Cushla's books in 2019
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I used to get pretty close to 75 books per year, but have got nowhere near this for the last few years. Last year was the lowest ever at 15 books - eek.
I'm not going to predict a quieter year this year, because it never seems to happen. At the moment we are in the middle of school holidays but by the end of January I'll be back to being crazy - I teach maths and am now Assistant Head of Department in a big, busy high school. Reading has taken a back seat in favour of work, hanging out with my family and making maths videos for my students. (Yep, they're on YT but I recommend them only if you suffer from insomnia or have run out of books to read.) I also spent tons of time near the end of last year following the US midterms and generally catching up on newspaper and Twitter reading and podcasts instead of book reading.
I read a mix of stuff - politics, history, spy novels, crime, and fiction. My favourite 3 books last year were Janesville by Amy Goldstein, The War that Ended the Peace by Margaret MacMillan, and and Days without End by Sebastian Barry. I'll check in on the Non-Fiction Challenge and the American author challenge but am hopeless with planned reads so will just see if anything I'm reading fits in.
At the moment I'm in the middle of The World As it Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes, which I am really enjoying.
And now it's time to go visit some of your threads and say Happy New Year.
Books read in 2019
1. The World As It Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes 5 stars
2. The Death of the Fronsac by Neal Ascherson - 5 stars
3. Christine Falls by Benjamin Black - 4 1/2 stars
(I am not usually this generous with stars - I'm just having a very good start to 2019!)
4. The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig - 4 stars
5. How to Survive a Plague by David France - 5 stars +++
6. The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre - 5 stars
7. An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson - 4 1/2 stars
*pretty sure I've forgotten a couple of books
8. Sovietistan by Erika Flatland - 3 1/2 stars
9. The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power - 4 stars
10. Prophecy by S J Parris - 3 1/2 stars
11. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - 5 stars
12. Slow Horses by Mick Herron - 4 1/2 stars
13. Dead Lions by Mick Herron - 4 stars
I know this list makes me look like an overly generous reviewer, but I think what's happening is that I haven't been finishing books unless they are stupendously good this year!
I haven't read the MacMillan you mention, but want to, and Janesville is new to me. Love Barry!
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Cushla, this year.
Love Math Reviews! How do we find yours on Youtube? Thank you.
Happy new year.
I wish, that you may find a good and solid path in 2019
The World as It Is by Ben Rhodes was a 5 star read, one that had me reading it whenever I had 5 spare minutes. Rhodes started out in Obama's campaign team, then became his speechwriter, national security advisor and friend. This book tells the story of his 8 years in government. It has a really nice blend of foreign policy stuff, observations about what it was like working for Obama, and personal details. Tons of things that I had half-followed when they were news make much more sense now. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot about Libya, Syria, Cuba (Rhodes negotiated the thawing in US-Cab relations), Israel, and Russia. So, if you were a fan of the West Wing or like following current events and don't like the current state of US politics, I think you'll love this book. Rhodes is half of one of a great podcast that I've recently discovered - PodSavetheWorld - which was an extra bonus.
As a strange follow-up to the book, I have spent several hours playing this addictive quiz game about how many countries of the world you can name.
https://www.sporcle.com/games/g/world - my best score is now 190 but I keep forgetting some of the little islands in the Caribbean. Warning...if you click on this link you too might waste your life.
>7 m.belljackson: and >8 drneutron: Marianne and Jim, if you google my first name then YT then maths videos you will find them. I'd rather that students *don't* find my thread on here, not that I post anything exciting, but if you do go watch, please can you not leave any comments that might link me back to LT?
>2 charl08: Charlotte, I have several other Barry novels on the shelves (The Temporary Gentleman and The Secret Scripture) and will be trying to find them. We still have some double shelving going on! And yep, the promotion is pretty new - school will be busy soon.
And then off to some maths..
Yes, the Calculus - reminding many of us of those challenges.
Even though I didn't get to meet you when we went to New Zealand in 2011 (I did get to meet Aviatkh (Kerry) and a couple of other LTers in Auckland who are no longer active) I really loved NZ and hope to get back one day!
