Alex In Leeds

(Book Reviews and Adventures…)


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Review: Aerotropolis by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay

Kasarda and Lindsay - Aerotropolis

Full Title: Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next

Category: Non-Fiction, Futurology/Geography/Architecture – Paperback: 466 pages – Publisher: Penguin – Source: Public Library
First Published: 2011

I wasn’t sure whether to review Aerotropolis here and, once I had decided to write about it, I really wasn’t sure about it being my first review of the year… but here’s the thing, while I read books I enjoyed far, far more last month, this is the one I have talked about and waved my hands over most. It’s the one that sticks in my mind, the one that got under my skin. And I think that means it has to be included here.

So, here’s the book’s premise: The smart way to design cities now and in the future is as transport hubs centered around a vast airport at the heart with an inner circle of businesses that need instant access for shipping/warehousing around it. Where the flight routes go, the money and the jobs go next. It looks something like this:

Aerotropolis Plan

It’s the idea sold by John Kasarda, a North Carolina professor who now serves as a guru to various cities, businesses and governments keen to try and control particular markets or trade routes. However, while Kasarda’s ideas and words are littered through this book he didn’t actively take part in the writing of it – this is journalist Lindsay’s vastly expanded version of an article he wrote on Kasarda for Fast Company. By following Kasarda’s projects and examining case studies in the US, UAE and China Lindsay tries to build a case for ‘aerotropolis’ hubs being what the book’s sub-title proclaims, ‘The way we’ll live next’.

It makes for a frustrating, unrealistic read for several reasons.

In the book’s defence, there are genuinely fascinating facts included here. Did you know there is a National Eyebank Center next to the airport in Memphis, the so-called ‘hub of eyeballs’ and it serves as a way station for 3500 human corneas every year? They’re all being routed from deceased donors to blinded recipients around the US via the hub’s ‘cool chain’ to make sure they arrive in perfect transplant-ready condition. Or how about the fact that between 1969-78 there were 75,000 hijacked flight passengers worldwide? Which is astonishing when you start wondering what percentage that was of all passengers who flew…

And there are a few valid questions asked here, even if they are poorly handled. For example: who’s going to tell 100 million Chinese folks that they can’t enjoy weekend city breaks because the rest of the world wants to cut emissions?

The case studies make for eye-opening reading too: the town of Wilmington where the DHL hub provided 7000 of the town’s 12,000 jobs until the company moved elsewhere, the logistics of how the Netherlands has managed to keep control of the flower trade by controlling the air routes and supply chain from hot houses in Africa to the massive auction house in Amsterdam, the speed at which China is building cities with little (or none) of the hand-wringing about creating communities we’d see in the West.

But the book suffers from two fatal flaws: the author has got far, far too close to his subject and both the author and subject lack the ability to consider the implications of their worldview.

For a start, it’s 100 pages too long. There are rambling sentences and the structure seems lost under poor signposting to the reader and research that has been poorly melded together. Then there’s the fact that Lindsay refuses to respect or engage with Kasarda’s critics – those who object to any airport being built are NIMBYs regardless of their reasons – and there’s no real discussion of the fact that for all Kasarda’s work and consultancy (and that of others like him) it has led to the building of not one true aerotropolis so far, anywhere in the world even though he’s been at it since the early 1980s.

My hand-waving and inability to quickly forget the book have come from something else though, the implications of the future these two authors want to create. It chills me and, more infuriatingly, it neglects to consider any of the social issues caused by such re-shaping of urban environments.

What are the consequences of helping totalitarian governments and regimes like China and the UAE design cities for maximum efficiency and zero humanity? What are the ethics of helping the wholesale physical restructuring of foreign societies with limited or near non-existent democratic mechanisms to debate or revise those designs? Apparently neither Kasarda or Lindsay ever think about it.

What about the environmental impact of building all this infrastructure for a specific mode of transport? The book opens with the argument that cities have been based around ports, canals, railways and motorways in the past so airports are the logical next step. Why then can’t the authors see that air travel might have a life-span too? They do consider the argument that flight is fuel intensive and a luxury and rightly counter it with the fact that air fuel these days is much greener and only accounts for 2-4% of global emissions. But this is a little disingenuous when you are proposing the rebuilding and re-purposing of huge cities across the world and fail to factor the impact such rebuilding might have into your calculations for whether aerotropolii are green or efficient.

