We thought we'd open a sticky thread about lockdown reading for those who've ordered piles of books! Feel free to discuss whatever you've been reading and enjoying in this thread (not just mountain literature - any genre).
If there's enough interest down the line, perhaps users can nominate people to suggest a book per week/month to discuss.
Re-reading (after some years) Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman. One of the greatest writers, every sentence makes you buzz. It's the book choice for an ongoing minature climbing/fell running/book club I have with a few friends, and a great one for people who are into that rare and precious thing that is a genuinely funny novel.
Just finished le Carre’s “A Delicate Truth” and “Agent running in the Field”. I love le Carre’s hinted-at shifty characterisations and he was adept at transferring their shiftiness from theatre to theatre.
Up next - re-read of Wade Davis’s Everest book I think.
I was gifted Dorothy Pilley's Climbing Days for chrimbo, I'm enjoying it so far, especially the fact i know all the places she's talking about so far i the Wales section.
Ancillary Justice. Maybe this implies I don't have a mind of my own but basing most of my recent choices on awards won/ nominated or general notoriety has been a fairly safe way of picking something good.
Seems great so far. Probably best appreciated by readers already well adapted to the sci-fi genre as it jumps right in with a load of shared consciousness weirdness, politics, unpronounceable names and gender confusion.
It has a bit of a reputation for being hard to follow due to the above and because much of the story is revealed in flashbacks. However the last thing I read in the genre was Use of Weapons.... so so-far it seems like a walk in the park. At least the story isn't being half told backwards!
Currently reading Diana Gabaldons, forth Outlander book Drums of Autumn this one I think is the most different to the TV series so far and on Audio book we are currently in the Second book of the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
What a good idea.
I'm reading David Keenan's 'This is Memorial Device'. It had strong reviews, and initially I was quite taken with it. However, I'm now about halfway through and it rather feels as if the author has run out of ideas and I'm finding it rather tiresome.
Next up will be John Cooper Clark's biography, or Giles Tremlett's account of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.
I liked Ancilliary Justice too, found the rest of the trilogy a bit disappointing by comparison though.
Currently reading Dead Lies Dreaming (spin-off from Stross's Laundry Files series, Christmas present) for fun, and Pistol Shooting - The Olympic Disciplines for educational purposes.
> I was gifted Dorothy Pilley's Climbing Days for chrimbo, I'm enjoying it so far, especially the fact i know all the places she's talking about so far i the Wales section.
I've a copy and was thinking to read it at some point, but found the first couple of pages a bit dry on a cursory reading. Does it improve? And how does it compare to other classics of the genre, e.g. Gwen Moffat's Space Below My Feet?
Following a recommendation on here a while back I bought a second-hand copy of Neal Stephenson's 'Reamde'.
It's fiction, a kind of swashbuckling cyber-crime/spy thriller that all gets a bit silly towards the end but it's gripping, fun, and it's a great big doorstep of a book that lasts ages.
I can't remember who recommended it now, but whoever it was thanks!
I am not far into it yet (maybe 12%, and it’s a fairly long book) but so far the writing has been brilliantly efficient and somehow relatable even though the characters’ lives are totally different to mine.
“The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer. A novel about different stages in the lives of a small group of American friends starting at a teenage summer camp in the 1970s and flashing forward (and presumably back again) in time.
I recently struggled through Christopher Priest’s “The Affirmation” which seems bold and brilliant for the first third but then really disappears up its own behind, trying to be too clever and bleak and ambiguous. I wish I had just put it down instead of stubbornly fighting it to the end
> I liked Ancilliary Justice too, found the rest of the trilogy a bit disappointing by comparison though.
Hi, does it work as a story in its own right or does it really need the sequels?
> does it work as a story in its own right or does it really need the sequels?
It works fine on its own. The sequels are fun, just each in a differnt style (which I found an enjoyable change, but they're not as breathtaking as _AJ_ )
I'm reading _Learning to Fly_ , by Steph Davis, which is about climbing, and skydiving. My very much non-climbing mate bought it for me for Christmas, and it's an engaging read.
I'm currently rereading 'On High Hills' by Geoffrey Winthrop Young. Read a great passage last night about a 40ft fall taken by George Mallory during their FA of the SE ridge of the Nesthorn. Young, belaying only from the friction of a tiny 'nick' in a slab, writes: "I saw the boots flash from the wall without even a scrape and equally soundlessly a grey streak flickered downward and passed me and out of sight. So much did the wall, to which he had clung so long, overhang that from the instant he lost hold he touched nothing until the rope stopped in midair over the glacier. I had had time to think, as I flung my body forward onto the belayed rope, grinding it in my hands against the slab, that no rope could stand such a jerk... The boots had been standing some 15 to 20 feet above me, so that the clear fall could not have been much less than 40 feet. But the rope held, springing like an elastic band, and cracking under my chest and hands on the rock. We were using that year a then rather popular Austrian woven rope, since entirely condemned. Whenever, in later years, I have looked back at the tabulated rope tests, which show that this rope is warranted to snap like straw under the jerk of a man's weight falling from, I think, 5 feet, I have thought again of the transfigured second in which I realised that the rope had, miraculously, held."
Mallory than shouts "tranquilly" - "lower away" and climbs back up to Young, who adds: "He appeared up a widening groove, and rejoined me on the mantle shelf, apparently entirely undisturbed. He had not even let go of his axe during the fall."
I just read Diaspora by Greg Egan which is hard sci-fi, it's the first book I've read since my son was born 22 months ago!
It was good. I like sci-fi stories that elevate themselves above Star Trek's "Computer, Fire torpedoes!", and this book spans thousands of years and goes into the potential origins and nature of the entire universe. I like that kind of thing!
Interesting someone else said about gender pronouns, and considering the recent thing of putting your pronouns in your email signature, this book was written 24 years ago and uses gender neutral pronouns throughout. At the beginning your like what are these new words but by the end it's second nature.
Looking for something else to read now, ideally sci-fi. I loved the Three Body Problem trilogy as well.
I'm currently waiting for my copy of The Delirium Brief to be delivered so I can finish the Laundry files in order...had Dead Lies Dreaming sitting there since release.
Some are better than others but all enjoyable.
The new biography of Kurt Albert, legendary inventor of the Redpoint, by Tom Dauer. I don't like the often slipshod style and the fact that there are so many long passages included from books and articles by such greats as Güllich, Moffatt, Glowacz and Bernd Arnold that it's sometimes hard to know who's actually describing the action. Kurt was never one to publicize himself or to let on what was going on inside him, not even to his many good friends, but Dauer has nevertheless done a good job of chronicling his life. Best chapters: those dealing with the period when Kurt was putting up the hardest Frankenjura routes of the day and developing the new Redpoint style, then climbing and living with some of the world's best climbers of the 80s and 90s. Also no lack of good anecdotes about the incorrigible practical joker Kurt Albert.
Just finished Conquistadors of the Useless for the second time. An amazing account of Lionel Terray's early years in the French Alpine mountains, his time in the second World War and the subsequent impact he made on Himalayan and South American high altitude climbing. Although a majestic account of his climbing and skiing life it struck me how little he mentioned his wife and family apart from his account of his relationship with his Father.
I have just started reading Embracing defeat. A Pulitzer prize winning 675 page behemoth, written by John Dower, examining the immediate shattering aftermath of WW2 in Japan. I'm expecting a magnificent read.
Sci-fi: presume you've read all the Iain M Banks culture novels.
Have you read "Children of Time" by Adrian Tchaikovksy - stunning sci-fi. The sequel "Children of Ruin" is good but can't reproduce the wow factor of the 1st book (would be almost impossible given what happens in the 1st book).
Just started Overlander by Alan Brown, Scottish bikepacking travelog, very good so far.
Myself and the daughter for bedtime story are on to the second part of the Terry Pratchett Nomes trilogy which is class, nice light refreshment after just finishing Cornelia Funke's Inkheart trilogy which was good too, though possibly a tad dark for little ears...
I have just finished reading "American Buffalo" by Steven Rinella. It wouldn't be for everyone as it is about hunting, but the observations he makes around the history of the Buffalo, its relationship to Native Americans and the subsequent wholesale slaughter is very interesting.
That's my problem right there! Read Children of Time, and read the Culture series all the way through twice... might just start that again, I don't think anything will ever compare - it's ruined sci-fi!
I just find it incredible that books written 20+ years ago can "not show their age". This Diaspora I just read could've been written yesterday, because of the way the story is written and its context there are no themes or technologies which are even slightly out of date. I love that. I think the Culture novels are the same.
I have just finished Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton a gripping school seige, thriller with a topical take on radicalisation - a quick read. Before that I really enjoyed American Dirt that gives a great insight into South American refugees attempting the perilous crossing into the promised land , that is the USA. I also recommend Burial Rites by Hannah Kent set in early 19th C Iceland - a fascinating read. However to answer the question i am about to start The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker - be interested to hear other views on that.
