Reading habits: Male vs Female Authors

Elle wrote a thought-provoking post a few days ago titled Am I a Sexist Reviewer? about how she actually reads a fairly even split of female:male authors, but doesn’t blog about all the novels by men, as she finds more to talk about in general in novels by women.

It got me thinking about the balance between the sexes in my own reading. That was easy to check thanks to my huge spreadsheet – time for a quick chart…

Authors

Note: 2012 was skewed by having hosted Beryl Bainbridge Reading Week.

*NB, before I go on to ramble about the subject, I want to apologise for any sweeping generalisations I may make below!*

I like to think that I choose the books I read in a gender-neutral way – choosing mainly by perceived content. Even if I consciously opt to pick a particular author, I don’t select them because they are male or female, I strongly believe that the author’s sex doesn’t come into it.Yet, I usually read more books by men than women, and often considerably more by men in a year. Am I subconsciously favouring male authors?

As a teenager, I read as voraciously as I still do now. I devoured fiction including a lot of novels by Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy et al, but what I enjoyed most were thrillers; Alastair MacLean, Hammond Innes and Desmond Bagley in particular, how I loved these manly adventures with token women. At the same time at school, I discovered SF through Brave New World, Day of the Triffids, 1984 and their ilk.  In fact the only book I can recall by a female author that we read in class was To Kill a Mockingbird.

I make no secret of the fact that I’m nothing more than a reading enthusiast. I have no literary qualifications beyond English Language O-level. My senior school at the time (1970s) had a progressive attitude towards English Literature. We still read lots of it, mostly classics, modern classics and plenty of Shakespeare, but didn’t over-analyse it in that way that off-puts many teenagers – we didn’t do the English Lit O-level, freeing us to find what we each liked reading the best. I chose Maths and Sciences for A-Level so never went further studying English, bar a journalism option in 6th form general studies.

I went on to study an applied science at a university college with twelve male students to each female one at the time. I was the only girl engineer in the factory in my first job and was the first female scientist on the team in my second, so I’ve always been happy operating in a male-dominated world – seeing myself not as a token woman, but rather as helping to break the mould (although I have exhibited some ladette tendencies on occasion, *ahem*). It’s more unnatural for me now working in a school with more women than men on the staff!

Am I set in my ways?

I still tend to pick a novel promising a good adventure; lots of intrigue; a black comedy; or something techy over domestic dramas. Give me dystopian societies, spies, quests, science (but not necessarily SF) and literary thrillers etc. These are all types of plot-driven novels that have tended to be dominated by male authors (although that is changing, as is the balance of male over female protagonists?), and these form a large part of my reading.

Conversely, when I do take a punt on a domestic drama or novel of family life, I often find myself picking an older one from my TBR and I admit it does make a refreshing change, although I won’t deny that they can be harder for me to write about. Although I can live without reading any more Anita Brookner novels – I was entranced by the Barbara Pym I read a couple of years ago, I want to read more Edna O’Brien and Penelope Fitzgerald too, and still have quite a few ‘Beryls‘ yet to be read, to name but a few. There are still acres of female crime and suspense authors to explore – types of books I do really enjoy too.

Where do I go from here?

As I skewed the figures towards equality in 2012 by reading loads of Beryl Bainbridge, so my male:female reading ratio will likely be strongly male this year due to my (nearly) monthly dose of Anthony Powell, and multiple reads like the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer; I’m about to start my third Simenon in a week too.

Having subjected my reading habits to some navel-gazing regarding gender bias, I still believe that I don’t consciously choose male authors over female ones. Instead it’s the world I’ve grown up in and as a resolutely non-girly girl I feel comfortable there. I don’t plan to make any big changes in how I pick the books I read, but I do have good intention to select more great books that challenge my preconceptions now and then, which should include choosing some more women authors.

