Unfinished books

It’s Wednesday and Rambler5319 is taking over to talk about a few (!) books he is reading….

 

I wonder when you look at your bookshelf do you see a book you never finished reading? Do you see more than 1, more than 10? Do you perhaps not put unfinished books onto your bookshelves in case they get forgotten? Perhaps like me you have a “not finished section” or maybe a whole shelf dedicated to them so you know that every one in that part is a not-finished book. Have any defeated you as it were? Any that you just gave up on for some reason?

I usually have more than 1 book on the go at any one time – my average is about 4 or 5. However recently I noticed there seemed to be quite a number which I haven’t got round to finishing. I thought I should do something about it so first off, as well as emptying the “special” shelf, I went round the house and collected ones I knew I hadn’t finished. Then I made a list and here it is (in no particular order):

1. A History of the World in 100 Objects (Neil MacGregor)

This one was a present and is very well written & illustrated and as I often listened to the Radio series of the same name was a great present. The difficulty has been that because the individual objects are a personal choice by the author & his colleagues there is no particular connection other than the historical timeline. (Neil MacGregor is the Director of The British Museum (since 2002) and was previously a director of The National Gallery.) The objects are grouped into “fives” (which relate to one period for each set) to fit the radio series as there was one broadcast each week day. It is rather like reading 100 short stories so I dip in and out. It will probably take a good while yet to conquer this one but I am over half way and heading towards 2/3 finished.

2. The Elizabethans (A.N. Wilson)

Well written by an author I have a couple of other books by. However the tiny print has made it a hard one to finish. Am almost ¾ through but have just stuttered a bit and it’s proving difficult to get going again.

3. And Now On Radio 4 (Simon Elmes)

It’s about a radio station I listen to a fair bit but not a normal chronological or biographical account starting at Day 1 up to the present although it does do various bits of the history. The text is interspersed with interesting short articles on particular subjects or people but it does mean continuity is interrupted as you break off from the main text to read a short article on the page above. Less than half way on that one.

4. God’s Undertaker – Has Science Buried God? (John C. Lennox)

It tackles the really big questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does the Universe exist? Where did it come from? And where, if anywhere, is it heading? Anyone who believes the Big Bang Theory does have to answer the question, put by a child, to a scientist who after speaking on the subject asked for any questions. Hands went up and a child said: “But what went BANG?” You see the Big Bang does not explain how that original matter which went “bang” came to be there and it doesn’t claim to. Obvious really but something which is glossed over by many scientists. This book is a current one (“on the go”) being read but only just started. It’s worth remembering that Lennox is a distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University not some whacky theory protagonist and that he’s publicly debated with Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens. He presents a very compelling case for looking at the alternatives to the commonly accepted theories of our time on the world and its origins. Love him or disagree with him you have to admit that the questions he raises (and which have been raised for hundreds if not thousands of years) will not go away. You may disagree with his answers but I reckon you’ll be hard pressed to come up with an alternative that will ultimately satisfy you.

5. The Language Wars – A History of Proper English (Henry Hitchings)

This is one about the way English has developed over the years. Have words come in via the Anglo Saxon influence or the French, Scandinavian, Latin or Germanic? Which is ‘right’? There are some writers who want to use only English words of a particular origin in their writing rather than those imported from other sources. It’s a current one and progress puts me just under halfway on this one.

6. Red Roses on the Veldt – Lancashire Regiments in the Boer War 1899-1902 (John Downham)

Covers some of the famous names associated with the period. We read of Cecil Rhodes founder of the Rothschild-funded De Beers Diamond Company and later founder of the country named after him, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Then there is General Sir Redvers Buller KCB VC who was present at the relief of Ladysmith & the defeat at Spion Kop. Incidentally the “Kop” after which Liverpool Football Club named their old standing terraced area of Anfield was because the sloping area resembled the hill outside the town of Ladysmith. The author has researched his subject very well and there are brilliantly detailed accounts & photographs of the various battles and personalities involved. However military history takes a bit of ploughing through and I’m finding this one a toughie to get into although the subject is of interest due to a family ancestor who was involved in one of the Lancashire Regiments mentioned in the book. (If any of you know the film Zulu about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, that was 20 years earlier in 1879.)

