philip Pullman

Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Books I Have Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created & hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s top 10 is all about the books that I have loved ever since I’ve started the blog. For me that means books I’ve loved since March 2011. The list is by no means conclusive and the name & the order may change anytime. Click on the name of the books for my reviews.

1.   Detective Stories. Philip Pullman – 

Detective Stories is a 1998 collection of fifteen short stories and two brainteasers from the detective genre compiled by Philip Pullman.

The book tries to cover the entire detective genre right from Arthur Conan Doyle to Andrew Vachss. Pullman has tried to make a perfect combination of vintage and contemporary stories and he succeeds to a large degree. This collection is mainly aimed at younger readers but adults can equally enjoy it (as I did). Detective Stories is a true treat!

2.  Very Good, Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse – 

Very Good, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse is a collection of eleven short stories. All of these stories feature Bertie Wooster and his trusted butler Jeeves.

As it is I am really fond of short stories and the Jeeves short stories are definitely right up my alley.

I really enjoyed reading Very Good, Jeeves. It’s a pity it was a library book and I had to return it. This is the kind of book that I’d like to re-read in the future.

3.   Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier –

For me, Rebecca is about Rebecca. Long after the book ends her laughing, beautiful, cruel face stays vividly alive. She wins, as always, even in death.

4.  The Diary of a Nobody. George Grossmith – 

The Diary of a Nobody first appeared in Punch magazine from 1888 – 89. It was published in book form in 1892.

The writing is lucid. Many have called it dated. I didn’t find it so. This is a very easy to read book. I managed to finish it in just a day.

I know this is supposed to be a satire on the snobbery and the dullness of the middle class folks but I felt rather sorry for Mr. Pooter. Sure, he is boring and old-fashioned but he is a good, honourable man who is just trying to do the best he can. My sympathy certainly lies with him.

5.    The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Liz Jensen – 

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen was published in 2004. It was Jensen’s fifth novel.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax is one strange story. What happens in the story is not wholly un-guessable but whatever it is, it is twisted. Overall, this is an enjoyable psychological thriller.

6.  The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami – 

Sprawling, odd, complicated, scary, these are the words that come to my mind when I say the name, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I tried to keep an open mind and take it all in. But still at times I had to stop and think,

‘What on earth is this?’

7.  A Midsummer Night’s DreamWilliam Shakespeare – 

I love Shakespeare’s comedies. The witty dialogues, the general air of light heartedness and above all the wickedly funny plots suit my taste quite well. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is so far my favourite among these.

8.   The Railway ChildrenEdith Nesbit – 

Even though I might have enjoyed children’s classics such as The Railway Children more if I really were a child, I do still find joy in them. Other than a few parts (like the chapter The Pride of Perks) I have greatly enjoyed reading The Railway Children.

9.   The Old Man in the CornerBaroness Orczy – 

Today Baroness Orczy is mostly remembered as the creator of the Scarlet Pimpernel but she also wrote quite a few mysteries. The Old Man in the Corner (1909) is possibly the best known among her mysteries.

The end of the central narrative left me fairly shocked. I really didn’t see this coming.

Overall, I enjoyed The Old Man in the Corner. I would definitely want to read more of Baroness Orczy’s mysteries.

10.   The Fault in Our Stars John Green – 

I am not much into contemporary books. I am just not comfortable with modern fiction though I do try to read at least one or two each year. Also, this novel belongs to a genre that I am not much of a fan of, Young Adult or YA lit.

No, I didn’t need a boxful of tissues as many of my fellow readers said that I would. Books rarely make me cry (Goodbye, Mr. Chips being one of the very few exceptions). So, it’s not really the book’s fault. But yes I liked The Fault in Our Stars much better than I thought I would.

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My Top Ten Books 2011

I am normally very sure about what I like and what I don’t. So, doing top 10 best reads is usually a cinch for me. But last year was such a whirlwind! Also, my reading experiences were a bit of a mixed bag. There were a lot of books that I didn’t love but didn’t hate either. Thus, putting together a top 10 was more difficult than it usually is. Anyway here is my Top 10 Books for 2011 with excerpts from my reviews (Click on the titles for the full reviews),

1. 

Detective Stories. Philip Pullman.

The collection starts with The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1892. Panic grips a lonely woman when she starts to hear the same late night whistling noise that her twin sister spoke of in her dying moments…

2.

Very Good, Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse.

