Holiday Reading

I have a week’s holiday planned for next week and I have been deciding what I want to read. I say read rather than do since I like to make maximum use of holiday time from work to catch up on my reading. In fact, as I did just today, I usually end up ordering a new batch of books from Amazon, despite the rather large piles already sitting about the house.

As many of you will know, I enjoy making use of reading lists. Although I also tend to read a lot of other things as well, I do like the satisfaction of completing a book list. Ticking each title off once it has been read is most enjoyable. I completed the BBC list of ‘100 books that everyone should read’, some time ago, and I moved on to another list, one I had long wanted to attempt. This was the Great Books list that I have discussed before. I have expanded the list of books out so that entries that are listed ‘The works of…’ are detailed more fully, providing me with the nice side effect of more boxes to tick. However I was shocked to see that, even without doing this for all authors, the list has expanded to at least 700 books. Some of them are not easy reads either. I think this may take the next decade or so, especially given my non list reading also.

I have also been putting off getting a ticket to see Audrey Niffenegger speak at Ely next week. I am not sure why I have been putting it off. I will get a ticket soon no doubt. It will be nice to have a cultured evening out, one that doesn’t involve the consumption of alcohol and/or curry!

I also hope to get a decent amount of writing done on my holiday, making a start on my new Writers Bureau course.

I should finally finish Sophocles tonight too. That’s another seven entries off the list.

Another Sunshine Award


What started as a great week for me, with appearing as blogger of the week on Ionia Martin’s readfulthingsblog, has also ended on a high with a nomination from createdbyrcw for the sunshine award. Many thanks to him for this, and for the kind words in his post.

So without further ado, here are the rules, in outline.

Post the Sunshine Award logo.

Accept the nomination and link back to the nominator (above).

Answer the questions.

Nominate ten other blogs and inform them of the nomination.

So, the questions and answers:

Favourite colour: Black

Favourite animal: Tropical fish, particularly the big and ugly Oscar

Favourite number: Two

Favourite non-alcoholic drink: Coffee

Favourite alcoholic drink: Port

Facebook or Twitter: Was Facebook last time I received this award, but my allegiance has changed to twitter.

My passions: Reading and writing obviously, but it used to be playing the guitar in, my younger days.

Giving or receiving gifts: Both

Favourite city: Cambridge, UK

Favourite TV shows: Castle, Black Books, Burn Notice, Early Seasons of House – the later ones got a bit silly

And here are my nominees. These are all blogs that I enjoy regularly. I hope that they all accept.

Chris McMullen

A New Writer’s Life and Times

Creative Mysteries

Intriguing Readings

Interesting Literature

The Matilda Project

Ashley Calvani

Hayley Vornholt

Thoughts from a Cluttered Mind


Congratulations to all of my nominees, and thanks once again to createdbyrcw for my nomination.

Real World or Online World?

Writing my first post since receiving the honour of appearing as Ionia’s blogger of the week I find myself suffering from a touch of nerves. Expectations have been raised. Am I up to the challenge? Well I suppose we will find out, but please bear with me if I stumble a little.

I have been pondering the amount of time that I spend online lately.

There seem to have been a number of recent posts, including another of Ionia’s exceptional posts (I do read other bloggers too, by the way) regarding how easy it is to find ourselves addicted to certain aspects of our online lives. Many of us that blog find ourselves waiting for likes and comments, or constantly checking our stats, then over analysing them. Why did that great post I wrote only get a few visits whereas the garbage, throwaway post, that was surely of no interest to anyone else, got loads of visits, likes and comments? Have I got any more followers?

Sometimes I feel like I am getting sucked in to the online world, drawn into the labyrinth without the benefit of Ariadne’s thread. I find myself spending more and more time each day looking at other peoples blogs, thinking about what I can post next. But, I love it. It is so great to meet other people and to get to know them through their posts, or if you are very lucky by trading comments. I sometimes wonder is there any way back out, but then do I actually want to escape?

The only problem with this is that I spend less time each day reading or writing. There has a been a noticeable decline in the number of books that I am reading, and in the speed at which I get through them.

Is it possible to be half in and half out or do we need to be either in or out? I think that we can successfully negotiate the online world, just visiting, but always returning to the real world. I will have to be strong and try to limit my excursions into the online world.

What about you? Real World? Online World? Or a bit of both?