A Weekend Miscellany…

Traghetto by Juliet Gaskell, aged 6

Traghetto. © Juliet Gaskell, 2006

Apparently it is #ArchiveDay today.  I don’t know who has designated it such – but twitter is alive with tweets to good folks’ archives – so I shall highlight my three most viewed posts since starting this blog – and an odd collection they make too:

  1. ‘Fashion! Turn to the Left. Fashion! Turn to the Right.’which comes top of the list with nearly 6,000 pageviews. In it I look at the gorgeous DK book Fashion – Ultimate book of costume and style; from 2012.
  2. Book v Movie – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen with 3,700 views. Does what it says in the title really; from 2012.
  3. 5 Brilliant Books Set in Venice. This post from 2010 is notable for featuring a drawing by my daughter saved from when she was 6. (She’s now 14!!!)

 * * * * *

Next: Another new book I’m really excited about reading and must make time for – Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler.
coverwww-scarfolk-blogspot-com
It’s a spoof 1970s tourist guide – decidedly Midwych Cuckoos meets the nuclear war leaflet Protect and Survive in one of those old Hamlyn books (see my old post here) style. My copy arrived a couple of days ago and it looks scarily well done.

* * * * *

And finally – look what I got this morning at the Shippon Church book sale (open until 4pm today, on the Barrow Road between the end of Abingdon and Dalton Barracks).

A good haul for £15 don’t you think…

P1020197 (600x800)

Now We Are Six…

As much as I’d like to tell you this post is about A.A.Milne’s charming book of poetry for children – it isn’t! It’s about something much closer to my heart, for it was six years ago today that I dipped my toe into the book-blogging world. It’s gone so quickly! (On other days I might question has it only been six years, mind.)

There are treats at the bottom of this post, but first I’d like to tell you about my blogging year so far…

I can’t deny that finding out at the beginning of July that my blog was inexplicably top of the literature blog rankings at e-buzzing in June was a huge thrill, and finding it still there a month later made me snort with laughter – I had truly expected it to be for strictly one month only. (It was only two though – down in August – Ed). High rankings are nice, but I will be happier not to be up there, especially now some bloggers who’ve had a break recently like Kim are back. Stats are definitely not what’s at the heart of book-blogging, so I won’t mention them again; it should be about sharing thoughts about reading with you lot of course.

Thank you for visiting, commenting, sharing – everything basically.

P1020045 compressedThe other more important blogging milestone I’ve achieved this year is of course to have set up Shiny New Books with my friends Victoria, Harriet and Simon. The four of us have become even firmer friends through this enterprise, and we’re delighted to have been able to involve so many of you too to review for us. (And we’re still recruiting… do drop us a line info@shinynewbooks.co.uk )

This has also meant that I’ve become a more disciplined reader, but with Shiny’s ethos based upon book recommendations, I’ve read some really good books to feature there. Then I’ve been reading for this blog too, so am reading more than ever before which is rather brilliant. Of course my year-end stats will be skewed even further towards new publications than they usually are, but that doesn’t matter one iota because I am loving it!

* * * NOW FOR A BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY * * *

GBP_Packaging_STICKERS_DU_ROMANTICS1-500x345I always like to share my blog-birthday and have found some gorgeous bookish things to give away this year …

Galley Beggar Press are based in Norwich in the UK – they are a tiny independent publisher and were responsible for discovering prize-winning debut author Eimear McBride.  They have also produced three lovely sets of postcards. Each set contains 6 dress-up doll postcards of authors:

GBP_Packaging_STICKERS_DU_LOSTGEN-500x345The Romantics has John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley.

* * * * *

The Lost Generation comprises Hemingway, Anais Nin, F Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Henry Miller and Gertrude Stein.

GBP_Packaging_STICKERS_DU_BEATS1-500x345The Beats contains Carolyn Cassady, Jack Kerouac, Joan Vollmer, Luanne Henderson, Neal Cassady and William Burroughs in the set.

Just say which set you’d prefer in a comment and I’ll pick three names from the hat in about a week’s time. Open worldwide.

 

* * * AND FINALLY * * *

I made a little film of some books…

Such fun!

