Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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.

Wimbledon Hill and I

Wimbledon Hill has meant many things to me. It has defined my relationship with my bike. And with myself. There are hills that are difficult to get up… But I manage it most of the time. There are hills that only super-fit triathletes would attempt. One of these hills is on the cycle route from London out to Reading. I like to call it The Hill Of Resting because all you can do is get off your bike and rest.

But Wimbledon Hill is different. It is difficult. But not too difficult. If you get into the right thought process, you can just about get up it. If you think you won’t do it, then you might as well not try, because you’ll give up so quickly. But if you can talk yourself into believing you can do it, you’ve crossed the first hurdle.

There are a few things which need to happen to get up Wimbledon Hill.

1. You need to believe you will make it.

2. You need the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill to be on green.

3. You need to look down at the road and not look up to check your progress until you go past the second drain and are in sight of the Cath Kidson shop.

4. You need to stand up to approach the hill but sit down after the first drain.

5. You need to keep your speed up.

Once you have worked this out, you can attack the hill every time, because you have a method. But all it takes is the slightest inclination that your legs ache, or you feel lazy today, or you’ll never make it… and off you climb, feeling like a let down and convincing yourself that next time you’ll do it.

Life is a bit like Wimbledon Hill. Occasionally it is like the Hill Of Resting. Realistically, I will never alleviate world hunger single handedly. It is more than likely that I will end up pushing my bike up the hill, making small efforts here and there where I can but unable to attack the whole thing alone.

But sometimes it is like Wimbledon Hill. It’s hard but going for it and having a method could see you through, so long as you don’t hop off with a faux injury, saying you’ll do it next time.

My efforts to be greener have so far been a little more like a gentle incline, the long slow hill in Richmond Park from Roehampton Gate to Richmond Gate (minus the steep bit at the end, of course). I quite like Richmond Park and a gentle incline is at least heading in the right direction.

But the other day I decided to jump in with both feet and attempt a little Wimbledon Hill. I put my money where my mouth is. I went looking for things I care about, causes and projects that I feel passionately about. While I couldn’t be at the abolitionist march in Austin today, I donated some money to the organisation leading it. I also read up about the British Red Cross and, remembering someone in my neighbourhood who needs help, gave them some money too. I bought two books from the Friends of the Earth website. And in town last night, meeting a friend for dinner, I saw some street musicians and emptied my purse into their guitar case.

I may be a little short at the end of this month but I’m going to ride it out. I felt poorer financially but better for it. Lighter. Like I’d emptied my pockets and now I was more relaxed. The money had been given wisely and I was absolved of the responsibility of spending it.

And that was also my Wimbledon Hill, being ok with giving money away again. I used to do it loads when I didn’t have much, because I didn’t have anything to lose. But then after a while, the bank and the government wanted all that money back. And you have to keep hold of it. Think before you spend. Withhold frivolity. Watch the pennies.

And this past few days, for my one good thing every day, I have given money away in a useful way. And it has been fun. Try it.

Search terms 3

Ok, it’s the third installment of the Search Terms posts. In this one, we have your average search about Highgate or Kingston Uni or what to do with bingo wings. But then right at the bottom, a strange Donald Duck search, which must have lead to disappointment when Google sent them to me….

dairylea triangles music
“ici logo”/ “wavy lines”
things to remember while swimming
deaflympics in brazil 2016
are you going to scarborough fair?
upstairs downstairs
robinson helicopter garage
the grove highgate george michael
sandy denny maddy prior
once i’ve finished i dont like them
the song remind me of the good time
london eye chairoplane
inspirational quotes about new adventures
laura maisey
gold leaf wedding cake disaster
alwasy moisturise bingo wings
how do i put my kingston email
i like my childhood friend who is my hero
inspirational quotes
kate moss house highgate coleridge
salt works liverpool 1871
i don’t want to finish reading my book
through on my mind right now
my reflection in swimming in word
motivational quotes about journey in life
what do people say about working with chickens
taxi drivers don’t know the way
first bikram yoga class fainting
i don’t want to finish reading my book
skytrain o2 arena
whelk stall
what is the background laughter in parties
drunks refuse to pay for taxi cabs
chairoplane london eye
moss covered stump
upstairs downstairs 2012 and downton abbey
cockle & welks stalls 1950’s pics
store with this apron close to pantheon
why do i say things twice
goat and dog train boy
college bucket list
hit by bird droppings
goat met dog
what are renegade squats
which road in highgate does george michael live on
listening the songs reminds me of holiday
shakeing my head when swimming
who said “freedom is the absence”
letters and dolls
neologism of big brother
did it rain on may 7 2012
dedication sample
why do kids say things twice
my feeling about olympics
freedom rules
things to remember when swimming
books about truffles
a memo in a polite way to my lazy dog
kingston uni pgce interview
donald duck girls big tits

Just don’t want to finish this book!

