The Reading Room

Books For August

New purchases for summer reads 2016…

aAnother month begins and so a fresh batch of books to devour before September beckons. Last month’s picks proved successful apart from Hemingway who fell by the wayside in favour of the 600 odd page epic The Incorrigible Optimists Club by Jean-Michel Guenassia, a book I have been meaning to tackle for some time now and am immeasurably thankful that I have.

Top of the list was Richard Jackson’s Confessions of a Terrorist. A thought-provoking novel offering perspectives from both sides of the post War on Terror debate from an author well qualified to write about it. There can be no doubting Jackson’s ‘sympathy’ for the Pro-Palestinian side, his blog articles would show that and he was a little one-sided in parts but it remains a worthwhile read.

Sebastian Faulks’ Where My Heart Used To Beat was typical Faulks, somewhat stretched in places and heavy on issues (war, childhood, failed romances, sexual encounters, psychiatry and neurology) it’s highlights were the depiction of war and those early so-called ‘treatments’ for mental illness which beggar belief today.

This month’s choices all come via a secondhand bookshop in my home county. I champion bookshops whenever the opportunity presents itself for without them my life would be much the poorer. Today I bought six books for just under £20, the four on the left as well as John Banville’s The Book of Evidence and Don DeLillo’s Falling Man. Hours of pleasure for such a small price, these places deserve to be full all day every day but tragically, they are not.

The first to catch my eye was In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa. First published in the UK in 2012 it was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and could not be more relevant today. Set in Syria in the 1980s it depicts the life of a young Muslim girl who turns to extremism as she witnesses the oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Syrian regime. It will, I hope, offer some historical context for the desperate state of the nation and the escalation of fundamentalism across the Middle East and beyond in 2016.

Ben Okri’s The Age of Magic comes courtesy of my introduction to the fabulous The Bookshop Band who wrote two songs based upon the book, A Train of Thought and These Layers. This will be my first Okri novel and a style of writing I haven’t read before. Let’s see what inspired the band to write two songs about it!

Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac was a bargain not to be missed, one I shall possibly save for a forthcoming holiday along with, perhaps, a reread of On the Road. Written in 1958 it is a semi-fictional account of a relationship Kerouac had with a black woman and features a number of writers under pseudonyms including Gore Vidal and William S. Burroughs.

Last but by no means least and one which has been recommended to me by a follower on Twitter is the 900 page Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. A controversial novel depicting life in the chaos of Bombay. Said to be an account of his own experiences, some of the parts are contested by those associated with it. Either way it is, by common consensus, a gripping read.

So that’s it, time to start! Whatever your book choice might be, happy reading!

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