I Know What I Think…..

imagesSo, we all know the saying ‘I know what I think when I hear what I say’, do we?  Well, for me it seems that I know what I think when I see what I write and that without writing I stop thinking altogether.  Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but, if I’m honest, not so much.  Over these past months I have still been experiencing things, books, theatre, films and increasingly, in the time we’ve been apart, works of art, but unless I’m also writing about them those experiences are proving to be far less rich.   The eyesight problems that forced me away from here have not got any better and so I can’t ptretend that I am going to be able to come back to a full blogging life and my online friends are going to have to excuse me if I don’t comment on their posts as often as might seem companionable but I am going to have to find a way of writing again even if it is only a couple of times a month.

As a starting place and because I know a lot of you find lists as fascinating as I do, here are the possible selections for this year’s summer school.  You remember the summer school?  My attempt to get people reading and talking about books without having to pay a four figure sum for the privilege. Over a week in August we meet three time to discuss a set of books related thematically and at this time of year those involved get to choose what those books should be.  If you had to choose just one set of three from these which would it be?

Walking The Royal Mile
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie ~ Muriel Spark
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox ~ Maggie O’Farrell
One Good Turn ~ Kate Atkinson

Vienna Nights
Waiting for Sunrise ~ William Boyd
The Third Man ~ Graham Greene
Mortal Mischief ~ Frank Tallis

Paying the Price
A Whispered Name ~ William Brodrick
The Reckoning ~ Rennie Airth
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky ~ Simon Mawer

Raiding the Bookshelves
The Bookshop ~ Penelope Fitzgerald
The Secret of Lost Things ~ Sheridan Hay
Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore ~ Robin Sloan

The Thirteenth Tale ~ Diane Setterfield
A Fearful Symmetry ~ Audrey Niffenegger
Sisterland ~ Curtis Sittenfeld


27 thoughts on “I Know What I Think…..

  1. How lovely to find a post of yours in my Reader, Alex. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had no improvement in your sight problems but pleased that you’ve been enjoying life nevertheless. I do understand what you mean about writing – books that I write about stay in my memory far longer than those I don’t.

    As for summer school, it would be a toss up between Walking the Royal Mile and Raiding the Booksheves for me

    1. I really want to discuss the O’Farrell book because it is one of the few I know that considers what it means to be a woman with Asperger’s so part of me is rooting for the Edinburgh selection as well, Susan. But, of course, I am not supposed to have a preference really.

  2. Dear Alex, Be assured, you’ve been missed! I always welcome your calm tone, sometimes about the most upsetting things. Rather than select one whole topic, I’ve elected to select one central book from each category, just as a lark. It probably won’t be much help, but I think if each central book is emphasized, it might make it easier to compare them and decide which category is the most likely (or at least, that’s my take). I think O’Farrell, Greene, and Hay are the ones I’ve heard the most and best about. Mawer I would select because it sounds the most interesting in the category. The Setterfield is one I’ve read and would recommend highly as a constantly gripping book up to almost the last page. I suppose if I had to select just one category for myself to read, it would be “Vienna NIghts,” but I’m sort of afraid that that and the “Twinned” category both might seem too specialized for a general group, who might not have adequate references to Vienna or the experience of being twinned. In that case, I would choose the “Paying the Price” category, something we’ve all done in one way or another in our lives (with Mawer’s fascinating title). Now, aren’t you sorry you asked? Good luck with your summer school and I hope you get to post again soon. I hope your health concerns improve in this lovely spring season (yes, who was looking? and suddenly it’s warm weather!). All the best.

    1. If you haven’t read any of Simon Mawer’s books, SO, then I can highly recommend them. I think this one was published as ‘Trapeze’ in the US because of a title clash. I think the book you would probably enjoy the most is the one called ‘The Glass House’ – more complex and thought provoking than some of his others.

  3. I’m so glad that you took the time to post for us, and with so many tempting titles! The Royal Mile seems the most tempting to me, because I loved the Prime of Miss Brodie, and loved other titles by Atkinson and O’Farrell. At the same time, I love Vienna and highly recommend Franck Tallis mysteries. Good luck with summer school and many wishes to your health!

    1. I’m lucky because I get to pick only books that I have really enjoyed for all five of the different sets. If you haven’t read the particular Atkinson and O’Farrell books that I’ve chosen then you have a real pleasure to come.

