I haven’t been blogging about books recently, mostly because I’ve been spending all my free time reading them (while also trying to write fiction in the scant hours between my day job).
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve been having a real problem finding books to read; what with all the bookshops I love being closed, due to the Covid-Lockdown in Dublin (the current period is now stretching into its fourth month), and never really trusting the process of buying books online.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not worried about online security and package delivery (at least no more than I usually am); it’s rather that I’m never sure I want to read a book until I’ve held it in my hands, flicked through a few pages, and heard that small voice of intuition whisper to me, letting me know that this book will be worth my time.
For example, I brought Ready Player Two from an online platform, and the moment I took it out of the box, I knew it would ruin my memories of the first instalment (the book, not the movie), which I’ll always remember fondly, as one of most surprisingly enjoyable books I’ve come across.
I gave Ready Player Two about 100 pages of my time, but I just had to put it down because… well, lots of reasons (no spoilers today). I’m sure that it’s the right book for a lot of readers, but not for me (and I shall say no more).
Anyway… I’m not big into moaning about bad books, so here are a few books I’ve enjoyed reading in the last month or so – in case you (like me) are struggling with what to pick up next.
Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heilein
It’s funny; as I check this site, the last blog I posted was about how bad The League of Extraordinary Gentleman movie adaption is. Turns out that whoever adapted Starship Troopers for the screen also made an absolute pig’s ear of the effort.
The book is entertaining, tips along at a good fast clip, is a minimum effort read and has an interesting moral to the story.
I suppose that if you read too deeply into the underlying political opinions expressed within the plot and what they represent in the real world, then you’re going to put this book down with a lot of things to say (and if you’re also stuck in on lockdown, then your dog is going to get the worst of it).
Personally, I just read it in the same way as I would any light read and enjoyed a cosy evening on the sofa.
[I should note that this book is Sci-Fi, and may only suit existing fans of that genre; it’s not really an entry type of book (try Dune for that)]
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
I was chatting with a mate there recently (socially distanced in the park), and she made the point that if a new person in your life brings up Murakami, you can be pretty sure that they are a proper reader; the thought being that no one accidentally stumbles onto the great Japanese writer, you either go looking for him, or have his works recommended by someone who knows you’re ready for them (are you ready?).
The Wind-Up… is one of my all-time favourite books, and from page-1 right the way through to 600, it just has the power to transport you. What’s amazing really is that it transports you to a place that you would never believe was interesting; it’s the story of a man, who’s out of work, and is having problems with personal/family life (doesn’t that sound dull?).
It’s Murakami though, so that’s not all it’s about (it’s not even half the story, in fact), and honestly, I consider it to be an absolute classic.
[I’d recommend reading a few reviews of his style and work before you commit your time to this book; it’s fairly long and may take you a time to read. Murakami has several collections of short stories I’d recommend if you want to dip a toe into his world rather than driving straight into the deep end).
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
I’ve enjoyed Matt Haig’s books in the past (The Humans springs to mind), and they’re usually fun and easy to digest. The Midnight Library is exactly that.
I suppose if I’m being super critical, I’d say that the book doesn’t do anything new and has the feeling of a formula being re-used, with only the particulars changed. That doesn’t diminish its value as an enjoyable read though, and if you’re brand new to Matt Haig, The Midnight Library has all the punch, pop and surprise completely undiluted (you’re going to love it).
This is definitely a book I’ll re-read in the future because I think I left a little of the story on the page.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
The world doesn’t need me to add any more words to those describing the magical world of J.K. Rowling and Harry James Potter.
I’d had a long week, and this was a perfect re-read for a lazy Sunday evening.
[Disclaimer: I personally believe that …half-blood Prince is the best of the seven Harry Potter novels (I actually rate it very highly among the best novels I’ve ever come across), but I gave away all my HP books to a friend with children long ago (the copy of the Deathly Hallows I have now I picked up in a charity shop a while ago, with the intention of passing it onto a mate with a teenage kid – someone always needs to be gifted with Harry Potter)]
No Man’s Land – David Baldacci
Since I stopped drinking alcohol I don’t prolifically read crime thriller the way I used to (not as dramatic as it sounds, I just stopped drinking); back in those times, a good trashy thriller was my hangover cure of choice.
Accordingly, I have a real soft spot for David Baldacci; as I sit here typing, I can’t honestly think of an author who writes more entertaining crime books.
No Man’s Land is the fourth instalment of the John Puller series (I think) and is about an army investigator trying to right a long-standing wrong. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that (as always) the hero saves the day.
If you like to read the occasional trashy guilty pleasure (David Baldacci’s works are never going to be listed among the books you should read – like your Dostoevsky’s, Hemingway’s, Bukowski’s and Pynchon’s), then you can’t go wrong here.
My particular favourite series is The Camel Club; they’re just fun little books.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks
The Man… is a collection of neurological case studies by Oliver Sacks and incredibly easy reading when you consider the subject matter involved.
From page-1, you know that you’re probably not smart enough (or at least informed enough) to completely understand all the information you’re being given, but what’s wonderful about the writing is that you never feel out of touch or in any way belittled.
Oliver Sacks opens the book (at least the copy I have) with a small introduction about the way patients always come to a doctor with a story to tell, and his idea was to try and tell the stories back to us.
This collection of case studies is engaging, heart-warming and genuinely moving. If you’re looking for a good read that’s outside of your usual range, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a 9/10 read every time.
[Perhaps you’ve read this book before and loved it; I also re-read Hallucinations a few weeks ago, and it’s another super, super interesting book.]
I think that list is long enough (I’ve reading to be doing after all). If you’ve read any of the books listed and want to share your thoughts, email me at Leopoldbloom@gmail.com or message me on www.twitter.com/LCross137
With that, if you can think of any books I might enjoy reading, please do drop me a small line. I’m going through 2/3 novels a week at the moment, and honestly never know what to order online (I can’t wait for bookshops to re-open!)