Random Bookish Thoughts – 13 November

On things being a little spooky

So, we’ve had Halloween and Friday 13th within a couple of weeks of each other. I’m not normally one for spooky reading – my imagination is far too overactive – but I found myself at home, on Halloween, at a bit of a loose end, and so I read Susan Hill’s classic The Woman in Black.

I’ve got to say, I think I just don’t really ‘get’ Susan Hill’s ghost stories. I mean, people rave about this book. They study it for GCSE, for heaven’s sake. Daniel Radcliffe was in the movie adaptation, and – well – after Harry Potter, isn’t that a pretty high bar? I’ve read a couple of Susan Hill novellas before – The Mist in the Mirror, and one or two others – and they didn’t leave much of an impression, but I always thought this one would be different.

Well, sorry. It just wasn’t. It wasn’t bad, exactly. The whole thing just left me a little….meh.

I downloaded The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson) to my Kindle at the same time, but haven’t read it yet. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of my favourite favourites, so I have high hopes.

On the honest-to-goodness God-damn-awesomeness of David Mitchell

I’m going through a wee bout of insomnia at present. (Being only two weeks back from California,  I blame jet lag, rather than a subconscious impact of Susan Hill’s ghost stories. But there are more things on heaven and earth, Horatio, etc.) Anyway, for whatever reason, I haven’t got to sleep before 2.30am any night this week. It’s a trial. But at least it gives me plenty of time for reading.

On two consecutive nights, I stayed up late finishing David Mitchell novels – on Sunday, The Bone Clocks, which I read in a day. I’ll review it, at some point, but really, you shouldn’t wait till then to read it. You should go and read it right now. If not sooner. Seriously, if you’re still reading this, stop it and go and read David Mitchell. You won’t regret it.

And if you’re still reading this, then I can only assume you’ve already read The Bone Clocks, and are mulling over whether to read Slade House. Well, that was the one which kept me up till the small hours on Monday night, so – you should. Problem solved. Although maybe don’t read it alone, in a quiet house, at 2am like I did. Cos, you know, at 2am the boundaries between fantasy and reality sort of….thin out. A bit. Enough to stop you getting to sleep, anyway.

On things I’ve recently read, am currently reading, and am possibly reading next, as well as arbitrary targets and deadlines

Apart from all the spookiness and David Mitchell, I’ve recently finished Down Under by Bill Bryson (funny and informative, like all the best non-fiction), and The Cocktail Party, a play by TS Eliot (not great, if I’m honest, despite its author being the best poet of the 20th century). I’m halfway through The Lake House by Kate Morton, which I downloaded as a little light relief, and which is diverting enough, but somewhat unfortunately almost identical to every novel the author has ever written. Perhaps I’m just getting old.

I’m close to admitting that I’m not going to reach my goal of reading 100 books this year. Once it becomes a clearly impossible task, I’m anticipating a little relief, because I’m actually finding myself drawn to longer books  – and classics – for winter. I’m not sure I’ll set myself an absolute reading target again. It drives me towards quantity over quality, and in a world where more books are published each year than one could possibly read in a lifetime, what on earth – really – is the point? I’d much rather (she says sniffily) focus on the books which I actually want to read, the tomes recommended by people I trust.

I do like a good list, though. Well, we’ll see, when the new year rolls around.

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