Ah, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? The past six months have been rather hectic and my blogging sporadic. So thank you all for checking in and reading chasing bawa. I seem to have rediscovered by blogging mojo with the sunshine that has appeared over London. It’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics that will be dominating this summer here in Blighty and I am hoping against hope that it’ll be a hot one this year.

And as I have a hankering to know what people around me are reading, here’s Part 1 of what my friends are reading:

A Thorn in their Side: the Hilda Murrell murder by Robert Green – nonfiction about a peace campaigner who died in the 1980s in suspicious circumstances
The Oxford Despoiler and other mysteries from the casebook of Henry St Liver by Gary Dexter – Victorian sexologist mysteries!
Aylesbury, Bolton, Wolverhampton, Hove: a little man and 101 Cardiacs gigs by Adrian Bell

Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson (norse myths) – a re-read
Dipping into The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray – giving it another go

The Story of Silbury Hill by Jim Leary and David Field – archaeology, and the history of the archaeological excavations at Silbury Hill
Dhalgren by Samuel Delany
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

A varied and interesting list, n’est ce pas? I haven’t read any of the titles above except for dipping into the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon and I think I’ve been meaning to read The Golden Notebook for ages too. And since I’ve heard so much about Samuel Delaney, I really must check him out. What about you?

My Life in Books

9 March, 2012

I’m not here today as I’m visiting Simon T’s lovely blog Stuck in a Book discussing my version of My Life in Books together with one of my favourite book bloggers, Danielle of A Work in Progress, so do take a look! And don’t be shy about letting us know what books you would choose too!

Best of 2011

28 December, 2011

It’s been an extremely busy year and I didn’t realise how much so until now. I’m shattered, I tell you. Shattered. However, I do like end of year lists (or any kind of list, really) so I’ll foist my best of 2011 on y’all. I tend to read books that aren’t too current as I’m always a little behind, so there’ll be a mixture of new and old books.

So my top ten book I really enjoyed reading this year and have reviewed are (in alphabetical order):

Dark Matter by Juli Zeh – because she manages to segue science with philosophy into a thrilling mystery without dumbing down. I’ve been recommending this book left, right and centre.
Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson – resparked my interest in the amazing world of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Will be taking the remaining two on holiday with me in Jan.
Great House by Nicole Krauss – SO beautifully written.
Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco – audacious and ambitious. This guy knows how to write.
Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig – vividly creepy yet sparse.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – makes you fall in love with Paris all over again.
The Suicide Shop by Jean Teulé – clever, light and yet very, very dark.
Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James – very bad for your TBR.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – nostalgically creepy.
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns – deliciously dark and eccentric.

I’m currently in the midst of The Hunger Games obsession. They are SO good. And then I’m planning to read Snuff by Terry Pratchett because I so deserve it and I’m worth it.

What about you?

Ah, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been so busy with my reading I forgot to ask others what they’ve been reading.

So we come back almost a year later to see what the Umamimart crew have on their shelves this Summer:

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury – First published in 1948, it’s considered a very important work among cocktail enthusiasts and craft bartenders because it was the first book to create a standardized system by which all classic cocktail recipes were broken down into components and ratios, thereby coming up with a system that enables anyone to “roll their own” once they understood the basic principles. Thus it was more than a simple book of recipes. It’s further significant because the author had reached drinking age prior to Prohibition, and bore witness to the decimation of cocktail culture as a result of Prohibition, thus serving as one of the few bridges between the pre-Prohibition standard of quality and modern day.

It’s also an interesting read because it’s tone is clearly from another era, where it sometimes borders on curmudgeonly and has a “father knows best” kind of feel to it. And there’s an extra significance for me because the author Mr. Embury was not a bartender, and not even in the spirits industry. In fact, he was a lawyer who happened to be a cocktail enthusiast. How cool does this sound?

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain

Everything by David Sedaris – I’ve worked chronologically from his first works to the newest animal book. I’m finding him less and less fun, but still worthwhile.
The biography of late print designer Vera Neumann – a super cool business woman running her own fashion company in the US from the 1940’s all the way into the 1980’s. Very inspiring.
Books on Shinto shrine rituals and customs.

Women, Time and Power by Leonard Shlain – Y rec
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – A rec
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart – for book club
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzan – been on my book shelf for a year

Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell – about the first European settlements in the US
The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan by Bing West
US Magazines

Junmaishu wo kiwameru (Mastering Junmaishu) by Hiroshi Uehara
My Traumatic Movie Theatre – Tomohiro Machiyama

Reiki by Pamela Miles

Spoon fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life by Kim Severson

Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton – her memoir about her childhood memories of food, living on the streets and becoming a chef and owner of NYC’s Prune – probably my favorite restaurant of all time. It’s such an awesome blend of how life experience unexpectedly shapes and forms the way we put things into the world.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen – Just like Freedom, it’s all about how fucked up we all are and loving it.

