Life is short and bookshelves are long… and it’s too easy to get suckered into a book, keep turning the pages, start philosophising or daydreaming and forget to live. So here’s five books you should avoid like the plague if you don’t want to become a book addict:
In 2001 the Belgian journalist Dimitri Verhulst was commissioned by a Flemish magazine to write an article and, in order to gather material, he had himself locked up in the asylum-seekers’ centre at Arendonk. His sojourn there clearly gave him more material that he needed for a simple article for he ended up writing a whole book: Problemski Hotel.
I came to read this book as a direct consequence of the recent Brussels bombing. I felt then, and I still feel, that if we allow terrorists to dictate the agenda, they half won the battle. And so I invited you all to take part in a reading challenge – to read a Belgian book. If we were going to talk about Belgium, I’d rather talk about Belgian literature. Of which, I had to realise, I knew absolutely nothing.
What Has Belgium Ever Done…
… other than being invaded in two world wars? (No disrespect, God knows they weren’t the only ones.) Admittedly, it also plays host to the EU but that’s probably on the Canberra basis – they couldn’t agree which, so they picked one in between. At least, that’s my theory.
On account of the EU, Brussels in recent years has acquired status as a swearword in most countries in Europe; or at the very least as a synonym for… well. Any number of negative things since the EU’s faults are many: lack of democracy, bureaucracy, common agricultural policy… [insert your problem with the EU here]. Playground swings which due to health & safety considerations will not actually swing (not to mention they even look the same all over Europe)!
Recently I chose to indulge in a little light reading, and the experience was disappointing, to say the least. By way of antithesis, I recalled some great page-turners I read over the years.
So here’s a random list of eleven books for light reading (in no particular order), based on one criteria only: you can’t put them down.
Talk about being bitten by the listmania bug. I immediately decided that I have to make my own list… only to conclude a hundred titles later that I have to rethink my approach. So ten books that – quite literally – transported me to another time, into somebody else’s life or to a place far away…
In no way is this an exhaustive list of books that transport you – to begin with the postman has just delivered a book for me that I am one hundred percent sure would belong on this list, and I’ve only flipped through the pages so far! – but I can always write another list later! 🙂
The book under review is: Seven Ancient Wonders by Matthew Reilly
I got this book for Christmas: I fancied a bit of light reading, so taking a recommendation from the internet, I put this book on my Amazon wishlist. And somebody gave it to me.
I came across the author at the time when I was looking for an Australian book to complete a reading challenge. What with the author featuring in the top 50 must read Australian novels at number 31, exactly thirteen places above David Malouf’s Ransom – and boy, was Ransom a good book! – I thought I could count on a solid page turner that wouldn’t engage my brain in any way whatsover. A little light reading.
The end of the year (the beginning of the new year in the case of the late and lazy, like myself) is invariably a time of stock-taking: in the case of shopkeepers, literally. The rest of the world, not being shopkeepers, makes lists with boring titles like The Best Whatever of 2015. I flatly refuse to write The Best Whatever of 2015… so stealing the title of a well-known spaghetti western instead, please see below The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2015. At least it will be… novel.
(And as the first year of Waterblogged was only a half-year, you’re in luck; this post is only going to be half as long as everybody else’s.)
Just before noon on 25 September 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa ordered his men to halt, then went forward alone, to complete the last stretch of the journey to the summit of the mountain they were climbing. Soon he stood, alone with his god, his ambitions and his sins on this peak rising out of the jungle in Darién; the first European to set eyes on a new ocean. A new ocean which he named Mar del Sur (South Sea) because he reached it by travelling southwards. The ocean that Magellan seven years later was to rename Pacific – coming as he was round the Horn via the straits named after him, well Magellan might have thought the Pacific peaceful.
Núñez de Balboa was no hero, no geographer, no selfless servant of his king. He marched across the Isthmus of Panama in a desperate bid to be first to reach the unknown ocean only because he knew that no less feat could save him from the scaffold. Continue reading “When with Eagle Eyes He Star’d at the Pacific”
There are novels which have unforgettable first lines. Like:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)
“El día en que lo iban a matar, Santiago Nasar se levantó a las 5.30 de la mañana para esperar el buque en que llegaba el obispo.” (Crónica de una muerte anunciada by Gabriel García Márquez).
(“On the day that he was going to be killed, Santiago Nasar got up at 5:30 in the morning to wait for the ship in which the bishop was arriving.” Chronicle of a Death Foretold)
First lines that draw you straight into the story and you never get away again until you finished the book.
A Writer Remembered for the Wrong Reason
Japanese literature is not one of my strongest fields (to put it mildly!) but Yukio Mishima is a writer whom I have found interesting – although perhaps for the wrong reason. Because Mishima, who was three times nominated for the Noble Prize in literature, ultimately is probably more famous for his failed coup d’état followed by his seppuku (ritual suicide) in 1970 than for his novels. To somebody like me, who is interested in history, Mishima’s coup d’état throws up lots of questions about postwar Japan. Nevertheless, it’s probably not what you would want to be remembered for as a writer.