If you had asked me a couple of months ago what I would do with some unexpected free time then book reading would have been top of the list.
That is not how it has worked out.
What I have been doing instead is hate-watching bad films and telly whilst knitting what I am lovingly calling my Plague Blanket. I think this is so that I don’t have to use my brain, but the damn thing won’t turn off and I find myself reading other people’s thoughts instead of noting down my own. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I really enjoy reading other people’s perspectives on things, but it puts an itch in my mind…thoughts jostle and poke me until all I can do is ponder. Aimless and relentless pondering. Pondering on language, gender, mental health and normality. Pondering on the differences between how humans live, sometimes awed by those differences when our similiarities are so great. Pondering on how other people are coping, have coped in the past and what changes are a’coming.
None of that pondering has congealed into anything resembling a blog post yet, but I suspect it is getting there. So instead – below are the four books I managed to read before all this kicked off, along with my deep and meaningful thoughts on them.
Flex – Ferrett Steinmetz. I bought this book off eBay after reading his name and liking it. I rarely ask why some words and names stand out to me, but using it as an excuse to buy a book is pretty normal in my world. This book is a 50/50 mix of crime and fantasy novel and there is a lot in there to enjoy including a diverse cast with some interesting powers, issues and relationships. Magic is outlawed so what do you do when you suddenly find yourself accidentally using it in your job to enforce the law? My problem is that halfway through he committs the unforgiveable sin of describing a scene, where the hero is in peril, then expects us to allow him to go back three weeks to show every bad decision and mistake that led to that peril…Nope. In fact that’s a BIG, ‘put the book down and walk away’ nope. I want a story that takes me forward and authors have to be exceptionally skilled for me to enjoy flashbacks, so in this case I read the final couple of pages to find out the ending and stuck it in a charity donation bag. Having said that, if I stumble across another of Ferrett Steinmetz’s (GREAT name) books I will probably pick it up.
The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway. The first Nick Harkaway book I read was Angelmaker which is dense and spellbinding. I moved onto Tigerman which draws you in and makes you really care about the characters. This one – his first book – is brilliant. You are shown a world, so very much like our own, with conflicts and love, humour and mystery, in which the baddies are not necessarily the people you need to watch out for. The plot is complex and engaging, a word that keeps springing to my mind is ‘dense’ but that is not a bad thing, it just means you need to commit to reading every word, and his writing makes it easy to do that. The world is coming to an end, after already having had one go at it, and we follow the band of heroes tasked with saving it. My intention now is to read ALL of Nick Harkaway’s books.
Hiking with Nietzsche – John Kaag (non-fiction). I bought this after reading a review and because I like a bit of Nietzsche every now and again. In this book we tag along with John Kaag as he and his family retrace the journey he took as a young man, when he retraced Nietzsche’s own mountain treks. There are insights into Nietzsche from someone who obviously likes him and knows his subject but there are also moments when my patience wore very thin. Although I am fairly certain Mr Kaag is aware of some of his privilege as a white, male, cis and financially secure person, there are times when they shine through in all their blinding glory and those sorts of displays tend to piss me off a bit. I did read it all the way through though, and I felt a little more forgiving towards him by the end, but I won’t be reading it again and it is being donated. All in all – he knows his stuff and can write it well.
Escape Everything – Robert Wringham. (non-fiction) I started becoming interesting in the Early Retirement movement when I realised that I REALLY don’t want to be working until I die…I want to have some time, whilst still fit and healthy enough to enjoy it, where I don’t have to work (if I don’t want to) and when I can arty-fart (if I feel like it) book-read (if I feel like it) stare aimlessly out of the window (if I feel like it) and do the other million things that are always put off because work comes first. What I soon discovered however is that people in the Early Retirement movement seriously ask questions like ‘Is a million dollars enough to retire on?’
WT ever-loving F?
Anyway, Robert Wringham’s book does not require you to have earned millions before you can end your working life and settle back to enjoy your days. It does require you to use your brains and get yourself out of debt but those are things we should all be doing anyway. There are motivational speeches and practical tips, radical political stirrings and more humour than I expected. I love this book and I am holding on to it for dear life as ‘work’ becomes a fraught subject with many of us not knowing if we will soon have any choices in the matter. (I have added a link to his website as you can buy this book directly from him on there, which is a concept I LOVE)