Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Al’s book review time

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

As a bonus round, I thought I’d say a few words about the books I’ve been reading whilst traveling.

The Book of Dave by Will Self

Strange yarn about some future post-flood London, where the society has based it’s religion on unearthed rantings of a cabbie named Dave. Swaps back now and then to the present day as Dave’s life falls apart. Has the fine eye for cyncism and personal bitterness that Self does well, as well as being a commentary on broader themes about London and religion. Quite enjoyed it.

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Woolfe

Have been meaning to get around to reading this one, having read his journo books and seen the atrocious film adaption, and I found it a bloody good story. Cuts quite close to the bone at times, and evokes 80’s New York like no other book. Karina read it after me and also dug it.

Istanbul by Orhan Pamluk

Fairly self indulgent memoir about his childhood in Istanbul. He waffles on for several chapters about the precise characteristics of turkish melancholy until I started feeling it myself, but his recollections about other writers and artists kept the interest level just above my tedium threshold to finish it.

The Third Chimpanzee by Jarod Diamond

Now Diamond is a bloke I think had one big idea to say, which he did very well in his Guns, Germs, and Steel, and I reckon he got it out of his system. His subsequent books have had less and less to say, only repeating his earlier arguments and rehashing those of others I’ve heard put better before. He’s just become another run of the mill popular science writer and this book didn’t teach me anything new.

Science of the Discworld 3 by Terry Pratchett (co written with two scientist mates)

In contrast, I found this book a surprisingly good science read, having bought it expecting light comedy fare. His hypothesis about the importance of narrative in human thought and development was quite compelling. Poor Terry has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers, which will be a depressing loss for fans such as myself

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Ripping yarn about escapee bank robber from Melbourne involved in the Bombay underworld, amongst other things. Supposedly based on his real life, some of the convenient plotting had the whiff of bullshit about it. No matter, as a story it’s one of the best I’ve read in a while and I recommend it to anyone. A bloke we met in bulgaria turned us on to it, but in India it seems every bookseller has 3 or 4 copies and it’s a firm backpacker favourite.

How the Dead Live by Will Self

If I thought The Book of Dave was a bitter book, this one puts it in the shade for caustic cynicism. I took a while to read this one because frankly I wasn’t in the mood for it a lot of the time during our relatively happy travels.

Midnights Children by Salman Rushdie

I’ve read a couple of Rushdie’s books, though not The Satanic Verses nor it’s sequel, The Buddha is a Big Fat Cunt. I’m finding it a bit hard to get into, mainly because the cheap photocopied paperback I bought is missing several pages.