Category Archives: Top Ten Tuesday
It being Valentine’s Day today, the theme for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and Bookish is naturally love. It’s an emotion which comes in many guises. Here’s a list of ten different depictions of love in fiction that I’ve enjoyed over the years. Links are to my reviews where the book is one I’ve read in the last five years.
Young love: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Adolescent/teenage love is the mainstay of a lot of young adult fiction but that’s not a genre I read. So my choice is from the pen of a man whose ability to tap into human emotions would be difficult to surpass. Romeo and Juliet is probably the most famous love story in the English literary tradition. It’s a play about intense passion where love is a violent, ecstatic, overpowering force that supersedes all other values, loyalties, and emotions.
In their first meeting we see all the wonder and yet doubts of early love:
Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say ‘Ay,’
And I will take thy word: yet if thou swear’st,
Thou mayst prove false; at lovers’ perjuries
Then say, Jove laughs. O gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully:
Or if thou think’st I am too quickly won,
I’ll frown and be perverse an say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo:
But Shakespeare doesn’t give us a hearts and flowers, happy ever after version of love, but the kind where love overpowers all other considerations and sets the participants against the world – in the course of the play, the young lovers are driven to defy their families, friends and their ruler.
Mature love: Anthony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. Passion isn’t confined to the youngsters, nor does love get any easier with age. In Anthony and Cleopatra Shakespeare shows the two principal characters at war with each other and with themselves. Throughout the play emotion is constantly in battle with reason. In their first exchange the two argue whether their love can be put into words or does it transcend reason.
CLEOPATRA: If it be love indeed, tell me how much.
ANTONY: There’s beggary in the love that can be reckoned.
CLEOPATRA: I’ll set a bourn how far to be beloved.
ANTONY: Then must thou needs find out new heaven, new earth.
Anthony may be a military hero and an esteemed statesman but he cannot help be swept along by the force of Cleopatra’s character, even at the cost of his cherished honour and, ultimately, his life.
Jealous love: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. Greene is a master of storytelling involving tortured souls. In this moving tale of adultery and its aftermath, Maurice Bendrix, falls in love with his neighbour’s wife, Sarah. She suddenly breaks off the affair, leaving him wracked with anger and jealousy that she continues to live with her husband. The reason for her actions becomes apparent only later in the novel. It’s a superb and compelling portrait of an illicit love affair that one person cannot accept is over.
Unrequited love: Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. I challenge anyone to read this and not feel desperately sorry for Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting. They are young, newly-wedded and are on their honeymoon. But their first night together goes disastrously wrong. They try to reconcile but angry words are exchanged from which there seems no way back.
Thawrted love: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Charles Ryder, who narrates this novel, comes from a wealthy but emotionally bankrupt family. Befriended at Oxford by the wealthy Lord Sebastian Flyte, Charles is introduced to an eccentric set of friends, to Sebastian’s socialite sister Julia and their ancestral home at Brideshead Castle. Years later Julia and Charles, now both married, embark on an affair and plan to marry. But Julia suddenly realises she cannot turn her back on her strict Catholic upbringing. To marry Charles would be a sin so she abandons him. Charles, who has always struck me as a bit of a cold fish, is forced to confront his emotions.
Parental love: Silas Marner by George Eliot. You can find a multitude of books on the theme of motherly love but not as many featuring paternal love. In Eliot’s novel, the weaver Silas Marner is thrown out of his Calvinist community having been (falsely) accused of stealing their funds. He makes his new home in the village of Raveloe, becoming a recluse who devotes himself entirely to his weaving and to hoarding money. His life changes when a small child finds her way to his door in a snowstorm. Silas keeps her and raises her as his daughter. Through the strong bond he forms with the girl, he finds a place in the rural society and a new purpose in life.
Destructive love: Medea by Euripedes. A more perfect example of ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ it would be hard to find than Medea. Abandoned by her husband who fancies a younger model, she plots revenge. Does she throw all his clothes out of the window? Stalk him? Send notes to his new wife telling her what he’s really like? No, all too easy for this tempestuous woman. Poison and the dagger are her weapons of choice and she’s not afraid to use them even if it means innocent people must also die.
