Top of the Pile #29, #30: RAGE, Bleak House

When, early last week, we found ourselves homeless and with no roof-of-our-own prospects any time soon, we arranged to stay with friends for a while. Well, for as long as they could keep us before being driven mad by our domestic habits, really. They’re only people, after all. But I digress.

So one night after work, we packed the car with what little possessions we hadn’t yet put into storage, and were just about to set off for their place, when they called and cancelled everything.

Jerks.

OK, OK, they had a pretty sucky health scare to deal with at the time (all fine now, yay!), so we’re still on speaking terms and everything, but you can imagine how super excited we both were once we found ourselves stranded in what used to be our dark, wet parking lot, car packed like a sardines tin and no roofed destination in sight.

So we did what I assume most soft pillow accustomed, sleeping in the car reluctant people would do, and checked into a hotel.

We were only there for 2 nights, but it so happened that V had to work late on both of them, so I ended up having to kill a lot of time on my own, in a room only slightly larger than our storage unit, and providing about the same amount of  entertainment opportunities.

So I read a couple of books, of course.

The Country Doctor

First things first, I finished Balzac’s The Country Doctor.

Quite a few people, including some of you kind enough to be following my reading adventures here, have warned me about it not being the best of his works, and also about not much happening throughout.

I did find myself wondering where it was all going more than once, and I only kept reading because I found the descriptions, both of scenery and characters, absolutely beautiful, and of course, because there was little else to do in that shoebox of a room.

In the end, the story does reach a conclusion. So at least there’s that. Now, it so happens that I didn’t find said conclusion particularly impressive, and that the end feeling was that of being preached at throughout, which I never like, no matter how well disguised it is.

Now, by no means has all this put me off Balzac. In fact, I do plan to read my way through the entire Divine Comedy at some point (Perhaps next time I’m stranded in a hopelessly austere hotel room with no check out date in sight? Yikes!)

*

RAGE, Stephen SpielbergAnd speaking of Yikes…

I also read Stephen King’s Rage, another book I happened to have on my Kindle with no recollection of when and how that came to happen.

I had little knowledge of what it was going to be about, and pretty much no expectations to begin with, which I always find exciting, if a bit dangerous.

It proved to be a very quick read, easily manageable in one sitting, and kept me interested almost up to the end, when, as King seems to usually do for me, he threw in a little plot twist I found rather ridiculous and I actually managed to put the book down and go to bed, leaving the last 10 or so pages for the following day.

One thing Rage did for me though was that it made me want to revisit some really special troubled teenager reads from my past, D B C Pierre’s Vernon God Little and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin to name but a couple. The former I particularly miss, having read it in Romanian the year it won the Booker, quite a while back. So straight to the top of my book pile it goes, and as soon as I’ve got shelves again I’ll make sure I get a copy.

*

Bleak House, Charles DickensUntil then though, I’ve recently embarked on a Dickens reading marathon, and picked Bleak House after stumbling upon it in Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, under Books to be read immediately.

It’s among the two or three Dickens novels I haven’t already read at least once, and it felt like such a fitting read what with the somewhat Dickensian weather we’ve been having lately, and me commuting through London for significantly longer these days. I actually find myself looking forward to my evening train trip, and I’ve only read about 200 pages so far, so that’s really something.

So yup, that’s all I’ve got for now on the reading front. Anything interesting you’re leafing through this autumn?

Top of the Pile #26: Reading Like a Writer

Read Like a WriterReading Like a Writer will be my second Creative Writing themed read in a couple of weeks, after finishing Stephen King’s On Writing this weekend. A subject I’ve hardly read anything about altogether, but which I turned to after stumbling upon a bunch of literature podcasts which I now listen to almost on a daily basis at work.

So following another podcast session, I bookmarked King’s On Writing and Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer; then a few days later, while on an impromptu used book shopping spree in Soho, I also got a Cambridge Creative Writing companion, so I’ve got my work cut out for me in terms of writing techniques and I’ll-never-ever-be-the-new-J.-K.-Rowling epiphanies for at least a couple of weeks or so.