I'm part way through a new translation of Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre's hefty philosophical masterwork. It's not easy going - but I've never left my teenage fascination with existentialism behind. I like to think Sartre would have made an excellent bold climber and hard soloist, dancing above the abyss, "condemned to be free." He certainly could have coped with the after-crag drinking sessions, since he was one of literature's great party animals. Those existentialists knew how to have a good time!
I've got several on the go at the moment:
Micheal Connelly "The Scarecow"
James Lee Burke "Feast Day of Fools"
Thomas Savage "The Power of the Dog".
I chose the last because there's a film version in the offing and I thought I'd read the novel first.
One oif the few occasions that I've read a book having the same title as another book ( I read Don Winslow's Power of the Dog a few years ago)
I'd suggest the "Light" trilogy by M John Harrison, definitely up there with the Culture novels which I agree are pretty much the benchmark for Sci-fi.
Edit: They're nothing like the Culture novels though.
Tamata and the Alliance by a French chap, Moitessier, who I'd never heard of until I started reading books about epic sailing adventures. I've read most of his other books now but this one stitches together some of the bits in between and adds his childhood experiences in Indochina around the time of WW2. He was a very good writer and his books are well worth reading even if you know nothing about sailing like me. I've also been reading Gipsy Moth Circles the World by Sir Francis Chichester as I often have two books on the go of late. He wasn't such a good writer, unfortunately. The best book overall I've read recently is Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone around the World. It's short, easy to read, and perfectly written.
I also was gifted Climbing Days for Christmas; however it is written by Dan Richards, who is Dorothy Pilley's great, great nephew. In it he discovers about his great, great aunt's achievements and follows in some of her and her husband's footsteps.
I have also recently read Seven Climbs by Charles Sherwood, where he attempts to find the best climb on each continent as opposed to the highest.
Currently reading a book by Simon Hughes on the art of batting (cricket). I may look into mountaineering books as I used to enjoy them greatly. Also on the list of possible books is a Sadie Smith novel.
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
Second reading, I first read it many years ago. A ripping yarn of Medieval Britain, the interaction between the common people, the tradesmen like master masons, the nobility, and the clergy, and origins of much of the architecture we see in our great cathedrals, particularly the engineering behind the great pointed arches and spaces below soaring roof structures, much of it learnt by trial and error.
It's a long but fascinating book, one you don't want to put down. Perfect escapism winter reading during lockdown.
I read the remaining culture novels (and reread the others) earlier this pandemic. I found it slightly ironic that the best story (IMO) is the one that doesn't even mention the culture (Inversions). However, although not as good as stories, I found some of the others more excitingly enjoyable (Excession, Matter, Surface Detail).
I've also reread Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World recently, all still well worthwhile.
South Latitude by F. D. Ommanney
Antarctic travel in the 1930s covered in a very unassuming way.
Those who like Ancillary Justice might like The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Since just before 1st lockdown last March amongst the books I've read are 3 Bill Bryson non-travel books:
The body: a guide for occupants - this was a scary read because it goes on a lot about pathogens and the supremacy of microbes and I was reading it last February just as the pandemic was breaking out!
Mother Tongue - about the English language and where it comes from, interesting with lots of little facts that I've already forgotten.
A short history of nearly everything - lots of scientific fact in easy to read form but could do with a last 17 years supplement.
Virtually everything he writes is easy to read.
Have also re-read and new-read various sci-fi books, need to find some more.
Currently, after a gap of decades, I'm re-reading War and Remembrance, the 2nd part of Herman Wouk's anti war opus after having re-read the 1st part, The Winds of War. They're both excellent and really bring home the global scope of WWII. Nerdy folk like myself would be best to have an atlas (or Google maps) handy to see where all the places are.
Sounds like you're well-read but if you've not read the Cities in Flight series by James Blish, I'm pretty certain you would enjoy them.
Edit: forgot to add mine!
Finished: Gut by Julia Enders (why our gut is more inportant than our brain)
Next: The Weather Experiment by Peter Moore (how meteorology began)
Upcoming: Europe by Norman Davis (a bit of a tome but came highly recommended)
need science fiction!
> You are not alone! I'm currently trying to shepherd 32 impact cases through final edits and checking. Then there's all the outputs data checking to be done. Oh the joy of it...
Good luck. It will be over soon.
Luckily I don't have that scale to deal with. Hats off to our impact manager who has been amazing over the last year leading the effort to get all the impact case studies together.
> Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
> Second reading, I first read it many years ago. A ripping yarn of Medieval Britain, the interaction between the common people, the tradesmen like master masons, the nobility, and the clergy, and origins of much of the architecture we see in our great cathedrals, particularly the engineering behind the great pointed arches and spaces below soaring roof structures, much of it learnt by trial and error.
> It's a long but fascinating book, one you don't want to put down. Perfect escapism winter reading during lockdown.
I’m going to start that tonight.
I've just started one of my Xmas presents; Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig. A book written in 1938 about an Austrian Cavalry officer on the eve of the first world war, by an author I've never heard of. Not my usual fare, but it's grabbed me from the start, and it feels like it's going to turn into something profound that I will be recommending.
I've just re-read 'The Wolf Border' by Sarah Hall, a novel about the reintroduction of wild wolves to the Lake District. It's beautifully written and incredibly evocative of the landscape of Cumbria. Big thumbs up.
I'm about to give 'The Living Mountain' another visit, although I fear it will make me even more glum about not being able to go to Scotland at the moment.
> Following a recommendation on here a while back I bought a second-hand copy of Neal Stephenson's 'Reamde'.
> It's fiction, a kind of swashbuckling cyber-crime/spy thriller that all gets a bit silly towards the end but it's gripping, fun, and it's a great big doorstep of a book that lasts ages.
> I can't remember who recommended it now, but whoever it was thanks!
'Cryptonomicom' by the same author is in the same vein, also a whacking great doorstop, but a better read imho.
> I've also reread Animal Farm, 1984 and Brave New World recently, all still well worthwhile.
Sadly, I think they'll continue to be relevant way past the various centenaries that will be coming up over the next decades.
Can you believe that I was upbraided by my headmistress/boss for having pupils' work on Animal Farm displayed in my classroom?
( Context: we were twinned with Gorlovka in the Ukraine pre separation and a bunch of dignitaries and cosmonauts were due for a visit. )
> I have Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain in book form
I bought this book for my daughter for Christmas, as I fancied it myself. So I hope that it is as good as its awards suggest. (Daughter lives 100 miles away, so I probably won't borrow it just now).
Reading "The death of Ivan Ilyich" by Leo Tolstoy, partly as it is not too long, and I have too many things going off otherwise that need doing (so only reading before sleep), partly as I had wanted the book in the past, and somehow ended up with two different copies. It is actually more engaging than I had expected, and I will probably go on to read the next short story, "The Kreutzer sonata", especially since I went to a reading of an exert of this, and a playing of the actual sonata at a concert in King's Place about a month ago. A really good combination.
Read A Hundred Years in the Highlands by Osgood Hambury MacKenzie. He was the Laird of Gairloch and planted the gardens at Inverewe. Most of the book is very borish and concerns his shooting prowess. No the less I ploughed through the tales of how much 'game' and 'vermin' he and his chums had killed. As he gets older several times he laments the absence of wildlife. This he expresses with absolutely no sense of irony. A good timepiece, it's worth a read but I honestly found it a bit grim.
Also read another of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels. Well written who done it, funny as well.
> Can you believe that I was upbraided by my headmistress/boss for having pupils' work on Animal Farm displayed in my classroom?
> ( Context: we were twinned with Gorlovka in the Ukraine pre separation and a bunch of dignitaries and cosmonauts were due for a visit. )
Great story - but are you certain that this is not something that you have dreamed, comrade?
> o man so amazing
Do you have a favourite Flann O'Brien/Brian O'Nolan novel, Niall? I really liked The Poor Mouth, but I've not read At Swim Two Birds, The Dalkey Archive or The Hard Life yet.
> > need science fiction!
Thanks - sounds a bit The Man Who Fell to Earth / Stranger in a Strange Land. I shall obtain a copy!
On the theme of old sci-fi you should try John Wyndham, who wrote in the 30s and 40s (best known for 'Day of the Triffids'). I highly reccomend 'The Kraken Wakes' and 'The Midwich Cuckoos'.
I have set myself a lockdown task of getting through ten pages of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu every day. My French could do with improving. There is a poetic quality to the prose, which details the life of the narrator and those around him with quite astonishing precision.
> 'Cryptonomicom' by the same author is in the same vein, also a whacking great doorstop, but a better read imho.
I already read that one a few years ago, but thanks for the tip. (I agree completely with your assessment.)
Just finished Crow Country by Mark Cocker. I live near to a rook/jackdaw roost so I found it interesting from that perspective, but it's great little book even without that connection.
Currently reading Tilman's account of the first ascent of Nanda Devi. Currently, he is journeying through India by train with a big wheel of cheese. I love these accounts of old expeditions!
Yes! You're never quite sure when you begin a sentence where it may or may not end.
