31/12/2020

Reading - December 2020

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham (1996)
My copy of this book is the US edition, which dates it fairly precisely for me because I would almost certainly have bought it in 1998, while I was working in Boston for a couple of months. My colleagues in the US were a nice bunch but it was unreasonable to expect them to entertain a visitor every night, so I spent a lot of time by myself. Luckily I was staying near Faneuil Hall market, which had a large bookshop (if I remember rightly, anyway) and so I passed many hours there. I can't remember if I discovered Grisham at that time, or had just done so, but anyway I have several of his novels from there. This is a great read, typical of his early novels, as long as you don't examine the plot too carefully. In this case, one of the characters even manages to spell out the main plot hole explicitly, while wondering how two of the main characters know so much about him. It's never explained, which doesn't really spoil the story.
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (1998)
Re-reading this now, after a year of having our awareness raised of racism and associated matters, I'm wondering what to make of this a book about a black, African woman, written as it is by a white, male, Scottish academic. The obvious reaction would now be to label this "cultural appropriation" but (as I feel is often the case with this term), this is simplistic and missing the point. It seems to me that the characters are written sympathetically and respectfully and with an understanding of the culture, which is surely all we can ask. It's clearly ridiculous to demand that authors write only of what they have direct experience. Anyway, all that aside, I still think this book is a master-class in clear, simple writing. It also reminded me of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories, which I haven't read for a long time.
The Guitar Magazine (January 2021 / Issue388)
Including the "Gear of the Year" feature, this year thankfully shorter than usual - it always annoyed me when it took half the magazine, since I'd already ready all those features anyway. 
The Science of Everyday Life by Marty Jopson (2018)
The book's subtitle, "Why teapots dribble, toast burns and light bulbs shine", does it a disservice, as it includes loads more snippets of scientific curiosities than this. Each of the sixty short essays tackles a different part of life in a light but informative way. I enjoyed it very much (and thank you to the kids, who bought it for me for Chanukah).

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