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.



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.

Why I love my job

I work as a library assistant at the Greytown Library. We are lucky to be housed in the Town Centre, a recently-renovated heritage building where there is lots of light, an excellent heating system and a desk where library staff can serve the public while seated (a rarity in libraries).

One of the best aspects of the job is the discussions with customers about books. One of the reasons I thought the job would suit me was because it involves lots of people contact and lots of books. And the job does suit me very well. I had no preconceptions about other readers and how many of them would like to discuss the books they read and/or the books they wanted to read. In all my experience as a library customer – in the nine or ten different public libraries where I was “a regular” at various times – I had never been approached by a librarian with an offer of help, while I was browsing the shelves. However now that I am on the staff side of the equation, offering that help has led me to some of the most enjoyable conversations I have ever had.

Take today as an example. A young woman, in her early years at high school, asked me if I could recommend any books. Together we scanned the shelves of our Young Adult collection and I talked with her about the titles I had read, as she shared the ones she had read. The customer was currently working her way through Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series, after her brother recommended them to her. She had also read other series that I had not, and thought I might like the Pretty Little Liars books. We had both read the Twilight, and Tomorrow When the War Began series. I was happy to send her away with Garth Nix’s The Old Kingdom trilogy, the four Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books by Ann Brashares, and the first of Kathy Reich’s YA books, Virals. We talked about dystopian novels and the enjoyment we had both had from The Hunger Games; we talked about the experiences to be garnered from reading – far more than we could ever fit into a lifetime; and we talked about the joy of reading a book that ‘sucks you in’ from the very first pages and how reading creates ‘a happy place’ for us to enjoy. It was a wonderful conversation and the highlight of my day.