In other words, here are some reviews of the books I found wrapped up under my tree on Christmas morning. I basically spent a lot of my festivetime being an absolute bookworm to avoid, y’know, actually doing anything. IT’S THE HOLIDAYS, I WAS ALLOWED. A few of these, you might have already read or heard of, but hopefully one or two others might spark some interest. Plus, most of them are under a fiver on Amazon, therefore a cheap and cheerful way to improve your morning journeys to work/Uni etc. (Also, very likely to keep you up late. Avoid evening reading unless you’re more disciplined than me.)
Dean Koontz – Watchers
Dean Koontz is one of my all-time favourite authors, responsible for one of my all-time favourite books, Odd Thomas (and I didn’t even hate the film!). Although I thought it was a brand new tome going by the snazzy new cover (SEE, JUDGING IS BAD) Watchers was actually released in 1987, but somehow managed to pass me by when I buzzed my way through Koontz’ back catalogue. Which comes as a bit of a surprise really, as its actually credited as one of the stories that really cemented his best-selling author status. And also because, well, it’s brilliant. As in, close to Odd Thomas in terms of how much I liked it kinda brilliant. Edited at the last minute because, after a bit of dwelling…I think I like this one even more.
As per usual, the book is well-written, treading the balance between intellectual but still easily digestable for most. But, as much as I love Koontz for his suspense writing, it’s his ability to examine the human condition within his stories that sets him apart from other authors within those genres. Parts of this book actually made me get a bit teary, and I very, very rarely do so with books. And not just because it involves a dog (I AM a sucker for a pup though). The story of Nora and Travis’ journey and personal development and bond with the dog is just so heartwarming and moving. Despite being technically a sci-fi thriller, it really tells a story of humanity, of good vs evil and the interpretations to be found inbetween. Humanity is a running theme within many of Koontz’ books, but in Watchers its a particular highlight of the entire story. And what a story it is.
Danny Wallace – Who Is Tom Ditto?
FACT: I once walked past Danny Wallace outside Norwich train station, and he’s one of the first famous people that I actually NOTICED I was walking past. Best known for ‘accidentally creating a cult’ with his Join Me movement and his book Yes Man being turned into a Hollywood movie featuring Jim Carrey, this is Wallace’s second foray into the world of fiction novels.
Who Is Tom Ditto? has a wonderful way of immersing the surreal into the familiar – despite the path Tom finds himself going down being pretty odd, the London-setting and everyday activities still present in his life bring a sense of reality to the unusual. Although I wouldn’t say this is a ‘comedy’ book (aka no embarrassing laughter on the bus warning needed), there’s a lot of humour to the story. It’s definitely a page-turner as you race through to discover what the hell’s happening next, and I actually ended up staying up until about 4am to finish it. Wouldn’t advise that on a work night though…
Dave Gorman – Too Much Information
I’m quite the avid fan of Dave Gorman, from his earlier Googlewhack days to his current offering on Dave (the channel), Modern Life Is Goodish. Dave (the person) is what I’d probably describe as an ‘observational humourist’. His work doesn’t provide the ridiculous belly-aching laughter of some stand-ups – but instead, a really engaging intelligent humour that raises plenty of giggles and knowing chuckles.
The book, split into easily digestable anecdotes, is great to dip in and out of – so brilliant for commuting as you’re a little bit less likely to miss your stop. Dave’s musings are incredibly smart, the kind you wished you were bright enough to notice. He picks up on the things that are glaringly obvious once he mentions them yet you’d never have noticed them yourself. The only *slightly* disappointing element of the book was the repetition of some of the stories he’d already told on MLIG, as I’d heard them before I wasn’t as engrossed in these chapters.
Hadley Freeman – Be Awesome
I’ve had this on my to-read list for a while, and finally got around to giving it a read over Christmas. If you want a kick-ass book to make you want to get off your ass and show the world how awesome you are, this one’s great inspiration. Covering a range of feminist-friendly topics, Hadley Freeman’s style is witty, sarcastic and smart. Basically, like that sure-of-herself badass pal that you just want to be.
Despite there being no major new ground or hard-hitting feminist theory being covered in the book, Hadley’s style of writing is just fantastic – really engaging, and intelligent without sounding like a womens’ studies textbook. It’s definitely a book I’ll be dipping into when I want an awesomeness pickup.
Caitlin Moran – How To Build A Girl
While we’re on the subject of ladies who rock, I also picked up Caitlin Moran’s not-an-autobiographical-tale-honestly novel, How To Build A Girl. I really enjoyed How To Be A Woman, despite there being parts I found myself disagreeing with (and for someone who’s working on their role in the world as an opinionated thinker, that’s actually a wonderful thing). The main thing that stood out in HTBAW was Moran’s punchy, quirky writing style – and that’s something that comes across perfectly in fiction.
There’s plenty of filth alongside genuine heartwarming moments – awkwardness abound, with snappy, wry humour. Even if you don’t always agree with Moran when she’s waxing lyrical on Twitter, this is a down-to-earth and witty story that’s totally worth chucking into your bag for a long journey.
What have you been reading recently?