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Old 07-13-2013, 12:07 PM   #129
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Default A year in reading - 2012-13

A whistle-stop tour of the books I've read since July 13th last year, with some thoughts:

1. The Nun Denis Diderot. What really went on within the cloisters. 18th century secular attack on religion. Scandalous in it's day, moderately diverting now. 5/10

2. The Castle of Otranto Horace Walpole. The archetypal gothic novel, apparently, but it's all over the place as a novel. Complete bollocks. Avoid. 2/10

3. Diary of a Nobody George and Wheedon Grossmith. Great Edwardian comic novel detailing the misdaventures of a put-upon middle-class man who just wants a bit of respect, but never gets any. Fun and frivolous. 7/10

4. Frankenstein Mary Shelley. Well, I'm in the minority. It left me pretty much cold. 4/10.

5. Buddenbrooks Thomas Mann A massive family history focusing on weddings, funerals, christenings etc. It should have bored me to death, but after the first 100 pages I was hooked. Now one of my favourite books of all time (though I'll admit it won't be most people's cup of tea). 9/10

6. Cakes and Ale W. Somerset Maugham Intelligent, acid and sometimes brutally honest, but principall lingers in the memory for its portrayal of the vivacious Rosie Driffield. 7/10

7. The Quest for Corvo AJA symonds. A biography that reads like a detective story. Symonds uncovers the life of Frederick Rolfe, the self-styled Baron Corvo, an impossibly eccentric, litigious, offensive and possibly perverted author. Fascinating and sometimes funny. 7/10

8. Cold Comfort Farm Stella Gibbons. Hilarious satire on rustic novels, but also oddly surreal. Loads of fun 8/10

9. The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts Louis de Bernieres. Magic realism meets sickening violence in South America. A bit laboured, but works in patches 5/10

10. Senor Vivo and the Cocoa Lord. Louis de Bernieres Sequel to the above and a much more focused and accomplished work. But it's still an englishman trying to write like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 7/10

11. Aid and Other Dirty Business Giles Bolton. Everybody should read this book (and probably re-read it every year). Seriously. It would stop them saying stupid, untrue shit about foreign aid. The most important book I've read in the last five years. 9/10

12. Goodbye to Berlin Christopher Isherwood Beautifully written impressionistic account of decadent Berlin of the thirties, with the shadow of Nazism looming large. 7/10

13. The Good Soldier Svejk Jaroslav Hasek. Monumental unfinished Czech satire - the original Catch 22. Took me months to read and is incredibly repetitious. But rewards the very patient reader with nuggets of pure delight. On balance, I loved it 7/10

14. Race of a Lifetime Mark Halperin and John Heilemann Fast-paced account of the 2008 Presidential Campaign, digging the dirt on the Clintons, Obama, Palin et al. Fun and frantic 8/10

15. Crome Yellow Aldous Huxley. The quote in my signature comes from this. Huxley's first and, though lacking a narrative urgency, a joy in its witty and poetic take on post-WWI society. 7/10
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