Triple Choice Tuesday

Triple Choice Tuesday: A Fiction Habit

Triple-Choice-TuesdayWelcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers, writers and readers 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, new authors and new bloggers.

Today’s guest is Sarah, who blogs at A Fiction Habit.

Sarah started blogging in 2012 to record her thoughts on the various books she read when she was a stay-at-home mother. When she returned to work in 2013 as an HR manager for a large IT consulting business she found it difficult to blog as much, but it hasn’t stopped her reading.

“My reading preferences are varied,” she explains. “But I like off-beat, non-mainstream titles and translated fiction. There’s a stubbornness about me that steers clear of best sellers — I’m probably missing something because of it!”

While Sarah says reading is an essential form of escape for her, she also does a lot of cycling, some running and a bit of swimming. She also likes drinking gin — and has a collection from 14 different distillers.

She lives in Surrey with her husband and two children, aged 13 and 11.

Without further ado, here are Sarah’s choices:

Heart of Darkness by Joseph ConradA favourite book: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 

If you ask my husband to name his favourite book he will almost certainly tell you it is the last book he read.  This is indicative of the volume he reads rather than an indecisive nature.  It’s not a bad answer when you think of it, after all a favourite anything is dependant upon your reason for and mood at the time of digesting it.  In that case, I have several favourites; classics; contemporary; whole backlists of some authors. There are many books dear to me.

If you really pushed me for an answer I’d reluctantly tell you how much I enjoy Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (actually, I rate the slightly shorter Youth just as highly, but I think this is regarded as a short story, so not sure it really counts here).  There are a few things I admire about this compact tale of a journey into the jungle of Congo.  I love the framing of the narrative; told by the protagonist to a rapt audience years after the event, there is a feeling of anticipation mirrored in the journey itself.  There’s a wistfulness as the memory reveals the tale yet a feeling of wanting to forget the awful events.  Conrad’s description of the horrors of the journey and what the characters find is astonishing, more so when you consider he wrote in his third choice language.

Regeneration by Pat BarkerA book that changed my world: Regeneration by Pat Barker

Countless books have sent me on literary oddyssies; the post-apocolyptic teen novel that sent me back to the library week after week to seek out more of the same; the cold-war fiction on my parents’ shelves that kept me entertained through drizzly school holidays as I worked my way through the bookcase; Animal Farm, which I read at school and made me realise literature didn’t have to be literal to put across its point.

I’ve thought about this quite hard.  The book that changed my reading world was Regeneration by Pat Barker, the fictional account of a psychiatrist treating First World War soldiers for shell shock. Amongst his patients are poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. I read it shortly after its publication and having never studied war literature at school, it sent me on a journey of discovery that took in poetry, fiction and memoir — most moving amongst these being Vera Brittain’s Testament of YouthRegeneration energised me to read around and explore this subject to the enrichment of my reading life and as a human being.

Trumpet by Jackie KayA book that deserves a wider audience: Trumpet by Jackie Kay

I’m guessing I can’t chose three books here? Oddly, two of the books I want to nominate are works of fiction by female poets and one is by a Pulitzer Prize-winning male author — I’m guessing he probably has a large readership, but maybe not so much here in the UK…

On balance, although all three deserve a wider audience; I’ve gone for Trumpet by Jackie Kay.  This is the story of the life and death of fictional jazz artist Joss Moody told from the perspective of his friends and family.  It focuses on the revelation of his secret only coming to light after his death.  It is a book about race, gender and national identity all wrapped in a beautiful jazz-like prose.

Written almost 20 years ago, I was in my mid-20s when I first read it and it was a real eye opener; I’d read nothing like it in terms of the themes.  It was a literary moment of discovery and made me  realise that not everything you see is as it seems and assumption is a tricky road to travel down. You can also tell Jackie Kay is a poet when you read her fiction.  Her words are well thought through, sequenced and ordered until you are left in no doubt of her talent. Definitely deserving of a wider audience; still totally relevant 20 years on.

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

Some great choices here: I loved Heart of Darkness when I read it in my early 20s; one day I will get around to reading the Regeneration trilogy (it’s been on my wishlist for an embarrassingly long time); and Trumpet, which is a new name for me, sounds amazing, and slightly reminiscent of Esi Edugyan’s Half Blood Blues, a story that I loved.

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

Triple Choice Tuesday

Triple Choice Tuesday: The Game’s Afoot

Triple-Choice-TuesdayWelcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers, writers and readers 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, new authors and new bloggers.

Today’s guest is José Ignacio, who blogs at The Game’s Afoot.

José was born and bred in Madrid and has been blogging since 2009. Initially he was not sure what to write, and he says he still doesn’t know, but he likes to keep track of the crime fiction and other books he reads.

