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2019 50 Book Challenge

California Dreamer

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
3. Kill 'Em All, by John Niven[
4. The Black Monday Murders, volume 1: All Hail God Mammon, by Jonathon Hickman
5. Bad News, by Edward St. Aubyn
6. Education, by Tara Westover
7. Europe: A Natural History, by Tim Flannery
8. No Tomorrow, by Luke Jennings
9. Scrublands, by Chris Hammer
10. The Kingdom, by Fuminori Nakamura
11. The White Darkness, by David Grann
12. Sacred Cesium Ground and Isa's Deluge, by Yusuke Kimura
13. The Black Monday Murders, Volume 2: The Scales, by Jonathon Hickman
14. Dark Echoes of the Past, by Roman Diaz Eterovic
15. Acute Misfortune, by Erik Jensen
16. The Low Road, by Chris Womersley
17. Steve Smith's Men: Behind Australian Cricket's Fall, by Geoff Lemon
18. River of Salt, by Dave Warner
19. City of a Million Dreams, by Jason Berry
20. Nagaland, by Ben Doherty
21. Queen of Kenosha, by Howard Shapiro
22. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
23. Saga, Volume One (Eps 1-3), by Brian
24. The Forest of Wool and Steel, by Natsu Miyashita
25. The Waiter, by Matias Faldbakken
26. Manchester Happened, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
27. This body's Not Big Enough For Both of Us, by Edgar Cantero
28. The Erratics, by Vicki Laveau-Harvie
29. Saga Book 2, by Brian Vaughan
30. Murder in the Crooked House, by Soji Shimada
31. The Brewer of Preston, by Andrea Camilleri
32. Eight Lives, by Susan Hurley
33. Fu Ping, by Wang Anyi
34. N, by John A. Scott
35. Adele, by Leila Slimani
36. Gretchen, by Shannon Kirk
37. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
38. The White Girl, by Tony Birch
39. The Trauma Cleaner, by Sarah Krasnostein

40. The Ballad of Captain Kelly, by Jonathan Wicken

The Ballad of Captain Kelly re-imagines the Iliad as a tale set in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, where the ANZACs and the British invaded Turkey during the Great War. Captain Kelly, the leading soldier among the ANZACs, has a massive falling-out with the British General Agnew-Menning and refuses to take further part in the fighting. He, his deputy Captain Patricks and their troops are despatched to camp by the beach while the fighting is led by the bold Captain Ahia and the cunning Captain Seers. They and the other ANZACs wage a battle of attrition against the Turks, led by their champion Captain Hikmet. Unbeknownst to the fighters engaged in this battle, their fates are being determined by archangels moving behind the scenes, ensuring that the will of God is enacted.

Wicken has come up with an ingenious idea, considering that only about twenty kilometres separates the historical sites of ANZAC Cove and the city of Troy. It's diverting to try and identify the parallels between his characters and those of Homer. He also writes very convincing accounts of the horror and the grinding desperation of trench warfare. This is not a book for the squeamish.

Unfortunately the novel's execution is severely wanting. Wicken chooses to emulate Homeric style to an unfortunate degree, which I think will turn off many people. This also leads him to engage in some clumsy exposition where, at several points, he allows a character to reel off everything that's going to happen in future. That may be fine in terms of emulating the Iliad, but it does lead the reader to wonder why they should continue reading his stilted and archaic prose, when he has given away the entire plot. Finally, this book has some of the worst editing that I have ever encountered. There are spelling and usage mistakes galore, such as the repeated use of "exalt" when "exult" is meant, and the use of "assent" instead of "ascent". There are continuity errors such as, in one brief scene, a character going from being a Lieutenant at the start of the scene to being a Captain by the end. I really cannot recommend this book, and I wish it was otherwise, because this intriguing idea deserved better.

41. Grief is the Thing With Feathers, by Max Porter

A writer researching Ted Hughes is suddenly widowed and left as the single parent of two young boys. In the throes of their grief, this little family is visited by a Crow, who helps them deal with their loss.

There's really not much more to this little book. It's a very strange piece, sometimes funny, sometimes sad and mostly bizarre. I think it is likely to be very divisive; people are either going to hate it, or think it is genius. I genuinely can't make up my mind.

42. Dark Emu, by Bruce Pascoe

Bruce Pascoe's book is a much-needed exposition of the realities of indigenous society and economy at the outset of British colonisation. He presents incontrovertible evidence that the Aboriginals had sophisticated systems of agriculture, aquaculture and housing. For somebody such as myself, raised on the notion of Aboriginals as nomadic hunter-gatherers, this is a head-snapping and sobering correction to one's assumptions.

Some of Pascoe's most riveting examples involve the Brewarrina fish traps, which are arguably the oldest man-made structures on earth. A detail that left an indelible impression on me was a map showing the extent of Australia that early white explorers described as growing grain when they first encountered them, overlaid with the far smaller extent of grain farming today. The message is unmistakeable; indigenous agriculture was able to produce thriving grain crops in the areas that we now romanticise as the arid and inhospitable Outback, which was only made so by the rapid destruction of the soil caused by the exotic animals that the colonists introduced.

