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What I’ve been reading this month


A little while ago, someone recommended Glen Weldon’s The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, saying that interest in Batman was not prerequisite for enjoying it. I can now vouch for this recommendation: I loved the book despite having never read a Batman comic, having never seen a Batman film all the way through, and having only vague memories the “Bam! Pow! Zap!” Batman series on Saturday morning kids’ TV. Despite my lack of prior knowledge, I was won over by Weldon’s fascinating and funny sociocultural history of the development of Batman character over time. The book also gave one of the most coherent and insightful accounts I’ve read of the development of and influence of the internet on nerd culture. I would never have even considered picking up this book if it hadn’t been recommended to me – and yet I very much enjoyed it. (Amazon | Goodreads)

The same can’t be said for I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, which was 800+ badly written pages of absurd and frankly boring “thriller” plot mired in xenophobia and sexism of type I thought (or maybe hoped) had died out decades ago. As much as the meandering plot centres on anything, it’s about a Saudi terrorist trying to infect the US with genetically modified smallpox through contamination of flu vaccines. Luckily, there’s an all-American retired brilliant super secret agent on the trail. (Amazon | Goodreads)

Old Filth by Jane Gardam was an expertly crafted novel in which Sir Edward Feathers, a retired judge, reflects on the story of his life. An orphan, he seems to feel he never quite fit in anywhere, and doesn’t seem to realise quite how remarkable the events of his life have been. All the while, his acquaintances tend to assume he’s led a rather dull, uneventful life. This was a moving fictional biography which gives an interesting perspective on assumptions people make of their own experiences, and assumptions we all make of others. (Amazon | Goodreads)

Stephen King’s The Green Mile often appears on people’s “must read” lists, so I picked it up. I’ve never seen the film, and beyond sort of broad cultural references, had no idea that it was about the residents of death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in the 1930s awaiting execution by electric chair (with a few supernatural phenomena scattered through). I thought this book was drawing a comparison between imperfect criminal justice and imperfect natural justice: in law, as in life, people don’t always get what they deserve. Sometimes bad people thrive and good people suffer. I really enjoyed it on those terms, but reading through other reviews online, most people seem to have a polar opposite interpretation about “pure evil”, so maybe I missed the point. Either way, it was great. (Amazon | Goodreads)

Following Farage was fairly entertaining account by tabloid journalist Owen Bennett of his time following Nigel Farage during the 2015 General Election. While it was entertaining, it dragged a bit at times, and didn’t give any new insight into UKIP as a party. I was also a bit disappointed that Bennett didn’t really explain his motivation to follow Farage, despite even changing jobs to stay on his tail. (Amazon | Goodreads)

Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez is a critically acclaimed novella about a political cartoonist reaching the end of his career. At an event celebrating his life, he meets a young female journalist who he had previously met as a child, when an event pivotal to the novel’s plot occurred. Revisiting ‘the event’ risks the reputations of many of the novel’s characters. The prose is spellbinding, but I thought it was let down by a plot that was hard to follow, very implausible (seven year olds drinking themselves unconscious?!), and unresolved by the ending. (Amazon | Goodreads)

This post was filed under: What I've Been Reading.

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