One of the pleasures of going on an art tour abroad is the conversations about books and reading that can be initiated with fellow travellers. This year, on a tour to explore the artists of the Cote d’Azur, I asked members of the group two questions:
- What are you reading at the moment?
- What would you recommend if it is not that book?
I guess I became the book lady because after a while people sought me out to say, I’ve remembered the author of that book I was talking about; or I’ve finished that book and it was rubbish; or I’ve been thinking about what you asked and I want to recommend something else.
I was impressed by the amount of reading that was going on, and how asking my two questions included everyone. Talking about books is a pro-social activity. Blogging about books is a well, and I hope you find something interesting to read in this post.
A number of themes emerged, so I have arranged the recommendations into rather wide categories. Some books I have already written posts about on this blog and you can find links in the lists. (I have not included books people did not enjoy – see ‘tosh’ below).
I wrote about other bookish things in a previous post: Bookword goes to the Cote d’Azur – 1.
Holiday reading, often containing a detective
Lots of detectives here: Maigret (Simenon), Rebus (Ian Rankin), Brunetti (Donna Leon), Miss Silver (Patricia Wentworth) all came into this category. So did a crime novel from 1917 by Tellefsen, a Norwegian writer, and an Icelandic novel called Hypothermia by Amaldur Indridason. And there was also a mention of Danielle Steele.
The tour leader mentioned a book about Matisse. We saw lots of Matisse. An ENT specialist mentioned his medical reading. An archaeologist was reading Paul Shepard’s Coming Home to the Pleistocene.
Memoir and biography
Many of my companions were reading biographies or memoirs and recommended these very different subjects: A Life of my Own by Claire Tomalin; Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch; Patrick Leigh Fermor A Time of Gifts; Douglas Smith’s biography of Rasputin; The Salt Path by Raynor Winn; Maggie O’Farrell I am, I am, I am;Alan Garner’s memoir Where shall we run to?
Some people in the group mentioned books in other languages. Several people asked me how I got on with the Neapolitan novels of Elena Ferrante. They also referred to No et Moi by Delphine de Vigan; and All for Nothingby Walter Kempowski.
The author referred to most frequently was Julian Barnes: Keeping an Eye Open; The Noise of Time; The Sense of an Ending.
Also mentioned more than once with enthusiasm was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman.
Other books included Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls; Anna Burn’s Milkman; Warlight by Michael Ondaatje; Patrick Gale A Perfectly Good Man; Margaret AtwoodHag-Seed; A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles; John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies; Conclave by Robert Harris; The Dark Circle by Linda Grant.
And these were also enthusiastically recommended to me, and don’t fit any of the previous categories:
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
A book about prime numbers
The Secret History of PWE(Political War Executive) by David Garnett
I had many interesting conversations about books, including with one reader who delivered the verdict of TOSH on several overhyped recent novels. She had plenty of recommendations as well. I found that a useful category, and it removed many potential books from my imaginary tbr pile. My actual tbr pile remains stacked high. As a matter of policy I do not disparage books and writers on this blog.
And it was heartening to find that many of my fellow travellers were members of reading groups, and enjoyed swapping ideas about books that promoted good discussion. I think about the report that suggested that in a society of readerssuch conversations would be encouraged as a matter of policy.
And it has given me a prompt for a future post: some recommendations for book groups.