Pascoe makes a solid argument that Australia's economy can benefit greatly if we recognise this achievement instead of perpetuating the hunter-gatherer myth, and try to change our existing agricultural practices to re-introduce crops such as yam daisy, kangaroo grass and native rice, as well as growing a commercial kangaroo meat industry, drastically reducing the damage done by cattle and sheep. This is a both an entrepreneurial opportunity and a means of placing indigenous culture and knowledge at the centre of our economic planning, which should not be missed. This book is a must-read for any Australian.

43. A Keeper, by Graham Norton

Elizabeth Keane is an expat academic who has returned from New York to Ireland in the wake of her mother Patricia's death. When cleaning up her mother's effects, she stumbles on some letters that give an insight into the relationship her mother had with Edward Foley, the father that she never knew.

Elizabeth is intrigued, and tries to find out more about Edward. As Norton recounts her search into her past, he also tells the story of Edward and Patricia, and of Elizabeth's birth. This story is a lot less romantic than Elizabeth envisages. As she pursues her inquiries, Elizabeth is distracted by alarming news about the teenage son that she has left in the care of her ex-husband, which she must also deal with.

This is a pretty good melodrama from Norton, a darker novel than you might expect given his TV persona.
 
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samtalkstyle

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6: A Perfect Spy - John le Carre
A cold war tale of the exposure of a double agent after some thirty years of operating within British Intelligence. Written half as a conventional spy novel, the other half as a long goodbye note from the agent to his son. This gives the whole novel a rather surreal - I would also personally say confused - vibe. As such, I am not sure I have enjoyed it as much as le Carre's other works.
 

samtalkstyle

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
3. Kill 'Em All, by John Niven[
4. The Black Monday Murders, volume 1: All Hail God Mammon, by Jonathon Hickman
5. Bad News, by Edward St. Aubyn
6. Education, by Tara Westover
7. Europe: A Natural History, by Tim Flannery
8. No Tomorrow, by Luke Jennings
9. Scrublands, by Chris Hammer
10. The Kingdom, by Fuminori Nakamura
11. The White Darkness, by David Grann
12. Sacred Cesium Ground and Isa's Deluge, by Yusuke Kimura
13. The Black Monday Murders, Volume 2: The Scales, by Jonathon Hickman
14. Dark Echoes of the Past, by Roman Diaz Eterovic
15. Acute Misfortune, by Erik Jensen
16. The Low Road, by Chris Womersley
17. Steve Smith's Men: Behind Australian Cricket's Fall, by Geoff Lemon
18. River of Salt, by Dave Warner
19. City of a Million Dreams, by Jason Berry
20. Nagaland, by Ben Doherty
21. Queen of Kenosha, by Howard Shapiro
22. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
23. Saga, Volume One (Eps 1-3), by Brian
24. The Forest of Wool and Steel, by Natsu Miyashita
25. The Waiter, by Matias Faldbakken
26. Manchester Happened, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
27. This body's Not Big Enough For Both of Us, by Edgar Cantero
28. The Erratics, by Vicki Laveau-Harvie
29. Saga Book 2, by Brian Vaughan
30. Murder in the Crooked House, by Soji Shimada
31. The Brewer of Preston, by Andrea Camilleri
32. Eight Lives, by Susan Hurley
33. Fu Ping, by Wang Anyi
34. N, by John A. Scott
35. Adele, by Leila Slimani
36. Gretchen, by Shannon Kirk
37. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
38. The White Girl, by Tony Birch
39. The Trauma Cleaner, by Sarah Krasnostein

40. The Ballad of Captain Kelly, by Jonathan Wicken
Finally, this book has some of the worst editing that I have ever encountered. There are spelling and usage mistakes galore, such as the repeated use of "exalt" when "exult" is meant, and the use of "assent" instead of "ascent". There are continuity errors such as, in one brief scene, a character going from being a Lieutenant at the start of the scene to being a Captain by the end. I really cannot recommend this book, and I wish it was otherwise, because this intriguing idea deserved better.
It's alarming the rate at which I'm encountering poor editing, especially spelling and grammar errors in published books. I'm starting to get rather fed up with picking up a book that looks interesting, just to have the whole thing be put together like a C-grade schoolboy wrote it.
 

Fueco

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80. The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing To Eat, by Louise Gray

A Scottish journalist spent two years only consuming meat that she’d killed or sourced herself. In the meantime, she looked into how various types of animals are sourced and processed for food in the UK.
 

Journeyman

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Mar 29, 2005
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25. Confessions Of A Mask - Yukio Mishima

To anyone who has read Mishima before, as this is my first journey into his works, does most of his novels follow this same dark narrative style?
I wouldn’t count on any lighter works by Mishima. The man disemboweled himself. Pretty hardcore!
I've read Confessions of a Mask, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) and the four books that make up the Sea of Fertility tetralogy - Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn and The Decay of the Angel.

They're all quite dark and depressing. In both Confessions and Golden Pavilion, the main characters are dark and flawed. In the Sea of Fertility series, it's either the main characters or the supporting characters who are deeply flawed. People are manipulated, live unhappy lives, die early, are abandoned by lovers, and generally have unsatisfactory, if not downright awful, lives.

These darker themes do seem (in my experience) to be quite common in many Japanese novels from the early 1900s through to the 1970s and even later.
 

samtalkstyle

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Aug 3, 2019
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7: Shoe Dog - Phil Knight
An autobiography of founder and long-time CEO of Nike, Phil Knight. An interesting mix of personal and corporate autobiography, and an entertaining read. Enjoyed seeing how a small grassroots operation develops into a multinational enterprise.
 

Fueco

Stylish Dinosaur
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Mar 8, 2012
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81. Spinoza, by Roger Scruton

A brief biography of Benedict de Spinoza, along with a summation of his philosophical ideas. It’s interesting to read philosophies from nearly 400 years ago which wrangle with the same questions we do today. I’ll read Spinoza directly one of these days...
 

Fueco

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82. Overkill, by Ted Bell

Too much of a thing is the first dictionary definition of overkill. In this case, the title of the book is entirely appropriate. I've loved all of Bell's Alex Hawke novels so far, but did not enjoy this one. I kept reading because I bought the book, and thought maybe there would be a redemption at some point. No luck...
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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37.The Black Ice by Michael Connelly

Book two in the Bosh LA Noir series finds HB south of the border in the search for a killer of a couple of cops, a mystery to be solved, the DEA and El Temblar.

A solid freewheeling police procedural to keep any fan of the Genre entertained.
 
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Geoffrey Firmin

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81. Spinoza, by Roger Scruton

A brief biography of Benedict de Spinoza, along with a summation of his philosophical ideas. It’s interesting to read philosophies from nearly 400 years ago which wrangle with the same questions we do today. I’ll read Spinoza directly one of these days...
Reading Spinoza is a solid investment in time and philosophy. You should read Henri Bergson.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Andy Kaufman: The Truth, Finally, by Bob Zmuda and Lynne Margulies
2. Illustrado, by Miguel Syjuco
3. Kill 'Em All, by John Niven[
4. The Black Monday Murders, volume 1: All Hail God Mammon, by Jonathon Hickman
5. Bad News, by Edward St. Aubyn
6. Education, by Tara Westover
7. Europe: A Natural History, by Tim Flannery
8. No Tomorrow, by Luke Jennings
9. Scrublands, by Chris Hammer
10. The Kingdom, by Fuminori Nakamura
11. The White Darkness, by David Grann
12. Sacred Cesium Ground and Isa's Deluge, by Yusuke Kimura
13. The Black Monday Murders, Volume 2: The Scales, by Jonathon Hickman
14. Dark Echoes of the Past, by Roman Diaz Eterovic
15. Acute Misfortune, by Erik Jensen
16. The Low Road, by Chris Womersley
17. Steve Smith's Men: Behind Australian Cricket's Fall, by Geoff Lemon
18. River of Salt, by Dave Warner
19. City of a Million Dreams, by Jason Berry
20. Nagaland, by Ben Doherty
21. Queen of Kenosha, by Howard Shapiro
22. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
23. Saga, Volume One (Eps 1-3), by Brian
24. The Forest of Wool and Steel, by Natsu Miyashita
25. The Waiter, by Matias Faldbakken
26. Manchester Happened, by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
27. This body's Not Big Enough For Both of Us, by Edgar Cantero
28. The Erratics, by Vicki Laveau-Harvie
29. Saga Book 2, by Brian Vaughan
30. Murder in the Crooked House, by Soji Shimada
31. The Brewer of Preston, by Andrea Camilleri
32. Eight Lives, by Susan Hurley
33. Fu Ping, by Wang Anyi
34. N, by John A. Scott
35. Adele, by Leila Slimani
36. Gretchen, by Shannon Kirk
37. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
38. The White Girl, by Tony Birch
39. The Trauma Cleaner, by Sarah Krasnostein
40. The Ballad of Captain Kelly, by Jonathan Wicken
41. Grief is the Thing With Feathers, by Max Porter
42. Dark Emu, by Bruce Pascoe
43. A Keeper, by Graham Norton

44. Saudade, by Suneeta Peres da Costa

Saudade is a feeling of melancholy and nostalgia in Portuguese culture. In this novella, it is expressed in the story of a Goan family who have emigrated to Angola. The father is a labour lawyer who works for the Portuguese bosses while his Indian wife raises their daughter. The daughter is an eccentric who largely refuses to speak, and experiences racism at her convent school. The mother misses Goa while her daughter puzzles her way through her teens trying to find her own way in the world. As the Angolan independence movement grows, their lives come under increasing threat.

This is a good story, but I would really have liked to see it turned into novel length. I though the characters were worthy of more detail and the plot felt a bit cursory and rushed. Perhaps da Costa may revisit these people in a future work.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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I remember reading this back in 1982 and then in 95 it was mentioned in a lecture at Uni. The lecturer then started to recite the first page verbatim. Such a warped book, fantastic read.
 

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