Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 16
Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors, bloggers and publishers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2010, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2011.
Recent Work: The aforementioned Moorehawke Trilogy, all three books released this year by Orbit in the US and UK.
Folks, please say hi to Celine!
Hello Smugglers, and thank you for the invite! I’m afraid I have to hold my hand up as yet another author who hasn’t had much time to read this year. To make matters worse, I blithely frittered what little time I did have on research books! This gave me quite the thrill of panic when Ana asked me to participate in Smugglivus – My first thought was, who the hell is going to be interested in any of the history stuff I read this year? Then I figured, well, if I was interested in them, maybe someone else might be too? (maybe? Perhaps? A little?) Fret not though, I’m only going to suggest two history books 😀
The first is by Marcus Redicker and it is called Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea . It’s a history of the Anglo-American maritime world in the early 1700’s. Sounds dry as sawdust, right? But it’s not! I admit my great interest in the subject probably did add to my enjoyment, but Redicker does this thing which I adore, and which will, I think appeal to many, where he allows the men and women of the time speak for themselves. The use of letters and diary extracts and court testimonies from 1700’s really bring the period to life in a way that I, as a writer, find invaluable. Along the way, he also makes some very interesting observations about the development of the industrialised working class, and society’s changing relationship with property and money and the law. I found his exploration of the seafarers mindset particularly fascinating- most especially when he talks about pirates.
(I actually read two Redicker books this year – the other being the powerful and disturbing The Slave Ship, A Human History which I also highly recommend – though be warned, it is a depressing and often stomach churning read.)
The second history book I have to recommend is even more enjoyable and for the exact same reasons! It is called Dublin Tenement Life, An Oral History and it is profoundly warm and honest and moving. It will be a book I return to again and again, I think. I found it while researching my current WiP, and it fell into my hands at a time when I was particularly frustrated at the lack of voice given to the Dublin poor. There was reams to be read relating the Irish rural poor, but very few first hand accounts of urban tenement life. This book is a blessing in that respect, and I think these lines from it say it all –
‘They are truly the last survivors of the bygone tenement era. As a vanishing breed there is an urgency in the task to record their oral histories for future generations. “We cannot, alas, interview headstones.”‘
We can’t interview headstones indeed – and history is a murky mirror unless given voice by those who lived it.
I wonder if it is this interest in social history that led to my love of the one fiction book I’m going to recommend here? I suspect it is. To my mind Max Brooks’ World War Z is an absolute master work. It’s practically impossible not to be sucked into the narrative, and very easy to believe that you are reading accounts of actual historical events. There are many many things I could praise about this book: the levels of research that must have gone into it – military, medical, geographical, historical; the way Brooks manages to give each of the myriad characters their own distinct voice and viewpoint; the huge amount of information that he packs into each chapter without the book ever feeling bogged down. But I think the thing I love most about this book- the thing that hit me every single time I moved to a new chapter – was the sheer scope of its diversity. This is not a book about one person, or one group of people or one society of people battling disaster. It is a book about all the many shades and hues of mankind, in all their great diversity, with it all their vast differences of view point and motivation and belief, rising up and facing disaster each in their own way. In WWZ Brooks has taken as many facets of the human experience as he can and, through the unlikely prism of a zombie apocalypse, held them up for the reader to see. I loved that about this book. I loved it.
I know there is no better way to strip a book of all it’s joy, but I think World War Z should be included in the reading list of every school. Seriously! I do! I challenge anyone to find me another book with so diverse a range of characters or so wide a scope of heroic endeavour as this one – in the vast sea of one-view-saves-the-world fantasy out there, who doesn’t want their kids to read a book in which all of mankind is shown striving equally against the odds. Brilliant.
And, that’s it for my paltry 2010 book recommendations! I read many more than that this year of course: liked some, hated many, loved a few. But I thought I’d leave it at those three stand out reads.
I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of the year. Man, I tell you, 2010 has been chock full of sparkly highlights for me – it’s been one long wild ride of excitement – but I’m really looking forward to the peace and quiet of the Christmas holidays. I’m looking forward to my son coming home, my parents calling over, my husband and daughter having some time off school and work. I’m looking forward to us all settling down and eating too much and watching shite on the telly and reading some good books. (I plan to re read The Exorcist: all that twisted horror to counterbalance the tinsel? Yes ma’am! And possibly try Neverwhere: because, after all, tis the perfect season for a bit of whimsy.)
To celebrate the on-coming season of snow and tinsel, I thought I’d share a Christmas short story with you guys. It was first published in The Irish Independent in 2008 and features one of my new main characters – Joseph. I drew did this little gif of him, especially for the Smugglivus post. (I chose to draw Joseph as the seventeen year old he is in the book, even though this short story takes place six years before the book starts and he is only eleven in it.) If you fancy having a gander, just press the gif. It will take you straight to the short story ( it really is short btw! Only 1000 words!) I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you enjoy your holidays too. In the meantime slán and happy Smugglivus to all!
Thanks Celine! And a Happy Smugglivus to you!