Category Archives: books

book snob

I just had a massive book snob moment and felt the need to share/confess.

On a blog that I normally enjoy and regularly read, the following statement was made, ‘I am not ashamed that Harry Potter & Edward Cullen are lovingly placed next to Gone With The Wind & Great Expectations on my bookshelf‘.

[deep breath]

Ok, so I don’t expect that everyone is going to like the same books as me, I don’t even expect people to always like the ‘classics’ , old and new, …but really? Twilight and Great Expectations in the same class?  Lovingly placed? Harry Potter I don’t have such an issue with, because when it comes down to it, JK Rowling is a good writer.  But Twilight?  Not only does the storyline teeter on the edge of ridiculousness (have you read the last book?!), it is so very badly written.  I don’t mind a bit of ‘easy reading’, as long as it is well written.   All power to you if you can, in all good conscience, group Meyer with Dickens.  I just don’t think I can.  And perhaps I am over stating it, but I think that the brilliance of the great writers should be respected and acknowledged.  They deserve to be honoured, as do their words.

And so really this begs the question, ‘well, what have you been reading lately if you are such a book doyen?’ [note the self pointed sarcasm]

I have recently read How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland. I am reserving comment till after our Book Club discussion of it.

And I am reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (which was the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner).  Although, 100 pages in and I’m not so excited about it. We’ll see how it goes.


And next on the list is Freedom by Jonathan Franzen which has been touted as the ‘best book ever written’!!!  Big claim! I am fascinated to read this one.  I will absolutely keep you updated.

the winner is…

Book club voted and the winner is…

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson.

So far a few very keen readers have finished the book and are impressed – that bodes well.  I am about half way through and am quite compelled by it.  It is very different to what I thought it was going to be.  From page one you feel a little chilled, like something isn’t quite right in ‘the castle’.  The characters are enticing from the start and despite their strangeness you feel a warmth and empathy towards them.  I have no idea how it is going to end (which is how I like it!).

to russia with love

I am quite obsessed with The Book Depository of late.  Probably because I am eagerly awaiting a delivery, but mostly because it is an extension of my love of Russian writers (who I am awaiting delivery of!).  I have long had a fascination with Russia, particularly its political history and it’s many literary genius’ (bias much?!).  I just finished reading Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Kiss and Other Stories’, which was beautiful.  Chekhov simply tells you the story, in great detail, observing what most of us would dismiss, and he does it without passing judgment or offering an opinion.   I have now moved on to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot’, which I am loving.

Reading Dostoevsky or Chekhov or Tolstoy or any of them, feels like pure escapism, which is a lovely option at the moment!


As I may have mentioned here before, our lovely little book club has a fabulous method when choosing our next book.  One person chooses 3 options and then the group votes.  It means we all feel like we are involved and it also means we read a huge range of books.  So far we have read everything from Dracula to Lolita to Cannery Row.

This month it was my turn to pick our three possibilities.  You do feel a bit of pressure in the process – you want to get it right.  But you also know that this is your chance to suggest 3 books you are really keen to delve in to.  So here are my 3 options (I’ll let you know what gets voted in!).

The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) – by Henri Alain-Fournier

When Meaulnes first arrives at the local school in Sologne, everyone is captivated
…by his good looks, daring and charisma. But when Meaulnes disappears for
several days, and returns with tales of a strange party at a mysterious house
and a beautiful girl hidden within it, he has been changed forever. In his
restless search for his Lost Estate and the happiness he found there, Meaulnes,
observed by his loyal friend Francois, may risk losing everything he ever had.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle – by Shirley Jackson
Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian
for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But
…ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the
world isn’t leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives,
armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe,
Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.

One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThis brutal glimpse of Russia under Stalin shocked the world when it first appeared.
Discover the importance of a piece of bread or an extra bowl of soup, the
…incredible luxury of a book, the ingenious possibilities of a nail, a piece of
string or a single match in a time where survival is all. Enter a world of
incarceration– and participate in the struggle of men to survive both the
terrible rigours of nature and the inhumanity of the system that defines their
conditions of life.


I just finished this.

Perfume: the story of a murderer by Patrick Suskind.

Ummmm…not quite sure what to say about it at this stage.  I think I need more time to process it.  Brilliantly written, but  thematically quite confronting.

the mayor of casterbridge

I am reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy at the moment.  It is an unexpected pleasure.

penguin bonanza

I realised this week that my 4-year-old thinks that I read lots of books about penguins.  She sees a Penguin Classic with the iconic penguin character so often around the house she has come think that I have quite the fascination with penguins.  It made me smile when earlier this week she asked me if my ‘book about penguins’ was good!  Ahh, so cute…and so observant!