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

It was lovely to log in this morning and to find out that the lovely Susan of the lovely blog A Life In Books has nominated me for a lovely Very Inspiring Bloggers Award. Thank you Susan, it’s much appreciated, coming from someone who has such a finger on the pulse of what’s good in the world of books. I must add that we’re delighted to have you on board as one of our reviewers over at Shiny New Books too and next time I come to Bath for a day out, I’d love to meet you in person…
very-inspiring-blog-award-logo-300x215

The award has the following rules:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  • List the rules and display the award.
  • Share seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated
  • Optional: display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you

Here are my 7 facts:
1. I was born in leafy Surrey in the much-maligned Purley, which is just south of Croydon proper, and my immediate family all still live there. I’m the one that got away!
2. I’m a single mum to a teenaged daughter with gorgeous Pre-Raphaelite tresses, (strawberry blonde or light auburn depending on the light).
3. I’m lucky enough to have two indie bookshops on my doorstep in Abingdon. Mostly Books and The Bookstore. I am spoilt for choice and try to support them both.
4. I’m going to have a break from compiling and hosting the Abingdon Mostly Bookbrains literary quiz next spring. After doing five, I’d like to have a go at actually competing. Fingers crossed that one of the MB Book Groups will take it on…
5. These days I work as a science technician/TA in a local prep school for boys – which is actually fun (apart from washing up test-tubes – yes I do have a dishwasher, but you can’t mix chemicals in the machine – they must be rinsed first). Although the pay doesn’t match up to a teacher’s salary, I do get to do pond-dipping, flame-testing for fireworks colours, all sorts of activities with the Junior Science Club, growing crystals… and hopefully help to enthuse some future scientists.
6. My musical claim to fame is having played (second) violin in an orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle, before he hit the big time. It was in 1979 or 1980 (bit hazy), and having led the Croydon Youth Orchestra for a while, now at uni, I was invited by CYO conductor Ian Butterworth to join the Salomon Orchestra – a London-based non-professional symphony orchestra, for a series of concerts at St John Smith Square amongst other venues. We played Mahler 5 (I think) as the main piece. I only did one season though.
7. My personality type tends to be ‘extrovert introvert’ – I’m rather shy until I get to know you. But I love extrovert colours – driving an metallic apple green car, wearing a lot of bright red.

That’s enough about me… here are ten other wonderful bloggers that I’d like to nominate to receive this award (15 is too many).

1. Tales from the Reading Room. As co-founder of Shiny New Books, I’d be remiss not to put Victoria at the top my list. Apart from that, her blog is inspirational in the sheer quality of her writing about books and her life, and she’s a lovely person too.
2. Stuck in a Book. Simon’s blog is one of the first I discovered when I dipped my toe into the blogosphere. We rarely read the same kind of books, but I really want to know about all the mid 20th century novels I don’t have time for – he is for me, the go-to expert at middlebrow fiction, (and another Shiny colleague and friend).
3. Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. I always thought I was a fan of books-Russian (although you wouldn’t know it from my blog), but Karen is a real expert and writes so interestingly about many Russian and Eastern-European authors and poets, she makes Russian literature fascinating.
4. Thinking in Fragments. Alex reads a big variety of novels, crime in particular, but underlying it all is a love and understanding of Shakespeare and an academic passion for the art of storytelling. A theatre fan, she can often be found in Stratford.
5. Tolstoy Therapy. A relatively new to me blog that I plan to visit more frequently, Lucy has a unique angle on literature as bibliotherapy and is interested in the mood-enhancing powers of a good read.
6. Harriet Devine’s Blog. I have to include my other Shiny New Books Editor. Like Simon and Victoria, Harriet has been blogging for years, and I respect her opinions a lot. She’s a big crime fan and lives in France, so that’s already two ticks – but also manages to find wonderful pictures and artworks of women reading each week.
7. Reading The End. Jenny’s blog is such fun! She’s young and opinionated and has the most hilarious tags I’ve ever seen.
8. His Futile Preoccupations. Guy has two reading passions – translated classic European fiction and noir. I must admit I gloss over the first category, but I adore his noir reviews. He is also one of my most frequent commenters – Thank you Guy!
9. Lonesome Reader. Another new to me blog, Eric writes some great reviews on a wide range of books, and we’ve recruited him to Shiny!
10. Savidge Reads. I couldn’t leave out the other Simon. If Simon was a Mr Man, I’d call him Mr Project as he always has so many sidelines on the go – but his passion for books always comes through on his blog.