Jeeves and the Song of Songs (1929) has Bertie right in the middle of Tuppy Glossop’s tangled love life as he is forced to sing at a concert for Beefy Bingham. Anyone who has seen the 1990 series Jeeves and Wooster will appreciate this story even more. I recently watched a re-run of the show (I am too young to remember its original run) and thought  Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were absolutely marvellous in it!

 3.

 
Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier.

For me, Rebecca is about Rebecca. Long after the book ends her laughing, beautiful, cruel face stays vividly alive. She wins, as always, even in death.

4.

The Diary of a Nobody. George Grossmith.

I found several parts of the book quite funny. Like Lupin recklessly driving a pony-trap and causing general havoc in the streets while Mr. Pooter being seated at the back has to bear the wrath of  ‘a gang of roughs in a donkey-cart’. Or Mr. Cummings becoming ill and being angry at his friends for not reading about his illness in ‘The Bicycle News’. And Mr. Pooter getting annoyed after having to eat the same blanc-mange repeatedly.

5.

A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson.

I really liked how Bryson talks of the people behind the science. The lives of known and unknown people behind some of the greatest discoveries come alive through Bryson’s narrative.

6.
The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Liz Jensen.

Louis Drax is an accident prone boy. Ever since he was a baby he has been involved in more than his fair share of near fatal accidents. But so far they have all been just that, ‘nearly’ but not wholly ‘fatal’. On his ninth birthday, however, things may change for the worse. Louis may never come out alive from this ‘accident’.

7.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Haruki Murakami.

Sprawling, odd, complicated, scary, these are the words that come to my mind when I say the name, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I tried to keep an open mind and take it all in. But still at times I had to stop and think,

‘What on earth is this?’

8.

The Inimitable Jeeves. P. G. Wodehouse.

In Introducing Claude and Eustace and Sir Roderick Comes to Lunch, Bertie’s cousins, Claude and Eustace, come home with a top hat, several cats and a Salmon. Meanwhile, Sir Roderick Glossop, the noted nerve specialist, comes to lunch and questions Bertie’s sanity.

9.
Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings. Charles Dickens.

After Mrs. Lirriper’s drink loving husband perishes in an accident, Mrs. Lirriper starts to take in lodgers to make ends meet and also to pay off Mr. Lirriper’s debts. Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings describes some of her experiences as a lodge keeper… I liked how Mrs. Lirriper keeps addressing the reader as ‘My Dear’, as though she knows us all and is having an ordinary conversation with us. It is sort of comforting somehow.

&

 
Mrs Lirriper’s Legacy. Charles Dickens.

Mrs. Lirriper’s Legacy is a worthy conclusion to the story of Mrs. Lirriper.  The hopefulness of the first book comes to fruition in the second one.

10.

It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock – A Personal Biography. Charlotte Chandler.

I like the cover of the book. It is striking. As I read this book en route to my workplace many people asked me what book I was reading and they seemed genuinely interested in it.

Five Best Books of 2011 (so far)

In this week’s 5 Best Books we are asked to list our Five Best Books of 2011 (so far). I don’t really read that many newly published books. So, this will not really be a list of books that have been published this year. Rather this is the list of the top 5 books that I have read so far this year.

1. Detective Stories.  Philip Pullman. (1998)

2. Very Good, Jeeves.  P. G. Wodehouse. (1930)

3. The Diary of a Nobody. George Grossmith. (1892)

4. The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. Liz Jensen. (2004)

5. Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings. Charles Dickens. (1863)

Of the top 5 books two were published during the Victorian era, one during the early part of the 20th century & one in the latter part of  it and only one in this millennium. I think this is a pretty good statement about my reading habits. I prefer books published before the 1960’s. I do read modern books but only occasionally.

Detective Stories by Philip Pullman

Detective Stories is a 1998 collection of fifteen short stories and two brainteasers from the detective genre compiled by Philip Pullman. It is a part of Kingfisher Publication’s Red Hot Reads series.

The book tries to cover the entire detective genre right from Arthur Conan Doyle to Andrew Vachss. Pullman has tried to make a perfect combination of vintage and contemporary stories and he succeeds to a large degree.

The collection starts with The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine in 1892. Panic grips a lonely woman when she starts to hear the same late night whistling noise that her twin sister spoke of in her dying moments. I’ve read The Speckled Band before and I think that it is one of the best Sherlock Holmes short stories. The atmosphere of fear that Doyle manages to create in such a short space is admirable.

They Can Only Hang You Once by Dashiell Hammett was first published in 1932 in the Colliers magazine. In it Sam Spade investigates a double homicide. I didn’t really take to the character of Sam Spade. The main mystery is nothing really interesting, only a little weird.