 See de Coutier's account of de Selby's discussion of the merits of never finishing anything as the key to longevity: Selon de Selby, éviter d'accomplir quoi que ce soit est une compétence qui prend des années à se perfectionner.
I met Kurt Albert once. We had just done Bastille in El Dorado canyon and he was attempting a new route at the top of the crag. He asked how we had got on and we ended up chatting for a short while. He even offered us some of his cake! A really nice guy.Bastille Crack (5.7 4c)
Oh, bookwise. Just read the first two of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy and trying to get going on the third. Meanwhile having a rest with Jamie Redknapps auto😊
The Divide - a Robert Charles Wilson book I haven't read - he's written some classic SF. eg The Chronoliths, Spin Trilogy, and has Ursula
.Le Guin's ability to instantly create an believable alternative world/reality without hyperbole or endless gadgetry.
Currently reading ' the book of trepass' by Nick Hayes.
Really interesting book covering the history of land ownership and access rights. We'll written by an author with an anti-establishment spirit who trespasses on various aristocratic estates as he tells the story. A few sentences have made me laugh out loud.
Read 'A history of the British Landscape' recently. Tells the story from the very first hunter gatherers until the present day. One of my favourite books I've read.
Lockdown has many things that are shit but having loads of time to read books is not one of them. The only hard part is deciding what book to read next.
> Currently reading ' the book of trepass' by Nick Hayes.
> Really interesting book covering the history of land ownership and access rights. We'll written by an author with an anti-establishment spirit who trespasses on various aristocratic estates as he tells the story. A few sentences have made me laugh out loud.
I read the article/interview Dan did with him, and watched Nick's session over at KMF, and he came across really well - very entertaining/down to earth guy.
As a result it's firmly on my reading list; however, I got Who Owns England by Guy Shrubsole for Christmas, which I suspect I'll read first. Sounds like it ties in quite nicely with the key themes of Book of Trespass, so will inevitably read that straight after.
Great thread Natalie - look what you've started!!
I began the year by reading The Swallow: A Biography, by Stephen Moss. This follows on from his other 'biographies' of the Robin and the Wren, both of which make for fun festive reading, as they inform, educate and entertain. It would suffice to say that I know a lot more about each of the three species as a result of reading them, not just in terms of their behaviour, but also of the folklore that surrounds them.
My original intention was to follow this up by reading Who Owns England, by Guy Shrubsole, but instead opted for A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore instead. I'm around half way through and the jury is still out on whether or not I like it, but irrespective of that it has certainly provided food for thought. As a very quick summary it provides a history of modern capitalism through the medium of cheap nature, money, work, care, food, energy and lives. It would suffice to say it's pretty damning of it along the way and is - I think - going to begin by suggesting some alternatives (but I haven't got that far yet).
Has anyone else read it? If so, I'd be curious to know what you've made of it...
I recently finished Underland by Robert Macfarlane having loved Mountains of the Mind and Wild Places. I thought Underland was incredible, run out of superlatives when describing it. Gave many copies to family and friends for Christmas.
"Berlin - The Downfall, 1945" by Antony Beevor. Absolutely superb!
Next on my list is Bill Bryson's "African Diary". I am also going to get myself a copy of "Classic Rock".
I am also on the lookout for other good books by climbers.
I'm listening to Doug Scotts 'Up & About' on audiobooks while out working, reading 'The Planet in a Pebble' in the evening, and have Akala's 'Natives' lined up for the next read
I've recently become somewhat obsessed by trees, fungi and the relationship between them. What goes on underground in ancient woodland is nothing short of astounding. Three books on the subject have got me hooked:
'Wilding' by Isabella Tree (!).
'Overstory' by Richard Powers.
'Entangled Life' by Merlin Sheldrake.
Pillars of the Earth is great. I, however, read it over the course of two weeks in the Argentiere campsite, largely spent in a semi-waterlogged tent wishing the rain would abate so we could go climbing. The memories are too painful; I will never read it again.
It will tie in very nicely with 'who owns England' and the book you have is on my reading list already due to the trepass book.
I've found it has challenged me and some of my attitudes. And has made me start planning some unguided tours of the local big estates
> 'Entangled Life' by Merlin Sheldrake.
What did you think to this? I haven't read it, but read the blurb and it sounded fantastic. Will probably wait until it comes out in paperback before reading it, not least because my reading list is already too long - I don't need to buy any more books before I finish the ones I've got already!
Best read for 2020 - Robert Harris' Cicero Trilogy. Engaging, topical, fascinating characters and lets me understand the modern world and the strange happenings this week much better.
Great thread - I love the what are you reading topics.
The most essential novel I read in 2020 was, er, Twenty Twenty, originally published in 1995 by Nigel Watts. Plot: A pandemic has riven the planet; everyone now wears masks; and the infected protagonist embraces his own impending death by fleeing alone to the Canadian arctic tundra.
Really. It's eerily, disturbingly on the nail, for something written 25 years ago.
Kurt Albert seems to have been an amazingly likeable and modest guy who climbed absolutely everywhere and met absolutely everybody at some time or another. I only saw him once, making his way along a full corridor at the first international competition in Nürnberg in 1990. He made very slow progress; there was a growing bunch of people around him all wanting to say "hi", and he seemed to know them all. I just read in the book that he'd been setting the Nürnberg Finals route until well into the previous night, together with Wolfgang Güllich. He'd been under such time pressure that when he desperately needed to pee while on top of the hydraulic platform he didn't want to waste time by descending and filled an empty Coke bottle. This then got forgotten at the base of the Finals route, in full view of the audience and the local television cameras. I can't remember whether it was Francois Legrand or Yuji Hiroyama who won, but Kurt and Wolfgang had done a great job on the route and nobody was looking at the bottle filled with yellow liquid!
Edit PS: At my local wall (South Rock in Berlin) there's a Kurt Albert Memorial Route on the old outside wall, actually set by him many years ago and which the proprietors of the wall, all honor to them, have kept. It's graded UIAA VIII-; I managed a few at this grade last year, but this one's horrific - imaginary footholds and smears combined with two finger layaways on rounded nubbins, all slightly overhanging. Nobody's dreaming of changing the grade its creator gave it, but you can't help thinking that this was one of his famous practical jokes: a Frankenjura Bavarian reminding the flatland Berliners (who aren't that bad; one of them actually managed all the moves on Action Directe, but not quite the redpoint) "where the hammer's hanging", to use a slightly puzzling but apt German phrase. No prizes for guessing one of my goals for post-lockdown 2021!
SERIOUS SCIENTIFIC ANSWERS to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Current chapter: Is it possible to build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?
The short answer is "yes".
I have just bought my first book in years called Winning Chess. I had a copy about 20 years ago but gave it to a friend.
I have a week off as of tomorrow so I am going to go nuts playing with the book.
I am reading Samuel Pepys' diary - it's on line, and I've found a site with annotations that explain what's going on.
Two things jump out at me - one is that he's so young, I hadn't realised he was 26 when he started writing in 1660.
The other is the times he lived in. Wow, we think we are having a bad time but wow. When he starts, no-one is in charge of England, the king is in exile, Cromwell is dead, Parliament doesn't work, there's an army roaming round the country needing to be paid and the navy on the Thames getting bored. I'm now in 1661, the king is back, and things are looking up - Sam is buying swanky clothes and goes to the theatre most days, but there are still times of violence when everyone is expected to rush out with a sword and a pistol and defend what passes for law and order. And we know, but Sam doesn't, that plague amd fire are coming.
Little Sam takes it all in his stride. Some mornings he plays his lute for an hour before going to the office. Love him.
Yes! You don't hear many people recommending him these days, for some strange reason, but I've read all his short story collections. Very funny, varied in tone and form, and generally quite an exciting writer - especially on first aquaintance. Where did you come across him? On a university lit course?
I've not - but I hope sugar and cotton feature! The first one, which has become a staple of the post-colonial English diet, amounted to buying off the British working class and wedding them to colonialism through cheap calories produced by slave labour; the profits of which continue to live out their strange afterlife in the arts (the Tate galleries), grouse moors and the inherited wealth and property of certain Tory MPs. The second was obviously crucial to the Atlantic slave trade, and prefigures that very neoliberal concept of "efficiency": where producing something on one side of the world to be consumed on another is considered more "efficient", providing you can secure cheap enough labour. It's saddening to see this is still replaying in China, with Uighurs providing the slave labour for cotton picking - nevermind the labour conditions of manufacturing.
Tilman is great entertainment, Diadem published his 7mountain travel books as a single volume (and his 8 sailing/mountain books as another). Then read 'The Ascent of Rum Doodle'!
'Who owns England' is by far a more informative book. After reading that I bought 'The Book of Trespass' which despite being a fine work of research struck me as mainly about the sort of things we got up to as a kid, and from what I have seen on some of my recent trespasses still occurs. Namely building a den somewhere quiet, lighting a fire, and having a beer.
Funnily enough cotton was the first commodity to feature, with specific reference to Madeira.
If you do read it let me know, as it'd be interesting to know what someone else makes of it. From your comments it sounds right up your street.
