Favourite books

Listmania‘s prompt for this week is favourite book(s) and what’s on my current reading list.

There are many books I’d describe as ‘favourites’ and, now that I work in a library and can  borrow books so easily, I don’t buy nearly as many as I used to. I have also purged lots of books from my collection and have kept only the best of the best. Here is my list for today – it might be different tomorrow!


The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien’s classic fantasy is a trilogy, but as the first edition I ever owned was the ‘one volume’ paperback, I’m counting it as one title. This is a book I can re-read again and again, and it’s the absolute pinnacle of fantasy fiction as far as I’m concerned.

However, coming a close second are Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and it’s extremely difficult to pick just one. However the concepts in Thief of Time are amazing and funny and provide lots to think about. The basic premise of the tale is that the Monks of History  ‘harvest’ time from creatures that don’t need it – eg undersea fish (how much time does a cod need, really?), and allot it to those who do – eg city dwellers (who never seem to have enough time). Great idea, isn’t it?

Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley is simply a lovely story which makes me smile and feel good (there are places where the tension is high, but I am happy to reread these bits because I know there is a happy-enough ending coming up). I think I also enjoy this novel because it reminds me of some of the great times I had with my horses when I was considerably younger than I am now.

Anne Donovan is probably not well-known outside her native Scotland. I have Buddha Da because my aunt sent it to my mother as something light for her to read during Mum’s final illness. It is amazingly funny and true and heart-rending and lovely. What would you do if your Glaswegian plasterer father became a Buddhist?

Life of Pi is a book I loved so much I wouldn’t see the movie (I like to keep my own visuals intact, and not have them influenced by someone else’s). It was a close contest for the #5 slot between this title and The Time Traveller’s Wife which falls into the same category for me. Do you enjoy seeing movies of books you have really enjoyed?

As for what I am currently reading, I am getting close to the end of The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie. It’s a sort of Da Vinci Code idea, and it started off very well, but got a bit bogged down in the middle with all the explanations and historical information. I’m finishing it because I’m almost done, and I want to see how the writer solves the puzzle (as I’m sure she will). However unless you’re very keen on conspiracy lit, don’t bother to read it yourself.



Listmania #1 – Currently I am…

Joining in the fun (see Mandy’s blog here, and Deb’s post here – Deb is the one who has started us all off).

Currently I am:

1356 coverReading: 1356 by Bernard Cornwell (I love his novels – he writes about battles better than anyone else; his novel Agincourt is one of the best historical novels ever)

Listening to: the sound of the TV news, and of DH, DS and DS’s girlfriend talking about the current item – the Cabinet re-shuffle – with some amazement as to who has apparently kept her portfolio.

Laughing at: Ninja and Scruff – it’s an unexpected bonus of having a kitten (now a young cat) that the older cat discovers how to play again

Swooning over: summer fruit – I adore peaches, apricots and nectarines and the fruit bowl doesn’t stay full for long

Planning: my work-flow for pesto and chocolate spread production, so as to have enough ready for our stall at the Martinborough Fair #1 on 2 February

Eating lots of: salads – and using our new Citrus infused olive oil in the dressing (it tastes like sunshine to me!)

Feeling: that this year is already rushing along far too quickly


Discovering: biking the extended Greytown-Woodside Rail Trail is a great way to start the day (the link is to the event marking the official opening, but it’s actually all available to ride now)

Looking at: photos from my phone – I’m a little embarrassed to admit I have only just worked out how to get them from the phone to the PC (so some of the shots were taken in 2011!)

Wearing: shorts or skirt & t-shirts; I love the casual look and it’s important to be cool on hot and sunny days

Cooking: more new vegetarian recipes. Tonight we had Spiced Rice Scramble from Alison & Simon Holst’s Very Easy Vegetarian Cookbook and it was yummy. Next time I make it I’ll put in two tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce though, as it wasn’t quite spicy enough with only one

Wondering: how it is that yoga poses I could do with ease only a couple of years ago are now impossible


Trying out: hybrid scrapbooking. I’ve downloaded the Storybook Collection #2 elements from ACDigitals, printed & cut them out and used them on a layout (for some reason the link to the actual page isn’t working, but if you go to the main link, you can find them on page 5 under the Journalling Cards tab).

If you would like to play along with Listmania, create your own post using this list. The best bit? There will be another prompt next Monday!

Happiness is …

… cooking another successful new recipe!

From another new cookbook! When I was at the City Market recently I stopped at the Bookfeast stall and my eye fell on this:

The recipes in the book are fantastic – practical, made with ordinary ingredients, and I have made several of them already. The other night I had a go at a two-dish main, making a dahl as well as this little number:

Spiced spinach and potatoes. When I followed along with the easy-to-understand instructions, my version looked like this:

Not bad, huh?! And it had a nice wallop of taste as well. I served it with some naan bread (Tulsi’s brand, a quick thaw job from the freezer stash) and the contrast of flavour and texture made the extra fiddling about to create two dishes well worth while.

Vocabulary extension

I love words. I love lots of words. I love words that roll around in your mouth when you say them (squirrel, squish, lisianthus, isthmus, apocalypse). I love words that trigger specific memories (punch-cards, jazz, Christmas, Grandad). I have always had a good vocabulary and I think being an only child for so many of my formative years (I was six when my sister arrived) was a key contributor to that, as most of my interactions were with adults. Of course learning to read, and loving reading, means I am continually extending my vocabulary, and I try to look up the meaning of words I don’t know. [As an aside, this is one of the benefits of an e-reader; it makes it so easy to determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word with a click providing the definition. I never thought I’d ever be saying that there was anything better than a real book, but for learning new words… I have to admit that e-readers have this slight advantage.]

Apart from discoveries through reading, in my daily life I don’t often come across chances to learn a new word, so it was with delight that I realised the sign above Martin Bosley‘s table at the City Market yesterday contained a word I didn’t know.

Martin was persuaded to pose and highlight the word for my photograph. The word is tracklements (ha – the WordPress dictionary doesn’t think it is a word!). Martin told me it has a similar meaning to condiments, but covers a broader range. Here’s a link to the dictionary definition on wiktionary, and another on World Wide Words which provides more information on the origin of the word.

Here are just two of Martin’s tracklements:

I’m so pleased to have learned a new word today!



What would Jane have thought?

Imagine the narrative voice of Jane Austen writing a murder-mystery novel, and you have Murder at Mansfield Park. This is Lynn Shepherd’s first novel, and it’s a very accomplished debut. She has captured Austen’s vocabulary and style very well, and created a credible mystery as to ‘whodunit’. She had to do this by changing the characters in the original Mansfield Park, but I think this was a good decision, as it creates an entirely new story. I imagine Jane Austen herself would have enjoyed this novel – I certainly did.
One spin-off from reading it that would almost certainly have pleased Jane Austen, is that it’s inspired me to read her novel Mansfield Park again.