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!

Endeavour

This is a superb historical account covering one of my favourite subjects – exploration of an unknown world. It is a brilliantly written book although it does jump around a bit. Broader in scope than I thought it was going to be as it deals with a lot of social philosophy of the time rather than just a blow by blow account of one voyage. I preferred Erebus I think, but this is still great. 

My New Book!

With any luck, I’ll have a book out on Amazon in a week or so. That’s pretty exciting. As much as I would love it to be my novel however, that will perhaps have to wait. Instead, to get at least a foot on the ladder, I decided a while back to compile my medical columns published fortnightly in the local paper into a book. 

From an early stage I wanted to be realistic about what I wanted from this. Primarily, if any agents were swayed by my having published something then that would be tremendous. I had put a few feelers out to see if any agents wanted to get on board with this project but to no avail. Rather than wait forever, I decided to go the self publishing route. After a lot of research, it became a bit of a no brainer to go with Amazon. 

It is actually a pretty simple system. I have had to work pretty hard to get it all formatted and ready but once that is done, the process can be pretty much sorted in 10 minutes. I am at the stage where I have sent for a few proof copies to make sure the paperback version is not rubbish (fingers crossed) but once I’m happy, I just click the button. 

There have been a few choices to make along the way. What price I should sell it for is one of them. Amazon allow 60% of the royalties for the paperback which I guess isn’t bad in the circumstances and it is a print on demand system. In other words, people buy and order it online and it is printed once for each individual order. This avoids me having to print a bulk load of a hundred and then seeing me stand by as they are all pulped. Paramount in my mind when making this decision was the closing scene of Alan Partridge season two.

Lockdown has made the decision for me as to whether or not to buy any copies myself and flog them at book shops. My biggest outgoing therefore was a cover. I wondered whether this was something I could do myself and I gave it a go but in the end, to avoid hours of frustration and potentially getting the formatting all wrong anyway, I decided to hire a professional. This was also very easy via a great website called Reedsy and a chap called Anders helped me out with getting a nice professional design all worked up. He cost a fair bit but I didn’t really mind.  

If I make enough from the book, I might break even. To make any money on this was never the main goal and I realise that there will be a finite market for this one – essentially the readership of the paper. That market, although limited, is not insubstantial however. If I make a loss, quite frankly it will be nice just to see a book with my name on it. I could tick that off the bucket list at least and if I do make a bit of money, then all the better!

 

 

Piano Notes

This book was leant to me by my piano teacher. It’s written by a big time concert pianist and is interesting if not highly specialised. It goes into the intracicies and subtlties of classical piano music in such detail that it can only be truly appreciated by someone immersed fully in that world. But as someone interested in music of all types, the parts on the ways in which we appreciate music and interpret it were very good. Not for everyone this one. 

Killing Commendatore

This is a wonderful book. It is ethereal, contemplative and fantastical to the point that it never quite explains itself but somehow, that doesn’t bother me. Reading this book is like meditating. The style of writing is assured and mature, which I suppose one would expect from someone like Murakami, although I have never actually read any of his other books. I will be doing so after reading this one.

The Truants

I bought this book on the basis that the cover looked cool and  also down to some of the testimonies – “A cross between a wicked Donna Tart and Agatha Christie,” hypnotic”, a ” deftly plotted” murder mystery. More fool me. 

I am never a fan of panning a book that has probably taken someone a lot of time and effort to write, especially since I have nothing published of my own, but perhaps it is that very fact that annoys me so much. This is a terrible book. It is a non-event. Nothing happens. You could sum it up in a sentence. I genuinely don’t get it. There is barely even a murder, let alone a mystery. That something like this is published is mind boggling to me considering the plethora of talent that undoubtedly lies amongst the slush piles. 

The one positive I can take from this book is that the cover really is everything. That and the fact that it doesn’t matter if you lie unashamedly in the testmonials on the front and back of the book. 

Trash.

Periodic Tales – Hugh Aldersey-Williams

I thought this would be quite a good one. Unfortunately, I’m not a great fan. the concept was great – what the elements of the periodic table do and how they affect us day to day, practically and culturally. 

I was expecting loads of useful anecdotes and concise and interesting histories of the elements involved. Not so. It reads rather like an a-level English lit essay, (albeit an accomplished one) complete with tediously detailed accounts of various chemistry experiments mixed in with assorted quotes from various historical literary works – in fact almost drowned in them. He references all sorts of obscure authors and artists (to me at least) and uses a lot of subjective waffling that is of really no great interest. 

It may be to some people’s taste, but I’m afraid this chap is not for me. He is probably the sort of guy that you would try and avoid sitting next to at a dinner party. Needless to say I won’t be reading his newer book on tides!