I read 'There is No Planet B' during the last lockdown, the timing wasn't planned but felt perfect. The lockdown ended up feeling like punctuation to normal life in order to make some changes.
This time I'm embarking on 'The Shepherd's Hut' which to be honest I've always put off, considering myself not to be in the right headspace for what could be a bit of an emotional grueller. Only two chapters in.
I have been reading The Evidence of Things Not Seen, by WH Murray. His Mountaineering in Scotland is a classic which should be on everyone's reading list. This is his autobiography, and I am up to where he is spending WW2 in a prisoner-of-war camp (where he wrote the first draft of MiS on toilet paper, hiding it from the Gestapo), which rather puts our lockdown into perspective.
I am also reading (or rather, re-reading) Seasons of Change by Tom Kitching. Tom is a professional folk musician who set off to discover England and the English by spending 18 months busking with his fiddle all around the country, visiting more than 40 locations from prosperous county towns to decaying former mining villages. To quote the blurb, this isn't really a book about busking, it's about people, place, and that elusive beast - Englishness. He is an observant and perceptive writer and it has been described as "a modern masterpiece of observational writing".
It's an excellent read, and he has also made a rather good CD to accompany it, which he was supposed to be touring, until Covid came along. All Tom's music gigs have been cancelled for the forseeable future, so please buy this - you won't regret it. You can get it from:
It's my go to travel book, easy reading and very funny- definitely recommend it (I hear that a movie studio has bought the rights to it).
The follow-up book "This is not a drill (just a glorious day in the oilfield)" is also very good.
The last book "Is That Thing Diesel?" is ok, but not as funny as the first two.
I finally got round to picking up secondhand copies of the last two books in Frank Herbert's Dune series (actually written by his son based on notes found in a safe deposit box). Meant I had to re-read the first 6 leading up to Xmas. I've finished Hunters of Dune and now 1/4 of the way through Sandworms of Dune. I doubt I'll ever pick them up again but it's nice to complete the story.
Also received Monty Don's latest 'My Garden World' for xmas so that will be next followed by 'The New CCD Astronomy' which is a pretty comprehensive guide to Astrophotography (although already out of date.
Read Dune by Frank Herbert, the classic science fiction novel and my boggles on how a mind can create such an amazing story/world of Politics Sandworms and the coming of age of Paul Atriedes. Looking forward for the new film.
Started a few things like the Earth Sea trilogy by Ursula K le Guin, Crow Road by Ian Banks. Ive also bought the third in the series of the Terry Pratchett Equal Rights discworld stories.
Climbing I have been reading the Cullin by Gordon Stainforth and Warren Hardings bonkers Downward Bound(kind of like Terry Pratchett and Hunter S Thompson of climbing books)
Need to prioritise what I am reading really otherwise I will never finish any of them.
The English Civil War by Blair Worden. Only a short book but packs alot in about the politics.
Started Barak Obama's - the promised land- he writes as well as he speaks.
Just read Trobled Blood- JK Rowlings latest missive featuring Cormoran Strike. To be honest found it pretty tedious and it lacked pace for that type of story.
Also just read John Cooper Clarkes bio. I am amazed he is still alive with his consumption of drugs. My ony criticsm is that it does not reaaly have a focus on his poetry. Bernard Manning comes well out of the book. And for anybody who thinks that poetry should be funded by the gov, his views on this are interesting.
No, I was a biologist before I dropped out. I was lodging with a friend a few years back and he had a copy of 'Sixty Stories' and I've since bought the other collections. Love him.
> What did you think to this? I haven't read it, but read the blurb and it sounded fantastic. Will probably wait until it comes out in paperback before reading it, not least because my reading list is already too long - I don't need to buy any more books before I finish the ones I've got already!
Santa dropped Sheldrake's book down the chimney for me, so I haven't really had the time to properly read it yet. I've only dipped into the odd page, but from what I've read it looks very interesting indeed. It's incredible how fungi can alleviate mental illnesses, provide medicines, change animal behaviour with devastating precision, facilitate communication between trees and plants, digest plastic, etc. And yet Sheldrake reckons that over 90% of fungal species remain undocumented!
Yes, me too - one of the best short story writers. None of his peers are quite as good: Walter Abish is pretty good in places, but dry in others. William H. Gass has a couple of interesting stories, e.g. 'In the Heart of the Heart of the Country', but most of his stuff is unbearable. 'Willie Master's Lonesome Wife' shows how tedious experimental writing can be, not to mention misogynist. John Barth likewise: clowning around in an unfunny way. Kurt Vonnegut is great, but doing something quite different. And I really enjoyed Charles Bukowski's short story collections (well... mostly!), though the sexual politics is occasionally disgusting. Raymond Carver is often held up, but it's mostly sentimental and/or dull and feels overly "workshopped". Probably I should get to work on J G Ballard's shorter fiction, but I haven't yet.
I'm a bit on the fence with Bukowski but some of his poetry is mint.
Similarly Vonnegut, I've read all the classics but they always make me feel as though I'm missing something crucial that makes other people rave about him.
Ballard's short stories are worth a go, better than the novels.
And of course, I love a bit of Dick. Hurrrr.
Nine Lives by Aimen Dean. Absolutely riveting and great to understand Islamic Jihad
Doug Scott’s Un and About - pretty good autobiography if you can deal with the ego.
Railway man and Ali Smith’s Autumn just waiting to be started
I read “Agent running in the Field” a couple of months back. It was really good. Have read "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" since. "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" has to be one of the best books I've read. Currently in the middle of "The Honourable Schoolboy"
Currently reading Sharon Boltons - Lacey Flint series. Absolutely brilliant, the author does a great job of playing with your mind and surprising you at the last minute.
I've decided a bleak midwinter lockdown is maybe not the best time to be wrestling with Sartre's existentialism, so have paused my reading of Being and Nothingness. I'm now being transported back to the bright psychedelic daze of my favourite period in popular music, the 60s Birth of Rock. I've made a too-long delayed start on David Mitchell's latest novel, Utopia Avenue, the story of an invented band of that name. Easy reading and very enjoyable so far. Looks like there'll be much fun to be had in spotting all the cultural references. (Though I do wish he'd write another Cloud Atlas!)
Just at the moment, spurred by the reshowing of the 1950s Richard Greene Robin Hood on Freeview which we are enjoying hugely, I'm reading Roger Lancelyn Green. Just finished Robin Hood - I began reading it not thinking I'd go very far as the physical books I'm reading were bought around 1960 and read to me as a small child, but actually it is a really wonderful trip into mediaeval romanticism with a lot of fun written in. So now I've gone on with this author to read another physical book, 1960 edition, read to me at the same time in my life - his "Saga of Asgard" which is also quite full of dry humour.
Then probably I'll read my next Martin Beck book.
> Tilman is great entertainment, Diadem published his 7mountain travel books as a single volume (and his 8 sailing/mountain books as another). Then read 'The Ascent of Rum Doodle'!
Yes I think all Tilman's books are great. Also his biography by J R L Anderson.
> Going for a challenge and depth. I have been reading 'In search of lost time' by Proust since March. 7 volumes, with a break inbetween each to read lighter stuff.
Good choice. I finished volume 7 last week, having started at the beginning of lockdown #1. I enjoyed it other than "The Guermantes Way" which had too many 100 page descriptions of posh parties for my taste. I read "Albertine" by Jacqueline Rose along the way and found it a different and interesting perspective. I'm wondering if "A Dance to the Music of Time" should come next.
On my bedside cabinet
’The living mountain’. Nan Shepherd.
‘The Poor Mouth’. Flann O’Brien
’The time travellers guide to medieval Britain’. Ian Mortimer. The bits about the Black Death and medieval pandemics are very sobering. Samual Pepys surgery for kidney stones a very real horror story. He survived it and had an annual party to commemorate it!
and if it exists
’Fifty Shades of HVS’ ...
Yes, Proust is not an easy read and there are a lot of long passages that could be called boring, but there are golden nuggets in it. I'm just about to start Vol. 6 Did'nt know about Albertine, but will look it up.
A Dance to the Music of time is fantastic. Always been scared of it as its twelve books, but finally got stuck in and it's great. Read it all in one go and loved it. A history/social commentary on the 20th Centuary. Loads of name dropping and opinions,
I'm only on to the third chapter so far, It's alright though.
Dunno if you've read Murray's Mountaineering Scotland (set around the same time) which is excellent, but his Undiscovered Scotland is a little drier.
Nice idea. I'm reading The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein. She's one of my favourite philosophers, she really gets the "hard problem" of consciousness, (aka the mind-body problem) and whenever I've heard her speak on it, I cheer on every word she says. She wrote her thing on it in the form of a novel, and it's great.
Here she is talking about consciousness, brilliantly:
Incidentally, she's married to Stephen Pinker. It would be interesting to eavesdrop on them having a row about putting the bins out or something because both of their arguments will be so deeply considered, eloquently expressed and firmly held that I imagine it take weeks to resolve a disagreement.