Female love: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I had no idea what this novel was about when my mother recommended it as a novel her book club had enjoyed. I’ve never met her book club chums but I imagined them as ladies in their seventies whose reading tastes would be conservative. Once I realised that it featured a hot-blooded love affair between two women, I had to completely revise my thinking.
Obsessional love: The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch. This a great example of what can happen when you believe – mistakenly -that someone loves you. Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering theatrical career, to a house on the coast. He discovers that opne of his first girlfriends lives in the nearby village. He gets the idea that she still loves him and needs to be rescued from her unhappy marriage despite the fact she doesn’t give him any indication she is either unhappy or in love with Charles. But he is not a man to give up once he gets an idea in his head so sets about kidnapping her. It’s an ill-thought out plan that crumbles but not before damage is done.
Murderous love: Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola. Zola’s heroine is unhappily married to a sickly and selfish railway worker when she embarks on a turbulent and sordidly passionate affair with one of friends. The two lovers plot to kill the husband. But what thought was the solution to the problem, proves to be just the start of a nightmare. Haunted by the memory of the murder they suffer hallucinations of the dead man, seeing him in their bedroom every night, preventing them from touching each other and quickly driving them insane.
This week’s Top Ten topic is about books we consider to be underrated and hidden gems. My list is a bit of a cornucopia, comprising of a smattering of historic fiction, literary fiction and works by authors from Africa and South America. All hyperlinks are to my reviews.
Let’s start in Brazil with Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis, an author little known of outside of South America but is a familiar name to every schoolchild in Brazil (he’s required reading in the education system). It is supposedly an autobiography written by Bento Santiago, a lawyer from Rio de Janeiro, in which he describes his early life, his years of happiness married to his childhood sweetheart and then the heartbreak when he thinks she has betrayed him. Whether this is the truth is uncertain because Bento isn’t exactly a reliable narrator nor one who can be trusted to stick to the point. He can be in the middle of describing the grande passion of his life and then suddenly switches to commenting on ministerial reshuffles and train travel. A great choice for readers who like quirky novels.
Moving on to Africa, first up is Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, a novel deemed so dangerous by the Kenyan government that they imprisoned the author. What was so incendiary about this novel? Quite simply because it turned the spotlight on the authorities for their betrayal of ordinary people in Kenya, promising them the earth when the country gained independence but then when the rains failed, the crops died and people faced starvation, they ignored their calls for help. A powerful novel that sadly depicts a situation happening in too many parts of the world.
From Ethiopia comes All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu which I picked up on a whim while at the Hay Literary Festival a few years ago. This is a book about love but also about the lengths to which someone will go to build a new life for themselves, even if that means leaving their homeland and their identity.
By complete contrast The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso offers a tale of rivalry and hostility between two very stubborn women who live next door to each other in Cape Town. Many of the scenes are hilarious but this is a novel which also asks searching questions about racial tension and the possibility of reconciliation between the different sectors of South African society.
And finally from Africa we get Wife of the Gods by the Ghanian author Kwei Quartey. The plot revolves around the murder of a young female medical student but the novel does far more than offer a well-paced detective story. This is a tale which takes us to the dark side of Ghana’s culture where young girls are offered as trokosi (or Wives of the Gods) to fetish priests and villagers still believe in the power of medicine men to assuage vengeful gods.
If those titles have given you a taste for fiction from Africa – or indeed from anywhere in the world except your own country, but you don’t know where to begin – your saviour will be The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by Michael Orthofer. This offers profiles of the literature on a region by region and country by country basis and a multitude of author names to explore.
Changing direction totally I offer one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in several years. Antonia Hodgson’s debut novel The Devil in the Marshalsea takes us into the heart of the notorious squalid and disease ridden Marshalsea prison for debtors. Reading this, you can almost smell the place such is the power of Hodgson’s narrative. Her protagonist Tom Hawkins ends up in the Marshalsea because he has too much of a liking for gambling and women. The question is whether he will leave the prison alive or dead.
I couldn’t possibly create a list of under-rated gems without mentioning Holiday by Stanley Middleton. I know it seems strange to think of a Booker prize winner as a hidden gem but this winner from 1974 is one that few people seem to know. Middleton himself also seems to have disappeared from the public consciousness. This despite the fact he wrote more than 40 novels. Holiday is a quiet novel in a sense because the action, such as it is, is all inside the head of the main character. Edwin Fisher, a university professor takes a spur of the moment holiday at the seaside where he reflects on the breakdown of his marriage. It’s a well observed story of a man who is more an observer than a participant in life.
