say to every part of our lives. The cross is central.

Sunday, 19 October 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

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

The Cross of Christ - John Stott

The Real Jane Austen - Paula Byrne

Saturday, 18 October 2014

How Time got a little bit Warped

Last week I spent about an hour and a half in A&E. Somehow though it felt much longer. Let's face it, watching the waiting room TV with the sound off is only interesting for a little while. On the other hand I could spend the same amount of time reading a book, or watching a film (with the sound on), and it would only feel like a couple of minutes had passed. I know that waiting rooms are boring and that reading books are interesting and so that affects how I perceive time, but why?

Thus I started reading this book:

Time Warped - Claudia Hammond

I'm nearly 100 pages and it is sort of blowing my mind. If you have wondered about what I said above then this book may answer your ponderings. There are only six chapters and each one has an interesting title, but the chapter that I am really looking forward to reading is Chapter Four - Why Does Time Speed As You Get Older? Because that is true - Christmas comes round quicker each year - what I want to know is if there is a way to slow it down, just so I can have longer to do Christmas shopping!

This week I am looking forward to having time to read on...

Friday, 17 October 2014

Best Austen Novel?

Just in case you missed it yesterday, I have started a new book, The Real Jane Austen by Paula Bryne. Check out yesterday's ravings here. But today I was thinking, what is my favourite Austen novel? I would say that I am torn between Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, but then can you get better than Pride and Prejudice?

So while I ponder this, probably for some time, I wondered what you would say was your favourite Jane Austen novel. Comment below, and tell me why too!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Sofa Shelf - Regency comes to the Shelf

This week I have added a new book to the shelf:

The Real Jane Austen - Paula Byrne 

I'm worried that there might be fake Jane Austens in the world. But apparently that isn't what this book is about - I was a little bit disappointed at no fake Jane Austens but having read some of it I don't mind too much. Biographies are not my normal reading material but I thought it was about time that I learnt something about Jane Austen.

So far I am a prologue and two chapters in. The prologue worried me, I thought it might turn out to be a boring book. Byrne introduces her biography as one that will portray Jane Austen differently to how biographies have portrayed her in the past. Hence the title.

The first two chapters have eased my mind about it being dull. They are far from it! The first chapter (The Family Profile) is about the sort of household that she grew up in. The chapter title sort of gave that away. I had no idea that she had a brother who was adopted by a wealthy family. It will be my lack of knowledge about Austen that will make me excited to read this book, and from what I've read so far, Byrne's style will not slow me down.

I know I haven't read much, so now might not be the time to be deciding on a favourite chapter, but chapter two (The East Indian Shawl) has been my favourite so far. It isn't directly about Austen, but about her Aunt, who went to India to look for a husband, and her cousin Eliza. Eliza provides a connection between Austen and the French revolution and the whole chapter shows what was influencing Austen's writing.

Good stuff so far.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Reading on the Shelf

Reading over the past couple of days has been made up of Les Mis. So much so that it has started to creep into my dreams. I think the problem is that I've been reading it in bits and pieces at every possible (and sometimes impossible) opportunity, The other night I was sure that I spotted Jean Valjean carrying Cosette, and creeping across the edge of my dream.

My plan is to have a break from Les Mis and who knows, the next post might be about another (yes another) book that I want to start soon.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A chance to steal the lead...

This week I have discovered that EG is not making much reading progress. What happened was that she had to read a book for the book club that she goes to and she disliked it so much that it has put her off reading for a while.

She is trying to get back into, and this morning there was evidence that she was reading for pleasure again. However, the time that she has lost may help me to close the gap between us. My problem is that the books I am reading could double for doorstops. But I did get one star on the chart when I finished Possession last week.

We will just have to see what happens...

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Reading on the Shelf - A Fractured Affair

This past week I've not managed to read much. I have managed to read a bit from these:

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

The end is finally in sight - who knows I might even finish it this week!

On Looking - Alexandra Horowitz

I talked about this book in a post last week.

Give and Take - Adam Grant

This week I've learnt about one of the people behind The Simpsons and why he was successful. A lot to be learned there.

Possession - A. S. Byatt

One that I finished, find out what I thought about it here. Since finishing it I found a new use for the book that involved the death of a spider.

