I’ve decided to trial a monthly post on the books I’ve read. Reading is an important part of my life and I love finding posts on other people’s blogs with their book recommendations. Not only do I find it useful for discovering new books I might enjoy, but I find that it’s a good way of getting to know more about a person. When I visit someone’s home for the first time, I’ll usually head straight for their bookshelf to check out what’s there. Blog posts about books are like a virtual bookshelf.
I read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. I like books about, or set in, the places I visit or by authors from these places. These could be novels, ethnographies, travel writing, biographies, histories, cookbooks or books on local politics and issues.
I like to read a mix of ‘serious’ books interspersed with action-packed thrillers for a bit of lighthearted respite (Lee Child and Matthew Reilly are favourites at the moment). I’m also partial to detective stories, particularly if they are set in an interesting place. (I’m thinking Ann Cleeves for her Shetland books, Barbara Nadel for her Istanbul settings and Alexander McCall Smith for his Mma Ramotswe series set in Botswana.) And of course, my fascination with all things Scandinavian means I’m a huge fan of Nordic Noir and love that so much of it is easily available in English now.
So what have I been reading this month?
The Sleeper by Emily Barr
Emily Barr is known for her psychological thrillers with a travel theme. This one starts off in Cornwall with a weekly commute on the overnight sleeper train to London. A group of regulars look forward to their journeys together and enjoy having drinks in the bar before retiring to their tiny rooms. One Saturday morning, as the train pulls into Penzance, one of the regulars is found dead and another has disappeared. The story moves to London and on to Thailand and slowly bits of the protagonist’s past are revealed. The book kept me guessing almost to the end, not so much about who the culprit was, but about how it was all going to turn out.
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
Each year various newspapers report on surveys listing countries in order of how happy the population is. Denmark always comes out on top. Meik Wiking from the ‘The Happiness Research Institute’ in Copenhagen (of course Denmark has a Happiness Research Institute, why wouldn’t it?) has written this book about Hygge (the pronunciation sounds something like Hoogger) which is the name for those times when you are with close friends, carefree and cocooned in an atmosphere of cosiness, tranquility and intimacy. Danes take their hygge very seriously and have it down to a fine art.
No wonder they’re all so happy.
Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring
This play was written in 1939. I read it years ago and decided to re-read it this month because my 12 yr old niece has just scored one of the lead roles in her school production. The book is out of print, but I tracked down a copy on Amazon.
The story is a dark comedy about two lovely, elderly sisters who live with their nephew, a man who would be described as having learning difficulties today.
The sisters want to do their best for everyone and when a male visitor dies unexpectedly they notice how much more peaceful and content he looks dead than he was when alive. They decide to help other single, lonely gentlemen by inviting them round with the pretence of having a room to rent and then killing them off with arsenic-laced wine.
The farce that ensues involves gangsters, extra bodies and the digging of the ‘Panama Canal’ in the cellar. If you can get hold of a copy, read it. It’s great.
What did you read in November? Share in the comments below.