Alex In Leeds

(Book Reviews and Adventures…)

Reading Review: October 2013


Journal by Curt Fleenor Photography

I’ve spent all my leisure time this month walking to exhaustion and loved every minute of dodging storms and showers, crunching golden leaves underfoot and occasionally standing on hills in the Yorkshire dales like Friedrich’s Wanderer. I think it’s time to concede though that autumn is coming to an end here in England and winter is setting in. It’s time to come back from my wanderings and settle down in front of my fireplace – I have a proper log fire burning right now and feel the luckiest, snuggest reader in the world. :)

October’s Books

I only went to a couple of events at this year’s Ilkley Literature Festival so it didn’t make as much of an impact on my reading as it has done in previous Octobers, instead I concentrated on enjoying the 24 hour readathon, dipping into my book jar again and starting to write a couple of reviews here again. The book jar’s selection of Arthur C Clarke as an author wildcard meant I needed to reserve a couple of books from the library so I conceded defeat and reserved Andrew Solomon’s Far From The Tree at the same time. I’ve been dying to read it ever since I first heard the topic, it’s a non-fiction title on the nature of relationships between children and parents who are very, very different in politics, physical abilities, sexualities, belief system etc. In fact, looking at October’s books read I’ve just noticed that I read more non-fiction than fiction this month. Perhaps they’re easier to break up into chunks in between walks? :)

The Read Books

89) Bodil Malmsten – The Price of Water in Finistere (Non-Fic)
90) Susan Hill – Howards End is on the Landing (Non-Fic)
91) Virginia Woolf – To The Lighthouse (Fic)
92) Amelie Nothomb – Fear and Trembling (Fic)
93) Claire Tomalin – Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life (Non-Fic)
94) Julian Barnes – Nothing To Be Frightened Of (Non-Fic)
95) Laurie R King – A Monstrous Regiment of Women (Fic)
96) Sophie Grigson – Spices (Non-Fic)
97) Erich Maria Remarque – All Quiet on the Western Front (Fic)
98) Michael Wood – The Story of England (Non-Fic)
99) Julian Barnes – Nothing To Be Frightened Of (Non-Fic) (re-read)

Books read: 11 (ten titles, one read twice) /Books ‘Surfed’: 6 / Books marked Did Not Finish: 0
Fiction: 4 / Non-Fiction: 7
Female authors: 7 / Male authors: 4 / Multiple authors: 0

October’s Highlights: Hard to pick one, so much fired my imagination. Sparked by Hill’s list at the end of Howards End is on the Landing, I’m still thinking about my list of 40 books that I would pick if they were the only books I could ever read again. I’m still absorbing To The Lighthouse and the shift in perception my first complete reading of it gave me. I loved Barnes’ Nothing To Be Frightened Of so much as a funny, intelligent consideration of memory, family stories and the prospects of death and legacy I read it twice in one month – unheard of for me. Oh and Michael Wood never fails to make my heart dance as a lover of good historical non-fiction, The Story of England is a true crystallisation of history through examining the real village of Kibworth in the centre of England over its entire history. It manages to remain specific and yet truly inclusive throughout and I am rather in awe of the juggling act Wood has pulled off.

October’s Low Points: Probably the Laurie R King book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women. It’s the second in her series of Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mysteries that pair Conan Doyle’s retired detective with a much younger, female American theology student for new crime solving in the late 1910s/1920s. I did love this series when I read them in the mid-1990s but after reading Books 1 & 2 for the first time in nearly twenty years I discover they are far more about Russell than Holmes and loaded with more theology than the plot (or I) can honestly bear. I need to write a post on them to explain my thoughts fully but I shan’t be re-reading the rest of the series.

Other Reviews Posted In October

Aphra Behn – Oroonoko (Fic)

I had a remarkably strong reaction to this 17th century piece of pro-slavery Tory propaganda when I read it earlier in the year, so strong it kept me from writing about it until my hackles settled back down…

Reading Challenges

The Katherine Mansfield biography counts for my Tomalin reading challenge but other than that I was taking it easy this month because November is German Literature Month and I plan to read a couple of titles for that.

Plans for November

November is going to be a much more settled month work-wise and I am looking forward to many evenings in front of the fire, book in one hand and glass of good single malt in the other. I have four books lined up to read for German Literature Month, including a fascinating sounding medieval epic with a strong heroine at the heart of it which I can’t wait to get to; I’m 100 or so pages into Far From The Tree and hope to finish it this week (it’s 900ish pages of heavy hardback); I have two Arthur C Clarke books to push my comfort zones with thanks to the book jar and I have a craving for some short stories so I’ll be exploring a collection or two of those I think.

Perhaps more importantly though I want to get my backlog of reviews tidied up and posted here. There comes a point where the notes I take while reading are not enough to construct a good, thoughtful post from without missing something of the mood and first response to the book and I fear I am approaching that hazy moment with several books I really would love to discuss here. I don’t promise to post every day as some do in November (good luck if you are!) but I do promise to post a couple of times a week and try and increase your wishlist in time for the holiday season… ;)

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Author: Alex in Leeds

Book reviewer, blogger, photographer and adventuress who completed 101 goals in 1001 days. I can be found on Twitter as @AlexInLeeds.

8 thoughts on “Reading Review: October 2013

  1. Some interesting non-fiction reads, sometimes that is what we are drawn to, I had a real nature writing theme in the early months of the year, winter seems to inspire that kind of reading for me. I look forward to your German literature reviews.

  2. A good variety of topics in your October reading. I was looking at non fiction on my shelves realising I haven’t read much non fiction in quite awhile. You are inspiring me to look at more for 2014.

  3. Very interested to here what you think about Far From the Tree – it’s a fascinating subject that makes me think about the families I know.

  4. I’m always trying to clear my backlog of reviews my next month is mainly reviewing German novels for German lit month and hope to read new Magaret Drabble as well

  5. Some good reads there Alex. Interested to hear what you had to say about the Laurie King books – I circled these for a while recently then decided I probably wouldn’t like them so I’m glad I didn’t go any further!

  6. I’m intrigued by the medieval German mystery – are you going to keep us all guessing about the author/title? Is that the mystery?
    Not much chance of walking this weekend in my part of the country – unless you enjoy getting drenched that is.


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