Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Notable Books

I expect every independent author/publisher received a lengthy explanation about how VAT on e-books will work after the turn of the year. I got mine. So it looks as if it is happening. The consoling thought is that Amazon might be paying more tax too.

The New York Times has published a list of notable books of 2014 - http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/07/books/review/100-notable-books-of-2014.html?_r=0

As my eyes scanned the list, several thoughts occurred to me. Firstly, I have read none of them. Secondly, they all seem to be on gut-wrenching topics. Thirdly, where have all the happy books gone? Why does everyone want to read about other people's misery and anguish?

When I was much younger and worked in a public library, I ordered/requested many books and read them with a greed for knowledge of the human race. I didn't think of it in those terms then, but it seems to me now that that was what I was doing. I don't do it any more. By my late twenties I had moved away from what I thought of as the agonising stuff, and looked for more escapist fiction, something that would excite me and keep me reading late into the night. Dorothy Dunnett fitted the bill admirably. She had more "bite" than Mary Stewart, wrote so much better than Jean Plaidy, and her mind was so devious I was always surprised by her plotlines.

Now it seems to me that the book world is geared to supplying the stuff that I wanted to read as a young person starting out into adulthood - but there also seems to be a hint that this is what we all ought to be reading. Is this, I wonder, because the editors and reviewers are twenty-somethings themselves?

I read some notable books in the last year, but by the time I get to them, they are likely to be a couple of years old. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent was one title I  would have put on my personal list, and Longbourne by Jo Baker was another. When I read Lamentations by C J Sansom, that will no doubt be added, as I thought highly of his preceding books. Some that missed the mark, like Queen's Gambit (Freemantle) and Bring Up the Bodies, (Mantel) I enjoyed at the time but found they didn't stick in the memory. When I think of more titles, I shall build my own personal list of Notable Books.

PS Tim shows up well in any situation - a flash of white among the dark trees!

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