Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and while I don’t participate every week (as the last couple of weeks I have been doing other memes) this week’s topic was too good to refuse.
So here we go, my Top Ten Bookish Problems! Let me know in the comments if you relate to any of these or have any bookish problems of your own you’d like to share!
- My to-be-read pile is so high it’s beginning to interfere with flight paths of local aircraft. But seriously, it is pretty astronomical and shouldn’t be judged by my Goodreads account which I have never managed to update fully. What I do know is back in Australia in boxes are at least 200 unread books. Here in Sweden I have maybe a dozen unread books. And my wishlist on The Book Depository I believe is around 270 books. So…my TBR pile is actually 500 books? Oops.
- I buy books faster than I can read them, as my first point there illuminated. I don’t know what it is about buying books. Maybe it’s the desire to have a choice when I choose my next book – I do have a bad habit of reading several books simultaneously.
- I do have a bad habit of reading several books simultaneously and also I swear I won’t connect all my problems like this. But this can be an issue. Because what happens is I find myself “reading” five books at once, but only actually reading two of them. After a few months some of the others have been left for so long I forget what has happened and have to restart them or shelve them for later. This definitely isn’t good for my reading habits and goals, so I need to try and dedicate myself to ACTUALLY FINISHING MY BOOKS more.
- Chocolate and books are a match made in heaven until you drop a few chocolate crumbs on a page and then in a desperate but futile effort to remove said crumbs from the page you accidentally smush them into the paper, permanently leaving a stain that says “I’m such an idiot that I spilled chocolate on my book”. Having said that, it’s probably better than coffee, or in one quite weird instance blood (it was an unnoticed paper cut, okay?)!
- Books that have lots of really short chapters can be a total pain because when you really want to go to sleep the “just one more chapter” syndrome kicks in…over and over again. And then all of a sudden you have to wake up in three hours and you’re faced with that crucial decision: do I just shrug and do an all-nighter, or do I pretend to be an adult and sleep even though I know I’ll feel like rubbish anyway? Younger me would have certainly voted the former of these two options, but these days those lines around my face are suggestive of a man who would choose the latter.
- Books that have really long chapters can also be a nuisance, because I hate finishing mid-chapter. I’ll give you an example. I read Norwegian Wood by Murakami a couple of years ago (and utterly adored it). This novel has 11 chapters, most of which are between 20 and 40 pages. Except the middle chapter, which if I remember has a little over 100 pages. Was this length necessary? Actually, yes – it was the most poignant section of the entire book and the part I remember the most as it added a lot of beauty to a story that was otherwise quite devastating. But sometimes I’m dumb and I start a chapter without looking how long it is, and then I’m faced with that same decision from problem number 5…
- Where can I possibly fit all these books? At the moment, three bookcases (some 20 boxes) of my books sit in Australia, half the world away, inside a storage unit until the day I can ship them over to Europe. Back in Australia, I rented a nice big 2 bedroom town house with an enormous lounge. Now I rent a tiny one room studio apartment, meaning the bed takes up half of the living room. We barely have room for one bookcase and already we have piles of books sitting everywhere. There is a certain charm to it, for sure, but I fear that home will suddenly appear to be a bookshop, one of those old but charming second hand ones with piles of books everywhere. Or maybe the one from Black Books, although in that case I need to start drinking heavier…
- Just as I think I might like to try e-books I suspect my eyesight is going on me. Yes, at the ripe old age of nearly 29 I suddenly find I can’t look at a bright screen for more than a couple of hours without my eyes and head hurting immensely (how did I ever play video games for days on end when I was younger?). Of course, there is a good chance a pair of glasses will fix this, and considering my entire direct family wears glasses this fate was perhaps a little inevitable. Unfortunately, I’m also stubborn about silly things and this may be one of them.
- I really don’t read enough. I know a lot of people say this but I really don’t. It’s been quite a few years since I read over 50 books in a year and averaged a book a week. What kind of aspiring writer and English teacher am I? I mean, I know I’m busy and have been for a few years with the whole international relationship that turned into me moving across the world and all that jazz, but still! I see you bloggers out there, those of you that read over 100 books last year, or in some cases over 200! You’re amazing, and I’m sure not aiming that high, but I would like to do a little bit better. We’ll see what this year brings. It’s early days still.
- I am never going to read all the books I want to read. It’s a stark realisation, but it’s probably true. Even if I could hit 50 books a week, it would take me 10 years to finish off my TBR list. And considering that TBR list has been conjured up entirely in the last 3 years, logically this means that in 10 years time, another 1500 books will be added to it. Fast forward the next 30 years, and if I haven’t died from a caffeine overdose the TBR list will likely be in the realm of 5 digits and I will be a heaving weepy sack of word-hungry disappointment…or maybe I’ll find a way to freeze time and yes that is what I’ll do actually so don’t worry I only have 9 bookish problems it turns out. Excellent.
