Who’s Story? A Look At The World’s Forgotten Histories

History is a funny old thing. It very often favours the victors over the defeated when it comes to wars, it favours the fools over those who just do their job when it comes to rulers and monarchs, and it favours places that still exist over those that simply do not, for whatever reason that may be. For many people, they are taught history accordingly, and then, unless they have a passion for the subject, their knowledge of it ends there.

But for those who do have an interest in history, it soon becomes clear that there is an enormous amount of it that is less known. There are whole civilisations that have existed of which people are unaware, colonies that failed miserably that are never discussed, and important events in history that happen to be obscure and eclipsed by bigger, but possibly less significant, events. Luckily, there is an abundance of historians (much more knowledgeable and professional than I) who are interested in these almost forgotten stories from the past, and are piecing them together for the rest of us to discover. What follows is a brief run down of some of these books I have recently encountered.

Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-forgotten Europe by Norman Davies

This amazing and enormous book focuses on Europe over the last couple of millennia, and all the various kingdoms, duchies, empires and republics that have now disappeared and almost been forgotten, but which, in their own times, were major fixtures on the map. These 800 odd pages, littered with many colour prints of photographs and artworks, as well as various other diagrams, maps, family trees and tables throughout, cover 15 different forgotten stories, from the successive kingdoms of Burgundy, to a Mediterranean empire by the name of Aragon, and from a little known Visigoth kingdom known as Tolosa in the fifth century, to a republic that lasted an entire one day in 1939. In almost all of these histories, the reason they have been forgotten is simply that they do not exist anymore, and in most cases haven’t existed for several centuries so that we have simply forgotten them. Norman Davies has done a fabulous job in bringing these places back to life, describing them and their histories in a mammoth amount of detail. Perfect for the avid history enthusiast.

History’s Great Untold Stories: Obscure Events of Lasting Importance by Joseph Cummins

In this book, Joseph Cummins focuses on specific events or episodes in history that are significant enough to have altered the world, yet, for some reason, have been obscured by time, and in many cases outright forgotten. This book looks at 28 different events, revealing some amazing places, people and little known conflicts, all backed up with historic illustrations and maps. Many of the events are quite enormous in their impact, such as the unlikely Russian victory over the dominant Swedish Empire which permanently switched the balance of power in Eastern Europe, and a bloody revolution in China that occurred in the 1800s and resulted in a death toll second only to that of World War Two. What is great about this book is that the writing is elegant and accessible, meaning that you don’t necessarily need to be a history buff to appreciate many of the great tales found within, though of course the intriguing nature of the stories still makes it ideal for historians, too.

Ghost Colonies by Ed Wright

I must confess that I don’t possess this book, and am struggling to get my hands on it (I have a suspicion that it’s out of print). From what I can gather, and from what I remember when I looked at it once in a bookshop (and foolishly didn’t buy it, never to see it again), it essentially looks at attempts by various countries throughout history to colonise new lands, only to have these attempts fail miserably. Usually these failures can be from any one of a number of things, from ignorance and naivety about the new lands and their climates, to disease, infighting or fighting with native peoples, and even sometimes simply due to being abandoned by their masters. Again, history tends to remember the colonies that did last, and as many of these barely lasted a few years or even months, they have long since been forgotten, the only records of their existence being from diary entries, official records, a small number of other sources, and sometimes archaeology. This is a book I definitely need to get my hands on, somehow.

Are there any books you know of, or have read, that deal with history that is almost forgotten?

Not another blog post about The Hunger Games? a.k.a. The Inevitable Blog Post

About two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about books that people presume I have read, that I haven’t. Among the books I mentioned in that post was The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins. Since then, I have finished the first book, and am about to commence reading the second tonight, so I thought now would be a good time to, if not exactly review, discuss some of my thoughts regarding what I have read so far, as well as some of the issues other people are having with the book.

I must admit, I approached this book with caution. It had been so hyped up, and while the story sounded interesting (although alarmingly like that of Battle Royale), I did harbour significant doubt. Much of the hype, especially generated by the movie, seems to be about ridiculous things as well, from people comparing it to Twilight (no, please don’t say “Team Peeta”, because firstly you look like an idiot, and secondly this is absolutely nothing like Twilight), to the shocking racism of people appearing over social networks (over the colour of Rue’s skin in the movie…which happened to match the book’s description exactly, thereby only proving how stupid and ignorant the people making these racist comments really are).

