BOOKS I'VE BOUGHT RECENTLY
I BELIEVE that literature is as essential as the air that we breathe in. I enjoy devouring stories that are grounded in reality, especially meditations on the past and the life that is to come, and stories with quirky characters who lead quirky lives. I enjoy stories that capture the nuances of painful issues written with finesse, elegance and even ironic and comic humour. Good books pique our curiosity, prick our conscience and engage our minds — all at at the same time. I believe the following books do these and more.
Skating to Antarctica (1997) / Jenny Diski
A memoir cum travelogue of a journey to the bottom of the world. Her Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America with Interruptions (2002) is excellent, too.
The Historian / Elizabeth Kostova
A gripping, inventive and erudite first novel about a young woman’s search for the truth about her father’s life and her mother’s death are interleaved with research into the 15th-century Wallachian prince Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler, the historical character who inspired Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Critic Laura Miller declares this resurrection of the Dracula legend with new twists and turns “a hypnotic yarn, saturated in authentic history and eerie intrigue.”
The Hall of a Thousand Columns: Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah (2005) / Tim Mackintosh-Smith
Tim Mackintosh-Smith takes you on an enthralling journey through India with Ibn Battutah, the Tangier-born 14th-century adventurer. But read Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah (2001) first.
The Accidental (2005) / Ali Smith
A dysfunctional family's summer holiday in Norfolk is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious stranger in their midst.
DISKI Jenny [1947-] Novelist. Born in London, England. NOVELS On Trying to Stay Still (2006); Only Human: A Comedy (2000); The Dream Mistress (1996); Monkey’s Uncle (1994); Happily Ever After (1991); Then Again (1990); Like Mother (1989); Rainforest (1987); Nothing Natural (1986) STORIES The Vanishing Princess (1995) ESSAYS A View from the Bed and Other Observations (2003); Don’t (1998) TRAVEL/MEMOIR Stranger on a Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America with Interruptions (2002: 2003 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the 2003 J.R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography); Skating to Antarctica: A Journey to the End of the World (1997: shortlisted for the 1998 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Nonfiction)
KOSTOVA Elizabeth [1964-] Novelist. Born Elizabeth Johnson in New London, Connecticut, U.S. NOVEL The Historian (2005)
MACKINTOSH-SMITH Tim [1961-] Travel writer. Born in England. TRAVEL The Hall of a Thousand Columns: Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah (2005); Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah (2001); Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land (1998: winner of the 1998 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award) EDITED The Travels of Ibn Battutah (2002)
SMITH Ali [1962-] Novelist, short-story writer. Born in Inverness, Scotland. NOVELS The Accidental (2005); Hotel World (2001: winner of the 2002 Encore Prize, a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award; shortlisted for the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction and the 2001 Booker Prize for Fiction); Like (1997) STORIES The Whole Story and Other Stories (2003); Other Stories and Other Stories (1999); Free Love and Other Stories (1995: winner of the Saltire First Book Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award) CONTRIBUTOR Wild Ways: New Stories About Women on the Road (1998); Scottish Love Stories (1995) EDITED New Writing: No. 13 (with Toby Litt) (2005); Shorts: The Macallan Scotland on Sunday Short Story Collection (2002); Pretext Vol. 5: Fiction; Criticism; Poetry: Blow Up Your TV (with Julia Bell) (2002); Brilliant Careers: The Virago Book of 20th Century Fiction (with Kasia Boddy and Sarah Wood) (2000)