Before listening to Stephen Pinker's talk at How the Light Gets In festival in London, I spoke to a woman next to me about how dreadful the weather was (about as bad as putting the bins out). It was only afterwards I realised it was Rebecca Goldstein. She engaged quite well with my pathetic conversational gambit.
> I love Harris' Cicero books! So wonderfully researched and well written, and made sense of events that totally flummoxed me at uni.
I'd agree - although it was a million miles from anything I was actually taught. But they do make me understand why and how the US government is constructed. As well as being a great read!
Been reading more than ever over last month due to "things"
Last two, both recommended, were:
Little eyes by Samanta Schweblin: a disturbing black mirror-esque state of the internet parable based on the conceit of an international craze for robotic pets controlled by randomly assigned strangers.
The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M Jon Harrison: exactly what his readers would hope for, a superbly written mood piece, probably with particular midlife crisis appeal(!), tinged with a supernatural undercurrent and usual weirdness.
now starting Reality and other stories by Jon Lanchester, picked out of loyalty to an author I like, and possible overlap with little eyes, short "ghost" stories inflected with modern technology.
I've finally started on Philip Pullman's Northern Lights, having been gifted it last Christmas. It has all the elements of a great story really: exploration, narrow boats, other worlds. Like all the things I cherish in the real world — but better
The other week I also finally got round to reading Into Thin Air. Which was somewhat more depressing for a whole host of obvious reasons.
After saying I was going to re-read Wade Davis’s “Into the Silence” I ended up with Michael Palin’s “Erebus” - the story of the ship that disappeared in the Arctic in the 1840’s with Sir John Franklin & 100 -odd crew. Enjoying it hugely, Palin writes very well about a long-past era which could have been dry & dusty, but he’s made it both well researched and erudite, and a ripping yarn.
And there’s no danger I’ll ever get to go either to Antarctica or the North West Passage so there’s no lockdown frustration involved!
I see a few above have mentioned Pillars of the Earth which is indeed an epic tome, and very rewarding. Another solid lump of pulp worth getting stuck into if you have plenty of time to kill is Shogun by James Clavell. Another very well written historic yarn. Thoroughly interesting and enjoyable. Don't let the length put you off, it's not a slog at all.
> After saying I was going to re-read Wade Davis’s “Into the Silence” I ended up with Michael Palin’s “Erebus” - the story of the ship that disappeared in the Arctic in the 1840’s with Sir John Franklin & 100 -odd crew. Enjoying it hugely, Palin writes very well about a long-past era which could have been dry & dusty, but he’s made it both well researched and erudite, and a ripping yarn.
A suitable companion to this book excellent as it is, try Barrow's Boys by Fergus Flemming. Barrow incidently was Seretary to the Navy and responsible for encouraging Arctic exploration at that time.
> I'm reading The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein. She's one of my favourite philosophers, she really gets the "hard problem" of consciousness, (aka the mind-body problem) and whenever I've heard her speak on it, I cheer on every word she says. She wrote her thing on it in the form of a novel, and it's great.
I have resolved your 'hard problem' after our discussion last year. Consciousness is a problem that science has an emotional commitment to not resolving
But I won't be responding on this thread as it's a special thread that I don't want to derail. RG seems very knowledgeable - I'll be taking a look at her book - thanks.
> +1 for that. Taipan and King Rat are also good.
I have all 6 books in the series but I couldn't manage more than 20 pages of whirlwind before I lost interest. The other 5 books build up a remarkable story.
Just finished Patrick Barker's Unrememberd Places and The Cairngorms a secret History.
Unremembered Places was really enjoyable. Vignettes of a variety of places (many familiar) with an extra twist of history, which brought out things to identify with even in the unfamiliar. The Cairngorms was also good, but I think you need to know the place to really enjoy it. I learnt alot and will return to it.
Now on Gone Feral by Steven Freeman - not far into it and quite enjoying it, though he is a bit fed up with his lot - perhaps one to avoid if you are feeling cooped up with lockdown.
Downloaded some random stuff from our local library. Don't know about other local authorities but Edinburgh has a good selection of digital downloads with the overdrive platform and accept user suggestions too(I got a stack of climbing stuff added in).
Currently reading Eye of the Red Tsar by Sam Eastland. An enjoyable bit of fictional history so far.
Great idea Nat.
I am currently reading Owen Jones book about Corbyn.
I really enjoyed Stemacs book and I am in the midst of reviewing on Good Reads.
The book about the environmentalist who was the first female graduate in South Carolina military school looks very interesting.
Just finished my first graphic novel in over a decade. Altitude by Oliver Bocquet and Jean-Mark Rochette. It tells the story of Jean Mark's life as an Alpinist before becoming a famous graphic novel artist (he drew Snowpiercer). Highly recommended to mountaineers and a very nice xmas present.
Just finished all of David Hepworth's books on the rock and pop through the years and most recently the most excellent 'Crossroads' by Mark Radcliffe. Currently scratching head and thinking what next?
Despite season 2 being recently shown on BBC.
I have just finished the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman. Very enjoyable to read though i still find it odd that it made It's way on to the list of banned literature due to it being deemed as blasphemous.
Have you read the prequel and sequel (unfinished) - The Secret Commonwealth? Well worth a read.
I'm reading Nan Shepherd's "The Living Mountain" very inspiring I really want to get back into the Cairngorms. However, don't bother reading Robert MacFarlane's introduction - what a load of pretentious bull...
Not currently reading it but for me The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is one of the all time greats.
Also (as mentioned above) really liked His Dark Materials trilogy. The tv series hasnt grabbed me in the same way.
I had a £50 book voucher, which I decided to spend on a selection of immersive sci fi plus one classic climbing book I still hadn't read (just to torture myself a bit more). Details below. Finished Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche last week (strongly recommend), and am already 650 pages into The Passage by Justin Cronin (good page turner but not as gripping or immersive as I'd hoped).
Sorry, I probably seem like the biggest troll ever, starting a thread and not replying to it! Glad that it seems to have taken off, anyway.
I mostly seem to read online articles and news reports these days and every time I have read a book in recent years it's usually a rapid skim-read for research/an interview, which has turned reading into a job of sorts! I am finding it harder to relax with a book instead of trying to break it down/pick out nuggets.
I know this doesn't sound great when a huge pile of books is due to be arriving on my desk as a Boardman Tasker judge this year, but I will at least have a bit more time to enjoy them...I hope!
Some recent work-related reads: The Moth and The Mountain by Ed Caesar (interview on UKC); Never Leave the Dog Behind by Helen Mort; To Live by Élisabeth Revol (OK, I translated it, but I had to actually read it properly for an interview!) and Olive, Mabel & Me by Andrew Cotter (yes, the BBC Sport commentator whose dogs went viral online in lockdown...).
Good to see Climbing Days, The Living Mountain and Sartre in the mix. For anyone interested in existentialist philosophy I would recommend At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell.
Currently reading Rising by Sharon Wood.
Currently reading "The Rules of Contagion" by Adam Kucharski. Adam is a mathematical modeller and epidemiologist at the The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is worth following on Twitter (@AdamJKucharski) for anyone interested in the mathematical side of things and making sense of COVID data.
Although published this year, it came out before the current pandemic was established and so makes interesting reading with COVID constantly in the background - I imagine many similar texts will be getting a second edition in the next few years.
It also covers different kinds of viral spread - such as misinformation.
Not yet but i will probably give Waterstones some business and buy La Belle Sauvage. The design of the hardbacks are rather appealing despite the price.
I'm currently enjoying Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado with Vince Rause - a tragic yet fascinating story so far.
I'm also picking my way through Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills at the weekends, although progress is slow going on this one!
When I heard the bell - John Mcleod. An angry/sad tale of the wreck of the Iolaire on Beasts of Holm at the entrance to Stornoway harbour in December 1918 and the dreadful loss of Lewis menfolk which has an impact on the island community even today.
Creation -Gore Vidal. A Historical novel set in the Persian Empire during the reigns of Darius the Great and Xerxes 1. Told from a Persian perspective and disparaging of the Greeks. It seems to be well researched and descriptions of Northern India and Cathay(China) are interesting.
I read The Catholic Orangemen of Togoland by Craig Murray and enjoyed that, it's about his work as Deputy High Commissioner to West Africa in the 1990s
It involves, mercenaries, The Queen's visit, mining companies, politics, overseas aid etc
For me it was a good insight into that part of Africa.
I am now reading The Spy who came in From the Cold, John Le Carre and am really enjoying it, brilliant writing easy to read as well.
It feels very authentic for that time in the cold war.
Graham Greene said it's the best spy novel he's ever read.
> Here she is talking about consciousness, brilliantly:
Did she just say she believes in an invisible and unknowable force (psyche) or have I misunderstood
'Colliding Continents' Mike Searle - don't understand that either
> Did she just say she believes in an invisible and unknowable force (psyche) or have I misunderstood
That's not my reading at all. She's saying that consciousness has a first person ontology: an object in consciousness such as the pink elephant I'm imagining only exists *for me*. An object that can be described by our current scientific method has to have a third person ontology, it has to be accessible to any observer. This makes consciousness a different category of stuff and requires a different mode of description: this is why we use art to communicate the contents of our consciousness, but we use science to describe the nature of the world out there.
