Thursday, 11 December 2014

My book list 2014

I find it frustrating that I read books, only to forget the title and author. The plot becomes muddy and any recommendations to my friends become guess work. To combat this I am now going to keep a book list. This is what I read in 2014. Agree with what I have to say?

Ordinary Thunderstorms, William Boyd
A gripping journey through London’s underworld. Adam Kindred, an otherwise respectable scientist, witnesses a murder and then goes on the run from a hitman and the police. Previously invisible people become Adam's friends; prostitutes, addicts, illegal immigrants and religious fanatics. I could really picture Adam amongst the people I saw when I cycling through London.  9/10.

A Dead Hand: A Crime in Calcutta, Paul Therroux
Atmospheric account of author, Jerry Delfont, struggling in vain against his writer's block whilst living in Calcutta. Jerry becomes obsessed with a mysterious, tantric, wealthy US woman in Calcutta whilst investigating the appearance of a child’s hand in her son’s friend’s room. The main character is annoying, the plot a little predictable and the sex scenes are terribly written. 5/10.

Animal Farm, George Orwell.
20th century classic that, surprisingly, I was never forced to read at school.  A parody of the Russian revolution, animals overthrow their farmer master aiming to create an egalitarian society. Rather predictability things get rapidly worse. Very sharp characterisations. Wish I had read it earlier. 8/10.

Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now - as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it and Long for it, Craig Taylor.
Exactly what it says on the tin; an oral history from a cross section of London. Allowed me to reflect on my own experiences in London before I left it. A book to dip in and out of. 7/10.

An Ice Cream War, William Boyd.
Yet another great book from my favorite contemporary author. A black comedy that focuses on the fight between British and German forces in East Africa. A series of characters on both sides of the conflict intertwine. Historically interesting, wickedly funny. 8/10.

Down and Out in Paris in London, George Orwell.
A memoir of George Orwell’s time living on the breadline in Paris and London in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Orwell obviously cared about the plight of the working classes but his situation in both cities seems improbable and a little bit like poverty tourism. 6/10.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
An unlikely but very amusing story of Allan Karlson, a hundred year old man who escaped from his nursing home and embarks on an adventure running from both the Swedish police and gangsters with a suitcase of money intended for a drugs deal. Through flashbacks we learn about Allan’s run ins with various major events and people from the 20th century. Forest Gump but much much better. 10/10.

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year, Sue Townsend
A light hearted comedy by the author of Adrian Mole. Eva, a world weary house wife takes to bed for a year, inviting in a harem of carers, followers and admirers. A simple page turner with an array of well observed characters. Unfortunately it is hard to warm to the central character and her course of action, leading to an increasing sense of frustration as the book nears its end. 7/10.

The Time Travellers Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Glorified chic lit about the relationship between Henry, a time traveller, and his long suffering wife Clare. Clare has to contend with prolonged periods of absence and unpredictability of her husband’s disappearances. Emotionally deep, sometimes straying into emotionally trite. 6/10.

Heligoland: The True Story of German Bight and the Island That Britain Forgot, George Drower
A focused history about Heligoland, a weather beaten rock in the North Sea. Once an unloved British colony, it was traded with Germany for Zanzibar and territorial concessions is East Africa. Interesting how one little island played such a big part in the scramble for Africa, the course of WWI and the British search for the atomic bomb. 7/10.

We Need to Talk about Kevin,  Lionel Shriver
Mid naughties cult read. Eva writes to her husband about the childhood of Kevin, her son and high school mass murderer. A thought provoking but uncomfortable read that upsets as well as entertains. 8/10.

The Heart of Darkiness, Jopseph Conrad
Early 20th century novel that is the inspiration for Apocolypse Now. Charles Marlow gives an account of his experiences as an ivory transporter in Belgium Congo. Seen as a book that gets across the horrors of colonialism, but also one that perpetrates the idea of African people being “other”.  6/10.