I discovered podcasts some years ago, when I bought my first iPod, and have loved them ever since. Of course, most of the podcasts I regularly listen to are all book-related: Here are a few of the ones I like most, in alphabetical order (because I honestly could not say which are my favourites of these): Adventure with Words, BookRiot, Books and Authors, Books on the Nightstand, Hear… Read This, NPR Books Podcast, The Bookrageous Podcast, The Guardian Books Podcast, The Readers, and World Book Club. You can find all of these in the iTunes Store.
But there is one podcast I would like to give some attention to today, because it is, I think, rather unique and worth wile listening to, especially if you like classics: The Classic Tales Podcast, brought by B.J. Harrison, who releases a new episode once a week and who does a good job reading some famous, and less famous classic tales and novels. Lately I listened to The Picture of Dorian Gray (released in 8 parts), by Oscar Wilde and The Island of Dr. Moreau (released in 5 parts) by H.G. Wells. In the past I enjoyed listening to, among many others, The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anthem by Ayn Rand, A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, The 39 Steps by John Buchan, The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley, Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Right ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse, ….
B.J. Harrison also reads many short stories by e.g. H.P Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, G.K. Chesterton, Arthur Conan Doyle, and so on.
In short, if you do not know this podcast, you should go and check it out; here you can find an overview of the podcasts released over the latest months. I am sure that, if I hadn’t discovered this podcast, I wouldn’t have read many of these classic stories.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Elegant als een egel by Muriel Barbery was my favourite read of 2014. I have to admit I bought this book mostly for its title, which I loved and, yes, found so elegant :-) . I didn’t know anything about the book, nor of the author, and bought it really impulsive. And was soooo glad I did. The story got me immediately, it was thoughtfully and beautifully written, with great characters and much philosophical sidetreads and references to pop-culture (Barbery is a professor of philosophy). I loved this smart book so much, in fact, that I read it again two days after I had finished it.
This is the plot (on Goodreads):We are in the centre of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humour and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there’s Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma’s trust and to see through Renée’s time-worn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
I can only add one more thing here: if you have not read The Elegance of the Hedgehog yet, go out now and buy it. Now!
I watched the TV-series I, Claudius when I was in my teens and had no idea it was based on a book. Only when I was in my twenties, did I see the two books by Robert Graves, I, Claudius and Claudius, the God in the book-store. I didn’t hesitate and bought them immediately and started to read them when I got home. And I haven’t stopped reading them after all these years. I have so often re-read them, that it became sort of a joke between my husband and me. When I again take up the book to re-read it, and he notices, he says something like: “O, you are reading a new book. Is it something good?”.
And again and again, I love it. I can see the characters before me, and I have to say I have learned a lot about the history of Rome, even so much, that, when I was taking classes in archaeology of Rome, I caught myself thinking sometimes, “oh, no, that is not what happened according to Claudius”. :-)
And then, somewhere in 2001 or 2002, I was taking to someone about my fascination for the books and said I would love to see the TV-series again. She suggested I should go to a DVD-store and ask if the series wasn’t available. And what do you think? It had come out on DVD that month and would be available in the store the next month. Of course I pre-ordered it, and when I now re-read the books, I also always watch the TV-series again. It seems I cannot get enough of the story and the characters and I really love Derek Jacobi as Claudius.
I first discovered the Japanese author Haruki Murakami when a Belgian magazine offered a reduced copy of his 1999 novel Sputnik Sweatheart. I liked the book, but thought nothing special of it. Then I heard about the title Kafka on the shore, published in Japanese in 2002. Because this title intrigued me, I bought the book (in Dutch) and read it, and loved it. I wanted more.
But, and I am sure everyone who loves books, recognizes this, Murakami kind of slipped out of my mind, because, well yes, there are a lot of other books to read. And so next thing I know, Murakami has published a trilogy 1Q84 (2009-2010), and after some hesitation (it is a lot to read), and because @HannieJe, with whom I have a little Bookclub for Two, also wants to read the three books, I buy them and read them together with her (one a month). And they are good. Really good. I begin to feel Murakami might become one of my favourite authors.
