Thanks, all, for the music recommendations. Now, to books.
I confess that I’m still catching up on 2010 and enjoying Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce.
Of last year’s new releases, though (and that could be the paperback year, as I don’t really like cumbersome hardbacks very much), I particularly appreciated Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones, even though I’d have preferred there to be another ‘s’ in the title in place of that ‘z’, an accurate account of middle-class prejudice in Britain; The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson (he who wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats), who identifies and interviews assorted psychopaths and questions the suitability of psychiatric labels; An Epic Swindle: 44 Months With a Pair of Cowboys by Brian Reade, the story of how two shameless opportunists nearly sent my beloved Liverpool Football Club into financial ruin (damn you, Tom Hicks and George Gillett); Atrocitology: Humanity’s 100 Deadliest Achievements by Matthew White, covering, in glorious chronological order, the one hundred worst things man has inflicted on his fellow man throughout history ranked by the number of deaths caused (No.1 is the Second World War); and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, who chronicles the twelve months she spent following wise and often pretty annoying, let’s face it, advice in an attempt to be happier.
As someone who favours having two or three books on the go at the same time, competing with Charles P. Pierce for my attention at the moment is Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin, a biography of the great Victorian novelist; The Verdict: Did Labour Change Britain? by Polly Toynbee and David Walker (sorry, I’m too disgusted by Tony Blair’s unforgivable betrayal to comment, I can only shake my head very slowly); alongside the late Christopher Hitchens’ Arguably, a fine collection of more than 100 essays on a vast range of topics stretching from God, of course, to absolutely everything else, it would seem.
I still have to read In Defence of Dogs: Why Dogs Need Our Understanding by John Bradshaw; Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life by Michael Moore; At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson; and, although I rarely read fiction, Erik Larson’s In the Garden Of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family In Hitler’s Berlin.
I haven’t decided if I’ll be able to reach for Margaux Fragoso’s controversial Tiger, Tiger: A Memoir, her account of the 15 years she spent, from the age of seven, in an intimate relationship with a middle-aged man. It sounds too much like voyeurism of the most twisted kind and perhaps we mustn’t encourage the victim, or indeed the perverts who might genuinely enjoy her explicit descriptions, by reading. But I am intrigued by it. For many people, this will be too harrowing a topic to investigate and, by all accounts, is very much a case of Too Much Information. Some thoughts from those asked to review it, if you’re curious, here. Far easier to dismiss the paedophile as a sick monster nobody can relate to or begin to care for, though. Maybe we should read it to better understand both abuser and the abused. Then again…
As for something more palatable, the glossy ‘coffee table’ accompaniment to the Frozen Planet television series (by Alastair Fothergill and Vanessa Berlowitz) is majestic. For laughs, the expletive-ridden mock bedtime story from an exasperated parent, Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach (best narrated by Samuel L. Jackson) ought to make you chuckle whether you have children or not. (Hey, if you don’t, perhaps you’ll chuckle all the more out of wickedness at the plight of your weary friends.)
Your thoughts on any of this or these, as always, is most welcome. I’d also love to know what you intend to read in 2012.
The chatroom will be open from 3pm (UK) tomorrow, if you can make it.