Tuesday, 27 January 2009

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
by Susanna Clarke

narrated by Simon Prebble
"English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory."
This is a long, long, book, clocking in at 32 hours audio, but so beautifully written that it was worth every minute. One of the reviews I read compares it to Harry Potter, but apart from incorporating magic into reality there's really no comparison in the tone or quality of writing. Not that HP is badly written, but this is just so elegant, and not aimed at children (although older children might enjoy it).

Image of the book cover
The Food We Eat
by Joanna Blythman

"The average shopper often buys food on trust with little idea of its true quality. This work by an award-winning writer examines all the foods we routinely buy, asking how they match up to the standards that modern food consumers are increasingly demanding."
It's an old, old book now - this edition came out in 1996 - so it's difficult to know whether information is still current. Do they still allow 'smoked' bacon to be smoke-flavoured? I found it interesting, if dated, until I came to the part where she says that table salt has iodine added "to give the salt a healthy image." That ruined the whole thing - if she hasn't done this basic research, then all her other facts are suspect.

Image of the book cover
by Redmond O'Hanlon

"Redmond O'Hanlon describes his extraordinary three-week trip on an Orkney trawler as it journeys far into the north Atlantic in search of its catch. Young skipper Jason Schofield has a 2 million pound overdraft on his boat, the Norlantean, which is why he has to go out in a Category One Force 12 hurricane when the rest of the Scottish fleet has run for shelter."
Long ago I read some amusing books by Mr O'Hanlon, and I mostly enjoyed this one too. He has written it in a style that tries to convey the chaos aboard this trawler - the motion, the noise, the discomfort, the sleep deprivation, the trawlermen, the machinery, the fish, the fatigue. It probably has the most italics and exclamation marks and ellipses in any book I've ever read, and was actually tiring to read, like being incoherently shouted at the whole time. I shall pass it on - Bookmooch, anyone?


aims said...

I've recently gotten into audio books and discovered that I really enjoy them.

Since I regulate my reading to bedtime with popcorn - otherwise I'd read all day - the audio books fill in that (reading time) during the day and I get another book under my belt.

The best I've had so far are Terry Pratchett's. I think I have 3 left to listen to. Wow. I'll miss them when I'm done. Truly.

Lola said...

Good to see you back, aims! I've tried reading Terry Pratchett a few times, but we don't get on. I just don't find him as funny as people tell me he is.