June and July, 2009

The Damned UtdThe Damned Utd by David Peace
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Released: August 17, 2006
Pages: 368
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The Damned United is directed by Tom Hooper (John Adams, Longford, Elizabeth I), and adapted for the screen by Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon) from the bestselling and critically acclaimed novel by David Peace, The Damned United stars Michael Sheen (The Deal, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) as the legendary, opinionated football manager Brian Clough with Timothy Spall (Secrets and Lies, Sweeney Todd, The Last Samurai) as his right-hand man, only friend, and crutch Peter Taylor.

Overachieving and eccentric football manager Brian Clough was on his way to take over at the country's most successful, and most reviled football club: Leeds United, home to a generation of fiercely competitive but ageing players. The battle he'd face there would make or break the club - or him.

David Peace's extraordinarily inventive novel tells the story of a world characterised by fear of failure and hunger for success set in the bleak heart of the 1970s.

I think the ebook of The Damned Utd was on sale, and I picked it up having been convinced by some really good reviews. As someone who doesn’t really care about football, and has no idea about the real-life events it is written about, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The book made me care about a story from a footballing universe I know nothing about at all, and that’s a bit of an achievement.

Casino RoyaleCasino Royale by Ian Fleming
Series: James Bond (Original Series) #1
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Released: April 13, 1953
Pages: 210
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Introducing James Bond: charming, sophisticated, handsome, chillingly ruthless and licensed to kill. This, the first of Ian Fleming's tales of secret agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called simply "le Chiffre" -- by ruining him at the Baccarat table and forcing his Soviet spymasters to "retire" him. It seems that lady luck is taken with 007 -- le Chiffre has hit a losing streak. But some people just refuse to play by the rules, and Bond's attraction to a beautiful female agent leads him to disaster and an unexpected savior...

Casino Royale gave me misleadingly high hopes for the Bond-series. I actually rather liked it. It has the old-school spy feeling I was expecting from these books. Not exceptional, but representative of what I hoped and thought the bond books would be like. It’s a pity that most of the rest of the books haven’t lived up to that, but hey, I can’t really blame Casino Royale for that.

The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
Series: Chronicles of Narnia #1
Publisher: Geoffrey Bles
Released: October 16, 1950
Pages: 206
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There are a thousand stories in the land of Narnia, and the first is about to be told in an extraordinary motion picture, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media.

In the never-ending war between good and evil, The Chronicles of Narnia set the stage for battles of epic proportions. Some take place in vast fields, where the forces of light and darkness clash. But other battles occur within the small chambers of the heart and are equally decisive.

Journeys to the ends of the world, fantastic creatures, betrayals, heroic deeds and friendships won and lost -- all come together in an unforgettable world of magic. So join the battle to end all battles.

The second volume in
The Chronicles of Narnia®
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Narnia .... a land frozen in eternal winter ... a country waiting to be set free.

Four adventurers step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia -- a land enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change ... and a great sacrifice.

Having finally acquired an e-reader, it was time to go through a few readily (and cheaply) available classics. I’d read the Narnia series before when I was very young, but I figured it would be worth re-reading them. It was worth re-reading them. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe actually holds up rather well. It truly has a fairytale feel to it, and was surprisingly enjoyable. Some of that might have been nostalgia, but hey, I liked it.

Breakfast at Tiffany'sBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Publisher: Random House
Released: October 28, 1958
Pages: 142
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It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly 'top banana in the shock department', and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.

This edition also contains three stories: 'House of Flowers', 'A Diamond Guitar' and 'A Christmas Memory'.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s was another classic on my to-read list. Having not seen the film, I really didn’t know what to expect, but the book I was served on my breakfast-table of classics wasn’t too bad. I didn’t love it, but it was fun enough read to be worth the time.

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell
Publisher: Secker and Warburg
Released: August 17, 1945
Pages: 122
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George Orwell's timeless and timely allegorical novel—a scathing satire on a downtrodden society’s blind march towards totalitarianism.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned—a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible.

