january round up

well its been a great month on winstonsdad my first month of proper blogging has really paid off ,i feel i ve put my own stamp and style in my posts now .well i ve read nine books this month .

1 Wonder by Hugo Claus

2 Brutal telling by Louise Penny

3 The patience stone by Atiq Rahimi

4 White raven by Owen Sheers

5 Fado by Andrzej Stasiuk

6 How fiction  works by James Wood

7  The passport by Herta Muller

8 The last Englishman by Roland Chambers

9 Pocket notebook by Mike Thomas

favourites were the passport,the patience stone and white raven all great books that make you think .

challenges for 2010

around the world in 52 books  4/52

100 books in year 9/100

both going well so far

plans for next month will be starting the belly of the atlantic by fatou Diome today ,intend to read Jo Nesbos snowman near end of the month .

books that defined me

i decide to do this meme post after reading a brilliant post by Claire at paperback reader ,the rules where as follows –

1.Go to your book cases

2.Choose books with your eyes closed

3.Choose ten at random ,use all of your bookcases or piles of books

4.Use the book to tell us about yourself where and when you got them ,who got them for you ,what the books say about you etc .etc….

5.Have fun be imaginative .doesn t matter if you ve not read them all

6.Cheat (i choose 14 )

Book one travels with a donkey in the Cevennes by R L Stevenson ,i got this about ten years ago ,from Chesterfield’s great flea market .I have always enjoyed travel books and also Stevenson’s books this is a lovely book and gave me a great couple of days reading ,ot is from the 30s and show my love of old books

Book two poems of Rimbaud (everyman pocket edition) apart from reading mainly novels poetry has always been a great love i got this book in a small independent bookshop that was open in Alnwick in 94 when i brought this sad to say the shop has long gone Rimbaud is one of france greatest poets alongside the like Baudelaire ,my old school teacher turn me on to poetry reading us poems by Keats Yeats and  Lawrence ,i ve read about two-thirds of the poems but always think a book of poems is for life

Book three the bad seed by william march this was a chance buy in Alnwick wonderful barter books got this shortly after it opened i had a feeling it had something to do with nick cave giving his band the name the bad seeds not sure if its true still but it is about a death and a psycho so it might of done ,i do impulse buy some times it pays sometimes it doesn t ,this time it did william march won the national book award with this in 1955 .

Book four Walt whitman selected poems (penguin popular poetry ) i brought this on a day in Leeds with my step mother shortly after seeing dead poets society where whitman features heavily in the plot line ,i love these poems like the film itself there is something about america of this time Thoreau, whitman,Melville and Emerson are all favourites of mine

Book five Saki shorts (phoenix) i have a few Saki collections one of my earliest memories is at my grandparents looking at there shelves and always be amazed by the name Saki when i was old enough i read them ,my grand mother was a english teacher and loves turn of century fiction saki is ther one of the best short story writers his stories make me laugh  ,he is surely due a revival at some point ,reading his stories bring back memories of great summers around the east neuk of fife with my brother and grandparents .

Book six in the heart of the sea Nathaniel Philbrick i got this because of the connection to moby dick ,and sad to say never read it i will now place it back on tbr pile as it had got shelved away in a bedroom ,adventure stories was a great passion in my teens from Willard price on to jack london ,then Melville .The sea has always drawn me and i love boats but have not sailed much except through books

Book seven the rebel Albert Camus ,my father brought this book for me when i lived in germany in the early nineties .a phone call for books and some promptly came a surprise at my father’s choice as he tends to read pulp thrillers and westerns ,Camus ‘s prose are lovely and was a great companion when i was in germany ,i remember been sat by the Rhine reading this book as the boats drifted by

Book eight the leopard Tomasi di Lampedusa this is one of my around the world reads for this year ,looking forward to reading it then watching the film to compare them .It is a perfect example of why i choose to do the round the world challenge to increase my own knowledge of world lit and strength my love of translated fiction .It will also remind me of my late grandfather who fought in italy but after the war spent nearly every summer there on holiday

Book nine white teeth Zadie smith i got this when it came out in paperback in Sheffield ,it seemed to encapsulate a start of the twenty-first century in our fair land pre 9 11 it is a truly great book and one i feel sure i will re read at some point ,it also mark the emergence of a great new talent in Zadie smith ,i spent a lot of time recommend this book to people

Book ten essays George Orwell ,this collection was a present from my parents ,they know of my love of Orwell and this collection is so diverse i spent christmas to new year reading it .reading Orwell was my first introduction to politics in writing as a thirteen year old reading animal farm ,over the years i ve read most of his books and think i will always go back to him

what do your books say about you?

does every book have a memory for you ?

book podcasts

When i got my i pod classic last year one of thrills was being able to download some more podcast there are some great ones out there here are a few of my favourites –

books on the nightstand is an american podcast by michael kindness and Ann Kingman two people who both work in publishing and do this weekly podcast which is usually in three section .The first two sections usually deal with a set topic whether it e readers or graphic novel the last section is a book recommendation from Ann and Micheal ,the chat is free-flowing ,with michael love of graphic novels ,non fiction and fiction and Anns love of lit fiction and female writers they just about have all bases covered they are also both on twitter @annkingman @mkindness.

