Order will come to your distracted mind again

Faces of Love and the Poets of Shiraz
by Hafez, Jahan Malek Khatun and Obayd-e Zakani
translated from Persian by Dick Davis

This book was a bit of a serendipitous find. I was in West Hampstead to meet friends and had arrived early, so I thought I’d pop into West End Lane Books. I wasn’t looking for anything particular, just enjoying a good browse, and I spotted this book on a shelf of beautiful books. Clearly, I don’t need more books right now, but this was poetry, in translation and beautiful, all of which are things I’d like to have more of…

Musical interlude: the White Stripes

“The hardest button to button” is not just a great song that reminds me of university and the friends I made there, it’s also a great video by one of the masters of music-video directing: Michel Gondry. I’m really pleased he’s come back to music videos this year (for Metronomy’s “Love letters”) after a few years’ hiatus. His creative genius works so well in this format…

Mere effort of the mind produced an earthquake

Sun Alley
by Cecilia Ştefanescu
translated from Romanian by Alexandra Coliban and Andreea Höfer

I seem to have had this reading experience a few times this year: I get to the end of the book and I’m still not sure whether or not I liked it. I can say that the writing was, for the most part, great, but I have real reservations. I’m fairly sure it’s the books and not me, but who knows…

Bristol Proms

Avi and Mahan
Bristol Old Vic, 1 August

Guest post by Tushna Commissariat

From the outset, the Avi Avital and Mahan Esfahani concert at the Bristol Proms was presented as a “unique meeting” of minds and musical geniuses, as it were. But I don’t think the audience (or I!) was quite prepared for the sheer chemistry and musical exuberance that these two lovers of Bach shared on stage…

July reading round-up

Aren’t we having a lovely summer? Well we are here in Bristol and I hope that you are too. Not that I’ve had a lot of free time to enjoy it properly, but it’s still nice to have long sunny days. I’ve been busy helping my Mum celebrate her 60th birthday, visiting Oxford with my friend H, redecorating the living room (still a work in progress) and I even squeezed in writing an article for For Books’ Sake. Not to mention, y’know, doing my job…

A Who’s Who of pesticides is of concern to us all

Silent Spring
by Rachel Carson

This is a book that changed the world and brought hideous criticism on its author, and I’m loath to add to or ratify any of that criticism but this book took me six weeks to read and honestly it often felt like a slog. And yet I still think Carson was a good writer, or capable of good writing…

Everybody is saddled with the curse of small talk

by Dan Rhodes

I can’t remember where I saw this book recommended but I clearly did as it was on my birthday wishlist at the start of the year. Whoever recommended it, I must thank you, because this was just what I was looking for – an enjoyable, funny, page-turning read that was also emotionally engaging and well phrased…

White people don’t care where they send you

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe
by Romain Puértolas
translated from French by Sam Taylor

This book has already been a huge success in France and the publishers of the English translation are clearly hoping for similar sales figures. I hope they get them, even though I didn’t love it…

Film review: Begin Again

On Friday night, Tim and I wanted to see something light at the cinema, which for us usually means superhero action, but we decided to brave the description “rom com musical” and try Begin Again. We weren’t entirely out of our minds – writer director John Carney was behind one of our favourite films, Once, which we have watched together almost as many times as Scott Pilgrim. Almost…

When is a legend legend? Why is a myth a myth?

Weyr Search
by Anne McCaffrey

After my recent introduction to Anne McCaffrey’s work, I was pleased to find this novella, an opportunity to check out the fantasy series that McCaffrey was best known for. Oh dear. Maybe I’m not a fantasy person…