Bookends #13: April 2019

This week’s Bookends features an article about Faber and Faber as they mark their 90th anniversary, a blog post about reading those books that regularly appear in those “100 books you must read” kind of lists and a book set in the Australian outback

Book: The Lost Man by Jane Harper 

A friend has been raving about this new novel from Jane Harper. I waited impatiently while she finished it and was looking forward to getting my paws on it yesterday. But it was not to be ….her husband has got in first and snaffled her copy. If he turns out to be a slow reader I know I’ll be too impatient to wait and will end up buying my own copy.

This is the third novel by Harper. Her first two – The Dry and Forces of Nature – were best sellers and this new one looks to be heading in the same direction. It begins deep in the Australian outback at the location of a lone grave, a memorial to a stockman who died 100 years previously.  Curled up beside it is a more recent body. How he died is not a mystery. The more difficult questions are why and how.

Although this sounds like a fairly typical crime thriller, everything I’ve read about Harper’s work indicates this is too simplistic a description. it’s a tale about family relationships saga that has crime and thriller elements woven in and tackles head on issues of sexual and domestic abuse. It also apparently brilliantly evokes the harsh beauty of the Queensland landscape.

The Sydney Morning Herald calls her “one of the most interesting Australian crime writers to emerge in the past decade.”  Not surprisingly she’s been longlisted for the 2019 Australian Book Industry Awards. If you’re tempted, this review by Theresa at Theresa Smith Writes could tip the balance for you.

Blog Post: The Stupid Classics Book Club

A few weekends ago The Sunday Times in the UK published a list of their top 100 contemporary classics. Cue groans from around kitchen tables throughout the country when readers tally up how many of these “should read/must read” books they abandoned in frustration or had no inclination to even open.

The solution devised by Elisa Gabbert, her husband and two friends was to create the Stupid Classics Book Club. The idea was “to read all the corny stuff from the canon that we really should have read in school but never did “. In a piece she wrote for Paris Review she freely admits it started as a joke but in the process she, and her fellow club members, found some of their pre-conceived notions were turned upside down. Other books they anticipated they wouldn’t enjoy did indeed prove tiresome. But it was still a useful exercise to read them says Gabbert:

I find these lists incredibly tiresome. Of course, you don’t have to read anything. Some books will be triggering or make you deeply unhappy; there just isn’t enough time. But if you want to speak or write knowledgeably about them, you really do have to read them. You can’t just assume you know what they’re like. I’m glad I read Fahrenheit 451 even though I despised it. Now I know exactly how it’s bad, and I can hate it for the right reasons.

I can go along with that to a certain extent: reading only what you know you enjoy means you never challenge yourself. Staying within your comfort zone can be limiting. But I don’t completely buy the idea:  if I start reading a book I suspect I won’t like and do indeed find I absolutely loathe it, I see little point in persevering to the bitter end just to be able to say I read it and now I know why I hate it.

What do you think -do you agree with Gabbert? Read the full story here 

Article: Faber and Faber

Faber and Faber is marking its 90th anniversary this year, a landmark which triggered an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph this week. I never realised that there is only one Faber – the company was formed by Geoffrey Faber but the “and Faber” was supposedly added following a suggestion by the poet Walter de la Mare (whose work the company went on to publish) to add a second Faber into the company name ‘because you can’t have too much of a good thing’.

Another piece of useful/useless information I gleaned from this article was that the company turned down a number of books that went on to become mega hits: Paddington Bear; Down and Out in Paris and London; 1984. Oops….

To their credit though they have spotted some outstanding talent over the years: thirteen Nobel Laureates and six Booker Prize-winners  (including the most recent Milkman by Anna Burns) isn’t to be sniffed at….

I wish I could add a link to the article but the Daily Telegraph operates a pay for view/subscription model…..


And so that’s a wrap for this episode of Bookends. Have you found anything new exciting and to read this week that might entice me?

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on April 26, 2019, in Bookends and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. I really appreciate this round-up of book news. I actually find that quite interesting about Faber and Faber-what a strange thing. I thought I had read a review Jane Harper’s latest on your blog-although to be fair, it’s been reviewed on alot of blogs lately so I must have just been mixed up…it does look like a good book though.

  2. I used to read books to the bitter end even if I wasn’t enjoying them, but as my remaining years grow shorter and my TBR grows longer, I’m quite happy to abandon books that aren’t working for me now, I’ve never found that it stops me having opinions about them… 😉

  3. Bryan G Robinson you are not Robinson Crusoe. Jane Harper writes ok plots but what she knows about non-urban Australia would fit on a very small postage stamp (remember them?). I followed you link to the anti-Farenheit 451 article. Interesting, but all old SF (bar those very few by women) is misogynist so in the many times I have read it I hadn’t noticed.

