Autumn Reading Review Part I

I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.

~ Margaret Atwood

Since my last reading review post, I have worked my way through a further 12 books in hard copy, on Kindle and in audio format.

I thought it might be kindest to you, dear reader, if I spilt up this latest summary of reviews into two posts, so that I can avoid any fear of you passing out with fatigue while trying to work your way through comments on all these tomes in one go.

So here, for your delectation, are my thoughts on the first six….

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield:  wise; practical; memorable

Punning on Sun Tzu’s famous work, The Art of War, Pressfield’s guide to overcoming what he calls Resistance is applicable to any life problem we might encounter.  His focus is on powering through creative, artistic obstacles, but I found myself having ‘ah-ha’ moments about all kinds of common challenges, from trying to stick to a diet through to doing housework when I would rather be lounging about.  Given its subject matter, one might expect a rather heavy read.  On the contrary, it is engaging, lively and accessible.  I was conscious that, by reading it rather quickly, I was not necessarily taking time really to think about how I might best use the wise advice on every page.  But I was happy to take in the totality of this excellent work as a whole, knowing that it is something to which I will regularly return.

Read this if you love:  getting practical help with personal discipline and focus.

 

For All the Tea in China, Sarah Rose:  gripping; fascinating; enlightening

As a tea-addict, this book was the perfect choice of recommendation by my dear friend Clanmother.  She knows me well, for I adored this remarkable story.  A compelling mix of history, intrigue and education, Rose sets out for us an amazing tale of espionage, botany and commerce, highlighting the role of Robert Fortune in helping to broaden the tea trade into a global industry during the nineteenth century.  As Clamother herself has said in her review on Goodreads, ‘I will never drink tea again without thinking about [this book]’.

Read this if you love:  your history full of flavour and body, served in a beautiful vessel.

 

Indemnity Only, Sarah Paretsky:  solid; engaging; of its time

I found this book on my shelves recently – I think it may have been there for over 20 years.  My eye was drawn to it because I had just finished reading Paretsky’s thought-piece, Writing In An Age Of Silence (see my review of this book here).  Having enjoyed her take on the writing world, it seemed a natural next step finally to read the first of her detective novels.  I should say that, although I cut my reading teeth on Agatha Christie as a young girl, I have, over the years, moved away from reading crime novels.  I find them oddly disatisfying: by their nature, everything has to be wrapped up by the end of the book and, instead of providing a welcome conclusion, this feels to me so very artificial, even in cases where the author is striving for realism.  In this context then, I slightly forced myself to get through Indemnity Only, out of some weird loyalty to Paretsky I think.  Don’t get me wrong – it is a perfectly good piece of crime writing, just not my cup of tea, so to speak.

Read this if you love:  pacey crime stories with strong lead characters.

 

A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler:  memorable; touching; beautiful

This lyrical novella focuses on the life of Andreas Egger, who, through the course of his life in a a remote Alpine village, experiences a range of joys and tragedies.  The beauty of Seethaler’s writing lies in his depiction of the landscape, and the way in which it proves to be as much a character in Egger’s life as the people around him.  The book’s tone is one of gentle eloquence, embracing a brimming stillness akin to that of the snowy slopes of a mountain, where one senses that anything could happen at any moment, but in most cases does not.

Read this if you love:  being enveloped by a meditation on life, its meaning, its possibilities and its realities.

 

Silas Marner, George Eliot:  poignant; tender; real

In many ways, Silas Marner is similar to A Whole Life mentioned above.  It primarily concerns the life of one man – in this case, Marner – examining his place in the world and the impact of life’s vagaries on him.  Eliot is famous for serving up to the reader images of life as it really is: fair and unfair; full of both good and bad fortune; the commonplace punctuated with the extraordinary.  Into this very short book, she packs plenty of food for thought about the ways in which humans treat each other, how they fare for themselves, and how the fates play their part. Despite its mere 150 or so pages, it is full of reading.  I picked this as my ‘book I should have read at school’, and I am so glad finally to have got round to it.