‘The airport leaves the city.
The city follows the airport.
The airport becomes a city.’

But ultimately it’s the social questions that interest me more and they are glaringly absent from this book. Who gets to fly? What does it do to the social dynamics of a nation or a region? If people are routinely living and working a lifestyle that resembles the one portrayed in Up In The Air, what does it mean for relationships, class divisions and race issues? What happens to cities when they specialise and become hubs to the extent that Kasarda advocates? How fragile does that city’s security become if it spends all that money on infrastructure and gambles on becoming a hub? How many hubs does any nation need?

The more people travel, the more small-scale issues seen in every city become huge issues in specific cities. It’s an inevitable consequence of globalisation that has become more and more visible in the last decade or so. Gentrified neighbourhoods that price out the original locals on one hand (San Francisco, Istanbul, London), entire cities being seen as a ghetto on the other (Newcastle in the UK, Detroit in the US). Press attention has been more focused on these issues in the four years since the book was written but it’s not like they were invisible when Kasarda and Lindsay were working on it. But you’d never know it. Apart from pointing out that Michigan was great at educating its youth but the brain drain from Detroit was huge, there’s no mention of these ideas or how the aerotropolis deals with them.

Finally there’s the relationship angle. Again, as I am sure you have guessed, this is never mentioned in the book either.

Long distance relationships are on the increase, both from the increase in possibility (people meeting online and then realising a plane ticket is cheap) and the increase in necessity (those who have to move from their partner for work or study). There’s even a term for the specific situation of a couple where they are both highly trained or work in niche industries and can’t get a job in the same city – the ‘two body problem’. An example might be two academics who can’t find one university to employ them both or two scientists working in fields where their specialisms both have hubs… and the hubs are at opposite ends of the US. The financial, property and social implications of such split couples and families is a pretty big issue but Kasarda and Lindsay have a world view that entirely disregards it. They envisage male ‘road warriors’ going off to the office on Monday by plane and a sort of updated 1950s suburbia.

(Lest you think I am exaggerating: there’s a mention of a generous grandmother flying from one city to a neighbouring one to babysit for her busy daughter. That’s it. That is the only use of the air transport network by a woman included in the whole book. When Lindsay talks (finally) about the possibilities of the aerotropolis bringing him closer to his family… it is via him catching a flight so the menfolk can go to a baseball game in another city while the women stay home.)

What more aerotropolii might mean for fragmented families flying to and fro across the country and juggling different geographic needs along with everything else or what increased business travel by air might mean for sexual or racial equality in employment are just more of those interesting questions completely disregarded by the authors. (Anecdotally, having worked through two recessions in jobs that required frequent air travel in Europe and the US, every time the economy dipped the passenger mix on my flights got noticeably less diverse, more male and more firmly in the 40-50 age range.)

There are fascinating facts in here. There are interesting case studies to consider. But they are buried in a book that is too long and poorly edited, written by a journalist who has gotten to close to his subject and lost his objectivity. More importantly, it’s a book and premise that rarely, if ever, considers what it is like to actually live in the kind of cities Kasarda would like to cover the world in if you are not a (very) privileged, middle class man. Ultimately the questions it didn’t ask were far, far more interesting than the ones it did. Perhaps that’s why I’ve struggled to let it go so much…

Further Reading: Rowan Moore’s review of the book for The Guardian, Will Self’s review for The London Review of Books

List of books read in 2015 / Index of Non-Fiction


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A Week in Reading: 2015 Started With Temporary Blindness…

Well then. Fun things I never wish to repeat: being unable to read for a full week after straining my left eye in a not-dramatic-damn-I-need-a-better-story kind of way on 01JAN. I sincerely don’t recommend it. I had all sorts of plans and ideas of how I would start the year and being temporarily blind in one eye delayed and derailed most of them. Which, to be honest, I could cope with but oh, I really did miss reading and the comfort offered by a good book to the point of being miserable.

Luckily I am back to normal vision now and I can catch up on all the reading, studying and bookish stuff I’ve missed… Which really should begin, I suppose, with a reflection on what 2014 was like for me as year in reading.

