Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Books of 2010 Part 1

We're getting towards the end of the year I suppose. Just 3 days to Christmas and in 10 days it will be 2011.

So I look back over the diary, which is contained in web pages on my hard drive these days plus the entries in this blog, to see what lists come out of the year.

I've read 40 books so far this year, though I'm hoping to make it at least 41 before the end of the year. Most of my reading is done on trains or in hotels and any reading at home is in bits between watching the TV, listening to music or fiddling at this keyboard. I used to read in bed but these days just seem to zonk out as soon as my head hits the pillow!

I do tend to read series of books too which is great in retrospctives but frustrating when reading current series as sometimes you wait so long for the next that you can't remember what was in the last! But there have been a few individual books this year some of which we'll cover in this first entry and some of which will have to wait for another day!

There are almost 30 books in the Bolitho series written by Douglas Reeman under the name of Alexander Kent.

I first read them in the 1980s and decided I'd have another go at them last year when I read the first 11 books. My first book of the year was No.12 in the series; The Flag Captain and I read up to and including No.24; Second to None. The series concerns itself with the exploits of Richard Bolitho and his nephew Adam who are both officers in His Brittanic Majesty's Navy during the late 1700s through to the post Napoleanic period. Their lives at sea and relationships with officers, men and family at home are punctuated by descriptive battles at sea which make up some gripping tales of those days of wooden fighting ships. The background to the tales and many incidents featured are drawn from real-life naval and world history.

Last year for Christmas I got an omnibus edition of the first four Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge.

These were books I remembered from childhood and concern 10-year-old Jennings and his friend Darbyshire who start at Linbury Court Preparatory School in the opening of the first book. The two boys and their friends managed to spend a good 45 years in pre-pubescent innocence at Linbury Court. I think I must have read about ten of the Jennings books as a child and it was fun to read through the first four again this year. I'll keep an eye out for the next omnibus of books 5-8!

It wasn't all long series slogs though. I like to read one or two "worthy" books in a year that teach me something. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre explains in a simple and quite amusing way how scientists undertake trials to give the weight of evidence to their findings and debunks those who take a less than robust approach to their science. He also exposes those who try to blind us with science, sometimes at the expense of attracting large corporately-backed writs for damage to reputation. It was here I first read the line "Gillian McKeith or, to give her her full medical title: Gillian McKeith..."

The second book, Family Britain documents the period just before and during my very early childhood, 1951-1957, using the diaries of famous and ordinary members of the public to illustrate attitudes and feelings of the British.

After that I needed a bit of light relief and found it only by delving deep behind the first row of books to the layer behind on a high shelf in a second hand book store. As a teenager I had the full series more or less of the Timothy Lea Confessions books by Christopher Wood. They got sold off or thrown probably at some house move in the 1970s but I loved their wit and the dreadful puns and names so this was a short wallow in nostalgia!

The Crowner John series by Bernard Knight concerns a 12th Century coroner in Devon and I'd read a couple of the series last year. This is the first of the series though and I am currently reading (ie the 41st book of the year) No.2 in the series; The Poisoned Chalice. They are a trifle slower than some of my other reading but they are good murder mysteries and you wonder throughout how Crowner John will solve them!

That's all for today. The next entry will have another revisiting of childhood reading and new books in ongoing series and I'll give an opinion on some authors who were new to me during the year.

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