2022 minus 29: Ten books on my shelf

Posted: 3 December 2021 in 2022 minus, personal, ten things
Tags: , ,

I have a bookcase. It looks like this.

Now, the eagle eyed among you will spot that there are little rectangular cells in which there are lots of books.

There are fifteen, or eighteen of them… depending on how you count them. (The book case/shelves are actually two, screwed. together. But yeah, that’s what gives the ‘middle’ bit its own cells.)

You can see even from a brief look that the bottom half has mostly comics.

But yeah, there are various ‘cells’ of books. Some of them are even put together; the middle cell, the one with the white book just poking out is full of Irving Wallace novels and David Morrell novels; two of my favourite authors.

But yeah. There are my books. And, just for the hell of it and for no better reason than why the hell not?, I’m going to take the next three Fridays, identify thirty books on my shelves, ten books ten ‘cells’, each week. There will obviously be more than one book from several ‘cells’ by the end, but hey my bookshelves are chaotic, why shouldn’t this be equally so

Now, since comics collected in trade paperbacks are, obviously a lot thinner in the main than hardbacks or paperback novels or non-fiction, that may be a bit unfair to the comics. So, if I think that is the case, after three weeks, I’ll do another ten trades afterwards. We’ll see,

Two rules before we start.

  1. I own many, many more books and comics’ trades than are shown on these two shelves. They’re just what I have up now. The rest are in various boxes, and indeed there are two piles of books you can’t see, some of which are books I’ve read andf just haven’t replaced on the shelves and some of which are my ‘still to be read at some point…’
  2. The usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten books I’ve picked. Another week could be ten others, and in fact will be.

Oh, and 3. (Yeah, I know but it’s not a rule as such: I’m going to be bouncing around the shelves.)

Oh, and just for fun, I’ll tell you the other book I almost wrote about this week from that cell.

Let’s start with a goodie.

All I Ever Wrote – Ronnie Barker

There may be finer comedy writers in the field of sketch comedy than Ronnie Barker; I mean, I wouldn’t disagree if you offered John Finnemore as the finest sketch writer working today. And, let’s face it, Victoria Wood was about as good as they come. Further, there may have been comedy writers who lasted longer, or hit bigger audiences.

But for my mind, as a comedy writer up there with the very very best, for sketch writing, monologues and silent comedy, there’s no one to touch Ronnie Barker (or Gerald Wiley as he sometimes went by) at his peak. So much of The Two Ronnies greatest sketches were down to him. Four Candles alone puts him up there. The book should be just one to dip in and out of. It’s not. If I pick it up, I’m not putting it down for an hour. At least. Glorious, clever, funny comedy. No wonder I like it do much.

Thank You For Your Support (I’ll Wear It Always) – So many people

This is an odd one. After my brother died, his widow asked friends and family for reminiscences, for funny stories, for sad stories, about him. For tales about what it was like to know my brother Michael. And she then put them together in a book, which she offered for sale to benefit the Jewish Bereavement Service, who’d helped her so much in the aftermath of Mike’s tragic death. It’s a wonderful book but it’s one I can’t easily read, for obvious reasons. But it’s on my shelf (twice as it happens). It’ll never not be there.

Blackadder Scripts – Richard Curtis

Another book of scripts – you’ll see there are several.

I’m not the hugest fan of the first series of Blackadder, and I always thought it was becaiuse of the scripts and plots. Until I read the scripts, together with the other series’ scripts. The first series is just as as strong, just as clever, and in some ways actually cleverer comedy than the later shows, when they became reliant (overly reliant?) on catchphrases and self-referential gags. The first series is raw, unquestionably, but it’s truer to the original idea, and the characters are not as set as they later became. And the first series – at least in script form – is all the better for it.

Which means, I guess, that it’s either the direction or the acting that hurts the first series. I dunno. But it’s probably the first time I read scripts and got a completely different take on something, that made me appreciate it more, than from watching it.

The Plot – Will Eisner

Will Eisner was the master of graphic storytelling, with a style that was entirely his own, that no one’s come close to topping. And while his earlier works — this was his last published work — are fantastic, it’s this book that for me hits home the hardest.

A masterly examination of, and destruction of, the myth, the hoax, the scam, that was the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Eisner shows, from and by his research, how they were created for reasons of politcial bullshit, how the bullshit was promoted, and how the bullshit was defended, and how it was shown to be unfettered, unreserved, unmitigated bullshit. And then how the bullshit goes on. And on. And on.

Superb and I’d recommend it to all without a moment’s hesitation.

