It is readathon time again…

This is my third 24 in 48 readathon and I am totally looking forward to it…24 hours of reading over a weekend (22nd and 23rd July). I did this for the first time last July and then again this January. I will, of course, jump at anything that gives me a reason or an excuse to read more. And considering that one of the things I miss most about being a kid is the freedom to pick up a book and read for hours on end, a readathon is the perfect excuse to do so.

But I did have another reason to sign up for this, as I think I mentioned in the post I did about the readathon last year. It was to give my kids an experience of the kind of immersive reading that only happens when you read for a few hours at a stretch. They tried it and they loved it and now they are looking forward to it every bit as much as I am.

And this time I have got my sister and my husband to join us as well. Us adults are aiming for anything from six to twelve hours. My kids are, of course, going for the full twenty four. I will be posing updates as we go and now, I’m going to do a round-up of all the books that we’re trying to read.

I am, at the moment, reading Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley. I am thoroughly enjoying it and I’m a third of the way through the book, so this is my first book for the readathon.

 

My second book is A Terrible Splendor : Three Extraordinary Men, A World Poised for War and The Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played by Marshall Jon Fisher. 

My husband is reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. He’s on book two : The Drawing of the Three.

My sister is going to be reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

My son is reading Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J R R Tolkien.

And my daughter is reading Magnus Chase: The hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan.

Here’s looking forward to a weekend of reading. And thanks to Rachel at 24 in 48 Readathon for dreaming this up. It is wonderful to put everything else aside for one weekend every six months and just read. If you want to know more about this readathon and how it works and better still, if you want to join us, sign up here: 24 in 48 Readathon.

 

 

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I have been reading…Alan Bennett

I have been reading very much as usual, but I haven’t been writing about it. Don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those things that happens every now and then. I stop writing for a while. Anyway, I’m reading rather a special book at the moment, Untold Stories by Alan Bennett. I started this year by re-reading The Uncommon Reader (also by Alan Bennett) and I enjoyed it every bit as much I did the first time I had read it.

So I went looking for the rest of his books. I had put The History Boys on my TBR list, but I hadn’t bought it yet. So I did. I bought the physical book and it is still on its way. In the mean time I watched the movie with my husband and we both loved it. It is such a wonderful story and told so well. I wish I could have seen the play, but at least I got to see the movie.

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This is one of those instances when I’m glad I saw the movie before I read the book because it is a play, not a novel and considering the number of characters and their somewhat complex motivations, it is good to have faces and personalities in my head already. It’ll make the reading go easier. I already love the characters and I know them, so I don’t have to build them up in my head from the text.

Now I usually prefer coming to a book knowing nothing more than its premise and I like to build the characters up in my head without having actors over-shadow them. And I’d rather not have a director’s point of view imposed on the book, but this is an exceptional instance, because the characters are all cast so well and they bring an interpretation to their roles and to the situations which enriches the movie. And it helps that the entire cast of the film is the cast of the original play.

According to Alan Bennett, the director, Nicholas Hytner was involved in the play when it was still being edited, so it owes its final form to both of them. And it shows in the movie. The director owns it just as much as the writer. But now I want to read the book because this play is about words, language, literature and history as much as it is about the story and the characters in it. And wonderful as the movie is, the acting as well as the visuals tend to overshadow the words. And now I want the words on the page as written.

The History Boys is one of those rare things, a book of ideas interwoven into what is rather a beautiful story. It is funny and poignant and thoughtful and so much more than I can possibly express here. I realise that I haven’t said anything much about the story, but that is only because I want to write a proper review once I’ve read the play. In the meantime, I will go back to Untold Stories which is a memoir and enjoy more of Mr Bennett’s peerless prose.

Current Reading: Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

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This is obviously a memoir written by a chef and it is a book about food and cooking. I love food memoirs and that is reason enough to pick up this book. But what makes it particularly interesting is the chef in question.

Marcus Samuelsson is an unusually talented chef who has led an interesting life. He was born in Ethiopia, adopted and raised in Sweden and he now lives and cooks in America. His idea and experience of food has to be fascinating.

To quote the publisher:

This book is a love letter to food and family in all its manifestations. Yes, Chef chronicles Samuelsson’s journey, from his grandmother’s kitchen in Sweden to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four.

Since then, there have been White House state dinners, career crises, reality show triumphs, and, most important, the opening of Red Rooster in Harlem. At Red Rooster, Samuelsson has fulfilled his dream of creating a truly diverse, multiracial dining room—a place where presidents rub elbows with jazz musicians, aspiring artists, and bus drivers. It is a place where an orphan from Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and living in America, can feel at home.

Currently Reading : The Swerve and Mr Darcy’s Diary

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The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt.

Synopsis:

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem full of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions. 

The copying and translation of this ancient book—the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age—fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.

This book traces the effects of Lucretius’ magnificent poem on the renaissance. I have just started reading it, so I can’t say much about it, except that it is written well and it seems very interesting.

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Mr Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Synopsis:

Monday 9th September
“”I left London today and met Bingley at Netherfield Park. I had forgotten what good company he is; always ready to be pleased and always cheerful. After my difficult summer, it is good to be with him again. …””

The only place Darcy could share his innermost feelings was in the private pages of his diary…

Torn between his sense of duty to his family name and his growing passion for Elizabeth Bennet, all he can do is struggle not to fall in love.

Mr. Darcy’s Diary presents the story of the unlikely courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Darcy’s point of view. This graceful imagining and companion to Pride and Prejudice explains Darcy’s moodiness and the difficulties of his reluctant relationship as he struggles to avoid falling in love with Miss Bennet.

Though seemingly stiff and stubborn at times, Darcy’s words prove him also to be quite devoted and endearing – qualities that eventually win over Miss Bennet’s heart. This reimagining of a classic romantic novel is charming and elegant, much like Darcy himself.

I picked up this book more out of curiosity than anything else. I am a 120 pages into it and I like it. It is fanfiction, but it is fanfiction of the best kind. The author, Amanda Grange is thoroughly respectful of the original, she uses Austen’s words wherever possible and she stays faithful to the original. She is simply telling the same story from a different perspective.

Currently Reading : The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Shwalbe

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I heard about this book a while ago and I wanted to read it immediately. It took me a while to get around to it because of all the other books that I have piled up. Anyway, I got it on my kindle last night and since then, I have been eating it up.

As for what this book is about, take a look at the synopsis:

What are you reading?”

That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis.

Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less. 

This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading.

Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen.

Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. 

Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together.

The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. 

I am more than sixty pages into this book and it is beautiful.