Books ‘“ buy or borrow?

I’™ve just received the January/February 2008 issue of newbooks magazine. It is full of information, articles, interviews and so on and so on ‘¦ plus the special offers. In each magazine there is a choice of a free give-away (you pay p & p costs). There are extracts from each book to tempt you into further reading. This month the choice is between:

On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
The Welsh Girl, Peter Ho Davies
The Oxford Murders, Guillermo Martinez
The Coroner’™s Lunch, Colin Cotterrill
Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders, Gyles Brandreth

I’™m not sure which one to pick. It won’™t be On Chesil Beach because I’™ve already got that book. The others all look as though I’™d like to read them, so when I get time I’™ll be reading the extracts, before deciding which one to pick.

Well, that’™s about free books, but the magazine is packed with details of other books and it’™s simply not possible to buy all or even many of them. This is where the Library is a fantastic service. I borrow more books than I buy ‘“ fortunately says my husband! I have always, as long as I can remember, been a member of a library and for a while I worked as a librarian, so I’™m always enthusiastic about libraries. Where else can you get such a wide-ranging and all encompassing supply of free books?

Although I’™m extolling the virtues of the library system I also buy books, because there are books I want to read again, books to read at leisure, without being told I’™ve got to return them as someone else has reserved them and books I want to own. I buy books regularly (too regularly my husband says) and from a variety of different sources ‘“ local bookshops, there are several really good ones locally. I prefer to check out the books in the shops where possible but I also buy books from Amazon and other on-line booksellers. So, it’™s a big help to find that BooksPrice now has a UK website that compares prices from on-line booksellers. Next year I’™ll be checking them out before buying a book.

Booking Through Thursday – And, the Nominees Are’¦.

What fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?(Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’™t count.)
What non-fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?(Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’™t count.)
And, do ‘œbest of’ lists influence your reading?
Looking through the list of books I’™ve read this year I see that most of them are not new books published in 2007, so I don’™t have much difficulty in deciding which ones I would nominate.

In the fiction category my nominations are:

1. Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert, about mystery, magic, memory, full of psychological tension
2. Playing with the Moon by Eliza Graham, about memories, bereavement and the legacy of war
3. Speaking of Love by Angela Young, about misunderstandings, loss and above all love
4. Over by Margaret Forster about grief and death, heart-breakingly sad

My brief descriptions only give a flavour of the books and although they are all different it seems they have a lot in common ‘“ love and memories and loss.

I have only one nomination in the non-fiction category and that is:

The Verneys by Adrian Tinniswood ‘“ the lives of the Buckinghamshire Verney family in turbulent seventeenth century during the English Civil War ‘“ love, war and madness.

‘œBest of’ lists are interesting and I suppose they do influence my reading to a certain extent. Since I started reading blogs, about two years ago now, I am more influenced by recommendations from bloggers, particularly when I know they have similar reading tastes to mine. I’™m also influenced by books I see in bookshops and especially in my local library. Sometimes I prefer to pick up a book without knowing anything about it or the author and am often surprised by how much I enjoy it.

Goodbye Cranford – Hello Oliver

Sunday saw the last episode of ‘Cranford’. The final episode was very dramatic and there was a happy ending but overall I still felt disgruntled by the combination of three of Elizabeth Gaskell’s books. I suppose that if I hadn’t read ‘Cranford‘ I’d never have known that the difference. I wouldn’t have missed the parts that had been left out and I wouldn’t have known that the order of events had been changed. I enjoyed the non-Cranford scenes much more – the railway explosion and injuries, the Sophie/Dr Harrison love story and above all the Lady Ludlow scenes and the interaction between Lady Ludlow, Mr Carter and Harry. I thought that Alex Etel who played Harry Gregson was excellent.

Tonight the first part of ‘Oliver Twist’ is being broadcast at 8pm (not 9pm as I thought) on BBC1. I don’t have enough time to read the book before 9pm, so I shan’t be disappointed if the 5 part series (being shown in four nightly episodes this week and the fifth and final episode next weekend) is not faithful to the book. I haven’t read it before, but of course the story is so familiar from other films, musicals and TV productions. I don’t expect it to disappoint as ‘Cranford’ did, as I don’t suppose it will be a combination of three of Dickens’ books! Can you imagine combining ‘Oliver Twist’‘David Copperfield‘ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby’?

I’m also looking forward to watching The Old Curiosity Shop on ITV1 on Boxing Day. I haven’t read that either so I can watch it without any pre-conceived ideas.

First Sentences

Kate posted this meme, which she borrowed from Danielle, who in turn borrowed it from Sylvia. The idea is that you post the first sentence from each month in the year from your blog. Like Kate I’ve changed it a bit, skipping to the second post of the month if the first began with a quotation rather than a sentence I’d written myself, or if it was just something like “a good month for reading” as I usually start the month summarising what I’d read the previous month – and that’s just too boring. Not that the following sentences are brilliant at grabbing attention or exciting (note to self – I must try harder!)

I actually started my blog in July 2006 but only wrote one post, so I’m starting this list in April this year.

I’ve been meaning to write more, both in this blog and in other writing, but somehow there’s always something else to do.

Sunday was sunny, just perfect for a Bluebell Walk at Rushall Farm.

Daisy Lupin has started a new blog devoted to poetry and the theme for June is Poetry we loved as Children. (Sadly Daisy died in June, I did so enjoy reading her blog.)

It was D’™s birthday last Saturday and the grandchildren painted some beautiful pictures to give him.

Can anyone identify this please? (It was a Cinnabar Moth).

