What We're Reading

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Neil

Let Me Be Frank: Comics 2010-2019, by Sarah Laing (VUP 2019)

This is a collection of Sarah Laing's personal comics/blog from 2010 to this year. It's witty, smart, disarmingly honest, finely observed and self-effacing. It's not a narrative like her Mansfield and Me (2017), but a collection of comic anecdotes of varying length, but they do hang together, and are always wise and profound.

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Neil

The Way Home, by Mark Boyle (One World 2019)

Mark Boyle, a former business graduate, became disillusioned with the modern world, so a few years ago he spent three years living without money, and wrote about it in The Moneyless Man, which was a massive success and translated into over 20 languages. Now he has decided to live without modern technology: no running water, no electricity or anything it powers, no phone or internet; just a wooden cabin he built himself. In this book he tells of a year making fire, collecting water, foraging, fishing, existing and working in tune with the passing seasons and nature.

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Neil

Rules For Visiting, by Jessica Frances Kane (Granta 2019)

Rules For Visiting is a smart, funny novel about friendship and trees. It's engaging and compassionate, elegant and moving. The lead character, May, is a successful gardener at a university, but her life seems empty, so she decides to look up some old friends in different parts of the US, and slowly reconnects with herself and the future. If you've enjoyed Sally Rooney's books, you will like this.

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Neil

The Absolute Book, by Elizabeth Knox (VUP 2019)

What a tremendous book this is! 650 pages of epic fantasy, rich in metaphor, thrilling, multi-layered and profound, it's about treachery, books and libraries, portals into brilliantly realised other worlds, secrets and much more. Just read it!

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Neil

The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by W. E. Bowman (Vintage 2019, first published Max Parrish 1956)

This hilarious satirical classic was published a couple of years after the first successful summitting of Everest, and relates a fictional version of the conquest of the world's highest peak. The madcap collection of eccentrically named, pompous Brits are absurdly incompetent, mostly ill, drunk or lost, but have a ripping adventure. Quite brilliant, it's one of only two published books by W E Bowman - the other was a spoof of the Kon Tiki expedition. Deservedly a classic!

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Neil

Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry (Canongate August 2019)

A tough, gritty novel, set in the ferry terminal at Algeciras in Spain, from where boats come and go from Tangier in Morocco. 2 men wait for a girl, Dilly, the daughter of one of the men, who has run away. The story unfolds with flashbacks telling the story of what has come before. The men are Irish, malevolent gangsters, semi retired and past their best, but still able and willing to offer menace. The prose and dialogue is snappy, expressed in short sentences, with long passages of just dialogue.