This doesn't mean that consciousness isn't part of the physical world, just that our scientific method isn't up to the task of explaining it, yet. I don't think Rebecca sees any reason science couldn't expand to include consciousness in its scope, in principle. But she seems sceptical of all efforts so far.
> This doesn't mean that consciousness isn't part of the physical world, just that our scientific method isn't up to the task of explaining it, yet.
There was a similar line of reasoning in the IOP Physics Journal regarding Free Will. The argument, as I saw it, was that Physics is a *model* for our universe rather than representing some underlying truth, and free will is something that is beyond the scope of that model.
I get the line of thought, but I must admit to finding it a bit unsatisfactory.
Anyway, apologies for derailing the thread - lots of good suggestions for reading material here.
On Friday, a lass at work left and gave me a book saying thank you for all your help and support. It's Beyond Impossible, Nimsdai Purja. Apt and rather nice of her, she knew I was into climbing.
Worst book of year: FRA fixtures calendar 2020
Best book of year: Shot in the Dark, Lynne Truss, a light crime frippery (small praise, barely read properly last year)
Best coffee table book: Peak Rock (annoying how quickly the ascending grade format gets above my pay grade)
Best guide: Over the Moors (got me out of my rut and led to some fine adventures)
Resolution: put the damn iPad down and read properly.
I forgot to reply to the topic now I've finished Lancelyn Green's Saga of Asgard and I can heartily recommend it for a bit of night time escapism. I saw Asterix like images while reading it and it gives a good background to understand some of the goings on in Asgard between Zaphod Beeblebrox and the Aesir in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The Octagonal Phase.
Well I've finished This is memorial Device, which was thoroughly disappointing. However, John Cooper Clarke's autobiography is splendid. Of course, it's impossible to read with hearing his voice. I had no idea what kind of figure he was in pre-punk Manchester.
I've just finished The Terror by Dan Simmons - an embellishment of the 1845 Franklin Expedition. Even though I knew how it ended in reality, Simmons' telling of the story and including an element of thriller/horror makes it very unusual and gripping.
I'd already read his Hyperion Sci-Fi anthology during last year's lockdown periods, which was brilliant. Now I'm onto his Ilium series, which is weird.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Historical fiction and the imagined intrigues and conspiracies around the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976 in Kingston, Jamaica. Every chapter written point-of-view from a different character: yardies, CIA agents, a music journalist, everyday Kingstonians, and very occasionally the ghost of a colonial plantation owner. The scope is amazing, all of the characters' voices unique and consistent and the plot as complex and well-realised as something by Le Carre. Well worth its Booker in 2015. Recommended.
> A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.
I found that impossibly hard going. I got as far as the multiple voices telling their stories of the attempted assassination and then gave up.
By contrast, James's 'The Book of night women' was marvellous, and thoroughly recommended.
> I found that impossibly hard going. I got as far as the multiple voices telling their stories of the attempted assassination and then gave up.
I can see that. I find le Carre hard going at points but ultimately rewarding, and that's partly why I mentioned le Carre in my quick review. My only criticism of note is that just a couple of the chapters are excessively long and seem even more so given the feeling of pace that comes from the regular switch of viewpoint and scenario between the other chapters. 100% worth persevering for me. Best thing I've read in years.
> By contrast, James's 'The Book of night women' was marvellous, and thoroughly recommended.
That's on the list, but I've got Black Leopard, Red Wolf lined up next, the first book of his "African Lord of the Rings" Dark Star Trilogy. I read LotR once a year up until only a few years ago so to say I'm looking forward to it is an understatement.
I've just finished the first two books of Pullman's new Book of Dust trilogy. In terms of target audience I guess he's continuing to aim for progressively older people with each book. I'm not sure if the BoD is now Young Adult Fiction or if it edging into just "fiction", but, whatever, it is absolutely beautifully written, and a very welcome return to Lyra's world.
The only problem is that I have to wait for him to write the last one.
+1 for A Brief History of Seven Killings, absolutely superb.
Sadly I found his more recent Black Leopard, Red Wolf a real disappointing slog by comparison - just too weird and non-linear and not enough of a story. I finished it but didn't really have a clue what was going on by the end and didn't really care about any of it either, just finished it because I'm stubborn about finishing books I've started.
> In terms of target audience I guess he's continuing to aim for progressively older people with each book. I'm not sure if the BoD is now Young Adult Fiction or if it edging into just "fiction", but, whatever, it is absolutely beautifully written, and a very welcome return to Lyra's world.
I got to the end of the first one and felt it could have easily been 200 pages longer without being overly verbose. Completely forgot that the target audience is somewhat younger! Great, compelling reading regardless of age. I can't wait to start the second.
> The only problem is that I have to wait for him to write the last one.
Patrick Rothfuss. 2013 and still waiting...
If you're not familiar with Mr. Rothfuss, and you like fantasy, and you have no expectations of ever hearing the conclusion, go and read The Name of the Wind of The Kingkiller Chronicles. It is simply the most eloquent and compelling fantasy series I have ever picked up.
The Last Hillwalker by John D Burns.
Its not a bad read. I read his other book about Bothies first which was great.
Averaging 6 pages a day at bedtime so it should last a while.
Ordered from my local bookshop not shamazon.
I don't think anyone's mentioned Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouninard yet (I'm currently listening to it on Audible).
Climbing, environmentalism and business all in one book - highly recommended to most people here.
'Let my People go surfing' is a book I have recommended to several folks. I bought a copy when it came out by Penguin. But one has to realise that it was written in 2005. How much have things changed in the intervening 15 years.
I am a bit of a nerd in that respect as I always check the publishing date of a book so I can try relate it to the thinking and practices of the period it was written.
After several mentions of John Cooper Clarke's book I bought it and am several chapters in. I have seen him live and in full flow so It is one of those books that you read in the voice of the subject and I am currently really enjoying it. It prompted me to look up some live performances by JCC and I found this one which has this week probably run its course - JCC on Donald Trump from 2017. youtube.com/watch?v=Ta51i-vCL1U&
> 'Let my People go surfing' is a book I have recommended to several folks. I bought a copy when it came out by Penguin. But one has to realise that it was written in 2005. How much have things changed in the intervening 15 years.
Yes, I have haven't finished it yet but it still feels very contemporary to me, not that I know much about the clothing industry or enough about environmental issues. A good book to partner alongside English Pastoral by James Rebanks.
Do you think Patagonia have stayed true to Chouinard's ideals?
Max Hastings' "The Korean War" a big gap in my knowledge of post WW2 history. It's given me a better understanding of the current situation and why China continues to back such a crazy state as North Korea.
THe USA came close to using nuclear weapons, thank god there wasn't such a nutjob as president as the last one
I had a friend who was one of the Glorious Glosters that got left behind. He managed to get out but many didn't. All caused because some senior officer when asked by the Americans how things were, replied "Pretty sticky old boy!" The US general didn't have a clue what he meant!
Hackett's story is well worth reading, especially his terrible treatment in captivity. To think he went through the same horrors after Arnhem when he was also trapped behind the lines, but secreted away by some nuns who also treated his quite severe injuries.
Just came across this; great thread!
Brought up a working class Glaswegian so I had to read ‘ Shuggie Bain’!
I found it very poignant and with lots of Glaswegian dark humour. I was about to recommend it to some friends in NY but hesitated because of the language when they emailed me to say they had had a couple of their friends in NY over for dinner and they had asked if they had read ‘ Shuggie Bain’!
The power of the Booker Prize!
I've recently had a spell of Australian crime fiction (Jane Harper, Chris Hammer) and am now working my way through Mick Herron's Slough House novels. All good stuff too, in a not-too-taxing don't-bring-anything-that-might-be-called-classic-literature-near-me way.
Then I have Stephen Venables' Kangshung face book waiting to complete my reading-round-the-fourteen-8000m-peaks journey. It's forecast to be good weather for reading for most of the week too.
I'm currently invested in 3 (climbing) biographies dispersed around the house. My favourite being 'Push' by Tommy Caldwell, purely for the fact it's situated in the downstairs loo.
I'm not reading it. But a lot of people are. "Too Much and Never Enough", sold nearly one million copies on the day of its release. Because it was written by Mary Trump.
Now she's going to change her name to remove any connection to the man ?? Maybe not write a book about him ? Will she give the dirty money to charity ?
People of the sea by James Wharram and Hanneke Boon.
James was / is a pioneer of catamarans who's designs were inspired by the Polynesians, other influences come from his youth spent walking and climbing during the Post war years.
Its a fascinating tale even if you're not that into boats.
You are painting yourself in a very bad light (apart from doing the inexcusable, creepy thing of commenting 'knowledgeably' about a book you haven't read.) Mary Trump's book did not sell well 'because she was a Trump' but because she told, carefully and analytically, just how awful he was at a personal, family level. You need to think about which side of the equation the dirt lay. Please, please don't tell me that you think Trump was a decent honest man.