For now though, Reading Like a Writer begins by advising me to slow down my reading and pay attention. That’ll surely be a challenge, as I’ve always been a fast reader and, especially now, when I’m fighting my way through never ending Infinite Jest and trying to catch up on my 2014 Goodreads reading challenge (still 12 books behind, grrr!) I’m in more of a rush than ever.  I’ll try to calm down a bit and hopefully enjoy it more, so I probably won’t be posting another Top of the Pile entry too soon.

*

I finished Hatching Twitter yesterday, in between sessions of laundry and babysitting a dish of potatoes au gratin. It advertised itself as a saga of Twitter’s invention and evolution, but I found it more an account of how a bunch of nerdy guys repeatedly stabbed each other in the back for money.

The geek inside me would have been more interested in reading about the technical side of getting Twitter to its current super-duper-online-monster status, about what went wrong and how they fixed it and how certain ideas and concepts came about, but instead I found myself drawn into these soap-opera-ish scenarios culminating in bursts of “The CEO is dead, long live the CEO!”.

It was an OK and very quick read (2 sittings), but not entirely what I expected really, so maybe 3 stars out of 5?

That’s it for today, back to my podcasts and some startup unrelated coding. Happy reading everyone!

Top of the Pile #21, #22, #24, #25: Hannibal, Gone Girl, On Writing, Hatching Twitter

I’ve been doing quite a bit of binge reading lately, eager to catch up on months and months of book fasting summer. Yes, I’ve been busy, and yes, it hasn’t been the easiest, most reading friendly summer I’ve had so far, but I’ve got no excuse really. And now that London weather’s back to its grumpy, rainy self, and there are less and less opportunities to walk the streets and sip your nights away around pub terrace tables, I’m back to my normal state of affairs, and my cobweb infested book pile.

*

I kicked off my back-to-reading-or-bust regime with a taste of psycho-horror, and gobbled up my first Thomas Harris thriller, Hannibal. It might have just been a case of Hannibal-the-series withdrawal gone wrong, as V and I had been binge watching the last season this past June, and it seems I couldn’t let go that easily.

So I finished Hannibal in two sittings, and though I really enjoyed discovering connections with the TV series and tying one or two loose ends, it didn’t blow my mind to be perfectly honest.

V says I should have read The Silence of the Lambs first, the best loved book (and movie?) in the series, but I already had Hannibal (have no idea how I got it, triple YAY for growing old and forgetful) and decided I’d just go with that. It’s served its purpose, apparently, as I’m at least not shaking uncontrollably at the thought of the next Hannibal-the-TV-series season release, but it’s fair to assume that as far as the other books are concerned, I’ll stick to the TV version. Unless you suggest otherwise. Have you read The Silence of the Lambs? Is it super duper scary and super duper worth its £5 price tag? Let me know!

*

Next on my reading list was everybody’s darling these days, Gillian Flynn, and her thriller (I sense a pattern here!) novel, Gone Girl. A friend was reading this and recommended it, albeit reluctantly, saying, and I quote, it might just be deep enough for me to not hate. Yes, all my friends make fun of me on a daily basis. Next question?

It took me three or four sittings to finish Gone Girl, with a few days hiatus while we were in Edinburgh for the FRINGE and to celebrate V’s birthday. I absolutely devoured the first half of the book, and although I later discovered, on Goodreads and the likes, that most people found the first half boring and slow, it remains my favourite part. I guess I enjoyed the mystery, and getting acquainted with the characters’ voices. Once I figured out what was going on, and what each player was about, I gradually lost my interest. I don’t know if this is a pattern with me and mystery/thriller books, as I simply I haven’t read that many. Anyway, it was an OK read. I probably won’t be watching the movie and I’m not sure I’ll be picking another one of Flynn’s books just yet (but that may just be because of my pre-existent, sky-scraper tall book piles taking over my living room). Time will tell.

*

Last but not least, I finished Stephen King’s On Writing last night, in between episodes of Vikings and chocolate pancakes servings. It’s been lying on my nightstand for a while now, and it’s only taken me this long to finish it because it’s in hardcover format and I’m way too lazy to carry hardcovers around these days. But it was a quick, pleasant read and it’s made me, a reluctant Stephen King reader (I think I’ve only read The Stand and It), to want to pretty much dive into one of his heaviest, scariest tomes. Which I might actually do sooner rather than later (V just got me a paperback copy of Cell).

