Tag Archives: reading

A Miscellany

First of all, thanks Ian for your comment on the previous post. I can’t really recommend a good place to start with Thomas Merton, since The Seven Storey Mountain is the first thing I have read by him. It is, my comments from the other day notwithstanding, very readable and interesting.

I’ve had a really busy couple of days in the parishes, so did not see twitter at all for 48 hours or so. Lots of interesting things to read. Here are a few of them.

It seems there was a Panorama programme about chocolate, more specifically about child labour within the cocoa trade. The fairtrade chocolate people have been responding (here and here and probably elsewhere as well), pointing out that the part of the programme showing a fairtrade producer was dealing with how the fairtrade organisation stops child labour when they find it happening. Good. I shall continue to eat Dark Divine.

An incredible knitting project has finished. Most people knit one sock at a time. Some knit two at a time on one long needle. This guy knitted 14 at a time on one humongous needle. One pair for each day of the week – makes sense when you think about it. His knitting bag is even bigger than mine.

I don’t often blog about maths but, given I studied it first time round at uni, I feel the need to reassure Joe Taxpayer that their contributions were not in vain and I am still interested in the subject. A famous mathematician (yes, there are others) has apparently refused or is about to refuse another big prize for his work solving the Poincare Conjecture. He is Russian, and some Russian charities are asking him not to refuse the prize, but to accept it and donate the cash to good causes in Russia. Interesting. Should charities hold people to ransom like this? I don’t think so. Should people turn down legitimately earned money because they have enough? Maybe if the money would then automatically go to support another mathematician and further the course of human knowledge. Maybe not, if they can see a better use for it that they can influence. I’m in danger of siding with the charities here, and I’ve not even started in on the relative merits of academic work and child poverty.

Finally, I’m very excited about this software. Openshot: A non-linear video editor for Linux. I’ve looked at video editing stuff for the Mac and rather liked the look of it – this seems to be a start for Linux. I’ll install it after my next Ubuntu upgrade. Why do I always seem to have a hankering for upgrading a month before the next release? The end of March/beginning of April seems to send me into software envy every year. It is worse this time – I didn’t upgrade to Ubuntu 9.10 since I was too busy when it came out. I’ve since tried it on a live cd and found that the touchscreen on my laptop works! I cannot overstate how cool I find this to be. My laptop has a turny-roundy screen that folds down so you can use it like a piece of paper. I’ve never actually used it because it only worked in Windows up to now and I only use windows once in a blue moon and have no data on that partition at all.

In other news, I’ve nearly finished the book my book group started reading in December. Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I read it 10 years ago and loved it, but could remember nothing about it. Loving it even more this time. I suggested a Jasper Fforde book for this month, on the grounds that I have read it and so get a month off! I hear it is being quite well-received.



I had a congratulatory comment from Mr F this evening (in person, not on blog) on having actually written something. Well, here is another one. Just routine reading round up, but what do you expect the week before the end of term? (Oh help! It appears that I finish college this week. Are they really going to ordain me in a few weeks? It would appear so).

(Read a couple of months ago, but lost under a pile of other books)
Dead Famous by Ben Elton
Now I love murder mystery, and I used to watch Big Brother (only the first few seasons, while it was cool… you know). This book is a fantastic murder mystery and cleverly captures the superficiality of the celebrity culture. Funny, tragic, unsettling. Ooh it was a good read.

Friends Like These by Danny Wallace
Danny seems to make a living out of being on slightly ridiculous quests. Here is yet another one. At times a little laboured, but still funny, it tells the tale of one man’s quest to get back in touch with his past before his thirties consume him.

RC 22-24

On returning home yesterday I realise that I have forgotten three of the books I have read, not that it should bother anyone reading this too much, but just for completeness… you know…

The Bloke’s Bible by Dave Hopwood
Reflections on random passages from the Bible from the point of view of a bloke. Now, as you may have gathered, I am not a bloke. Nevertheless, I loved this book. Really refreshing take on church, theology etc. Nice bitesized chapters for last thing at night. I bought this for Mr F originally and he loved it and told me to read it so I would understand him more.

The Road Trip by Dave Hopwood
More reflections on random passages from the Bible from the point of view of a bloke. As good as the first one. I have used this for sermon illustrations.

The Rotter’s Club by Jonathan Coe
Not at all what I expected from the cover. This is one of those books where the cover art and title really gripped me and I’ve been wanting to buy it just on that basis since about 2002. Yet another coming of age novel, this time set in the 80s(?). Nice link in with the events of the time (IRA bombings etc.), and quite gentle pace. I was not particularly struck by any of the characters. This was another looted book.

Hmmm if I can read one more book in the next ten days, my average will be up to 5 per month. Is this desirable?

RC 13 – 21

Ah, yes. Lent has now been over for quite some time, it being Ascension day tomorrow. This whole not-blogging thing turns out to be quite addictive. I have been doing various things that may be blogged at a later date, but here are some brief highlights.