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

It’s hard to pick a favourite from these, especially since there’s my favourite ever novel there on the far right, and the wonderful whimsical satire of Alan Coren up there as well, but it comes down to Neverwhere; it always comes down to Neverwhere.

Let’s be fair, there’s never going to be a bookshelf of mine without a selection of Neil’s writings. (I’ve always considered it incredibly fortunate that I discovered Neil’s writings, and discovered my enjoyment of them, before he became a friend.)

But yeah, Neverwhere. It’s my favourite of Neil’s novels, and while there’s very little he’s written I’ve not liked (reminder: not liking something isn’t the same as disliking), there is some, occasionally. Neverwhere soars above everything else for me. And I love this edition with Chris Riddell’s glorious art.

I remain very grateful that Neil’s never put me into that world, as a completely stoned budgerigar, referred to all in London Below by the name High Barnet(t).

Sandman Overture – Neil Gaiman

I didn’t mean to do this, honest — the order of the ‘cells’ was chosen randomly — but yeah, another of Neil’s. I love Sandman as a series, and it’d be tough to pick a favourite story arc; I’ve two or three definites that’d fight it out. But I’m picking Overture for three simple reasons.

  1. After so long away from the characters, it remains a delight to me that the characters managed to evolve while Neil was telling a story of the past.
  2. I was fortunate enough to read the first issue before it was published and I suspect my reaction of “AND…? What happens NEXT?” was exactly what Neil wanted.
  3. The book itself was a gift from my ex-wife who saw it, bought it for me out of sheer wonderful friendship, and because she knew I’d like it. I’m sure that somewhere in Sandman there’s a lesson to be learned about valuing the people you care about and who care about you. (Maybe in A Game of You?) I’m very grateful that Laura and I remain friends, and the closest of friends at that.

No surprise that future ‘ten books’ will always include something by Neil…

Chumash – Well, I don’t know

Well, who the hell would you say wrote it, be fair? The “Jewish’ shelf. The cell that conatins not all but most of the jewish texts I have, as well as my tallit and a coupel of kippahs. Not a lot to say about this cell other than my god, the memories… the memories.

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud

Many years ago, there was a series of “The Bluffer’s Guide to…” Ostensibly writen for the uninformed, on a variety of subjects, the unspoken secret of the books’ success was that they were actually written for people who knew the subject matter very well indeed; I remember doubling over with laughter at the gags in the accountancy one.

This isn’t one of those books. It’s written for both the comics insider and the comics outsider, for those who write, draw and prodiuce comics… and for those who’ve barely even seen a comic in 20 years.

Writing the history of comics and an instruction manual that doesn’t feel like an instruction manial, and a text book that doesn’t feel like a textbook, and a slew of examples that actually move a story forward should have been an impossible task. McCloud manages it in style and I’d recomend this for anyone with even the faintest curiosity about or interest in comics.

Jews Don’t Count – David Baddiel

What the hell can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said better and by more distinguished people? It’s been described as a polemic but I don’t think that’s true. Not really. To me, that implies ranting and there’s none here. There’s a very, sure. And upset. And irritation and frustration in equal measure. But this is calmly angry, a cold burning at the injustice revealed.

(There’ll be a full review of this before the year end but I need to reread it a couple of times before that).

David takes as his basis for the book the idea, the well-proven and eqaully well evidenced concept, that prejudice against one minority, against jews, that anti-Jewish bigotry, that antisemitism, seems to be left out of the ‘oh, I’m an anti-racist, me‘ area of progressive politics. Casual antisemitism continues to infect the public arena and antisemites are welcomed by people into that sphere, into that sphere, as if their antisemitism is less disqualifying than bad breath or acne. People accept, and indeed have no problem with, antisemitic discourse and overt (as well as covert) antisemitism as either unimportant or, perhaps equally insidiously, as ‘a price worth paying’ in a way that other racism simply would not be accepted.

It’s a clever, suprisingly funy given the subject material, devastating book that everyone should read. Everyone… especially those who hold themselves out as part of that progressive politics strain but who think jews just make too much a fuss, y’know…?

The Brotherhood of the Rose – David Morrell

While my favourite novel remains The Man by Irving Wallace — there’s a hardback first edition 50th birthday present elsewhere on the shelves — this novel, by David Morrell is simply wonderful and is almost falling apart from having been reread so many times . The first of a trilogy, it was the first time I’d come across the combination of intelligent spy novel and action thriller. Most spy novels have one or the other. This one had both. And I was hooked instantly.

Well, that was fun. See you next Friday for ten more.

If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.

I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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