Before I start, the answer to yesterday’s blog about how much I spent on a ‘small’ shop in Waitrose was £64 – which I felt bad about to start with, until the guesses where closer to £100. Now I feel quite restrained and pleased with myself!.

Today, we have another post from my regular guest blogger on a subject I’m sure a lot of us can understand….

I wonder if you’ve ever started to read a book and then not wanted to finish it; perhaps you did finish just because you started it and didn’t want to be beaten by it or perhaps you didn’t and just put it back on the shelf, passed it on, threw it away or whatever.

There are some books which you begin reading and you lose interest in. Sometimes it’s the story line: you don’t think it’s that good or believable. Sometimes it’s the characters: he/she/it just wouldn’t or possibly even couldn’t do that in your view. Maybe the characters themselves are a little “thin” or superficial so you don’t feel as if you can empathise or even marvel at things they do. Maybe the plot of the whole thing just doesn’t work or some of its parts don’t hang together very well. I’m sure you’ve been there. I’m also sure, like me, one of those books you’ve put down was praised beyond belief by another reader or even critic who has reviewed it. You sit there thinking “Is it me? Have I missed something?” I’m sure you’ve got a few of those T-shirts – I know I have. You’ve only got to look at some (of course not all) of the various prize winners of the many different awards to know it’s true. Literature has a way of dividing opinion just like music, art (and sculpture) and other cultural areas. It’s very personal. It’s your experience. Normally no-one else shares it with you. When you read a book you’re in your own little world for a time; you don’t usually read the same book with someone else there and even if you did it wouldn’t be at the same speed. It’s a solitary experience although you can be in a crowd while it is happening: on the Tube/Subway, on the bus, in a car (not driving of course), on the beach or even in a library. If anyone speaks to you it’s like they’ve interrupted your mind’s interaction with the book. It’s like they’ve “butted in” when you didn’t ask them to. Your imagination runs wherever you want to go with it for a while and you want to enjoy the “dream” and not have people “waking you up” as it were. Been there? You know, you look up and give them the “Do you realise you’ve just spoilt my reading experience” glazed look or a more serious “keep away” snarl. You may try to be friendly through your gritted teeth. You might even try a half smile when they ask “Good book?” and you reply “Yes I’m just at a really exciting point here” hoping they’ll take the hint and leave you alone. Perhaps a Reading – Do Not Disturb T-Shirt could be a winner; (now where are those phone numbers for GAP, Calvin Klein & Tommy Hilfiger?) You can speak to me when I’ve put my book down, when it is closed with its bookmark sticking out of the page I’m up to; you don’t fold over the top corner of the page, do you? Of course you don’t, one just do that sort of thing!
But there are some books which you begin reading and you don’t want to finish because they’re SO good. You want the experience of reading that novel or biography or straight factual book to go on so you can enjoy it for longer. You’re in that imaginary world of where the text on the page has taken you, even captured you. Perhaps it’s generating emotions of love or dislike of a particular character; perhaps a mystery is unfolding and you’re enjoying all the twists and turns and trying to work out the “whodunit?” yourself; perhaps a relationship is formed and you don’t want it to end but you can see the signs. All of these things can make us want to prolong the experience of reading that particular book although you know it really does have to end.

Knowing there’s a sequel or even a number of sequels because it’s going to be a series may make you get through the book more quickly as you want to find out how things progress.

So why do I not want to finish the book I’m reading right now? If you’re wondering which book – it’s called The Land Of Painted Caves by Jean Auel. It’s part of a series called Earth’s Children. Let me give you the series list with each book’s first published date (it is relevant):

1. Sep 1980 – The Clan Of Cave Bear (also film)
2. Sep 1982 – The Valley Of Horses
3. Sep 1985 – The Mammoth Hunters
4. Nov 1990 – The Plains Of Passage
5. Apr 2002 – The Shelters Of Stone
6. Mar 2011 – The Land Of Painted Caves

Overall 31 years from book 1 to book 6! As you can see there’s quite a variation in the length of time between each of the novels; the longest gap was from book 4 to 5 – 12 years! I came to the series in the late 1980s beginning with the book & film.
Book 1 got me hooked and I’ve read the rest over the years since then. Each paperback is a kind of “brick-sized” thickness; the last one is 782 pages so a good size to keep me busy. The action is in a pre-historic world of Southern Europe involving tribal groups of Cro-Magnon & Neanderthal origins. I’ve watched characters grow together, sometimes grow apart, go on long journeys, make friends and lose friends; I’ve seen them age & have children; I’ve seen some move up the social scale and some down; I’ve seen them discover things about their world and about each other – some likeable, some not. It’s a bit like everyday life today set in this early world. You may not agree with some parts of the story in terms of personal belief but this is their world and it’s what they believed in their world at that time.