Rusk will be 1 in a couple of weeks. Where did that year go? He is now an experienced crawler (read ‘fast’) and spends most of the day practising standing up. Mr F is getting into being a house-husband and he and Rusk are having a whale of a time while I am stuck in my little study trying to write stuff for my dissertation.

There will be posts to come on knitting, vestments (maybe even with pictures), moving and many more things. I think the important thing is to concentrate on the books though.

RC 13-16
So you want to be a wizard
Deep Wizardry
High Wizardry
A Wizard Abroad
All of these by Diane Duane. Books from my childhood I unearthed over Easter. Pretty classic children’s fantasy.

The Biographer’s Moustache by Kingsley Amis
A free book from my booklooting (post to follow) expedition. Wouldn’t have read it otherwise, but it was quite entertaining. Kingsley Amis is one of those authors I had always meant to read and never got round to. This is a book all about character development and class. I love his use of language and the pictures he paints of upper class England.

Friendly Fire by Patrick Gale
Coming of age novel set in an English public school (loosely based on Winchester). Told through the eyes of one of the few female students, it relates the story of a group of kids growing up together, discovering and exploring sexuality, occasionally going out into the real world, but mostly set within the school.
I loved it. It has a feeling of Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris about it, but is much less creepy.

Debutantes by Charlotte Bingham
Utter rot. This was another free book. The implausible tale of three debutantes who just happen to become friends during their season. A subplot of humiliation and revenge. The most annoying and shallow character I have read in a long time. Just don’t bother.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Absolutely loved this book. Told through the eyes of three women several decades apart. Compelling opening – a small girl seemingly abandoned on a ship going to Australia. The stories of the three women are very cleverly revealed. A very sad story.

Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan
Trudi’s 7th book, the first in the prequel trilogy to the original Magician’s trilogy. Fairly predictable, but I love this world so loved reading it. Despite what it says on the cover, it really isn’t a good introduction to the series. You need to read the original trilogy first.

I’m sure I’ve left some out. I will go home and scrutinize the pile of books next to my bed and see which should also be on the list.

RC 8 – 12

I’ve now completely dropped off the list of recent posts so it must be time for a brief round up.

I’m meant to be knuckling down to work on my 25000 word dissertation, but things are slow going at the moment. We are starting to get ready for the move to St North’s. Rusk is nearly 10 months and almost crawling, although I’ve been saying that since before Christmas. The vestments are pretty much all made, just waiting to be paid for and so waiting for my diocese to send me the money. One of the cats worried us last weekend by disappearing for 3 days. She was back by 5.30am on Monday morning though. That is about it on the news front.

I have been indulging in a fair amount of reading recently:

RC 8 – Robin Shelton – Allotted Time. The subtitle says it all really: Twelve months, two blokes, one shed, no idea. Great diary of two blokes trying to grow vegetables. Very funny.

RC 9 – Victoria Hislop – The Island. Very interesting novel centring round one family’s links to a leper colony. Thoroughly recommend this.

RC 10 – Quanta A. Ahmed MD – Invisible Women. This I think was a free e-book in the library thing early reviewers scheme. If not, I don’t quite remember where I downloaded it from. Autobiographical account of one woman practising medicine in Saudi Arabia. The cultural and religious detail is fascinating and her journey into deeper understanding of her Muslim heritage is moving.

RC 11 – William Styron – Sophie’s Choice. Now I am fairly sure this book counts as proper literature. I didn’t particularly enjoy the book, but I can see that it is very cleverly written. I think the reason I didn’t enjoy it is that I wasn’t really interested in the narrator’s story, just in the flashbacks to Sophie’s story. Anyway, I got to the end of it, mainly thanks to a very long train journey where the only alternative was reading journal articles for my dissertation.

RC 12 – Eoin Colfer – The Supernaturalist. A cut above the Artemis Fowl books, which I love. Reading this makes me think that Colfer might actually do a pretty good job on the next Hitchhiker book. While not quite as quirky as Douglas Adams, he has a good balance of dark and light and a pervading sense of doom which might work well. The characters are drawn sketchily, but still seemed real. Very good sci-fi.

Quick post

I should NOT be blogging, rather I should be writing a sermon. However, things are increasingly busy (who would have thought I would find a social life?) so I thought I would stick a quick post up to get some things out of my head.

So, I have been reading quite a bit. In brief:

RC3 – The Folklore of Discworld. Christmas present. Fantastic. Like the APF (annotated Pratchett file) but written by someone with access to PTerry. Looking at all the folklore which has inexplicably crossed dimensions from our world to the Discworld.

RC4 – The Shack. Yes, I finally succumbed to it. Although not the most literary thing I have ever read, it was a pleasure. The story chugged along nicely (was going to say happily, but actually little could be further from the truth) and I really enjoyed the Christology embedded in the narrative. Nice to have a different perspective on things. Doctrine is really much easier to grasp through story. There were times when it was rather trite and the characters might not always have the full three dimensions, but it is worth reading.

RC5 – Nation (Terry Pratchett) Another Christmas present. I think this is one of his best books yet, certainly his best young adult book. I have told my sister (an English teacher) to read it because I think she will be teaching it before too many years are gone. Note: this is NOT a Discworld book. This is set in a world very, very similar to our own.