It has been a little bit of a penguin bonanza of late.

This month’s book club pick was Sonya Hartnett, Of a Boy.  We haven’t had our book club discussion about this book yet, so I’ll keep my thoughts here to a minimum, except to say, I could have lived without this one.  I struggle with books that are obscure for the sake of it.  While Of a Boy had some definite overarching themes, the end of the book did little to address these themes.  It dipped so quickly in and out of the lives of its characters there was no time to gather a real sense of who they were or develop any warmth towards them.  The end of the book is horrifically tragic and left you feeling distressed and disturbed.  Undoubtedly, book our book club discussion will be an interesting one this month!

So on a lighter and much more fun note; I have also stumbled across a range of Penguins that I never knew existed.  There is incredibly fun series called the Penguin Ink which are covers done in the style of classic tattoos.  Bridget Jones’ Diary looks almost readable carrying a cover like this!

The Great Love series is another Penguin set that had slipped under my radar.  They are not only designed beautifully, they are a range of amazing books from a incredible cross-section of authors.  There a quite of few of my favourite Russians represented and a few surprises, like Updike and Kierkegaard, and overall a fantastic collection of books.

Penguin says about them, ‘United by the theme of love, the writings in the Great Loves series span over two thousand years and vastly different worlds. Readers will be introduced to love’s endlessly fascinating possibilities and extremities: romantic love, platonic love, erotic love, gay love, virginal love, adulterous love, parental love, filial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love, illicit love, not to mention lost love, twisted and obsessional love…

See the entire set here.

And finally, the best till last!  This extraordinary series of Penguin’s is called the Great Ideas Series (1-4). It is a collection of world changing books that have impacted individuals and entire societies.  It is an incredibly diverse collection of books and authors, ranging from Cicero, St John, Orwell, Freud, St Augustine, Kant and Du Bois.  Such a beautifully put together collection, not only designed well, but I love the unapologetic way they have placed rival books and contradicting ideas side by side.  If I could, this series would be finding its way to my door sooner rather than later.

book happy

Today is a happy book day…for a few reasons.

Firstly, Popular Penguins have just realised their 75 new titles. The list is certainly different to what I thought it was going to be. I imagined it would be heavy on the Australian authors and that there would be a few more of the ‘traditional’ classics (Austen, Steinbeck, Camus). Instead we have Marx, ‘The Communist Manifesto’, Dante, ‘Inferno’ and much to my absolute delight, Dostoyevsky, ‘Notes from Underground’.
I am involved in a lovely little Book Club which uses the Popular Penguin’s as the reading list, so there was much excitement around the releasing of this list and much discussion already about which will make our short list. Fun times await our little book club!

Secondly, Alberto Moravia. I will admit that I don’t know much about this guy, apart from him being Italian (what else is there to know?) and that my Italian teach highly recommended him. I have checked out a few of his titles and I am keen to delve in. I love discovering new authors and the Book Depository carry a few of Moravia’s, so I think that will be my next purchase. Which leads me straight to…

…thirdly, The Book Depository. If you haven’t discovered this little gem…do it now! It’s basically an Amazon rival, but I have found it to be distinctly cheaper and it is free delivery!! Our most recent choice for book club is ‘Madame Bovary’ by Gustave Flaubert, and I was able to get a copy sent to my door for $3.80. Not all the books are so cheap, but many do seem cheaper than Amazon or our local chain bookstore, and free shipping thrown in – it’s not a bad deal. Check it out! (And my friend over at Nurse Pastor Father Husband gets full bragging rights for discovering this and passing on the ‘good news’ of the Depository!)

top 5

I know summer is not quite over yet, but I don’t think any other book I am reading is going to make it into my top 5 for the summer. So here is the top 5 for the Summer of 2009/2010.

Summer Meditations, Vaclav Havel (amazing, insightful, honest and raw – it doesn’t get better than this)

Everything is Illuminated, Jonathon Safran Foer (heartbreakingly beautiful)

Cannery Row, John Steinbeck (Steinbeck at his perceptive best)

Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates (deeply impacting, huge potential to change your life – be warned!)

The Reader, Berhard Schlink (bittersweet)

And in some exciting news…Popular Penguins (which is essentially our Book Clubs’ reading list) is releasing 75 new books in June!  I am eagerly awaiting the release list and have high hopes!  We’ll see what eventuates!

slow readers book club

Am I biting off more than I can chew?

I love this idea and I particularly like exploring the idea of an online book club.  But is it one thing too many?  Between kiddies, Uni, Italian Classes, Popular Penguin Book Club, and everything else, is it too much?