Read this if you love: classic, well-crafted and thoughtful tales about life’s realities.

 

The Knives, Richard T Kelly:  unusual; engaging; modern

In the summer, I attended a recording of BBC Radio 4’s Open Book, which included Kelly as one of the guests.  He did not read from his book, as is common on these occasions, but instead presented an essay about the challenges faced by modern politicians, the fact that they are all human and (mostly) doing their best, and his wish that we try to put ourselves in the shoes of our political leaders before being too quick to criticise them.  Having worked in Government for nearly 30 years, this and the premise of The Knives – a political thriller about a modern Home Secretary – appealed to me.  In the end, although I finished the book, I had a sense that I might not have got through it if I had not already had that encounter with Kelly (I note a bit of an ‘author-loyalty’ theme emerging here).  The ‘behind the scenes’ nature of the story was interesting, but I would have preferred the political intrigue to be rather more compelling.  Overall, however, as a window on the hidden aspects of the everyday, it offers an unusual take on life along the corridors of power and proved an enjoyable read.

Read this if you love:  stories that reveal the tensions and challenges of holding down important roles.

 

So there you go!  More reading thoughts in my next post…. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Autumn Reading Review Part I

  1. Oooooh, so many there that I have added to my rapidly-growing tbr list. I love the range of genres you’ve covered here too. And there are 6 more books to come, Liz! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you found something of interest here Sandra! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. At least 4 of interest to be precise 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your “reading” updates! And I am so very glad that you enjoyed “For all the tea in China!!” Hugs coming from Vancouver, where the sun is trying to break through the clouds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For all the tea was a stunning read – thanks so much again for recommending it. And really glad you like these posts – it spurs me on to write the next ones! It’s been rather grey here today, but still plenty of hugs available to send across to you! X

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting selection of books! I understand your dissatisfaction with crime novels – I read them still but usually as comfort reading when I’m unwell or worried and can’t concentrate on anything else. I quite enjoy the cultural references in ‘Golden Age of Crime’ novels though.
    I’m glad you enjoyed Silas Marner – I love Eliot’s books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think ‘golden age’ books are excellent as diversion tactics, especially as they are usually much more gentle than modern crime fiction. I am planning to re-read Middlemarch – one of my favourite ever novels plus her other work – do you have any you would recommend?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love Middlemarch too! My goodness! That’s a difficult question 🙂 I began by thinking of Romola then went on to Daniel Deronda and then I gave up. They are all good!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. OK, I’ll just have to work my way through them all then! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. For All the Tea in China is a book I want to read, one day, somehow…….what an amazing reading selection. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mandy, I am sure you would love it. It is relatively short and not heavily written at all. 😀📚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds perfect for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Liz. Thank you for these reviews. I have just finished reading ‘Let Me Tell You about a Man I Knew’ and I really enjoyed that. I am thinking now of getting The War of Art and For All the Tea…
    Knowing me as you do will these be good choices for me? X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mum, so glad you liked Let Me Tell You. I think you would really enjoy those other two. The War of Art is a pretty compact read, but packed with inspiring wisdom. For All the Tea is generally fascinating and you will find the botanical aspects particularly interesting, I think. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you write very good reviews–you tell us about the book, more than about yourself, and give us enough info to decide whether we would find the book satisfying, even if you didn’t. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kerry, thanks so much for these lovely comments and such helpful feedback – really appreciate it! 🙂

      Like

  7. I love that Paretsky had been sitting on the shelf for years. I have a few books like that, and wonder if I will ever get to them. I think I will, but every book has to be read at the right time, haha!

    I always love your book reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Books like that sort of become old friends, don’t they, and part of the furniture too. I have it in mind next year to read nothing but books I already own…. 🙂

      Like

      1. That’s a wonderful idea. One that I have thought of, but always failed, haha! I’m distracted by shiny, new things, it seems 🙂 But if you do it, I think you will encourage me to do the same…. at least every other book!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t under-estimate the challenge! But I often look at my shelves and think ooooh that looks interesting! Time to do something about it, methinks! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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