RC6 – Valley of Strength (Shulamit Lapid) This was a free book I got in the LibraryThing Early Reviewers giveaway. It is a new translation (first in English I think) of an Israeli classic. It is about a young Russian Jewess who arrives in Israel sometime at the end of the nineteenth century (I think, may be the early twentieth – I don’t have my copy to hand to check). The book describes her struggle to survive and raise a family in a harsh environment. It was a good book, but I don’t think I would ever have read it if it hadn’t been free. At times it was repetitive and I could really have done with a glossary and a character list. As a love story it was good, but there were times when I wanted to shout at the characters: just TALK to each other and things would be so much simpler.

RC7 – The Way of Shadows (Brent Weeks). Impulse buy this week. I was in Waterstones looking for a new fantasy trilogy and this one inspired me. It was really rather good, but horribly dark, being about assassination. Fairly classic hero journey, but good characters, compelling universe and nice use of magic. I did lose Thursday though since I couldn’t put it down once I started.

OK I must focus. I’m into the big stint of writing my dissertation so I probably won’t be around here much until after Easter, unless procrastination strikes.

RC 1 & 2

Last year I really enjoyed reading Auntie Doris‘s posts detailing the books she was reading. Although I probably won’t manage to keep tabs on it as well as she did, I’m going to have a go for a couple of months and see how it works out.

In case you were wondering, I won’t be detailing all the books I read for essays, dissertation and New Testament Greek; maybe just the really interesting ones. These are novels and other books I read for fun, you know, in all that free time I have.

RC1 Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon

This was actually read between Christmas and New Year. The book is a collection of 3 short stories (although for Diana short is a relative concept), 2 of which I had read before. The new one, Lord John and the Haunted Soldier is set in 18th century London and, like all the Lord John stories, involves investigation into sinister happenings among the military/civil service. Here the focus of the investigation is the outcome of a battle on the continent and in particular the malfunction of a gun. Lord John is up before a tribunal and things are never as simple as they seem.

I rather wallowed in this on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, taking advantage of Rusk being in his own room and so being able to read before sleeping. I have to confess that I don’t now remember very much, except that it was as interesting and gripping as Diana Gabaldon’s books usually are.

RC2 Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead

I blogged a while ago about my love for Arthurian stories. This is the first of a series I read when I was about 14 and I had been wanting to read again for a while. I picked up copies of the first and third books in a charity shop just before Christmas and now discover, looking on Amazon, that there are 5 books in the series. Hurrah! I only read the first 3.

Taliesin weaves 2 stories together: the fall of Atlantis and the waning power of Rome in mid-Wales. One thing I had completely overlooked at the time I first read them is how overtly Christian they are. The Christian theme only appears towards the end of the first book. It will be interesting to see how it pans out. Anyway, that aside, I really enjoyed reading it. The stories are very well placed together, with neither strand dominating. Each set of characters has a great world created around them. I have a particular soft spot for that part of Wales, so seeing it described so many hundred of years ago was lovely. I’m not sure the Atlantis that Lawhead creates is as lovely as Tolkien’s Numinor (have I remembered that right?), but it was convincing.

Right, I can’t blog RC3 until I finish reading it. Just a few more pages. Also I need to get my knitting together for tomorrow. I’m going on a quiet day so I should be able to finish a sock.

Retail Therapy

I had a very pleasing contact lens checkup today and I can now confirm that the world wasn’t blurry, I just was not focussing enough. Action has been taken.

While I was in town, I wandered to the bank to pay in a cheque (I tried showing it to the internet banking page, but there was no slot to put it in) and found Waterstones on the way. After a lengthy browse, I came out with a book on Tolkien’s Tengwar and other related linguistic bits and pieces and a gadget.

I like gadgets, particularly those which enhance the reading experience. It is currently velcroed to the top of my monitor, but I can confirm that it can also function on a variety of surfaces. Marvellous, and indisputably useful for studying, hence no disapproving looks from Mr Farli. The disapproving looks were saved for the Tengwar book.

This weekend, I have been mostly reading Douglas Adams. I discovered a Dirk Gently novel that I had inadvertently omitted to read and I am now following it up with The Salmon of Doubt. Marvellous.

[Editor’s note -Too many adverbs in this post. Could do better.]

Sing when you are winning

Today has been a hard day of studying, learning how to read properly i.e. in a way that means I actually take some of it in and have some notes to refer to in the future when I have forgotten about it. It is going to be an uphill battle and I think the main difficulty is going to be remembering to read little and often. The longer the day, the less productive it seems to be: this morning [*] I was managing 15 pages before a break. Now I am down to about 5.

I must have achieved things, because my whiteboard has lots of things crossed off. In fact the thing I am most proud of today is that my printer is working under Linux. It was getting quite tedious having to reboot into Windows to print anything.

I am now off for some well earned rest, but I leave you with a short quote to ponder:

There is no place in the worship service where vanity and bad taste can so assert themselves as in the singing.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Ch2

How true!

[*] Well, I say morning, but really it was very close to the afternoon before I started.