Reading horizons: Episode 24

Reading Horizons: November 2019

What I’m reading now

I’ve been digging into my stack of “owned but unread” books in an attempt to  bring some order to the chaos of the bookshelves. 

A Change of Climate was published in 1994 and is nothing like any of the other books by Hilary Mantel that I’ve read. She never seems to write the same kind of book twice.

This one is focused on a couple living in Norfolk who run a charitable trust for homeless people; drug addicts and problem teenagers. In their early married life they worked as missionaries in South Africa at a time when restrictions are tightening towards the non white population. The couple’s liberal attitudes land them in trouble and they are arrested.

I’m half way through and while I’m enjoying Mantel’s descriptive style I think the book needs to move up a gear now.

By contrast I’m reading The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, owner of the second largest second hand bookshop in Scotland.

It’s a journal which details the day to day events including the number of books ordered, the number of customers and total sales for the day (horrifyingly low!) Shaun’s comments on his often eccentric customers and his eccentric shop assistant Nicky are wonderful because he has a great eye for the absurd. This should be required reading for anyone thinking of buying a bookshop because while it sounds like great fun, the economic reality is sobering.

What I just finished reading

After a run of three books so disappointing that I abandoned them (one of them after just 5 pages) it was a delight to read Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming. From start to finish it gave a fascinating insight into the character of a woman that stamped her mark on the White House. I loved her honesty and her humility – even with everything she achieved, she constantly asked herself “Will I be good enough.”

The Bowery Slugger was an experimental toe in the water of crime noir. Set in one of the most notorious neighbourhoods in New York in the early decades of the twentieth century, it traces the downward spiral into violence of a Jewish immigrant boy. The level of violence was disturbing but the book was redeemed by its depiction of New York gang culture and the Jewish community.

What I’ll read next

A friend keeps raving about the Australian author Jane Harper. I have two of her novels, The Lost Man and Force of Nature, both of which are appealing. But I’m also in the mood for some Trollope so might delve into the next in the Barchester Chronicles – Framley Parsonage.

That should keep me busy for a while.


Those are my plans. Now what’s on YOUR reading horizon for the next few weeks? Let me know what you’re currently reading or planning to read next.


This post is for WWW Wednesday hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

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 November 20, 2019, in Crime and thrillers, Reading plans and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Hmm, Trollope and Jane Harper, that sounds like 2 different planets, lol

  2. I loved Mantel’s early novels, in fact, even more than her superb Cromwell books. And I’m a fan of Diary of a Bookseller. So I must say I appreciate your taste!

  3. I have read a couple of early Mantel books and it seemed she was almost a different person back then. I recently finished The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; as always in his books we get some insight into the economic uncertainty of bookstore ownership. But, though I am going to read the last in that series very soon, Zafon got me thinking about reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I second your take on Becoming.

  4. I should pick up the Blythell, really, if only to destroy my dreams of ever owning a bookshop! My immediate aims are to finish Berlin Alexanderplatz, relax with some classic crime, and clear the backlog of review books…. ;D

    • You do get a warts and all perspective via Blythell. Some entries include extracts from a book by George Orwell when he worked in a bookshop – it wasn’t any easier then even without the competition of Amazon. Of course now I want to read that .book.

  5. You are reading a very interesting bunch of books. My wife is planning on reading the Michelle Obama biography soon. I may try to sneak it in myself. I am not sure what my next couple of books will be however. Happy reading!

    • Hi Brian, if you can’t get your hands on the Obama book, maybe get a copy of the audio version which is narrated by Michelle herself – I listened to some of it as well as reading the print version. It works well in both formats

  6. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Ooooh, I must get my hands on a copy of Diary Of A Bookseller – that sounds amazing! And really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Jane Harper (fellow Aussie). If it helps with your selection, I think Force Of Nature is actually a sequel to her debut, The Dry, so maybe start with The Lost Man? Or pick up a copy of The Dry somewhere around the traps first? (Not that that’ll help with the bookshelf situation at all… hehe!)

    • Thanks for that insight Sheree, I didn’t realise Force of Nature was a sequel – somehow thought all three were stand alone. I’ll follow your good advice.

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