My Bookshelf 2011-2012 (pre-Goodreads)

Books I mean to read / investigate once available:

New Jasper Fforde 

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Otherly, je vous présente a list of the books which I have read recently, and my subsequent recommendations:


Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – Enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve come across any Hemingway before, but think I’ll seek him out in future. Of course, it helps that he references a trip to Strasbourg and St Odile in the first few pages, and the peppering of French throughout is a nice bonus. (Sidenote: would that happen now? I tend towards thinking that authors nowadays either are too linguistically uneducated or believe their readership to be too linguistically uneducated to be able to understand or even work out from the context a smattering of foreign language.)

Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – 2nd read, think I liked it less this time as I knew exactly what was going on. It’s an interesting concept, but leaves a bit too much to the imagination I think… I’m sure a contemporaneous reader, or someone better acquainted with the period in which it was written than I, would have had got more out of it. Still, enjoyable “for a classic”, and free on Project Gutenberg

Brigands MC by Robert Muchamore (Cherub) – saw this in the library and picked it up. Apparently the penultimate book in the series before a re-vamp… so obviously for the sake of completion a must-read for loyal Cherub followers 😉 Like its cohorts, not exactly taxing on the brain, but a fun quick read.

His Last Bow & The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle – I think I’m nearing the last of the Holmes books, I very much enjoyed how Conan Doyle does not run out of twists nor resign himself to the same formulaic ideas (other than the basic plot of course always being problem>solved by Holmes’ brilliance!)


The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams – Enjoyable. Inspired partly by the knowledge that every good traveller should always carry a towel, I appreciated the double irony of the fact that I was reading this mainly while travelling on my own (back from Strasbourg), and that the Kindle is essentially a Guide in itself. The 2-4th books in the series fail to match the first, but still good reads.

When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro – the only bad thing about this book was that I believe it to be the last Ishiguro to date that I had left to read. Again with an unreliable narrator he really makes you question the accuracy of what you’re reading, and it was very interesting to have a tiny insight into early 20th-century China.

Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro – beautiful collection of short stories centred around the themes of music and night-time. Neither too short nor too long, though leave you wanting to know more about what was going on and what happens next. Whether you’re unfamiliar or familiar with Ishiguro’s writings, these are highly recommended.

The Earth Hums in B-Flat by Mari Strachan – can’t quite make up its mind whether it wants to be a children’s or adult’s book… then again, does a child-narrator automatically mean it is a book which only children can enjoy? Probably not, and definitely not in this case as we live through the eyes of a child on the brink of acceptability within her family. Apart from anything else, it was a great peek at 1960s/70s Wales, and of course there was that “something else” that made it an enjoyable read.


100 jours en enfer par Robert Muchamore – Does reading a Cherub book in French make it more intellectual? It did please me how straightforward I found reading it, which probably doesn’t say much for the language used. Everything loses something in translation, but this was a fun read.

Player One by Douglas Coupland – I have a tendency to love Douglas Coupland’s work; this as a novel was slightly weird. From the note at the back, it appears to have been a series of lectures and maybe that explains why the characters were not as well-rounded as usual, and why a good quarter of the book was taken up with a glossary of terms explaining millennial phenomena. The condition requiring the sufferer to read a dose of fiction – no matter how small – before going to sleep made me laugh, and it’s fun to recognise some of your own idiosyncrasies in his borderline satire, borderline just normal life writing.

Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro – slightly more of a “proper literature book” than my recent habits; I love Ishiguro’s stuff though and enjoyed being challenged more in a book. The unreliableness of the narrator, an old man in post-WW2 Japan, was the key to what made this one so interesting in my opinion, though I was slightly irked by the gaps in the story at the end!

The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit – fun classical children’s literature, worth a re-read.

Animal Farm by George Orwell – a much better representation of the Russian revolution than my Histoire des Idées Politiques professor!


Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – 2nd read of this, think I managed to appreciate it slightly more this time but still didn’t really feel it merited its “genius” status awarded by many.

Marc: l’expérience – read in preparation for doing the play. Amazing to see intricacies of how the gospel fits together.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle – Doyle does it again

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – short stories, interesting to see the actual “final ending” at Reichenbachen Falls.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult – Yes she’s a bit trashy and samey, but hey as a law student I should be abreast of how the US courts function, right? Throw in the Amish and I’m there.

Mere Christianity by C S Lewis – gooooooood.

The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock still continuing to be a great read, though this felt slower than A Study in Scarlet and the Adventures, can see why it has not (yet, perhaps) made the cut into the series.

