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Monday, October 26, 2020


I concluded the Travel section with Coasting: A Private Voyage by Jonathan Raban. It was written during the early 80s and comes from the waffly school of travel writing when the author tends to waffle on about anything in particular, in his case the Falklands, Miners Strike, Thatcher and his childhood. All well and good for but I'd rather he described more about what sounds an interesting journey by sea around Britain (he never does say where he went, when, how lomg it took etc). Raban is essentially a fiction writer so his prose is excellent, but it's not my sort of book. 5/10

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Guest review from GoodReads

Madame BovaryMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My God this is a negative book, I bet Gustave Flaubert was real fun at parties. I realise the book is something of a swipe at the bourgeoisie but I don't think there was a single positive character in the book. Everyone is despicable, pathetic, self-interested and nobody comes out with any credit at all.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Cracking the Capital

The authorities tried to ban Subterranean London: Cracking the Capital by Bradley L. Garrett so it's kind of ironic that I end up getting it from a public library having hitherto never heard of it. It's an amazing collection of photos taken beneath the streets of London, all of which were without permission and many must have been very dangerous to do. Hats off to whoeever did this, although you must be mad. It would have been nice to have had a bit more text. 8/10

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Most Annoying Book in the World

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter is a frustrating book. It's one of these wishy washy "travel" books where there is not much travelling going on and lots of rambling on about nothing. Yet occasionally from the bubble of thoughts and recollections would come a few interesting pages and Baxter's enthusiasm for Paris was sort of infectious and made me curious how he managed to blag his way into a job of literary guide, which is what the book morphs into about half way through. Then it would sink back into the torpor and I would wonder how this book ever got published. So it's a bit like an improvised jazz piece, with no structure or plan and could never be repeated, but occasionally is very good. 5/10

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Walking the Himalayas

My journey through the travel section continued with Walking the Himalayas by Levison Wood. I have never heard of Levison Wood, apparently he has been on TV, but I don't watch it much. I thoroughly enjoyed Walking the Himalayas which was about his walking from Afghanistan to Bhutan. I am not sure how often people do this sort of walk, if ever, but most of it sounded relatively easy, although there were obviously dangerous sections. What was interesting is just journeying with Lev and getting to know him as you read the book and went through places that are so far off the beaten track it had to shaking your head in bewilderment that such areas and people still exist. 9/10

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

John McCarthy Travels but I can't

The Travel section has fallen at a time I can't travel. My first post-lockdown book was You Can't Hide the Sun: A Journey through Palestine by John McCarthy. John McCarthy is best known for his time as a hostage in Beirut but this was a decent book which explains the lot of the Palestinians who live within Israel (as opposed to the Palestinian areas). I didn't even realise there were such people. It was very shocking and really brought home how the Israeli machine ruined people's lives. 8/10



Monday, July 27, 2020

On to Travel

I have moved back into non-fiction for one of my last sorties into that area of the library. The mammoth travel section is bursting with guide books, so it's quite hard to find a prose book I can actually read. I selected Racing With Death: Douglas Mawson - Antarctic Explorer by Beau Riffenburgh. It's not a travel book at all, it's a biography of a largely forgotten Antarctic explorer. It's actually quite good, but he was mainly remembered in his lifetime for an especially daring trek across the ice when everyone but him died. I am not sure in any way it was especially notable and he'll always go down as a footnote compared to the likes of Scott and Shakleton, and the rest of his life was really quite ordinary baring the years in the Antarctic. Nevertheless, it's a decent book and gets 8 out of 10.