Books

2010 Reading Update

It has been some time since I last posted a reading round-up, so here is my catch-up for the first half of 2010.

January

Montessori at Home – Heidi Speitz
Personally I didn’t find this all that inspiring.  There are better and more user friendly books currently in print and easily available.  I would be inclined to start with my two favourites rather than bother with this one.  Both David Gettman and Tim Seldin’s books are likely to be available from your local library, and then if you want your own copy – Amazon or your local bookstore will have them in stock.

The Lost Art of Gratitude – Alexander McCall Smith
While linking to the Amazon website, so you could see the other reviews and opinions, I read the Washington Post reviewers comments and had to agree.

But plot has never been what draws readers to McCall Smith, either in this series or in his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels. The books’ appeal has to do, as the author once suggested, with their portrayal of characters “in whom generosity of spirit is very strong.”

He has created a world where humor is gentle, suffering is acknowledged but not foregrounded, and efforts to do good are usually rewarded. It’s a wonderful place to visit, even if we don’t get to live there.

That pretty much sums up why I read the McCall Smith books.  The writing is gentle, inviting you in; there is musing on morality and character, and that is what keeps me returning.  This is the sixth installment of the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Edinburgh based philosopher.  We see her enemies Minty Auchterlonie and Christopher Dove again, as well as the humorously named Professor Lettuce.  They provide many of the subjects for philosophical musing.  A gentle read, don’t expect great plotlines.

Japanese Cooking at Home – Hideo Dekura
I reviewed this one here. Not much to add, except to reiterate that it would make a good starting point to making Japanese food at home.  Check out your local library for a copy.

February

Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook – Maria Montessori
This is a simple, easily read introduction to many basic ideas proposed by Maria Montessori.  It is her own work, so you are getting things direct from the horse’s mouth as it were.  It isn’t going to be the perfect “how to”, but if you want to get an idea of her views then you could certainly add this to your reading pile.  Still, if you want practical information or inspiration I would still refer you to Gettman and Seldin.

March

Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Jules Verne
I thought I was well overdue in reading some classics, so when this was on display at my local library I took the opportunity and grabbed it.  It is certainly a quirky and odd story.  In light of the Icelandic eruptions this year, it was also timely as most of the story takes place there in the crater and imaginary tunnels below Snæfellsjökull. If you are interested in the how, why or what of the Science Fiction of this 1864 novel, then have a look through the details about it at it’s own Wikipedia entry. I can certainly recommend it if you want see what an early science fiction writer had on his mind.  It was a very easy read and surprisingly enjoyable.  If other reviewers are correct and this is the book that stands up least well to the effects of time and advances in science then I am looking forward to investigating his other famous titles.

Positivity – Barbara Fredrickson
I reviewed this one here.  One of my favourite non-fiction reads of recent times.
Noting it here reminds me that is has been some time since I last took the Positivity Test and perhaps I should revisit the website and catch up with what’s going on with my Positivity Ratio.  Hopefully after a two week holiday I should be feeling perkier.  😉


Clutch of Constables – Ngaio Marsh
This was my first venture into the world of Roderick Alleyn and his wife, Agatha Troy.  I have finally stumbled into the world of one of the Queens of detective fiction.  I have no idea why this has taken me so long.  When I was much, much younger I had the entire Agatha Christie collection and Dorothy Sayers still graces my library shelves as I write.  That only really leaves Margery Allingham for me to get around to reading.
This was, apparently, not a typical Marsh.  That could be a shame since I really enjoyed it and the other two in the omnibus that I picked up at the library.  The title is a reference to the countryside setting of the story and the painter, Constable.  It was a gripping mystery that had me guessing the whole way through.  I enjoyed the way the story was told in flashback and the main character, Agatha Troy was sympathetic.  I can recommend it for anyone wanting a good mystery for reading on their summer holidays.

When in Rome – Ngaio Marsh
This was my second foray into the world of Roderick Alleyn and it was another enjoyable experience.
A totally different setting from the first.  Clutch of Constables was set on a canal boat in some fictitious setting in England, while this was set (mostly) in a basilica / church.  Again it turns out that there are many who say that this isn’t Marsh at the height of her powers.  I am now looking forward to moving back in time from the 1970s to the 1930s.

April

Tied Up in Tinsel – Ngaio Marsh
This was another of the Marsh omnibus stories.  Set in a remote estate in England during the Christmas season, it is another Roderick Alleyn mystery.  The host of the Christmas house party has unusual staff – all ex-convicted murderers.  The Alleyn’s end up involved through Troy’s commission to paint a portrait of the eccentric owner.  Thoroughly enjoyed this easy read.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Ramit Sethi
I spotted this at my local library and snapped it up.  The main reason for bringing it home was the fact that via the usual blog referrals I had been reading (and watching) Ramit Sethi’s blog for a while.  Aimed at a much younger audience than I, it still had enough to interest me in reading most of it.  I like to make sure that my knowledge of things financial are fairly current.  Naturally, as this is also aimed at the US audience, there are large chunks that simply do not apply to life outside the 50+D.C.

Eat well, lose weight, while breastfeeding : the complete nutrition book for nursing mothers –  Eileen Behan
The title says it all really.  What’s the best way to look after yourself but not give up the hope that you might gain back just a very small portion of your pre-baby body.
Now my only issue is to actually implement all the straightforward and common sense advice.

Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
Another classic that I have been remiss about reading.  The whole thing was very odd, but I certainly enjoyed it.  Some of the interactions between Alice and those familiar characters she finds on the other side of the Looking Glass are full of humour and very much multi-layered in meaning.
Now I need to move on to reading the original Alice story.  It will be interesting to compare them.

Basic Montessori – David Gettman
This is a great book for anyone looking for guidance on the basic Montessori activities (or “works”).  It’s not glitzy and glamorous – black and white drawings in the margins with text, more text and yet more text.  But don’t discount it for that reason.  It’s a great reference book.   Can’t recommend it highly enough.

May

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
I reviewed the first half of this book here.  The remainder of the book was as interesting as the beginning.  Although I did not find all of Ms Rubin’s ideas would be suitable for my life, I certainly enjoyed reading about how they worked for her.  And of course it stimulates my own creativity for generating happiness boosting activities.

June

Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
This is one of my weak spots.  Mr Pratchett calls to me every time a new book appears on the shop shelves.  I can’t believe that this is the 37th Discworld book and that it is twenty years since I picked up my very first Discworld books.
This story revolves around Unseen University and their need to participate in foot-the-ball in order to retain a substantial bequest.  Timely for the Patrician* of Ankh-Morpork who wishes to “organise”** the “Poore Boys Funne”.  As usual we get to experience many different themes including the arrival of the Discworld’s first supermodel and the racism / tribalism and sundry other -isms that we (and therefore the Discworld) experience in our societies.  And, of course, it all adds up to a good read.

The Double Comfort Safari Club – Alexander McCall Smith
This is book twelve in the No1 Ladies Detective Agency Series.  This story feels very familiar and I have to say it didn’t really capture me the way previous stories have.  Perhaps it was because I was trying to cram this book in between resting, knitting, walking and swimming while on holiday.  This edition involves a personal crisis for Mme Makutsi and a bequest from an American benefactor.  All the comments made by the Washington Post reviewer I quoted above still apply.   But I can’t help wondering if this will be the last of the series that I actually purchase.  A sad day for Mme Ramotswe and me.

* who would have thought that a fictional character would end up with a more extensive Wikipedia entry than many *real* people ?!?!

** Read: control.

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