8 October 2006

What I'm not reading

Rather than a post on What I’m Reading Right Now, I thought I’d do a What I’m Not Reading Right Now.

Because I’m flat out like a lizard drinking Doing Other Things Right Now. (I am however currently immersed in the complex, layered and thoroughly enjoyable A.S. Byatt’s Possession, stringing it out, willing it not to end.)

Herewith, a collection of books picked up at secondhand bookshops, Savers and assorted op shops over the last couple of months, none of which I have yet managed to read.

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah.
Picked up because I liked the cover. How shallow is that? Well also because it’s interesting reading about Asian cultures of which I have no experience whatsoever. (See also Amy Tan, the Wild Swans woman, etc).

The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates.
Because the BBC tv series all those years ago was such divine, lush viewing, featuring the nineteen year old Catherine Zeta-Jones. And it’s an English classic. And a line from one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Which sonnet? No cheating by looking it up … be first to tell me and win! (Note, no actual prize).

The Joy of Travel by Susan Kurosawa
I do like travel writing, and have always enjoyed Kurosawa’s columns in The Australian. This one sounds like perfect summer reading.

Snakecharmers in Texas by Clive James
More summer reading from The Great Wit himself. Greatly looking forward to this one. Excellent beach reading.

The Virago Book of Women Gardeners edited by Deborah Kelloway
Gardening. With women. Vita, Gertrude, Beth, Edna! What’s not to like? Can’t wait to dip into this, hopefully while reclining in a deck chair with a g&t close to hand and children frolicking nearby in the (carefully tended) shrubbery.

Charades by Janette Turner Hospital
I’ve not read any of Turner Hospital’s (why no hyphen? I have a hyphen; why can’t she?) books but they usually get good reviews so I picked it up when I saw it. I have no idea what it’s about and I’m too lazy to go look at the blurb. Oh hang on, that’s what Google’s for, isn’t it? Okay, I’m back. Wow it got great reviews – apparently it is about how we reinvent myths in the age of quantum mechanics (gosh), is about a provincial Australian girl, is a love story, is about a search for a lost father, includes revisionist theories on the Holocaust, the Heisenberg principle … clever, lyrical, superb. Well, clearly that is why I picked it up all those weeks ago. Silly me. (Also, she wrote Due Preparations for the Plague - Babelbabe, is that one of your collection of plague novels?)

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
Naff, but we can’t all be like Janette Turner Hyphen Hospital. Sometimes we need fluff. Fluff with Colin Firth, preferably.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Because it’s a classic and I’ve never read it. Nor seen the film. But Whoopi Goldberg made a wonderful Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. Does that count? (But I digress).

The Bone People by Keri Hulme
I grabbed this because it rang a bell. One of the women in my bookgroup is a New Zealander and she’s always banging on about how we should read some Kiwi lit. (So we read Cousins by Patricia Grace to appease her. It was good. The end). "The Bone People has themes of love, violence, national identity and social responsibility. The characters are both human and part of the complex symbolism that underpins the book and the post-colonial mixture of Maori and Pakeha culture." I’m not in a tearing hurry, but will get around to this one day.

A Small Place in Italy by Eric Newby
As I said, I adore travel writing. I was first introduced to the terribly British Newby when I read A Traveller’s Life which is a delightful book of extracts and short adventures with a great cover. I then went on to read A Short Walk Through the Hindu Kush, Slowly Down the Ganges, Round Ireland in Low Gear (this last one was a little dull I must say) and something about love in the Appenines.

The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing
I read The Grass is Singing many moons ago in high school. I seem to recall it was, um, intense. Perhaps I just bought this to sit on my shelf and make me look clever?

Stupid White Men by Michael Moore
My children are horrified by the title. I haven’t seen any of Moore’s films (the shame, I know I know) so this will be my introduction. Ghastly cover.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Sounds scary but Alias Grace was mesmerising. Did anyone else see the one-woman show at The Malthouse last year?

As a Woman: Writing Women’s Lives by Jocelyn Scutt
Picked up because it sounded interesting. Not yet peeked at. Shoved on the Important Feminist Stuff shelf.

A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey
A classic I thought I should own.

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
Ditto. Although I bought Mr Soup The Zahir last year and he hated it.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Possibly purchased just for show if I'm being honest? I don’t feel strong enough to read Rushdie. Maybe when I’m 45.

Ruth Park’s ’Harp in the South’ novels in one big fat book.
Lovely! Have read Poor Man’s Orange and I recall devouring the television series so now I have all the books awaiting me in one wrist-straining edition. Good hammock-and-a-cup-of-tea reading.

An Accommodating Spouse by Elizabeth Jolley
I love Jolley’s entertaining style. Yum. Is she from Perth? I always think of Perth when I see her name.

