The Places That Scare You - Pema Chodron
Whenever I've chosen to read a Pema Chodron book it's usually when I need to remind myself of my own inner strength and abilities to cope. By July being so far away from friends and family was beginning to wear on me. It takes time to make significant friendships and it feels all the more difficult in a city like London. You'd think the high density would mean an abundance of opportunities for me to make friends. I have always been very proud of being able to approach most anyone and start a conversation. All the conferences I'd been to in my youth, the trip I took to Australia when I was nineteen, the trip to Palm Springs in 2009, have all proven to me that I have no problem getting to know people and making new friends. London is a very different world though. The huge population is a mix of so many people from so many cultures and backgrounds it's like its own country.
Londoners travel in a bubble, eye forward, headphones on. Tourists are in their clumps, speaking all sorts of languages and there for the sites. Immigrants settle into pocket of communities where everyone speaks the same language, creating a miniature version of their own country. There is a sense of not having time, time to visit, time to get to know someone new, time to just hang out.
As a social butterfly this has often been a very scary place for me to be but a good way to remember to be my own best friend and not let the culture around me change my own beliefs about smiling at strangers, lending a hand and taking every chance given me to meet someone new.
Stephen Fry's Incomplete and Utter History of Classical Music - Stephen Fry
I quite like a lot of classical music but as most of it doesn't have lyrics I find it difficult to find the songs I like. I just know I like them. I like them a lot and listening to classical whilst painting is one of my favourite things to do. I decided I needed to get educated and as Fry is one of those people who seems to know quite a lot about quite a lot this book felt like the perfect choice! It was quite fun to read but I regret not writing down more of the songs he spoke of. I feel like it would have been more enjoyed as the BBC radio programme it was based on or with an accompanying CD.
Lamb - Christopher Moore
The third time I've read this book, which is one of my favourite books on the planet. I suggest it to everyone I meet and I don't doubt I will read again and again.
I chose to re-read it this time as it definitely is one of my 'Best Friend' books. I read books for comfort just like I drink tea for comfort.
Unseen Academicals - Terry Pratchett
Another classic from Sir Pratchett! This was one of his wizard stories, which are usually my least favourite, however, given that I had just experienced the World Cup whilst living in the UK, his take on football was brilliant to read! I love how, the more you read and the more you travel, the more hilarious his writing becomes as all the allusions and cultural references come out of the woodwork.
Somewhere Towards the End - Diana Athill
One evening my partner and I curled up together on the couch and watched a documentary about Athill, a woman I knew nothing about. Throughout the incredible documentary this book was referenced. My partner purchased it right away and I snagged it as soon as I could. I think this is one of those books that everyone can appreciate in some way. Finding a book written about the end of life is a rarity, especially in a society so terrified of death as ours. I have always appreciated that life is what we make it and the most inevitable fact we all must face is that we will die. Athill looks back on her life and reflects in an incredibly honest way, sharing her learned wisdom with gorgeous prose.
Remarkable Creatures - Tracey Chevalier
An incredible historical fiction account of the legendary Mary Anning, a fossil hunter in the 1800's who is credited with discovering the ichthyosaurus. This was more than just a look at Mary and her fossils. This is a comment on how such discoveries shook the foundations of a society that held women in low regard and religion in high. Mary Anning really is a Mighty Woman and I think more people should know her story.
I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett
The fourth and final instalment of the Tiffany Aching collection. This was a great contributor to my decision to use a hare for my Judgment card.
The Bad Beekeepers Club - Bill Turnbull
Bill is one of a team of two on BBC breakfast. He and Sian never fail to delight me. This book is an account of Bill's experiences as a hobbyist beekeeper. I have always loved bees and reading this just gave me more reason to do so. Throughout this story Bill did manage to colour his beekeeping skills with a stain, but he does redeem himself and remains one of my favourite BBC personalities.
The Clocks - Agatha Christie
I'd not read any Christie for awhile so I felt like revisiting her. This was a particularly elaborate plot but it got me back into a Christie mood and was shortly followed by...
After The Funeral - Agatha Christie
I do love Poirot.
How to Practice - Dalai Lama
A wonderful referential piece of writing. I actually started reading this very early in the year, about January or so. I would pick it up occasionally, dip into a few pages and replace on the shelf until I felt the need to visit again.
Everything is Illuminated - Safran
I found this sitting on my partner's bookshelf. I had nothing to read and it was time for bed. I find it extremely difficult, if not entirely impossible, to fall asleep without reading. I picked this up and thought, "Why not?"
It's not the best book to start as one is planning to drift off to sleep. Initially I found it very disjointed and confusing, but as I began bringing it with me to read whilst on the train I found myself getting more and more wrapped up in it. Sometimes I'd be so engrossed I'd nearly miss my stop. It is an endearing and quirky novel and I'm not very interested to see the film adaptation.
Thank You Jeeves, The Code of the Woosters and The Inimitable Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse
A delightful romp, reading Wodehouse. Quite fun. It did make me a bit envious of the 'idle rich' but if I had the money Wooster had I would be anything but idle.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
Sometimes you go out for a meal and find the entire experience utterly gorgeous. It's not just that the food was delicious. It was the setting, the attention to detail, the way the dish was presented and the fluidity of the service. Reading this was like enjoying a delicious meal of words. Barbery's style is poetic, smooth and rich. She pulls you into her characters through the language they speak and the appreciation they have for words and punctuation.
Johnny & the Bomb - Terry Pratchett
Another re-read, the last of the year. Once again I found myself without a novel just before bed. I first read the Johnny series when I was still in Junior High. It was a treat to get re-acquainted.
The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents - Terry Pratchett
I love how Pratchett writes young adult novels. They're suitably dark and a credit to the intelligence of the reader. This story was an extra special treat for me as it was both entertaining and monumental. Upon completing this book I realised I have now read every Terry Pratchett novel to date. He is a credit to the craft and I admire his work more than words can express.
Sorting Out Billy - Jo Brand
Jo is an English comedian I discovered since crossing the pond. I was at a garage sale warehouse type place when I noticed this book. They had quite a few decent paperbacks and were selling them for a pound fifty for five. This deal was obviously too good to pass up so I began collecting titles off the shelves, this one being the first I selected.
I can't say I enjoyed it much. I do love Jo's humour but I think she makes a better stand-up comedian than an author.
Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason - Helen Fielding
Another light read. I was looking to get into a chilled out head space in preparation for my parent's arrival. Upon completing this novel I found my journal entries began losing the use of first person pronouns. This only lasted a short wile and I'm not back to my usual way of writing.
The End of Mr. Y - Scarlett Thomas
Not nearly so light as the previous two books, this novel took me on a cerebral trip through the imaginary writing of a Victorian author and scientist. It was full of thought provoking snippets on evolution, creationism, quantum physics and philosophy. It was charmingly weird.
A Spot of Bother - Mark Handon
I've had Handon recommended to me, but not this title. I am very glad I discovered it on the shelves with the book deal. This snapshot of the members of a family about to embark upon a wedding was both engrossing and amusing. I found myself wishing it would never end but also unable to put it down. I did finish it, on the 31st, in fact.
Not sure what the next year will bring. I have an idea of how many novels I'd like to read in 2011 but I know that I'm a busy person and between all the writing, painting and editing I do, not to mention keeping a day job and exploring London, I don't always spend as much time as I'd like with books. Still, we shall have to see, won't we?