September Round-Up: what have you been reading this month?

It’s been a busy month; kids back to school, me back to work, back to the commute, back to busy family life.

I may have been quieter on here than usual but I still managed to read three books!

Eureka by Antony Quinn was a slow burner for me, but it got better and better in the second half where everything seemed to click and the pace quickened.

This novel feels like an immersive experience as we follow the characters around swinging London; taking acid, smoking weed, drinking and having sex.

There is more to it than that, though.

The plot revolves around Nat, a screenwriter who hasn’t had a hit in a while, an actress looking for her big break, a German film director Reiner Werther Kloss, and a journalist who’s trying to solve multiple instances of arson.

The unusual and highly effective structural device that Quinn uses here is to embed the actual movie script that Nat is working on within the pages of the novel, so that we see the script as the movie is being developed.

As I said, it started off a bit slow and took a while for me to get hooked, but that was partly my fault as I was reading other books alongside this one, and it kinda got pushed to the side.

The characters really leap off the page and I felt as if I were right there in 60’s London with them.

Groovy!

Not so much recreates that heady era as reinhabits it…There’s something Evelyn Waugh-like about Eureka… Few eras have been as well documented, but Eureka succeeds in bringing it to life in a new and hugely entertaining way.

Independent

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte is a wonderful book.

I mean there are no real surprises here; we all know how fossils have revealed the story of dinosaurs to us, and that, y’know, something catastrophic happened that wiped most of them out.

No, the real thrills here are the stories behind those fossil discoveries: we learn about anonymous construction workers in China who spotted fossils when digging out foundations for new buildings; teenage amateurs discovering new species in their hometown; opportunistic scavengers who hunted for fossils for money; and we learn about eccentric characters who sound like they belong in the world of fiction yet really existed (much like some the dinosaurs themselves).

Brusatte takes us on a journey through the different dinosaur ages, charting their rise and fall over the millions of years that they roamed the world. Indeed, the story starts so long ago that the earth would have been unrecognizable to us, with only one ocean and one giant landmass.

The most striking part of these stories is just how much of it is down to luck; luck that some dinosaurs died and were buried at the perfect moment and conditions for fossils to be formed, and then luck that people discovered those fossils at all.

The blurb on the back:

Sixty-six million years ago the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the earth. Today, a new generation of dinosaur hunters are piecing together the complete history of how the dinosaurs created a hugely successful empire that lasted for around 150 million years.

Steve Brusatte, one of the world’s leading palaeontologists, uses fossil clues that have been gathered using start-of-the-art technology to follow these magnificent creatures from the start of their evolution, to their final days, and the legacy they left behind. Along the way, Brusatte offers thrilling accounts of some of the remarkable discoveries he has made, including primitive, human-sized tyrannosaurs and monstrous carnivores even larger than a T.rex.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs is a timely reminder of what humans can learn from the magnificent creatures who ruled the earth before us.

I was unprepared for the emotional punch that this book packs.

Stuart’s tale is told backwards; by the end of the first chapter we already know that “he stepped in front of the 11:15 London to King’s Lynn train”. From that moment on the only way is to work backwards, to piece together how he transformed from a fun and happy little boy to a drug addict, alcoholic, homeless and violent man.

The blurb on the back:

This is the story of Stuart Shorter: thief, hostage-taker, psycho and street raconteur. It is a story told backwards, as he wanted, fro the man he was when Alexander Masters met him to a ‘happy-go-lucky little boy’ of twelve. Brilliant, humane and funny, it is as extraordinary and unexpected as the life it describes.

There was a trailer made for the book when it was first released in 2006.

To my eyes (and ears) this trailer seems a tad insensitive, portraying Stuart as some sort of “loveable rogue”, when the truth is darker, more disturbing and highly deserving of our understanding and compassion

The system failed him and his heartbreaking story will never leave you.

p.s. I had no idea that there was also a movie made from this book. I don’t think I can bring myself to watch it. Do Stuart a favour and read the book instead.

So, those were the three books I read in September.

What have you been reading?

Comments are welcome!

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