On My Reading List: October 2017

This month’s reading list consists of more interesting contemporary works than heavy literature, with a couple of heavyweights for balance.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, is a carry-over from last month. Although the story is exciting and the characters engaging the language, while lyrical, is dense, so it’s taking me a while. It’s interesting to see the treatment of Jewish characters: I suspect from his tone that Scott was progressive by the standards of his time, but I shall emphasise ‘by the standards of his time’ and leave it there.

Mrs. D is Going Within, by Lotta Dann. Dann’s first book, ‘Mrs. D is Going Without’ opened up the experience of an alcoholic going dry to me, through the eyes of New Zealander Lotta Dann, and her second book is giving me similar insight into an ‘ordinary’ Kiwi’s journey into the world of mindfulness. She’s got me interested, and I’m planning on reading more, and maybe giving it a go.


The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir, is one of the heavyweights I mentioned. The world has changed a lot since 1949, when de Beauvoir first published what became the foundational text of Second-Wave feminism, and it’s fascinating to recognise the genesis of modern ideas in her words. I’m already noticing, though, that in advocating for women de Beauvoir seems to display a certain disdain for the feminine, and a sometimes rather low view of women in general. Continue reading “On My Reading List: October 2017”

On My Reading List: August 2017

It’s getting towards the end of the month, so I thought I’d update you on what I’ve been reading lately. Here’s my current reading list, accompanied by my cat, Angel, who quite likes it when I read because it’s one of the few times I stay still long enough for her to have a really good snooze on my lap.


Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott (1819): One of the first modern adventure novels, Ivanhoe is picturesquely written and set in Merrie Olde England. It’s an ‘historical romance’ in the loosest sense of history and (mainly) chivalric sense of romance. It’s been sitting on my shelf for a while and I finally decided I really should start clearing my extensive backlog. Continue reading “On My Reading List: August 2017”

On My Reading List: July 2017

By the time I worked my way through last month’s list I felt like I was drowning in testosterone, so I’ve kept this month’s list short and gentler.


‘Cider with Rosie’, by Laurie Lee (1959): is a memoir of the author’s childhood growing up in a village in the English Cotswolds in the years following World War One. These are no misery memoirs but neither does the golden glow of nostalgia entirely obscure the reality of a life in which it was perfectly acceptable for a house to flood every time there was a storm, education to consist of a rudimentary Three R’s delivered as well as they would ever be by the age of 14, and for a child to have eleven siblings, of which four were deceased. And that’s before we’ve even reached the superstition, murder, and suicides. Lee shares his memories with a warmth and humour which is irresistible even when his recollections are decidedly unsettling. Continue reading “On My Reading List: July 2017”

On My Reading List: April 2017

I may have gotten a little carried away on my last visit to the local library, because my current reading list is long, very long, particularly when I still have around 400 pages to go in Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ (which, to be fair, puts me over two thirds of the way through it). Still, at least it gives me a varied literary diet.


Continue reading “On My Reading List: April 2017”

Recommended Read: Book List Challenges (Facebook page)

Like many people whose dominant learning style is Reading (VARK: Visual, Aural, Reading, Kinesthetic), I just love lists, so a Facebook page dedicated to lists of books to read, where you can check off the ones you’ve already read and compare your score to other users, is an extremely happy-making thing for me.

They have an increasing number of other lists as well, but book list challenges still feature regularly. One of my favourites, and one which was a starting-point for The Culture Project, was The BBC Book List Challenge, which apparently has nothing to do with the BBC but did the rounds of the internet a couple of years back with the sub-heading ‘the BBC believes you’ve only read six of these books.’ The average Goodreads user has a score of 23/100. I started at 38/100 in October 2014 and am now at 66/100, not counting all the other books I’ve read which don’t feature on this list.

What’s your score? Are you pleased with it? Surprised? Displeased? Let me know.

On My Reading List: February 2017

February has been a quiet month for me, reading-wise. I’m well behind in my annual Bible read, which is a situation I must rectify during this Lenten season. I have, however, completed the four Shakespeare plays I mentioned back in January. Perhaps it’s having slogged through the Canterbury Tales last year, but I’m finding Shakespeare much easier to read these days. Still not easy, mind you, but easier. These are the other things I’ve been reading: Continue reading “On My Reading List: February 2017”

Five Classics of European Literature

Old booksAs I said at the very beginning, there’s a shameless bias in this blog towards English Culture, but the rest of the world is hardly a cultural void, so here is my pick of five of the very best works of European classic literature. I’ll be honest, I’ve only read three of the books on this list, but I have grand plans to tackle the remaining two in 2017 (mind you, I also have grand plans to read at least twenty other books, some of them quite weighty, in 2017, so we’ll see how that works out for me). These are books which not only spoke deeply to their own time and place but have continued to speak to people throughout the years. They’ve become ballets, operas, and popular musicals, and served as sources of wisdom and inspiration for readers all over the world. Continue reading “Five Classics of European Literature”

On My Reading List: November 2016

Having confidently stated just a couple of weeks ago that I would be back into the swing of blogging from now on, the northern part of the South Island was hit by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake just after midnight on November 13th. Here in Whanganui I was woken from a sound sleep and sent scurrying for cover as the ground rocked and swayed for what felt like forever (at 90 seconds it was a good long shake). In Kaikoura, on the north-east coast of the South Island, things are much worse. Continue reading “On My Reading List: November 2016”