Blogger of the week

I was amazed to see that Ionia had picked me as her blogger of the week. This is such an honour and I am so grateful and proud. I just had to reblog this, not that I have ever reblogged anything so this may or may not work. Thanks again Ionia.

readful things blog

This week’s blogger of the week is Julian Froment. Julian is one of my favourite bloggers. He shares my love of reading and classic literature and always has an interesting and thoughtful perspective on what he reads. He is not a psychotic blog poster like I am so, if you follow him you will get only no nonsense posts when he actually has something important to say. (So sorry all of you…really.)

Also, I owe Julian for listening to me prattle on senselessly about what I am reading. He is a good listener as well. Go drop him a line and say hello. Here is his site:

*An Unfortunate but apparently necessary side note. I have had a couple of emails now where relatively new bloggers are asking if they can be featured on Readful Things Blogger of the Week. While I would love to accommodate everyone’s wish, I…

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My Dirty Secret

I have a dirty little secret. I am a pusher. No, not drugs before you ask, books. In fact books, reading lists and the general encouragement of people to read. Here’s some classic literature, it will improve your mind, feed your soul. Going to an auction, here’s a book on current prices for first edition children’s literature. I fully appreciate that many of the people that I give books to or witter on to about my latest read, are not that interested, but maybe it will encourage a few of them to read more. I accept that my young nieces would probably rather have a pepper pig toy for Christmas than a book. Well they will get that, but also a copy of Aesop’s fables. You’ve got to start them young, especially nowadays. I even distribute reading lists to colleagues at work. They say they are interested in receiving a copy of it, although I am not sure how much of that is motivated by their desire for me to shut up and go away. The long, short and tall of it is that, I am a pusher. A book pusher. And I am proud of it.

I have just finished ‘Twenty Three Tales’ by Leo Tolstoy. A collection of short stories on a variety of subjects, aimed at a variety of people. Some were originally intended for children, but I am not sure how suitable they would be considered today. Anyway, it was a good read and now I will move on to the plays of Sophocles. I will definitely alternate that with some genre fiction. James Patterson I think.

Tell me, are you a pusher too?

Proust – The Aftermath and Enid Blyton

Just because I have finished reading Proust doesn’t mean I will stop writing about him. Well it does really, but I needed some way to start today’s post. It is actually a little strange now that I have finished was was, for me, and epic task. My Goodreads 2013 Reading challenge took a serious hit and I am way behind where I should be, even having specified fewer books than I completed last year. As I have previously mentioned I am slowly reading some Tolstoy and Sophocles, but in an effort to improve my Goodreads numbers I have also been reading a few Enid Blyton books.

I have always been a fan of Enid Blyton, especially her children’s adventure stories, in particular the adventure series, the mystery series and the famous five. I have almost completed reading first editions of the adventure series. I am interested in the way that these books have changed over the years. I have heard a few whispers about changes to many of Enid Blyton’s books in later editions, as society changes.

Many of these books were written in the forties and fifties and would not now be considered to be politically correct. I think that many changes have been made to these books and after I have finished the first editions I am going to read the latest editions, from 2011/2012. As of yet I do not know the changes that may have been made, but I feel that with any books it is important to read them in context, appreciating the time at which they were written and the social and cultural norms of that period. A number of these books were written in wartime England and as such contained a degree of propagandist bias.

Anyway more on this when I have completed the first editions and also the latest editions.


Proust Defeated

Well I have finally finished Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, and what a satisfying feeling it is. Satisfying for all of you that have been following my progress too, no doubt. There should be no more posts saying, ‘Still reading Proust’. I do have a great sense of achievement having completed it, but I feel that to fully understand it I would need to read it a few more times at least, and as much as I enjoyed it, that is unlikely to happen. There were many sections of this work that resonated deeply with me. Many times I read a passage and thought, ‘That is exactly how I feel’, or ‘That is how I view things’. Proust’s ability to identify and describe the way people deal with certain emotions and feelings was exceptional, in my opinion. Not knowing the narrator’s age or social rank was a little disconcerting for me though.

I originally began to read this series after a friend mentioned that he had just started reading it, mainly because he felt that it was something that he should have read. I thought that I would also try reading it, in a mildly competitive manner. Whatever our reasons for starting to read a particular book though it has no real effect on our ability to enjoy it, although preconceptions can of course colour our views. Sometimes something that we have always wanted to read disappoints, whereas something we would never have ordinarily considered turns out to excite our imagination and provides great pleasure.

Now that I have finished Proust I can get back to the plays of Sophocles and ‘Twenty Three Tales’ by Tolstoy, both of which I started some time ago but began to neglect more and more the closer I got to finishing Proust. After that I am going to have a little break from so called high-brow literature I think. I will probably read a few detective novels. I have some James Patterson sitting on the shelf waiting for my attention. Time to look at them I think.


