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Showing posts from December, 2011

End of year pondering: Thoughts on personal libraries, collecting and decluttering

It occurred to me, as I was preparing to add my e-books to my library database, that library size really doesn‘t matter any longer, at least where space is concerned. You could have a library with the same number of volumes as America‘s Library of Congress (over 22 million volumes), and yet you could carry it with ease in your pocket. In terms of the sheer number of owned books this is a great big opportunity for bibliophiliac one-upmanship. 
There are a little over 800 titles in my e-book collection, mostly free books downloaded from Project Gutenberg and other websites that legally offer e-books for free, plus a few I have bought or been given. Altogether they take up about 650 megabytes of hard drive space, which is enough to fill the largest hard drive available for the type of laptop I own, and then some. That hard drive takes up about the same amount of space as a small powder compact.
The 2 terabyte external hard drive I use for backing up the contents of the computer and to sto…

Reading report for November 2011

I had this ready at the start of the month but have only just realised that I never published it, so here goes:

I finished 9 books in November, of which 4 were TBR challenge books. I have now reached the TBR goal for this year: to get the TBR stack below 800 books by reading and/or culling. I took a long look at my bookshelves yesterday (make that December 5th) and made a drastic cull, bringing the TBR down to 791 books. I plan to continue with the challenge in 2012, and will probably begin with a goal of going below 750 TBR books.

This almost became the first month for a very long time in which I did not finish one mystery or thriller, but because the journey covered in The 8.55 to Baghdad was inspired by Agatha Christie and her journey on the Orient Express, I decided to reread Murder on the Orient Express. Knowing what the outcome of the mystery would be allowed me to concentrate on other things about it, and it struck me how brilliant Christie was at drawing, with a few deft str…

Down Under by Bill Bryson

Originally published in July 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.
This is the account of Bill Bryson’s (broken up) journey around Australia, to visit its biggest cities and some interesting sights, natural and man-made.
Bryson is obviously an australophile. This book is a virtual love letter to Australia, especially its natural beauty, and in a lesser way to its people. Even though he writes in his usual humorously mocking style, and criticises certain things, especially environmental policies and the less than helpful staff at hotels in a certain city, the book is for the most part a very positive and affectionate, sometimes glowing, account of this interesting country. Besides covering his impressions and travel experiences, Bryson gives some account of Australian history and the country’s attractions, and the book can, in fact, be used as an informal guide to some of the places he visited. He seems to have been very diligent in hunting down and exploring unusual little museums and s…

The Imps with the Bags

Swearing is said to feed the Devil, and swearing during Christian holidays must be extra nourishing for him. Here is a moral tale of just that:

It is said that a long time ago, in a valley in the north of Iceland which is no longer inhabited, there were once seven farms. It happened that one Christmas Eve the farmer who owned the farm nearest the mouth of the valley was guarding his sheep while they grazed. In the twilight he noticed seven half-grown boys walking on the bank of the river and heading towards the valley. All were dressed in black, with caps on their heads and carrying folded-up bags. They were moving very fast and running with a strange and grotesque gait. 

The farmer felt very uneasy upon seeing this sight and stared after the lads until they disappeared around a hillock. He wondered who they could be, and finally came to the conclusion that they must be imps, come to collect all the swearing people did over the Christmas holidays, to feed their master and themselves. 
W…

Cover Her Face by P.D. James

Originally published in July 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.
When a conniving and secretive young housemaid at the Maxie mansion is murdered, the local constable immediately calls in the Scotland Yard. The Yard’s representative is Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh, who goes about his job of investigating and interviewing suspects and witnesses, in a thorough, calm and apparently unemotional manner. He uncovers seething emotions, hatred and passions that bubble just under the surface, and finds that most of the people who were at the mansion the night of the murder had good reason to dislike or even hate the murdered woman.
This, the first of P.D. James’ popular Chief Inspector Dalgliesh books, is a rather Christiesque story. Dalgliesh uses Hercule Poirot’s preferred method of gathering together the suspects to unveil the killer, and the story is a country manor mystery in the Golden Age style, as so many of Agatha Christie’s books were. The characters of the main witnesses and suspect…

