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Monday, 16 April 2018

Manhattan Beach - Jennifer Egan (2017)

Rating: Excellent

Manhattan Beach is certainly an impressive novel. I found myself becoming emotionally engaged with the principal protagonists on multiple occasions throughout, which is always the sign of above average writing, particularly when it is a novel that I would not normally be interested in reading outside of the book club. Manhattan Beach is compelling, skillfully plotted and Egan certainly has a way with placing you right there with the characters across some varied settings. The novel falls away a bit toward the end, but that was principally because some of the narrative tension had dissipated after various plot-lines had resolved. I'll be delving into Egan's past novels in the future, in particular her Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010).

Monday, 2 April 2018

Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges (1941-1944, this translated edition, 2000)

Rating: Sublime

I have finally read Jorge Luis Borges and I can confirm that it is true, Borges was a literary genius. The stories that make up this collection are unique (even now), inspiring, fascinating and above all the work of what was a highly original mind. If you are feeling jaded with what you've been reading lately then read this book and be inspired by literature once again. The story - The Library of Babel, begins with one of the all time greatest opening sentences: 'The universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.'

I always suspected that I worked in a universe within a universe... 


Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry (2016)

Rating: Excellent

One of those popular literary fiction novels that excels in being thoroughly enjoyable without setting the literary firmament afire, which is perfectly fine. The Essex Serpent is not particularly plot driven, rather it is heavy on some weighty themes that are both universal and also particular to the Victorian era it is set in. Perry's strength lies in her splendid characterizations and making the settings come alive; she also has some fun with Gothic tropes whilst she's at it. One of my book club members described it as "gentle", in a complimentary sense of course, and I have to agree. It has been a great period of quality books for me and The Essex Serpent hasn't spoiled that particular reading roll.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life - Adam Greenfield (2017)

Rating: Excellent

An excellent analysis of where we are at and where it all could take us; covers smart phones, the internet of things, augmented reality, digital fabrication (3D printing), cryptocurrency and blockchains (I understand it all now, sort of...), automation and machine learning (AI). Greenfield writes too much like an academic - lacking a bit of flair, but this is a small criticism. As Brian Eno says on the back cover blurb - 'This is an essential book.' I say - beware the hegemony of the stacks!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison (1952)

Rating: Excellent

A challenging and inventive examination of what it was to be a black American in the mid twentieth century. Complex, surreal, disturbing and unfortunately still relevant reading within the context of the ugliness of our times.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


It has been a while coming, but I've decided to stop writing book reviews for the time being, perhaps for a year or so, in order to concentrate on other things. I will, however, be posting what I've read, including ratings and perhaps the odd comment.

Over the last six weeks or so I've finished reading three novels:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (1979): Excellent

I first read this novel when I was 15, and it turns out that it is still brilliant; genuinely funny, weird and full of unforgettable characters. A deathless classic basically. 

In Search of Lost Time - Volume One: Swann's Way - Marcel Proust (1913): Excellent

One of the greats of the European literary canon; best to let yourself be absorbed into Proust's world if you attempt to read it.

Daniel Martin - John Fowles (1977): Excellent

A seriously adult novel, full of meditations on the self, sex, nationality and love.

Saturday, 30 December 2017


It has been quite a year and looking back over what I’ve managed to read I feel a certain degree of satisfaction. Half of what I read is dictated by the book clubs I run at work and this year it has been a mostly satisfactory group of books. Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda (1988) proved to be both the best book club book and the best book I read all year; it’s a near work of literary genius. Following close behind was The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (2011), which is a brilliant example of genre fiction that transcends perceived boundaries that come from those who feel that fantasy should not be taken seriously.

Ideas: A History From Fire to Freud by Perter Watson (2005) proved to be one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015) was the best science fiction book I read during the year, with Rudy Rucker’s Wetware (1988) a close second. Most of the other books I read this year had something going for them, even Kate Grenville’s The Idea of Perfection (1999) had its moments, however not enough of them to avoid being selected as the worst book I read all year. Sorry Kate, who am I to judge really? When have I actually written a novel? Still, I can honestly say that I mostly hated it!

Now, if only I could get around to finishing that John Fowles novel....