The new yorker fiction podcast this is a monthly podcast where a writer is given the chance to raid new yorkers vast back catalogue of short stories to read ,this gives you an insight in to the writer as there is a short interview before and after the story it also helps understand the writing process as the second part of the interview they dissect the story to discuss style ,influence and relevance of the story a essential for all budding writers and avid readers recent guests have been Joshua Ferris and Junnot Diaz .

the A.B.C Book show this is a four times weekly show on australian radio hosted by Romana Koval .The format varies from sections to complete show on various topics book related ,great interviews ,discussion on australian classics and modern books fiction and non fiction .Romana is a great host so enthusiastic about books .I discovered Xaiver Herbert and many other australian writers via this podcast .

there are many other podcast out there but these three are a great place to start if you ve not listen to these please give them a go .

Do you have a favourite podcast ?

D0 you wish some podcasts could be made in to tv shows ?


the passport by herta muller

the fourth on the around the world is this book from Romania .I first came across Herta Muller about a week before last years nobel prizes were announced when @milestyle Stewart from world lit forum mentioned her as a possible winner .Being the sort person that loves to find out about new writers i google her and looked on amazon for her books to find little or none in print ,then she went on to win this years nobel prize for literature ,and both granta and the lovely serpents tail choose to reissue books from her .

  the book its self is a mere 90 pages long  set in the small german speaking enclave in Romania and follows a small village miller as he struggles for a passport ,but by no means a simple read as there is no real start to end narrative ,other than a thin thread about Windisch the main characters quest for a passport .In parts the book verges in to the surreal with dreams of dry frogs and an owl that settles on roofs as a harpenge of death .In other places you sense the corruption of the Ceausescu regime with Windsche having to bribe officials with corn and flour .also there are deep sexual and religious undercurrents with a tree being burnt for being possessed by the devil .Muller has a wonderful way of describe the surrounding weather it badly painted walls or the smell of the apples exploding in the fire .for the most part this novel is obviously autobiographical as Hertha herself had to wait to travel to west germany ,grew up in a small village in the same area as the novel is based .Windisch and his wife spooky echo millers own parents as her father was a solider and her own mother had spent time in a soviet work camp .

The priest had stood behind the apple tree ,praying loudly .the church choir stood alongside the boxwood hedge, singing the long songs .it was colds and the breath of the songs was drawn in to the sky .the women ad children prayed quietly.

a scene just before they burn a devilish apple tree .

the cover is a green photo of a cyclist the passport is the english title the translation of the german title is “man is a great pheasant in the world ” which is maybe more intriguing .this was published late last year by serpents tail

twitter week

it’s here again friday time to wrap up what has caught my eye this week on twitter .

first up all week @joethepublicist has been treating us to images from the forth coming decades series this is where a number of books from each decade have been redesigned by Zandra Rhodes ,John squire and Peter Blake among others .out in april some can be seen on link above

there is a new book prize by @tohellwithemma at to hell with publishing ,fast on the heels of the new shop they now have a prize with judges such as India Knights,David Peace and  Kwame Kwei-armah among them,this prize is for unpublished novels and is going to be award on 18th april.

last is @randompr who told us about to great crime novels the man in beijing by Henning Mankell of Wallender fame ,and Henry Sutton get me out of here

i ve tweeted about

  passports by Herta Muller review weekend

 how fiction works by james woods will be reread and review later in year feel this book needs reading twice to absorb fully

the last Englishman Roland C


hope everyone has a good week .What were your highlights ?  more next friday

bolano,bolano ,bolano

having just brought nazi literature in america by Roberto Bolano and having 2666 on shelf still to read ,imagine my dismay to find that three are no fewer than 3 more translation of Bolanos earlier work due out this year .This brought to mind a interview in Guernica  by H C Moya about the danger in the rising power of Bolano is having on overshadowing other latin american lit or Bolano inc .I enjoyed savage detectives and have an interest in reading these three books but feel slightly overwhelmed that they are all coming out in a 8 month period .Bolano died in 2oo3 ,but in last twelve months seems to have building up a head of steam and is on course to replace Garcia Marquez  as the most recognized latin american writer .

      First is nazi literature in america is already out a fictional account of right-wing writers in south america ,next up is monsieur pain a slim tome about a Peruvian poet on new directions .in may come Antwerp another slim tome a prose poem and crime story in one .last up in august is the return both of these also out on new directions .

Have you read B

olano  ?