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan was also a contender for the Booker prize. This is a novel about a community and the individuals within it that feel the effect of the collapse of Ireland’s economic boom. It’s a novel that almost never saw the light of day. It had been rejected by numerous publishers but was rescued from yet another reject pile by an intern who raved about it and persuaded her employers to give it a go. It then went on to make the long list for the Booker Prize. What happened to the intern is not known but I hope she got a permanent job for showing such great intuition.
And finally, a novel that should have won the Booker in 2013 but sadly the judges felt otherwise. Harvest by Jim Crace is a beautifully written lyrical novel set in a period in history where a traditional way of life where people rely on the land to make a living is ruptured in the name of “Profit, Progress, Enterprise”.
The Broke and Bookish has chosen as the theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: 10 books released in 2016 I meant to read – but didn’t. I read more contemporary fiction last year than in previous years but even then couldn’t keep up with so much that was new. Here’s my list of the ones that got away….
The Sellout by Paul Beatty – the novel that won the 2016 Booker prize. I have a signed copy awaiting me….
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh: I read a sample of this when it was longlisted for the 2016 Booker Prize and was struck by the strong voice of the narrator. It’s had mixed reviews since then but I have my own copy now so will get around to reading it. Someday..
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah: I wanted to read her collection of short stories before starting on this novel but never got to finish the collection.
Paris Mon Amour by Isabel Costello: This is an unusual choice for me because it’s essentially a story of love but it’s set in one of my favourite cities (Paris). I know from Isabel’s blog that she researched the setting extensively.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, the debut novel that ‘everyone’ seemed to be talking about last year
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet- another Booker contender. I’ve taken this out of the library twice now and each time had to return it unread. Third time lucky maybe.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I saw a number of reviews all recommending this but couldn’t get it via our library system and I don’t typically buy novels in hardcover on the grounds of cost so have been waiting for this to come out in paperback.
Old Soldiers Never Die by Frank Richards. This account of life in the trenches of World War 1 was published in 1933. It was given fresh life last year through a new edition by the National Library of Wales
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. Another popular novel from 2016 that I missed. Usually the more attention a novel gets the less likely I am to want to read it but this one refused to go away.
Human Acts by Han Kang. A very intriguing novel but before I get to this I’d better hurry up and read her earlier novel The Vegetarian
I’m going to ignore the fact this week’s Top Ten is meant to be about debut books that will be published in 2017. Since I am planning to restrict my purchasing habits for at least the first half of the year I really can’t be tempted this early on can I? Hence my list is going to be ten books that are on my wishlist that I’d dearly love to buy but will have to await their turn.
- The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. Published in 2016 I’ve seen several positive reviews for this including Kim at Reading Matters and Lisa at ANZlitlovers. Click on those links to see their reviews.
- Solea by Jean-Claude Izzo. This is the first part of his Marseilles trilogy. It’s apparently a classic of European crime fiction that was the catalyst for the foundation of an entire literary movement (Mediterranean noir). It might be the closest I get to the South of France this year 🙂
- Transoceanic Lights by S. Li tells of three families who immigrate to the US from post-Mao China. After my delightful experience with Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say we Have Nothing last year, I’m ready for another immersion in the culture of China.
- Rumours of Rain by Andre Brink. One to help deepen my knowledge of South Africa’s past. I already own another of his novels – A Dry White Season.
- All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan. I read the debut novel by this Irish author (The Spinning Heart) and loved it. His latest novel has been recommended by A Life in Books and Lonesome Reader. Follow those links to see their reviews.
- Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okpranta. I wish I’d had a £1 for every time I saw this mentioned last year – either on blog sites or in ‘best of’ and ‘highly recommended’ lists but I never got around to this tale of a young girl learning to understand herself amid the turmoil of civil war in Nigeria.
- An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire. There are so many good books coming out from Australia and yet so few of them seem to be known about outside the southern hemisphere. My own knowledge of the literature from Australasia is limited to the handful of Booker prize winners so I want to rectify that. This novel which examines the aftermath of the killing of a young girl in a small town of Strathdee comes highly recommended.
