What We're Reading

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Neil

Between Them: Remembering My Parents, by Richard Ford (Bloomsbury 2017)

Between Them is a memoir of Richard Ford's parents, in two parts written 30 years apart. The one about his mother was written in the aftermath of her death in 1981, the other he wrote recently, 55 years after his father's death in 1960. He attempts to understand what their life was like before Richard was born, when they were young and carefree in the early to middle part of the Twentieth Century. I think many of us wonder what their parents were like when they were young, but the past is out of reach, filtered through hazy memory and old photos.

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Neil

Talking to My Country, by Stan Grant (HarperCollins 2016)

Stan Grant is an Australian journalist who has worked for many Australian and international TV networks. He identifies as Wiradjuri, and was brought up in a rural community, and suffered poverty and racism in childhood. This book is a meditation on race, identity and history, it is at times angry, passionate, personal and honest. He may not have all the answers, but his perspective is unique, and he asks if Australia is the country that Australians want it to be, and can it be better at comforting its past.

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Neil

Home Fire, by Kamila Shamsie (Bloomsbury, 2017)

This new book by the multi-award winning Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani-English author, was long-listed for this year's Man Booker Prize. Apparently, it's a contemporary reimagining of Sophocles'Antigone, but don't let that put you off. It's an extremely tense literary thriller, telling the story of a Muslim family in London and the pressures they find themselves under, from within and without the family, in this age of Islamic State. It's a story of divided loyalties, love and terrorism.

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Neil

S.T.A.G.S, BY M.A. Bennett (Hot Key 2017)

The title of this YA novel refers to the ancient school in which it is set - St Aidans The Great School. It's a kind of younger version of Donna Tartt's The Secret History. A girl called Greer MacDonald wins a scholarship to attend this prestigious school, where most of the other students are incredibly wealthy. She is invited away for the weekend to the house of one of the wealthy students, and that's when the manipulation and yes, murder, begins. It's a high quality thriller, with sufficient twists and turns to keep you guessing. Highly recommended.

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Neil

Solar Bones, by Mike McCormack (Canongate 2017)

This book's main claim to fame, it seems, is that it's written in just one sentence. That could be interpreted as a gimmick, but it's not; it's more like channeling into a stream of consciousness. McCormack has done what seems to be impossible - he has written an entire book as though it is being thought, in real time. The book takes place over one hour, as the narrator, an engineer called Marcus Conway, looks back over his life and reflects on the rhythms and routines of his time on earth. The prose has an effortless flow to it, the reader hardly notices the lack of punctuation.

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Neil

Utopia For Realists, by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury 2017)

Utopia For Realists is a visionary book, about how we can make our lives and our society better. He questions why none of our political parties, either left or right, have the answers to solving the problems of homelessness, poverty, inequality, long working weeks etc. As the title suggests, he is realistic, and describes case studies where significant achievements have been made in these areas. Of particular interest is his advocacy for a Universal Basic Income, which I have come to believe is one answer to many of the issues plaguing Western society right now.