The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb by Agatha Christie was first published in The Sketch magazine in 1923. A series of deaths at an Egyptian excavation site starts a frenzy of superstition. I have read this one before and think that it is one of the better early Poirot short stories. The murderer’s motive is a little thin in my opinion.

An extract for Erich Kästner’s classic children’s novel Emil and the Detectives (Emil und die Detektive in German) from 1929 is next. I had read the original novel as a child and enjoyed it greatly. This ‘extract’ will be highly dissatisfying for anyone who has not and even for those who have read the original novel. It feels awkward and hardly does the book any justice.

The Inspiration of Mr. Budd by Dorothy L. Sayers is a part of the short story collection In the Teeth of the Evidence (1939). A down on his luck hairdresser is confronted by a wanted criminal in his salon on a lonely afternoon. It is a good story but it doesn’t really fit in to the whole detective genre .

Butch Minds the Baby by Damon Runyon was published in Collier’s magazine in 1933. The perfect robbery needs the perfect safe breaker. But the problem is that the safe breaker is baby sitting for the evening and can’t leave the baby on its own. This is a really unusual story, unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s one of the best stories of the bunch.

Murder at St. Oswald’s by Michael Underwood was a part of Verdict of Thirteen: A Detection Club Anthology (1979). A group of 12 school boys plan to get rid of their bullying teacher. The story is kind of dull.

From Isaac Asimov’s the Casebook of the Black Widowers (1980) comes the story The Cross of Lorraine. It features his club of mystery solvers, The Black Widowers. A stage magician is looking for a woman he once met at a bus stop and seeks the help of The Black Widowers. The story starts out quite promisingly but ends rather uninterestingly.

The Newdick Helicopter by Leslie Charteris features the legendary character of the Saint. It was published in the short story collection Boodle in 1934. In this story Saint gives a con artist a taste of his own medicine. The story is interesting but dated.

Cold Money by Ellery Queen was published in the Ellery Queen magazine in 1952. A convicted bank robber gets murdered within days of being released from prison. The police suspect his former accomplices but finding any proof is harder than they think. The story is nothing original but enjoyable.

The One-Handed Murderer is an Italian folktale re-told by Italo Calvino. It was a part of his Italian Folktales (Fiabe Italiane) published in 1956. A young princess is chased across the land by a mysterious one-handed assassin. Considering the fact that this is a folktale, the story is surprisingly chilling.

Finger-Printing a Ghost is an excerpt from the non-fiction book From Memories of Murder by Tony Fletcher. A group of people try to finger print a pair of ghostly hands to make sure that it is indeed a ghost that they are seeing. I don’t get why this was included in this particular collection. It is more of a ‘paranormal phenomenon’ story than a detective one.

It’s a Hard World by Andrew Vachss was published as a part of the collection Born Bad (1994). A man on the run tries to dodge a pack of ruthless killers amidst the chaos of a busy airport. This interesting and incredibly short story feels like a throw back to the ‘noir’ genre.

Maddened by Mystery is a satire on the detective genre by Stephen Leacock. It was published in his book Nonsense Novels in 1911. I really didn’t like him making fun of my favourite genre. For a satire it’s not even funny.

Two brainteasers by Raymond Smullyan called From the Files of Inspector Craig and More From the Files of Inspector Craig are also included in the book. They are mathematical in nature. I managed to solve a few of them but I’m not really good at this kind of stuff. The solutions to Inspector Craig’s problems are given at the end of the book.

My favourites form the book are The Speckled Band and Butch Minds the Baby. The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb and It’s a Hard World are also good.

The cover is amazing! It has a kind of ‘pulp magazine’ like quality to it.

The book comes with a cool bookmark that features the other books in the Red Hot Reads series.

The illustrations by Nick Hardcastle are not up to the mark. But if I were a young person I’d probably be too engrossed in the story to be bothered with such trifles.

This collection is mainly aimed at younger readers but adults can equally enjoy it (as I did). Recommended for fans of the detective genre. Detective Stories is a true treat!

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Musing Mondays (June 13)

This week’s Musing Mondays from Should Be Reading  asks…

“What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?”

It’s been a while since I have stayed up half the night reading something. I use to do that a lot as a teenager. But now as a working person my sleep is very dear to me. The last book I had trouble putting down was a collection of detective short stories compiled by Philip Pullman called simply Detective Stories. It was a great read for a mystery buff like me. I enjoyed it a lot!