The Week in Womble aka Being Captain Ahab


So, all decorations packed away, party food eaten, and Reading challenges set for the year. It been nice to get into reading (less so the return to the day job). This month I’ll be focusing on a few ARCs that I’ve not yet got through, but it’s also been useful to start off on those book challenges.

Chasing the White Whale

But there was one other book I’ve decided to try and tackle (one last time) – it’s my Moby Dick – Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

I am a huge fan of Stephenson’s work (until this one) he does intricate plots, lots of interesting science and history facts and a sense of humour. Then I get to Anathem – an 890 page (hardback) set on another planet with an unusual monastery of rationalists and that’s as far as I’ve ever got.  So far, my record before this year was page 60.  I’ve not been put off I just drift off into other things. But this month I’m setting a target I either finish it or exile this to the Pile of Doom.  I’ve kept the book because I’ve always felt I’d not yet given this a proper chance to grab me and that is typically page 100 before the book is thrown/dropped. I don’t enjoy giving up on books you have to be either offensive or dull to lose me completely and my philosophy is most books you know what that will be by page 100. If I’m not having fun, why waste another four hours of life on a bad book when I’ve so many more to explore? I’ve also this week dumped the first Pan Book of Horror for being the worst offensive thing I’ve read in years (more on that below).  I wonder if this fear of letting go is one reason we get a TBR Mountain – books we are interested in but don’t really want to risk opening in case of failure.  By tackling the oldest book in the pile, I may be about to do some overdue book cleansing.

So far past page 100 and it’s clicking but we shall see!!  Is there a book you’ve always been meaning to finally read this year?

Other Media

Television –

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo – so this Netflix show appeared to enrage Book Twitter, so I had to try. Marie Kondo is a professional expert in keeping your houses tidy and clean (with the view that a tidy house helps people live better). In the show she visits people who for various reasons want their house to be de-cluttered. Books are one of the stages, but I’ll be honest I find it a sensible show.  It got some tips on making use of space and the big question is about why we hold onto things we may never wear/use/read again.  Do they give us joy? As someone about to move to a new house working out what I carry with me to the next home is an interesting question.  Yes, I love books, but I don’t think I keep every single one. These days it’s a) it’s a beautiful piece of art I feel lucky to have or b) they’re tied to specific memories and feelings from who I am/was at that time. If something can’t hit that spot why should I keep it?

Sky at Night – aww I love catching up on adventures in astronomy (always fun and once a month on BBC4)

Films –

Fellowship of the Ring – I’ve been busy this week so my usual end of year LOTR catch-up managed to get to one film!! It’s a work of joy and being the heretical womble I am it makes does the plot and character points far better than the book. I had an interesting Twitter chat this week about Tolkien and is he still being cloned.  I think his main plots seem to have died around the 90’s (Dark Lords sadly lose their staying power) but other pointed out his love of history and worldbuilding showed all authors how epic fantasy could work (and I think got improved upon). Do you think Tolkien is still a must-read?

Podcasts –

Desert Island Discs – So checking my podcast app I realised I was 88 episodes behind!! So, decided to get back into this show and its soooo good. The idea is simple the guest (who is a famous person in a field) is being exiled to an island you have to choose 8 songs to take with you. This gives the interviewer a chance to let the guest talk about their life and why these songs mean so much.  Kirsty Young is a brilliant interviewer she’s clearly done the research but lets the guest talk and it feels a very intimate show. Even people I’ve never heard of before or even liked can surprise you. Jilly Cooper came across a lot more thoughtful and dedicated than I liked. Nigel Owens a Rugby referee talks about his coming out as a gay man and the impact on his family and how it made him enjoy life again after a suicide attempt and Jimmy Carr talks about losing his faith just before his mother died.  You won’t hear all the songs for rights reasons but it’s a 30-40-minute brilliant interview. The backlist is amazing, so I would urge you to have a look and don’t be afraid just to pick people you’ve not heard of they may be the more interesting!

What I read and am reading

The Pan Book of Horror Stories – A DNF!! – I manged 60 pages and it had two examples of racism and a horrible attitude towards women. For a book in 1959 I expected so much better.  Dreadful!!

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine - To review– This non-fiction book tackles all those science studies you read where men and women are said to have differing characteristics and Fine just demolishes the quality of the science in these books.  Excellent and well worth a read if you want to challenge the next time someone says well women are bad at maths or men cannot be empathetic.

The Dark Vault by VE Schwab Review Here – One of her earlier works available in the UK for the first time and it really is interesting seeing themes of different worlds and complex characters in an earlier form.

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd– Review next week – A world where people are forgetting things and what they forget alters in our reality.  A disturbing tale for the end of the world and so gar really enjoying it

This Dreaming Isle edited by Dan Coxon – Review next week - A modern series of folk horror set in places across the UK.  Already brilliant and wiping the floor with the Pan Horror!!

The Winter Road by Adrian Selby - This week’s new fantasy is about an alternative Russia (I’ll report back next week!

What I want to read next

-          Darksoul by Anna Stephens – the sequel to another one of my favourite debuts Godblind

-          Cabin at the end of the World by Paul Tremblay – perfect end of year horror

-          Europe at Dawn – how will this end?