Monday, September 3, 2012

12 in 12: Books - July and August

I've kind of taken my eye off my book-buying. At one level the attempt to limit my book-buying to 12 books for 2012 has been an abject failure. But there's a sliver of silver lining in that I do now think more before I purchase a book, and there have been a number of occasions on which I've actively resisted the urge to buy.

July was fine. I bought only one book - Mo Hayder's sensationalist and morally questionable Birdman when I wanted something distracting to read. August has been a buying disaster. I blame the Byron Bay Writer's Festival. I've already noted how impressed I was by Australian novelist Alex Miller's interview at the Festival - so I felt I needed to buy his latest book, Autumn Laing which I've still to read. Text Classics (a venture by Text Publishing to re-publish out-of-print Australian 'classics' at wonderfully cheap prices) has included some crime fiction which tempted me. I discovered I hadn't read Peter Temple's An Iron Rose (1998) and of course couldn't resist buying it. I am a Peter Temple fan. His early books are well-plotted, well-written and deeply Australian, but his most recent novel, Truth, is an example of how an alleged 'crime novel' can transcend its genre. I laughed out loud with Shane Maloney's Stiff. There were others - but I won't bore you with a full disclosure of my temptations and falls.

Prolific Singaporean writer Shamini Flint was one of the Festival's great entertainments. The friend with whom I was staying already had one of her books featuring Inspector Singh of the Singapore police. I galloped through it. Fun, fun, fun, and along the way interesting and challenging insights into various south-east Asian cultures and cultural stereotypes. I've subsequently bought another two of the series in e-book format and have devoured them, too.

And then there's book group reading; in particular, Irish-born, now Canadian, Emma Donoghue's Room. I'm sure I've already written somewhere that I have a very low tolerance level for whimsy, which leads me to be suspicious of novels or even films that are voiced by children or (heaven forbid!) animals. So I was not predisposed to like Room, whose narrator is five-year-old Jack, imprisoned in an impregnable shed with his kidnapped mother for his whole life. This is an interesting contribution to the genre of novels that teases out how we learn about our world by focusing on people whose initial socialisation has been stunted or severely limited. This novel is not whimsical. And despite the horror of the situation it depicts, it's essentially a story of the capacity for survival through caring relationships.

So, disaster on the book-buying front. I haven't even totalled the number of books I've bought in August because it's just too many. And I've already bought one book for September!


M-H said...

Room is just amazing. When I'd finished it I immediately re-read it. I have all of Donoghue's books, and Hood is another long-time favourite of mine. She goes from strength to strength.

DrK said...

i've been wondering about Room myself, i think i will go get it now. so thanks for helping me blow my no spending on anything secret pledge :) can i just say though, if you're buying ebooks, i really dont think they count!

Lynne said...

I stay away from book shops but love the fact that I can borrow ebooks and audio books from my local library without leaving home! And Amazon has some interesting free titles available from time to time for Kindle!

Brendaknits said...

Well, between you and MH's comment I might decided to read ROom. I had previously thought it would be too gruesome.

Christy J said...

I was afraid to read Room when my book club picked it last year but ultimately was very impressed with it. The mother is a very strong character and the care she takes with her son is amazing. The boy is remarkable as so many children are; whatever their situation is, it is "normal" to them and they manage to develop despite circumstances which could overwhelm many adults. The horror of the situation was kept from him as much as possible by his mother, and since he is the narrator, it is underplayed for the reader as well. I join you in recommending it to your readers.