>21 arubabookwoman: arubabookwoman thank for posting - it's nice to have thread visitors. I remember you coming to New Zealand but it doesn't seem like it was 8 years ago. If you get back here one day I'll show you the fine bookshops of Wellington.
>18 labfs39: Lisa, I have tried before to remember how I found LT - all I remember is being wildly excited about it and entering all my books over a couple of evenings. Maybe it was from Amazon? It definitely wasn't word of mouth because I didn't know anyone on here before I got here. And I didn't post in the forums much at all for a few years. It was back in the day when Amazon suggesting book recommendations to me seemed like the most incredible thing. (I still have that reaction to Spotify when it finds all my favourite songs.)
We've had 6 days away at Suzuki camp - got back on Monday and I am still doing the laundry! It was fantastic as usual. The kids played their violins non-stop, did lots of bike riding, swimming and hanging out. We've been going for 7 years now and it is the highlight of our year - we are really good friends with lots of the other families in the community. About 200 kids were there. The weather cooperated, the tent was great, and now we are ready to start the year. School is in full swing although the students don't come back till this week and teaching starts again for real on Friday.
As usual, I took 3 books away to camp as well as my Kindle but this year I actually made some progress on one of them because it was so good.
Book 3 - Christine Falls by Benjamin Black - 4 1/2 stars
I have been buying up Benjamin Black books for several years since the owner of Marsden Books recommended him to me, especially when I had mentioned that I loved John Banville's The Untouchable. Regular thread visitors will know that I am a shocker for buying more than I read, so they'd just sat here till I was in the mood. It turned out I hadn't bought the first one so I had it out of the library as an e-book. For once, I read it before it was due back. It must be holidays.
I loved this book - so much that I have just spent half an hour wandering the shelves to find The Silver Swan and have now got T and T helping me look. I have found 4 other Benjamin Blacks but need the 2nd one!
This is the first book in the Quirke series. Quirke is a pathologist in Dublin in the 1950s with a serious drinking problem. The book moves between Dublin and Boston and the reviews are **very** mixed. It's more like a novel about Ireland, morality, Quirke's family and the Catholic church than a mystery, and I think that's why a lot of people have given it 1 or 2 stars. I nearly went with 5, but
I'm really glad I didn't start this series part way through, because there's a lot of complicated family stuff that I can tell will affect the other books.
If anyone here has read the rest of the series, please tell me if they stay this good!
*owowow* Book-bulleted by Benjamin Black's series. Love that name, "Quirke."
Happy weekend! Hope your summer is going swimmingly. (pun optional)
Richard I'm sorry you get anxious from timed tests. But just think - hours of your life not wasted on them!
Kim, the holiday was lovely and seems like a while ago already. School is back in full swing now. Yes, I found the second book and have just finished it this morning. It was even bleaker than the first, but I have pulled the third one off the shelf.
Paul, the only serious John Banville that I've read is The Untouchable which would probably be on my top 10 novels list. I haven't tried The Sea or any others by him. Which ones did you enjoy the most?
Book 4: The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black - 3 1/2 stars - good enough to keep going with, not as good as Christine Falls
In this book Quirke has an old acquaintance from his first year at Med School contact him about his wife's death. (This happens on about page 4 - so I guess it's a spoiler - but not really.) He can't help investigate. Once again, the writing is lovely and the depiction of Dublin in the 1950s really vivid. But you need to be in the mood for very creepy characters (not Quirke), drugs, sexual repression, and a generally un-joy-filled read. I enjoyed Christine Falls more but have got Elegy for April ready to start this afternoon.
Back later - got to do some school stuff.
Have a lovely weekend.
Anyway now it's Term 3 and I've realised my reading and free time is gradually getting a bit better, so I've updated my book list to a whopping 6 books read this year! But they have all been great. I think it's my lowest ever. As usual there are a few in progress too.
I'm not going to attempt decent reviews just yet but I will try to visit a few threads to say hi.
