Holiday reading

I made sure I packed my Kindle 3 when I went to Canada last month. I had two long transatlantic flights and lots of planned down-time in parks and beaches for reading. So what follows is a brief review of what I managed to get through (which is not at all as much as I’d planned, due to the multiple distractions of Montreal, Quebec and Toronto).


First up is “How to be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran. This was actually the first “sample” I ever downloaded from Amazon and I immediately bought the whole thing after reading the first chapter. Difficult to summarise, it’s a mix of autobiography, feminist thought leadership and reflection on what is wrong with the world when it comes to how women are treated.

I love a good rant (can’t you tell from this blog?) and this was right up my street. I challenge you to download the sample from Amazon and not buy the book the same day. It made me laugh out loud several times on the flight to Montreal. It’s been a long time since a book did that.

The only challenge was answering the inevitable question: “What’s so funny?” from my mildly annoyed other half. Explaining how someone wearing underpants inherited from their mum can be hilarious is tough. Same goes for passages relating to shopping for bras and the chapter on menstruation.

Not usually a laughing matter, I’ll grant you.

But all of these topics are handled so well by Caitlin (I now feel I can call her that, knowing as much about her life as I do) that you can’t be offended or even bored. I’m a man, dammit (and a member of the Patriarchy, obviously) and felt this book spoke to me on so many levels.

Who hasn’t felt awkward as a teenager? Who hasn’t regretted their own arrogance in their first job? Who hasn’t woken up after a heavy night and wondered what exactly happened to explain the mess/clothes/person near you?

I can safely say that now I too am a feminist. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Next up? Quite a change in tone.

Anno Dracula” by Kim Newman. I promised myself I would use my holiday to read for fun, as opposed to all the journal articles and psychology texts I’ve had to wade through while working on the doctorate. Anno Dracula combines counterfactual history and horror in one marvellous, over the top package.

It picks up from Bram Stoker’s original Dracula story (and if you’ve never read the original, you definitely should), but takes a “what if?” approach.

What if Dracula had actually defeated Van Helsing and gone on to thrive in London? What if, in fact, he had managed to charm his way into society to the extent that he manages to woo and marry a bereaved Queen Victoria?

Anno Dracula is set in a London where the aristocracy are becoming vampires – it’s the new “in thing”. As society gradually turns, what about those remaining characters from the original book? Mina Harker? Jack Seward? Van Helsing? They’re all in there, in one way or another, along with dozens of other historical and fictional characters.

Who hasn’t wanted to read about Oscar Wilde critiquing a play to an audience of aristocratic vampires? Of how Dr. Henry Jekyll and Dr. Moreau deal with the scientific challenges of vampirism? And what does Sherlock Holmes have to say about it all?

Read Anno Dracula and find out. Happily, there are more books in the series and I (seriously) can’t wait to get my hands on them.


Finally, on the plane home from Toronto, I started Warren Ellis’s “Crooked Little Vein“. I love his comics writing, so I thought I’d give his novel a shot.

It’s basically your down-at-heel Private Eye story, but told so well and so amusingly, it’s hard not to like.

The main character (and narrator) is both revolting and loveable in his honesty. I’m tearing through it at the moment (I needed to get some sleep on the plane) and can recommend it to anyone who likes gritty detective novels with a touch of contemporary social commentary.

Oh and politics.

Oh and lots and lots of freaks.

Sexual freaks.

So, quite a diverse set of books. And probably a decent insight into what makes me tick. Oh dear.

My “to read” collection on the Kindle seems to be getting longer, not shorter. But that’s not a bad thing.

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