Tagged: Nonfiction

The United States of Absurdity

THIS IS DEFINITELY MY NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR.

The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds illustrated by James Fosdike is one of the funniest books I’ve ever come across.

I was only introduced to The Dollop a few months ago by one of my best friends. I’m somewhat of a podcast addict, I love Night Vale, My Favourite Murder and Hamish & Andy. When I first listened to The Dollop is wasn’t feeling it, then my friend said “Listen to the Rube episode.” after that I was hooked.

Earlier this year the hosts of The Dollop announced they were releasing a book, obviously I couldn’t wait.

I don’t even know where to start when taking about this book as it’s so obscure. If like me you have no interest in American history whatsoever, this is the book for you! Every page of The United States of Absurdity is hilarious. Dave Anthony and Garry Reynolds have plucked some of the most ridiculous stories from America’s past, by the time you reach the end of this book you’ll be left fathoming how as a race we are still alive.

Have you heard of Oofty Goofy or Ten-Cent Beer Night? No, of course you haven’t, but they’re amazing stories you need to read to believe!

The illustrations by James Fosdike are great and a little traumatising (check out The Stomach Men page for nightmare fuel).

This book is worth every penny and I really hope they decide to do a sequel.

Getting out of a book funk

I had said in my last post that Murakami had put me out of sorts. I was struggling to find and enjoy new novel. I had finished Cell by Stephen King but I still had that weird post-Murakami depression, luckily it’s not long until The Strange Library is published. After feeling sorry for myself for a few days I decided to have a browse to see if I could find a someone new to read, as luck would have it on a quiet Sunday a new book caught my eye.

I pretty much have a preconditioned weakness for anything with Japan in the title so when I spotted Bending Adversity by David Pilling I knew I had to read it.

Pilling

 

For anyone even slightly interested in modern Asia Pilling brings history, politics and economics to life in this outstanding look at Japan. Opening with a harrowing account of the 2011 tsunami, Pilling leaves readers in shock and astonishment of how Japan or any nation for that matter can overcome the level of devastation that follows a natural disaster. Within a few chapters I found myself looking up flight prices for Tokyo.

Pilling’s way of bleeding history, economics and social science is seamless. Even if you only have a tourists knowledge of Japan, Pilling highlights the triumphs of what can be a mysterious land and it’s equally enigmatic culture. Bending Adversity doesn’t shy away from Japan’s shortcomings either, discussing World War II and Japan’s early isolation from the rest of the world.

Pilling doesn’t overwhelm his readers with facts and figures but uses his strengths as a journalist to find anecdotes and relays them in elegant way, keeping the reader on board with every word.

Pilling’s writing is dignified and engrossing. Bending Adversity is easily the most interesting book about Japan to be published in years. Thanks David Pilling and Penguin for getting me out of a reading-rut.

I need to read some books next year.

At the end of each year I try to set myself some books to get round to reading in the new year.  These are very rarely new titles but every now and then there’s a new book I’ll get round to reading.

Now, my list for next year contains 10 of the books that I didn’t read last year.  there is one person to blame for this lack f reading and that’s Stephen King. Now you’re probably thinking that I could have read other books as well as Stephen King but I couldn’t.  I struggle with reading more than one book at a time and if I’m perfectly honest I’m quite lazy, I’ll always pick sleep over books.

Here’s my list for 2014 but I’d really like you (YES YOU) to recommend me some other books to read along the way.  of course I’ll read these books in no particular order and some of the books I won’t read at all.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith 9781847375698

I’d really like to kick off 2014 with a book I’ve been waiting for; The Farm by Tom Rob Smith.  Child 44 is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in years, it really is one of the most gripping books I’ve come across. Luckily the brilliant folks at Simon & Schuster have provided me with a proof copy of The Farm so I won’t have to wait until it’s official release date 13th February 2014.  The Farm couldn’t be more different than Child 44 so I think this book could be a real breath of a fresh air.

farm

 Evil Machines by Terry Jones 9781783520107

This book is going to be amazing.  So many people have recommended this to me already and the one comparison that I constantly hear is how similar Evil Machines is to Roald Dahl’s short stories.

The Complete Lyonesse by Jack Vance 9780575090248

A few years ago I read the first in the Lyonesse trilogy; Suldrun’s Garden.  Back in 2008 Gollancz released a beautiful edition of the first Lyonesse book and I picked this book up purely because of the cover. Unfortunately this beautiful edition of Lyonesse has gone out of print but maybe one day Gollancz will re-release this beautiful book as currently only the Complete Lyonesse is in print.  I had intention to read this book, it a shallow purchase.  I finally got round to reading Suldrun’s Garden around 3 years ago and it was absolutely wonderful.  A true classic fantasy, I fell in love with the kingdom of Lyonesse and I found Jack Vance’s writing style enchanting. I’ve left it far too long to read the remaining two book in the trilogy so I’m super excited to start this book.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I was one of the fortunate few who didn’t have to study this book but I’ve never bothered to read it.  I’m not really looking forward to reading The Handmaid’s Tale but it’s one of those books that I should get round to reading.

Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes 9781847675309

I love this book.  It’s one of my most recommended books and it’s been two years since i last read it so it’s about time I had another re-read.  Rhode’s novel is extremely dark and uses black comedy to jab at some particularly difficult subjects.  If you’re a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, you’ll love Little Hands Clapping.

From The Fatherland With Love by Ryu Murakami 9781908968494

Ryu Murakami has written so of my most favourite novels. I discovered Ryu Murakami by accident. I picked up a book with Murakami on the spine assuming it would be my much loved Haruki Murakami and oh how I was shocked when I started reading. At over 700 pages From the Fatherland With Love is a big book and when I started it I found it way more political than any of Ryu Murakami’s other novel so this was a struggle to read.  I couldn’t get past the first fifty pages but I need to give this book another try.

The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas 9780140448924

This another book I’m going back to.  I started reading this when I was on holiday in Tokyo.  I had just finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo.  I loved Monte Cristo and the adaptation starring Guy Pearce is one of my favourite films.  I really started to get into the Black Tulip, which is a story world away from The Count of Monte Cristo, but stupidly I left this this book in hotel in Asakusa somewhere.

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas 9780099583158

Seeing as I’m going back to The Black Tulip I figured I might as well have a run at The Three Musketeers.  The knowledge I have of this book is everything I’ve learnt from Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds.

Them: Adventures With Extremists by Jon Ronson 9780330375467

This year I read two books by Jon Ronson and both were fantastic.  A few friends have turned me towards this book so it’s definitely one I’m looking forward to starting.

The Dark Half by Stephen King 9781444708158

I couldn’t have a list without Stephen King! This is the one book that I keep picking up then putting down and choosing another Stephen King book.  Time to get on and read this book.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier 9781844080397

Rebecca is such a perfect novel.  If you haven’t read this wonderful novel then I strongly suggest you do and while you’re at it watch the Hitchcock adaptation of Rebecca.  I had a lot of people recommend Jamaica Inn and it’s been years since I read Rebecca so I think it’s about time that I start about Du Maurier novel.

 

So that’s my list for 2014 but there’s only 10 books there and I’m relying on recommendations from everyone, especially some more contemporary novels.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all a wonderful festive season and a safe new year.

 

On Writing

I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction.  The last non-fiction book I managed to finish was The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.  In my opinion a good non-fiction book has all the workings and imagination as a fiction genre novel.  My June Stephen King Super Fan pack contained most of his non-fiction works; Danse Macbre, Stephen King at the Movies and On Writing.

I had been recommended ‘On Writing’ by many people so I was fairly eager to start this book.  The thing about On Writing, it’s not a book you can really review, I found it to be more of a survival guide than anything.

Even in the first couple of chapters of On Writing had me stifling laughter on my commute to work.  Already this book read as well as any of Stephen King’s horror novels.  His childhood memories of dysfunctional babysitters and chaotic adventures with his older brother, King’s writing never falters.  When writing about his family there’s nothing but warmth, even when they weren’t having the best of times you can see King’s strong bond with his mother and brother.

When King goes on the write about his teenaged years, I came across the most humbling anecdote that shows that King, although a tremendous author, has been through the ringer like the rest of us.  Publishing is a completely different game in this day and age where it’s easy to publish your own e-book or story online where you’re guaranteed to get an audience or small readership if you publicise yourself well enough.  But King went through the process of getting rejection letter after rejection letter and by letter I mean a small slip of paper telling him his stories ‘weren’t for them’.  Personally I think that this sort of thing can only make you a better writer.  If you’re knocked back once and give up then you probably don’t have it in you to get a novel published, but if take those rejection slips and nail them to your wall where you’ll see them everyday then… surely that’s inspiration enough to write something incredible.

The second half of the book is King’s advice on what tools are needed to write well.  I first started this chapter with animosity.  No one likes to be critiqued and no one really wants to know if the techniques and devices they use when they’re writing aren’t quite good enough.  Even a few chapters in I found myself cringing and mentally editing my own writings.  I have a lot of bad habits when it comes to writing and the second half of on writing made me feel so uncomfortable, but I know that I’ve learnt some amazing life lessons from this book.

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This really is a book for everyone.  Regardless of whether you are into writing or not, it’s a genuinely interesting book and so far this has been one of the most enjoyable Stephen King books I’ve had the pleasure to read.

And if you’re wondering what was in my July Stephen King Super Fan pack, well it only contained one book.

Doctor Sleep