7. Albion – A Guide to Legendary Britain (Jennifer Westwood)

This is more like a dictionary than a readable book just because of the way it’s presented: legends by shire county or area of UK. Probably not one I’ll end up reading cover to cover but have already dipped in for areas I’ve visited over the last year or so.

8. Fitzroy (John & Mary Gribbin)

Am just under 2/3 way through this one. It’s a current one and making good progress. Robert Fitzroy is the reason why today we use things like barometers to predict the weather. He took readings of the air pressure and noticed how when it went up or down so the weather that followed displayed certain characteristics. He introduced the idea that you could therefore attempt to predict what might happen weather-wise. He was also a surveyor of hundreds of miles of coastline around South America. One of his voyages saw him & the ship away from England for 5 years! The guy was amazing at what he did. The Shipping Forecast which is part of the fabric of British maritime heritage has been broadcast for many years and is a direct result of Fitzroy’s work. In 2002 the forecast area called Finisterre (NW tip of Spain) had to be renamed because Spain was already using it for a more local area on the coast. The replacement name chosen was very fittingly – Fitzroy.

The Shipping Forecast has inspired some rather odd things. Would you, for example, go as far as the two sisters who named their children Shannon, Bailey & Tyne after those three areas in the Forecast? (Perhaps the fact that their husbands worked at sea at the time had something to do with it although initially they did not think much of the idea.)

One book I’ve read on the Shipping Forecast areas is Charlie Connelly’s Attention All Shipping. Really worth a read even if you don’t know about the areas themselves as he makes the info presented very interesting by finding curious people, things and events associated with them. I like his style, as they say, and actually have 3 of his other books.

9. The Chronology of Words & Phrases – 1,000 years in the history of English (Linda & Roger Flavell)

This is a really original book. The authors pick a year, give a brief paragraph on what was going on at the time and then list words which came about in the period around that time. They also go into detail about how words have come into our language and even how they’ve developed and changed spelling over the centuries to the modern day. It’s a fascinating insight and I’m really enjoying this one. It’s only a recent purchase so am barely 20% into it.

10. Motson’s National Obsession – The Greatest Football Trivia Book Ever… (Adam Ward & John Motson OBE)

Does what it says on the tin – it gives loads of info on really odd things about the game of football. By its very nature, being a collection of facts, it’s a dip in and out one.

11. Atlantis Found (Clive Cussler)

Now I like Cussler. He’s a great story teller. There’s always a twist and usually it’s a good twist in that you’re not expecting it. It’s one of a series with a kind of detective/James Bond type of hero in called Dirk Pitt and his colleagues from NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency).

12. Song of Redemption (Lynn Austin)

It’s historical fiction so the main facts are as per the written records but the characters and some events may have bits added to enhance the story. I’m sure the genre helps people learn more of historical figures but it runs the risk of people who don’t know the history just accepting the fictionalised bits as fact. I suppose it’s similar to films about history which make up bits to produce a good story on the big screen but may not have a basis in real fact.

You’ll notice these last two are the only novels I’m reading at the moment which I suppose says a lot about my choices and preferences.

There are a few more. I’m doing some research on 3 Old Testament prophets and have two books covering them. Both of these are only just started. There’s also the Dictionary of British Place Names which I wrote about in my post on 2.1.13 called Toponymy. Obviously as a dictionary it will never be a cover to cover book but it’s been well used so far.

(Oh, and almost forgot another 2 or 3 on the Kindle takes me to a total of about 15.)

As I’m not a “corner of the page folder over” each one of these has a bookmark in which is how I know they’re all still uncompleted. I do worry that the pile is growing and wonder if it’s my lack of perseverance that’s to blame. Perhaps it’s my need for variety.

One last question – do you have a bathroom (toilet?) book? Are you willing to let us know your bathroom book? There’s always one in there for me, otherwise what does one do? Do you stare at the towels hanging on the back of the door? Do you meditate on things to be done when you’ve finished? What do you think about for those 5, 10 or even 15 minutes? Me, I pick up my book and off I go – I’m in that very special place – “bathroomworld” – where the body does one thing and the brain something completely different. The only disadvantage is that if I get to a really good bit I might end up staying just a bit longer than I expected. Oops.

I’m determined to get the pile down so want to finish at least half of them by the end of the year. I hope to be able to report on progress between now and then.

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