04 October 2010

Reading lists

I was trying to come up with something new and interesting to write about, which has been proving difficult (my brain has, for the past fortnight or so, been fuddled from strong winds and some pretty reckless all-day drinking), so I distracted myself by swinging by some other of my favourite blogs to see what's going down with them.

Over on my estimed Ask Ben & Clare colleague's own personal weblog, a nattily entitled post The Book Spreader caught my attention, encouraging bloggy folk to list their favourite tomes so other people might share the pleasure of reading them. You can read Ben's suggestions in their original context here, and follow his link to the Nik Perring post which sparked it off.

Anyway, I thought a reading list was appropriate in the run-up to the fast approaching fifth annual Manchester Literature Festival (14-25 October), so I've put together a five-strong selection of modern works I've recently enjoyed. Feel free to pass it on. (It's kind of like a chain letter, but without any guilt, shock tactics, or weird religious undercurrents.) So, in no particular order and without further ado, ta-da...

Two books ago, I read Catherine O'Flynn's debut What Was Lost. I'd been waiting to get to it for a while, and especially since hearing Catherine read at last year's Manchester Literature Festival, but my copy was elsewhere. Anyway, we've been reunited and I can report back that it was worth the wait: an easy read with some interesting twists, and a fancy line in intertwined storytelling. Certain sections reminded me of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time (just because lots of people have read it doesn't necessarily make it bad) and the style wasn't too far removed from my fave, Douglas Coupland.

A bit before that, I read my second Nicola Barker offering. This one, Five Miles From Outer Hope, had been recommended to me by the previously cited Ben (who had her up against the wonderful Elizabeth Baines in his Literary World Cup over the summer), and I can confirm its credentials. I'd previously read her "novella", Small Holdings, which I perhaps prefer, although they are both quite different to each other, despite sharing a certain similar dark humour and dramatic build-up.

Just before Central Library shut down, I managed to pop into the lending library and borrow Gwendoline Riley's most recent (but not that recent being published in 2007) novel, Joshua Spassky. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. It's about a writer enduring some rather cliched writer problems not to mention some equally cliched hardships of the heart. Her previous novels Cold Water (2002) and Sick Notes (2005), however, are definitely worth getting your hands on, with familiar Mancunian sights and nights detailed in abundance.

Another Manchester writer I checked out not so long ago was Chris Killen, who is going to be doing a reading at the upcoming Manchester Blog Awards on 20 October. His first work, The Bird Room, is really well written with some fantastic utilisation of swearwords for effect. Both big and clever. I understand he's in the process of writing a second, so I'll be keeping an eye out for that.

My final pick, Erlend Loe's Naive. Super isn't Manchester related in any way except I bought my copy in a Chorlton charity shop purely out of intrigue in the back cover blurb. It turned out to be a fine purchase and it's a shame that none of Loe's other books seem to have been translated into English from Norwegian. If you've read Room Temperature or The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker (not to be confused with the aforementioned Nicola Barker), you too will be pleased with how fascinating the minutiae of mundane everyday life can be made to appear. Lovely obsession with Duplo, too.

So there you go. A few wee ideas. As both Nik and Ben have recommended Like Bees To Honey by Caroline Smailes and Something Beginning With by Sarah Salway, I will put these on my own reading list, along with Armistead Maupin's new Tales Of The City book, Mary Ann In Autumn (above), out across the pond next month.


  1. Time for you to read Darkmans now I think - Nicola Barker's (and indeed human civilisation's) best book to date.

  2. but its such a fat book Ben. Fat books frighten me

  3. The book I'm currently reading is a stonking 1,235 pages long. It's a leviathon (and I feel I can use that word as it's sci-fi). After that, I will probably only be able to read magazines again. Or les bandes desinees. At least for a spell, anyway.

  4. I'm a big fan of Nicola Barker, and particularly like "Five Miles from Outer Hope", its a minor triumph.

  5. 1,235 pages long and sci-fi - are you reading the Bible?


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