The Uncommon Reader was a book selected for the physical bookclub I was part of for a time. I’m very glad I read it, as it was a wonderful book, and a rare gem beginning with the letter U!
The plan for the month is to feature daily a book I’ve reviewed in the past (or review it that day), and also highlight others: not all are included each day.
- spacetime challenge (I host this reading challenge – you can join here)
- middle grade (childrens) choice
- series (love a good series – there’s a challenge for finishing those, too)
- ‘notable’ reads
- ‘outstanding’ books
- my books!
Featured: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett is such an exceptional British institution that I never know how well he has travelled. (The Lady in the Van is his.) Apart from the wonderfully dry readings of his own work, he has also narrated several classics for radio and television. His observation of the nuances of people’s lives, and the differences that display their backgrounds, means his work is always worth reading.
And the Uncommon Reader has a very special role to play in British culture. It combines two other institutions.The mobile library is a branch of a library in a bus that travels a set route monthly, mostly to out-of-the-way places, to take reading to people who can’t reach a library under their own steam. I used the one that visited my village in Norfolk, mainly to make sure it kept its usage numbers up. The other institution is Queen Elizabeth II. And here she is, in all her glory, accompanied by corgis.
On a day when she just needs a break from the nonsenses of state, she takes a walk in her garden, and finds a mobile library parked by the gate. Wandering in, she discovers books that she’s never seen before. There is nothing like these in the vast library at Buckingham Palace. And so she devours whole new worlds in literary culture.
It’s a brilliant book, beautifully observed, and very very funny.
I searched my entire Goodreads list to find a science fiction or time travel book to join Robert Silverberg’s Up The Line, (goodreads link). There was one other, which I’ll cover in today’s series. In truth, it’s so long since I read Up The Line, that I doubt it still matches my memory of a really good time travel read. So much from that time (70s) shows its age in the biases of the age. And when I looked on my bookshelf for the copy I was sure I’d kept, moving from flat to house to house…. it turned out to be The Trouble Twisters, by Poul Anderson (a Polesotechnic League story)! They both qualify for my Spacetime reading challenge, anyway.
Middle grade reads
A duology of mice in the French Underground during World War 2 forms the Umbrella Mouse series. I missed out on the first one, but the second is charming, and I keep meaning to read the first. Has just about everything you’d want with animals in wartime doing their bit for the Allied effort.
Undead Pets is a ghoulish guinea pig romp, but ideal for Halloween, and I think there are several in the series. This is the sort of thing I only found when searching through the kids section on the mobile library bus. I have no idea what the attendant thought of my reading choices!
The Unwinding: Gin’s Story provides an intriguing start to a series which appears to have grown to four titles without my spotting it. From the pen of Juliana Rew, who runs Third Flatiron, this shows that Juliana is a brilliant author in her own right. It’s one of the more baffling scifi books I’ve read, but if you’re happy with some fairly weird alternative or parallel universes happening at the same time, you’ll love it.
In fact all the other U books I’ve picked are part of series, in one form or other.
Uncorking a Lie is an excellent cosy mystery set in the Californian wine country. I found more by the same author but have only read one other so far.
Unbroken is the final book in Sandra Smith’s brilliant Seed Savers series, which I featured for S.
Unseen Academicals is a Discworld novel. Need I say more, other than I really need to read it?
And if you sign up for Ronel Janse van Buuren’s mailing list you get a free copy of her Unseen 🙂
That’s all for today, so come back tomorrow for more. I’m hoping to meet more people who like the same kinds of book, so feel free to recommend something you’ve read beginning with the letter of the day!