Category Archives: exciting

Is it just me, or is this compelling?

BookDepository

Someone in Singapore bought The Jolly Postman

Whilst following Black Friday deals I came across The Book Depository (it ran quite an interesting sale).  But what really got me interest was this..Book Depository Live.

It shows you which books are being bought by its customers on a world map

Someone in the UK bought Illywacker

Is it just me?  I love seeing which books are being bought.  Little stories go through my head as to who is buying and why.  It’s also great to see books in active selling.  Like being in a bookshop and seeing what people buy.  This is a worldwide customer base, so you get some curve balls in there, not just the latest top seller.

This might be a great way to choose/not choose a BIB.

Someone in Switzerland bought On Becoming Fearless

I think I should point out that I am not a Book Depository employee.

 

 

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The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

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I’m 19% of the way through this book that I chose in complete awareness.

I chose it because I thought it sounded unusual, with my recent interest in older people, it’s certainly unique to find a main character who is a centenarian.  It was also a bestseller and I like the quirky cover.  The blurb seemed promising.

At this point however I am a bit indifferent to the book, I’d give it a rating of 50%.  The style of the narrative is a bit sing-song and as yet I am constantly asking myself “Why?”  I’m hoping that the author, Jonas Jonasson, has something up their sleeves.

This is the first book I’ve chosen and read since starting this blog, and having greatly enjoyed the BIBs, I don’t want to find out that my ability to choose a book is pants!

Looking this up on Amazon, I’m very intrigued by this book! 100 Facts about the 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared That Even the CIA Doesn’t Know – Christian Hacker.  Perhaps there is more to this book after all, or a new genre of pseudo conspiracy theory books about popular fiction a ploy to gain a wider audience.  What next?  Pride & Prejudice and the plot to Assassinate Kennedy, A Tale of Two Cities and the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Da Vinci Code and… oh no that is one isn’t it?  It’s a spoof about reviews of this book apparently, how disappointing.

I Am Pilgrim – completed.

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I’ve finished this excellent book.  I highly recommend it.  Either as a BIB or go and read all about it, but read it anyway.

I would have finished this sooner, but life got in the way.  I had hit my tipping point (about 80% of the way through) about a week ago, but there were things that needed doing and I just couldn’t get back to the book.  I knew that if I found some time it would have to be significant enough for me to finish it.  It was there in the back of my mind ticking away, building up my anticipation, and prolonging the agony and ecstacy of finishing a good book.

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Did it live up to all my expectations.  I would say yes mostly.  As you can see from the Bibliograph, it took a little dive at the end, but then it’s difficult to maintain a book this good.  In no way was the end disappointing, just not as great as the rest.  The story was so well thought out that most of the trail of breadcrumbs were gathered in, and even though the book is 700 dead tree pages long, it had the feel of a very well edited book.  Not much is wasted in there.

Interestingly I like the main character.  Which given surprises me as I haven’t normally found this kind of character sympathetic.  He has the feeling of being a whole person (even if not with your average life story).  His protagonist too (as I have mentioned before) has depth and I found myself having some sympathy with him too.

Where does this book belong in my top 10?  Definitely in there.  I’m not sure if I’m damning this book with this but..  I’d put it alongside and above “The Da Vinci Code”.  Definitely better because it’s more relevant.  It was very believable (mostly) and topical.  I’d almost be able to find a news story a day that was relevant to it.

You can also see from the bibliograph that my enjoyment of the book was high all the way through, and the pace of progress was pretty constant.  I think Terry Hayes will have a hard job coming up with a follow up to the same standard, but I for one am a convert and will eagerly await his next novel.  (I hope he’s going to write one, I’ll have to go and look him up now).

I almost missed my stop!

 

 

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It’s been a long time since I nearly missed my bus stop because of a book!  But it happened today with I Am Pilgrim.  And yesterday, on the way home, I got off a stop later because I had to know the outcome.  It was very exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read on the bus, with my head down and being partially sighted I need to pay attention to what I’m reading.  You would think that this causes me to nearly miss my stop a lot.  However, I have learnt that I have a subconscious awareness of where I am on the journey.  I expect I am monitoring the turns subconscously and, when I look up I know where we are before I’ve seen.  It works very well.  Except on a few notable occassions where I have been so engrossed in my book that only a fortuitous glance, moments before the stop, has prevented me from missing it entirely.  I think if I did I’d just carry on reading and have a day out!