Fortune’s Rocks and The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
Pretty covers. Has anybody read her? Any good?

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
Because I read that one set in Africa that everybody reads and enjoys. Google reminds me that it’s The Poisonwood Bible. Yes that’s right. I thought it was fabulous – so rich and meaty and I could feel the sweat and the humidity and oh, the flies and the dust. And that father! Can someone assure me that I will get past the unfortunate title of this one and it will be equally as readable?

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I believe this should be on everyone’s bookshelf. And um, be read one day.

Wonderboy by Stephen Cummings
Well, he’s a great singer, and an evocative lyricist. So perhaps he’s a decent novelist also? He’s terribly sexy, anyway. Be still my beating heart.

the first stone by Helen Garner
Another should-read. I still think The Last Days of Chez Nous is one of the most powerful and poignant books I’ve read (the film’s not too shabby either). Monkey Grip is an Australian classic, although depressing, and I’ve also read Cosmo Cosmolino (which incidentally is the name of the band Son #1’s violin teacher plays in) and The Children’s Bach, all of which are very accomplished. Plus she’s from Melbourne, as is Stephen Cummings, so you know, gotta support local authors. Even great big famous ones.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Yet another should-read. Although I did see this listed recently on someone’s Things That Are Overrated meme. Hmmm. I think it’s on the list for bookgroup next year anyway so I picked it up.

The Worry Box by Marion Halligan
The oh-so-delicious Marion Halligan. Has anyone else fallen in love with her children’s picture book The Midwife’s Daughters? I borrowed it from the library over and over (and over) when I was pregnant with Son #3 and read it to the older boys until they used to hide under the settee when they saw me approaching with it balanced on my enormous belly. If anyone ever sees this in a secondhand bookshop, please buy it. And send it to ME. And I will love you forever. Oh and there will be an actual prize for that.

As you can see, I’m very very busy not reading all these fine books. Oh, and these were just the books for me. There’s a whole other post in the selection of children’s books I found …


Stjernesol said...

Oh my... I love to read, I can't stop. I read almost anything and the cover has alot to say about me liking it. That combined with the content of course ;)

The Zahir by Paulo Coelho, is my favourite and I haven't heard about anyone who didn't like it.

Toni Morrison with beloved, I read many, many years ago - and I liked it alot!

Have you read Amy Tan - The hundred secret senses? That's a beautiful book!

I hope you have alot of "what I am reading", as well ;) Maybe we can see that list? :)

Wish you a wonderful week-end!

Marlys said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. I noticed your request re: Worry Box. You can find 3 copies available in Australia if you look on the Alibris site (a great site for finding out-of-print books: alibris.com).

--erica said...

what a beautiful collection to read.. I love getting thrift shop books..always makes the read seem better somehow!

Katya said...

Pigs in Heaven is good and is actually a good book to start reading Barbara Kingsolver with -- I've known people who started with The Poisonwood Bible (which I loved) couldn't read it and wouldn't give her other books a chance. But you like The Poisonwood Bible, so you should be fine.

I LOVE Possession -- I wish I'd bought it instead of checked it out from the library. Now I can't find it in hardback.

I think everybody buys books for shallow reasons -- I would buy Snakecharmers in Texas for the title alone. And I totally agree with stjernesol -- if you haven't read The Hundred Secret Senses, you should -- it is wonderful.

String Bean said...

The Bone People is one of my favorite books. I could read it over and over and over and never tire of it. Read it! You'll love it!

Lazy cow said...

I KNOW THE SHAKESPEARE QUOTE!!! It's from the sonnet Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? (thou art more lovely and more temperate, Rough winds shall shake the Darling buds of May...) Wow, high school English wasn't a total loss (and I read Lessing's The Grass is Singing for HSC, and didn't understand it at all).
Hated The Alchemist. Twaddle.
I bought Beloved for the same reason as you. Loved Clive James' Unreliable Memoirs. And the Bone People won the Booker (but it sounds so depressing).

Lazy cow said...

I had a major non-sexual crush on Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Darling Buds of May. She was luscious. I don't think I enjoyed the book as much as the TV series though.

herhimnbryn said...

Ah Possession! I too had to make that book last and last. Have read it thrice now. So many layers. like a good cake!

Darling Buds... ah the nostalgia. Read the series when I was 14 and lived a few miles away from Pluckley in the UK where Bates lived and based the stories. A beautiful place still.

Sonnet XVIII

telfair said...

I loved Possession too but found the Handmaid's Tale terrifying and depressing in the extreme.

Loved the Robber Bride, though...

My float said...

Wow, what a list. In answer to your question, I've read Anita Shreeve and some of her work hits and some of it misses. I did like the Pilot's Wife.

And yes, I'd buy a book for its cover.

And I love love Ruth Park. It brings me such a sense of what living in Australia was like all those years ago. Good luck getting to the books!

