Tuesday, 28 February 2012

3 books - a Kindle Schmindle

I love books. In my (much) younger days as an irritating, impetuous little know-it-all I was once found on the Left Bank of the Seine proclaiming loudly "I'd rather see people killed than books thrown away!" in response to seeing a Parisian outdoor bookseller discarding his unwanted stock at the end of a working day. I hardly need point out that this is a sentiment I cannot relate to now. However a couple of decades ago, a first-class literature degree under my scrawny bohemian belt, I was horrified by the idea that books could be discarded so casually (ironically, as a self-defined non-Catholic at the time who had just spent four years in an astonishingly relativist academic milieu, the discarding of tiny humans didn't even enter my consciousness). As soon as the bookseller had departed, I raced to the bin and liberated the violated tomes (a real mish-mash of genres and periods) and placed them lovingly along the wall of the seine with a large handwritten sign proclaiming (in French) "FREE BOOKS - HELP YOURSELF".

My poor partner-in-crime (now long-suffering husband) and I watched from a bench in the distance (with a bottle of wine, natch) as passersby stopped, read the sign and browsed the books - sometimes continuing their journey with empty hands, but more commonly snatching a copy with a furtive look around and departing clutching a new (to them) paperback friend and with a spring in their step. Eventually all the orphaned volumes, barring one abstruse work by a French surrealist, found new homes, and we were able to wander off to a cafe for more wine and some decent food, satisfied in a job well done.
Samuel Pepys:  what would he have made of the Kindle?

Why mention this at all? Well, my pal, fellow parishioner, senior blogger and venerable cat-charmer Mac of Mulier Fortis fame has kindly tagged me in her Kindle-o-rama meme to name three books I'd recommend that she buy to read on her shiny new kindle (actually, it's a bit less shiny now than it was when she first tagged me - it's taken a fortnight to wrest my laptop from the possession of my children and get back to my blog, but that's another story...) Anyway - here I hit a moral dilemma: I love paper books. I love the way that they smell, and age and the fact that you can read them in the bath, in the rain and get them half buried in sand on the beach. I like the fact that you can chuck them into the fire if you really really disapprove (have only done this once and it was good fun). My children are reading paperback novels that I read 35 years ago that were tatty and old when they were passed down to me by friends of the family. You can't do that with a kindle.

On the other hand, my eyes are getting dodgier as I get older, and the notion of larger type starts to sound attractive. Not to mention having an entire library in my handbag. Books are an expensive habit, not so much in their acquisition as much as in the storage space that they take up. We're currently trying to figure out how to convert an outbuilding into a library. Yes, that many books.

The Pepys Library at my old Alma mater: if only my books were so well organised!

Mac on the other hand, is sensible enough to equip herself with a Kindle, and be able to carry the equivalent of the boxes and boxes filling my loft, cupboards and garage (labelled "boring books", "rodent diseases/dissection", "m/physical poets" and so forth) in something that can slip into a pocket. So I'm going to run with the fact that she already has one, rather than debate the rights and wrongs of electronic reading devices, and recommend a little light reading. I know that the meme was really a Desert Island Discs sort of "three essential books" but I change my mind so often that I thought it better to recommend some pacy relief to the worthy and weighty tomes that would be truly indispensable.. Not quite chicklit, but I've been into the sort-of-girly apocalypso genre of late, and so my recommendations are:

[1] Fatherless/Motherless/Childless by Brian J Gail
 Ok so this is a bit of a cheat. Three books in one. But it's worth sticking with Fatherless to get to Motherless which allows you to get to Childless. Sound Catholic novels just shouldn't be this much fun. Oh - and if you buy Motherless then you get Childless free in the Kindle edition: the "preview" is actually the whole novel. A kindle-reading friend pointed this out to me - she reckons that Brain J Gail just wants to get the book "out there" and as widely read as possible. I can see why.

[2] Eclipse of the Sun by Michael D O'Brien.
The catch with this one is that it's two books - really you should read the much shorter Plague Journal to get full benefit form Eclipse. Plague Journal might even be a better book, but the end of Eclipse make the journey worthwhile. Strictly speaking these two are the end of a trilogy (that is itself part of a series of seven books) but I'm not as ardent about Strangers and Sojourners as I am about the others. Almost anything by Michael D O'Brien could have been on this list - particularly Father Elijah (probably his best known) and The Island of the World (his most elegantly written work). There's something about the characters and images in "Plague Journal" and "Eclipse of the Sun that ring true. Warning: not good bedtime reading for the paranoid.

[3] Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
Scarily prescient Catholic science-fiction novel written over 100 years ago but eerily contemporary. Unputdownable. And it's FREE on Kindle.

I'm going to tag five other bloggers for fairly random reasons: OTSOTA because he's already a Kindle lover and prolific reader and a real cleverclogs in a good way, Mundabor because his blog makes me punch the air and say "Yessssssss!" and because I'm curious to see what he'll recommend, Jean of KiwiTrad and Anna's Song blogs because she lives in New Zealand which gives her a different perspective,  Bara Brith because she's a font of musical knowledge and all-round good egg and Joseph K of my "brother blog" Defend us in Battle who wages spiritual warfare from the frozen wilds of Alaska.

Closed: anything to do with the Kindle?

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