I’ve been bad at keeping my list online up to date with books read but even so, adding titles up from the notebook I use to jot page numbers and quotes down while reading, I think I read something like 80-90 less books in 2014 than I normally do in a year. This is mostly attributable to studying again I think and the amount of change in my life last year.

Here’s what else is notable about 2014 as a year of reading:

+ I read almost no fiction from June to December. I feel very hungry for narrative and imagination now. I don’t miss fiction when I am absorbed in non-fiction binges but oh, afterwards I just feel off-kilter from its absence.

+ I need to hunt out and read more architecture books by women authors as binging on male-authored architecture books has skewed my author gender stats more than I’m comfortable with.

+ I seem to have had few books that stood out to me as great, recommendable books. Those I loved and need to review here: Kingsley Amis’s The King’s English (a very entertainingly pedantic guide to English usage and the nuances of language which I will review here) and Dr Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects (So full of interest and life and a joy to read alongside the Radio 4 episodes explaining the choices). Oh and Jonathan Meades’s Museum Without Walls of course (a collection of his TV scripts and articles that had me arguing with him and laughing in equal measure) and Guy Deutscher’s Through the Language Glass (which taught me lots about linguistic investigation, that Homer couldn’t see blue as a colour – and nor could the rest of the Ancient Greeks – and led me into a bunnyhole of reading all about the Victorian Prime Minister, William Gladstone, and his library). The only fiction I read and really want to recommend are the Elizabeth von Arnim titles I read, The Solitary Summer and Elizabeth and her German Garden, way back at the start of the year.

+ 2014 was the year of immersing myself in Dante too, though it happened away from the blog. In June/July I read three translations of The Divine Comedy – Mark Musa’s (which I knew and love), Clive James’s new version and Dorothy L Sayers’s version (which she said was her masterpiece). I found things to love and debate about each of them and wish I’d written about them here but mostly I enjoyed getting lost so completely in one work for six weeks. I’d also happily recommend all three versions depending on what you want from the experience of reading it. I might repeat the experiment with a different text at some point…

+ Studying this autumn/winter has led me to books I might never have borrowed from the library without the push of the course. I have long loved the Art Library in the city centre but now it sort of feels more like home. I think art history is now an established thread in my reading tapestry.

+ I still plan to start my 101 goals in 1001 days but I’ll be starting on 01FEB2015 rather than trying to backdate everything to 01JAN2015. A lot of those goals will be bookish. Things like the Century of Books challenges, the Book Jar, practical ways of balancing my reading more… All sorts of gleeful stuff now that I can read again. :)

I do hope you all got 2014 ended and 2015 begun in grand style and with many pleasurable hours of reading, I have been unable to comment or read many blog posts but I plan to catch up this week. Here, however, is to a fine new year for us all from now on. *waving a glass*


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A Week in Reading: Art History, Living Like The Jetsons and a Holiday Mood

Hello there!

I’m going to skip the navel-gazing about life being busier and more complicated than I expected (as well as being sick for over a month) and just say things are more stable now. I’m also going to shamelessly borrow a good format from Rohan over at Novel Readings and adapt her series of posts on how the classes she teaches are going each week to start writing a weekly summary of my bookish life. (I’ll start writing book reviews again too but they’re dependent on me having the time to write. A weekly summing up of reading I can definitely commit to though.)

So, here’s what has been going in my bookish life recently:

I’ll write more about the specifics of my Open University course in a separate post but it’s on art history and is entitled ‘A226: Exploring Art and Visual Culture‘. Term started at the beginning of October and from then until last week we were studying 1100-1600: Medieval to Renaissance with each week focusing on learning about a new topic or writing one of our two assignments.

I’m doing well on it so far, my marks for the assignments have been good and I’m really enjoying bending my mind in new-to-me ways. There isn’t actually that much reading when you break it down into weekly chunks which has left me with the freedom to do some background reading of articles and essays on related subjects (though not as much as I’d like!).