- The Tower by Uwe Tellkamp. Having spent some time last year in East Germany, including Dresden, this tale of the experience of the Communist downfall caught my attention.
- Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan. This is a tale of a family set against the background of Taiwan’s history from the end of Japanese colonial rule to the decades under martial.It was nominated in the historical fiction category of the Goodreads awards 2016.
- Ru by Kim Thúy. The author based this novel on her own experience of fleeing Vietnam who has to make a new life in Canada on a boat with her family.
This week’s Top Ten topic, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is the ten best books of 2016. By which I take it they mean the books I read in 2016 that I enjoyed the most. I’ve pontificated about this for a few weeks now but can delay no longer. So here is my list. I was surprised to see how many are Booker prize related.
- Top spot goes to Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing for her sweeping saga of life in China during the Cultural Revolution and its effects on three musicians. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and in my ever so humble opinion should have been the winner. But the judges disagreed….sigh.
- The Many by Wyl Menmuir: a debut novel which was mesmerising even if I didn’t fully understand it. Contained some disturbing ideas about the long term effectof pollution on the sea and fishing stock . It was longlisted for the 2016 Booker Prize
- The North Water by Ian McGuire: Another 2016 Booker contender, this was a rollicking if grim historical adventure set on a whaling ship.
- Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink: the only non fiction book to make it onto my top 10, this was a thought-provoking detailed examination of the effects of Hurricane Katrina on a hospital in New Orleans and the life/death decisions confronting the medical staff.
- Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb: my first experience of this Belgian-born author. After reading this terrific novella about a young girl’s humiliation when she goes to work for a Japanese company and comes bang up against cultural rules and expectations.
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: Another author that I read for the first time in 2016 and what an experience. The plot focuses on a group of people who go to a concert in a Latin American country and end up being taken hostage. Although there is plenty of tension and drama, the real interest for me was in how the different hostages (who include a world famous opera singer, her accompanist and a devoted fan) all respond to music.
- Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami: it’s taken me many years to get around to reading Murakami. It was delightful atmospheric novel about love and loss.
- The Gathering by Anne Enright: another Booker title but this time a winner – from 2007. Irish authors often tend to focus on doom and gloom and this one is no exception since it revolves around a sister’s reaction to her brother’s suicide. It’s grim in a sense but Enright portrays the inner life of her protagonist so well I just had to keep reading.
- The Narrow Road to the Deep North: by Richard Flanagan: Winner of the Booker Prize in 2014, this is a riveting story account of an Australian doctor who is haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife and his experience as a prisoner of war in Thailand.
- My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout: yet another 2016 Booker contender though I read this long before the Booker judges made their initial selection. It’s the first time I read anything by Strout and on the strength of this tale about a mother/daughter relationship I’ll be keen to read some of her earlier work.
The Top Ten Tuesday topic for this week asks what books we have on our wishlist for a certain event that happens every year on Dec 25. It’s no surprise that I did include some book titles in my little note to Santa. But I was quite reserved in my requests largely because I had a bit of a buying splurge at a Welsh publishers’ pop up shop at the weekend and now have no room left in the house for more books. My TBR has just passed the 200 mark so I am planning to spend the first six months of next year just reading what I already own.. (yes I know you’ve heard this before but I mean it this time….)
1.The Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: A novel that has attracted praise from multiple bloggers and mainstream critics. The publishers blurb describes this as a story of two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations.
2. Le Ventre de Paris/The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola: this is the third title to be published in his Rougon-Marquet series (Zola recommended it be read much later in the series however) and is going to form part of my Zola project. It’s set in Paris near the huge market hall called Les Halles.
3. His Excellency Eugene Rougon/Son Excellence Eugène Rougon by Emile Zola. This is the sixth novel to be published in the Rougon-Marquet series though Zola recommended put it in third place in his recommended reading order list. The novel is set in the highest echelons of Second Empire government. It follows the career of Eugène Rougon and a dozen or so of his cronies as they jockey for political favor and personal gain
4. Six Tudor Queens – Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir. This is the first novel in a series about the women who had the misfortune to become the wives of King Henry VIII. I’m a sucker for books (fiction and non fiction) about the Tudor dynasty.
