Thursday, July 13, 2006

Book learning, never made the cut. Half time report.

You may well have realised that I liked the books that I read in 2006.
In order to get reviewed here I had to have finished the book, thus, I had to be able to stick it through to the end. Accordingly, the chances of my liking it would inevitably be higher than the stuff I tossed aside after 3 pages.

Here are the ones that never made the cut.

American Sphinx, the character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis.

I fell in love with Thomas Jefferson some years ago, from afar. It was August 2001, I was trawling through DC sniffing the very sidewalks that LBJ had once stode. My guide, the very lovely cousin Emily took me over to the Jefferson Monument where we spied the most amazing National Parks guide fer-reaking out about how Jefferson started this great experiment, this dream, this vision, this United States. He had me at hello.
Fast forward five years, I'd just read Christopher Hitchen's bio of Jefferson which pleased me greatly. This was for a number of reasons, it was thin and quick and gave me a cursory knowledge of one of history's most fascinating men. In lust for more information I turned to this expecting more depth and thus improving myself as a human being. I have to say that I'm sure I'll read this within the next five years but coming so soon on the tails of a much better jefferson book I didn't have the guts to stick it through. It still sits upon my shelf waiting it's time.

I got about 2 chapters in, then my show came on.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.

This was heavily recommended by a friend who had spent the previous six months telling me all about it. Whilst I had enjoyed our drunken conversations about civilisation and how some stuff happens to some people and not to others I had no idea that I would be loaned this book and expected to read it.
I tried. I really, almost tried. There were just too many big scientific words.
Then I discovered that there's a PBS show of the same name!
Netflix just saved my life.

I struggled through the first chapter, that "Yali's question" one.

What's the matter with Kansas? by Thomas Frank.

I should care more. I really should. I should be much more interested in why the Democrats have lost chunks of the American Heartland. But when whinging liberals wring out their whinging tears in self loathing such as this I'm inclined to vote Republican.
Of course I didn't mean that, and I'm sure that this book contains much that we can all learn from and that by working together we can eventually overthrow the evil Rumsfeld/Cheney Politburo. It's just that I hated his tone, his style and his withering "Oh look at me, I've discovered why nobody likes Democrats". Listen Buddy, If you had all the answers we would have all read your book and taken down the man.

I read about 6 pages.

February must have been a pretty cool month for reading as I have no failures to report. Onto March.


The History of the Church by Eusebius.

What with all the hoolah about 'The Da Vinci Code' I figured that I should get to the root of the matter. Whilst redecorating the apartment I discovered a copy, belonging to Frau Random Doubt, of an ancient text that would surely explain everything I needed to know. The trouble with ancient texts is that they tend to be written in an ancient style, with an archaic use of language, having been translated by some old communist from Oxford University in the 1930s. I would have been better off watching the History Channel with it's endless 'Cracking the code' specials.
This also reminded me of the books I had to read during Classics A' Level at Wymondham College. I enjoyed those.

I got about three pages in on the subway but boy did I look esteemed and scholarly with my battered penguin and big coat.

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittan.

Will somebody please make a superb movie (or even better a BBC Miniseries?) about this book?
I should have loved it. Anyone who knows me will know that I am openly fascinated by the 'lost generation', those who did not return from what I still like to refer to as 'The Great War'.
Frau Random Doubt read this book last summer having stolen it from my mother's shelves. She spent the next month weeping, asking questions and just being completely engrossed in this account of love and life and death in the upper middle classes of English society during the first quarter of the 20th century. It was a real delight to see such a voracious reader so completely hooked. I tried, and funnily enough I enjoyed it, well, what I read. But there you go, sometimes you just fall at the third chapter, which I did.
On a side note, I purchased the sequel 'Testament of Experience' for 20p in a Norfolk charity shop. Which Frau Random Doubt also enjoyed.

I got about halfway through the second chapter, I await the miniseries.

I suppose I have done fairly well in my choices since then. I have nothing more to add. I shall update this list towards the end of the year.


Listmaker said...

love this idea for an entry. i mean, i voted for it, i've got to love it.

yeah, i couldn't read the diamond book either. i read about 100 pages or so. the pbs series is a perfect cliff's notes and i was transfixed by diamond's voice and demeanor.

Mondale said...

I love you , you great big wonderful thing of a man you!
Come and get drunk with me, now!

ms.bri said...

I would never have even picked up any of those books. I can't decide if that makes you smarter than I or... er....