The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy) – I quite liked this in principal, and as a legally free ebook it was worth reading, but definitely not as good as the aforementioned other children’s books that he wrote. The “surprise” ending felt like a foregone conclusion from about the 3rd page.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Millar – theology a bit woolly at points, but an interesting and relateable book. I definitely won’t be going out of my way to see the forthcoming film, however.

Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen – I was in Copenhagen, it seemed incredibly fitting. Some were well-known: Little Mermaid, the Match Girl, Red Shoes, the Poor Prince; others were obscure with a varying amount of fitness for such obscurity. In general the stories you’ve not heard of aren’t worth reading, but the ones that you know vaguely are definitely worth a second look.


A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – really interesting. I feel ever so much more informed (though unfortunately I’m not sure I’ve retained all/any of the names and facts given) about the history of geography, geology, astronomy, anthropology… and most other -ys that you can think of! And also completely awed at how much there is we still don’t know and may well never know about our own planet never mind other ones. Puts the massiveness of God into perspective!

Maximum Security; The Killing; The Sleepwalker; The General by Robert Muchamore – ditto below, random acquisitions from the Médiatheque’s English department. Fair to middling books, not exactly tasking on the grey matter.

The Declaration; The Resistance ; Legacy by Gemma Malley – randomly stumbled upon (literally, not in the virtual toolbar sense) the entire trilogy in the mediatheque’s English language department so thought I’d galumph through them one used-to-be-boring Saturday afternoon. Fairly predictable alternative-future teen series but quite sweet and passed an enjoyable few hours reading them.

The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor – (ebook available freely on Desiring God) not life-changing, not the Bible (though the Bible is heavily featured within), but interesting enough and worthwhile discussion on Culture, Truth, Joy, Love, Theologising, and the Church with authors including Piper, Tim Keller, and Mark Driscoll.

The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis – um, Narnia. Enough said. Reference to it in a sermon was enough to prompt re-reading it before I went to bed.

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – further evidence that the source material for Sherlock is as brilliant as he, though in this case it also prompted my admiration for the imagination of Moffat et al as they had changed the story so much. Their tale had no forced Mormon marriages for one thing… Also available free on Project Gutenberg.


Looking Backward, 2000 to 1887 by Edward Bellamy (another one freely available on Project Gutenberg) – a book written in the 19th century about a man who wakes up in the 21st. Serves mainly as a vehicle for the author’s ideal vision for a socialist society, and is therefore rather turgid, but interesting nonetheless. It did take me almost 3 months to get round to finishing, which isn’t a good sign, but was a lot better at the end.

Notes on a Small Island by Bill Bryson – I’d not read any of his before, and don’t generally read non-Christian non-law non-news non-fiction, but this happened to be on my Kindle so in a fit of British nostalgia I read it. And it was good. He’s a really engaging writer. Even if he did leave Glasgow right until the last chapter. New bucket list item: go to see This is Cinerama at the Bradford Media Museum, a cinerama film shown in the original manner the first Saturday of each month.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (ditto freely available on Project Gutenberg / Amazon) – I figured that if the movie and TV series were so AMAZING then there had to be something in the source material. And there was. This isn’t the first book in the series, but contains lots of stories readable in 20-30 minutes, so perfect for just before sleep. Definitely going to read more of the stories. Even if I continue to be utterly incompetent at thinking what on earth might be going on!

Gave up on: Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper (freely available on Desiring God website) – I want to like John Piper, I really do, but I just cannot get into his books. I’m sure he’s doctrinally sound and has amazing stuff to say – and in parts this book was no exception – but the fact remains that I just don’t like his writing or speaking style, and not particularly in a “I don’t like this because he’s pointing out stuff I should think about changing” way, just in a “meh” way. I can’t quite articulate it… The fact that it’s taken me about 3 months to read  5 chapters kinda speaks for itself.



Trickster’s Choice / Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce, continuing in the re-living teenage years road


Lioness Rampant Quartet by Tamora Pierce – rereading a fantasy series I loved when I was younger. Funny to look back on how differently teen / young adult books are written… I wouldn’t say poorly because they did engross me when I was younger, and each of the 4 books was an enjoyable few hours of fantasy. Probably didn’t help that it’s about the 5th or 6th time at least that I’ve read them 😉

The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce – thought I’d continue to read all her Tortallen books before I got old, taking advantage of taking a week off.

Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce – ditto above.