Thank you!

A quick little post to say thank you. I hope you don’t mind if I blow my own trumpet a little, but just now I was scrolling down my sidebar and I came to my ebuzzing stats bar – and it told me that the June blog stats were up, and then I saw the number on the literature one.

June StatsI truly don’t deserve this high a ranking in the stats. There are many far better blogs out there (see my side bar for a good selection for starters) and there are many other wonderful blogs that aren’t listed at this rankings site.

Obviously I’m basking in the collective glow of the Shiny New Books effect, and my co-editors’ blogs Victoria, Simon and Harriet should be up there at the top with me, and to be above others like Kim at Reading Matters (have you seen her Tim Winton interview over at Shiny yet by the way? Click HERE) doesn’t seem right…

But I am immensely gratified, and so I will bask in it for a little while. So I’d just like to say a huge THANK YOU – to anyone who follows and visits my blog or reads it via any other method, and to everyone who comments, or just passes through.  It’s a cliché of course, but it really isn’t about the stats. It’s nice though!

 

A’s HoB Q&A – Part Two ‘the science bit’

Book questionI challenged you to ask me questions and you did … see the previous post for a variety of bookish and Oxfordian answers. Today it’s time to answer the science questions that you asked me – and I shall go in reverse order.

Simon T (Stuck in a Book) asked: What is your favourite chemical element?

Really, I can’t better David Nolan’s stunning pun of a reply “If I had a favourite chemical element, I think it would change periodically!”, but here are a few thoughts…
I could say ‘Oxygen‘ a) because we can’t live without it and b) when you burn Sulphur in Oxygen it has a wonderful blue flame – but I won’t.
I could say ‘Carbon‘ – another necessary element for life, also because it’s graphite, and diamonds, and Buckminsterfullerene (C60 – a carbon molecule shaped like a football made up of hexagons and pentagons).
I could say ‘Tin‘ because when you take a rod of it and bend it, it ‘cries’ – it’s a distinctive sound, made by all the dislocations (faults in the crystal structure) propagating through the material.
I could say ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ or ‘Platinum’ because of their beauty when wrought into jewels, relative inertness and worth – but that’s far too obvious.

Today, my favourite element is aluminium.

The third most abundant element (after Oxygen and Silicon). I chose it because an aluminium alloy known as RR58 was used to build the airframe of Concorde – crucially it oxidises to give a microscopic layer of alumina – aluminium oxide on the skin which crucially aids the structural strength. I learnt that fact in my very first lecture on metallurgy at university.

itv concorde

Susan Osborne asked: Can you recommend science writers for readers like myself who are reasonably intelligent but ignorant of the sciences? I realise that its far too wide a subject to recommend for all branches of science. Thanks!

I enjoy reading popular science books, but don’t have time to read and review enough of them. Two I have blogged about are Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik on materials science, and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre which blows the lid off pharmaceuticals – from drug trials to homeopathy.

Here are a few more great science books/writers you might consider (titles go to my affiliate link).

That’s just a few off the top of my head. Everyone else – please add your favourite science books.

And finally, that fiendish feline Dark Puss asked: Why is it still perceived to be OK to be uninterested in science but not OK to be uninterested in literature (if you wish to be seen as an “educated” person)? How did we get to that point in our world?

