I have confessed before to being a greedy bookaholic. In the last few weeks through recalcitrant tradespeople, medical mayhem, worry and fatigue I have continued to read.
I read on the buses to and from hospital, in hospital waiting rooms, on the ward waiting for the skinny one to wake. I read early, I read late. I neglect chores and read some more.
And have found some gems.
Confessions of a Sociopath was one of the books I picked up at a recent book fair. A memoir of a self-confessed sociopath who was curious enough to have herself medically tested to see whether she is a sociopath. The answer was emphatically in the affirmative.
It is a fascinating book. albeit one which made me more than a tad uncomfortable. She enjoys being a sociopath and, as a practising lawyer and law professor is, more than likely among friends - or at least others of her own ilk.
She describes herself as charismatic, ambitious and successful. And ruthlessly manipulative. She claims to be a non-criminal sociopath, and devoutly religious. No doubt both suit her - but she also admits to being a skilled and successful liar.
The book examines her life from childhood to the present - and draws on research to explain that sociopaths have a lot to offer. Perhaps true. I have long suspected that many successful CEOs, among other professionals, have sociopathic tendencies. Just the same, I don't think any of them act for altruistic reasons.
As I said - fascinating, but discomforting too. She is also a blogger - and I have not investigated her blog
which seems to be a self help forum for other sociopaths and those who wonder whether the label fits.
And then for something completely different.
In his Best Reads of 2013 meme John Wiswell
listed the next book as one of his best reads for the year. And several other people who joined in also added their vote.
So I had to read it.
And how right he (and others) were. I am very, very glad I read this book.
It is Helene Wecker's first novel - and I will be watching and waiting for more from her. With luck a sequel to this one, but I would take a chance on any
novel she writes.
We follow a newly created and currently masterless golem and an ancient jinni who has been captured and had his powers severely limited. Both are stranded in New York City (circa 1899). Stranded, and plunged into ethnic ghettos. Stranded in a mass of humanity - whose concerns are alien to them.
Wecker doesn't take the easy way out. The golem and the jinni recognise and reach out to each others differences. Just the same, it isn't a simple love story - though there is certainly love. And it isn't a simply a fight against evil - though that is there too. The development of both the golem and the jinni is enthralling - but there are other winning character studies too. Definitely a six out of five star debut.
Just two more books (in this post).
The next was a discovery that I snatched up to take my mind of the imminence of the skinny one's return home.
Allan Karlsson absconds out of his bedroom window (still wearing his slippers) rather than attend a birthday party to be held in the old people's home in which he lives. His birthday party. His 100th birthday party.
And the romp begins. Think an unlikely journey involving a suitcase full of cash (not his), a few thugs, a few deaths, an elephant and incompetent police. Add rather a lot of vodka, explosives and the slow reveal that Allan has played an important part (very much behind the scenes) in some of the most momentous events of the twentieth century.
It is a delightful find - funny, warm with some history and politics thrown into the picaresque mixture. I note that Jonas Jonasson has another book out already and I will assuredly snaffle it at some stage.
The final book for this post was written by River Fairchild
- a blogging friend.
This slim collection of stories was drawn from flash fiction River featured on her previous blog - which I looked forward to each week and devoured. When it was honed, polished and given a more permanent life (afterlife) I had to have it. It is available on kindle - and in paperback for dinosaurs like me.
Did you know that Death rode a Harley, and is addicted to peanuts? Or that Chronos has a gold shag pile carpet (in which Death's peanuts are frequently lost)?
You didn't? You need to read this gem. Death and his best friend Chronos interact with other immortals in Purgatory and on Earth. They are both very, very busy with responsible and demanding jobs - but make time (or one of them does) for fun. And poker. And parties. And occasional altruism. And some necessary repair work. In the lead up to Christmas I have often longed for death - but my deficient imagination would never have gone to the places River's delightfully warped mind took her - and where I was very, very happy to follow.
Four very different books, but in their very different ways I received an education, distraction, amusement and/or comfort from them. And it would be greedy to ask for more.