Anyway, I digress. I opened the book up, and read the first chapter. Then I read the second, and the third, and I realised very quickly that I was reading this book at a ferocious speed, and had to use all of my willpower to put a bookmark in the book, place it next to me, and go to sleep before the sun came up. For the next couple of days, my reading of this book occurred in a similar manner. At times I found myself surprisingly on edge, my eyes wide open and my jaw gaping as I swept through some of the more dramatic scenes in the actual Hunger Games tournament itself. And then suddenly, before I knew it, it was over, the book had ended, and I stopped to catch my breath.

I think what I have just described is one of the main strengths of the book – the absolutely rollicking pace. Although the writing isn’t particularly strong or mindblowing (and at times towards the end of the book it actually felt a bit clumsy, particular when Katniss was just thinking to herself), it didn’t need to be anything special because the plot and the characters carried the story so well, and any kind of flowery language would have just slowed it down. It was very easy to visualise the story as well, which I suspect is why it has translated to film so well (I am yet to see the film, though), and perhaps most importantly, the language was accessible in such a way as to be enjoyable by readers of various ages and reading abilities.

Do I think it is a teenage novel? Yes, but I think it can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults as well.

Do I think it is too violent for teenagers? No, of course not – teenagers learn about the horrors and atrocities of many of the wars and war crimes of last century as they go through high school. If they learn about these real atrocities, which are much more horrific than the fictional matter of the Hunger Games, then why are people making such a big deal about the violence in this story? Sure it is a little brutal and confronting (particularly the characters of Cato and Clove – the hatred in these characters is quite scary), but we can’t sugarcoat everything – they’re teenagers, not toddlers, and this is a fictional novel, not a behaviour guide that is instantly going to make teenagers everywhere become more violent. Get a grip, people!

And lastly, do I think this is a good dystopian novel? Yes, on the whole. Many people compare it back to the classic dystopian novels, such as Brave New World and 1984, but we have to keep in mind that both of those novels were written in the first half of the twentieth century – it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The concept of dystopia itself has shifted dramatically in the last half a century, particularly as some of the ideas in those older novels are actually coming to fruition, and so dystopian novels now are likely to move in new directions, and to attract a different kind of audience. I won’t say this book was a classic, but it is certainly hinting at the future of this genre of fiction.

The Hunger Games is not likely to take a place among my favourite novels of all time, but, having said that, it is a really good novel, and I did actually give it 5 stars on GoodReads (I sat there deciding between a 4 and a 5 for a while…I think I would have settled for a 4.5). If you’ve been avoiding reading this because of all the hype, like I was doing, I urge you to give this a go – you might be pleasantly surprised.

If you have read this, what are your thoughts on it? Overrated? The best book you’ve read in ages? A load of rubbish? I’d love to hear people’s opinions on this.

On Poetry – Part 3: The Villanelle – what is it, and what’s so good about it?

On Poetry – Part 3: The Villanelle – what is it, and what’s so good about it?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, in just under three days time, I will be partaking in the Poetry Writing Month challenge, in which I write 30 poems in 30 days. Some awesome people have already agreed to participate in this as well, which is quite exciting, and I am looking forward to the challenge immensely.

As part of this challenge, I am going to write a few blogs about different poetic forms, trying to focus on some of the lesser known, but perhaps more enjoyable, forms. I will outline the rules for each one, show examples, and explain what it is I personally like about it, as well.

Perhaps my favourite form is the villanelle. This form includes a lot of repetition to enforce a somewhat circular structure, not allowing any linear progression of narrative, but instead bringing the focus back around to the same thoughts and emotions, and really honing in on these, adding to their power and poignancy. It is relatively easy to get the hang of, and despite being a four hundred year old form, it has seen a great rebirth in the last century, due to its almost song-like qualities (indeed, when it first appear centuries ago, it was likely to have been sung like a song).

The basics of it are as follows. A villanelle consists of 19 lines, broken into five stanzas of 3 lines each, and ending on a final stanza of four lines. The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas, while the last line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas, and these two repeated lines then both reappear to make the last two lines of the final stanza. As a result, the whole poem falls into an aba rhyme scheme, with one sound being repeated thirteen times and the other six times. More importantly, once you’ve written the first stanza, you’ve also written the last lines of every other stanza, and so you just have to go back and fill in the blanks, so to speak – the circular structure has already been created.

