Monday, 1 August 2011

Books for July

I sometimes wonder whether the vast majority of books I read reflect my fascination for Geography and History. Not that I'm an expert in either I hasten to add but, aside from English lit., they were my favourite subjects at school and have remained with me in the intervening years (I tend to wince when I think how many that actually amounts to). I soak up any TV documentaries that are historical or about far away lands that I haven't a hope of getting to... even when said shows are heavily disguised as, say, cookery shows. Rick Stein's Asian Odyssey from last year (or the year before) springs to mind... great cooking but even better scenes of various amazing Asian countries. He's been in Spain this year and even though I'm not that interested in that country I had to watch because it's somewhere I've never been and probably will not get to. And was it interesting? Of course - although I wasn't sure about the snail-fest that was attended by 12,000 people. I have a typical English person's squeamishness about eating molluscs but, you know... it's good to be aware of traditions that are different from yours and I'm sure it helps to be more accepting of different cultures. And on a side-note, let's hear it for the BBC who, despite all, are still making these kinds of programmes...

Anyway, enough rambling, I looked at the books I read this month to see if they do actually prove my theory about me and Geography and History.

43. Magyk - Angie Sage
44. Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
45. The Deeping Secrets - Victor Watson
46. Flyte - Angie Sage
47. The Lost Art of Gratitude - Alexander McCall Smith
48. Vanish - Tess Gerritsen
49. Physik - Angie Sage
50. Amber, Furs and Cockleshell - Anne Mustoe
51. The Revolt of the Pendulum - Clive James

And the answer is - 'more or less'. History is covered by Dark Fire (16th. century setting) and The Deeping Secrets (WW2 setting). Geography by Amber, Furs and Cockleshells (non-fiction travelogue), The Lost Art of Gratitude (set in Scotland, a country I'm longing to go to and *will* probably get to some day) and Vanish (set in Boston). The three Angie Sage books are fantasy and cover both history and geography for me. Even though her world is imaginary it's rather medieval in feel and it's 'another land' to explore. The only exception to my theory is the book of essays by Clive James... but even then he often disccusses historial and geographical subjects. And his essay on crime books and their readers is worth borrowing the book from the library for, even if the rest of the book goes unread (his whole family is addicted to Donna Leon's Brunetti series, lol.)

So, there you go. I'm clearly a person driven by History and Geography. How about you? Have you noticed anything similar in your reading? I'm curious to know if this is just a weirdness in me or whether others have a similar bent towards other subjects.

Best read last month? Ooooh gosh. They were all very good to be honest *but* Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom probably had the edge - my review is here.

An honorary mention goes to Amber, Furs and Cockleshells by Anne Mustoe. This is her non-fiction account of three cycling trips she took, all of them following famous historical 'roads' which were, the Amber Route from the Baltic to the Adriatic, the Santa Fe trail from the Missouri river to New Mexico and the Pilgrims' Way of St. James from Le Puy in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I've read one other by her, Lone Traveller, and loved it and this second book was every bit as good. My favourite of the trips was the Santa Fe Trail, probably because I love America so much. And the people of Kansas can pat themselves on the back because she said she's never come across such kindness as she found there. A brilliant book full of history, humour and the realities of long-distance cycling. Sadly, I discovered while I was reading the book that Anne died in 2009 in Syria. What a shock and what a sadness. A real loss to all who love her books.

And here's a photo to finish:

Which challenge do you reckon I can't wait for?


DesLily said...

wow you did 3 of the angie sage books! I enjoyed them but never did get this latest book..but it's only because I have so much else sitting here!!!

I can't imagine what challenge you are anxiously awaiting! lol..

animewookie said...

*You* have an incredible mind. I bet in another place and time you would have been a great explorer and adventurer ;)
I was thinking about the books I've been drawn to, and realized that the thing that ties them together, is a main character generally driven by a painful past that masks it with the theme here is...pain?... turmoil?... achievement despite adversity? LOL
Also as far as nonfiction, anything having to do with science or technology :D Great post, very thought provoking Cath ;)

LizF said...

I think the history, geography and other worlds themes just about sums up my reading too.
Not so much the Far East, but books set in France, Italy and New England/Maine will always hook me - I still haven't (quite) given up on getting a small house in the country in France or Italy one day and having been to Cape Cod and Boston for just one week, I am hopelessly in love with the place especially the beaches on Nantucket (must be spending childhood holidays on similar windswept strands in the west of Ireland).
As for other worlds, well I am about to embark on George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, having been hooked on the TV version of A Game of Thrones, so that should take me a while!
Your mention of snails however reminds me of driving through the countryside in Burgundy early one slightly damp morning, and being really fascinated to see quite a lot of people hunting in hedgerows and putting things in carrier bags.
At first we thought they were mushroom hunting until it clicked that they were looking in the hedges not on the ground so we stopped to ask and discovered that they were all collecting snails to take home.
Apparently you have to collect them and keep them in clean grass cuttings for some time to make sure that they haven't eaten anything potentially harmful to humans (or that would make them taste bad) before you eat them!

fiction-books said...