Since I’ve never studied art history before I’ve been reading some general art history books too, which might be of more interest here. Anne D’Alleva’s How to Write Art History is a little basic and not all that inspiring but it’s a very useful book to refer back to if you’re completely new to the subject. Charles Harrison’s An Introduction to Art is much, much better than the bland title suggests and I’ll definitely be reviewing it here as it’s an interesting book for anyone who enjoys mooching around an art gallery. Harrison’s style of writing is deliciously chatty in an educated way; I’m jealous of any student that got to explore a gallery with his helpful and friendly company.

I’ve also been dipping in and out of Art: The Critics’ Choice (edited by Marina Vaizey) and I’d recommend that too if you’re a fan of pretty, interesting books. Each artwork has been selected for a couple of interesting angles it offers on its period, subject, the artist(s) who created or influenced it etc and the book’s great fun to just dip into, on the left-hand page you get a neat summary of its history and why it has been picked and on the right-hand page you get a large, clear image of it. If you liked A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor I imagine you’ll love this too.

The OU course is a stepping stone to my goal of studying Architectural History so I’ve also been borrowing and reading yet more architecture books too. I’m currently reading Jeremy Till’s Architecture Depends and Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay. I’ve only read a little of each and so far I am not at all sure about Aerotropolis which argues that cities should all now be designed around airports and focused on freight/workforces/leisure networks dependent on air travel. It seems a bit well… by-the-year-2100-we’ll-all-have-jetpacks and tenuous to me when you consider fueling all these planes and supporting that kind of infrastructure. Perhaps I am wrong about that though? I’ll be interesting to see how the authors tackle the subject…

Apart from books on art history and architecture I’ve been trying to read and failing to read some Dodie Smith (I wanted to love The New Moon with the Old but just couldn’t get into it), returning unread books to the library because I really didn’t get a chance to take part in German Literature Month this year and buying a copy of J B Priestley’s history of The Edwardians. I didn’t know Priestley had written one but then he seems to have written a book every day by lunchtime at some points in his life and only an expert could keep track of them all. Needlessness to say, this one was a pleasure discovery in the secondhand bookshop around the corner from my house.

Now that the festive season is upon us and I’m on a break from my course for a couple of weeks I’m going to try and tackle some more of those books that have started piling up against the bed. A sort of end-of-year readathon, I think. I’ve got a couple of cookbooks to play with, The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton reserved from the library (it seems so long since I read any recently published fiction) and well, about two dozen other oddities, novels and pleasantly-idle-afternoons’-worths of reading… I’ll let you know where my holiday mood has taken me next week. :)

So, how’s your week been in reading?


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October 2014 Readathon Updates

readathon bigger

(I’ll be updating this occasionally throughout today’s 24 hour readathon. This is the pile of books I am digging into.)

00:01

I grab some coffee and Between Weathers, an account of travelling around the remote, sparsely populated Shetland Isles which are way up to the north of Scotland. I’ve been craving maps and travel non-fiction for the last couple of weeks so this has to be the first book I read for this readathon. I’ve decided not to actually tweet or blog very much this time round so I can just concentrate on the selfishly wonderful pleasure of reading for hours and hours and hours alone and uninterrupted.

06:01

I’ve finished Between Weathers and am over a hundred pages into re-reading Pride and Prejudice. It’s been glorious to be taken so far away from here by books, first to the Shetlands and then to Austen’s world of letters and balls and drawing rooms, all while occasional (but very heavy) rain showers bounce off the window frame and echo on the neighbourhood’s roofs. It’s definitely time for breakfast though as my concentration is slipping and I am craving more coffee. :)

15:10

Oops. I got a little derailed by a phone call and finishing my third book but so far I’ve been wandering around the Shetlands with Between Weathers, been outraged and delighted by the fortunes and misfortunes of the Bennet sisters with Pride and Prejudice and Educating Alice has made me dream of running away to learn a new skill somewhere exotic as its author did repeatedly in a quest to improve herself. I think I need some more non-fiction next so time to take a break and then I think I’ll settle down to Britain After Rome and some time spent contemplating the so-called ‘Dark Ages’. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a day of reading so much. Choosing a couple of re-reads to mix in with new-to-me titles has meant today has been very relaxed and I don’t feel at all tired yet…

20:30

Yes, I can definitely confirm this: I’m having the most enjoyable and productive readathon I’ve ever had. I took a break from Britain After Rome to read A Time To Keep Silence (Patrick Leigh Fermor’s brief but enjoyable account of staying at monasteries on silent retreat which was originally published in the 1950s) as a palate cleanser to keep my mind sharp and then returned to it for more ‘Dark Ages’ history. I’m now about three quarters of the way through it which, if my quick maths is to be trusted after so little sleep, means I have read more this readathon than at any other. By about 100-and-something pages with over three hours left to go. And I don’t even feel particularly tired or as if my head is stuffed too full of dates, quotes and characters like I usually do towards the end of a readathon. Strange witchcraft indeed.