I think you can see patterns of interests here. I love it when I see people reading recommendations by friends. I’ve only read The Corrections (which was an excellent portrayal of contemporary America), watched the film adaptation of American Psycho (which I thought was pretty arty and rather liked but have heard the book is very disturbing) and have Super Sad True Love Story on my shelf.

For someone who who doesn’t read enough non-fiction these days, it’s nice to see lots of fact-based books on this list. Many titles I haven’t come across here. Have you?

Like many of you, I love looking through lists of book recommendations, be it seasonal, of authors and bloggers and especially friends. But since starting blogging, I’ve got enough recs as it is and my amazon wishlist is a mile long. I missed all the buzz on the 1000 books you need to read before you snuff it, but thought Read This Next by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark might offer something a little different. And I am SO glad I read this because it’s probably one of the funniest and erudite lists I’ve been lucky enough to come across. And the books they recommend are sufficiently different and new to me.

Grouped in themes such as war, love, work, religion, etc., they pick a number of books they concentrate on with questions you may (or may not) want to discuss in book groups (god I wish I could be a fly on the wall if they do!) plus extra lists such as sff, mysteries, misery memoirs, etc., basically covering the whole spectrum. If you’ve got a delicate sensibility, some of the humour may rub you the wrong way. But hey, I say give it a go anyway, it’ll make you grow a thicker skin and open your eyes a bit.

It’s not a book you want to read straight through. You want to dip into it daily or when you need a laugh. I loved the way Newman and Mittelmark kept adding new thematic lists to their current themes so they also bring in books by actual Africans, Russian Lit, China, the apocalypse, the drugged out, transgressive love, etc. And any list that has China Miéville in it gets my vote! Plus it also includes Neville Shute’s On The Beach – a brilliant yet oft-forgotten classic. There is a mixture of books from the canon (yeah, I’m a sucker for classical texts that everyone feels you must read but are often boring/irrelevant/past it/makes you unsure of why you are actually reading it) as well as more contemporary stuff.

What I really liked about the selection is that you get the feel of the authors’ tastes here. There are lots of lists out there but Read This Next stands out because of its unique approach. And it’s hilarious. I don’t think I’ve laughed out loud this much for ages. OK, enough gushing. I command you to go and get this book. It’s brilliant.

Many thanks to the lovely people at Penguin who kindly sent me this book to review.

I’m not here today but you can find me at lovely Kimbofo’s blog Reading Matters discussing my choices for Triple Choice Tuesday. So, what do you think and what would you choose for Triple Choice Tuesday?

OK, you guys thought I was just being good, right? Well, um, wrong ‘coz I couldn’t help myself and ended up with the following.

I bought:

13:55 Eastern Standard Time by Nick Alexander – for my book club which I couldn’t attend in the end because of all my driving stuff.

Women Writing About Men by Jane Miller – how could I not get this? I’m interested in the different ways writers portray the opposite sex so thought this was appropriate for my, ahem, research.

Wayward Girls and Wicked Women
edited by Angela Carter – a collection of short stories by women. Bazinga.

That Kind of Woman: Stories from the Left Bank by Bronte Adams and Trudi Tate – do I really have to give a reason for this?

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray – this has been all over book blogs like a rash and I admit I caved under the hype. Not sure whether it’s my thing, but hey, it’s supposed to be good, right?

Twelve by Jasper Kent – I’ve been DYING to read this book about a mysterious group of mercenary soldiers that helps out a Russian army in the 1800s. Something to do with fangs, apparently.

Engineers of the Soul: In the Footsteps of Stalin’s Writers by Frank Westerman – non-fiction, hurray! It’s about writers and Stalin’s Russia. I’m thinking lots of censorship, prison and exile to Siberia.

Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin – I’ve got Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop featuring Oxford don and part-time detective Gervase Fenn which I’ve heard lots of good things about. So I had to get this.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger – I really enjoyed The Time-Traveller’s Wife which I was expecting to be some kind of a soppy romance. Don’t get me wrong, I like my romance but not in the drown you with saccharine tweeness way. But as Niffenegger’s second novel is about Highgate Cemetary and twins, I couldn’t really resist. Especially now since the hype’s died down.