Have just finished An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson and loved it - it's set in Berlin in 1989. The main characters are Ralph Doersam and his group of friends who are about to head off to university. I couldn't put it down. But if you're thinking about reading it, avoid ALL blurbs or reviews! I don't think it's out in the US yet from what I've seen on Twitter but hopefully it will be soon. I didn't realise it's kind of in the same series as The Spring of Kasper Meier, which is sitting unread on my Kindle.
I am flitting between books at the moment. I went slightly less crazy at the annual City Mission bookfair last weekend but still came home with quite a few. The first one I've started it My Promised Land by Ari Shavit, which I'd never heard of but is looking like it's going to be really good so far. It's ages since I read a book set in Israel or about the Middle East. And the other one I've started is Shadowplay by Tim Marshall, about Kosovo and Serbia and Slobodan Milosevic. It's a reprint from 2002, just re-released... I am sucker for a nice bright cover with maps on it.
And I know my work stress levels are dropping when I can happily read two such depressing tales at once!
Lisa - I have still got a few Ben Macintyre books to go too, but he has yet to disappoint.
Very few books getting read here but hopefully SOON.
Bonnie - Second Person Singular sounds really good. Will see if it's in the library (there's no Kindle edition).
Sovietistan by Erika Fatland was an impulse buy at Vic Books. It's part travelogue, part history of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The Turkmenistan chapter came first and was when I was insanely busy at school, so I think I re-read the same pages several times. Lots of interesting history and anecdotes, but a wee bit long and I'd have liked a bit more about how she planned the trip and why she chose the route etc. Can't quite put my finger on what was missing (still got brain fog from doing a lot of maths this week in the lead up to our senior exams).
Am also enjoying catching up on a lot of podcasts and news and getting my head out from under a pile of rocks.
This tells me two things... a) I am working far too hard at school and b) I am picking the wrong books while I'm teaching, because I keep getting stuck in massive non-fiction books for months at a time. I got about 30% of the way through Diarmaid MacCulloch's excellent biography of Thomas Cromwell and am still going on it, but it takes me so much longer to read. Every hour or so I tell the kids that I am now up to June 1535... July 1535... so for now it is sitting unloved on the Kindle while I switch to fiction.
>46 Oberon: Erik, I finished The Education of an Idealist and added it to my list of good books about better times in US politics. One of the best things to come out of the Ben Rhodes book for me has been finding Tommy Vietor's Pod Save the World podcast, which is now one of my favourites, and some of the other Crooked Media ones. I don't know what I'm going to do when school goes back - I can't keep up with all the episodes of podcasts that I download.
Anyway - here are the four books that I finished...
10. Prophecy by S J Parris - the 2nd in the Bruno Giordano series, set in Elizabethan England. Bruno is staying with the French Ambassador and finds himself in the middle of a plot to get rid of Elizabeth. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and have got book 3 ready to go on the Kindle.
11. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker - 5 stars and the best novel I've read this year, ha ha, out of all seven of them. I bought this about 6 months ago form VicBooks (the fantastic university bookshop about 10 minutes from us that is very bad for my wallet) then wasn't in the mood to read what looked like a pretty grim read. It's the story of the Trojan War, retold from the perspective of Briseis and the other women who are taken as slaves by the Greeks. I loved this book and couldn't put it down. If you loved The Song of Achilles, then you have probably already read The Silence of the Girls, but if not then I highly recommend it.
12. and 13. Slow Horses and Dead Lions by Mick Herron - the first two in a series of 6 books. The "slow horses" are a group of MI5 agents who have stuffed up somehow and are still employed but on mind-numbingly boring work designed to encourage them to quit. Their boss is Jackson Lamb, who is so unlikeable that he's likeable. I'm enjoying these so much that I have raided the library shelves and got out books 3,4,5 and 6 all at once. (In my defence, there were multiple copies of some of those...)
I'm going to set up a new thread in the hope that 2020 is a better reading and posting year!
Another resolution is to keep up in 2020 with all my friends on LT. Happy New Year!