What We're Reading 

Hidden gems, hot favourites, slow burners and the odd guest columnist.

October 2015

 - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Viki: Ok, so this is more a what we're drawing. There has been a mindboggling avalanche of mindfulness colouring books clogging up the self help display recently that have left me somewhat uninspired, but when Tamara waved Thomas Pavitte's join the 1000 dots books and his 'Querkle's' Masterpieces colour-by-numbers books, I didn't hesitate for a second. I don't know about mindfulness—but fun comes to mind. At only $20 each, these giant books are perfect time-wasters and stocking stuffers—and good lessons in drawing. I can see myself getting quite obsessive about lines between the dots, whilst following the originals. There's dot-to-dot masterpieces, animals, cityscapes & portraits. Querkles run to masterpieces & portraits. Also, Donald Prothero's The Story of Life in 25 Fossils: Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution is a long glass of cool reality when depressed by humanity's posturings. We may be a blight upon the earth, but unlike previous ice ages and warmings, probably not for much longer. It's a highly readable book—and if I was younger I'd be considering a career in the fascinating (and humbling) field of paleontology. A serendipitously concomitant read to Prothero's fossil record has been Anne Manne's The Life of I: The New Culture of Narcissism—her last chapter addressing climate change and Western self interest should be required reading. I'm planning David Brooks' The Road to Character next—and hopefully will have moved from opinion to action by the November issue. Meanwhile, I've started Gail Jones' A Guide to Berlin, and am having a great time. She really knows how to wield the dictionary—but for all the big words, her touch is light. I can see I'm going to have to head to Nabokov when I'm finished. And, if the next seven books from the Library of America women crime writers collection weren't enough, Ingrid just ambushed me with a recently arrived graphic novelised edition of Swann's Way. I think I've accepted that the fantasy of a retirement involving a leisurely reading of Proust is indeed a fantasy—so translator Arthur Goldhammer's 'fundamental architecture' of Proust's work accompanied by Stéphane Heuet's illustrations (especially for a graphic narrative addict) might be an acceptable compromise.

John: I'm reading the new tome from Don Winslow—Cartel, the 600 page sequel to The Power of the Dog, Winslow's hit from a couple of years ago. It spans a decade of the lives of a DEA agent Art Keller and his nemesis Adan Barrera. There is a personal vendetta between Keller and Barrera that complements the 'War on Drugs' in an era when the Cartels had become more than criminal organisations—they have armies, political connections and resources that rival those of the government. 600 bloody pages, lots of violence, torture, sex, more violence, politics—unputdownable.


On Elizabeth Bishop by Cólm Toibín As well as the more substantial book that I am currently reading; I always like to have a book going in counterpoint, that I can take up every now and then. I will read anything Tóibín has to say and I also am really engaged by close readings and parsings of poetry. I wasn't particularly familiar with Bishop (other than her darkly luminous The Moose, which I recommend to anybody who thinks poetry is not for them), and this is a really thoughtful, gentle appreciation of her work. His readings of individual poems are reverent, as well as a great insight into the concerns of Tóibín's own prose.