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton – I’ve heard lots of good things about this book. That is all.

The Last Resort by Carmen Posadas – I’ve been stalking this book for YEARS since I first saw it in a bookshop. So I think it’s fair to say I HAD to get it when I found it in my local charity shop. A South American crime novel.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham – I was bowled over by the film and was really impressed by the treatment of depression and women. So I wanted to see whether the book will be better. Plus Cunningham’s a famous writer, right?

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett – I’ve been stalking this book for years as well and kept finding the later books in this detective series set in Thailand. Not a title you’ll find that often in a charity shop, let me tell you.

Granta 110 Sex issue – Ok, before you start calling me a closet perv, it’s got stories by Jeannette Winterson, Natsuo Kirino, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers and other proper writers, ok?

And,

Mariana by Monica Dickens – Ok, I bought into the hype, alright? Lots of brilliant reviews of the Persephone version, but mine’s a Penguin:)

The Dark Philosophers by Gwyn Thomas – The title alone made me buy it. But it’s actually a book I’ve been curious for ages.

The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch – very serendipitous find as Iris on Books is doing a readalong at the moment. Mulisch is considered to be one of the finest Dutch writers.

The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas – this is another fantasy title that’s been getting lots of love from reviewers.

I got sent the following:

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Book and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batumen – from the lovely people at Granta Books. I’m still planning to read War & Peace this year. I haven’t forgotten.

The Suicide Shop by Jean Teulé – from the lovely people at Gallic Press. Set in a near distant future France.

Monsieur Montespan by Jean Teulé – about the cuckolded husband of the Sun King’s mistress.

Alva & Irva and Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey – from lovely Simon because I passed my driving test. So sweet! Two books which he really enjoyed and which I thought sounded very intriguing. I’m looking forward to reading them!

And from the library:

BUtterfield 8 by John O’Hara – for my book group. I’d seen the film featuring Elizabeth Taylor years ago and have been wanting to read this book for a while.

Special Assignments by Boris Akunin – I’ve been wanting to go back and start reading Akunin’s Erast Fandorin books again after seeing him talk. This is the 5th in the series and the one with which I stalled. See, I do give books a second chance.

Fever Dreams by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – yay, the latest in the Agent Predergast series. You know how much I love him and his Sherlockian ways, right?

Ok, I better get cracking and read some books.

This has been doing the rounds and I couldn’t resist. Do check out Simon’s blog where it all started and see what everyone else is reading.

1) The book I’m currently reading:

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam. I’m a huge fan of Anam’s after reading her debut, A Golden Age, which deservedly won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book in 2008. It’s a beautiful, still novel about the very violent conflict between East and West Pakistan resulting in the birth of Bangladesh, told through the voice of Rehana, a wife and mother. The Good Muslim is the sequel, told in the voice of Rehana’s daughter Maya, and although I’ve just started it, I’m already under its spell.

2) The last book I finished:

Read This Next by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark. I love lists of book titles, especially ones that veer away from the quotidien (god, I love using this word). And this one is eclectic, erudite and hilarious. I don’t know how many times I burst out aloud laughing like a maniac. Brilliant. And they recommend China Miéville.

3) The next book I want to read:

Chinaman

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka because I had read an amazing short story by him in Blue . Although this book is about cricket, I’m sure an author with his talents will make it interesting enough for someone who normally avoids reading about sports.

4) The last book I bought:

London Walks! by badaude which is out on June 1st. I couldn’t wait and ordered this on-line and am eager to read it as 1) I love badaude’s work, 2) I live in London and 3) have you seen the fabulous cover??

5) The last book I was given:

People rarely give me books so you’d think I’d remember it if people did, right? I keep telling everyone I love receiving books as gifts but it’s not working. Apart from myself and some lovely publishers, I think the last book I was given is The Mystery Reader’s Walking Guide: London by Barbara Sloan Hendershott and Alzina Stone Dale from my friend J who brought it all the way from the States because he knows I love mysteries, London and that the best way of seeing the city is by walking!

Whataboutchoo?

Is it already the beginning of April? How time flies. And what a lot of books I’ve got my mitts on this past month. I’m almost embarrassed to share. Almost. Because I know how much y’all love lists of books, heh.

So first up is the Vintage Modern Classics edition of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood which is only available from Waterstone’s. It’s just so beautiful I had to get it. But I used up my Waterstone’s points so I probably got it at a 30% discount. Score! I thought I’d read it before I watched the film and as part of Tanabata’s Murakami Challenge. Let’s see whether I do get to read it before the film is pulled from the cinemas (they have such short run-times these day!)

