Triple Choice Tuesday: A Common Reader

Triple-Choice-TuesdayWelcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers and other bookish bods to share the names of three books that mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of certain books and introduce you to new titles and new bloggers.

Today’s guest is East Sussex-based Tom Cunliffe from A Common Reader.

Tom took early retirement from a career in IT and now divides his time between reading, walking and playing the guitar and mandolin. He also maintains a magnificent blog that concentrates primarily on literary fiction, biography, history and current affairs. He is my “go-to” source when it comes to finding out about 20th century European books in translation.

Without further ado, here’s Tom’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:


DiaryofaNobody A favourite book: Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith

I have spent more time in the company of Mr Charles Pooter than I care to remember. His character never fails to amuse with its mixture of pomposity and innocence. Poor Mr Pooter, the butt of so many jokes by his friends and relatives, and yet his ability to dance in the back-parlour with his wife Carrie shows that even the most straitlaced Victorian gentleman can enjoy himself.

Although it was first-published in 1892, this book is so very modern, with a satirical cutting edge which must have offended many in its day. Apart from its humour, it is also an accurate picture of Victorian lower-middle-class manners and mores. It always surprises me how many of these still hang over into today’s English society — I would never name names, but I know more than one person with Pooterish characteristics. Heck, I think I might even have an inner Pooter inside me waiting to get out!


CrimeandPunishment A book that changed my world: Crime and Punishment by Fyodr Dostoevsky

I read Crime and Punishment when I was 18 years old and entered the world of the Russian novel with a sense of revelation. I’d always been a reader but this was something else. I was impressed by the sheer complexity of the character of Raskolnikov, the young student who decides that murder can be justified if the ends are noble, but finds after the event that his conscience is unimpressed by his previous justifications.

Crime and Punishment was long, dense and difficult, but showed me what writing at its best can achieve and lifted my sights to so many other examples of great world literature. Some people say that this is the best novel ever written, and while claims like these can be a little pointless, Crime and Punishment is definitely a landmark book, a standard by which other novels can be judged.


ShoeTester A book that deserves a wider audience: Shoe Tester of Frankfurt by Wilhelm Genazino

I have read this book several times and find more to it every time I read it. It’s impossible to categorise — is it satire, humour, philosophy, Zen? I really don’t know.

The shoe-tester is paid to walk all day around the city of Frankfurt, testing up-market shoes and writing reports for the manufacturers. The job is a pretext for meandering dissertations on life and its un-liveability — and a number of amorous adventures along the way. The unnamed narrator’s main concern is that his life is lived without “inner authorisation”: nobody ever asked his consent to his being alive, and this affront perplexes him from the start of the book. As he walks he sees the uniqueness of each moment (“through the open door I once again hear the little noises the birds make as their tiny feathered bodies take off with a dense and compact flutter”). Will he eventually find the “inner authorisation” that he seeks? Read it and find out.

Thanks, Tom, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!

I must say there’s some really interesting picks here. The only one I have read is Crime and Punishment, and I agree it is a “world-changing book”, and one that I am keen to re-read. The other two have promptly gone onto my wishlist!

What do you think of Tom’s choices? Have you read any of these books?

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16 thoughts on “Triple Choice Tuesday: A Common Reader

  1. A fine selection dear Tom. It takes a reader with real refinement to pick a Dostoevsky as a favourite.
    As for ‘Diary of a Nobody’ I remember laughing out loud at pompous Pooter and his hapless attempts to climb the social ladder (that statement becomes even more impressive when I tell you that I read this midway through the 24-Hour Readathon – at a point when ‘laughing out loud’ would normally be a distant cream)
    And I’ve never heard of it until now but ‘The Shoes Tester of Frankfurt’ sounds exquisite. Added to my wishlist thanks to your recommendation.
    Warmest
    Rob

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  2. A really interesting mix of books from Tom, I have only discovered his blog this year and I really like it so is nice to see this selection.
    I have never heard of the last one, but sounds rather interesting (and thats what Im love about this series of posts, you find some titles you have never heard of before).
    I really want to finally read Crime and Punishment for some reason I think thats a book to read at Christmas, no idea why that is. I read the first one and rather liked it.

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  3. If you loved Diary of a Nobody, give Augustus Carp Esq. by Himself a whirl. I sound like a broken record on this one.
    As for the three choices: I see a subtle connection there–although I am not perfectly sure as I haven’t read The Shoe Tester.

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  4. Like Tom, Crime and Punishment was my introduction to the Russians — and what an excursion it proved, and continues to prove, to be. And I’ll admit that means the other two choices have perked an interest. Excellent suggestions again from this feature — thanks for doing it, Kim.

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  5. Thanks for the comments good people – and thanks to Kim for offering me this spot.
    Thanks for the comment on my banner Kevin – I live in a nice part of the country – and never cease to be grateful for it.

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  6. I enjoy reading Tom’s blog, so I thought it was great to see him on your Triple Choice Tuesday! What great titles he posted about – I will definitely be checking them out. I’ve always been rather curious about the Grossmith book and from what Tom mentioned it sounds like quite a fun read. Great post!

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  7. Ahh, but have you seen my kimbofo one? http://kimbofo.typepad.com taken in Central Park by Yours Truly. I love the piccie so much I had it blown up on canvas and it now has pride of place on my living room wall! How many others have blog banners as decorative works of art in their homes? Heeheehee.
    (Not to take away anything from Tom, as I agree he has a truly lovely banner.)

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  8. An excellent banner, I agree — I would have guessed Hyde Park not Central Park. And looks like late September, early October.
    Please consider some of my favorite pubs for this blog (if you have not done them already). 1. The Museum Tavern across Great Russell Street from the British Museum 2. The one near the Royal Albert Hall that we talked about a couple of months ago. 3. I would also be very interested in an opinion on “best pub closest to Tate Modern”, which I am sure you could provide.

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  9. Loved the Diary of a nobody Tom when I read it – I would love to read it again one day. That means I will need to snaffle the copy I bought for my son so her forgets he has it and I can keep it here in waiting!
    And, your shoetester book sounds intriguing. I’m sure it’s totally different, but the way you describe it makes me think of Haruki Murakami (and I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m reading Murakami right now!!).

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  10. Shoe Tester of Frankfurt is definitely going on my list. I love meandering dissertations on life in fiction. Finding something new every time you read it is a sign of a great book.

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  11. I’ve been waiting for Tom’s three choices to come along, and am not disappointed. Love the Shoe-Tester – what a brilliantly original concept for a book!

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  12. The Shoe Tester sounds fascinating — directly onto my wishlist. I’m also reminded of Murakami (the survey-taking in Wind-Up bird Chronicle).

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