Oh and I took a short break to re-arrange the bookcase by my bed after having a bright idea. As you do. :)

As awake as I feel and as well written as Britain After Rome is, I think it’s time for another break from this history non-fiction book. I don’t think I can absorb the hmmm, people-liness of the Trollope (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever read any of his novels) and I think HHhH might be better suited to another day when I am approaching it completely fresh. So my choice of what to read next is between the play about Hans Christian Andersen staying with the Dickens family, a collection of Elizabeth David’s cookery essays, Bulgakov’s biography of Moliere and four very different novels by Elizabeth Taylor, Herman Hesse, E M Delafield or Dodie Smith. Decisions, decisions. I think I’ll have a mug of cinnamon-spiked cocoa while I peruse the blurbs and make a decision…

00:15

I actually ended up reading past the 24 hours. That’s never happened before either!

In the end I decided to go with the biography of Moliere but I admit I did read it very s l o w l y and got distracted by another phone call. I only went past 23:59 because I was sitting face away from my clock and was determined to get to the next obvious break in the book before setting it aside. But it’s time to sum up.

I have read three complete books, 75% or so of a fourth and about 50% of a fifth. I think I’ve read something like 1500ish pages but that sounds incredibly high even based on some of the books being re-reads and I am too tired to count properly now. So, take the number with a pinch of salt until I’ve checked the page counts in the morning. I need my bed. Goodnight, beautiful readers. I hope everyone who’s taking part in the official readathon hours enjoys the rest of their event.


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My (Revised) October 2014 Readathon Pile

So this is my revised pile for this weekend’s readathon.

My first attempt at gathering books for this weekend led to a pile which, on reflection, seemed to include a lot of war, death, despair and misery. Perhaps not the greatest themes to wallow in for 24 hours. Oops. This amended pile includes a little more diversity in themes. It’s not all sunshine-and-roses in there obviously but there’s more travel, (hopefully) some humour and a couple of wildcards. Here’s the pile:

October 2014 Readathon P

I obviously won’t read all of this but I like a good mix to dip in and out of during the event. From top to bottom:

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope (1857, fiction)

This is the second in the Barchester series of novels about church politics, relationships and the trials and tribulations of one community; it’s about time I read it since I really liked The Warden which is the first.

The New Moon with the Old by Dodie Smith (1963, fiction)

Wildcard choice, no idea what to expect from this. The blurb mentions something about four siblings with very different approaches to life being forced to go out and make their own fortunes after a sheltered upbringing. It’s been on my shelves for ages but I don’t remember buying it…

Humbug by E M Delafield (1921, fiction)

Another wildcard. Again, I have no idea what to expect from this and the edition I have offers no blurb. I do remember buying it, I was intrigued by the fact this edition is labelled as being reprinted by Hutchinson because it was so popular. I’ve only ever read the Provincial Lady series of books by Delafield before.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813, fiction)

I’m due a re-read of this classic novel about marriage, money and false assumptions. Also, I’ve never written more than vague references to Austen on this blog and that needs to change.

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971, fiction)

I read this novel about an elderly woman moving in a genteel but shabby hotel to see out the last years of her life (and her sharp observations on the other residents) last year for the first time. I remember enjoying it but I never got around to writing about it here. I really need to refresh my memory and correct that.

Is There a Nutmeg in the House? by Elizabeth David (2000, non-fiction)

A collection of essays and food-related writings by this famous authority on all matters culinary. I was thinking an essay collection would be good to dip into between other books during a readathon.

Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach (2004, non-fiction)

It’s years since I read this but I was craving a re-read the other day after recommending it to someone. Steinbach decided to travel around the world learning different new skills in different countries to try and find herself, along the way she attempted everything from cordon bleu cooking in Paris to sheepdog training in Scotland.

