2022 minus 15: [Another] Ten [more] books on my shelf

Posted: 17 December 2021 in 2022 minus, personal, ten things
Tags: , ,

This is effectively part three of this mini-run; part one’s here; part two’s here.]

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.

And… no, wait.

Since you’re unlikely to be reading this third part without knowing what I’m doing, I’m going to skip most of the introduction and just get down to it. (The introduction in full is in both the previous parts one and two.)

The 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 and 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 4… (yes, yes) I’m breaking my own rules here since it’s the third part, and doing more than one book in three cases below, for what will be obvious reasons.

The Time Patrol – Poul Anderson

If there’s a better writer for clever, deceptively simple, time travel stories than Poul Anderson, I don’t know who he or she is. I’m a sucker for time travel stories, the paradoxes, the chance to draw your protagonists, your antagonists and your supporting cast from the whole of history… and even the whole ‘let’s fix what has gone wrong’. And Anderson is just so damn good at it. In There Will Be Time, another of his time travel books, he focuses in on two characters: one who travels and one who doesn’t.

Here he expands that, and while you have one main character, pretty much everyone involved is a time traveller of some sort, most belonging to the titular Time Patrol, founded by a less than altruistic group who set it up to ensure that the timeline that leads to them is the one that survives. Yet good can be done, and is done, by those who patrol the timelines, ensuring that gratuitous wars, deaths don’t occur but making sure the ones that did happen, erm, do. I kind of wish there were in real life the grammatical tenses developed so time travellers can talk to each other and still make sense.

This is a collection of short stories and they’re the very exemplar of how time travel stories should be written.

The Sandman – Neil Gaiman

The first of my ‘cheats’, as I’m including an entire run here – Neil’s astonishing run on The Sandman. (Oh, I do have the ‘missing volumes’ above, by the way; they’re just in a pile for me to reread.)

I’m not sure what I can say about The Sandman that hasn’t been said by wiser and smarter people who are better at wurds than me. It rewards rereading; there’s never something new I don’t get from it, but that’s not the sole reason I reread it. I enjoy knowing the characters I read will change as I read the full run, even those who won’t want to. And it’s fascinating every time, reading that change. And I can’t say better than that.

The Compleet Molesworth – Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

I read the original four books contained in this collection – Down with Skool!, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms, Back in the Jug Agane – and yes I’m including both the writer and the artist since I find it impossible to think of Molesworth without picturing him (and his schoolmates and teachers). And you can thank Ronald Searle for that. (Oddly, I think I came across Searle first in sketches of young girls on ponies he did for a magazine. I digress.)

The conceit used in the books is glorious: a pre-teen – when it starts – kid at a minor public school, St Custards, writing about school, and suggesting how to succeed in life., The books are full of [deliberate] misspellings and are pure acnarchic nonsense. Wonderfully funny, clever as hell and just a pure wonder from start to finish. I can’t ever imagine having a bookshelf without Molesworth being there somewhere.

(They recently republished the long out of print origins of Molesworth, a series of pieces written during WWII. Less polished than the version that appears in the books, they’re still pretty wonderful. I recommend them for any Molesworth fan.)

The Fuse – Anthony Johnston and Justin Greenwood

Another cheat since I picked up the final trade only a month ago. Anthony’s fantastic, sf wonder, about police on a space station, where things aren’t as simple as they appear (of course) people have hidden agendas and the only thing you can trust is the information you’ve gleaned yourself, and the only person you can trust completely is yourself. And not always then.

Various kids’ books about Judiasm

I’m putting these in here just to prove that a) I am very old and b) I was a very studious child, a bit of a Jewish swot. These were prizes at cheder, Sunday School.

Oh, and one final amusing bit. The cover of the first book above, looks like this. I was genuinely pleased to have to do a double take when I started reading The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.

I wonder why…


Anyway… moving on…

The Beatles Complete – The Beatles

I have no musical talent. None. I can pick out a tune on a keyboard and am intending, in the near future to learn to play the mouth organ. Which will be a test for both me and whoever’s the poor fool I take lessons from.

But this isn’t there for me to appreciate the music. Not really. It’s there because my late brother loved this book to play to, and to learn from. He did, as I’ve mentioned previously, play the guitar… with admittedly more enthusiasm than genuine talent. But he would crack this open fairly regularly, and pencil in the chords. And when he died and his widow asked me if I wanted anything from his shelves, this was one of the books I took to always remember him by.


Yossel, April 19, 1943 – Joe Kubert

Yossel is one of the odder comic books I own. Most comic books are printed on Matt or glossy paper. This is printed on thick paper that’s almost cardlike. Most comics are pencilled, then inked, then coloured. This is pencils only. And it’s incredible. It’s kind of a ‘What if…?’ written and drawn by Joe Kubert… as a ‘what if my parents hadn’t gotten out? What if I’d not gotten out?’

Out from what? Well…

Well, do I need to say more? 

Just buy it; although it’s only indirectly linked, I can’t imagine it not being next to The Plot (mentioned previously in this run) on my shelves.

The Political Animal – Jeremy Paxman

Paxman’s best book, by far, in my opinion. It’s a study not of British politics, but of British politicians: what makes them tick? Are there any similarities between politicians of wildly opposing viewpoints? Are there surprising similarities? How can politicians who believe such wildly different things be genuine friends? How does one become the sort of person who regards politics as a worthwhile endeavour. Many many perceptive observations are made, many compromises are identified, and many hypocrisies speared.

One lesson I’ve taken from it, when Paxman observes that only in politics and religion is it held and seen as a positive virtue to hold the same, unchanging, opinion for 20 or more years. And Paxman believes it’s for the same reason in both.

The Prize – Irving Wallace

It’s kind of tailor made for Wallace, this subject matter; a dozen people are awarded that year’s Nobel Prizes; most of them deserve them. But who they are and what they’ve done to justify their awards are very different creatures. Politics, personalities and people: all grist to Wallace’s clever plot. (They made a Paul Newman movie of the novel. It’s not a good movie. This is a very good book.)

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, Or, 2000 Years of Upper-class Idiots in Charge – John O’Farrell

Some years ago, I spent 27½ hours on an airplane, flying to Singapore, staying in the airport 6 hours and then flying back again. At the airport, I picked up a couple of books to read on the flight. This was one of them, and I laughed all the way through it. It’s a history book of Britain, from 55BC through 1945. O’Farrell goes for laughs throughout but never skimping on the basic facts. In some cases, far deeper than the mere basic facts. You’ll learn stuff from reading it, and the pen portraits he creates of the monarchs, the prime ministers and those surrounding both, are much fun. But mainly I remember it for the gags. There are many, many gags; I struggle to remember a book that made me laugh out loud so often while reading it.

Well, that was fun. Thirty Books in three Fridays. I may do it again next year. We’ll see.

See you tomorrow, with… the usual Saturday’s something else.

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now more rapidly approaching.

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

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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