By about page 200 I was thinking – this is the last book (so far as the, now 76 year old, author has herself said) and this imaginary world which I’ve been a visitor to for just over 20 years will come to an end. These familiar characters will stop – frozen in time at the end of this book. I don’t know what they might do in the future because there is no future for them – they will cease to develop any further whilst I, on the other hand, will not. Time for me will continue (without my imaginary friends from the book) as it will for everyone but I just don’t want to leave these folks behind. I suppose, in a way, they will stay with me in my mind, because I know about them, because I’ve visited their world, but there will be no more stories about their lives. So what did I do? I picked up another book and read that for a while. Soon however I wanted to find out what was going to happen in that world of Earth’s Children’s so back I went to The Land Of Painted Caves. I read some more and got to page 300 & then 400. Then, guess what? I put the book down again and picked up another one, different to the book I read after 200 pages. And I read that for a while, hoping to keep The Land Of Painted Caves alive for a bit longer. I only got another 100 pages or so before putting it down again and going off with another book. It’s tough as, inevitably, I was drawn back once again to TLOPC. As of today I have reached page 629 so just about 150 pages left. Even if I restrict myself to 10 pages a day I’ve only got 2 weeks left. I know it’s got end but I just don’t want it to be now. Maybe I’ll pick another of those books up and spend some time with them. Eventually, I know and you do too, that TLOPC’s Jondalar, Ayla, Jonayla and their “Cave” & the other “Caves” and “Hearths” of their world will draw me back. You see the big difference with this book, which wasn’t true for the other five, is that I know there will be no more. If the author had just said nothing I would quite happily have read through to the end and just waited for the next one – maybe 2, 3, 5 or however many years.

I’m curious though. Is it just me or have any other readers found a book or series of books so fascinating they just didn’t want them to end? Have you actually stopped and then gone back later?

I feel I’m on the fringes of addiction here but not sure what the cure is. Where’s my nearest literature re-hab centre? I wonder whether I’ll meet some of you there; I’m “virtually” certain I will.

Reasons why my big brother is cool

When the older years and younger years at primary school had play time together and my friends and I were playing with a ball, whenever I got it, I’d run over to my big brother and shout ‘chuck it!’ and he’d throw it really far. I remember thinking I’d never seen anyone throw a ball that far in my entire life.

When we got sweets at the shop, he made up a cool game where he was the bin. To play, I’d press his nose and his mouth would open. I’d press his nose again and his mouth would close. Then I’d press it and he’d chew the sweet. Then I’d press again and he’d swallow it. Inevitably, my brother cleverly got all the sweets and I got none. But it was SUCH a fun game!

He listened to way cool music. I went through a phase where I decided that I’d like exactly the same music as him, to try and extract some of his coolness. I listened to Fugees and Nas and didn’t understand a word but I knew it was cool.

I used to sit and watch him play computer games while I’d write my little stories. I didn’t really know what Championship Manager was about but I’d watch him play it for ages nonetheless.

We used to get up early on weekend mornings, put our duvets on the stairs and get a sleeping bag. One person would get into the bottom of the sleeping bag and the other would sit at the top and we’d bump down the stairs. It was WAY more fun than it sounds.

He and his friends would play football on the back field and I’d sit nearby, reading or writing a little story. When the ball would roll too far, I’d run and collect it for them. Like a one-girl fan club! Just lingering around, watching them run about and not having a clue what was going on.

Sometimes we were allowed to put up the two man tent in the back garden and sleep overnight in it. We’d hang out in the tent feeling like we were on a massive adventure. That was fun.

I heard my brother tell a joke once so I told it to everyone I knew. It went like this – What do you get if you go under a cow? A pat on the back. I honestly had no idea what was funny about it! I thought it meant that you were really brave for going under the cow. People laughed when I told it and I didn’t know why. But because my big brother had said it, I said it.

My big brother was the coolest guy in his school when on the final year photos he did a cool hand gesture thing. I forget what it was. I just remember thinking he was pretty out-there and fun.

My big brother taught me how to ride a bike. I learned really late and was quite embarrassed about it and one day, he took me to the race track on the back field and taught me how to ride. Thanks for that, by the way!

When my big brother got married last year, he asked me to do a reading in the ceremony. Amazing. My cool big brother wanted ME to do a reading at his wedding. It is still the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Well, of course it was. It was MY big brother’s wedding!

Happy birthday, big brother!