 

English: Agatha Christie Bus Tour bus (reg. AH...

English: Agatha Christie Bus Tour bus (reg. AHL 694), a 1947 Leyland Tiger PS1/1 single-decker with Barnaby bodywork. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But this morning was one of those mornings.  This is a special book indeed.  It is very well paced, with the author dropping breadcrumbs, leaving you to gather them up at a satisfying pace.  None of your Agatha Christie “I want everyone in the library where I shall reveal the murderer” here, where all the breadcrumbs are gathered in an overwhelming handful.  If I had any criticism, and I think this is an anti-criticism (like “My only fault is I’m too hard working”) it would be that everything, although chaotic, is a bit too perfect.  Our hero’s hunches pay off.  But perhaps I’m being a bit harsh and just caught up in the story and not noticing the blind alleys he runs up.

 

 

 

The other great thing about this great book is that it’s long and well paced.  So you can keep reading in great swathes without worrying about running out of story.  Like your favourite biscuits coming in a big enough packet that you can’t eat them in one sitting.

So read it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readability of the web?

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My wife came across this in the The Times (Oct 19, 2013) under the headline Beowuluf? It’s not as epic as Google’s rules.

Apparently researchers at the University of Nottingham have incorporated a standard literacy level test used by teachers (using only word and sentence length) into a browser plug in called Literatin and compare internet texts to established literary works.

Then using this tool to look at terms and conditions of various websites they found…

Google’s are more complex than Beowulf!

Facebook’s are worse and similar in complexity to The Prince by Machiavelli!

Scottish Power tops the list with its comparable to Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche!

No wonder we just whizz through them and click accept.

It amazes me that we tolerate this given that so much of the development effort put into these web services and sites is around usability and the user experience, Google is popular because it’s got one box and knows what you are thinking, and yet they can’t put their terms and conditions into plain English. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I think I know why.
Update: I wonder if their new customer pages have the same readability as 50 Shades of Grey?

 

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“This is an excellent book” – I couldn’t stop myself saying it out loud. You have to read it, it’s great as just a book or a Blissfully Ignorant Book (BIB). It has the feeling of being extremely well constructed and worked on, so either Terry Hayes is a genius or is a very good editor of his own work. Just read it. I am Pilgrim

Friends gone to Iceland?

Gígjökull, an outlet glacier extending from Ey...

Gígjökull, an outlet glacier extending from Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland. Lónið is the lake visible in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bjork (I just thought I’d get the obligatory mention out of the way in anything you read about Iceland. It was hard to find a picture without her in it!)

This is interesting Iceland: Where one in 10 people will publish a book on the BBC website.  What an amazing statistic,   I originally thought they’d all be reading each other’s, as naively I imagine everyone in Iceland knows each other (it practically says that in the article too so I am not alone in this).

So I thought if this ratio was applied to my friends how many books would I be obliged to read (being polite).  I think I’m pretty average so I discovered that there is a figure called Dunbar’s number which is the number of stable relationships the human brain can maintain, about 150.  So that would be 15 books.  (I don’t think I have anywhere near 150 stable relationships).

With all these books coming out of Iceland I wondered if I’d read any.  I did a search and found a whole genre I knew nothing about.   Icelandic Crime Fiction looks worth perusing.  I might have to acquire one and read it as a BIB.  Any recommendations welcome.   I think the nearest I got was Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow – Peter Hoeg.  Which was a book I can recommend and made me think I should find out some of his other works.  He’s Danish though I think.

Why Iceland though?  Is it really as cultural as it appears?  Does the seismic energy of the place infuse the inhabitants?  Mind you there’s a lot of murder and crime in the books, so what does that tell us?  I must admit to just really thinking there isn’t too much to do in Iceland when the winter sets in and the light levels are low so do they get depressed and plan how to kill each other?  I feel like I’ve trooped out a whole psychiatrist’s sessions worth prejudices and misconceptions there!