Hi Cath,

I have been sat here trying to remember my school days, so long ago and have decided that I am a similar personality to yourself, in that my favourite subjects were, English Language, English Literature, World History, Social History and Geography. French may feature in the top few as well, but that was more because I fancied the teacher, Mr Dowse.

We enjoy the variety of documentaries that the BBC are so good at churning out, in fact Dave is always saying that this is where the corporation should focus its efforts and leave all the soaps and reality TV programmes to the commercial channels, that way he wouldn't mind paying his licence fee so much!!

I don't tend to follow the cooking shows, despite their obvious geographical interest, because firstly Dave would always flick channels to avoid them and secondly I loathe cooking, mealtimes are always a tortuous affair!

My favourite genre is ether historical romance, which harps back to the history elements of my schooling or crime/thrillers and I am not sure where that comes from, as science certainly wasn't one of my better subjects!!

I love shell fish, squid, snails, frogs legs and the like, but couldn't envisage the scenarion in Liz's comment, where I would be scrabbling about in the hedgerows searching for snails!!

Anonymous said...

History, gardening, geography, and, WWII Britain and the American homefront all seem to draw me in, Cath. Right now, it's summer, and anything about gardens will easily distract me.

I'll second the call out for the BBC. They do it better than any others. Right now, I'm enthralled with the modern detective series that just ended, Zen!

DesLily said...

ohhh, i just looked up A Wild Life that i see on your sidebar, it looks pretty good.. I hope it's as good as the amazon reviews of it!

Kailana said...

hm, I am not sure what themes exist in my reading choices. I tend to be a bit all over the place.

Cath said...

Pat: Yeah, the Angie Sage YA books are so good I just gobbled them up. Absolutely love them and my grandaughter is happily feeding my addiction by lending me two more. lol.

You left another comment about The Wild Life which seems to have gone into hiding but yes, it's good. I've really only just started it but am enjoying the flavour of Africa already.

Kelly: Well thank you. I only wish it was true! LOL. But I have to say the explorer thing appeals but am sure if push came to shove I would not be brave enough.

I like that 'triumph against adversity' type of thing too, it always makes for a great story.

I wondered if there would any science people replying and weirdly, I even wondered if it might be you. Not sure why I thought that. Science was never my thing but then I love science fiction... which makes no sense at all. :-)

LizF: Yes, I fancy going to Cape Cod like crazy. We've been to Vermont, New Hampshire and bits of surrounding states but didn't make it to the coastal areas of New England, sadly. One day, hopefully.

I'd be interested to hear how your fare with The Games of Thrones. It's on my radar but I didn't see the TV series as I'm not too keen on Sean Bean. And anyway, I think it was only on Sky...

Your snail story made me laugh. But it's a typical French passtime as they do a lot more foraging than we do. My late sister-in-law was amazed to find things like walnut trees all over the countryside for people to help themselves to. Her French neighbour did the snail thing too and I think my s-i-l tried them but wasn't keen. I think she deserved a medal for even trying quite frankly. She said it just tasted of the garlic stuff they preserve them in.

I like reading about Italy but don't think I could live there because of the heat. Wouldn't say no to a holiday there though. One day...

Yvonne: French should feature in my fav subjects as well. At one stage I did think about being a translator but back then it was more difficult for girls to have a profession. They seemed to want all girls to be typists. I ended up in a bank, which I duly hated.

Oh, I so agree with 'Dave'. The BBC are brilliant at documentaries so why they need to try and compete with ITV over rubbish soaps and things like Big Brother I have no idea.

Historical romance used to be my absolute favourite genre... Victoria Holt, Georgette Heyer and so on. I still read a bit of it but could do with exploring a few of the newer authors a bit more.

I wouldn't actually need to go scrabbling round in the hedges as we have plenty of snails in the garden... ;-)

lifeonthecutoff: We have very similar tastes except that I haven't read anything on the American homefront in WW2. That might be an interesting thing to look into for my November armistice day reading.

I gather Zen has been quite successful across the pond! We saw one and them somehow missed the rest.

Kailana: Well, *someone* has to be all over the place! LOL.

Cath said...

Pat: I just found your 2nd. comment in the spam box! Wondered where it had gone...