What are YOUR bookish problems?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke And The Bookish, and this week the theme is books about friendship. So let’s get stuck into it!
- Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck: This classic novella, about the friendship between two migrant ranch workers who struggle to find work and make a living during the Great Depression, is the ultimate book about friendship. A slightly depressing ending, but brilliant all the same.
- Breath by Tim Winton: This novel about surfing and risk taking might be a strange one to suggest, but it does explore how friendships, while young, lead to peer pressure, and how the way we give into peer pressure and take risks for friends as well as ourselves can define who we become.
- The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje: Another odd one, Ondaatje is better known for novels like The English Patient. This novel, though, is set entirely on a ship and the friendship between three young boys travelling on it alone. A touching and sweet novel.
- Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien: I think it goes without saying that the bonds of friendship are absolutely vital in this story for the heroes to succeed in their quest. Often these same friendships end up saving various characters, too.
- Anything by John Green: All of Green’s books explore friendship on some level, usually friendship during the teenage years. I couldn’t choose one book by him over any other.
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: The friendship between young German girl Liesel and the Jewish Max, during Nazi Germany, is one of the most touching friendships in any book ever. Portrayed well in the movie, you really need to read the book to fully appreciate this.
- The Jeeves and Wooster series by P. G. Wodehouse: Sure, Jeeves might be bumbling aristocrat Bertie Wooster’s butler. But he is fiercely loyal throughout this series, even when it seems like he’s not, and he knows Wooster like nobody else. Friendship manifests itself in many forms, as these books prove.
- Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden: This classic Australian series of novels (apparently a second movie is in the works) is about a group of teenagers who must stay united when they return to their town from a camping trip to find the whole country has been invaded. Quite literally their friendship is all they have left.
- Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom: This wonderful piece of non-fiction about the time Albom spent with an old professor of his, Morrie, during Morrie’s dying days, is a perfect depiction of a more unusual type of friendship. Despite not corresponding with one another for over 16 years, their eventual friendship had a profound effect on Albom.
- Red Dog by Louis de Bernières: You know the saying, dog is a man’s best friend. This book was based on tales of a real dog who lived in Western Australia and was known by a massive community as it floated from home to home on various adventures. The movie adaptation was quite sweet, too.
What books about friendship are among your favourites?
This week’s post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn’t. For me, this is quite an interesting one.
Once upon a time I used to make a point of finishing every book, no matter how much I disliked it, as if out of a sense of duty. But this conflicted with another reading habit of mine – reading several books at once, so that some books I would zoom through while other books would sit on the sidelines half read for months and months. Sometimes I would return to those books, but sometimes I would realise I didn’t want to, and I would shelve them with the thought that maybe in the future I might feel like reading them from the start again.
So these books I almost put down but didn’t may stem, in some cases, from me simply reading other books at the same time that were better, or just not being in the mood for that kind of story at a certain moment in time. In other cases, the story may have been boring me, or I may have been actively disliking the story and had to force myself on as I clung to some desperate hope that maybe it would improve.
Without further ado, I give you my ten books I almost put down but didn’t, in no particular order (other than the order I found them when scouring my Goodreads shelves):
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This was a really captivating story, with some really likeable characters and amazing imagery through the circus itself. It bordered on the realms of fantasy in places but by not going in fully it retained this sort of unique magic feel about it. But then the story seemed to go on a bit long and as I waited for something, anything to happen, the story sort of fizzled out. The last quarter or so of this book took me a long time to read, I’ll say that.
- The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: Long-time readers of my blog will know my feelings about this book, winner of the Man Booker Prize a couple of years ago. It’s only a short book, and it reels you in with a couple of mysteries that you want to know the truth behind. But the characters are boring, a bit pathetic actually, and when you get to the end (the very end) and the final twists are delivered, they are so over the top they seem out of place. I only kept reading this in hopes of a satisfactory ending, but it was the ending that made me really dislike this book. Don’t waste your time on it.
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery: When I first picked this book up, I wasn’t in the mood for it. I think I was reading lighter literature and this novel is quite verbose to say the least. I tried again later that year and fell in love with it, reading it non-stop in every spare bubble of time I could find. Sometimes if you don’t like a book you thought you would like, you should try again at a later point rather than forcing yourself on then and there. This one isn’t for everybody, though, I must admit.
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie: One of Rushdie’s most successful books, both critically and commercially (it won the Booker of Bookers), I probably rushed into it without really understanding magic realism enough. So I didn’t fully get why the novel read the way it did, and that coupled with the fact it is quite lengthy made me struggle with it through my first reading. I would like to reread this one day, though, as I suspect I’d like it a lot more now.