There are so many facets to think about in answering this question. Here are a few thoughts for further discussion if you’d like.  I warn you I’m going to make sweeping generalisations though and it’s going to sound simplistic …

Firstly, nearly all the big discoveries and advances in science these days are so high tech or on the quantum level that comprehending them in any meaningful way is beyond most people, so they just turn off unless it’s Brian ‘Smiley’ Cox on the tellybox. In the days before we’d discovered most of the easy stuff, the man on the Clapham omnibus had half a chance of understanding some of it.  Also more people worked in engineering and factories, surrounded by science and technology, there were more apprentices, etc etc – so more chance that some science would brush off on people perhaps. We don’t have the everyday exposure to science and engineering in the way we used to through manufacturing, so science is perceived as difficult, made especially so as maths is devalued as being not useful by those who don’t realise that without it we can’t make progress. Secondly, secondary schools struggle to get good science teachers. Less hands on science gets done because of uninterested pupils playing up etc. – less practicals, more demonstrations. Teachers don’t necessarily have time to go beyond the curriculum. The kids see science as a difficult subject, so possibly pick easier options. Uninterest in science is ingrained early – but paradoxically, we’re all better at using it in our everyday lives – we just don’t realise.

However, if you compare the amount of hours of telly that is science-based against the hours that is literature based (non-drama), science wins hands down. Nature programmes and medical programmes abound, physics gets some attention – but ‘The sky at night’ is still going strong, in fact chemistry is probably the poor relation in science programming. Literature is mainly a specialist channel or late-night subject.

It probably boils down to the fact that even if you read rubbish, it is easy to talk about a book, whereas science requires education of a sort – or enough to ask the question. Basically, Dark Puss, I have no real idea how to answer your question – but it was fun thinking about it!

 

 

A’s HoB Q&A – The Answers – Part one!

Book questionThank you for asking some great questions – some of which required a lot of thought to answer!

I’m splitting my answers into two posts – the specific science questions will get their own treatment in a day or two, but here are my answers to all the rest – and do feel free to add your two pennyworth to the discussion:

Dark Puss asked: Why are so many readers of fiction keen to say that they don’t read “Science Fiction” (or indeed “Romantic Fiction”)? Surely there are good books, average books and poor books and some deal with romance and some with a different sort of imaginary world. Why the desire to categorise and is it ever helpful?
If we disregard quality of writing and just concentrate on categorisation or genre, I think there are pros and cons to this issue:
My local indie bookshop did an experiment to see if integrating all the crime and SF&F novels into one big fiction selection made a difference. It did – fans of those types of novels couldn’t find their preferred fare and didn’t buy any books – so they sorted them back again. I use tags for genre on my book reviews so I can find similar types of books easily. These sorts of categorisation are helpful.
It’s less clear with some types of book however whether categorisation is useful. For instance, the crossover appeal of many YA titles these days is increasing, but many adult readers still don’t want to read what they perceive of as children’s books. But, put a YA book with the adult novels rather than on the YA shelves, and it will sell to adults.
Variety is the key to my reading – I try not to read similar books one after the other. I read across genres quite widely – yet ‘romance’, ‘Chick-lit’, or ‘commercial women’s fiction’ – whatever you want to call it, is a genre I rarely venture into. But that’s not because I don’t enjoy it – when I pick a good romantic novel, I love reading it. I do, however – whether true or not, perceive the majority of these titles published as not meeting my quality threshold for a good read – yes I can be a little snobby on occasion about what I read. (Ditto many popular thrillers like the one I read the other week, ‘Misery Memoirs’ too).
Which brings us back to quality – but that is another issue.  Dark Puss, you do pose some fiendish dilemmas!

quoyle1The shipping news by Annie Proulx - Random House 25th Anniversary editionKaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings asked: If you had to (or even could!) pick one desert island book, what would it be?
This is easy after the last question! I would pick The Shipping News by Annie Proulx which I re-read last year and reviewed here. It’s a book I’ve read several times, and I still love it. But vitally, each of the chapters is prefaced by an illustration from a book of knots – and knots will be useful (once I’ve managed to make some string or rope!).

Simon T (Stuck in a Book) asked a whole batch of questions:
1. Which book do you think is the most underrated?
That’s difficult for me, for I’m relatively easy to please generally. If you’d asked which book I think is the most overrated I’d have instantly replied back with The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho!
However, I do think that Ernest Hemingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises is underrated because it is so literal and repetitive – in that the bunch drink, fight, make up, drink, fight, make up … His style instantly clicked with me though when we read this for book group back in 2007. Not everyone agreed.