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Or Les Miserableness as spell check just tried to change it to. Have to say that this has been a good surprise, I'm not half way through yet but I like the story of Jean Valjean. I knew nothing about the story before reading this book, well apart from falling asleep during the film, so I'm enjoying the unknown.

Also this week I learnt how to do french knots. I feel very pleased with myself, but it was a stressful experience. Not, as I thought at first. from the learning of how to do the stitch, but from the intensity of the shopping channel we had put on for background noise.

Speaking of stress this week saw me have a potential stress fracture on a bone in my foot. To be fair it probably happened last week but it wasn't until yesterday that I thought it might be a good idea to get it looked at. It might not be broken, but I may have a fracture, either way it means no cycling for a while, which is sad. Also getting up and down stairs is tricky.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Sofa Spotlight - Possession, A. S. Byatt

What's it about?

First of all I think that I should say that this book was the winner of the Booker Prize. I've also heard mixed reviews of it in the past. Some people love it (those who decided that it should win the Booker Prize probably did) and some people hate it. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.

So I feel quite pleased that I finished this book a week earlier than I thought I would, and that I didn't get stuck in it. When I started it I was worried that I would be reading it forever and that I would hate it. But I don't. Nor do I love it. I'm somewhere in the middle.

What is it about? It is about some letters that were written by two Victorian poets that were discovered by accident by two academics. The nature of the letters could mean that all that has been written about the poets will need to be looked at again and possibly rewritten. What the book does is to follow the romance of the Victorian poets as it provides a mirror for the growing relationship between the two academics.

In some ways this book is clever, and the story line gave me enough to want to get to the end and unravel the mystery. And I did enjoy the ending, it resolved both stories and had a good bit of drama to round it all off. It involves a church graveyard in the middle of the night - can you get a more spooky setting?

What was good?

This isn't a light read, but it is worth working through. When I started it I wasn't sure that I was going to like any of the characters, and by the end I still didn't have a favourite, but I was warming up to them. Looking back there was probably one minor character (who is actually a real person so not a character at all) that I liked more than any of the others. She was a cousin (I think) of one of the Victorian poets (Christabel Lamotte) who lived in Brittany and helped her farther welcome Lamotte into their home when she was hiding from Randolph Henry Ash (the other Victorian poet in all this). I liked her (her name is Sabine) because she came close to unraveling the mystery of Lamotte and Ash and it was her that made me want to know what was going on.

What was bad?

One of the worries that I had when I started this book was that it was a novel about poetry. And we all know how I feel about poetry! Most of the time my fears were unfounded, but what I did find hard about this book was that there were chapters that were made up of poetry. Sadly these chapters were lost on me, but I do not doubt that they add something to the novel. Some parts of the book were made up of the letters and journals of the two poets, which I found heavy going to get through. The only journals that I enjoyed reading were those of Sabine, and Ash's wife.

Who is it for?

I suppose the obvious answer is people who enjoy the work of Ash and/or Lamotte. But if you enjoy novels that have two story lines running through it simultaneously this could be one for you.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Walking through a Book

A book that I've been enjoying this week is On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz. The idea behind the book is that when we walk around our towns and cities, they have become so familiar to us that we stop looking at them properly. Horowitz in her book decides to take a walk with a few different people, all who look for different things when they walk and probably notice more than the rest of us.

So I've been trying to take more notice of what is around me when I am out and about. The problem is that I make this resolution when I am reading the book, but by the time I go out I have forgotten all about it. Thus I haven't noticed anything extra just yet, but I am working on it and will keep you posted.

The chapter that I have enjoyed the most so far was one about noticing the signs of animal life. I'm guessing there is just as much animal life in UK cities as there is in American citites. I am on the lookout for signs of animal neighbours, but hopefully not rats. Next door have a cat, but that is all I have seen so far.

A rabbit would be nice.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Book of the Month - September '14

It isn't a good month when I only finish two books! So out of the two books that I managed to finish, book of the month goes to Basic Christianity by John Stott. A few years ago it celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, which given how readable and relevant it is, isn't that surprising.

What Stott aims to do in this book is to explain the beliefs that form the foundations of Christianity. If you are a new Christian this would be a good one to help you get your head around who Jesus is, and how Christianity is built on Him.

You can find out more about what I think about this book here. What I would say is that this book is worth taking the time to read. You will need to sit down with paper and pen, and maybe read some bits twice, but the extra time you give to it will be well worth it.