5. The Secret Library by Oliver Tearle: an exploration of well-known books that have helped shape the world in which we live, while also giving focus to more neglected works. He also highlights some of the links between various works and historical figures – including those between Homer’s Iliad and Aesop’s Fables and the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
6. 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood: I did a one day bread making course back in early summer but its only in the last few months that I’ve been putting those tips into practice. I still consider myself a novice – each loaf is getting better than the last one – and it helps to have my dad at the end of the phone for advice (he ran his own bakery for more than 20 years). But I could do with a good bread baking book to refresh my memory. I don’t particularly like Paul Hollywood but his instructions are easy to follow.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by the Broke and the Bookish asks for 10 books I’m most looking forward to in the first half of 2017.
Since I am planning to put a temporary halt on my book buying habit for those months, (out of necessity) the books I am looking forward to reading all come from my TBR.
In no particular order here is a selection.
1. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
2. Border Country by Raymond Williams
3. A tale for the time Being- Ruth Ozeki
4. The Murder of Halland, Pia Jul
5. The Kill, Emile Zola
6. The Cheltenham Square Murder, John Bude
7. Snow Country, Yasunari Kawabata
8. A Brief history of Seven Killings, Marlon James
9. True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Cary
10. Sacred Hunger, Barry Unsworth
As you can see this is a mixture of Booker prize winners ( I am determined to finish this project!) and some novels in translation. I’ve also given myself an indulgence in the form of The Cheltenham Square Murder. The Kill is the second in Zola’s Rougon-Marquet series which is another little project of mine. I bet few – if any of you – will recognise the second book on my list…. Border Country is by a Welsh author who when he wasn’t writing fiction was one of the leading literary academics in the 1970s and 80s.Among his most important academic works is The Country and The City in which he used alternating chapters on literature and social history to consider perceptions of rural and urban life. Border Country was first published in 1960, then re-issued in 2005 as one of the first group of titles in the Library of Wales series, having been out of print for several years.
Those are the books on my radar screen. How does your wishlist for next year look?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Broke and Bookish asks for ten authors whose work I read for the first time this year. At first I thought I would struggle to get to 10 but a quick look at my list of reviews and books read shows I had way more than 10. Some of them were Booker prize contenders, others were authors that I’ve heard about a lot through other bloggers. So here is my list of the best….
- Huraki Murakami: I’d been nervous about Murakami because of his use of magical realism but Norwegian Wood was recommended by a work colleague. Excellent choice that has given me the courage to read something else by this author.
- Barbara Pym: this is a name thats been on my radar screen for a long time based purely on the number of bloggers I see who enjoy her work. Some Tame Gazelle was a delightful introduction.
- Elizabeth Strout: I’m not entirely sure how I came across her and read My Name is Lucy Barton. It was certainly before she was shortlisted for the Booker. Some of her backlist has gone on my wishlist as a result.
- Anne Enright: Irish authors can sometimes overdo the misery but Enright hit just the right note with her Booker prize winning The Gathering
- Amelie Nothomb : A Belgian author recommended by a work colleague. Fear and Trembling is actually set in Japan which was her home for many years. A quirky novel about the cultural protocols in that country, particularly as they affect women.
- Graham Swift: I finally got around to reading his Booker prize winning novel Last Orders and was taken by his ability to create multi-layered characters.
- Yoko Ogawa: Another author whose quirky style kept me engaged when I read The Housekeeper and the Professor
And now for three authors that, were it not for the Booker Prize, I wouldn’t have discovered this year. They were all long listed or shortlisted.
- Ian McGuire: Superb story telling was on display in The North Water
- Wyl Menmuir: I read his novella The Many and was bowled over.It’s an atmospheric story that is also a bit of a puzzle.
- Madeleine Thien: If I say her novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing should have won the Booker prize, you’ll understand how much I rated this book.
Marking Thanksgiving in the USA, The Broke and the Bookish has decided that the Top Ten Tuesday challenge this week is to identify 10 books for which we are thankful. Many of my choices are non fiction.
1. Roget’s Thesaurus: this has been my lifesaver throughout all the years when I had to write newspaper stories and then speeches for executives or internal articles. I still have the large hardbound version I acquired about ten years ago though often I now use on line synonym/antonym tools.
