I, Etcetera – Susan Sontag
In hindsight, I think it was a mistake to read I, Etcetera. Not because it was particularly bad (although it was hard to read in places), but because though I wanted to read something by Susan Sontag, her fiction isn’t exactly what she’s known for. I should have just gone for one of her books of essays, or her monographs, or hell, one of the fiction works that were actually celebrated, rather than an obscure collection of short stories. Let that be a lesson to me on just getting the first thing I can find from the Library catalogue.
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Oryx And Crake – Margaret Atwood
I’ve been meaning to read one of Margaret Atwood’s books for years. Actually, thinking about who it was that was originally recommended her to me, it’s probably the better part of a decade, or round about the time that Oryx and Crake was published. Despite this intention, I don’t think I really knew anything about her fiction, aside from a vague idea that it may reside vaguely within the science fiction genre.
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The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
While I was reading The Bell Jar I frequently found myself reminded of Save Me The Waltz. There are a lot of parallels between the two: both are semi-autobiographical novels written by talented women married to more famous literary men (in this instance the poet Ted Hughes), and both deal with the tragedy of mental illness. Fortunately, The Bell Jar is by far the easier of the two to read, and arguably the story is more interesting.
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Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
Set in the mid-1970s Tales of the City chronicles the lives of a handful of San Franciscans over a number of months, exploring their relationships with each other, their families and their own identities. It’s fairly easy to read, and, as long as you’re not too close-minded to be bothered by reading about mild drugs use and homosexuality, enjoyable enough. But that’s about the best you can say of it.
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Murder On The Orient Express – Agatha Christie
Murder On The Orient Express is probably the most famous book, starring possibly the second-most famous fictional detectives, written by probably the second-most famous Mystery writers, (Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle deny Poirot and Christie the top spots), but I still came into it knowing nothing beyond what can be easily surmised from the title. Boy was I in for a thrilling ride?
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The Sun Maiden and the Crescent Moon: Siberian Folk Tales – ed. James Riordan
How exactly do you set about reviewing a book of folk tales? You can’t exactly pass comment on the stories themselves, because, well, they’re folk tales. You don’t expect the same things of them that you would expect from fiction, and nor do they attempt to present that. You could talk about the verisimilitude of the stories that are featured, but that only works if you actually know the stories before their codification, or in the original language. Neither of which I do.
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“Through the magic of Instagram, the average person with a cellphone camera can take a normal picture and add depth, grit, and even a sense of made-to-order nostalgia. Now imagine an app that would let you apply this same capability to literature. Something that would allow you to–with just a few swipes on your smartphone–take a pedestrian piece of prose and instantly transform it into something more memorable…”
A Novel Idea: An Instagram for Books (The Best of Book Riot).