Well, it’s February already and, chances are, if you made any New Year’s self-improvement resolutions, you’ve probably broken them by now.
Vowed to give up alcohol? Oh dear, how did that bottle of Merlot sneak it’s way down my throat last Friday night? Promised to go to the gym three times a week? But there’s been snow and everything and it’s so cooold! Absolutely no more fags? Yeah, that quick puff while you walked the dog does count!
Never mind, we’re all weak willed humans, but thanks to Amazon and e-readers, if you want to embrace the spirit of the ‘New Year, New You’ ethos you can do it without leaving the settee let alone the house!
As the shiny promise of a new year glitters ahead I think we can all be guilty of reading laziness, sticking to the same old genres because they’re comfy and snugly. So why not break away from the familiar and expand your reading scope? It still counts as ‘New Year’ self improvement and is much easier to stick to than taking up marathon running, mastering Japanese cooking or learning to speak Spanish!)
So here’s my 2013 Try It, You Might Like It list.
I’m no geek! Can’t stomach Sci –fi?
Try an ultimate classic like Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. No, I’m not kidding. It’s set on Mars, yes, but it reads more like a frontier history looking at the way the colonisation affects the earth and the planet which may or may not contain intelligent life. And it’s beautifully written (just don’t be tempted to watch the Rock Hudson-starring 1970s adaptation instead, it’ll put you off sci-fi forever!)
Or be right up to date and pick up Ian McDonald’s Brasyl or River of Gods. These are ‘near future’ recognisable versions of cyber/punk earth with mysteries wrapped around them. But Macdonald excels in creating a sense of place so ‘real’ and vivid you can smell, taste and feel the locations, namely Brasyl/Rio and ‘India’ which are as much characters in the books as the humans.
Whodunnit? Who cares? Don’t do detectives?
You’re missing out if you’ve never tried Kate Atkinson. Her first Inspector Brodie novel Case Histories was never intended to be part of a series but when you read it you’ll see why they’re now so eagerly anticipated. This is detecting of superior literary quality, usually with a cast of intriguing characters and converging plot strands that read like ‘contemporary’ fiction than a ‘procedural’. (And it’s a pretty good BBC Series now with Jason Isaacs)
I object, your honour! Don’t like legal eagles?
Try Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent. It’s an 1980s bestseller for good reason, made into a faithful film adaptation, with remarkably little silly courtroom shenanigans. If you can ignore the dubious 80s sexual politics Harrison Ford is the lawyer who finds himself in hot water when his mistress is found murdered and the clues point to him. But read the book first and exercise your investigative brain cells!
Bleurggh! Brains! Don’t do zombies?
Max Brook’s World War Z might make you want to get ‘prepping’ and stocking up on bottled water and loo roll! This ‘Oral History of the Zombie War’ is going to be a film this summer starring Brad Pitt. (Though how anyone can take him seriously after that Chanel Advert is anyone’s guess!) Unlike other zombie-fests this is a collection of ‘first person’ accounts, a retrospective history of the zombie apocalypse through different ‘reportage’ styles. It considers the social/political/economic implications of a global disaster, the various government responses, interspersed with the more personal accounts.
I don’t get it! Don’t do humour?
Try David Mitchell’s Starter for Ten. This is much better than his more famous chick fest One Day telling the story of a working class boy in the 90s who really, REALLY wants to be on University Challenge. The film version with James McEvoy, though not quite as funny and cringe-inducing as the book, is really good too – if only to see Benedict Sherlock Cumberband losing his rag as the worlds poshest, prissiest team captain.
Pah, pink and fluffy! Don’t like ‘lady’ fiction?
Try Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride or Anita Shreve’s Weight of Water. There’s nothing ‘girly’ about these dark tales of betrayal, love, friendship, sex, death, history, myth making and obsession. (Come on now ladies, play nice!)
Raise your pulse with Dennis Lehane’s noirish Shutter Island. Hard boiled and atmospheric, all is not what it seems at a creepy psychiatric hospital on an island in Boston harbour. (The movie with Leonardo Di Caprio is pretty good too, except for the intrusive, portentous music!).
Or don’t doze off to SJ Watson’s – Before I Go to Sleep. Christine wakes every day with no memory of her life before that moment – so it’s a good job her loving husband is on hand to fill in the blanks, isn’t it?
Try them all, you might like them! (and feel a lovely ‘New Year’ smugness in the process!)
By the way, I don’t ‘do’ fantasy and supernatural stuff – in the spirit of Try It, You Might Like It, please feel free to give me your recommendations!