Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Frohes Neues Jahr!

As 2009 kicks off, we hand the blog reins back over to Keith Gray, to tell us a bit about his holiday reading...

Hello. Hope you all had a good time during the holidays. ’09 already! Kind of scary. I didn’t manage to finish half the stuff in ’08 that I was planning on doing...
I’ve got to admit, however, the last few days of the year were excellent. I went to Vienna, to stay with my partner’s family (because that’s where she’s from) and to experience Weihnachten and Sylvester - or Christmas and Hogmanay Austrian-style. So I could tell you about all the Schnapps I drank, the Wiener Schnitzel I ate and the waltzes I danced. But this is a Scottish Book Trust blog so I reckon rather than talk about how drunk, greedy and two-left-footed I was I’d tell you about the excellent books I read while I was away.

First up is ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins. It’s a brilliant slice of sci-fi dystopia, where the rulers of a post-apocalyptic America punish the citizens with a deadly, reality-TV style, gladiatorial fight for survival. 12 boys and 12 girls are chosen randomly, and these 24 ‘tributes’ are put into a wilderness arena before having to fight to the death in front of the cameras. There’s echoes of traditional folktales with the idea of sacrificial virgins, as well as new twists on recent stories (Stephen King’s ‘The Running Man’ or ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson), and it’s possibly the most exciting book I’ve read all year. I should have been enjoying snow and Sauerkraut with my in-laws, but I was many years into the future willing Katniss and Peeta to make it to the end.

And the other book I read was something a bit different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bit of a ‘Doctor Who’ fan, but I’m definitely not a nerdy obsessive (a Whovian). But I have been interested in the Russell T Davies book about the writing of the programme and was lucky enough to find a copy in my stocking. And what a great book ‘The Writer’s Tale’ is! If there is anybody out there interested in writing (stories, books, scripts) it’s an insight into how writing works, about ideas, about characters, about re-writing, about re-writing, about re-writing... It’s also a fascinating glimpse of a hugely successful writer who’s possibly a bit mad, definitely obsessive, sometimes egotistical, but mostly genuine and warm. I reckon it should be the new Bible for all writers out there, professional or wannabe. And it’s so big I was able to use it as a duvet to sleep under in the freezing Viennese temperatures.

So there’s two quick recommendations to kick off ‘09. If you read them, get in touch and let us know what you think.

Prosit Neujahr.
Keith

What have you been reading over the holidays? Add your reviews and recommendations below...

4 comments:

Nicola Morgan said...

Hi Keith and Happy New Year and all that! I have just finished Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and was so engrossed in it that I frequently didn't hear my husband talking to me. (A double bonus then). It's very orignal, chilling, fascinating and beautifully nasty. Gorgeous cover too. I'm also, on a different note, reading iBrain, by American neuroscientist Gary Small, which is chilling in a different way. It aims to show how our brains are being changed (largely negatively) by too much digital and on-screen time and not enough talking, thinking, and "real" person-to-person time. Actually and disappointingly, I don't believe his argument is cohesive and it falls down with massive lack of evidence and reference, but it's very interesting all the same and I believe very much worth thinking about. I believe much of what he says because it already correlates with a great deal of what we know about the brain - I just would have liked him to back the argument up much better.
Next up, I'm reading David Almond's Jackdaw Summer. And possibly getting some writing done myself! All the best, Nicola

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