The year is on the turn and autumn is on its way.

Whilst in Stratford last week I browsed the bookshops, one of my favourite pastimes, and couldn’t resist buying The Complete Stories and Poems of Lewis Carroll.

Crossing to Safety was Wallace Stegner’™s last novel published when he was 78 years old.

The third episode of ‘œCranford’ is being shown on BBC1 this evening. (The last episode is on tonight.)

Any One for Brussel Sprouts?

We had to stay at home today, waiting for deliveries, so we had our shopping delivered as well. All well and good. We opted not to have our shopping put in carrier bags (thinking of the environment), so most things were loose, with just a few items wrapped. Everything on the order was there.

Imagine my surprise to find a little bag containing one tiny brussel sprout. When my husband had done the on-line ordering he hadn’t noticed that he needed to enter the weight required and had just put “1”, so that’s what we got – one sprout costing one penny! Fortunately he says he’s happy to share it with me.

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson

An intriguing book. This is the first book I’ve read for the From the Stacks Challenge.

I finished reading The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson at the end of November and have now got round to writing about it. I started it with great enthusiasm and found it a compelling book to read. It is a psychological mystery concerning the nature of belief, faith, and truth. It starts with an account of the disappearance and death of Gideon Mack and the discovery of a manuscript written by him shortly before he was last seen. It is clear right from the start that there is mystery and uncertainty surrounding his disappearance, death and the discovery of his body. The book centres on the manuscript with an epilogue containing ‘œnotes’ written by a journalist investigating the mystery, considering whether the manuscript was ‘œanything other than the ramblings of a mind terminally damaged by a cheerless upbringing, an unfulfilled marriage, unrequited love, religious confusion and the stress and injury of a near-fatal accident?’

Gideon Mack was a minister in the Scottish Church, even though he did not believe in the existence of God. He simply didn’™t discuss religion and discovered that ‘œit was possible to be a Christian without involving Christ very much’. He concentrated on works rather than on faith and threw himself into raising money for charity. One of his fundraising events was running in the London marathon and he found that running made him ‘œimmune to the world and its problems.’ Whilst out running in the woods he came across a standing stone that he was sure had not been there before. It is this stone that drew him further into the mysterious events that led to his disappearance. He took photographs of the stone, but they failed to come out. It is not clear whether the stone was actually there or not, any more than it is not clear what actually did happen to Gideon Mack.

Be aware:there are possible spoilers ahead.

As well as being a faithless minister Gideon was married to a woman whom he did not love and he was in love with Elsie, his best friend’™s wife. As I read the book I realised that it’™s just not clear whether Gideon’™s account is truthful and how much of it can be believed. Did he have an affair with Elsie or not? Did he see the standing stone, or was it just a figment of his imagination? Was he mad or deluded or what?

What is clear is that he fell into a ravine, trying to rescue a dog that fell into the Black Jaws and he was ‘œchurned and spun like a sock in a washing-machine, carried along by an immense, frothing, surging force.’ He thought that he ‘œcouldn’™t possibly have survived the fall’ but even if he had ‘œthe river would have killed’ him. He thought he must be dead. And it is at this point that he found he had been rescued by the Devil and spent three days with him before he eventually returned home. He claimed the Devil had healed his leg, broken from the fall, discussed the nature of belief and God with him and swapped his trainers for Gideon’™s shoes. Are the trainers proof that the Devil does exist? When Gideon saw the trainers they triggered his memory ‘“ but is his memory reliable? What is real, what is imagined and what is illusion?

The question of whether Gideon believes in God and the Devil as a result of his experience is not answered directly, although in remembering his near-death experience Gideon thought ‘œthere really is something good on the other side. I don’™t know what, but it’™s not the end.’

The book kept my interest to the end. I wanted to know what happened to Gideon, why he became a minister when he didn’™t believe in God, how he coped with living with the Devil when he had previously believed him to be a figment of his imagination, what was real, what was legend and are myths just metaphors. Like Surveillance this book is open ended. As Gideon said, ‘œYou either believe or you don’™t.’

Booking Through Thursday “Catalog”

“Do you use any of the online book-cataloguing sites, like Library Thing or Shelfari? Why or why not? (Or . . . do you have absolutely no idea what I’™m talking to?? (grin))
If not an online catalog, do you use any other method to catalog your book collection? Excel spreadsheets, index cards, a notebook, anything?”

Today’s Booking Through Thursday questions are spot on for me – as an ex-cataloguer, yes of course I catalogue my books. I did have most of my books in a database on my laptop but when this was stolen I was devastated. I had spent a long time entering in all the details of both my books and my husband’s and did not have a saved copy. I expect the thief was surprised to see my catalogue.

When I found LibraryThing I decided to use that instead. I think it is very good; I like being able to have an image of the book and other members’ listings and reviews. You can find photos of authors and suggestions for more reading. It’s easy to add in books as LibraryThing does all the work for you using data imported from booksellers and a long list of libraries. You can edit the info on each book if you want, add your own comments and sort your catalogue however you like. So far, I haven’t entered in all our books and add in a few more every so often. Although not long after I’d entered in a lot of books LibraryThing was unavailable for a few days and I thought perhaps I’d made a mistake using it. So when it came back on-line I printed off a copy of my entries.

If you haven’t seen LibraryThing have a look. You can see who else has the same books as you and there is a blog as well. Currently there is a photo competition “Holiday Book Pile Contest” for photos of, well – piles of books you receive or give for Christmas (what else?).

You can add a RandomBooks thing to your blog in various ways too – mine is over on the left sidebar.