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Things I have read in the past couple of years, and things I want to read

To see some things I want to read, you can view my Amazon UK wish list. To see another wish list and some of my Bookcrossing activity, check out my bookshelf.

Here are some highlights of books I have read in the past two years, when the tension-levels chez Deborama have been very high and consequently little or no blogging was happening.

The thing that stands out most, which was so excellent and moving and unforgettable that it immediately made it to my top 25 list, was E. L. Doctorow's The March. (I bought this in America, so this is the American paperback cover. I actually like the cover on the British edition better, which you will see if you follow the link, but the book is nearly unknown here.) I reviewed this book on Bookcrossing some time ago. Here is what I said soon after reading it:

This gripping work of historical fiction is, in my opinion, Doctorow's masterpiece. I cannot praise it highly enough. I wanted it never to end, it was that kind of book. The historical event it concerns is one I grew up surrounded by : Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's famous "march to the sea", creating a deliberate swathe of anarchy, suffering and often false jubilation from the north Georgia mountains to the city of Savannah.

Two novels that I read that were both highly political in content were very satisfying reads. Apart from that factor, they were very different. One is a current and well-known author, both for the genre and for his often controversial political positions: John le Carre. The book was A Most Wanted Man and it was absolutely chilling. The other was written by a virtual unknown. Again, I bought this book in America and it's not something you're likely to see in any bookshop in the UK, sadly. I say sadly not because this book is stupendous or anything, but because the state of the bookshop market in the UK is sad beyond belief, and far beyond what it is in the States, which is sad enough. Anyway, the book is Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta.

A Most Wanted Man is definitely le Carre's most paranoid spy story to date, easily (in my opinion) outstripping in cynicism and moral pessimism any of his incredibly dark Cold War era stories. For in Smiley's world, the spies had to do amoral things for (arguably) moral reasons, but the elected government was mainly insulated from the choice and the burden of what they put in place. In A Most Wanted Man, the government itself connives to set up an innocent man as a patsy in the war on terror, and not even for any valid reason from a moral standpoint, but just to keep power and the status quo. The really awful thing about this story is that it's so very very believable. Eat the Document is a story of the early twenty-first century denouement of a 1970's political crime entangled with idealism, young love and possible betrayal. It is wonderfully paced and multilayered enough in its plotting to be intellectually engaging, and as one who was on the fringes of the 1970s left, with all its cults and conspiracies and outrageous fantasies, for me the whole milieu as presented in the book rings remarkably true.

The next blog will cover the non-fiction books I have read, and also How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, The Girls by Lori Lansens and a couple of novels by Mary Wesley.


What I am reading now

I have been patiently waiting for this to come out in paperback and there it was, at the local W. H. Smith's when I stopped in for a paper on my post-workout ramble. So now I'm reading it. I could have read it months ago if it weren't for the fact that a) I hate reading hardbacks (too heavy) and b) when I decide to own a set like this (the Millenium trilogy) I want them to be the same format. This is the third book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, in the trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson. The other two are:

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Even if you haven't been aware of the several years' of buzz about the books, you probably saw that the film of the first book has opened in the UK recently. This whole Swedish crime thriller thing (second installment) started for me with the British Wallander, based on the Wallander novels by Swedish author Henning Mankell. This led DH and I to watch the Swedish Wallander, which I actually like more. As the stories got darker and darker, I got swept up in the characters of the two young police officers, and sometimes lovers, Linda Wallander (Kurt's daughter) and Stefan Lindman. I had read about the fact that there was a final Wallander novel that Mankell said he would never write, due to his grief over the suicide of Johanna Sällström, who played Linda. In the last televised Wallander episode, the character Stefan commits suicide. Stefan was played by Ola Rapace, whose wife Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, the lead character in the Millenium trilogy.
Ola and Noomi Rapace at the Paris premiere of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.