2. If you had to go on the same holiday every year for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My immediate reaction was Provence or Sorrento – villa with a pool, good food and wine. But y’know, if I had to do it every year I’d be really bored. So I’ll have a staycation and plump for Cornwall (or Northumbria if Cornwall was cut off). I’d need a large cottage with all the modern accoutrements, sea-views, beach within a few minutes’ walk, good pubs and a chippy nearby, ideally a good bookshop in the nearest town. There’s plenty to do in either location – and I could take the cats…

3. Who would play you in the film of your life? Emma Thompson naturally (with soundtrack by Tracey Thorn of course).

4. Which is your favourite Oxford college?
I didn’t go to Oxford – I went to Imperial in London, and then I lived for ages in Cambridge (which I think is a more pretty and compact city). Now I live ten miles outside Oxford in Abingdon which I love. I’m still getting to know Oxford, but I’d have to say my favourite college is an unconventional choice. I am a fan of Modernism, so I’ll go for the Grade I listed and Arne Jacobsen designed St Catherine’s.  I went to a ball there many years ago before moving here and the dining hall was striking as the design detail goes down to the table lamps and cutlery, and trademark Jacobsen chairs.

5. A bit of a vague question, but I’d be interested to know how you go about writing a book review post – people’s different techniques and approaches always fascinate me.
As I read a book, I use lots of those sticky tabs to mark places I might want to refer to when I write the review, but when it gets to writing the review itself, it often takes a good deal of pondering to get started. I like to find a hook to hang the review on – the USP of my reading experience of that book – be it positive or negative. The hook dictates the style the review will take. Whilst thinking about that I’ll do the set-up bits – the title, the cover photo, other photos, the bit at the bottom – source and affiliate links. If inspiration still hasn’t come, I’ll type up the quotations I’ve picked, and start on some plot summary. Rarely do I start a review at the top and later arrive at the bottom. I tend to get a lot of typos this way though, as half-finished or edited thoughts sometimes get miss outed or left in with extraneous words… apologies for this. Sometimes I’ll nip in to tidy it up once posted – I am my own worst proof-reader, even in preview mode. I can’t dash off posts though. The better ones take at least two hours to write with more honing.
Thank you Simon!

snow childDenise asked: What’s the book you would most like to see turned into a film/TV series?
I think Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child (see here) would make a wonderful film, as long as the question over whether Faina is real or imagined is never answered or given an American ending, ie: kept art-house.
Peter Wyngarde as Jason KingI would love to see a TV series of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant novels, Rivers of London and its sequels. Shot on location, and given decent special effects. Slightly strangely perhaps, I see Inspector Nightingale as Peter Wyngarde playing Jason King back in the 1960s.

Queen of the Park asked: As a ‘passionate reader’ what do you love most about living in Oxford?
Firstly, I think I’m going to remove the word ‘passionate’ from my About me. It’s overused these days, especially on Masterchef and its ilk!
Now I’m going to commit a bit of a heresy, and say although I live near Oxford, I don’t actually know it that well despite living only ten miles from the centre in nearby Abingdon for over a dozen years now. I’ve never drunk at the Eagle and Child where the Inklings went, I’ve not been inside many of the colleges, etc. But: I have been to book events at the Sheldonian, exhibitions at the Bodleian Library and this year I went to my first events at the Literary Festival, I’ve eaten at Inspector Morse’s favourite pub The Trout, I’ve shopped at Blackwells many a time, and also met some lovely bookish Oxford people including Simon. I’d say Oxford has a lot still for me to discover as a reader!

Jane at Fleur in her world asked: How does being the mother of a daughter influence your reading?
That’s a wonderful question – but strangely, the answer is not a lot! I’ve always loved to read children’s books, I get a lot out of them, and I have a huge admiration for the best authors who create engaging works that don’t talk down to children and are just as well-written as novels for adults (often better, as they have to be more careful with language and sex etc).
faultMy daughter has singular reading habits. She positively dislikes any book with more than a hint of the paranormal or alien about it. When she chooses for herself (as opposed to school saying you must read a *insert genre here* over the hols) she enjoys reading two types of novel – teen romances and mysteries. I was surprised at the latter, but at the moment she likes books that give closure – the girl gets her boy, or the mystery is solved.
However, when I look at the YA shelves now, I do see them differently – thinking would Juliet like that, so she is beginning to influence me. Recently, she asked me if I had any John Green books – and I was able to say, ‘Yes!’