And he definitely does so, after I have read, again with Hannie, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013). This also is a fantastic book with a great story and intriguing characters, written in a beautiful prose.
If you haven’t read him, I advise you to do so. I still have a lot of books by him to read, and I hope I will enjoy them all. One thing is for sure, however, he will always be one of my favourites.
If there is one film I can’t seem to get enough from, it is Erin Brockovitch, brought out in 2000 and starring Julia Roberts. I think this is really one of Robert’s best films: great characters (although perhaps some a bit too ‘characteristic’), a strong plot-line and a captivating story, based on real facts. I think I have seen it now half a dozen times, and every time when it is programmed again on TV, I tell my husband I don’t want to see it again because I almost know it by heart. And every time again, I end up looking, and enjoying it, and laughing and crying at the same moments.
This is the very short synopsis on IMDb: An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.
I cannot really say why I love it so much, I guess it is a combination of reasons, but if you have not seen it yet, do try to do so… It is worth your time.
I’ve already heard about this book here and there and, so it seems, everywhere. And everywhere, people, that is, readers, are enthusiastic. And so am I.
This is what is says on GoodReads:
A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.
What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?
The collection of fragmented images on a page – a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so – and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved – or reviled – literary figures.
In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf’s Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature – he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader – into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.
How can someone who loves books not want to read this? I certainly do. And then I heard Rebecca Schinsky, one of the editors of BookRiot, rave about it on Episode 70 of the Bookrageous podcast, And then I’ve heard Ann Kingman of the popular podcast Books on the the Nighstand talk about it. (By the way, if you are not familiar with these podcasts, do check them out, they are great!). And because these are all people I trust in their book choises, my mind was made up. I have to read this. The book came out here in Belgium on the 10th of September, and the book shop I usually go to did not have it in its collection, but I could order it, and of course I will do so. However, I still haven’t found the time or the occasion to do it, because the last months of 2014 were rather hectic. But it sits on top of my to-do list, and I will order it as soon as possible.
Here’s an interview with the author on The New Yorker.
My grandfather owned all the books by Agatha Christie (in Dutch), together with many many other books, and when he moved to a home for elderly people, I was one of the grandchildren who could choose books from his extensive library to keep. Now, that was not a big problem, because I was the only one of his grandchildren (and children) who really liked to read and who read a lot. So I could take all the books I loved. And so, without any hesitation, I took all the Agatha Christie’s (among many others), and have read them since over and over again. I still love them as I did when I was (much) younger.
As a child and a young adult, I never had to go to the library, I went to “bompa” (= granddad) and chose any book I wanted. I am pretty sure that the first “adult” books I read were some Agatha Christie, because, although I could choose freely from his books to read, he was always nearby and made suggestions as to what I would take.
I loved those Agatha Christie books, and most of all those who featured Poirot. But when it came to film adaptations, there was not any I really loved, not with Peter Ustinov, who played Poirot six times, nor with any of the other actors who impersonated Poirot (Austin Trevor, Tony Randall, Albert Finney). To me, none of them felt like the “real” Poirot.
But in 1989, ITV made a TV-series, starring David Suchet, and from the first minute I knew: this IS Hercule Poirot. And I was not alone in thinking that. The series was immensely popular and ran until 2013, when Suchet decided he had had enough, after playing in the adaptation of numerous short stories and 33 novels.
This series is not only great in that it shows the stories and characters in a great way, but also because the colours are beautiful, the clothing and décors impeccable. Even my husband, who is not a great fan of mysteries and especially not of Poirot, to put it mildly, has to agree the series is great. In fact, while I am writing this, he is watching an episode on television (one I have already seen two or three times).
A few weeks ago, an interesting story was published in Belgian newspapers (and in some other ones too): the figure of Poirot could have been based on a real police-officer, who lived in Belgium, but who fled to the UK to escape the Germans at the start of World War I (as did Poirot).
