Reading Roulette – March

Welcome a new month’s lucky dip, and the March winner was . . .2017-03-04_15-30-06_345  ‘The Running Sky’ by Tim Dee. Funnily enough, like last month’s pick, it’s another one from my non-fiction section.

This ended up in the ‘reading roulette’ for pretty much the same reasons as last months pick. I like buying books, I like nature, and I believed that expanding my non-fiction collection would somehow make me more intelligent!! Seeing as this book has also been sitting on my shelf for about 7 years, you can probably get an idea of how well that idea worked out for me.

So, onto ‘The Running Sky’ and unfortunately it just wasn’t my kind of book. It was nothing to do with the subject matter, I love birds, I was in the Young Ornithologist Club (As was Tim Dee), Bill Oddie is my personal hero! Possibly, I may not have been the intended market for this book, or my scientific mind may have still been engaged from last months ‘Field guide to Natural Wonders’, or maybe I should have looked more into the premise of the book rather than making an assumption.  Whatever the reason, unfortunately I just could not get into it.

The cover blurb reads – “ The Running Sky records a lifetime of looking at birds. Beginning in summer with clouds of breeding seabirds in Shetland and ending with crepuscular nightjars like giant moths in the heart of England, Tim Dee maps his own observations and encounters over four decades of tracking birds across the globe” So from this, my expectations were that I would be treated to numerous accounts of seasonal bird behaviour and extravaganzas. Instead I got an anecdotal account of Dee’s bird related stories and memories they’ve conjured up.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very well written, and in a tone very reminisce of the old style of nature writing, viewing the world from an emotional standpoint rather than a scientific one. Which comes across as being more of a love letter to the days of John Buxton, and J A Baker, than an engaging informative account of bird ‘sightings’. That is possibly where it lost me.

It does bother me when I don’t like books for no obvious reason, and I do like to look into things a little more to find out if I’m missing something that would have made my experience more enjoyable. So, after reading the book I did a little research. On hindsight, I do understand what Tim Dee wanted to achieve through ‘The Running Sky’ and I do believe that he has accomplished exactly that. Maybe if I had known this before I started I would have been reading with a different preconception and loved it, or perhaps not. Often I did feel like I was being told a story by my grandad, who then goes off on a tangent, and by the time he gets back on track you’ve forgotten the main point of the story he was telling you.

As much as I didn’t like the book I do still like to end on a positive note, so very much sticking to the theme of Grandads and their ramblings, I did learn an interesting fact about bananas from ‘The Running Sky’ which I think will stick with me for a while.

In one of Tim Dees many story tangents, he’s on an airplane leaving Shetland thinking about seals and seabirds. Then he randomly starts talking to his neighbour, who happens to be a supermarket Manager, about bananas being sold in the Northern islands like Shetland – “They arrive refrigerated from the tropics in a state of arrested development. Opening the box they have travelled in releases a ripening agent, but from that point the clock ticks fast on their sale ability. A banana reaching Shetland would have to be sold the day it arrives . . . therefore Shetland will have the only bananas in Tesco Britain that will ripen without assistance

Challenge so far. .

3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersons Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
  • Emma by Jane Austen

3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush
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Reading Roulette – February

So, my February book is ‘The field guide to Natural Wonders’ by Keith Heidorn & Ian Whitelaw

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I first bought this book because it appealed to my love of nature and science, I was working in a bookshop at the time and had to feed my book buying addiction. It was following one of my ‘educational’ whims, believing that reading a non-fiction book every now and again would balance out the amount of fiction I read and possibly increase my intelligence (emphasis on the ‘possibly’). Well the intention was there, just never the inclination so this has been sitting on my shelf for about 7 years now, which is how it ended up in the pot!

I suppose I read a lot of fiction as I like a bit of escapism in my reading and I do often find non-fiction books a bit of a hard slog, especially if they use too much technical jargon. However,  I found this fascinating and whipped through the first couple of chapters in no time (I particularly liked the section on eclipses). They did start to use a bit of technical jargon in the later chapters, especially when talking about ‘atmospheric’ and ‘electrical’ phenomenon, but by this point I was hooked. So, I happily worked my way through it, plus they have a handy little ‘Summary’ at the end of some sections, for the lazy brained like me.

One negative thing I do have to say for this is, although I do like a bit of science and knowing the ins and outs of certain things, this did often feel like I was having a magicians trick explained to me, and I only hope that next time I see a ‘natural wonder’ it won’t have lost any of it’s majesty because of it.

I’m now constantly on the lookout for more natural wonders though.

Reading Roulette – January

So, the first lucky dip of the year was ‘Andersen’s Fairy Tales’ by Hans Christian Andersen, from my classic fiction section.

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This ended up in the ‘reading roulette’ because I bought it many years ago, after a conversation with a work colleague about Fairy Tales. We talked about how fairy tales and folk tales are an intrinsic part of our childhood, and how many of these fairy tales we have actually read, and how many we have just heard about or seen adaptations of on TV. So, I saw this book and bought it, hoping that if indeed there were any popular fairy tales that I was only assuming I knew I could now re-educate myself. Well that debate fell by the wayside and the book was left forgotten on my bookshelf, until now.

First of all, I’m quite pleased to say that of the popular tales contained within this book that I already knew, it was because I had actually read them as a child.

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Highlighted titles of stories I read as a child

Not only that but my parents must have been keen for me to have the full experience as all the Andersen fairy tale endings (including the grisly ones) I knew. I mention this because there has been a lot of debate over the years about how some children’s publications, especially Disney tend to ‘soften’ the endings that haven’t particularly been nice ones. So, as a child, I was obviously given the bare bones endings, although some things were cleaned up a bit. For example, in my childhood version of ‘the tinder box’ the Witch did NOT have her head chopped off, but instead got so angry that she burst into a thousand pieces (I think there’s a lesson for us all there). Another differing aspect was the biblical themes and religious motifs within the stories, again that is something that was omitted from my childhood tales and whilst Andersen’s original tales would often attribute wondrous events to the workings of God, in my childhood tales they were usually the responsibility of fairies or elves.

So, back to my current publication ‘Complete and Unabridged’ which, eventually, I did enjoy. Unfortunately, it took a bit of getting into as Andersen’s style of writing is so dramatic and poetic, and the narrative so fantastical, that with even a little distraction (like a hyperactive dog wanting attention, or an interesting plot twist in the show my husband’s watching on telly) by the time my attention returned to what I was reading I had lost the essence of the story and had to re-read from the point I got lost. I found it best to read at times where I could just shut out the rest of the world and become absorbed in the story. Another delightful aspect of these stories are the memories they conjured up, as I read each familiar fairy tale I could visualise the illustrations that were in my story books as a child. Quite a few of which I still have.

Would I recommend this to others?

I’d have to say yes, whilst I do miss the simplicity and colour of my childhood tales, this book does have a lot more packed into it and with such descriptive detail that you can conjure up your own mental illustrations.

Challenge so far. .

3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

 3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersen’s fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Emma by Jane Austen

 3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

 3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush