Snapshot May 2017

Hello to May. Before I get into the snapshot of my reading life on the first of this month I wanted to share with you some wonderful news. You’ll have seen from a post t the start of this year that I’ve been dealing with a serious health issue. It’s almost  a year now since I was diagnosed with cancer and started the treadmill of treatment. First chemotherapy, then radiotherapy, followed by liver surgery in January and then just five weeks ago further surgery. Going for the post-op check up today I expected the consultant to tell me that I’d need to do yet more chemotherapy but to my surprise – delight I should say – he not only told me that it wasn’t necessary but the recent tests have shown a full recovery and no sign anywhere of malignant cells. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said. Since this month also sees a landmark birthday for me, I am in celebration mode. I might even be able to risk a small glass of wine (my first drop of alcohol since January 26).


On May 1 itself I was nearing the end of  The Primrose Path by Rebecca Griffiths, a book I bought late in 2016 as part of my intention to read more work by authors from Wales. It’s her debut novel and has attracted a lot of praise with good reviews in a number of the more popular UK newspapers. My edition includes a lot of quote from bloggers too – from CrimeFictionLover who called it a “cracking debut from an author who shows great promise” and  Bibliophoenix who thought it “disturbing, mysterious and quite unpredictable.”  I wouldn’t call it ‘cracking’ but I was certainly impressed by Griffiths’ ability to manage multiple narrative threads and bring them to an unexpected ending.

Most of the books I read in April I really enjoyed with the star being The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Unfortunately I also encountered a book which I could not finish – Muriel Barbary’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It was one of the first books I bought when I decided about four years ago it was time to expand my reading to countries outside of UK/USA. It started off well with the introduction to the two main characters – one is a concierge of an apartment building who secretly conceals her intellectual interests in books, films, philosophy and the other is the daughter of a wealthy family in the building who decides to kill herself because of all the hypocrises she sees in the world. The novelty of Barbery’s alternating narrators soon wore off – by the time I got to page 100 I was finding it tedious. So off its gone to the charity shop.

State of my personal library

One of my goals for 2017 is to enjoy the books I already own and to reign back on acquiring yet more. I started 2017 with 318 unread books ( I thought it was 299 but then discovered my list of ebooks was incorrect) and a plan to hold off from adding to that number for the first six months of the year. It’s not a book ban as such – I know that if I really, really wanted a particular book I would just go and buy it or borrow from the library. So far I’ve been restrained – I haven’t bought anything and have just two books on loan from the library (Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and one about the Wars of the Roses.). Having done a little bit of a clear out of books I realised I would never read my level of ‘owned but unread’ books is now down to 280.

Wishing for…

I’ve been rather restrained with my wishlist on Goodreads. In March I added Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout which is a collection of linked stories about one community and also Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera which has been described as one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. I haven’t done brilliantly with Spanish authors until now so I hope that description proves to be true. I’ve also been keeping an eye on the Shadow Panel for the International Man Booker Prize (you can see all their reviews of the shortlisted novels here). The one calling to me most is The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen which is about a family living on a small Norwegian island.

On the reading horizon…

After my recent post about reading books that are out of your comfort zone, I’m ready to take the plunge into my own dark zone of sci-fi. Armed with a list of recommendations from bloggers in response to my question ‘where do I begin’ I went off to the library only to find that most of these titles were not available. Some of them are buried in the basement of the county library (a place where it seems the library staff are not keen to visit) so I shall have to wait for Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea series and also for anything by William Gibson to come back from the deep. In the meantime I shall give Station Eleven a go.

There are a few other titles jostling for attention however which might squeak in before Station Eleven. Do I go for A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki? Or Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question? Or All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West. As always, when the moment comes to take a book from the shelf, it will invariably be none of these – something else will have taken my fancy.


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 May 2, 2017, in 2017 goals, Bookends, TBR list and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 62 Comments.

  1. How brilliant! Huge congratulations on your excellent news xx

  2. What fantastic news! From following your blog you’d never think you had been battling with these kind of health issues. Long may you continue to blog so that I can have the pleasure of reading you. On another tack do you get the Bookseller which is entirely devoted to Welsh publishing this week? I thought of you on reading it. If you’d like it I’d be delighted to send it to you. You may of course already have read it. I thought it was a very interesting edition.

  3. I rarely comment but follow you regularly – congratulations on your wonderful news!! You must be so very pleased and relieved. By the way, your blog is fantastic!

  4. Great news! I’m so, so happy for you.

  5. I’m so happy to hear your good news. I definitely recommend A Tale for the Time Being. I love science fiction, I hope you enjoy your exploration of the genre.

  6. I’m probably one of the very few who gave up on Station Eleven. It may be because I tried it in audio

  7. Congratulations on that fabulous news!!! And many happy returns!

  8. I am so pleased to hear you had such great results from the consultant 🙂

  9. Such great news! so happy for you! I think you need more than wine to celebrate! You’ve been doing so good reading from your shelves but really, if anything is a cause for celebration and a pile of new books this is! I hope you enjoy your foray into sci-fi!

  10. What wonderful news, Karen! Congratulations!

    As far your sci-fi project, Station Eleven is a good one to start with – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  11. Congratulations on your health news!

    • Thanks for the good will – I’m sure the support I’ve had from everyone who drops into the blog and says hello, has helped me deal with the situation

  12. Amazing news! Congrats! And good luck with your reading.

    P.S. I forgot to tell you I gave you a shout-out in a recent blog post:

  13. Happy May! I need to do another clean up of my personal library. I did one a few years ago and emptied out quite a bit of books I realized I didn’t want to read anymore. I’ve done good about reading books from my shelves and stepping back from NetGalley, but i could do a lot better.

    • sometimes you need to let a certain length of time elapse before deciding whether you want to read/keep a particular book. I had a look through shelves the other week and decided I really didn’t have an interest in some of the non fiction books any longer. I know I bought them with the best of intentions but I really can’t see me settling down to read Charles Handy’s The Empty Raincoat… so off it went to a better home

  14. Such wonderful news! So glad thing have improved health-wise. I prescribe a big book shop as a reward! 🙂

  15. Congrats on your health news, wonderful to hear!

  16. I’m so pleased about your news. The Bears are planning a party this afternoon in celebration. Cake will be eaten!

    If I had to add all those ebooks I haven’t read to my list of bought and still lying there I’m fairly sure that I wouldn’t have the courage to admit the number. Perhaps ‘coming out’ is the only way to do something about it.

    I hope you enjoy ‘Station Eleven’. I thought it was superb.

    • Thanks Anne, so lovely to hear from you and the Bears. Their parties are legendary so I am confident there will be plenty of cake (The Bears don’t believe in all this clean eating nonsense). My book stock does in fact include ebooks – I went for about a year in denial that they existed…..

  17. Wonderful news on your recovery – congratulations – what a relief. As for your next reads – Howard Jacobson’s “The Finkler Question” is one of my most un-enjoyed books ever. I found it pretentious and boring. But hey! tastes differ. If you do try it – bon voyage!

    • Jacobson seems to divide opinions considerably. But he is a Booker winner and on my list of those yet to be read so I shall give him a go.

      BTW I came across a headstone recently about a guy from Wales who went to South Africa as a missionary in 1889 and worked at the leper colony at Roben Island. I never realised it was used for that purpose for so many years

  18. Congratulations to yor health news. Well worth a celebration.
    I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and thought the story wonderful. Inthink you might have finished a little too early. It picks up.

  19. Nice one…

  20. Congratulations on your clean bill of health. You certainly should celebrate! My tbr is as out of control as ever so you’re doing well. Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout sounds excellent though I have only read …Lucy Barton so far and still have Olive Kitteridge to read not to mention her other novels which I don’t own.
    Best wishes from me too 😊

    • I’ve yet to read Olive Kitteridge too – like you Lucy Barton was my introduction to Strout’s work. I don’t know why I had passed her by in the past but I clearly made a mistake there.

  21. Wonderful to hear your good medical report! Do try A Tale for the Time Being. It’s one of my very favourite books of the last five years.

    • I remember at the time when it was in contention for the Booker prize and there was a debate going around about the fact it was inconsistent in quality – the Japanese part being felt to be far superior to the American chapters. You wouldnt agree with that I surmise?

  22. Just bought Anything Is Possible at the weekend and having loved both Lucy Barton and Olive Kitteridge got high hopes for it! My track record with Spanish authors is a bit better than yours – some I loved and some I didn’t though would recommend Yellow Rain by Julio Llamazares as the stand out for me! Great news on health so best wishes.

    • I’ve not come across the name of Julio Llamazares before now – but now I have taken a look at some descriptions it does sound interesting. Thanks Col for adding to my wishlist!

  23. CONGRATULATIONS!!! and Happy Birthday!🥂Definitely, have that sip of wine – red. They say it’s healthy for you. Loaded with antioxidants. I wish you good health in the future. Anyway, good to see that you’re tackling some SciFi and I hope you enjoy the endeavor. I’ve heard good things about Yuri Herrera, too.

  24. So pleased to learn of your positive news. Be well my friend

  25. So nice to hear some good news! Good luck with your sci fi quest — I’m not very well read in that genre but I do love Ursula K LeGuin. I would like to read Octavia Butler too.

  26. Wow, I haven’t commented much, but wanted to pop in to say I’m so happy to know you’ve had such good news from the doctor. Best wishes to you,

  27. I am so, so pleased for you. That is wonderful news *hug* Lisa

  28. This is the best news! So, so, so happy for you! Cheers to your continued good health, my friend.

  29. So glad to hear that your appointment went well and you won’t need further treatment! Best wishes!

  30. Oh wow, that is such brilliant news. I knew you had been ill but had no idea it was so serious. Congratulations! That is something definitely worth celebrating. I’ll raise a glass to you myself, if that’s all right? 😊🥂

  31. Many congratulations to you—a glass of something boozy is in order for sure!

    Try A Tale for the Time Being; I liked it a lot despite not much expecting to, and it’s just weird enough to qualify as part of your reading-more-sci-fi project.

    • I read a little of it last year and was left puzzled by the references to some cafes where people dress up as maids. But then I remembered that a certain section of Japanese society does like females to dress as little girls so maybe they are an extension of that idea

  32. Congratulations on the clean bill of health! That is one of the best reasons to celebrate for sure! Also, did anyone recommend Octavia Butler for your sci fi search? Here is a very brief post about her:

    • Octavia Butler was indeed recommended – by about three different people if I recall. So I went off the library with her on my list only to draw a blank.

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