Do you think this is too much at once ?

fado andrzej stasiuk

 This is the third in my around the world challenge ,from Poland and is the first i ve read by a polish writer .Stasiuk is considered Poland’S foremost writer winning numerous awards in his homeland with his novel nine.The collection of essays  describes as a slavic road trip .The road trip is invoked by the short stories being set all over former eastern europe the stories range from the present-day to the past ,dreams Stasiuk beauty is in the eye for detail he has that straight away lead you to small town cafe ,to slavic writers , the most touching is a story about his own grandparents and ecological issues ,a lament for simple times when things werent  so available so families made do and used everything . Staisuk manages to catch the spirit of post communist times in these essays the searching for new indentys that people have had to do with the changing times ,having spent time in the early nineties working alongside Albanians ,Bosnians and Serbia i felt Stasiuk has really nailed the people of this region .A must read for any one interested in the changing face and map of europe .

In those days ,in the village there were no trash containers.there was also no trash .People brought all kinds of things,but not much was left after they were cosumed.Sugar was sold in paper bags that afterwards could be burned in the stove or reused .Bottles that had contained vinegar,oil and vodka could be sold back at the store for decent money

Stasiuk in the essay tranquilly talking about his grandparents village

The cover is a retro style cover that looks like it might have come from the seventies ,fado is published by the non-profit publisher dalkey archive late last year .

have you read polish fiction ?

what other books do you think examine the changing fac of europe ?

white ravens by owen sheers

 This novella is part of a project from poetry Wales to retell the epic Welsh folk tale Mabinogion ,this is the first of eleven stories due over the next couple of years it was publish late last year .

  Owen Sheers was familiar to me from his television appearances on numerous poetry programmes ,he decide to tackle “Brawen,daughter of llyr ” for his novella white ravens .His interpretation moves the story to the second world war and telling the story of Mathew O Connell a Irish man who  came over to england at the start of the war to fight and eventually get injured in  due course which is where the story really starts as he is hand a secret assignment to fetch some new ravens for the tower of london .He has to go to a farm in  deepest Wales ,he arrives a little early for the chicks so stays at the farmer house with a brother and sister and over the course of time falls in love with the sister and heads back to Ireland  after delivering the chicks .where they marry and start a new life but not all goes well to find out more you ll have to read the book .

“can I take a look?” Mathew asked,approaching the table.”just a peek,” ben said  “They’ve only jus’ settled.Don’t want get ’em all worked up again”

scene where Mathew first meets the ravens at the farm

         Sheers writing is poetic and the two main characters are well-rounded and believable .having not read the original its hard to tell if this is a good interpretation of the story .the original is available in  a newish edition from Oxford world classics .many thanks to

bookrabbit for send me this.

   do you like modern retelling of folk tales ?

    do you think poets make great novelists ?

the week in twitter

This is where i put down bits of book news over the past week that has caught my eye

@archipelagobk’s where telling us about Unai Elorriga novel tour in america the Basque writer who’s novel plants don t drink coffee they publish any one who knows me well knows what a fan i am of archipelago there a small non-profit publisher who make beautiful books .

@windmillbooks told us about pocket notebook by mike Thomas a dark comedy about the police ,the book also has a great take on the famous clockwork orange cover from the seventies

@vintagebooks told us about a new edition of  worst journey in the world the book about the ill-fated scott expedition which their classic imprint are bring out soon

@radompr the wonderful Bethan told us about how to live by Sarah Bakewell  a book about de Montaigne the writer

This week i tweeted about –

the patience stone  by Atiq Rahimi -reviewed

white ravens  by   Owen Sheers -review over weekend

fado by Andrzej Stasiuk -review early next week

a pile of archipelago books

THE PATIENCE STONE by atiq rahimi

The patience stone is the second book in my around the world in 52 books challenge ,its written by Atiq Rahimi and set in afghanstan .The story centres on a young wife as she attends her comatozed husband ,feeding and caring for him as she does so her mind drifts away into the past and what a brutal life she has had as the story progess she opens more and more to her patience stone revealing her innner most thoughts for the first time .this is only broken by the daily routine of tending the husband and evening shots and fear of rape and attack from marruading soilders .

 the book was orginally in french and translated wonderfully by polly mclean she seems to have kept the poetic spirt of the book thaty so captured french audience leading to mthe book winning the prestigous goncourt prize who previous winners have been proust and littell .there is a lovely introduction by Khaled Hosseini

 this is a truely thought provoking book thou it is only 140 pages long it made me hold back the tears at the brutality that is considered normal for females withinn afgan soceity ,at no point does Rahimi try to hold back and the story is so much more compelling for this ,to use a cliche THIS BOOK IS A MUST READ

 She  sits up ond returns to her place on the matress,next to the man’s head,and puts her right hand back on his chest .Begins another cycle of the prayer beads .

A scene from early on in the patience stone

the cover design is a lovely mix of a women at window with a flight of birds over laid over the first picture making a dreamlike cover for the book .The book is published by chatto & windus and is out on the 14th jan 2010

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January 2010


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