Jenny@Reading the End asked: Is there now, or has there ever been in your life, somebody whose book recommendations you absolutely trusted? If they say “read this” then you read it straight away, no questions asked?
That was certainly the case with my late Mum. We shared a lot of books and fiction-wise I know that anything she enjoyed I would too – but only for fiction though. And it mostly worked the other way around too, provided I left the quirky stuff I’m very fond of at home, I’d take her a bagful of books on a visit, and they’d all come back read with post-it notes on telling me what she thought – and we usually agreed.
I could swear that my local indie bookshop gets in quirky novels and puts them on display just in time for me to come in the shop and buy them too.’We only put that book out today,’ they say!

A’s HoBks Q&A

Mostly BookbrainsI blame Simon for this!  😀

Just over a week ago, my pal and co-editor of Shiny New Books decided to ask his readers if there were any questions that they wanted to ask him in a post here. A few days later, he published his answers here. It was fascinating reading, and Simon’s answers were really thoughtful.

Now for the catch… He suggested he’d like to see other people have a go too!

DSCF1910So here is my invitation to you.

Ask me anything you want … it doesn’t have to be about books, book groups or blogging – cats, science, working in a school, the Oxford environs – anything.

In a few days time, I’ll post my answers.  (I reserve the right not to answer any rude or over-prying questions!)

Thoughts on my header photo

I’ve been mostly writing reviews for Shiny New Books this week after finishing Frog Music, but wanted to write something on the blog for the weekend…

My eye caught my header photo which when taken a few years ago, I compiled a shelf of favourite reads over the years, mostly those getting a full five stars from me. I’ve read a lot of wonderful books since, but I still think the row above represents a fair selection of the wide range of novels that I like to read, so I’ll probably leave it for now. I haven’t reviewed all of them on this blog, but quite a few do feature, so I thought I’d revisit my old posts on books above. So from left to right and in alphabetical order of their authors too…

death of grassDouble Indemnity by James M Cain. 136 pages of classic noir with a crooked insurance agent, a femme fatale and a husband to murder.

The Death of Grass by John Christopher. The 1956 breakthrough novel from the creator of The Tripods.

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. It was reading one of the original cowboy novels from 1912 that cemented my love of literary westerns.

SpyMy Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen. Jensen is one of those authors who writes entirely different novels every time. This steampunky time travel love story is the funniest thing I’ve read by her so far. A real hoot.

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre. Possibly my favourite spy novel ever. It feels so authentic, and Alec Leamas is Richard Burton.

peyton placeLet the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Simply the best vampire novel there is (and possibly the goriest too – you have been warned).

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. This epic novel set the benchmark for every soap opera and small town drama that followed. Beautifully written.

True Grit by Charles Portis. Forget the film, read the book.

The Shipping News - 1st UK paperbackThe Shipping News by Annie Proulx. This novel is still up there in my top ten, love it to bits.

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. Written for teens, but a wonderful read for any age, Reeve’s novel puts a different ‘spin’ on Merlin and Arthurian legend.

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick. It’s hard to believe that this fictionalised biography of Arthur Ransome’s time in Russia was written for teens, it’s that good. Sedgwick is my favourite YA author without a doubt.

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. In just 193 pages, you get a slice of how hard life is for a poor family in the Ozark mountains when Ree has to go searching for her pa. The film is also wonderful.

It’s a shame that favourites like Flowers for Algernon and Ray Robinson’s wonderful debut Electricity were books I read just before I started blogging. Perhaps I should revisit them and review them now. It also reminds me that it’s ages since I read a Christopher Brookmyre book.

Having done this, it’s got me thinking of course!
I may just have to start searching out a new set of more recent great reads for my header photo now.
What do you think?