Before going into any more detail, I think now is a good time for a couple of examples. In the first poem, some of the repeated lines are tweaked a little – this is alright as long as it is roughly the same as the line it should be repeating. In the other poem the lines are repeated with precision.

One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practise losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight,
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Hopefully by reading through these two poems, you can see how this form works, how the repetition of the lines and the tight rhyming pattern keep a circular, musical feel to the villanelle. Hopefully you can see that this form isn’t restrictive – rather it is like a guide, to help steer thoughts and feelings in a particular way, while putting them down on the page. Hopefully these two poems, both from the twentieth century I might add, can demonstrate the different ways you can follow the rules of this form too – one follows it loosely, the other much more rigidly, yet both are powerful in their individual ways.

Since discovering this form, thanks to the book The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland, I have written maybe a dozen villanelles myself, and have utterly enjoyed writing them. No doubt I’ll write a few more over April, as well.

If you have never tried writing a villanelle before, have a go at writing one. You’ll be surprised how enjoyable it is, even if you’re not overly keen on writing or reading poetry. And if you do write one, I would love to read it, or even just hear about your experiences of attempting to write a villanelle, which can be as exciting as the final product itself.

Happy writing!

Poetry Writing Month – because what I needed was another writing challenge…

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets nominated the month of April every year as National Poetry Month, a month in which poets, booksellers, schools, and various other literary organisations come together to celebrate poetry and its importance to American culture.

Since 2003, in this very same month, a challenge known as National Poetry Writing Month (or NaPoWriMo for short…yes, it’s based roughly on the structure of National Novel Writing Month) has been held, in which participants are to write a poem every day for the full 30 days of the month. You don’t have to put these poems online, by any means, although you most certainly can post them online if you want to, and the whole thing is free and highly flexible. For those looking for more information, the website can be found here: http://www.napowrimo.net/

Like NaNoWriMo, NaPoWriMo of course extends beyond its national borders, as anybody around the world can do it. And so, despite my relative isolation down here on this giant, funny shaped and generally dangerous island called Australia, and also despite the other writing challenges currently eating away my time, such as my 12 Novellas challenge, I will be entering NaPoWriMo next month, and writing a poem a day. Will I be publishing them online? I haven’t decided yet (but with less than 4 days left of March I’d better hurry up). But I will be most certainly posting a few poetry related blogs up, including continuing my On Poetry series of blogs which will now delve into specific poetic forms (if you missed them, Part 1 can be found here, and dealt with a few general thoughts about poetry, and Part 2 can be found here, and looked at some great books of poetry to help inspire you). I will also still be posting my usual book reviews and general bookish ramblings, as well.

It's not that scary once you give it a go, I promise...

Whether you love poetry and read and write it regularly, or you loathe it, or are simply too unsure of how to even approach it, let alone write it, I urge you all to consider giving this a go. It should be quite a lot of fun, and once you’ve written the first few poems you’ll find them coming to you quicker and quicker. Poetry is an often misunderstood form of expression, but like with many things, the best way to learn is to plunge straight into the deep end.

So, will you be joining me in this lunacy? (Please say yes…)

Where’d all my bookmarks go? (Books I started but never finished…)

I have a bad habit with reading. Rather than reading one book at a time, like a sensible person, I read several books at a time, and if a new book comes along that catches my attention, I start reading that one too. As a result of this, every now and then I realise I have completely forgotten to finish a book, abandoning it either on purpose or by sheer distracted accident.

And so without further ado, here are some books I started but never finished, including vague attempts at explaining what went wrong in the whole reading process…

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Actually, this one is quite simple to explain. I tried reading it once a couple of years ago, and managed to get about fifty pages or so into it, where upon I discovered two things: one, not much had happened other than a ridiculous amount of characters being introduced, and two, I still had approximately a bazillion pages left to read. I know this is a classic, and many people have told me that this book is worth it if you have the patience to read it until the very end. The truth is, though, that I have read many books over the thousand page length, and had no trouble getting through those books, so I think it is a very different kind of patience required for this tale. Since my first attempt, I have labelled it with a small note reading “For Retirement”, and placed it back upon my shelf where it will stay for another four or five decades.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

I almost finished this book. No, really, I did, I read more than three quarters of it and only had about a hundred pages left. I was enjoying the story, was moved by the plights of the characters, and the horrors of World War One, and generally was finding it to be a great book and another to add to the long list of much loved war books. So why did I stop reading it? I don’t know, to be honest. I suspect I was distracted by something, not just a bit distracted, but overwhelmingly distracted. It must have been a series of books, or something to take me away from this book for such a long time I just kind of…forgot…to come back and finish it. It has now been well over a year and I feel I need to start this book over, which is kind of annoying. But I will finish it one day.

