Reading plans

Sample Sunday: Friends Lend Me Your Thoughts

Friends, I need your help. I’ve moved along my bookshelves to the section of books whose titles all begin with the letter C. One of the three I’m examining this week is definitely staying but I can’t make up my mind on the other two. I hope some of you can weigh in and help me make a decision.

Calebs Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

I bought this very shortly after finishing another of Brooks’ novels: Year of Wonders.

Caleb’s Crossing is similarly inspired by historical events, this time a little known story of the first native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665. Caleb grew up on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, part of the first generation of Indians to experience contact with English settlers. He receives an education in Latin and Greek from an English minister. His story is told through the eyes of the minister’s daughter who becomes increasingly drawn into Caleb’s world, risking censure from her community.

The Verdict: Unsure. The beginning did capture my interest with the girl’s confession to killing her mother and eating forbidden fruit. But I’ve read a few reviews which indicate that this isn’t really Caleb’s story — he’s absent for much of the book — and the focus is more on the minister’s daughter. There were also criticisms that Brooks’ descriptions of the native Indians are simplistic.

Call It Dog by Marli Roode

This debut novel uses the device of a London-based journalist returning to her home country of South Africa to report on anti immigrant riots. She discovers her father is on the run, accused of a murder during the height of the fight against apartheid. Father and daughter embark on a journey into the past., one that is steeped in tension and anxiety.

The Verdict: Keep. I’m a sucker for novels set in South Africa and the early post apartheid years are fascinating.

Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard

I’m more of a fiction than a non-fiction reader so I really should have learned by now to resist the temptations on those non fiction tables in bookshops. This one was bought on a whim in 2014 and hasn’t been opened until this week. It’s a series of essays on the Ancient Greeks and key figures from the Roman period. Some of the titles suggest rather erudite content: Which Thucydides Can You Trust? and Quousque Tandem sound challenging. But there are others which sound a little more manageable: Fortune Telling, Bad Breadth and Stress and Ex Slaves and Snobbery could be interesting.

The Verdict: In a quandary on this. My knowledge of the Romans and Greeks could do with a boost (if only to help with crosswords and references in other books). But is this going to be a bit too detailed and learned?

So that’s one that is definitely staying but two where I need help from you all. If you know these books please give me your opinion on whether you think they deserve space on my shelves?

Sample Sunday is when I take a look at all the unread books on my shelves and decide which to keep and which to let free. The goal isn’t to shrink the TBR as such, but rather it’s about making sure my shelves have only books I do want to read.


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

16 thoughts on “Sample Sunday: Friends Lend Me Your Thoughts

  • I haven’t read any of these, but agree with all the positive comments about the readable and informative Mary Beard.

  • I haven’t read any of these, but a friend of mine, who knows what good literature is, recommended Caleb’s Crossing to me.

    • Interesting to hear this – quite a few people have said they didn’t think it was one of her best

  • I read and reviewed Caleb’s Crossing some years ago and both enjoyed it and was disappointed. I am glad I read it, to at least know something of the two historical figures it’s about, but the narrative was disjointed and left this reader wanting more.

  • Another vote for trying the Mary Beard. She’s one of those too rare scholars who wants more than anything to pass along her fascination with her field of study in an accessible way. And good call on Caleb.

  • I would vote for keeping the Mary Beard,too. I also enjoyed “Women and Power” and would agree that her style is really engaging – she wears her knowledge lightly.

  • I’ve read several novels by a Geraldine Brooks (although not this one) hoping they’d be as good as Year of Wonders but have been disappointed.

    • I remember another blogger telling me that she rated March (the novel that won Brooks the Pulitzer) but I tried it and didn’t get very far with it. Is that one you’ve tried?

      • It is, and I didn’t get on with it at all. I gave up after People of the Book.

        • Hm, the lack of enthusiasm from you and others is leading me to let Caleb’s Crossing go

  • I would definitely give the Mary Beard a try. I like an essay anyway, and I did read her “Women and Power” which I thought was great. I would imagine, too, that she would be writing in an accessible way, despite her erudition, so I’d definitely be inclined to give her a try!

    • Good point, her tv programmes are not highly intellectual though not dumbed down either so every reason to think this book would be similar.


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