So here we are, one month left of 2015. One last chance to assess how I’m doing against my reading goals for the year so I can give it one last push. Better than I am on my November goals. Once again, NaNoWriMo was a wash. I started well, but stuff came up and I think my total word count ended up around 18,000. Which is better than 0, I guess.
My annual goals are looking better. Nine books in translation so far. I think if I read one more and make that a round 10, I’ll be happy with that. For Classics Club I’ve read eight, which puts me slightly behind, but I have four more years to play catch-up there!
November wasn’t the greatest month. Roll on December. Although that said, I am so far from ready for Christmas. I tried preparing by reading a collection of Christmas stories by David Sedaris but it didn’t put me in the mood. Guess I’ll have to try the good old covering-the-house-in-Christmas-decorations method. That usually works. I really like fairy lights.
These are some very brief reviews indeed because I have had so much else on this month, I’m frankly amazed I’ve found time to read at all. Before I zone out in front of another half-dozen episodes of The Big Bang Theory, here is what I’ve been reading.
Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan (writer) and Niko Henrichon (artist)
This is a beautiful, moving and unusual perspective on war. It takes as inspiration the 2003 news story that four lions escaped Baghdad Zoo during a bombing raid in the Iraq War. Vaughan and Henrichon give the lions names and personalities, and this does result in some anthropomorphising, but that can be forgiven because the result is so good.
I had a long train journey coming up so I thought I’d buy something for the Kindle and I’d heard rave reviews of this book from bloggers I trust. The book turned out to be so good that I snatched every moment to read it until it was over. It’s really good. And it’s crime, which I hardly ever read. Maybe I should read more crime?
The story is set on the Falklands, which is a setting I hadn’t read about before. We appear to be told in the first few chapters what the crime is going to be, but it then gets complicated by another crime having been committed – a young boy has gone missing – and the question becomes whether these things are linked and whether the planned crime will go ahead.
The book opens with Catrin diving for samples for the environmental organisation that she works with. Like the rest of the book, it is a lyrical piece of writing that combines nature, science, memory, contemplation and emotion to wonderful effect. I have zero desire to go diving in any sea or ocean but while reading those pages I was transported to a self that was right there with Catrin enjoying the experience.
I was planning to write a post about how much I love November. Which I do. Growing up, Halloween was never much of a thing for me and my family but Bonfire Night was. It marked the start of winter in celebratory style. I remember the crisp cold and woolly hats that accompanied firework displays with great affection. And even though this year it hasn’t got that cold just yet, it’s definitely coming. The trees are bare, the rain is freezing, the big winter coats are out and I love it all.
I’ve seen this book recommended by lots of people over the years, but I must admit, all I knew about it was that it’s about the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, a tourist attraction I’ve never visited, and knew of only as a famous bookshop associated with some famous authors and artists. So I learned a lot, and completely fell in love with the shop and its story.
I’ve been to Paris twice, and travelled through it another two or three times, and it’s a little crazy that a famous English-language bookshop near the city centre wasn’t on my list of attractions to visit. It certainly will be next time, though it won’t be quite the same shop that Mercer describes.
First, I learned that the current incarnation of the bookshop, on Rue de la Bûcherie, is not the same as the first bookshop by that name, which was opened and run by Sylvia Beach from 1919 until 1940. That shop had its own wonderful history with colourful characters who have popped up in various things I’ve read, but Mercer for the most part skips past all that to the second Shakespeare and Company bookshop, which was opened in 1951 by George Whitman. He originally called his shop Le Mistral, but changed it in 1964 to Shakespeare and Company in tribute to Sylvia Beach, following her death.
Sanctum is a project created by installation artist Theaster Gates. He has built a wooden structure inside the bombed out shell of Temple Church in Bristol, and in this shelter from the miserable November weather, for 24 days there is a constant 24-hour-a-day stream of live performances, largely music and poetry. It’s free to drop in at any time.
I meant to post this on Sunday but I was too busy actually taking part in NaNoWriMo to post about the fact that I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo. So yeah, after two fails in 2012 and 2013 and not taking part at all last year, I’m giving it another go. This means I’m reading less and might not blog much this month. If I manage to stick with it for once. But on the plus side I might have written a novel by the end of November – that’s exciting!
Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, good luck! Keep at at!