Just started Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane which I guess loads of people here have read.
We'll written and covering the history of mounraineering but from a cultural mindset as much as the classic linear history. Also talking about his relationship with the mountains and the characters on the edge of the story such as the pioneers of geology.
It's good so far.
Nice to see all these interesting titles. There's not enough time in the day.
Just finished upstream by Mary Oliver. And now reading the pedagogy of the oppressed which makes no sense to me at all. But feels like something I should read.
Robert Peston's 2017 book "WTF?". It's all about analysing how the country got into such a mess. I find his style a bit strange as a TV presenter, but he is clearly massively bright and his insights into how the economy works are fantastic.
Canal Dreams by Iain Banks. Not sure why it's taken so long for me to get around to this one. There's always a pivotal twist somewhere in a Banks, and it felt like a long time coming - then it perks up into an action thriller. Genre undefining and unedifying.
God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens. For the third time. I remain in awe of the scholarship and polemic. Brilliant!
I read it recently, too. Brown's climbing was amazing, but the book, though enjoyable, didn't give me a very vivid impression of either him or the climbing. Also, it's a shame to see him regailing the reader with "hilarious stories" about, e.g., breaking a porters' strike by having a policeman beat them. The best bits for me were the snippets of his youth, e.g. breaking into a zoo or hand-over-handing down a rope into a cavern; or the surprising amount of times him and his companions fell down the length of Ben Nevis! Personally, I feel there's still an opportunity for a good bio to be written - in the same grain as The Villain.
> Have you read the prequel and sequel (unfinished) - The Secret Commonwealth? Well worth a read.
I'm a real fan of the original three novels, but I thought La Belle Sauvage was a bit like a sausage: tasty, but made up of leftover ingredients and best not to overthink it...
The Secret Commonwealth, though, was one of the worst books I've ever read. It has an awful, weak and pointless excuse for a plot and is irredeemably miserable and sadistic throughout. The main "philosophical"/thematic threads of the novel are dealt with in such a heavy handed way, but without actually articulating anything worth writing. Pan's journey is utterly flat and bathetic. The sexual assault/rape on the train was awful - upsetting, but also written a way that went beyond clumsy into gratuitousness combined with ignorance. I really don't think the novel has a single redeeming feature.
I don't think I will waste my time examining Pullman's next excretion.
I remember the great Peter Cooke describing the book as "So boring no-one has ever read it. Not even Cervantes." I think it was on Parkinson in the early 70's. Am prepared to believe someone might have managed it since then!
> I'm a real fan of the original three novels, but I thought La Belle Sauvage was a bit like a sausage: tasty, but made up of leftover ingredients and best not to overthink it...
If anything I thought it better than Subtle Knife / Amber Spyglass. I quite liked the simplicity of a boy heading off down a swollen river with baby in tow. But Northern Lights remains the classic bit of magic in my mind.
"The Secret Commonwealth, though, was one of the worst books I've ever read. It has an awful, weak and pointless excuse for a plot and is irredeemably miserable and sadistic throughout. The main "philosophical"/thematic threads of the novel are dealt with in such a heavy handed way, but without actually articulating anything worth writing. Pan's journey is utterly flat and bathetic. The sexual assault/rape on the train was awful - upsetting, but also written a way that went beyond clumsy into gratuitousness combined with ignorance. I really don't think the novel has a single redeeming feature."
Interesting, and I can see where you're coming from. I'm assuming it's the dark/depressing second installment before good triumphs again in the finale.
Just finished Tommy Caldwell's 'The Push'. I was surprised by how well he writes. As someone who seems in touch with their emotions, he seems to leaves nothing off the page and some bits are almost painfully honest. It's a great account of the whole creation of the Dawn Wall. There's also some interesting comments on the likes of Chris Sharma and Alex Honnold.
Real but sympathetic? I don't want to deny people a different opinion, but I can't agree with that assessment. It serves no purpose within the novel. It revels in its unnecessary and voyeuristic brutality. It is constructed in a way to amplify Islamophobia. It is only stopped by a man stepping in. It is shrugged off by Lyra and apparently forgotten by the author soon after. It serves no purpose within the plot. It's already a terrible novel by this point, and by this point Pullman is obviously lacking the skill, intelligence and sensitivity to deal with such a scene. This is from memory without giving it the time it doesn't deserve to formulate a more cogent critique.
The thing that upsets me is that people still praise a novel that's utter trash, which leads me to conclude many people will praise anything from an established author - especially if they're already "fans".
I think it is real. It captures the 'so this is what's going to happen' feeling which I can only assume occurs in real life. It's not pretty. I'm not sure where you're getting Islamophobia from.
I did like the book even though it was depressing. I guess Lyra is naturally interesting even in adult form.
I'm going a bit weird in lockdown and have started reading Dennis Nilsen's autobiography. A friend of my wife's inherited everything of Nilsen's, including this book. He's just had it published and sent us a pdf. Coincidentally, I grew up near where he lived. A girl in my class was living next door when they found the bodies and had met him a few times.
As far as barely edited autobiographies go the writing is not brilliant but it's pretty readable, Nilsen is intelligent and articulate. It started with a pretty ordinary tale of poverty, neglect and abuse and the frustration of being gay when it was illegal and dangerous. It's now starting to get into weird sexual fantasies and I'm sure it's all downhill from here. Not sure if I'll make it to the end.
I guess the the women who went out of their way to directly praise that very scene as reflecting their real experiences must have taken leave of their senses and are just mindless "fans". Possibly Islamophobes as well.
I'll fire up the shredder.
I couldn't say. I'm not making a point about those people, so don't pretend I am just because you have a different opinion to me. Perhaps it chimed with someone's experience, and that's not something for me to speak for or against. But, it's objectively bad writing.
Yeah, there's a huge buzz around Shuggie Bain at the moment. Not a fan of fiction but I'm intrigued to give it a go given it won the Booker!
The Push is really good. I was speaking to a writer recently who said that top climbers often make for good writers as they're persistent and willing to learn and process emotions from the climb etc.
I have a first edition (I think?) of Games Climbers Play and Mirrors in the Cliffs.
Currently looking forward to reading Winter 8000 and have just finished Rising by Sharon Wood.
Not reading climbing since I'm not leaving the house so working my way through my George Orwell collections and Alice Robert's Tamed.
Making good use of the Kindle for book that can be downloaded for free (legally I might add) and enjoying the classics that are classics for a reason.
About 5 years ago, I smashed my heel, and the surgeon/carpenter managed to f*ck up the rest of my foot, so many weeks were spent immobile.
A neighbour brought me some Jack Reacher books, which I first sniffed at, but then I devoured them, and in lockdown I started the series again, in order, with a view to filling in any I had missed.
The first half dozen or so I remember reading, but weirdly I had no idea what happened, so it was like reading them for the first time.
I recently realised that back then I was self- dosing morphine, which probably explains why I have no recollection of them!
Anyway, as a Le Carre aficionado, I must say these are right up there, -simpler yes, but brilliant writing, superb and often hilarious use of simile, and a naive way with descriptions that are original and instinctively recognised. I frequently laugh out loud, but never at the dialogue. Any other Reacher fans?
To be fair, they were hostages, in fear of their lives, so surely self defence. Happily, and amazingly, though, the guy actually survived!
There is an interesting parallel with CJ from Eggheads (who pushed a guy into a canal after a knife was pulled on him, then mentioned the incident years later in his autobiography). Sadly the last few years seem to have been less kind to him.
just finished reading Calum Smith's "The Black Cuillin -The Story of Skye's Mountains" and his other also recently published book "The Goatfell Murder".
Can recommend both.
Just finished a translation ofWalter Bonatti’s “Mountains of my Life” which includes a lot of stuff about the Italian first ascent of K2. Spent half the book thinking, great climber but what a snowflake , then it turned out he really had been stitched up by the summit team.
Really good read, his passages about his solo climbs and later on his descriptive passages probably surpass WH Murray’s writing. Very entertaining on ethics and bolts too. Highly recommended.
> I'm really baffled as to how you could read half of Bonatti's great book thinking he was a "snowflake".
They did properly stitch him up. It no doubt had a profound affect on him, but snowflake certainly isn’t the word I would use.
I have a copy of the book with a personal dedication from the great man, from when I met him. One of my favourite items.
The initial half of the book seemed to me to suggest that, formidable mountaineer that he was, he seemed prickly and intolerant. However, the second half made it clear why he might have felt like that, by the end he’d established a complete rapport for me. Absolutely no snowflakery to be seen here, I was glad to mentally take it all back!