*

In the meantime, I’m still fighting my way through Infinite Jest (halfway through, which means I’ll probably be 40 before I finish it. If I survive!), and I also started Hatching Twitter, which is hardly the kind of literature I normally read, but was recommended by my startup-crazed V, and there’s only so much “Read it! Read it! Read it!” I can take before I finally cave. It’s meant to be “A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” (insert eye roll) about the development and growth of Twitter, and will likely, V hopes at least, motivate me/us/mostly me into building and launching some equally table turning online monster business, which may or may not end in betrayal.

That’s it for now, I’ll keep you posted as I make my way through the pile. In the meantime, what’s on your autumn reading list?

On My Nightstand

Infinite Jest CoverDavid Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

So yeah. I’ve been reading this beauty since early June, and I’m slowly, oh so very slowly approaching the end of its first third. My snail paced progress is not entirely Wallace’s fault, as tricky a read as he may be. I mainly blame the fact that this summer of mine has been a summer of many things, but not a particularly bookish one. I’ve traveled, house hunted, sleepwalked, been ill, busy, mad at people, and done very little to no reading throughout.

There’s still quite a bit of traveling and hunting of various kinds in my near future, but I’m also more determined than ever to get back in reading shape, and proving Wallace who’s boss is my main priority right now.

Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan CoverLuke Syson, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

I’ve had this one on my nightstand since January 2012 (I know!), when together with V and two of my lovely geeky colleagues at the time we managed to get tickets for the Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition at The National Gallery.

I bought it in the shop on our way out, and I’ll admit I was lying when I said it’s been on my nightstand for two and a half years, what with it really being twice the size of my nightstand. So in fact it’s been gathering dust on my Art shelf (yup, I’ve got an Art shelf, geek jokes are welcomed) and I’ve been reading a couple of pages at a time in the evenings until, well, until I pretty much forgot about it.

I’ve now brought it back into our bedroom, determined to no longer ignore it for years and finally finish it once and for all. It still doesn’t fit the top of my nightstand, so it’s lying on the floor by the bed at the moment, much to V’s daily outrage of course, who’s not once threatened divorce upon stumbling over my floor scattered reading paraphernalia.

Aimless Love CoverBilly Collins, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems

I bought this in April on an impulse Waterstone’s shopping spree, and it’s the only poetry collection I’ve been constantly reading since. I never push myself when it comes to poetry, so I’ve been taking my time with Aimless Love as well, reading a poem every couple of days or so. But it’s been quite a while now, not to mention that I’ve got about a dozen poetry volumes on my reading list at the moment, so it’s time I finished Aimless Love already and made room for new stuff next to my bedside lamp.

On Writing CoverStephen King, On Writing

This is a new one. V only brought it home on Friday, as the final item in my latest Creative Writing themed Amazon order. Coincidentally I’ve been buying a lot of books dealing with writing techniques lately. I’m not some undercover writer-to-be, geeking out during the day and studying the scribbling craft on the side into the night hours. But I’ve been listening to some Literature podcasts these days and several Creative Writing book recommendations popped up there that I happened to find interesting myself after a bit of research.

Stephen King’s On Writing is probably the most accessible of the Writing related volumes I’ve recently bought, hence why I picked it first, as I was feeling like I could really use a break from Infinite Jest yesterday after work. It’s true, I was so tired that I fell asleep after less than 15 pages, at 8PM and for more than 3 hours, which says tons about how messed up my life is these days.

That’s it as far as my nightstand goes these days, book-wise at least, as I must admit said nightstand also sports a mountainous mess of tangled phone chargers, lipsticks, vitamin pill bottles and hair pins. But hey, who’s got time to tidy up the flat when you’ve got so many awesome books to read.

What are you lovely people reading these days? Have you been struggling with anything for what feels like an infinite amount of time, or are your nightstands perfectly organized and you summer reading on track?