On the 28th of September 2012, The Guardian published an essay by Agatha Christie in which she explained why she got “fed up with Poirot”.
Here is a list of the 5-star books I read in 2014, in the order I read them:
- J.R.R. TOLKIEN, The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955)
- Agatha CHRISTIE, Waarom Evans niet? (1934)
- Alex KAVA, At the Stroke of Madness (2003)
- Dan BROWN, Angels & Demons (2000)
- W. Somerset MAUGHAM, The Painted Veil (1947)
- Alex KAVA, A Necessary Evil (2006)
- Muriel BARBERY, Elegant als een egel (2006)
- L.M. MONTGOMERY, Anne of Green Gables (1908)
- Alexander McCALLSMITH, The Double Comfort Safari Club (2010)
- Sue GRAFTON, C is for Corpse (1986)
- Alex KAVA, Exposed (2008)
- Abraham VERGHESE, Cutting for Stone (2009)
- Iain PEARS, The Portrait (2005)
- Agatha CHRISTIE, Moord is kinderspel (1938)
- John GREEN, The Fault in our Stars (2012)
- Haruki MURAKAMI, De kleurloze Tsukuri Tazaki en zijn pelgrimsjaren (2014)
- Agatha CHRISTIE, Miss Marple met vakantie (1964)
- Alex KAVA, Black Friday (2009)
- Carlos Ruis ZAFON, De schaduw van de wind (2001)
- C.S. LEWIS, The Silver Chair (The Chronicles of Narnia #4) (1953)
- Stephen KING, 11/22/63 (2011)
- Carlos Ruis ZAFON – De gevangene van de hemel (2011)
- Alexander McCALL SMITH, La’s Orchestra Saves the World (2008)
I loved all these books, but The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Elegant als een egel) is my top favourite of the year, although Murakami’s novel is a close second.
Hope you all enjoy reading in 2015 too!
Here are the books I read in 2014, in the order I read them:
- TOLKIEN – The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings #1) (1954-1955)
- Agatha CHRISTIE – Waarom Evans niet? (1934)
- TOLKIEN – The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings #2)(1954-1955)
- Donna TARTT – Het puttertje (2013)
- Alex KAVA – At the Stroke of Madness (2003)
- TOLKIEN – The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings #3) (1954-1955)
- Dan BROWN – Angels & Demons (2000)
- W. Somerset MAUGHAM – The Painted Veil (1947)
- Alex KAVA – A Necessary Evil (2006)
- Muriel BARBERY – Elegant als een egel (2006)
- Arthur CONAN DOYLE – When the World Screamed (1928)
- Muriel BARBERY – Elegant als een egel (2006) This is not a mistake, I liked it so much I had to read it a second time!
