The Mountain Shadow

This is a hefty book that is the followup to Shantaram which I enjoyed. I think on the whole, I liked this better. It’s a long book but at no point did I get bored. It is heavily philosophical to the point where some people I think might find it a bit pretentious but I am not one of those people. The characters are well rounded and believable, if not a bit exaggerated. It’s a bit of a fantasy world in a way but gives a feel of such a different way of life to my own that it peaks the imagination. 

Some lovely writing…”Moonlight wrote tree poems on the road”. 

This is recommended. 

The Map that Changed the World

This is a book about rocks. There’s no two ways about it. As such, it can be a bit dull in places. The author, well-renowned as he is, does get a bit carried away with the rocks every now and again which if I’m honest was a slight struggle. However, I realise that without the rocks, there isn’t a book here. Surrounding these passages is an interesting biographical journey set in the early 1800s which I always find interesting. I would say there is a slow patch in the middle of the book but it finishes strongly. Not for everyone, but not the worst book in the world. 

Improbable Destinies

This was really good. I was a bit concerned that it would be just another book about evolution about which I know a reasonable amount. However, it actually explores in reasonable detail the questions as to whether evolution is convergent (the phenomenon in which creatures will evolve simialr solutions or exactly the same solutions to selection pressures independently). Lots of detail about various studies and research projects which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the author knows how to write in an accessible and light hearted manner so it’s not too dry. 

I liked it. 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

After my last book, I needed something that I cold devour. I had heard good things about this one so I took a shot. 

What can I say, other than this book has shot its way right into the top five, maybe even top three books I have ever read. It is awesome. The premise is that of a traditional murder mystery in a country estate, the idea of which I love. But, the added feature here is that there is a sort of supernatural aspect in which the main character lives the day of the murder several times, Groundhog Day-style. Knowing this, I was cautious. 

The thing with this is that it would be so easy to get it wrong, or not put enough into it. Not so with this genius. He’s absolutely nailed it. My mind boggles when I think of all the tangled pathways he must have had to have in his head to make this work. But it really does. Bloody awesome. Read it as soon as you can. Apparently his second book is even better!

The Making of Mr Gray’s Anatomy

This has been on the shelf for a while but the moment felt right to read it. The book itself is lovingly presented. It feels premium and special. Unfortunately the actual written contents left me really struggling. For a start, the subject was based upon an enormous amount of conjecture and guess work, as the author herself freely admits. This made it feel immediately as if I was wasting my time a bit. 

Although the general feel of the time and the world in which the key players lived interests me, it was presented in such a dry manner that I got bored very quickly. So much unecessary detail – at one point, she spends about three pages just listing books published by the publishing company at the centre of it all. It reads like an essay overall. The author may be lovely and it remains entirely possible that she is an incredible entertainer, but on this evidence, I would certainly choose to sit as far away from her as possible if we were attending the same dinner party. 

Avoid unless you just want your bookcase to look nice. 

Nomad

Those who know me will realise that this book was never going to get a bad review. But I challenge anyone to read this and not laugh out loud. It is billed on the cover as ‘the funniest book ever written’ and that is no exaggeration, perhaps rivalled only by the previous book I Partridge. 

It’s essentially like reading a feature length episode of classic Partridge except all of that unique Partridge-ness gets to showcase itself even further through the extra machinery of the written word (and through pictures, diagrams, tables etc..). 

I needed this book right now. 

White Teeth

This was a great read. Not the sort of book I would usually pick out but it was bought for me and I am glad. First novel apparently which makes you feel a bit sick. The writing is immense. My favourite bit amongst many – commenting on a character who is high on morphine… “his head opened up like a deck chair.” Great stuff. 

This is a long read, perhaps a bit too long being my only criticism, but it is one of great wisdom and it is well thought out enough that it is all leading towards something which is not something I necessarily anticipated. I was fully prepared for it to peter out a bit but the ending was surprisingly satisfying. A thorough exploration of race and the intertwined attitudes of all parties. 

The Road

This was a bleak book. It’s not long by any means and has no chapters – relentless then. Just one continuous ream of bleakness. That does not make it a bad read though. Quite the contrary, it is almost poetic in its literary credentials. The prose is descriptive and wraps you up in this post apocalyptic world, engrossing you in the father son relationship at its core and making you think on the merits of survival itself and of the impacts we have on the world and each other. I’ve not seen the film. I don’t really want to. But the book is great. If not a bit depressing for the current times!

Dubliners

I’ve been dabbling in short story writing recently so this was a perfect book to have a shufty at. A bit like a concept album, these short stories are all set in turn of the Century Dublin and there is a thread running throughout making the order important. These aren’t necessarily just stand alone but either way, they provide a masterclass in the short story field. Considered to be one of the best collections, I really enjoyed reading this. My favourite was probably ‘A Little Cloud’.