Is this a case of quantity not quality?  I think I’m going to have to find out.

Pilgrim171013I am Pilgrim is still continuing to knock my socks off as a BIB, I keep yoyo-ing around as to what I think the books is really about.  Still lots of questions, and the promise of answers.  I strongly recommend it.

 

Unleash your creativity?

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“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

In the spirit of the quote above (better than the old George Bernard Shaw quote about everyone having a novel inside them ) I came across this the other day

National Novel Writing Month – http://nanowrimo.org/

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

What a fantastic idea.  It’s run by a charity (The Office of Letters and Light http://www.lettersandlight.org/) which aims to unlock people’s creative potential – The Office of Letters and Light organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential.

They’ve had quite a lot of success, with loads of novels being published.  I wonder if I’ve read any or any have made it really big?  So far this year 52,697 authors have signed up.

I know from my own experience that creative acts bring me the most pleasure in life.

Compare this to the feeling I sometimes get in my work life where there are constant initiatives, rounds of annual appraisal with objectives, target setting and improvement plans which are supposed to make be better year on year, to develop my career. This approach is ultimately flawed.  We can’t all be ambitious, grappling for promotion and “success”.  There’s only so much room at the top.  I do, however, know that we can all always improve.

So what are we here for?  For some of us this is the a creative act; we can’t all be ambitious and strive for the “success” measured by wealth and status, but the act of knitting a jumper, resolving a dispute, painting a picture or writing a novel (creating order and beauty out of chaos) is life affirming, satisfying and I feel ultimately what we are here for, to create a bit of order and see others appreciate it.

It’s a shame this isn’t happening in the UK.  (Or perhaps it is).  I’d love to have a go, but at the moment…

I have an idea, I think I’d have to do quite a lot of research to make it worthwhile.  I think I’d need to take the month off work!  I’m not sure my family would cooperate with this either.  Maybe another year.  But creating ideas is still creating, so I’m enjoying contemplating it.

Pilgrim081013I am pilgrim – still delivering as an excellent BIB

I Am Pilgrim – Early thoughts as a BIB

So far I’ve been unable to do much of a book review about a BIB (Blissfully Ignorant Book) and keeping within The Rules, without robbing you of the chance of reading it Blissfully Ignorantly too.

However, with I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes I do have something I can say.

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As you can see I’ve been busy, for me anyway, reading.  This is a big book (700 paper pages apparently – I’m reading the e-book version).  I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Not just as a book, but as a BIB.

It starts well.  I thought I had it pegged, a good book of its genre.  But it quickly changed into something else.  I think that is the key to a good BIB; surprise,  changing genre, unexpectedly finding yourself in a situation alongside the characters and wondering how you’re going to get back.

Now 15% of the way through I’m not sure what I’m reading!  Brilliant! The author is laying out a series of questions like a trail of breadcrumbs for me, which I hope lead along a path where they are all answered or consumed!  The books I love best are like that as I’ve blogged about before.  There’s plenty of swapping between story lines, not sure how they are going to come together, but it looks pretty massive in scope from here.  Can the author pull it off I wonder?

I would probably have ignored this book in a bookshop as too serious.  I’m very glad I was recommended this book.  I wonder if the author will sustain my interest and recommendation as a BIB.  This is the first BIB since starting this blog that I would highly recommend.

Why not try it?  Read along with me.  But don’t look at reviews etc.  I can tell you that Amazon has lots of ratings and they’re all around 4-5 stars!

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Rethinking the bookshop online

Pageant of American Literature, Hawthorne study

Pageant of American Literature, Hawthorne study (Photo credit: CT State Library)

I greatly enjoy the contextual life blog.  I like the weekly roundup of links, which are serious, interesting, quirky, grammatical and topical.

In this weeks there was a link to the BookSmash Challenge.  This is

Use imagination and technology to build software that goes beyond the traditional ways we read and discover books

Interesting stuff there, it’s really worth looking at the entries and voting.  This is just the kind of thing we, as readers, need to be thinking about.