Despite having much more time I find that I'm struggling to read anything long or serious & like some others have read far too much on line (although that has included a lot of scientific papers). Last book I finished was Peter May's 'Rendezvous in Gibraltar' (French translation, not sure what the original was called) - not really a classic but it was a present. Otherwise I've read & re-read several books which are really a collection of related pieces, including a couple by Richard Mabey whose nature writing I really enjoy. Also been reading various chapters in Jean-Marie Morisset's 'Les Alpes du soleil' (part of the 100 best series) found in a local 2nd hand book shop recently which was responsible for my first visit to the southern French Alps in 1980. We spotted the book in a Chamonix window during a long wet period & decided sunny rock in the south must be better than sitting in a tent in a wet Chamonix
> ... working my way through my George Orwell collections ...
I've recently read "Down and Out in Paris and London" and "Coming Up for Air" and I have just got hold of "Homage to Catalonia". I'm looking forward to it.
I've just finished reading a new book by a fellow UKC user - Paul at Work. 'Coaching Adventure Sports' which manages to avoid using too much technical jargon and has some really interesting stories to add context to what is being discussed within the chapters. The one that really sticks in my mind is the story of a diving instructor having a client have a panic attack at 35 metres off the Irish coast and then the analysing of what went wrong and what signs the instructor had missed.
> Last book I finished was Peter May's 'Rendezvous in Gibraltar' (French translation, not sure what the original was called) - not really a classic but it was a present.
'A Silent Death'
Yes, worth reading but he's done better ones.
Likewise I didn't think it was as good as some of his other books but worthwhile. One day I must try & read something of his in English.
I also meant to mention 'Impossible', the latest book by Erri de Luca, not sure if its available in English but its a sort of political thriller set in the Dolomites with many moutaineering references.
My wife, who has no real interest in climbing and mountaineering has started reading my bookshelves. She started with Mountains of the Mind, to be fair MacFarlane is much more her kind of writer than he is mine, to from that I introduced her to Fergus Fleming, the Farrer’s White Spider and now she is reading Feeding the Rat.
I haven't; so thank you, I shall. Aside from being decent reads, I've learned a bit about life in small towns and outback cattle ranches from the books I've read and that's something I wouldn't otherwise have come across. It's a continuing pleasure how a good book can transport you to somewhere you'd never encounter for yourself.
Reading; is it possible to measure how much pleasure it brings during a life? How much learning? How much value it adds?
Just finished "The Bush Runner" about the life of Pierre Esprit Raddison. Just to show that you don't always get what you deserve - or perhaps you do?
Just starting Coyote America by Dan Flores who is an American Environmental Historian. He does some fascinating work and has perhaps been the most instrumental in changing the way we think about the destruction of the Buffalo herds on the great plains in the 19th century. Coyote America is a book about the resilience of this canid species to the outright attempts to exterminate them as a species.
Have now finished David Mitchell's novel about a fictional 60s psychedelic folk-rock band, Utopia Avenue. More lightweight than Cloud Atlas and more conventional than Bone Clocks, although with some excursions into similar metaphysical territory. Certainly entertaining enough to be worth a read, particularly if you're into the classic music of the era. Many real stars make cameo appearances. At first I found this a bit irritating, but when the band hit the West Coast as part of the Brit Invasion of the States, I particularly enjoyed the encounters with Frank Zappa and Jerry Garcia.
Now moving onto the rather more niche The Creature in the Map, by Charles Nicholl, about Sir Walter Ralegh's South American expedition in search of El Dorado.
Just finished the His Dark Materials trilogy and then Endless Perfect Circles about ultra distance cycling.
Just started H Is For Hawk which I've been meaning to read for ages.
If you like ultra distance cycling, you may like ‘The year’ about the history of the year record (number of miles in a year) makes LJOG look like a sunday afternoon spin! Remarkable distances done, fairly good read too. Kindle edition is only £5 too.
Im halfway through ‘advanced custom rod building’ (bet nobody here has read that!!) Going to build myself a #9 wt fly rod for pike fishing. Why? = why not! something to do during this endless lockdown
I've just finished the recently published autobiography of James Wharram (The Sea People https://wavetrain.net/2020/12/18/james-wharram-his-new-autobiography/ ). He's probably done more to democratise small boat ocean voyaging than anyone since Joshua Slocum.
His life story should also resonates far beyond sailing as it's a unique path he forges from wartime Manchester, through post war austerity and on to the more liberated times of the 60 and 70s. What better place to reflect on life than as an outsider?
Add to this mix some interesting anthropology and real adventures on the high seas and it's all the more disappointing that it instantly gets bogged down; simply an ego trip that leaves you screaming at him to at least address some of the questions writ large on every page.
Autobiographies - what's the point?
Finished Pillars of the Earth a couple of weeks ago and have now moved onto World Without End the sequel to Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett's trilogy. It takes place in the same fictional English town of Kingsbridge in the early 14th century with descendants of the people in the earlier book. Again a fascinating insight into everyday life in mediaeval England. The plot incorporates the beginning of the Hundred Years War and the Black death.
I finished Tamata and the Alliance by Moitessier and really enjoyed it. I've got Damien around the World now by Gérard Janichon, two young French chaps back in the 60s/70s and their 10m boat Damien, in the days of no GPS or satellite phones. They visit the Arctic, Antarctic, and even go someway up the Amazon. They didn't take the easy Panama Canal route either. I've just got to them leaving the Amazon, so not sure exactly what comes next apart from them heading for Cape Horn. From my armchair sailing knowledge that would suggest they go from the Horn either back towards Africa on the westerlies or up the west coast of S America until they hit easterlies. It doesn't read as well as Moitessier's book I just finished, but it's kept me interested so far.
Ascent into Hell by Fergus White; about an Everest trip.
A good read containing useful advice about food, hydration and avoidance of altitude sickness.
> English Pastoral, James Rebank. Excellent.
Heard the extracts read on Radio 4, a few weeks back. Must get the book. So many little things stay with me, for example “see the tractor ploughing the field - where are the flocks of seagulls?” In a similar vein I can fully recommend “Wilding” by the appropriately named Isabella Tree. She and her husband have withdrawn all human interference from a huge estate in Sussex, with astonishing results. It’s a whole series of wow moments. And in addition she is a gifted writer. Someone above also recommended Sarah Hall’s “Wolf Border” which is a fictional exploration of similar ground and a gripping read.
> Excitingly, just received Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake which will be my next read.
This was one of my Christmas gifts. I’m about a third if the way through it before I got seduced by Isabella, which is more readable. Merlin is quite solid,
Quite niche but amazing connection between economics and ecology and how it came together in the development of a single city:
Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. William Cronon.
Plenty of interesting ideas in here.
Reading a few P.G.Wodehouse books and can't stop laughing.
Got Shuggie Bain for Christmas like others and found it good. Lots in it to remind me of working days in Glasgow.
Collected up and read as much of Richard Hughes as I could after reading again High Wind in Jamaica. He didn't write much though. Wishing he'd lived to write the third of the Human Predicament trilogy. Or maybe not, as you can make up your own stories for the characters. Going to start his biography after finishing The Code of the Woosters.
Then maybe TH White, letters to a friend - the correspondence between TH White and LJ Potts. This I was sent in error by World of Books due to them erroneously allocating the ISBN number of a Richard Hughes biography to it, and they just told me to keep it or give it to a charity shop rather than returning it. Looks interesting and it feels like a good way to read about some stuff I'd never have thought of reading but for this mistake.
Hotels, Hospitals and Jails by Anthony Swofford. Loved his first book Jarhead, it was a somewhat formative read as a young soldier during my first major exercise. I really enjoy Swofford's writing style so it was fantastic to read his more recent memoir about navigating his relationships with women and his father. Would highly recommend to anyone.
currently on book 3 of Arthur C Clarke's 2001 quadrilogy (having read them several years ago). Can't help feeling by the middle of 2061 he's flogging a dead horse. I also watched the 2 movies again at the weekend and have to say that if i'd not read the book recently, the second half of 2001 would have made no sense at all. Kubrick's imagery is wonderful but lacks any attempt to explain what's going on. I also hadn't realised that what is possibly the most important dialogue in the book - Dave Bowman's 'My god ,,,it's full of stars' is missing from the movie (although Roy Shneider plays a tape of that statement several times in 2010).
Not long finished reading Alone On The Wall, Alex Honnold.
Now reading Tommy Caldwells - The Push.
در پاسخ به ناتالی بری - UKC:
I read Mexico's Volcanoes. This guide provides directions to nearby roads and climbing routes, and information on routes closed due to volcanic activity.
I often refer to film stars, rock guitarists and climbers as "my heroes" but Parrado ( and Canessa) are heroic on another level altogether. I've read the original Piers Paul Read book but to see it from Parrado's perspective must be even more interesting. I'll look it up.
I'm joining this late but an interesting book especially relevant to all outdoor users is Guy Shrubsole's "Who owns England?"
Interesting details about land ownership, it's history and it's injustices. Also shines a light on some of the more unsavoury land owners and their practices.
Ends with a manifesto to propose a re-balance of land and property ownership.
If you are interested in access issues, environmental issues, house prices or that little footpath across a field you sometimes use then this book will have you transfixed on how are access to our hills and mountains is so tenuous in England.
Also have a look at the website https://whoownsengland.org