When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh.

Speaking of classics, Animal Farm is definitely one, and even with the high expectations I had of it, it still managed to impress me. I still think this is better than 1984, and for quite a long time “Animal Farm” would be my answer whenever someone asked me what my favourite book was. I can’t really describe it without doing it quite an injustice – this book is definitely on the list of books I think everyone should just read. Considering how much of a classic this book is, there is no excuse not to.

Crime and PunishmentCrime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Publisher: The Russian Messenger
Released: January 1, 1866
Pages: 671
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Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption.

I really liked Crime and Punishment. The first-person stream of consciousness style really appeals to me, and it works really well in this story. This is the book that is pretty much the reason that I, to this day, will readily say “oh yes, I quite like Russian literature!”

Dead BabiesDead Babies by Martin Amis
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Released: January 1, 1975
Pages: 206
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If the Marquis de Sade were to crash one of P.G. Wodehouse's house parties, the chaos might resemble the nightmarishly funny goings-on in this novel by the author of London Fields. The residents of Appleseed Rectory have primed themselves both for a visit from a triad of Americans and a weekend of copious drug taking and sexual gymnastics. There's even a heifer to be slugged and a pair of doddering tenants to be ingeniously harassed. But none of these variously bright and dull young things has counted on the intrusion of "dead babies" — dreary spasms of reality. Or on the uninvited presence of a mysterious prankster named Johnny, whose sinister idea of fun makes theirs look like a game of backgammon.

Another book I would never have considered reading if not for the 1001 books to read before you die list. I probably should have liked this a little more than I did, but I didn’t really like it that much. It was interesting, it was fun , but ultimately I wouldn’t call this a great book.

A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Publisher: Chapman & Hall
Released: December 19, 1843
Pages: 105
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'If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips, would be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!'

Introduction and Afterword by Joe Wheeler
To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it's too late.

Part of the Focus on the Family Great Stories collection, this edition features an in-depth introduction and discussion questions by Joe Wheeler to provide greater understanding for today's reader. "A Christmas Carol" captures the heart of the holidays like no other novel.

Maybe not an ideal book for reading in June, but hey. Another classic that holds up rather well. It’s a fun little story, and it’s easy to understand why it’s still remembered and still retold.

Gone with the WindGone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: June 30, 1936
Pages: 1037
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Margaret Mitchell's monumental epic of the South won a Pulitzer Prize, gave rise to the most popular motion picture of our time, and inspired a sequel that became the fastest selling novel of the century. It is one of the most popular books ever written: more than 28 million copies of the book have been sold in more than 37 countries. Today, more than 60 years after its initial publication, its achievements are unparalleled, and it remains the most revered American saga and the most beloved work by an American writer...

Gone with the Wind is practically an advertisement for a ereader in and of itself, as I think my barrier to reading this book would have been a lot higher if I’d have had to drag the book with me. However, with the handy Sony Reader I could easily take Gone with the Wind we to the cottage!

I’d seen the film, and really liked that as well, and the book more than lived up to the expectations set by the film. It’s a bit of a long read, but I think it’s more than worth it. The story has a very pleasing pace, and really builds up the setting and the characters very, very, well.

Catch-22Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Series: Catch-22 #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: November 10, 1961
Pages: 453
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The novel is set during World War II, from 1942 to 1944. It mainly follows the life of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier. Most of the events in the book occur while the fictional 256th Squadron is based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea, west of Italy. The novel looks into the experiences of Yossarian and the other airmen in the camp, who attempt to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements so that they may return home.

Two thirds of Catch 22 is such a great book! It’s properly funny, thoughtful, engaging, and really, really, good. Then it kind of lost it by the end for me. It’s still a really good book, it was just confusing to have loved a book that much for most of it, then be irritated by the last third. Still, it very much deserves it’s place in the list of classics, and is very worth reading.

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