Dune by Frank Herbert

I know, I know. How could I start this and not finish it? Well, quite easily, to be honest. I know some people get insanely excited about this, as if it were the Holy Grail of Science Fiction novels, but it just didn’t grab me when I first tried to read it. That was quite some time ago, and I perhaps wasn’t as disciplined with my reading as I am now, so maybe I should try again, because I normally don’t mind this genre. But so far, it hasn’t impressed me.

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I had heard so much about Jasper Fforde, and he was an author I had been wanting to try for ages. I didn’t know where to start, but when I saw this book in a shop, and realised it was the beginning of an entirely new series, I thought, why not, I’ll give it a shot. The idea sounded spectacular – a new, futuristic world, in which society is based on a hierarchical structure that depends upon how well you see different colours, as everyone’s colour vision is somewhat limited. So much of the story appears to play with these concepts and notions of colour, mixed in with deeper social commentary, but for some odd reason I never proceeded more than the first few chapters into this book. Again, I don’t know why, as I was enjoying it, so I will return to this one soon to find out what actually happens.

Something Happened by Joseph Heller

Regular readers of my blog will know that although Joseph Heller isn’t my favourite author, he is the author of my all time favourite book, Catch 22. Want to know why he isn’t my favourite author? This book here is the answer. Want to know what the something is that happens in this book? So do I, because I read three quarters of it only to find that absolutely nothing happens! Not a thing! This book was just utterly boring, dismally disappointing, and a far cry from the pure genius that filled the pages of his most successful novel. Rather infamously now, somebody interviewed him later in life and said “You’ve never written a book as good as Catch 22,” to which he replied “Nobody has.” Regardless of this, it’s no excuse for churning out such dribble as that which can be found in between the pages of Something Happened. I can safely say I won’t be coming back to finish off this book.

 

So there we have it, five books I stopped reading part of the way through, in some cases because I was bored to the point of fearing for my sanity, in other cases because I’m a silly person and am far too easily distracted.

Do you have any books you stopped reading halfway through that you would like to return to one day? Or any that you plan never to open even if your life depends upon it?

Revisiting The Kreativ Blogger Award (A massive thank you to some bloggers)

About five or six weeks ago I was nominated for the Kreativ Blogger and Versatile Blogger awards, which I addressed in a post here. It is lovely to be nominated for any kind of award at all, especially as my blog is so young and I still feel inexperienced as a blogger, having only started back in January this year.

Since being nominated by Roshni from Roshrulez’s Weblog that first time, I have been nominated another four times, and am completely stunned and grateful that so many people seem to enjoy my blog. The other nominators are Linnéa from Gotmybook, Bookbimbo from The BookBimbo Chronicles, Obscured Dreamer from her blog of the same name, and The Dandy Lion from Free Page Numbers. I thank all of you for nominating me, and you are all far too kind!

All of these blogs are awesome in a variety of different ways, and I urge you to not only check out these blogs but also the blogs I myself nominated in my original post for these awards, for which I provided the link at the start of this post. I also have another award I have been nominated for, called the Lucky Seven award. I will address this a bit further down the track, though, as I want to space out posts on this topic a little bit, and I felt that this particular thank you blog was well overdue!

To all of you who follow my blog, who read and comment or like my posts, and of course to those of you who have nominated me for an award at some point, thank you so much! Without you, I wouldn’t be here writing this right now. And to all of you who tinker away on your own awesome blogs, thank you too for writing down your thoughts and opinions and helping to create what is an awesome blogging community in which we all share. Even after a few months, I am still amazed at how nice and supportive everyone in this community is, and it is amazing to meet so many different people from all over the world, and from a wide range of different backgrounds, and yet find these little things in common with one another, and make these amazing connections which we may have otherwise not made.

Keep reading, keep writing, and keep blogging my awesome friends! You are all amazing!

A boxful of Wodehouse (the biggest delivery of books I’ve ever received)

As my last post probably suggested, I thoroughly enjoy reading anything by P. G. Wodehouse. This is likely a good thing, considering he has close to a hundred books published under his name. However, up until now I have only owned (and read) about 6 or 7 of his books. An arrival in the mail today will help me make a much more significant dent in the complete works of Wodehouse:

This didn't exactly fit in my letterbox...don't let this picture fool you, there's 20 books in this package.