Britain After Rome by Robin Fleming (2011, non-fiction)

I’m fascinated by the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ – the period after the Romans left Britain, when society changes quite dramatically but the records become much patchier. This was recommended to me earlier in the year and I was craving a history book for my pile.

Andersen’s English by Sebastian Barry (2010, play)

A play based on the true story of the disruption Hans Christian Andersen caused when he came to stay with Charles Dickens and his family, it focuses on the undercurrents within the family that Andersen with his broken English struggled to understand…

Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse, translated from German by Leila Vennewitz (1930, fiction)

I’d like to include this in next month’s  German Literature Month event, it’s a pseudo-medieval tale of love, philosophy and the meaning of life. Also, the Bubonic Plague features in it. How could I resist?

HHhH by Laurent Binet, translated from French by Sam Taylor (2009, fiction)

A novel about Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942 and the attempt to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. ‘All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how do you avoid the temptation to make things up?’

The Life of Monsieur de Moliere by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated from Russian by Mirra Ginsburg (1970, non-fiction)

Bulgakov worked in the theatre and in a political climate even more dangerous than that experienced by his hero, the seventeenth century French playwright, Moliere. He was therefore very well placed to write a biography of the man who he so admired, researched and even wrote a play about.

A Time To Keep Silence by Patrick Leigh Fermor (1957, non-fiction)

PLF went to stay in various monasteries during his life, seeking silence and sanctuary, and this slim book captures his thoughts on the experience of being on silent retreat.

Between Weathers by Ron McMillan (2008, non-fiction)

Travel non-fiction about a trip to the Shetlands, this was the first new travelogue written about the Shetland Isles since 1869 when it was published in 2008. I’m always hungry for tales about living on remote islands. :)

So yes, these are the books I will be spending my weekend with. I really am impatient to get started…


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October Readathon Is Coming…

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It’s the October edition of Dewey’s 24 hour readathon next Saturday (18OCT2014) and I’m signed up to take part again.

(Recap for those who’ve not come across the readathon before: It happens twice a year in April and October, anyone can join in and you don’t have to be a blogger to take part, all you have to do is sign up here by 15OCT2014 and commit to reading as much as you can in the 24 hours. Some people read for almost the whole 24 hours, others just commit to clearing a couple of hours in their diary and making time to read for pleasure.)

I’ll be doing my usual thing and starting at 00:01 UK time rather than trying to match the event’s official US hours and I have pretty consistently read about 1200 pages on readathon weekends ever since I took part in my first one back in October 2009. I’ve no idea why 1200 pages is the magic number for me but I guess there’s a limit to how many characters, plots or facts one brain can absorb in one weekend and that’s mine!

Later in the week I’ll be pulling together a pile of books I might read during the readathon and sharing pictures of it in a post, partly because it’s always fun to do anyway and partly because I love seeing what all the other readathoners have in their piles too…

So what’s likely to be in my readathon pile?

Well, I usually end up with about a dozen books in the pile and I try to make it a real mix of styles, genres and subjects so I can just relax on the day and dip into five or six of them. I’ve included everything from a novel written entirely in verse to cookbooks and books from prize long lists in the past. This time round I’m aiming to use the weekend to balance out my recent reading’s definite bias to modern fiction and art history non-fiction. Mostly I want to focus on the books I actually own as I have been reading almost exclusively from my public library’s shelves for the last couple of months rather than my own. Contemplating moving next year makes me remember just how heavy boxes of books are… ;)

I really think there needs to be a 19th century novel in the pile because I am hungering for detail (but which one given the size of the average 19th century triple decker? An Austen maybe?) and I want something to do with maps or travel in there too as it seems an age since I read anything where I could run my finger over dotted itinerary lines and coastlines. Other than that I’m not really sure what to include, my bed is currently surrounded with stacks of books and I want to read them all. *grin*

I suppose I’ll do my usual thing of wandering around my room, grabbing whatever catches my fancy from the shelves and stacks, piling dozens and dozens of books on my bed and then whittling out the 700 page novels and too-specific non-fiction choices until I have a final selection…

Are you taking part in the readathon this time round or do you think it’s a crazy idea?

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