My 2015 books so far… Part 2

Dan O’Neill 2015-08-06 5 min read

Back in March I wrote a quick update on the books I had planned to read this year. I was a little ahead of schedule then, having read 4 books by then. Now I’m 3 ahead of schedule, having read Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the jackal, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, On the Map by Simon Garfield, John Feinstein’s first book A Season on the Brink, and The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux.

Currently I’m right at the end of How I Found Livingstone by Henry Morton Stanley. I’ll probably write about that one a bit more as its definitely held my attention well, even though I’ve probably read it at a slower pace than all of the others.

So I’ll get the bad out of the way early, I absolutely hated Gone Girl. I’ve never seen the movie so was looking forward to this. I got to a certain point in the book and had given up. I was ready to quit, but then the book ended. I didn’t even realise I was at the end, it was that bad. The book also cheated by having the start of another book at the end of this one so I couldn’t tell I was at the end by page number alone. To its credit, it is well written, and I flew through the book. I just hated everyone in it. Every. Single. Character. Without ruining it for you, the book is part told in first person and part in diary entries. But while in first person, you’re in that head so they can’t lie to you, as the reader. It was just too irritating for me.

But before that I read the excellent On The Map by Simon Garfield. I love maps. In fact, one of my favourite items in my house is a huge IKEA map that I use for displaying travel pictures. So this was a super educational read for me. I loved the extra tidbits of information that it added to my fact anecdote repertoire. Like the origins of the word orientation, or the purpose of Mappa Mundi. I really enjoyed it.

Leo Belgicus - map of the Low Countries (1611)

A Season on the Brink, one of the books I’ve been most looking forward to this year, and it did not disappoint. I loved it, even though I know very little about basketball and even less about college basketball. John Feinstein made it so accessible, and so interesting that I sped through the book. Like his other books that I’ve read, John Feinstein really gets close to those he’s writing about. He spent a year with the Indiana Hoosiers and their controversial coach Bob Knight.

He went almost everywhere with the team and their coaches, really getting to know everyone. He also has a knack for picking exactly the right time to write about a particular subject. Bob Knight and the Hoosiers were one of the greatest teams in college basketball. But things weren’t going great and Knight, someone who was known for his temper, threw a chair onto the court on live TV during an outburst. College basketball was shocked. So Feinstein managed to work out this all access deal the following year. It was a pretty interesting year, and Feinstein does a great job of putting us right in the middle of it. I loved this book, and really glad I read it.

Trochita by Juan Macri on

The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux was another that I was high hopes for after reading The Great Railway Bazaar earlier this year. I was looking forward to joining Paul on another trip on some great railway journey, and this time its Boston all the way down to Argentina. His observations are again worth the price of admission, and when he gets to South America the book really hits his stride. Unlike The Great Railway Bazaar he seems to have a bit more time to stop in places he really likes. He spends time with some distant family in Ecuador and he meets with Jorge Borges in Buenos Aires. He suffers pretty badly on the high altitude sections too but still manages to write a great book on a beautifully scenic journey and the people he meets along the way.

Just recently I managed to read Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. The Edward Fox version of the movie is one that’s always stuck with me and the book came very well recommended. I really enjoyed it - plus I came away with a new appreciation for the movie as it stayed amazingly faithful to the book. It was strange to read so much of a story from the point of the view of the “villain” but Forsyth manages to make him interesting and you strangely almost want him to succeed. However Forsyth counters him with an almost everyman detective that you can really empathise with. I’ll probably try and read some more of Forsyth’s books.

So apart from my current read - How I found Livingstone - coming up is The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver and Brian O’Driscoll’s autobiography - I’m really looking forward to both.