Stomper Girl said...

I think Handmaid's Tale is my favourite Margaret Atwood - a thumping good yarn and a great premise for a story. You are the second person in my week to sing the praises of Possession so I'm feeling inspired to borrow it from the library.

ThirdCat said...

The Colour Purple is one of my frequent re-reads, even though there is a large pile of waiting-to-be-reads. Same with The Children's Bach. And I think I'm adding The Secret River to the re-read list. Have you read it?

From New Zealand, Witi Ihimaera has some gorgeous writing. I think so anyway. I've got The Handmaid's Tale on my really-must-read list.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suse, I'm another lurker. Was compelled to comment though, seeing The Handmaid's Tale on your list. Can I recommend that this gets bumped up a bit in light of its parallels in what's happening at the universities in Australia - particularly the one at which you and I study. Trying not to be overtly political in a really inappropriate context, but have a look at http://uninews.unimelb.edu.au/articleid_3707.html to see what I mean. It's a slippery slope, and I am having increasing flashbacks to Atwood's dystopia.

OK, the rant has finished. Apologies to all those who just want to gush about fiction. I am all in favour of this too!

- Ro

BabelBabe said...

Pigs in heaven is intense, if I remember correctly, and not at all like Poisonwood Bible.

Handmaid's Tale is unllike any book I had ever read before, incredibly disturbing, and not at all like Alias Grace.

And read the Salman Rushdie - he' sso brilliant! Midnight's Children is one of his best. If you can read and enjoy Possession, you can certainly read and enjoy Midnight's Children. No one ever mentions it but Rushdie is FUNNY.

Have never heard of the plague book, am off to look at it now...among others...

BabelBabe said...

also, I just bought The Bone People at the thrift shop near my house...this doesn't bode well, does it, all these thrift-sopped copies of The Bone People. But it did win the Booker...

BabelBabe said...

and i should probably read other people's comments BEFORE I comment.

h&b said...

My Goodness - so many books, your "Savers" must be a good'un !

Bridget Jones' Diary was a good moofie, although maybe I was too busy looking at the men. I'd already read the book, it took 2mins, and I thought it rather not good, so I was surprised at the filum.

The Bone People - read it as a part of a Bookgroup. I think it was interesting. ? How bad am I ?

I have enjoyed M. Moore's filums. The books ( and this one in particualr ) are supposed to be a good rad too, but I haven't gone there yet...

I have read "The Pilot's Wife". Nice reading, nothing too difficult, holiday style stuff.
I enjoyed it.

I too love Garner & Cummings.
Let me know what you think of Cummings as a novelist, and if you can stop thinking sexy thoughts long enough to concentrate ;p

P.S. - Don't sit so close to the stage at an intimate Steve venue. He's a spitter ;)

Suse said...

Stjernesol - I have read The Hundred Secret Sense. And the Kitchen God's Wife, and her famous first one whose title escapes me now. I like Amy Tan a lot. Although the mother/daughter motif needs to be retired now while she explores new themes.

As to my What I'm Reading Now - I'm afraid only Possession, and books for uni.

Ro - I'm now paranoid that I have a fellow student lurker! Thanks for link to article - I had read it, and it IS a slippery slope. I heard Peter McPhee on the radio and he said he was confident that the AG will give the uni special dispensation. One step back up the slope ...

Marlys - thanks for delurking. I love delurkers. The request was actually for The Midwife's Daughters, if anyone comes across it. The Worry Box is one of the many books I've picked up at the op shops lately. But thanks for the thought, and also the link to alibris. I must also try abebooks, another good site.

thirdcat - I have just read The Secret River and will definitely be reading it again one day. Also Eucalyptus, another lyrical beauty.

Stompergirl - welcome! And yes, do read Possession, it's wonderful. I read anything Babelbabe tells me to and she is always right.

h&b - I know what you mean about the spraying of the front row. He still floats my boat though. Oh that voice ...

(Lazy Cow wins!)

Janet said...

I just bought yet another copy of The Bone People from Savers to reread for about the fifth time. It's much better than it sounds. Also loved the Handmaid's Tale, which I think has one of the best first pages of any novel. But I think these are novels to savour, Bridget Jones on the other hand is for reading while drinking..

Think I may be de-lurking here.

Sharon said...

I am a reader too - coupled with working in a bookshop you can imagine my constant dilemma... Most bookshops will have had their deliveries of new releases - a couple of promising reads have caught my eye this week - The Meaning of Night and The Thirteenth Tale...Just two more to add to my neverending list... I would like to knoiw what childrens book you have found... Have you seen the Dangerous Book for Boys - a fairly new release..

shellyC said...

Enjoy your reading!

I love The Color Purple too. I should start creating a pile of books I intend on reading this summer - once the text books are out of the way!

wesleyjeanne said...