- John BUCHAN – The 39 steps (1915)
- Stephen KING- Bezeten stad (1975)
- Arthur GOLDEN – Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)
- L.M. MONTGOMERY – Anne of Green Gables (1908)
- Jess WALTERS – Beautiful Ruins (2012)
- Alexander MCCALL SMITH – Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (2009)
- Amos OZ – Fima (1991)
- Alexander MCCALL SMITH – The Double Comfort Safari Club (2010)
- Madeline MILLER – The Song of Achilles (2012)
- Alexander MCCALL SMITH – The Saturday Big Tent Wedding (2011)
- Tessa DE LOO – Kenau (2013)
- Erin MORGENSTERN – The Night Circus (2011)
- Sue GRAFTON – C is for Corpse (1986)
- Anne TYLER – The Clock Winder (1972)
- Dana STABENOW – Blindfold Game (2006)
- Aldous HUXLEY – Point Counter Point (1928)
- Jan VANTOORTELBOOM – Meester Mitraillette (2014)
- Alex KAVA – Exposed (2008)
- Jane AUSTEN – Lady Susan (1794)
- Abraham VERGHESE – Cutting for Stone (2009)
- Iain PEARS – The Portrait (2005)
- George PELECANOS – Drama City (2005)
- BAANTJER – De Cock en de moord in seance (1981)
- Jules VERNE – From the Earth to the Moon (1865)
- Iain BANKS – The Wasp Factory (1984)
- Agatha CHRISTIE – Moord is kinderspel (1938)
- John GREEN – The Fault in our Stars (2012)
- Edgar HILSENRATH – De nazi en de kapper (1990)
- G.K. CHESTERTON – The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
- Haruki MURAKAMI – De kleurloze Tsukuri Tazaki en zijn pelgrimsjaren (2014)
- William SHAKESPEARE – Coriolanus (1605-1608)
- Anne RICE – The Witching Hour (The Life of the Mayfair Witches #1) (1990)
- James SALTER – Light Years (1975)
- P.G. WODEHOUSE- Something Fresh (1915)
- Agatha CHRISTIE – Miss Marple met vakantie (1964)
- Jules VERNE – Around the World in 80 Days (1873)
- AESOP – Aesop’s Fables (6th C. BC)
- Anne RICE – Lasher (The Life of the Mayfair Witches #2 (1993)
- Agatha CHRISTIE – Dood van een huistiran (1938)
- Herman KOCH – Geachte Heer M. (2014)
- Sue GRAFTON – D is for Deadbeat (1987)
- Rachel GIBSON – Ware liefde en andere rampen (2009)
- Joseph Sheridan LE FANU – Carmilla (1872)
- Anne RICE – Taltos (The Life of the Mayfair Witches #3) (1994)
- Alex KAVA – Black Friday (2009)
- Don DeLILLO – The Names (1982)
- Carlos Ruis ZAFON – De schaduw van de wind (2001)
- Beryl BAINBRIDGE- The Dressmaker (1973)
- Agatha CHRISTIE – Moord in het vliegtuig (1935)
- C.S. LEWIS – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
- C.S. LEWIS – Prince Caspian (1951)
- Thomas HARDY – Far From the Madding Crowd (1874)
- Nathan FILER – De schok van de val (2013)
- C.S. LEWIS – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
- James M. CAIN – Mildred Pierce (1941)
- H.G. Wells – The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896)
- Carlos Ruiz ZAFON – Het spel van de engel (2008)
- Sue GRAFTON – E is for Evidence (1988)
- C.S. LEWIS – The Silver Chair (1953)
- Stephen KING – 11/22/63 (2011)
- John GRISHAM – Theodore Boone. The Activist (2013)
- Gaston LEROUX – The Phantom of the Opera (1911)
- Frederic FORSYTH- The Phantom of Manhattan (1999)
- Carlo Ruis ZAFON – De gevangene van de hemel (2011)
- Alexandra ARES – My Life on Craigslist (2011)
- C.S. LEWIS – The Horse and his Boy (1954)
- C.S. LEWIS – The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
- Alexander McCALL SMITH – La’s Orchestra Saves the World (2008)
- C.S. LEWIS – The Last Battle (1956)
- Karl Ove KNAUSGARD- Vader (2009)
- Cory DOCTOROW – I, Robot (2005)
- Arthur Conan DOYLE – The Land of Mist (1926)
- Arthur Conan DOYLE – The Disintegration Machine (1929)
Although I had some rather busy and somewhat hectic last months of the year, it has been a good year for reading.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I really do miss this blog. I still haven’t got much time to write extensive posts, but I think I will try something a little different.
As you perhaps noticed, I changed the name of my blog into Words & Images… because I do not want to talk only about books I have read or want to read, but also about films I saw, series I follow and TV-programs I like. The posts won’t be long, and they will contain information I gather elsewhere together with thoughts of my own.
I will start posting later this month, or perhaps only in the first week of September, because I want to work out a schedule that is do-able for me and at the same time interesting to readers and followers of the blog.
So… SEE YOU LATER