It struck a chord with me and the ethos of this blog.  It did get me really thinking about How do I not pick a book?, I wondered if that would make a good idea for a book browsers (or not).  “Book Look” has some features that are similar to my ethos, but doesn’t quite go far enough.

Perhaps a Blissfully Ignorant applicatioin could choose you random books against a profile (you’d need to be careful there) but I was thinking things like very broad categories in fiction, e.g. child/adult, new/old and possibly some more specific “absolutely nots” e.g. sci-fi, romance, historical fiction, violence (I quite like all of those btw).  Probably the most important part would be the aspect that would cover “recommendations”, as I feel this is the key to success with this technique of Blissfully Ignorant reading (so you’d use some algorithm on ratings/number of ratings.  For example, my new BIB has 4 1/2 stars from 211 reviews so that’s pretty convincingly good.

So a randomly selected good book would be chosen for you.

I should have entered!

So what do you think?  It’d make a great mobile app too.

By the way, I’ve cracked!  I’m still reading my non fiction book on body language but I had to get my fix of fiction.  I just don’t seem to be able sustain my interest in non-fiction.  I am interested but there’s always a bit that I want to skip and that make me feel uncomfortable.  I will finish the body language book.

I’ve started reading I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes, this was a recommendation from a friend.

I haven’t read much, but it dives straight in.  I’m pretty sure of the genre.  There’s some unusual quirks to it.  So it’s making a great first impression.

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Does reading run in families?

Pauline Baynes

Pauline Baynes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking through your blogs out there, and very interesting they are, I’m struck by all the

I borrowed this from my brother

I gave this to my Dad

It made me wonder whether the nature or nurture question applies to reading.  It certainly would appear so.  That if your parents read then you are likely to.  We’re given tons of advice from schools as parents that we should model reading behaviour to our children, particularly Dads for boys! (Does that mean more women read than men?  I’ll see if I can find out for a later post).

I have aimed hard to read to my children every day (mostly succeeded and have thoroughly enjoyed it, I’ve included a few gems to read to/with your children, particularly boys that you may not have come across) and this has only recently stopped.  They’re now 12 and 10.  I stopped because they were not becoming independent readers, seemingly preferring to hear me read rather than read themselves.  They are evolving now into more independent readers (a phase for graphic novels/comics at the moment).  My wife is a keen reader and we do have everyone reading in the house on occasions.  But I would say on balance that all this has not had the desired result.

When I think back to my own childhood I remember my parents reading the paper and flicking through magazines.  But never reading a book.  We weren’t taken to the library, but books were around, it was an unusual extravagance of my parents to buy books for us.  I was also encouraged to buy books.  But all in all not a literary household and in fact neither of my brothers is a reader.  Apart from school I don’t think they’ve read a book at all!  My Mum always says she doesn’t like books.  So those of you who swap books in the family count yourselves lucky!

I can still remember when it all changed.  A school friend read The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeC.S.Lewis aloud to us and did a good job of it.  I remember thinking to myself I want to be able to do that and it all changed from that point on.  So a big thank you to Guy Picken, who read wonderfully all those years ago in his Mum and Dad’s back room.  If I ever see him I must tell him personally.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my sons continue to develop as readers, and that one day we’ll be exchanging books saying You must read this.  I’ll try not to be disappointed it I don’t and enjoy whatever it is they do bring and exchange things with them that they will enjoy.  (I’ll expect whatever happens I’ll always recommend books to them)

So to answer the question.  I’d have to say no.  There are no guarantees whatever you do.  But I suppose if you didn’t show some enthusiasm for reading then it’s unlikely you children will.  I’ve certainly achieved that with football!

Recommended Read with older children…

The Seven Professors of the Far North, The Flight of the Silver Turtle and The Secret of the Black Moon MothJohn Fardell

The Remarkable Adventures of Tom Scatterhorn – Henry Chancellor (The Museum’s Secret, The Hidden World, The Forgotten Echo)

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The Collaborator – I couldn’t put it down today,  I just had to find out what was going to happen.