He used to work as a commodity trader in several countries, but this year he has reached retirement age and now he’s starting to realise that there’s very little time to do all that he’d like.

You can also follow him on Twitter @jiescribano.

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

HopscotchA favourite book: Rayuela by Julio Cortázar (English title: Hopscotch)

This novel by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar was written in Paris and published in Spanish in 1963. I read it first when I was a university student in 1968. And, together with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Time of the Hero, it is one of the most important books of the Latin American boom. I could have chosen any one of these novels as my personal favourite. I read them all in around the same year, but I finally opted for Hopscotch, given that it is a highly innovative and experimental book and lesser known as well.

I found one of the characters, La Maga, fascinating. Moreover part of the story takes place in Paris which was (and still is) a fascinating city for a young man of my age at that time.

As the entry on Wikipedia explains, “the novel is written in an episodic manner, and has 155 chapters, the last 99 designated as ‘expendable’. An author’s note suggests that the book would best be read in one of two possible ways, either progressively from chapters 1 to 56 or by ‘hopscotching’ through the entire set of 155 chapters according to a ‘Table of Instructions’ designated by the author. Cortázar also leaves the reader the option of choosing a unique path through the narrative.”

It adds: “Several narrative techniques are employed throughout the book, and frequently overlap, including first person, third person, and a kind of stream-of-consciousness. Traditional spelling and grammatical rules are often bent and sometimes broken outright.”

Children-of-SanchezA book that changed my world: The Children of Sanchez: Autobiography of a Mexican Family by Oscar Lewis

As the author writes in the Introduction, this book “is about a poor family in Mexico City, Jesús Sánchez,the father, aged fifty, and his four: children: Manuel, aged thirty-two; Roberto, twenty-nine; Consuelo, twenty-seven; and Marta, twenty-five. My purpose is to give the reader and inside view of family life and of what it means to grow up in a one-room home in a slum tenement in the heart of a great Latin American city which is undergoing a process of rapid social and economic change.”

The Children of Sanchez is a 1961 book by American anthropologist Oscar Lewis that reads like the best of fiction with the added impact that it is all, undeniably, true. This book served to awaken my social awareness when I read it first in the late sixties.

Mirror-of-the-seaA book that deserves a wider audience: The Mirror of the Sea by Joseph Conrad

Last but not least, a book that I truly believe deserves a wider audience, and there’s nobody better than the author himself to introduce the book. He wrote the following in his Author’s Note to the book in 1919:

… I have attempted here to lay bare with the unreserve of a last hour’s confession the terms of my relation with the sea, which beginning mysteriously, like any great passion the inscrutable Gods send to mortals, went on unreasoning and invincible, surviving the test of disillusion, defying the disenchantment that lurks in every day of a strenuous life; went on full of love’s delight and love’s anguish, facing them in open-eyed exultation, without bitterness and without repining, from the first hour to the last.

“Subjugated but never unmanned I surrendered my being to that passion which, various and great like life itself, had also its periods of wonderful serenity which even a fickle mistress can give sometimes on her soothed breast, full of wiles, full of fury, and yet capable of an enchanting sweetness. And if anybody suggests that this must be the lyric illusion of an old, romantic heart, can answer that for twenty years I had lived like a hermit with my passion! Beyond the line of the sea horizon the world for me did not exist as assuredly as it does not exist for the mystics who take refuge on the tops of high mountains. I am speaking now of that innermost life, containing the best and the worst that can happen to us in the temperamental depths of our being, where a man indeed must live alone but need not give up all hope of holding converse with his kind.

“This perhaps is enough for me to say on this particular occasion about these, my parting words, about this, my last mood in my great passion for the sea. I call it great because it was great to me. Others may call it a foolish infatuation. Those words have been applied to every love story. But whatever it may be the fact remains that it was something too great for words.

“This is what I always felt vaguely; and therefore the following pages rest like a true confession on matters of fact which to a friendly and charitable person may convey the inner truth of almost a lifetime. From sixteen to thirty-six cannot be called an age, yet it is a pretty long stretch of that sort of experience which teaches a man slowly to see and feel. It is for me a distinct period; and when I emerged from it into another air, as it were, and said to myself: “Now I must speak of these things or remain unknown to the end of my days,” it was with the ineradicable hope, that accompanies one through solitude as well as through a crowd, of ultimately, some day, at some moment, making myself understood…”

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

I’ve not read any of them… but I’m especially intrigued by The Children of Sanchez, which sounds like my sort of thing. I see that Vintage published a 50th anniversary edition in 2011, so I have added it to my wishlist.

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