  4. Lovely to see you back – you are missed though of course everyone understands and sympathises. I’d definitely go for the Royal Mile.
    I so agree with you about the value of writing!

    1. That just missed out last year so I’ve kept it on the current list to see if it reaches the top in 2017. I very much want to lead the discussion on the O’Farrell.

  5. So delighted to see you back here despite the continuing health problem AND that you are keeping up the tradition of the summer school. For me without any hesitation it would the the Royal Mile. I love all three of those writers. Esme Lennox was my introduction to O’Farrell and though I’ve enjoyed many of her other books, this remains my favourite.

    1. That group is there because of the O’Farrell, Karen. So many people have picked that book out that I think I shall have to write about why it is so special to me. I hope you’re still on the mend. You are very much in our thoughts.

  6. I was so pleased to see this today – missed it yesterday – but sorry about your eyesight. I would pick Paying the Price because I loved A Whispered Name, and would like to re-read it and I want to read The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, having read The Glass Room, which I enjoyed. The Reckoning looks interesting. I’ll be interested to know which set of books is selected.

    1. If this group is chosen I’m just hoping that I will have the courage to re-read ‘A Whispered Name’, which I thought was magnificently written but found incredibly harrowing. Did you know that Brodrick is now also writing under the name of John Fairfax? There’s just the one book at the moment, ‘Summary Justice’, perhaps less intense than his Father Anselm novels but still worth reading.

  7. It’s nice to see a new post from you, Alex, although I’m sorry to hear you’re still having trouble with your eyes. For the summer school, I would choose Walking The Royal Mile – I’ve already read and enjoyed One Good Turn and would like to read the other two books. Paying the Price also sounds tempting, mainly because I’m interested in trying something by Simon Mawer.

  8. If you want just one book by Mawer, Helen then try ‘The Glass Room’. It is based very firmly on historical fact (as is the one on the list to be fair) but I think you will get more out of it.

  9. Alex! I have missed you! So sorry you are still having eye difficulties but I am glad you are still reading and going to the theatre and doing summer school! Raiding the Bookshelves would be my first choice, because I can’t resist anything to do with books. But Paying the Price is intriguing and if it weren’t for the books, I’d go with that one. Even if you only manage once a month, it will be nice to have you around again. Hugs, hugs hugs!

    1. Thank you Stefanie. You are one of the people I have missed the most. Whenever the weather gets cold and nasty here I always remind myself that it is almost certainly colder and nastier where you are and make myself count my blessings. I also think about you reading on your daily commute. This winter I have been listening to audiobooks while travelling and found that I have enjoyed them much more than I thought I would. I am always glad that I don’t have to choose which group of books we read. I don’t even allow myself a vote. I would never know which one to pick.

      1. I don’t know if you intended it, but you made me laugh! I am glad to be used as a source of comfort when your weather is bad! 😀 Hooray for audiobooks while traveling! There is nothing like a good story to get you from here to there and back again. You will have to let us know what the group chooses!

  10. Lovely that you are back at the same time as me! Though I’ve thought about you often in the interim. My choice would be either Walking the Royal Mile (when do I not want to think about Edinburgh?) or Raiding the Bookshelves, though there are some really tempting books in the other categories too.

    1. Choosing is so difficult! One of the people who comes to the summer school every year was in my Shakespeare class yesterday and she was desperately trying to persuade me to have two weeks this year just to make her choice easier.

  11. So sorry the eye problems are no better. I have learned of so many good books from you. Those groupings are wonderful. I would have a hard time choosing, but now I can add the books I haven’t read yet from your lists. I might lean towards Edinburgh.

    1. I promise you, Mary Lou, that everything on the lists is really worth reading. There is definitely a majority on the blog for the Edinburgh list. It will be fascinating to see if the attendees at the summer School feel the same way.

  12. You’re back – how lovely! I couldn’t believe it when I spotted you in my blog reader and thought Oh, it’s some kind of repeat post or something. But here you are! I’m sorry to hear about the eye problems, though, of course. A friend has Wet Macular Degeneration and has found some good workarounds and art experiences to enjoy; now I can’t remember if you know that or now.

    And sorry to take an unpopular view but I like the Bookshelves theme!!

  13. The Raiding the Bookshelves set looks like the most fun to me.
    I know what you mean about not thinking the same way when you’re not writing. I have a quotation up in the college writing center that says “how can I know what I think until I see what I say?” It’s one of those quotations that’s variously attributed, probably because more than one writer has said it.

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