- Evil For Evil by K. J. Parker: The second part of Parker’s Engineer Trilogy, an unusual Fantasy series containing no magic which follows an Engineer who is sentenced to death by an empire, escapes that empire, and then slowly rallies together kingdoms nearby to unite against the empire so that he can be reunited with his wife. The first part of this trilogy was intriguing, the third part was dramatic and clever, but this second part sort of dragged on in places. It had some good points, and was an interesting commentary on morals and ethics in wartime, but it could have been a couple hundred pages shorter.
- The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón: The second part of his four-part series of novels revolving around The Cemetery of Forgotten Books (the first being the extremely successful and amazing The Shadow of the Wind), this book was really quite confusing in a lot of places. Oddly enough, when I read the third book, The Prisoner of Heaven, it put this second book in better context and now I actually understand it better (and look forward to seeing how the fourth part ties everything together when it’s published). Just sheer confusion made me question finishing this one, at the time.
- Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez: Considered one of his masterpieces, this was the novel that introduced me to his work. I fell in love with the writing almost immediately, and the story was quite lovely in its own way too. But the middle part of the book seemed pointless in places, like it was just trying to bide time until the last quarter of the story. It was interesting to read but I can’t help feeling the beginning and end were much better than the middle, and for a brief while I wondered, while reading it, if it was going to get better again. Luckily, of course, it did.
- The Stranger by Albert Camus: A pretty weird book, to say the least. It’s one of those novels that people either love or hate, and it has a lot of content and themes and philosophy crammed into the few pages between the covers here. I think what makes it hard to read is the lack of emotion by the main character, who is sentenced to death for a murder but who is really condemned more for not feeling sad about his mother dying, as well as not being religious and so on. The story is meant to be slightly absurd, and it draws you into it by making you a judge of the situation too through it’s almost objective feel, but that doesn’t make it easier to read. Glad I did push on though, and I plan on reading more of his work at some point.
- We Are All Made Of Glue by Marina Lewycka: I think in this case I just got bored of the story. It read too much like her other novels, but the characters weren’t quite as charming anymore, the humour wasn’t quite as funny, and the storyline was nothing special anymore. I finished it, but I don’t feel inclined to read her latest book after how I felt about this one.
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: This is an interesting one. I chose to read this at university to write a critical essay on it for a creative writing course. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. The writing here is so thick, so dense, that it took forever to read each and every page of this story – it was like charging at a wall with my head down in an attempt to break into the room on the other side. In the end, I read it through fully three times before I wrote my essay. By the end of the third time I think I was starting to get it, but there’s still so many layers there for me to uncover. I only considered putting this down because it was so hard to dig into, but the rewards for doing so are plentiful. By memory I got a good mark for the essay, too.
And there we have it, my top ten books I almost put down but didn’t. Am I glad I finished these books in the end? For the most part, yes, but I am learning I don’t have to finish books if I don’t want to anymore.
What books have you almost put down but then forced yourself to finish off? Was it worth it?
This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the wonderful blog The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Book Covers I’d Frame As Pieces Of Art. Interestingly, when the theme was Top Ten Covers You’d Change back in November last year I could only find one so I changed the topic to my favourite covers for that week.
BUT my favourite covers don’t automatically translate as covers I’d frame as art. For example, if you look at that post I did here, you’ll see that one of the covers was a biography of Billy Connolly that featured him with his purple facial hair pulling a face on the front – a great cover, a hilarious photo capturing the sort of person he can be, but not something I would consider in my ten favourite artistic covers, so to speak. So some of these covers will be from that list, but some will be different.
Onwards we go – I won’t explain the covers because they’re fairly self explanatory I should think. Enjoy, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments as always!
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke And The Bookish, in which a lot of book bloggers around the world join in by writing a top ten list based on the topic corresponding to that week. This week the topic is recommending the top ten books based on a particular other book, TV show, movie, etc – for example, if you like this book, you’ll like this other book here. That sort of thing. Feel free to join in and do it on your own blog, just make sure you link back to the blog that started it all (and tell me so I can come and check it out)!
As you may have guessed, I’m recommending all my books on if you have a fondness for the ridiculous British comedy troupe known as Monty Python. In the 1960s and 1970s Monty Python shot to fame around the world, helping redefine comedy with their surreal brand of humour through 4 TV series (45 episodes in total), 4 movies, a live show, and a bunch of albums. Although Graham Chapman is no longer with us, sadly, the other 5 members have been working on a reunion live show that will be broadcast in cinemas around the world – this show, they have admitted, is also to be a final farewell to the group, most of whom are in their 70s now.