Just a short post today to try and keep up my goal of posting two or three times a week. I have a day out in Cambridge planned for tomorrow, ostensibly to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen for a while, but there will be some drinking involved, I have no doubt. Due to the appalling nature of the buses in the area I live I need to catch the 09:15 bus, which is the only bus that leaves all day (except the 07:30 one). This gets me into Cambridge pretty early in the day and so I should have the opportunity to visit a couple of book shops before I meet my friend.

After we meet up it will most likely involve a tour of the many pubs in town. I am going to take the advice given to me by shaunaborthwick and take along a notebook. I do usually try to do this but I generally never end up writing anything. On this occasion I think I will make an effort to use the notebook early on, rather than later in the day when there is a distinct danger of my never understanding what I have written. This should be the last weekend that I am out for a while. It always seems to be the way. You spend weeks without going out and then all of a sudden there is a glut of invites to go out, and after that nothing. I have enjoyed meeting all of my old friends recently, but now I shall be looking forward to getting a bit more order back into my life, more routine.

For those of you that have been following my progress with Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’, you will be pleased to know that I have almost finished, and depending on how I feel on Sunday I should be able to finish this weekend. More on this when I have completed it. Have a great weekend!

Dark Wisdom by Matt Chase

A short while ago I was sent a copy of ‘Dark Wisdom’ by Matt Chase of Matt Chase International to read. It is a collection of about twenty short stories, some linked stories others entirely independent. I really enjoyed reading through the almost 150 pages. It is the first time I have ever been asked to look at anyone’s work, which made this kind of special.

The stories were based on a variety of different topics, although there did appear to be some central themes that were explored more than others. In particular Eastern religious influences pervaded the collection, along with the idea of alternative lifestyles such as communal living. Both of these are of some personal interest to me so added to my enjoyment. As I have mentioned the stories were very varied ranging from gritty, down to earth stories involving domestic abuse to surreal fantasy and those of an overtly sexual nature. They were set in times ranging from the recent past, through the present day to the future.

It was nice to have so many different stories as it kept things interesting. I would sometimes start to read a story and recognise characters as those from an earlier story, finding that the current story was either a continuation of an earlier one, or a different aspect of it. In particular I enjoyed a story called ‘The Complex Man’ and the protagonist Tim/Joel, but you will have to read the collection to find out what it is about. No spoilers here.

To conclude, I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. In particular, I liked the variety of the stories and the inventiveness of the author in his approach to them. I would most certainly recommend taking a look. In addition, the author very considerately provided adequate warning in the introduction to the appropriateness of certain stories to some age groups. This is something that I think readers should be able to expect from any responsible author.

University Friends and a Mouse

I had an enjoyable day yesterday in London. First my father brought around some literature study guides for a few classic novels. Always interesting to accompany reading the actual books. Then armed with my notepad and pen, and a writing magazine I caught the train to London. I met a friend at Kings Cross station and we went to a Krishna vegetarian restaurant in Soho, Govinda’s. That was an interesting experience, and something I had wanted to try for quite some time. After that we went and met some more friends and spent the rest of the day sampling the delights of a number of London’s finest drinking establishments. It was nice to meet up with friends from my university days. It is interesting to see how people have changed, especially people that at one point in your life you spent a lot of time with, and in some cases even shared houses with. In my case I then lost contact for almost fifteen years, only recovered as a result of connection on Facebook. So it does have its uses. The evening ended up in a small vodka bar. Very messy! Very fun!

Unfortunately I woke up very early this morning unable to sleep, so I have been exhausted most of the day. And then, in the midst of my self-inflicted misery (also known as a bad hangover) I spotted a mouse in my larder. Now I am not keen on mice. Truthfully they make my skin crawl. So I was not happy. Not something I was really in the right frame of mind to deal with. I decided however, that since he wasn’t paying rent, not contributing to the mortgage, that he had to go. There can be no freeloaders here. I had to then go out and find a humane trap. I may not like mice, but I didn’t want to kill it. Then I (well my father, who fortunately was visiting) cleared out the cupboard and found its nest, empty. It looks as though it had come in through an air brick and had hopefully been scared back outside so we blocked up the holes and then left the trap there. We’ll have to see if it appears.

So the upshot is that I have managed almost no writing today, and a correspondingly small amount of reading. Not the day I had planned. Still, it made for an interesting weekend.