2. Daily Mirror Style Guide by Keith Waterhouse: Many of the big media outlets create a style guide for their journalists, giving direction on which terms to capitalise, how to represent numbers etc. The Daily Mirror guide is rather different however because Waterhouse (one of their leading columnists) delves into cliches that are too commonly used. For example, tabloid newspapers always write that ‘police swooped’ on a house conjuring up pictures of flying detectives descending from the skies. He also tackles the headline writer’s propensity for puns, complaining that most of them are too obvious like the story where a comedian going into hospital was said to have been bound to have nurses in stitches. It’s great fun to read but was also my guide when I was a young journalist.
3. Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course. A weighty paperback that I acquired as part of a prize from the Economist in about 2001. Delia was at one time a cookery expert that was on the BBC with primetime TV shows, books and other spin offs – a bit like Mary Berry is today. Her inclusion of an item in a recipe was enough to clear the shelves in the supermarket. One tiny company found itself bombarded with orders when Delia recommended their omelette pan. Many food writers leave out some key elements of their method or recipe so the result never looks the way it does in their book. Not so Delia – you know if you follow her step by step, you will have success.
4. Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck by Rick Altman. Remember the days when you didnt get confronted by slide after slide in meetings? Today it seems we treat Powerpoint like a dummy without which nothing can ever be discussed in a meeting. The slides are usually rubbish – too many fonts, too much text, etc. Altman’s book doesn’t cover the same ground you find in most other books – he shows how to cut down text and still make it meaningful and how to do clever things with pictures and graphics. The templates he uses are also available on his website. Highly recommended you get this if you ever have to do presentations.
5. Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life by Bob Greene
Greene is the guy who Oprah Winfrey turned to when she wanted to get her weight back under control. He took her from a 17 minute a mile walking pace to a marathon. I came across this by accident one holiday when I got some time to browse a bookstore in Alexandria, just outside Washington DC. I’d been trying exercise programs for years with not a lot of success – this book was the first time I learned that the key to success was exercising at the right heart rate and I had been doing it all wrong. I immediately went out and bought a heart rate monitor and a new pair of trainers and started following the program. The weight dropped and I felt fitter than ever before. Now,when I have slacked off a bit, this is the book I go back to for help and motivation.
6. Colour me Beautiful Ok, this isn’t a book as such but it is printed material so I’m counting it. It’s the little wallet of colour swatches that I was given after my style session with my sister. I take it with me whenever I’m going shopping as a reminder of what particular shade of red or orange works best for my skin tone. It’s saved me from some expensive mistakes! Other shoppers do give me an odd look though whenever I get it out and start holding up to the garments
7. A-Z of Alternative Words from the Plain English Campaign. Anyone who has worked in the corporate world or in the public sector will know that plans and proposals usually sound stuffy because people use words that they wouldn’t normally use in every day speech. Somehow they have gained the idea that certain words sound more important so if they want their document to have credibility they need to use those words. But often the effect is just to make the document sound stuff at best and at worst impenetrable. All hail to the Plain English Campaign for their tireless efforts to get companies and government bodies to understand that simple words are best. The A-Z of Alternative Words is a slim but effective pamphlet. If you’ve ever been frustrated by colleague who insist on using “as a consequence of” instead of the simpler “because” or “emphasise” instead of “stress”, this is for you.
8. Macbeth by Shakespeare ( as if you needed telling who the author is). I credit this play with setting me off on a path that led to a literature degree and a career where I could indulge my love of words. Until this play was introduced to our class I had been a fairly middling student. But something clicked that day in class. By the next day I could recite all of Act 1 Scene 1 much to the astonishment of the teacher and my class mates.
9. Middlemarch by George Eliot My favourite novel of all time and the one I would take to a desert island if I knew I was going to be stranded. It has such depth of meaning and so many ideas that it rewards re-reading and re-reading
10. The Madwoman in the Attic by Susan Gubar and Sandra Gilbert My university days coincided with the publication of this landmark text of literary criticism in which the authors examine the idea that women writers of the nineteenth century were confined in their writing to make their female characters either embody the “angel” or the “monster.” It was my first introduction to feminist critics. A complete revelation. I’ve had many occasions since to refer back to this book – hence it looks rather battered around the corners