Review: Milkman, Anna Burns (2018)

img_0580Milkman is an intense and claustrophobic novel. Anna Burns skilfully evokes a repressive social atmosphere, with constraining codes of appropriate behaviour and heavy social policing, saturated by the pervasive threat of serious violence. The struggles of her young female protagonist to both remain herself and remain safe by fitting in are affecting, while the eponymous Milkman generates real menace.   If that sounds heavy and gloomy, it’s not (or not all!): there’s also plenty of humour and wit, even while the tension is maintained. Continue reading “Review: Milkman, Anna Burns (2018)”

Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K Le Guin (1976)

img_0465I picked up a 1976 paperback edition of this novel from the wonderful Ubu Books in Brighton’s Open Market.  Brighton used to be full of great second-hand bookshops: I have very fond memories of many of them from a period on the dole twenty years or so ago, when I’d spend afternoons wandering around town meandering through them, before taking my purchases to the Great Eastern pub and ensconcing myself in the corner there to read.  The great joy was the unplanned nature of the browsing, and the accidental discoveries it allowed.  Sadly, these biblio-havens are thinning out – but Ubu remains.  I recommend you visit if you are ever in that part of Brighton.
In my youth I read a fair few of Le Guin’s books, hooked by the A Wizard of Earthsea trilogy.  This was one I missed. Reading it now both took me back, through its recognisable style, and encouraged me to revisit more of her work. A happy accidental rediscovery. Continue reading “Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K Le Guin (1976)”

Review: To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway (1937)

HAHN CoverI have fond memories of this book from reading it in my late teens.  In the following few years I read a few other books by Hemingway, but To Have and Have Not has always remained my favourite. I was surprised to subsequently discover that it is widely regarded as by far his worst book.  I was therefore a little nervous picking this up to reread it, but having seen the battered, and to me evocative, front cover of my ancient copy during some book re-shelving, I had to do it. Continue reading “Review: To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway (1937)”

John Norman’s Gor – September Reading Review

I’ve started a few books this month, but only finished the first three of John Norman’s Gor series.  The series is (in)famous for its sexual politics and the philosophy underpinning them.  I read them having been pulled into a nostalgic reverie on my adolescent fantasy and sci-fi reading habits by the remake of Predator (my mind moving from Predator to Conan, to the books I was inspired to read by a slightly older, similarly fantasy oriented boy).  I never read the Gor books then, but remembered them from their covers and decided to immerse myself (one needs an excuse to have done so…).

  • Tarnsman of Gor – John Norman (1966)
  • Outlaw of Gor – John Norman (1967)
  • Priest Kings of Gor – John Norman (1968)

Continue reading “John Norman’s Gor – September Reading Review”

Undistract Yourself (To Save the World): August Reading Review

Shropshire 2
I work in an open plan office and, until about three weeks ago, spent a lot of time checking Facebook and Twitter.  I hate both of these things: spending too long trying to work at my desk makes me irritable, even angry, and the social media scrolling left me miserable and frustrated. The three books I read in August address this fragmented mental environment from different perspectives.

  • Cal Newport, Deep Work (2016)
  • Jaron Lanier, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018)
  • Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day (1908)

Continue reading “Undistract Yourself (To Save the World): August Reading Review”

July 2018 Reading Review

IMG_9593Three reviews this month; one very brief.  Despite the brief review it is The Rings of Saturn has had the greatest effect as on me as this prolonged heatwave bears down on us in Brighton, and I start to wonder what the English seasons and landscape will look and feel like as our climate changes (the picture is of an arid Preston Park in Brighton, taken mid-July).

  • W.G. Sebald – The Rings of Saturn (1998)
  • Sven Lindqvist – A History of Bombing (2001)
  • Jarod Lanier – You Are Not A Gadget (2011)

Continue reading “July 2018 Reading Review”

Review: Kill All Normies, by Angela Nagle

kill all normiesKill All Normies
by Angela Nagle
This short book was highly timely when it was published (June 2017), but this seems to have come at some cost.  The book is unfinished – it has none of the referencing apparatus it requires, it doesn’t appear to have been proof read, it is fragmentary and has real problems of cohesion, and has clearly been rushed for publication.   Whether this cost still seems worth it a year on is debatable. Continue reading “Review: Kill All Normies, by Angela Nagle”

Review: Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (2018)

Another one from late February this year…
Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (2018)
Reading the first section of essays in this collection –  In the World, loosely on politics – made me realise how very, very average is most current political commentary. I’ve been worrying recently over how the evisceration of newspapers has meant the drafting in of academics for opinion and comment pieces, and the undesirability of this.  Continue reading “Review: Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (2018)”

January 2018 Reading Review


  • Stoner – John Williams (1965)
  • New Model Army – Adam Roberts (2010)


New Year Thoughts

I had two New Year thoughts around reading (resolutions is too strong a word).  Firstly, I have a lot of books just sort of hanging around, part-read or intended to be read but now passed over.  In keeping with the spirit of the turn of the year decided to try to either read or discard, unfinished or unread, all of these by the end of the year.  I’ve piled the first lot of them up and will endeavour to make my way through them. New Model Army which I read this month was one – we’ll see how I get on with the rest. Continue reading “January 2018 Reading Review”