  4. I might be the lone person out there, at least among book bloggers, who didn’t like Jane Harper’s first book and as a result, I haven’t gotten into the series. I liked the first one up until she revealed the killer through (what to me seemed to be lazy writing) a first person narrative in italic flashback when the rest of the novel had been in third person limited. It infuriated me so much that I never returned to the follow-ups. I agree with you on not reading a book to the bitter end. Personally, I value the little time I have to read and if a book isn’t working for me…goodbye. Gasp! I’ve never read Paddington, but I do love the movies, especially Paddington 2, which I could watch again and again, and have.

  5. Though I love Australian literature I will postpone Jane Harper for now, as I am already pounding away at a few crime series (is there a plural for series?) I always enjoy learning some history about publishing houses and my gosh you can’t expect each house to always guess right on what will sell. I usually try to finish books I start but I agree that if a classic or “should read” isn’t working for me, DNF I do!

    • I’ve no idea about the plural of series …… too taxing a question for my brain right now. Interesting to see different people’s reactions to the question of finish/DNF – I found out my mum has a ‘rule’ that she will always start a book that she is given or that is chosen for a book club even though it doesn’t sound that appealing. She wrinkled her nose when I gave her The Tattooist of Auschwitz but has now admitted she enjoyed it (if thats not a strange word to use)

  6. They turned down Paddington!?! I’m not sure The Bears will ever allow a Faber and Faber book in the house again.

  7. I think I like the idea of the Stupid Classics Club because I do agree that you can’t really criticise a book unless you’ve read it, or at least made a stab at doing so. I fully support your right to give up on any book you’re not enjoying reading.

    I hope you get hold of The Lost Man soon – it is SO very good.

    • That’s a good point about at least having a go at a book -a bit like people who say they dont like curry/lasagne etc etc but have never had as much as a mouthful….

      • Exactly. At least you can say that you’ve given it a go, and would know whether you were right about why you thought you wouldn’t like it.

  8. The article on stupid classics at least gives me a different way of looking at Fahrenheit 451 – I hated that book and have always thought back on books like that as time wasted that could have been used to read something I liked – but am impressed with how that’s given a positive spin! I should get them to draft the bad news reports when things go wrong at work for me cos the art of positive spin is clearly something they’ve mastered.

  9. On the basis that I own/buy books that I want to read, yet can’t make time for, I tend to avoid the lists telling me what I need to read. I’m sure many are worthy and I probably would enjoy them, but as I’ve reached the age of 60+ without reading them I suspect it’s not going to change.

  10. Kaggsysbookishramblings

    At my age I’m not going to persist with a book if I really hate it, unless there’s a really good reason. Certainly not if it’s a long one. I’m happy to venture outside my comfort zone and happy to explore different books, but if I can’t get a connection with it somehow there’s no point. Life is too short!

    • I used to think that i had to finish everything – but no longer. I’m sure it’s got something to do with advancing years though I like to think of it more like maturity…

  11. I’m late to Jane Harper’s books, I only read The Dry a couple of weeks ago (ready for May’s 6 Degrees challenge), but I shall go on to read some more.

    Not sure about top classics but every once in a while I’ll pick up a book that has been pronounced a classic if it appeals. My last ones have been The Godfather, Bridge To Terabithia and My Antonia.

    My last three Faber & Faber boks were: The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward, The Madonna Of The Mountains by Elise Valmorbida and The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer.

    • If you see something on a list that appeals to you why not go ahead and read it? I think the point is not to read a particular title/author just because someone says you should (unless its for a programme of study)

  12. I went to Jane Harper’s launch of this book last year at our local indie bookshop, Fullers. She was good fun, being a good conversationalist and how much research she did for this book. Including living on a sheep station or two. I’ve only read the first one. Re:reading classics. I find I need to use a kindle combo of read listen or just audible for booms I find hard. I seem to pay more attention and not fall asleep. I can’t recommend any good book at the moment as I’m in a bit of a slump and concentrating more on books about photography, which I doubt you’d find enthralling. 🤠🐧

    • Now that really is taking research to a whole new level.. I’ve never tried a reading/listening combo – could be an interesting experiment. I have Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell for my car journeys at the moment. It’s very long so maybe getting the book at the same time would be better because I’d be more deeply immersed in the story

  13. Love Jane Harper’s books and can’t wait to read The Lost Man!

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