On my trains, there’s a fairly even split of bookworms and people who treat their commute as an extension of their working day. I can’t help but sneak a glance at others’ books. What are they reading? Why are they reading it? What made them pick Reservoir 13, Nox or Sapiens? (I haven’t read any of them. Should I?) Was it the eye-catching cover design, or the pithy blurb? Was it the Goodreads rating, or a friend’s recommendation? Or plain old FOMO?
As for me, there are a few factors at play when it comes to choosing the next companion for my commute:
- Genre – thrillers and biographies, for the most part. Few things trump a good whodunit or an intriguing life story. I’m already itching to get my hands on a copy of Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas, the follow-up to This is Going to Hurt.
- Author – if I enjoyed one of their books, I’ll probably read another. The Christie-spree I went on last year is a case in point; fortunately, Cambridge Central Library is well-stocked with Poirots and Marples.
- Blurb – and opening pages. If I haven’t read anything by the author in question then, assuming the blurb’s piqued my interest, I’ll move on to the opening pages. I’ve found these often give me a far better indication than the blurb of whether I’ll enjoy reading the book, as blurbs are rarely written by the author and therefore aren’t necessarily a reliable indication of the writing style.
What about you? How do you pick your next book? Leave a comment below – I’m all ears!
Travail Soigné – Pierre Lemaitre
I first came across Pierre Lemaitre on Caz’s blog and it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time (eighteen months, to be precise) to get my hands on a French-language copy of the first book in the Camille Verhœven series. Travail Soigné is a cracker of a thriller full of carefully orchestrated crimes, each one a faithful reproduction of a literary classic. (Incidentally, I read Laidlaw earlier this month, off the back of this book.) I’m itching to read the next book in the series! Note: The English translation of Travail Soigné has been published under the title Irène.
Epilogue – Will Boast
Every so often, a book I’ve plucked off the library shelves at random turns out to be a real gem. Epilogue is one such book. Will Boast’s memoir is as much about beginnings as it is endings; it’s an exquisite mediation on life and loss, past and future. When his father dies, having drunk himself into oblivion, Boast unearths a secret his father had hoped to take to the grave: he’d had another family before Will’s. Consumed by grief, Boast sets about piecing together his family history, from his early childhood through to the loss of his mother, brother and father and his reconciliation with the family in England he never knew he had. Epilogue is raw, honest, entertaining and heart-breaking in equal measure, and a book that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell
I rarely treat myself to a spanking-new book, but The Diary of a Bookseller had caught my eye many moons ago and when I saw it in Topping & Company on a recent trip to Ely, I decided to buy it. An early birthday present from me to me, if you will. I’m so glad I did. Shaun Bythell’s account of the highs and lows of the book trade is laugh-out-loud funny, with page upon page of encounters with eccentric shoppers (and equally nutty employees), trips to cobwebbed estates and auction houses and rants about Amazon Seller Ratings. This is a book by a bibliophile for bibliophiles and, in the words of the Mail on Sunday, it “deserves to become one of those bestsellers that irritate him [Shaun Bythell] so much”. For more wryly hilarious musings on life as a bookseller, look no further than The Bookshop’s Facebook page.
The Panther in My Kitchen – Brian Blessed
Straight off the bat, I’ll admit I’d never heard of Brian Blessed before I picked up The Panther in My Kitchen. Turns out, he’s led a rather exciting life, with a career on stage and the silver screen spanning almost six decades. But, I digress. Back to The Panther in My Kitchen, which is a book I really enjoyed. “Warts-and-all Brian” (as the author describes himself) is side-splittingly funny, and the book reads rather like a cosy, fireside chat with a long-lost friend. Over the years, Brian has rescued all sorts of animals. You name it, he’s given it a home: cats, dogs, ponies, peacocks, fighting cocks and even a ferret. Along the way, Brian’s had many encounters with exotic animals, from Bo Bo the boa constrictor who went on walkies (slither-ies?) in Richmond Park to Kali the black panther who roamed around his Georgian house (a rescue (big) cat, I hasten to add, who was temporarily housed with Brian by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries pending return to her homeland).
Titles | April – June 2019
Travail Soigné (Pierre Lemaitre) / The Little Book of Hygge (Meik Wiking) / The Climb (Chris Froome) / Origin (Dan Brown) / Epilogue (Will Boast) / Strong Woman (Karren Brady) / Bad Blood (E.O. Chirovic) / The Diary of a Bookseller (Shaun Bythell) / The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules (Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg) / Laidlaw (William McIlvanney) / I Did It for Us (Alison Bruce) / The Panther in My Kitchen (Brian Blessed)
Photo: ‘A city with a story on every corner’ by Julia Anderson. The Poster Prize for Illustration 2019: London Stories exhibition is on display at the London Transport Museum until 14th July 2019.