1. The Closed Circle- Jonathan Coe
2. Dibs in Search of Self- Virginia Axline
3. Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case- Agatha Christie
4. 99 Ways to Tell a Story- Matt Madden
5. Fragile Things- Neil Gaiman
6. Lost Worlds: What Have We Lost and Where Did it Go?- Michael Bywater
7. Exercises in Style- Raymond Queneau trans. Barbara
8. The Atom Station- Halldór Laxness trans. Magnus Magnusson
9. Sweets: the History of Temptation- Tim Richardson
The Atom Station- Halldór Laxness trans. Magnus Magnusson (yes, him off Mastermind)
Halldór Laxness won a Nobel Prize for literature, is considered THE modern Icelandic writer, and has an excellent name. I’d heard of him for a long time, but never got round to reading anything by him. I went to Iceland a few years ago, but I didn’t buy any books there because they were all so expensive. The other week I saw this in the local library, so I considered it was about time. Halldór Laxness (haltour ˈlaxsnɛs) Halldór Laxness (haltour ˈlaxsnɛs) Halldór Laxness (haltour ˈlaxsnɛs) ….
Ugla (‘owl’) is a girl from a remote valley in the north of Iceland in the late 40s who comes to Reykjavik to work as a maid in the town house of her local MP (who’s trying to strike a deal to get an American nuclear weapon station built in Iceland) and study music. She takes harmonium lessons off an eccentric old man whose house is always full of the local radicals, and becomes a communist by accident . The general tone is surreal and satirical at the same time, apparently not his usual style, but I enjoyed it and would like to read more. I felt like he was taking the piss out of some very specific targets, and that I would have enjoyed the book even more if I were more familiar with Iceland in the 40s. It was also translated by Magnus Magnussson off Mastermind. I like that.
“It is a characteristic of great art that people who know nothing feel they could have done it themselves – if they were stupid enough”
Sweets: the History of Temptation- Tim Richardson
This does exactly what it says on the tin, tracing the history of sweets from primitive honey cakes to the present day mountain of available sweets. It covers the invention of sweets in India, medical use of sugar in mediaeval times (which gave me a terrible craving for liquorice comfits), the explosion of sugar use in Europe on the back of the slave trade in the 1700s, eccentric victorian industrialists and all sorts of trivia on how you actually make various sweets. In between the chapters are short sections entitled Pic ‘n’ Mix which each deal with a particular sweet. I mostly read this while stuffing a bar of Green & Black’s Butterscotch Chocolate into my face, and you should probably do likewise.