The Month of January in Books

Following on from last years reading goals I think I will raise the bar a little bit.  I aimed for and comfortably reached my 2008 goal of 24 books read, so in 2009 I will aim to do 10% better than my final tally.  That means a total of 36 books (rounded up) for the year.  I would also like to improve on my 4 Booklitzer challenge novels from 2008 but find some of them heavy going, so I’ll just aim to do the same again or better in 2009.
Here ends the quickie 2009 Reading Resolutions.

On to January’s actual reading.  A total of three novels, one of which is a Booklitzer challenge entry and my first Pulitzer Prize winner, and one book of shortish stories.


The Liar

This is the first novel by Stephen Fry.
Having already read “Making History”, I was expecting great things.  Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this story as much.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting story of espionage with a twist.  I simply found certain parts of the life story of Adrian a bit trying and precious.  Still, it was a first book after all and there is definite improvements made in later works.

I would recommend moving on to his others rather than spend time on this one, unless you like to track the changes in an author’s style of course.

Four Stories
This was part of a five book bundle at the local library that I picked up for Christmas/New Year reading.
It contains four of Alan Bennett’s short stories: The Laying on of Hands; The Clothes They Stood up in; Father! Father! Burning Bright and The Lady in the Van.  The most memorable of these is the last one. Tremendous story, supposedly true, of Bennett’s relationship with an eccentric lady who ends up living in a van in his driveway.  Then there is Father! Father! Burning  Bright which for other more cynical and humorous reasons is also memorable.   Highly recommended.


A very strange, farcical look at the home shopping channels and their celebrity-style presenters.  Again, this book was in the Christmas/New Year bundle from the library.
On the one hand I was much taken with the obvious satire, yet at the same time it was a book that had me gritting my teeth to get through it. Perhaps it was because the characters were so appalling.  Max, the lead host, canned because of an on-air indiscretion during a children’s segment; Peggy Jean the “perfect” mother and wife with image issues and Howard Toast, the producer who likes to seduce.  Not a high rating from me.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

My first delve into the world of the Pulitzer Prize. This won the 2008 award.
It’s a novel about a Dominican family in New Jersey, although primarily about Oscar.  I found it tough going, as I don’t have a word of Spanish and Diaz uses it liberally throughout the first half of the book.  What I did enjoy were the footnotes on Dominican history, a view of life for the people under the dictator’s thumb and the sassiness  of  some of Diaz’s characters. The story is fairly gripping, especially in parts.  On the one hand I appreciate the view of another culture, but on the other it just didn’t resonate with me.  Perhaps because it felt exclusive through the language and the slang.  Still, I’d recommend having a go and seeing what you think.  On Amazon this rated from 1 up to 5 stars, so for some it’s a great read while for others it’s a no-go.  Personally, I’m in the middle – 3 stars.

And there ends the first month of books for 2009.  Happy reading.

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