Some Thoughts on Books



I don’t do fiction

I’m sorry to go on about my psychosexual traumas. After confessing last week about my Mathematics O level, this week I’m going to mention my A level English Literature fiasco. I’m not going to mention my grade but I can say that it put me off reading for a while. Then I read Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities and I fell in love with reading again. Gradually I drifted into non-fiction and that’s where I’ve been for the last ten years or so. I love books that tell me about the way the world works – economics, anthropology, psychology, history, philosophy, law, the mass media …. But now I’m beginning to feel a yearning for fiction again. I would like to work my way through some of Harold Bloom’s famous canon. But I would also like you to tell me all the great books I’ve missed in the last ten years.


I love Amazon

What a wonderful concept Amazon is. For me it is a celebration of capitalist innovation at its best. First you have the prices. It is marvellous that there is no limit on discounts and to see books reduced by 50%. In Spain that would be against the law. It is often said that not enough people read books. Wouldn’t it be good idea if there was a free market for books and prices came down? But Amazon is more than just the discounts. The inventory at Amazon is  comprised of literally millions of book. Amazon is able to make money by catering to a wide range of tastes. All those predictions about everyone only reading popular trashy bestsellers and celebrity memoirs have proved to be nonsense; the market is flexible enough to be able to meet many needs. Maybe so much choice could be too bewildering but Amazon has solved that problem too. Without the direct involvement of a single human being, their software can generate recommendations that make it incredibly easy to find what you want. No expert would be capable of such a feat. 


The future of reading?

Last year Amazon came out with a new device called the Kindle, an electronic book. It uses technology known as electronic paper designed to recreate the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. It can store up to 200 books, You can’t transfer eBooks to someone else or using them on a different device. There are other competitors such as the Sony eBook and the iLiad. Will they be successful? I don’t know. The book is still an incredibly practical invention. I like the idea of being able to download a book in seconds but I think not being able to share books is a major drawback.  In fact I am a bit sceptical about this kind of device but it is the market will ultimately dictate its fate.


Further reading and listening


Harold Bloom’s canon


The BBC has a programme called  World Book Club, where world famous authors talk about their key works. This month writer Khaled Hosseini is interviewed about his first novel The Kite Runner. Past guests have included Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children), Vikram Seth (A Suitable Boy), Isabelle Allende (A House of Spirits), Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club), Doris Lessing (The Grass is Singing), VS Naipaul (A House for Mr Biswas), Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Ian McEwan (Atonement), and Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose). (PODCASTS)







3 Responses to Some Thoughts on Books

  1. Douglas says:

    Public libraries are a great idea too. In fact, there’s a very good one very near to where you live Martin!

  2. molivam42 says:

    I am all in favour of public libraries and the wonderful work they do. My point was that capitalism is often accused of being crass and only catering to the lowest common denominator and Amazon is a wonderful counterexample.

  3. Heen says:

    You say : “But I would also like you to tell me all the great books I’ve missed in the last ten years.”

    Really? OK, then, I’ll set the ball rolling by recommending Yeni Hayat by Orhan Pamuk. There is an English translation, “The New Life”which is full of American slang but even so. And the book is now 11 years old so maybe it doesn’t count.

    Mr Bloom’s selection of what to read is, of course, controversial. Of the BBC selection you mention: Midnight’s Children and A House for Mr Biswas, definitely; The Joy Luck Club is enjoyable, too. House of Spirits is infumable.

    The best book I’ve read in the last ten years is Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry.

    Amazon is admirable, but public libraries much more so.

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