It’s Christmastime again, and with any luck, there is some free time on your horizon (although at this time of year it can seem like you may never have free time again!). For those of you unsure what to do with time off, the Library staff would like to offer a few suggestions…
Alan’s Reading List
Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century. Interweaving a transfixing account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middle-class family, the Shaposhnikovs, scattered by fortune from Germany to Siberia, Vasily Grossman fashions an immense, intricately detailed tapestry depicting a time of almost unimaginable horror and even stranger hope. Life and Fate juxtaposes bedrooms and snipers’ nests, scientific laboratories and the Gulag, taking us deep into the hearts and minds of characters ranging from a boy on his way to the gas chambers to Hitler and Stalin themselves. This novel of unsparing realism and visionary moral intensity is one of the supreme achievements of modern Russian literature.
This classic Swedish novel envisioned a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain’s depiction of a totalitarian world state is a montage of what novelist Karin Boye had seen or sensed in 1930s Russia and Germany. Its central idea grew from the rumors of truth drugs that ensured the subservience of every citizen to the state.
Sometimes grim, sometimes uproarious, and always captivating, Iceland’s Bell by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness is at once an updating of the traditional Icelandic saga and a caustic social satire. At the close of the 17th century, Iceland is an oppressed Danish colony, suffering under extreme poverty, famine, and plague. A farmer and accused cord-thief named Jon Hreggvidsson makes a bawdy joke about the Danish king and soon after finds himself a fugitive charged with the murder of the king’s hangman. In the years that follow, the hapless but resilient rogue Hreggvidsson becomes a pawn entangled in political and personal conflicts playing out on a far grander scale. Iceland’s Bell creates a Dickensian canvas of heroism and venality, violence and tragedy, charged with narrative enchantment on every page.
Kelly C’s Reading List
Depending on your worldview, current events in the world have been chaotic, incomprehensible, or downright depressing so far this year. A long winter holiday (for us at the Law Society Library anyway) is a good time to get a Pratchett fix and escape into his satirical fantasy world. The Discworld series has 41 books in all, with No. 41, The Shepherd’s Crown, published posthumously after Terry Pratchett died of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 66 in 2015. A Discworld fan once said “there is no wrong place to start” with this series. I have read 37 of the 41 novels in this series but not in any particular order. Thief of Time is the 26th in the series. The two main characters, Death and Death’s granddaughter Susan, are my favourite recurring characters in this series. The bookkeepers of the universe – the Auditors – have decided to commission the making of a clock that is so accurate that it will stop time. Death, his granddaughter Susan and the History Monk Lu-Tze and his apprentice work hard to stop this. Since I haven’t read the book yet, I don’t know where this is going. But I have not been disappointed by a Discworld novel yet.
Moebius is the pseudonym of acclaimed French artist/cartoonist Jean Giraud. The World of Edena was first published in French under the title Le Monde d’Edena and has been long out of print. Moebius Productions and Dark Horse Comics work together to put it back in print and for the first time, part of the materials have been translated into English. Stel and Atan are interstellar repairmen trying to find a lost space station and its crew. What they discover about the universe and themselves on the mythical paradise planet Edena changes their lives forever. Moebius art is brilliant as always but his stories are by far the most philosophical in the comic book world. Among other things, the stories pose questions on human desire to live in a structured society. This is the first of a series of three books in Moebius Library. I will be looking forward to Part 2 (The Art of Moebius) and Part 3 (Inside Moebius).
A media strategist reveals how blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it. “A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation. What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this.”
Kelly L’s Reading List
Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing”-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.
Elizabeth Gilbert digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
Biographer Margaret Lea returns one night to her apartment above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. On her steps she finds a letter. It is a hand-written request from one of Britain’s most prolific and well-loved novelists. Vida Winter, gravely ill, wants to recount her life story before it is too late, and she wants Margaret to be the one to capture her history. As Vida Winter unfolds her story, she shares with Margaret the dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden as she remembers her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home. Margaret carefully records Miss Winter’s account and finds herself more and more deeply immersed in the strange and troubling story…
Ken’s Reading List
Sinclair’s writing actually scares me. Not the content or situations he is describing (although those are often creepy too), but the writing itself, like bugs under my skin, or an unshakable feeling that I am an extra in horror film. A resident of East London (UK), Sinclair seems determined to invent a language apt to describe the everyday cruelties and perversities of all the dark corners of the global city. This is not the voice-over in a “gritty” crime movie. This is something far stranger – and more real – than what is permissible in Hollywood. Almost every sentence contains a puzzling image or disturbing twist of thought. It is painful and hilarious and horrifying, a straight-up thriller.
The Bible is not “The Good Book” – it is much more than that. It is actually “a” good book. Good like Shakespeare and the Bronte sisters and Cormac McCarthy – yeah, that kind of good. The people who think it is morally oppressive or self-contradictory are missing the point as much as the people who try to make it an ethical code. It is none of those things. It is the collected stories, laws, and prophesies of an ancient tribe, that over the course of the book, transform, clarify, and ultimately become a vision of universal human redemption. This holiday season’s reading will include the book of Isaiah, which includes the “Emmanuel” and “suffering servant” prophesies that were retrospectively interpreted as predicting the life of Christ – but that is not why I am reading it. It is bold, visceral, and always entertaining. Highly recommended.
I don’t know exactly why I do this to myself. This book is so heavy with philosophical abstractions it often leaves me feeling like a naked ape living on a giant, featureless, coal-grey mountain & beating rocks against my head. Other times it seems more like a Bacchanalian revel where my head is drunk with many conflicting thoughts that won’t sit still. I can’t explain Hegel, and don’t claim to understand what I am reading. But for some reason, I am committed to grappling with this strange, shape-shifting monster. The one thing I can definitely say is that reading Hegel alters my thought process – ideas move more fluidly, change places, turn on each other, and recreate reality.