Off on a tangent

Yesterday, a barely remembered comment from a Terry Pratchett novel about a professor at Unseen University sent me to google to look up from which book it came. The professor in questions was commonly referred to as the "reader in the loo" or something similar, but the results that came up for that sentence (sans quotation marks) sent me off on a tangent. Among the search results on the first page was the following Wikipedia entry, which has to be one of the weirder ones to be found in that estimable encyclopaedia (not that the entry is in any way silly, but it's weird that the subject made it onto WP in the first place). It's a long entry, too:

Wikipedia: Toilet paper orientation



Apropos of this, here is a challenge for you, Dear Reader: To find a more unexpected or strange Wikipedia entry and post it as a comment to this post.

List love: A funny dozen

I present you with a dozen funny novels I have enjoyed through the years. Indeed, some of them are on my perennial re-reading list, e.g. nos. 2, 6, 7 and 10.

Some will have you laughing out loud while others might have you bubbling with barely suppressed laughter through the read. Not all of them may appeal to all of you, as they range from dark satire to  airy parody to pure slapstick, but there is something in there for almost everyone. In no particular order:
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Satire. About the absurdities of army life and war.The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. All of the books in the series, but especially the first one. Very good science-fantasy and a parody of the genre, and also very funny.Three Men in a Boat, to say nothing of the Dog by Jerome K. Jerome. A funny collection of the travel misadventurs of three men and a dog on a boating holiday in the Thames. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. The adventures of the unflappable Auntie Mame as seen thr…

From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell

Originally published in June 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.
Margaret Parsons, a dowdy housewife, disappears from her Kingsmarkham home, and is found murdered the next day. During the investigation, suspicion fall on several people, including her husband, a former boyfriend, two former school friends, and their husbands. Finally, when Wexford and Burden discover a cache of inscribed books from “Doon” to “Minna”, they begin to piece together a story of obsession and desire, going back more than a decade, and make a startling discovery as to the identity of “Doon”.
This is the first book in the Chief Inspector Wexford series. Like many other readers, I first became aware of Wexford as the leading character in a series of very good TV films based on the books, starring George Baker as Wexford. For some time I wasn’t even aware they were based on books, and even when I did realise it, I still was not very interested in reading them. Then I started becoming interested in crime mysteries…

Review: Bollywood Boy by Justine Hardy

Genre: The stated genre is Travel, but Film and Social History could just as well apply
Year published: 2003

A glimpse of the Hindi movie industry’s newest heartthrob, Hrithik Roshan, sent Justine Hardy on a year-long exploration of the whole Hindi movie phenomenon. She interviewed people in the movie industry, including a film journalist, a small-time director, actors and actresses and a former movie choreographer, to gain insight into the industry, but it is her interviews and conversations with the ordinary people, the fans, that are the most interesting and illuminating. Always at the centre of the narrative is Roshan and Hardy’s ever more comical attempts to get an interview with him (it took a loooong time).

In the end we don’t get a very deep insight into Bollywood, just a look at the surface glamour and glitter, with the occasional deeper glimpses of the dangers involved (organised crime both extorts money from the film-makers and backs their projects) and the dark side of an i…

Pastures Nouveaux by Wendy Holden

Originally published in June 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.
My first introduction to chick lit was the much praised Bridget Jones’ Diary, which I frankly hated. IMHO, the movie, for once, was better than the book. It didn’t stop me exploring further, however, and I have read several books belonging to the Genre: good, bad and indifferent. I’ve even reviewed some in this blog.
Warning: SPOILERS ahead
Two very different couples’ lives begin to interweave when they move to a small village in England. They are the practically broke illustrator Rosie and her ill-tempered columnist boyfriend Mark, and filthy rich actress, evil stepmother and bitch queen Samantha and her husband, Guy the financier. Also involved are a noisy family of slackers who live next door to Rosie and Mark’s cottage, a farmer who becomes attracted to Rosie (who seriously considers dumping Mark for him), a reclusive rock star, a former Bond girl and Guy’s teenage daughter, who has every intention of breaking up her …