<> Books Read - 2005 <>

Last modified: Sunday, 14 August, 2016

+ My recent, current, and forthcoming reading is covered elsewhere, here's what I read in 2005:

* Richard Barber: Bestiary

Beautifully illustrated translation of a mediaeval book of beasts from the Bodlian Library, Oxford.

* Anne Mustoe: Lone Traveller

Tales from the author's second solo cycling trip around the world. Easy reading and vivid depictions of experiences on the road. The main focus of this volume is the human encounters and the author's open-hearted humanity lights up every chapter. Mustoe's sheer ordinariness (she walks up the hills, hates camping and can't effect even the simplest of repairs) makes it easy to identify with her in spite of the extraordinarness of the situations she describes.

* Terry Pratchett: The Fifth Elephant

Vimes turns diplomat in this installment of the Discworld saga. We get a helter-skelter ride through the dwarf lands with a large werewolf element on the side, while Pratchett makes telling observations on the nature and function of tradition in society. Vimes, Carrot and the rest of the Ankh Morpork City Watch are on great form throughout. Well above average for the series, highly recommended.

* William Fotheringham: Put me back on my bike

Biography of Tom Simpson, the most successful professional cyclist Britain has yet produced. While much of the book, inevitably, focusses on Simpson's death and the subject of doping, a picture does also emerge of a talented and driven character whose charm and charisma matched his herioc exploits in the saddle. An eye-opener for me was the evidence of Simpson's high standing within his profession: recognised as an established star of the peleton by his continental peers. Readable and intelligent writing makes this a rewarding read.

* J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The penultimate Harry Potter book returns to the familiar school setting and school concerns after the departures that marked the previous volume. Utterly involving wrtiting, as always but perhaps there's a sense that this episode is marking time and setting everything up for the series finale.

* Edward Heath: Music, A Joy for Life

Memoir of highlights in the musical life of the one-time British PM. Probably of little interest to those without an interest in, or affection for, Ted himself.

* David Crystal: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language

It's the amazing breadth of this tomb, which looks at the study of language from every conceivable angle, that makes it unfailingly interesting. Some of the sections are more superficial surveys than others but, at best, it's a comprehensive introduction to the topics involved. A mine of information that's rewarding to read straight through as well as a valuable reference.

* Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum

Granny Weatherwax resorts to desperate measures when a new generation of vampires bring a more radical approach to their relationship with humanity. Having some time ago left behind the laugh-out-loud gags, Pratchett has developed a style of story telling that's not always straightforward to follow but here, at least, the pace and invention don't let up for a moment. Great fun and continually thought-provoking.

* Matt Rendell: A Significant Other

The book's front-cover tag-line, "Riding the Centenary Tour de France with Lance Armstrong", conceals the fact that, intertwined with the memoir of the race provided by Armstrong's team mate Victor Hugo Peña, is a meditation on the fundamental nature of the unusually-structured sport of the European professional cycling circuit. Both aspects of the book are equally fascinating and this could be the best insight I've yet read into the real experience of riding in the European pro peleton.

* Jane Fletcher: The Wrong Trail Knife

SF novel, with a murder mystery at its core, set in the same world as the author's debut The World Celeano Chose. As the book unfolds, we gradually learn more and more of the history of the leading character but it's not until the very end that the full truth is finally revealed. Fletcher leads us entertainingly up several false trails along the way with vivid accounts of the characters' lives. This is the same book that's now available under the title Rangers at Roadsend.

* Elizabeth David: Of Pageants & Picnics

Number 14 of the series of seventy "Pocket Penguins", slim volumes issued as part of the celebration of the famous publishers' seventieth anniversary. This, drawn from a number of David's books, looks at summer dining from a number of angles. Very satisfying writing from an expert author.

* William Boyd: Protobiography

Number 55 of the series of seventy "Pocket Penguins", slim volumes issued as part of the celebration of the famous publishers' seventieth anniversary. This collection picks out significant eras of Boyd's early life in a sequence of varied and fascinating essays.

* Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins: Every Second Counts

Jenkins again does a workmanlike job of giving us the Armstrong-eye-view of the life of the most successful Tour de France rider ever. The emphasis, this time around, is very much one of showing a more human side to Armstrong's single-minded pursuit of his goals.

* Humphrey Carpenter: Spike Milligan

Carpenter writes in a elaxed, informal style that's really easy to read. This biography paints a rather sad picture of a man whose life, like his work, was extraordinarily uneven.

* Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sands

Classic sailing adventure set among the sandbanks and islands of the German North Sea coast. Written to alert England to the danger of a German invasion in the opening years of the twentieth century.

* Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Young people's detective novel. Written from the perspective of its 15 year old hero who has Ausberger's syndrome. The plot has several unexpected turns and the attempt to show the world through autistic eyes is fascinating and enlightening for adults as well as children.

* Carol Anne Lee: Roses from the Earth

Highly readable biography of Anne Frank, the German Jewish girl whose famous diary (written as a teenager in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam) captured the attention of the world. This book covers Anne's early years in Germany, her family's exile in the Netherlands, their betrayal, Anne's death in the Holocaust and beyond.

* Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Sign of Four

Second of the book-length Holmes stories. Holmes takes a break from cocaine to solve a murder linked to a treasure brought back from India and Watson finds love along the way.

* J.E. Austen-Leigh: A Memoir of Jane Austen

The great woman's nephew contributes a slim volume of reflections on the life and times of his aunt and a small selection of her letters. Both elements of the book provide interesting social context to the worlds that Jane Austen inhabited and depicted in her novels.

* Giles Gordon (ed.): Shakespeare Stories

Stories by twenty modern British writers. Each is inspired by, or derived from, Shakespeare's life and works. The quality is as uneven as the approaches are varied but on the whole this is an interesting, often amusing and occasionally enlightening read.


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