Books I read in Janu­ary

Published Categorised as Books 3 Comments on Books I read in Janu­ary

One of my new year’s resol­u­tions was to read an aver­age of 2 books a week, and see an aver­age of 1 new film a week. I’ve managed the books this month, but I haven’t seen any new films. I caught up on about 20 hours of Scand­inavi­an detect­ive shows and watched a lot of tv docu­ment­ar­ies though, so it’s not like I didn’t see anything. I just have to see one more film each of the rest of the months this year.

I’ve been keep­ing track of the books via Good Reads. Here’s the list for this month:

1) Papi­er Maché- Peter Rush 4/​5
Does what it says on the tin, a book about papi­er maché sculp­ture.

2) Adork­able- Sarra Manning 3/​5
Over Christ­mas, I house-sat for my friend Kate while she was in New Zeal­and, and took the chance to read a fair chunk of her books (some are on last year’s list). Sarra Manning was a writer for Just 17, the magazine I used to read as a teen­ager (I wish someone with loads of late 90s back issues would do a tumblr of scans), and I have a soft spot for her books. You don’t go read­ing them for their fine liter­ary qual­it­ies or subtle char­ac­ter­isa­tion, they’re the equi­val­ent of eating an entire bag of pic’n’mix.

3) Dish­wash­er: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States- Pete Jordan 5/​5
Again, does what it says on the tin. One of Kate’s books, a travel zine compen­di­um. Pete Jordan spent the 90s trav­el­ling round the US support­ing himself by wash­ing up. He found wash­ing up to be an ideal casu­al job- you’re left to get on with it, so you can listen to music and daydream, and no-one else wants to do it, so as long as all the dishes are clean, the bosses are happy.

4) Best of Temp Slave- Jeff Kelly 4/​5
Anoth­er zine compil­a­tion belong­ing to Kate, but with articles by differ­ent writers on the theme of temp work. The qual­ity varied a bit, but the good ones were really good.

5) The Wilder Life: My Adven­tures in the World of Little House on the Prarie- Wendy McClure 5/​5
Anoth­er of Kate’s books. The writer was a huge Little House on the Prarie fan when she was little, and always daydreamed about living in pion­eer times. As an adult, she redis­covered her old books, and decided to go on a roadtrip to see all the real sites and the Laura Ingalls Wilder tour­ist industry that has sprung up. The whole book is really funny and insight­ful about child­hood obses­sion and histor­ic­al recre­ation. My favour­ite bit was prob­ably when the writer and her boyfriend go to a week­end fest­iv­al at a work­ing histor­ic­al farm, and every­one else there is from a dooms­day cult, learn­ing to churn butter for when the End Times come.

6) On the Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does- Simon Garfield 5/​5
I’m fascin­ated by maps, so a well-writ­ten, inter­est­ing book about their history is always welcome (I’ve been disap­poin­ted by dry ones before). When I used to live in Brighton, I used to have one of the large Ordin­ance Survey maps of the area pinned up on the wall, so I could find my nearest folly or pub in a hurry.

7) Son- Lois Lowry 4/​5
The final part of the Giver story, the train­ing wheels dysto­pia. I really enjoyed the first part set in the dysto­pi­an world of the first book, but I was pretty meh about the second part.

8) Collapse- Jared Diamond 4/​5
About the factors lead­ing to the collapse of vari­ous civil­isa­tions such as the Anasazi, East­er Islanders, Green­land Norse and vari­ous differ­ent Pacific islands. Very inter­est­ing read­ing.

9) A Carri­bean Mystery- Agatha Christie 3/​5
I’ve had a stink­ing cold the past few days, so  a nice mind­less Agatha Christie whodun­nit is exactly what I wanted. She went a bit senile in the late 60s, and star­ted writ­ing her books by dicta­tion, so there’s lots of vague wander­ing bits that break off into diatribes about how crap it is to have sciat­ica. When I was study­ing in Budapest, there was a book­shop near the college that had a load of Agatha Christie myster­ies in English that I’d never heard of for about £3 each. I got some, and real­ised why I had never heard of them, they were all writ­ten in the 70s and were either crap,  baff­ling or dull. The TV show of Poirot usually plays it straight when it comes to the well-known books, but for the adapt­a­tions of the 60s/​70s ones they changed the setting to the 30s, and re-wrote the stor­ies to actu­ally make sense.

10) Nemes­is- Agatha Christie 1/​5
Agatha Christie’s books from the 20s-40s are racist and sexist in the stand­ard auto­mat­ic way of the time. She really didn’t seem to like the 60s though, and by the time of this book in 1971 she’d turned into a cranky old lady who hated young people. She has Miss Marple (gentle, pink  knit­ting Miss Marple, who won’t let anyone get away with bad deeds!) saying that a character’s rape convic­tion isn’t very import­ant because “girls are so ready to be raped these days” (!!!) and that a young male char­ac­ter (who had been shown as a pleas­ant young man with a Beatles hairdo so far) should be suspec­ted of the murder, mainly because he’s young and a student, so that obvi­ously makes him danger­ous. It was a crap mystery that didn’t make much sense either. I should prob­ably have picked two better ones to read, but I just picked them at random really.

11) Who I Am- Pete Town­shend 2/​5
The main thing I took away from this book is that Pete Town­shend is a massive prick. Also, Who lyrics look terrible when you see them writ­ten down. The book is pretty blandly writ­ten, and doesn’t do anything to conjure up the atmo­spheres of the differ­ent histor­ic­al peri­ods or the person­al­it­ies of the other people involved (the same prob­lem I had with the Joe Boyd memoir), it’s just Pete Town­shend making a constant stream of bad decisions and never seem­ing to learn from exper­i­ence. Read­ing memoirs of musi­cians from the time reminds me of the uncom­fort­able histor­ic­al gap between the sexu­al revolu­tion and the emer­gence of women’s rights. It seems for most of the 60s fash­ion­able women were still expec­ted to be decor­at­ive and quiet, but also almost obliged to have sex with every­one, no matter what their person­al wishes, like they were some kind of prize to be awar­ded. Maybe it wasn’t quite like that, but that’s the impres­sion you get from a lot of the male writ­ing of the time.


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  1. doing good ! my balance is more towards movies, I can't seem to get the book depart­ment work­ing. I'm a slow read­er because my mind wanders off so easily

  2. I go through phases where some­times I read a lot and watch hardly anything, and then it suddenly turns into watch­ing a lot of things and not read­ing much. I'm unem­ployed at the moment, which helps with the time though!

  3. I read some­where that Town­send said, during the Mod peri­od they led by follow­ing. Those songs are untouch­able. Then Pete Town­send led by lead­ing and they became insuf­fer­able. Glad to know I'm not the only one who thinks he's a bore.

    As for the women. I'd be curi­ous to know how much of those tryst acually came off…or maybe the kind of person that blab­bers about these things attracts a partic­u­lar kind of woman.

    boring boring boring…but, thanks for read­ing it so I don't even have to consider doing so. 🙂

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