Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recent reading

Since my departure from the world of book publishing I have, perhaps surprisingly, been reading even more. It might be because I have all the time in the world now to read the books I really want to read. Here is a selection of some of my favourites from the last few months.

What I Wore Today is a collection of photographs of "real" girls and what they wear from day-to-day. Like most stylish ladies, these girls mix vintage, thrift, chain-store and designer items to create their own personal, and inspirational style. A nice distillation of what is going on with blogs like mine and myriad others and with sites like Wardrobe Remix and Look Book. Published by Graffito.

I couldn't wait to read Richard Flanagan's newbie as I really admired Sound of One Hand Clapping and Gould's Book of Fish. Wanting has thus far been praised by reviewers far and wide and nominated for umpteen awards, and while some other fellow literary fans weren't that moved by it, I really liked this book, despite the tenuous connection between the two parallel story lines. The story of Matthina, the young Aboriginal girl adopted by the Governor of TAS and his wife, really touched my heart. An important reminder of the tragedy of colonisation for the colonised and the ease with which the colonisers can embrace murky morality.

A lavishly illustrated reference book about all the leading vintage stores in Paris. A great book to have in your suitcase if you are going to Paris anytime soon. Not just couture as implied by the title, it covers all manner of stores from those selling Haute Couture to stores devoted exclusively to groovy seventies and eighties sunglasses. Paris truly is an amazing city for fashion-lovers and I only wish I could go back soon, with this book in my hand, sans boyfriend, and with a fashion savvy girlfriend with a lot of stammina by my side.

WOW. This is my pick for best book of 2008, at least of those I've read so far! I was a huge fan of Lahiri's novel The Namesake and this book of short stories just blew me away. Lahiri's writing focuses on the Bengali/American immigrant experience and in the Unaccustomed Earth she explores the world of the second generation immigrant offspring and how they navigate the disparate influences of their conservative parents and their more mainstream American peers. I know some people aren't big fans of short stories but I love the medium, especially when done right (Alice Munro anyone?). Lahiri already won a Pulitzer for her first collection of short stories and it isn't hard to see why. Lahiri creates such authentic worlds in her stories that the emotions her characters lives engendered in me were palpable. The last three stories are linked and in only 100 pages she managed to make me care for the protagonists so deeply that the ending touched my soul in a way that I couldn't shake for days.
This book made it onto the NY Times bestseller list, which is a testament to fantastic word of mouth, and I'm going to do the same by saying JUST READ IT.
Published by Bloomsbury.
An accomplished and interesting debut from a young English writer The Truth About These Strange Times is a rather disturbing tale about a lonely young man living on the fringes of society who finds himself welcomed into the home of an upwardly mobile family with a child prodigy son. He becomes convinced he has to 'save' the boy from his overbearing father and of course disaster ensues. How the whole story will unfold though remains a mystery, and it certainly kept me reading.

Definitely in my top five for 2008, this was a must-read for me after I loved A Long Long Way so much. The novel is the life story of a very elderly woman who has languished in an institution for the mentally ill most of her life, as cobbled together by her sympathetic psychiatrist as he struggles to find out how she came to be there in the first place. Barry is one of the great Irish writers, I think, when it comes to understanding the often sad history of his country. Without giving too much away, Barry employs the great literary conceit of coincidence to excellent effect in this novel. The Secret Scripture is also a fascinating look at the limited lives of women without means in the early part of last century.
Published by Faber, I spent some time with Sebastian when he was out for the Brisbane Writer's Festival a few years ago and he is a truly lovely man. All the more reason to support his book!

An account from a UK journalist, who was one of the last debutantes to curtsey in front of The Queen, of her debut year in 1958. Very interesting as social anthropology and extremely well written, Fiona chronicles the dying days of The Deb with aplomb. Also contains some fab fifties frock pics.
Published by Bloomsbury.

I must confess I was the publicist on Craig's first book but that doesn't make it any less awesome. Craig (a producer and broadcaster at Triple J) has a sponge for a brain and has managed to turn his love of art and music into a writing career. This book is an examination of the commonalities between the Romantic movement and mainstream pop, most particularly the Emo movement and its myriad precursors. A great book to dip in and out of, for music geeks everywhere.
Published by ABC Books.

A gift from my parents for Christmas, alas I didn't make it to the Golden Age of Couture exhibition in Bendigo (it is thirteen hours or so away and life and bush-fires kind of got in the way), but thankfully I have this beautiful book to console me. A delight for fans of mid-century couture, the book is filled with inspirational dresses from the likes of Dior, Balenciaga and Givenchy. The decade following World War II was one of immense creativity in fashion and this book tells you all about the artists that changed the way women dressed.

Another Christmas gift, readers of my blog would know that I am a big Elizabeth Taylor fan, and this book is a photo essay of her life. So many beautiful photos to drool over of Elizabeth in movie-making mode as well as relaxing with her kids and many husbands. Am convinced that Elizabeth has one of the best noses ever, not to mention her amazing eyes.
Some nice style porn pics too.

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