For some odd reason, a lot of his books were being sold for ridiculously cheap from the website where I often purchase books (maybe it was a warehouse clean-out). So I had to take advantage of the opportunity, because, well, it was my duty, right?

Here are the books I bought, which I have attempted to group up according to the various series that Wodehouse wrote.

These books all form part of the Jeeves and Wooster series of stories, perhaps the most famous and loved series Wodehouse wrote. Most of my reading thus far from this author has been books based around bumbling Bertie Wooster and his ever brilliant butler Jeeves.

 

These books form part of the Blandings series, perhaps the second largest series of books Wodehouse wrote after the J&W books. What ties these books together is the setting of Blandings castle, and its various kooky inhabitants.

 

This picture includes books from some of the smaller series Wodehouse wrote, including the Uncle Fred series, the Golf series, and the Ukridge series. All of these remain untouched by me until now, but I have no doubt I will enjoy them.

 

These are all stand-alone novels, but all along similar themes to everything else Wodehouse wrote, as the book covers suggest. The covers also are a bit shiny, hence the slight glare on them. I haven't yet read any of Wodehouse's stand alone novels, so I am looking forward to seeing if they are still enjoyable without the familiarity of the characters (I am sure they are).

 

And lastly, some more stand-alone novels.

 

So there we have it, my massive Wodehouse book haul, in which I have probably gained close to a quarter of his total collection. I still have a lot left to collect, but this should tide me over for quite a while.

Are there any authors with extensive collections of books that you are trying to collect? Do you intend to read all of them or is part of the fun just owning them all?

The Wit and Wisdom of P. G. Wodehouse

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog in which I discussed a few different books of quotations, including those famous and those relatively unknown, many funny and some wise. Since then, I have bought another book of quotations, one which focuses on just one amazing author, P. G. Wodehouse. The book is called The Wit and Wisdom of P. G. Wodehouse, and is compiled and edited by Tony Ring.

I wanted to write a blog about this specific book for a number of reasons. Wodehouse was an amazing author, and a much loved humorist  during his long and illustrious career as a writer, during which he wrote nearly a hundred books. His books were quintessentially British, often making fun of the English aristocracy, but his writing was of such a nature as to be enjoyable by all kinds of readers. Evelyn Waugh believed that Wodehouse produced “three wholly original similes on each page,” which, if this is an exaggeration, is only a very slight one at that. Wodehouse’s ability to manipulate and play with words is unique, masterful and utterly joyful, and has inspired many writers over the last century.

This anthology includes some of the best quotes by Wodehouse from all his various novels and characters, and is compiled so that each left page contains witticisms, while the right hand pages have words of wisdom. For fans of Wodehouse, it is fun to indulge in some of these classic moments, while for newcomers it may provide a nice entrance into the world of this man’s magnificent mind.

Here are some of my favourites from this book:

Wit:

“Warm though the morning was, he shivered, as only a confirmed bachelor gazing into the naked face of matrimony can shiver.”

“He was in the acute stage of that malady which, for want of a better name, scientists call the heeby-jeebies.”

“‘…I assure you, on the word of an English gentleman, that this lady is a complete stranger to me.’ ‘Stranger?’ ‘A complete and total stranger.’ ‘Oh?’ said the bloke. ‘Then what’s she doing sitting in your lap?'”

“A melancholy-looking man, he had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life’s gas-pipe with a lighted candle.”

“It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can hear a snail clear its throat a mile away.”

Wisdom:

“It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.”

“It is a good rule in life never to apologise. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.”

“I was one of those men my mother always warned me against.”

“I attribute my whole success in life to a rigid observance of the fundamental rule – Never have yoursself tattooed with any woman’s name, not even her initials.”

“The advice I give to every young man starting to seek out a life partner is to find a girl whom he can tickle.”

“That’s the way to get on in the world – by grabbing your opportunities. Why, what’s Big Ben but a wrist-watch that saw its chance and made good.”

If you’ve never read any Wodehouse, I urge you to do so. I would perhaps suggest starting with one of the Jeeves and Wooster novels, of which there are plenty (there are also four seasons of a television show based on Jeeves and Wooster, which starred Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie – I always read these novels in their voices as a result).

Happy reading!

What do you mean you haven’t read THAT?