So it seemed appropriate to me to base my list on Monty Python. If you like Monty Python’s whacky, surreal, intelligent and most of all hilarious comedy, you’ll probably like these books:
- The Murphy by Spike Milligan: Spike Milligan became famous in the 50s as part of The Goon Show, a radio series with the same type of surreal humour that Monty Python became known for. Milligan went on to make sketch shows on television, write a lot of books including several novels and a seven part war memoir, and even write children’s poetry. He was clearly a big influence on Monty Python, so really I could have put any of his books on this list. I chose this one because he published it in 2000, at the age 0f 81, and I loved how funny he still was even as an old man. He attempts to write a lot of the accents through the spelling of words, and that alone makes this short novel a worthy read for Monty Python fans.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Douglas Adams openly admitted that Monty Python were a huge influence on him, and it shows in all of his novels. There’s a complete randomness to these stories, courtesy of the fact that he blows up the Earth early in the first book of the series and really makes anything possible. But underneath, there is some intelligent social commentary going on as well. Very funny books by a very funny man.
- The Road To Mars by Eric Idle: Yes, Eric Idle is one of the members of Monty Python, so this book is almost a given for this list. Written a bit over a decade ago, it focuses on a topic he knows well – comedy. The main characters are stand up comedians who travel the galaxy, but the character who most interested me was a robot who didn’t understand the distinctly human concept of humour, and spent his time trying to analyse it to figure out what makes something funny. Very thought provoking while still being as hilarious as you’d expect.
- The Last Girlfriend On Earth by Simon Rich: I’ve only just started reading this book today (my girlfriend is reading it right now while I write this) and I bought it after reading this review on the fabulous blog Books Speak Volumes. Just skimming through it and reading the odd page, I am already finding it hilarious and a lot of it is just totally absurd but in a brilliant way. While Monty Python might not be the first type of humour that this reminds me of, I definitely think fans of one would enjoy the other! Excited to sit down and properly read this later.
- Preincarnate by Shaun Micallef: Shaun Micallef is a much loved Australian comedian, and he snuck this little novel out a couple of years ago. I was quite impressed by it, for the plot was very complex and totally ridiculous, revolving around time travel and suspended animation. What made it extra funny, though, was the footnotes that Micallef added that sometimes interrupted the narrative flow on purpose – in much the same way that sketches are interrupted by other sketches in Monty Python. Very funny and one of the most insane novels I have ever read. I’d like to reread this one soon, actually.
- Calcium Made Interesting: Sketches, Essays, Letters and Gondolas by Graham Chapman: Graham Chapman was also one of the Monty Python troupe, but sadly he died back in 1989. This book is a collection of essays and other various writings by Graham, all of which is hilarious. Often with these sort of books I tend to skim through looking for the more interesting parts, but this one I quite happily read all of – it was just too good! Some of his best work is in here, I think.
- The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson: This is one of the most popular Swedish books of recent years both in Sweden (where it was the best-selling novel the year it came out) and around the world, and recently was turned into a film (which is a reason I need to hurry up with my Swedish language learning). Basically about what the title says, a man who on his hundredth birthday decides to jump out the window and run away, and all the crazy things that happen as a result, interspersed with tales from his youth. Another absurd story, I think it’s the surrealism and unlikeliness of it that makes me think of Monty Python.
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: I know some of you are thinking “what? He’s clutching at straws now!” But I’m not, nor am I including this just because it’s my favourite ever book, so hear me out. Catch-22 was a hilarious book which ultimately served to expose the real lunacy of war through situations and scenarios which seem too absurd to be possible, but which clearly are quite possible and probable (many of which Heller drew from experience). Likewise, Monty Python often tried to expose the lunacy behind a lot of things, from blind belief and religious fanaticism in “Life of Brian” to politics and media in their TV series, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Besides, both this book and Monty Python reside among my favourite ever things, so, you know. It’s got to mean something, right?
- Mrs Fry’s Diary by Mrs Stephen Fry: Monty Python had a bit of an obsession with dressing up as women for sketches (as the main six members were men, although they did have women who often worked on their films and shows as extras too), and the results were often hilarious. Stephen Fry, the much loved host of intelligent quiz show QI, documentary person, novel writer and all round word-wizard, sometimes writes as Mrs Stephen Fry, playing his apparent wife as his alter-ego. This book is a year’s worth of diary entries, and it is very rude, crude and absolutely hilarious. Fry really knows how to twist words to get every last bit of humour out of them.
- An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 Years Of Upper Class Idiots In Charge by John O’Farrell: This last one is my favourite ever history book. So why am I recommending it if you like Monty Python? Because it is also the funniest history book I have ever read, poking fun at just about every bit of Britain’s past over the last couple of millennia. The humour is often quite absurd and more often just downright silly, just like the comedy in both of Monty Python’s single-story films (the other two were sketch compilations) which were set in the past. Unlike those films though, this book is fairly accurate (and obvious when its not). A must-read for comedy fans of any kind, and of course history buffs.
I actually could have come up with a few more books, but this post is long enough already. I’d love to hear from you, Monty Python fan or not, on whether you have read any of these books and what your thoughts are on them or the Pythons!