Exposed, by Liza Marklund [audiobook]. Read by India Fisher. Bath: AudioGo, [n.d.]
Annika Bengtzon is on a summer internship from her provincial newspaper, working at Sweden's largest tabloid newspaper. She's not initially impressed at being assigned to the tip-off line, but then has a call to say that a young woman's body has been found at a cemetery. Fiercely ambitious, Annika is not always an attractive character - she's prepared to use people for her own purposes - but the plot is gripping, involving senior politicians, nightclub strippers and rival newspapers. I did feel that the ending let it down somewhat, but I'd read another in this series. The main plot, it's explained, is an incident which happened to Marklund herself when she was a journalist; and India Fisher's reading is very good (I was somewhat worried when I realised she is the breathy voice of Masterchef, but she was considerably less mannered here!).
Put me back on my bike: in search of Tom Simpson, by William Fotheringham. London: Yellow Jersey, 2002.
A biography of Tom Simpson by someone who admires him, but is also concerned with drug-taking in sport; Simpson comes over as a tremendously attractive, flawed character and I really hadn't realised quite how famous he was in his time, as the first British cycling superstar. Fotheringham tells the story of Simpson's life and tragically early death, and also talks to medical experts and those who were around at the time about the use of amphetamines, alcohol and other substances in Simpson's time. It's an unvarnished account, but the respect for the man's achievement shines through both in the main narrative and in the interviews with those who were close to Simpson.
A slip of the keyboard: collected non-fiction, by Terry Pratchett [audiobook]. Read by Michael Fenton Stevens. Oxford: Isis, 2014.
Oh, Pterry; we miss you. And never as much while listening to the acerbic wit of the man talking about how to look after authors on tour; how not to piss off authors by sending them unsolicited manuscripts; how to become an author; what it's like writing for local newspapers and as a nuclear power station press officer... Tour diaries, articles for newspapers, introductions for SF Con programmes... it's all here. And then, towards the end, the fury and exploration after the Alzheimer's diagnosis, and the passionate belief in the right to decide on the manner and moment of one's death. I'm not sure you even need to have enjoyed anything by Terry Pratchett to enjoy reading this...
The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. London: Andersen Press, 2007.
This was my annual "challenged" book. The American Library Association puts out a list each year of the 10 books which have been subject to the most attempted bannings at libraries. This year, this was the top book so, as far as I was concerned, a must-read. Apparently unsuitable due to being "anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
So, obviously, I had high hopes of this one going in, and they weren't disappointed.
Arnold/Junior is an energetic, opinionated, bright narrator, with a huge determination to succeed. After a couple of terrible events, he decides that only enrolment at the local selective, white high school will get him out of his current situation in a Native American reservation. Unfortunately this alienates many of his previous friends while failing to win him new ones. This is a brilliant depiction of teenage life, lack of belonging, the beauty of realising how your family and community fit into the wider world... It's told with compassion and a huge amount of humour - it's a hilarious book - and I'm so glad the ALA brought it to my attention...
The library paradox, by Catherine Shaw. London: Allison and Busby, 2006.
Vanessa Weatherburn, married to Maths don Arthur and living peacefully in Cambridge with her children Cecily and Cedric in the late 1890s, has a penchant for private investigation. When she's asked by dons from London to investigate what is essentially a locked-room mystery, she can't resist. The investigation brings Vanessa into contact with the Hasidic community in North London, and the academic community based around King's College London. The dénouement is somewhat weak, but the colours and flavours, and the exposition of Victorian attitudes towards Judaism, is rather wonderful. And there's some Dreyfus Affair, which was about the only thing in late 19th century French history which really intrigued me.