If you're going to read more Kingsolver (I love her) and you started with Poinsonwood Bible, I would suggest the next one be Prodigal Summer. She is a great writer, but Bean Trees is a little more fluffy than most of hers.

Anonymous said...

Hey Suse - don't worry, I don't lurk at uni! Just here in the sense of not commenting. Actually I was planning to use the 'long time listener, first time caller' line but marlys had already taken it! Must have been an inspiring post like that. Love the blog. Cheers, Ro

Mary said...

I love it when you find a book you enjoy so much you don't want it to end. Possession is definitely one of my favourites.

I read Beloved for a book group and enjoyed it, but probably wouldn't rush to read it again.

I think The Bone People divides opinions. I read it when it first came out, flushed with Kiwi pride and absolutely loved it, but some people I've recommended it to have had rather lukewarm responses.

Must read some Barbara Kingsolver - so many people rave about her.

Janet said...

Thank you for your lovely comment, have only just updated my sidebar but have to admit that I've been lurking for a while, long enough to have seen more than one picture of your view. It didn't twig which mountains they were. Now I see...

genj, v.occasional commenter said...

I interviewed Marian Halligan not long ago - she's a madly keen gardener and really loves old fashioned roses. We had a lovely chat about whether the likes of Mme Isaace Pereire were named for the women themselves or their wealthy, provincial merchant husbands. That led on to the general sumptuousness of the names, and then more discussion about whether gardening of the mind or gardening with the hands is more fun. All on a rainy, cold Canberra day as the wind whirled outside her kitchen :-)

Elizabeth said...

I love reading reading lists, its a great way to swap ideas. I've just started a book swap at work to try and do the very same thing and hopefully save some pennies as well! Congrats on the new job by the way.

danielle said...

Possession is one of my all-time favorite books of all-time forever! :-) It was also great fun to teach for an upper division English majors class.

Beloved falls a little into my overrated category too. But I do remember enjoying it. I didn't like Color Purple as much.

I have The Bone People in my "not reading" list also. One of the other commenters raved about it, so maybe it will come sometime soon.

My favorite Kingsolver is Animal Dreams, which came between The Bean Trees and Pigs. If you haven't read Bean Trees, I recommend reading it before Pigs because it precedes Pigs with time and characters. After Possession, Kingsolver's books are probably my favorites.

Another author I fell in love with a few years ago is Ursula Hegi, particularly with Stones from the River.

jess said...

Like Danielle said, Pigs in Heaven is actually the sequel to The Bean Trees. And I agree - Animal Dream is my favorite, too (not her best, but my personal favorite). Her essays - High Tide in Tucson - are also excellent.

I read Possession awhile ago. And liked it. But with nothing like the intensity of all the rest of you! Now I feel like I need to give it a second chance.

The Handmaid's Tale is one of my favorite Atwood novels. But dark.

Dianna said...

What Danielle and Jess said about Kingsolver books! My favorite of hers is Animal Dreams -- I've read it any number of times and always love it. Same with Song of Solomon, my favorite Morrison book (Beloved is okay...but). Handmaid's Tale -- way too creepy. I didn't use an ATM for a long time after reading it. And the Bone People is pretty heavy, but really well-written. And Anita Shreve is indeed hit or miss, but yuh, the covers are usually gorgeous.
Happy reading! We expect full book reports as you go along.

Sinda said...

OH OH OH Possession! How I love it. I enjoy all of her writing, but Possession holds a special place for me - so I refuse to see the movie.

What a great idea for a post, mind if I borrow it?

p.s. - do read Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver. Truly inspiring essays.

Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

Can't let this go by. There are several here I'd like to read to but will just do speed comment on the ones I have.

Possession, yes.
Falling Leaves, nice cover, but if you've read Amy Tan and Wild Swans (what WAS her name?) you've read all this and better elsewhere.
Bridget Jones Diary, Colin -mmmm. Doubt I'd have made it through without having seen the film and held his mental image close.
The Colour Purple, brilliant book. The movie adaptation was very true to plot but the book gives you SO much more.
The Handmaid's Tale, I read while travelling so maybe did it an injustice: great story but I hated the ending (nothing wrong with it, just a cop out, in my view, see what you think? as Ro said, this should be higher on your list)
The Alchemist? A load of twaddle, you heard it here first. Emperor's new clothes an' all that. Most editions come with nice covers, though, so it's probably a good shelf filler!

sorry about all the bad reviews - it's a glass half-empty morning!

Sarah Louise said...

i may have to steal this idea as I also have many books I am not reading. I think though I must hunt out my copy of Possession and see what you and Babs are talking about. I've only (gasp) seen the previews for the movie.

Jeanne said...

And I was just thinking that it's time I re-read all of my Ruth Park novels....