I have a secret. In fact, I have a few secrets. Many people who regularly read my blog will know I love books. Even if this is your first time stopping by my blog, you can probably tell I like books. Because of this, many people assume that I have read particular books, books that are insanely popular, perhaps topical, books that everybody should read. And in a lot of ways, I can understand this. But the simple truth is, there are many books that I haven’t yet read, which cause people’s eyebrows to raise so high as to touch the ceiling, which cause their jaws to shatter the ground beneath their feet, and which cause them to gasp so much as to very nearly implode.

You might be surprised by some of these books I haven’t read, but hopefully you won’t judge me too harshly on my reading misdeeds – I swear I’ll get around to reading these one day. Without further ado…

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I thought I’d mention this one first as it has really come into the spotlight recently with the release of the movie adaptation of the same name. This book, and the other two parts of this trilogy, have received nothing but rave reviews from critics and the masses alike. The story sounds interesting and thought provoking. Why haven’t I read it yet? I have no idea, actually. But I have finally bought the books, and intend on reading the first one tonight after I write this blog post. So there will be reviews on this very soon. I just hope it’s good, because I have heard so many positive reviews that my expectations have grown to quite enormous proportions, to be honest.

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Yeah, yeah, I know, how on earth have I not read this series, considering I have had fourteen years (which is scary, but these books are really that old) now in which to begin reading it? I think with this series, it was just a matter of being the wrong age at the time of release. It was released as I started high school, and while it appealed to some of my female friends, oddly it just didn’t appeal to me or any of my male friends in the slightest. If we had’ve been even just a couple of years younger, maybe it would have grabbed me. But instead, I had no interest in reading it until the last few years, despite my tendency towards fantasy reading during my teenage years. Anyway, I will get around to reading this, and watching the movies, one day.

Anything at all by Stephen King

Stephen King is one of those authors that everybody should try at least once. To be fair, I did try once, several years ago. I started reading The Stand only to lose interest about a hundred pages in (it’s well over a thousand pages), because the story was just dragging on. Maybe I was too young to stay interested in it, or maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind. Anyway, I am yet to finish any books at all by King, but I plan on trying again this year, because I want to find out why so many other people love his work.

 

I could name a lot more, but I think I might stop there for now, and possibly do a second blog of this nature a bit further down the track.

Are there any books you haven’t read that cause people to gasp in shock upon this discovery? Is there a particular reason that has prevented you from reading these books?

Och, it’s the Big Yin – A Review of Billy Connolly: Bravemouth by Pamela Stephenson

There have been several occasions in my life where I distinctly remember laughing so much that I have been in pain from laughter. Of all these moments, the one that stands out the most is when I finally saw Billy Connolly live back in 2006, on his “Too Old To Die Young” tour. He performed for over three hours (which is phenomenal considering most stand up comedians average a bit over an hour), and he finished in the middle of acting out a pretend opera in which he burst into laughter, asked “what the f&%$ am I doing?” before suddenly saying goodnight and walking off, and it was only upon attempting to stand up that I realised laughing for that long had caused me intense pain in my stomach.

I have only even discovered the existence of Billy Connolly: Bravemouth, by Pamela Stephenson (his wife), recently. It is the second biography of him, the follow-up to the hugely successful Billy, which had revealed his rather traumatic childhood, and his rise from that and the steelworks into the world of music, comedy and international stardom. This sequel focuses on the year building up to his sixtieth birthday, including preparations for a massive party at a castle in Scotland that the Connolly family calls home. Like its predecessor, it mixes tales from Billy’s youth with moments from the present, full of descriptions, conversations and classic quotes from Billy, as well as the insights from his wife, who has known him since her own comedy days, long before her psychologist days.

There are many things to love about this book. While it is hilarious, and shows the comedic brilliance and genius of Billy Connolly, it also shows other sides of him, from his great acting ability, to his warm and touching views on the world and its many, varying people. Much of the book shows both Billy and Pamela (or Pamsy, as Billy calls her) abroad, travelling both for holidays and for work. The writing style itself is simple and accessible for all fans of the endearing Scotsman, and the book also contains many pages of colour photographs, many of which are quite intimate moments, and many of which reveal important people and events in Billy’s life.

If you’re a fan of Billy Connolly in any respect, as a comedian, traveller, actor, or just as an all-round inspiring person, you should definitely read this book (and it’s predecessor). This is a funny, to-the-point, and ultimately touching portrait of a talented man who is easily my favourite comedian of all time.