Summer reading part 1
I am fascinated by the 1930s - literature, art, politics. I've read a lot about Britain in the period, but shamefully for a French graduate I'm rather ignorant of the feel of the decade in France. This is a fairly dense read, and it's not going to be too cheerful. Right now I'm still in the aftermath of the First World War and its effect on the French social and political psyche.
When I want cheered up I turn to Ned Boulting's account of the 2014 Tour de France. This is funny in the category of "Oh no, Mum's laughing out loud at a book on a transatlantic flight" - blame Bill Bryson for that one. In fact I've enjoyed it so much I extended its loan period and am on my second reading. I now accept I'm going to have to buy it.
Because I'm new to this following cycling lark, I've only just become aware of Matt Rendell. Matt is a freelance cycling commentator/author. During this year's Tour he did an exquisite interview in French with a former French cycling professional turned journalist about his sceptical comments on Chris Froome's performance. You can see it at the end of this short clip here. Just shows the power of being able to speak other languages. After all that I felt I should read Matt's book about the history of the Tour de France. As the French would say, 'j'ai appris des choses', discovering the even more extreme, punishing early days of the race, how the time trial and peleton came about, and how the race has adapted over the years.
A very pastoral, ideal-for summer read next - the life of an English meadow through a year. Poetic yet brutally realistic about nature. I've learned about moles harvesting worms and keeping them in suspended animation in worm-larders underground. The Wind in the Willows didn't mention that.
Ever since watching the original BBC TV series of Survivors in the late 1970s I've been fascinated by post-apocalyptic scenarios. That fascination has been tempered a bit since I've become a mother. No hospitals! dentists! pain relief! But without going as far as being a prepper I am concerned that we are really pretty helpless about even basic survival skills. This was a very technical book, some of which I glazed over because of my complete lack of scientific knowledge. I guess I could be useful growing food and making contact with French survivors. In fact this year's Scottish summer made me conclude that the only sensible thing to do would be to pack up here and head for the south of France, where at least post-apocalyptic misery would be slightly warmer.
Last year I read a fascinating account of life in North Korea - a survival situation if ever there was one - by a former British diplomat there: 'Only Beautiful Please'. 'North Korea Undercover' is by a journalist who travelled to North Korea embedded in a party of students. There was a fuss about it in the news when the subterfuge came out. I was disappointed by this book - I felt it was sensationalist/tabloid-ish in parts, and I limped along to the end.
That's another thing to add to my 'appreciating Edinburgh' list - great public libraries.