Time’s Arrow – the utterly bizarre story of a consciousness that observes as life is lived backwards around it, beginning with the death of the main character and winding towards his birth. Very odd, and gave me the strangest sensations after a period of reading that I was doing things backwards. Highly recommend 🙂

Confessions of a Justified Sinner  (free, legal ebook if you search Project Gutenberg) – I did like this book, it was very interesting and very unusual, but was set upon it because of a question about Calvinism and from that point of view, particularly up until the last 30%, some thoughts I couldn’t help bubbling out of me: (highlight to read once you’ve read the book) It’s all just so warped, I’m sure others with better knowledge of the bible would have even more problems with this book’s portrayal of Calvinism/Christianity than me, but even so I find it completely distorts the tenants (right word?) of the Christian faith. The manservant John has it right when he calls the reverend a pharisee: holier-than-thou git who apart from anything else clearly had a fling with Mrs Dalcastle. For example, they’re right in saying good deeds can’t and won’t get you into heaven (and that’s a basic principle of Christianity, not just calvinism), but at the same time show me a true Christ-follower and I’ll show you someone who delights in (or at least is learning to delight in) self-sacrificing service for others in response to the wonderful “free pass” offered to us by Jesus’ death and resurrection, in accordance with God’s word and with the help of his Holy Spirit which is implanted within all believers. 
The protagonist’s whole concept of being able to do whatever because you believe you’re justified is just so skewed – yes getting into heaven doesn’t depend on good works as I said above, but if someone died for you and your eternal happiness, how could you happily go on doing bad things with a clear conscience, knowing each lie, bad thought, or murder (!) is effectively another lash of the whip or second gasping for breath while nailed to a cross?
And another thing re. knowing who the elect are – as I think I said in my email, we don’t know, only God knows that. There are factors that we can perceive in our own lives to assure us of personal salvation, such as love for others, hating evil, maturing in kindness, goodness, and self-control, wanting to spend time with God, etc, but you can’t tell with others. So then we proceed on the basis that all might potentially be saved, after all all of us is equally meritous (ie not) of being saved in the first place, that’s the point of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection being an act of grace and love!


Steig Larsson – The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest – looking past the sex and violence, these are brilliant books, really drawing you in as you are so interested in the main characters. Highly recommend for any older teenagers or those with even more years.

C.S. Lewis – The Planets Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength – I’d only heard of these recently and was initially put off by their sci-fi genre (all about Mars, Venus, and Earth respectively), but that was a mistake: they were great stories, and contained Lewis’ habitual amazing insight into the “human condition” without sounding at all “preachy”.Highly recommended for anyone!

Caitlin Moran – How To Be A Woman: don’t think it helped that I pretty much disagreed with all of her points, but I didn’t much like this one. It was interesting, and her writing style is very engaging, much like the Sunday Times columns she did pre-Celeb Watch (and pre Times paywall; not read one in ages), but I didn’t like the way she put forward her arguments without even trying to counter the “other side” – for example in the chapter about abortion, not mentioning once the fact that it’s not all about the mother and the life inside deserves to live as well!


One Day by David Nicholls… really good

The Host by Stephenie Meyer… meh

Wreckers by Julie Hearn… interesting, but overall too many peripheral questions were left unanswered while the main storyline tied up too neatly

The curious case of Benjamin Button and six other stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald… worth a read, though I still don’t really care about seeing the film. Short stories are a curious genre; Fitzgerald does them well, though.

The Cranford Chronicles (after never having watched the BBC series / having any idea what it was about, but ’twas interesting)

Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith… choosing novels purely based on their selection in the “Cult” bookcase of the library may not be the best idea. But it was still quite good

A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro… left with no idea of what happened but it was good nonetheless. After reading some reviews online, even more confused

Atomised by Houellebeq… another example of the inadvisability of letting the “cult” section of the library pick one’s books for one.

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller… a good book; interesting even with an unsympathetic and possibly psychopathic protagonist, which normally I dislike

Lolita by Nabakov… ok. Glad I’ve read it, but it was a case of reading for its merits rather than for enjoyment!

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen… not bad for an old book

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick… quite good

Matched by Ally Condie… bog standard YA dystopian future romance novel; fairly good

A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi – “The ideal guide to sounding, acting and shrugging like the French” – birthday present from Razza B, getting re-read in order to see what information can be gleaned from its pages in view of my imminent departure.

Chrome Yellow by Aldous Huxley  – please, anyone who sees me reaching for Hillhead library’s “cult” section, STOP ME!

The Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson… her books may be simplistic and borderline emotional pornography for their idealised romanticism, but a very lovely escapist world

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson (see above)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett – very good; my love of historical fiction has been rekindled!

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (see above). This was my favourite book for AGES and I reread it one last time before embarking on my journey to France as I couldn’t get to sleep the night before my flight. It’s intended for readers about 12, I’d say, but themes are timeless and it was a lovely world of travel and wonder!


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