Another one bites the dust…book that is

So, in my last post I had a book in progress, A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones.  The same author wrote The Last Chinese Chef, which I read back in 2007 and found interesting on a few levels; plot, characters and the wonderful descriptions of the food and its preparation and place in Chinese culture and society.

A Cup of Light on the other hand, was not as enjoyable for me. I liked learning about the different styles of porcelain and the underworld of the fake trade and the people who inhabit that world. I liked the main character Lia’s strength and aptitude at her job as an assessor of porcelain.  But the inevitable love story did not quite gel for me.

The book’s formula was similar to that of The Last Chinese Chef. But it was just not that satisfying. I am a food lover though, and read The Last Chinese Chef soon after a 6 week adventure in China that introduced me to some delicious food.  Perhaps that coloured my opinion.

I have Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines on my nightstand to read.  It’s a small book and I have already read 20 or so pages, but it may take a while to finish.  My Italian classes have recommenced for the year and I now have a fair bit of reading and preparation to do in my spare time. The Festival and Fringe are also still on here in Adelaide and life is very busy for another few weeks. So don’t hold your breath for a review!

My book list – Three and a half so far

I’ve never counted how many books I read in a year. But the other day I realised that I’ve read three already and am on the way to a fourth.

I don’t want the fact that I am making a list to influence how many I ultimately read. Not sure how I’m going to deal with that, but I have a feeling that now that the festival season is on in Adelaide and my Italian class recommences in a week (and of course there’s always the day job at the ‘documentation factory’) my list will grow more slowly.

So here’s the list so far:

Three read:

  • Breath by Tim Winton
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • American Journeys by Don Watson

One in progress:

  • A Cup of Light by Nicole Mones

Stay tuned for updates…

But wait, there’s more…(books on my night-stand)

Two more books to add to the night-stand reading list.

I was waiting for Tim Winton’s Breath to come out in paperback and Roo has now bought it for me.  The shop assistant could not find the last copy in stock so Roo left  thinking he’d find it at another bookshop. The assistant found it and came running down Rundle Mall with it for him! Well done.

And after the fabulous read that was Middlesex, I was keen to read The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I kept seeing it mentioned online and in print. Thanks to buddy Katrina, I now have my very own copy. Yay.

It’s going to be a challenge to get through all of these books but one I am going to enjoy enormously!

More lovely books to read!

Annual year-end review of books on the night stand

Another year is nearly over and the rotating door for books that is my night stand is sporting a lovely and mostly new crop.  A few of them are travel guides recently borrowed from the library and some of them were on the night stand last year, but are at least started. Some from last year’s list were never read but instead moved to the ‘maybe next year’ pile on the bookshelf. And others still are purely for reference and have ben returned to their place in the cabinet.

Those in the ‘maybe next year’ pile have no inherent faults. It’s just that some books need to be saved for the right occasion, like reading on long airplane trips.  Such books need to be not too big to carry around on a trip of 4 or more weeks, but big enough to last the holiday. If, like me, you like to catch up on the year’s films while on a long flight, a moderately long book is sufficient even for the gruelling 12 and 14 hour trips from Australia to North America or Europe. And if, like me again,  you don’t have holidays where you sit around by the pool in a lounge chair reading books, but instead walk for several hours a day and just want to close your eyes and put your feet up when you get back at night, you’ll know that outside of planes and airports, not a lot of leisure reading actually gets done. My on-ground reading tends to be of the travel boos and local information guide variety.

Really big books like Barbara Kingsolver’s La Lacuna (512 pages) need to be savoured over time.  I needed to have a few days break and go back a page or two to catch up and really understand where I had left off while reading this one. It was worth the effort and a very enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Smaller books like the Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines (293 pages) are good for reading on the tram or bus to work as they can be chucked into the handbag or lunch box quite easily, and held with one hand while dangling from the commuter strap waiting for some young punk to give up their seat for the nice grey haired lady (fat chance). I enjoyed the writing in this book but did not get a sense of a strong narrative, rather many well written threads.

Try as I may, I still only manage 3 or 4 books a year.   So, between studying Italian, work at the documentation factory, volunteering for the Fringe and enjoying summer and the festival season, here’s the list I will work with this year (subject to change without notice).

This year's crop - some carried over from last year

That was the year that was – 2010

How lucky am I that last year, 2010, was one of mostly ‘highs’ for me.  Even some of the lows brought unexpected moments of bitter-sweet melancholy. And that’s a good thing in my book.  The idea that we must always be happy is such a western concept. Times of sober pensiveness are important aspects of a life lived in the real world.

So, the year is over.  Here’s how it stacked up for me:
  • I had the great fortune to spend time with an old friend who was in Adelaide for a few months to see her mother out of this world. We shared cups of tea and meals and more than a few laughs to help her through the dark times.
  • I spent 5 whole weeks with my big sister Annie in Italy where we studied Italian, spent time with our wonderful and generous relatives, consumed fabulous food and drink and made some new friends. Basically, it DID NOT SUCK at all! It has been years since we have had such a carefree time together, probably since our childhood or maybe our early 20s at a stretch.  We may never get the opportunity again given we are at opposite ends of the world, so I am going to savour that  5 weeks for a long time.
  • My husband and fellow adventurer, Roo, joined me for a second 5 weeks in Italy, mainly Naples/Amalfi Coast and 3 glorious, slow-paced weeks around Sicily. We were blessed with great weather and friendly folks at every turn. Sicily rejects the stereotype of a dark, secretive, dangerous place. And it can not be rushed.
  • On the work front I was incredibly challenged with an interactive forms design project and completed some work that a colleague and I can be quite proud of.

Some obvious highs and lows there I guess. But I can tell you that the lows were valid, important experiences that seemed insurmountably difficult at the time, and from which I learned a lot.

And now 2011 is already lining up some interesting times. Here’s hoping that I’m up to it!


My 2010 reading list

I have a friend who set herself a goal of 100 books in one year.  I don’t even try to read that many, and never manage to finish everything that I start. Some are meant to be dipped into and not read cover to cover, like the BKS Iyengar classic, An Illustrated Light on Yoga.  Hence, a few books sit on the night-stand  for quite a while and cross over a year or so.

This year is no different. Add full-time work (where, let’s face it, I read and write all day) some of the blogs that I read regularly and my 10 weeks in Italy into the mix and I can see why I didn’t have enough time for pleasure reading.

Some of the books I read or started, and mostly finished, are shown below. I enjoyed them all for wildly different reasons (made me laugh, made me think, took me far away, made me smile at the sheer beauty of the writing, made me more aware).

The night-stand reading list in 2010

Some I re-read, like The Phantom Tollbooth. Two are unfinished, The Songlines and The Sea. I put them aside when heading overseas and concentrated on my Lonely Planet Italy Guide and my notebooks for my classes while studying Italian. I took the dog-eared Anatomy of Restlessness (compilation of Bruce Chatwin stories, reviews and articles) with me for flights. But I don’t really read much on holidays when I go away. Home holidays are better for that.

There is a new list on the night-stand now. My list for the remaining days of this year and for 2011.  I’ll report back next year on how well I go (and try to not get too distracted by other books throughout the year). Happy reading friends

To finish or read in 2011