reading or not

November 15, 2009

Oops – missed yesterday’s post because the internet was down. I am having to walk and sit outside the library to get wifi! But this is probably a good thing.

Books on my bedside table:

Advance Australia Where – Hugh Mackay

Cyburbia – James Harkin

The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Claiborne

The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James

The Book of Rapture – Nikki Gemmell

What a nice list of books. If only I were anywhere near reading any of them. Mostly what happens is I buy delicious tantalising books in large quantities and put them optimistically on my bedside table, where they sit for a few weeks or months. The pile grows higher and higher and once it becomes an impossible tower I take some of them away and put them in the “book room”. Meanwhile a lot of internet surfing gets done.

Yes we do have a dedicated room in the house just for books. Most of the people in this family do not have their own room, and yet the books do. Unfortunately it’s a tiny closet and does not allow any room for actual reading. The next step, in a bigger house, would be to create a proper library with an armchair and nice lighting. Computers would be forbidden there.

I’m not sure that’s actually going to happen, given the IT revolution and the impending end of print media. But maybe we will preserve the books as a kind of relic or museum piece.


This looks like an interesting book, haven’t read it myself. There is a lot going around about happiness and positive psychology these days.

linkto story

Since I have changed my mode of transport to bus travel, there are many benefits but the nicest one is novel reading. I have read quite a few novels recently.

The memory keeper’s daughter (Kim Edwards) – was a compelling one, the author has that useful knack of writing to keep the reader turning the pages. And it was interesting that she chose to write the plot straight through chronologically and could still make it hard to put down. Another writer may have been tempted to make the thing into a mystery with the key event being discovered at the end of the book instead of the beginning. Interesting observations on life and relationships but slightly airport-fictionish (I bought this at an airport!)

Seven Types of Ambiguity (Elliot Perlman) was a nice meaty read. Managed to carry off a complex plot without losing the reader. Managed to write convincingly from many different perspectives and carry the chronological narrative at the same time which was stylish. Psychologically accurate. There were a few improbable or implausible bits, maybe more than a few.

And I also read the Poisonwood Bible (Kingsolver) which was the best of the lot, more later.

monkey grip

May 5, 2007

A strange and fascinating book by Helen Garner. I picked it up at Brisbane airport last week and did not look at the publication date. I read it on the plane, trying to work out where all these people lived and what social group they belonged to. It was hard to place them, an assortment of twenty and thirty somethings who seemed to spend all their time taking drugs and having sex, living in large share houses with large numbers of people coming and going, riding bicycles and raising children who seemed to be absent from the story half the time. I then discovered it was written in 1977 and the penny dropped.

The book tells the story of a codependent relationship of a single mother (Nora) with a junkie (Javo). The relationship, at least her side of it is emotionally and psychologically real, and one starts to feel like one of her flatmates, that you know her well. You don’t find out Nora’s age or anything about her background for most of the book and eventually discover she is 33. You wonder how these people support themselves and realise it is undoubtedly through welfare but how are they allowed to go on collecting the dole without any semblance of job seeking. That must be the right winger in me coming out. I do feel, however that I don’t want to pay tax towards supporting people in their drug using lifestyle however free and enlightened it is. The positive side of that lifestyle is that these overgrown adolescents do share a sense of community and a richness of friendships that we don’t have, due to our individualism and busyness. Reading the book makes you want to lie around drinking coffee, reading more books and having long conversations with people into the early hours, something I never do. It makes me want to relax my parenting and let the kids roam around discovering things for themselves in a big herd of other children. It was definitely a book that made me feel something and think about life.

The Book List

February 18, 2007

Thanks to Charlotte for this one. Something to get me started on a windy evening, waiting for H to come home for dinner…

Here’s the drill… Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicise the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of. I’ve left unformatted the books to which I feel perfectly indifferent.

1. +The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. +Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. *Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. +A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. * A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. + Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. *The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. +The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. +The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. +East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. +The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. * The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. *I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. +The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. +The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. +Bible
46. +Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. +Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. +The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. *She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. +The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) – reading now!
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. *Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. * The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. + The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. +Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. +War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. +Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. +One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. +Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. +The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. +Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)

73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. * The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. * A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. * The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. * Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. + Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. + Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. * Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. * Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. * The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

too many books

October 26, 2006

I don’t know what goads are, but does anyone think there are too many books in the world?

The other day I bought “The Authoritative Guide to Self-help Resources” written by psychologists. With great excitement I perused the 400+ pages of true gems of literature. Surely this would be useful for work, I even went to the library to check out some of the titles. After a while I was overcome by a great weariness. What was I doing there, exactly? I didn’t know.

Going to the library is often stressful because there are too many books. I’ll never read all of them and I don’t know where to begin. I have 11 month old twins, and reading one chapter of one book is a great achievement. Even with all the time in the world (as when I was pregnant) I still couldn’t read everything.

It’s a bit like life, really. There are too many options. How do you narrow them down? There is a lot of stuff I have to do but still more things I’d like to do, so I write lists. I spend 5 minutes on one item and then a baby calls, a month passes and I’ve lost the list.

I don’t blame the babies or the lack of time. It was still the same in the old days, when there was plenty of time. Different things, people take over and it’s hard to prioritise.

Too many books, too many ideas, too many people?

The Conclusion of the Matter
9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one Shepherd. 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. – Ecclesiastes 12: 9-14

I picked up this book from the library when I was wandering around in a confused kind of state. If I were a tapestry maker in 16th century France I would pretty much know who I was and my role in life. But I’m not, and I sometimes work and I mostly look after children. I love looking after children but sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t be doing something more, with the children. That is whether I and the children ought to be more a part of a greater whole, rather than just boddling around on the floor together.

Anyway I digress. The book, I mostly disagree with. I was quite keen to read it because according to the jacket, it discusses “how motherhood changes everything” well I couldn’t agree more, but I thought it was going to talk about some of the beneficial changes. It’s also written by an Australian academic, which I found promising. I think this book is thought provoking and raises some very good points, and almost comes close to explaining certain issues about motherhood in a contemporary context. I also think it is quite interesting to write a response to a book you disagree with about a subject you care about.

One very sad comment inside this book is that “Motherhood is not intrinsically rewarding”. Mostly, that is sad for the children of the author, I hope they don’t read it. And her conclusions are overwhelmingly negative. She doesn’t have much positive to say, and I am afraid that just reflects her own issues rather than any “objective’ scientific research. I am coming to realise more and more that people generally create their research to back up their original view and then say it’s objective.

Here’s a few reviews of the book on amazon to start wtih.