My sister’s just moved house and we went for a walkabout in her neighbourhood one Sunday and stumbled upon an Oxfam bookshop where I got the following secondhand:

Reading and Writing by V.S. Naipaul – this is for my father who is a fan of Naipaul’s work. Of course I’ll try and read it before I hand it over to him. Buyer’s prerogative!

Writing for Their Lives: The Modernist Women 1910-1940 by Gillian Hanscombe and Virginia L. Smyers – A title by The Women’s Press. I haven’t really heard of the writers discussed (Dorothy Richardso, HD, Djuna Barnes, Marianne Moore and Mina Loy) so it should be interesting. Besides, I can’t really pass by books on women writers.

The Group by Mary McCarthy – need I say more? I’ve been looking for this book for ages and it just fell into my hands!

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
by Charles Yu – I’ve been wanting to read this for ages too. It’s had some amazing reviews.

The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees – such a beautiful cover and with some interesting reception. A virtual world governed by some of the world’s most monstrous figures. Intriguing.

Some books I received for review:

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton – has had some wonderful reviews.

Marie-Thérèse by Susan Nagel – about Marie Antoinette’s daughter. I’ve always wondered what had happened to her. I won this in a competition held by Bloomsbury Books.

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam – I LOVED her debut novel A Golden Age and cannot wait to read this. Kindly sent to me by Canongate Books.

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka – I recently read a short story by him which was brilliant and am looking forward to reading this one. Selected as one of the Waterstone’s 11. Kindly sent to me by Jonathan Cape.

The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss – I won these in a competition. And The Wise Man’s Fear is SIGNED. Woohoo. Thank you Orion Books!

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley – the third in the delicious Flavia de Luce series. Love, love, love them. Kindly sent to me by Orion Books.

And from the library:

The Journey Home by Dermot Bolger – chosen by Reading Matters for my book club.

Occupied City by David Peace – I read Tokyo Year Zero several years back and was very impressed by the gritty and realistic portrayal of Japan after WWII even if at times I found it very uncomfortable reading. The 2nd in the series.

Bryant and May Off The Rails by Christopher Fowler – I’m a HUGE fan of Bryant and May. Fowler’s knowledge of London is exceptional and I lurve his books.

I went to a Penguin General Bloggers Event a few weeks ago and came away with an amazing goody bag filled with the following:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess – I’ve only watched bits of the film but haven’t read the book.

Cat’s Cradle
by Kurt Vonnegut – I’ve heard so much about Vonnegut but have yet to read anything by him so I thought this would be a good place to start.

God’s Own Country
by Ross Raisin – he gave a wonderful introduction to his new novel Waterline. I’ve heard lots of good things about this one.

Landfall by Helen Gordon – a debut novel about an art critic and a teenager.

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt – about Churchill’s ‘black dog’ in the flesh. Intriguing.

Anatomy of a Disappearance
by Hisham Matar – lovely writing from the excerpt I heard.

Thank you Penguin Books!

And finally, my wonderful friend J brought this back for me from the States:

Mystery Reader’s Walking Guide: London by Barbara Sloan Hendershott and Alzina Stone Dale – I squealed with delight when I got this. Mysteries plus London. And there’s a bibliography too.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Lashings of apologies. I just keep forgetting…

So, what’s my family been reading? Check it!

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro – my Pa likes to read about Japan. He was very impressed with this one.

Picking Bones from Ash by Marie Mutsuki Mockett – I’m just happy my Pa is reading one of the books I left behind at home:)

Pro Theory or プロ論。―情熱探訪編 by B.ing (eds) Tokuma (publ) – my Ma likes to improve her mind since she’s a creative type. This book is all about work and how successful people have made it. She likes her non-fiction.

Daily 15 minute Meditation for Body and Soul or 心と体がスッキリする「1日15分」瞑想法 by 宝彩 有菜 PHP (publ) – my Ma likes to chillax

The Good Women of China by Xinran – my sis likes stories about strong women

Qi Kong by Shifu Yan Lei – my brother-in-law likes his martial arts

Hiccup: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell – nephew no.1 loves to read and we all thought the film was magical. I even shed a tear.

The Little Book of Good Manners by Christine Coirault – nephew no.2 is trying to be a good boy

I’ve just finished reading Joe Dunthorne’s Submarine and have started re-reading Steven Erikson’s first Malazan book, Gardens of the Moon (because I must), Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for A Year of Feminist Classics and am slowly savouring Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark’s Read This Next (hilarious).

So what are you and your family reading?