The Books I Read in March 2015
While I think every month will feature an eclectic mix of books, because my reading tastes naturally swing from non-fiction to novels, from short story collections to classic literature, I do suspect that future months will struggle to beat the mix of books I read in March. I mean there was Victorian detective stories, a novel about an overweight woman whose husband had left her, a collection of interviews with female entrepreneurs talking business and a saucy compilation of short erotic stories... It was a very varied month!
Without further ado, let's review them shall we?
Stop Thinking Like A Freelancer by Liam Veitch
The first of two books I read on freelancing, this post about the lessons I've learned in three years of freelancing proves that it was a topic that was clearly on my mind this month, I downloaded Stop Thinking Like A Freelancer when it was reduced some months back. It's hard to explain what I didn't like about this book without sounding very subjective; this is a good thing for Mr Veitch. I updated Goodreads at 32% that "the first 10% of this book is basically the cheerleading squad performing cartwheels telling me how much I'm going to learn from it... I am a bit fed up of books like this. However, it's just starting to get a bit more detailed so hopefully the wisdom those cheerleaders are so excited about is soon to be shared...". While it did get better and it did offer some actionable advice and guidance for a freelancer looking to turbo charge his business, it didn't lose that "all talk, no trousers" image the first few chapters gave me. It's also interesting that some of the author's best advice about not spending money on any scheme or plan that promises to make you rich or educate you in ways that will make you rich could feel a little hypocritical when the book does mention that the author's website Freelancelift.com offers a subscription based model that promises to help freelancers become more profitable... Hmm.
In short, read this if you want to change the way you work as a freelancer and have no clue or experience on how to alter the way you work, but you have a lot of energy and drive to do so. If, like me, you were just looking at some reassuring, innovative advice on what you could be doing to improve your lifestyle as a freelancer, this book is not it.
I picked this book up in a charity shop when I was back in the UK last and after a quick glance of the back cover I thought it was a short story collection based in London, not dissimilar from my own book London Eyes. In fact, it's a novel and though I've never heard of the author and had no idea what to expect from the cover I really, really enjoyed it. It's essentially a story told through three narrators. One is a homeless history fanatic who believes the answer to London's future lies in its history. The second narrator is a history professor who writes long, laboured letters to his wife who is away in the USA for reasons that aren't completely clear. And the third, the most interesting of all, is London itself through the ages. It's the latter "narrator" that really held my attention in this book, though the interwoven story of the two men is also compelling. Considered an experimental novel when it was first published in the 1970s, it amazed me how many recently published books could easily have drawn inspiration from this style of writing and plot development. A definite must-read for anyone remotely interested in London and its history.
A Week At The Airport by Alain De Botton
This was my first book by De Botton and blimey, he knows what he's doing with a pen and a piece of paper - or rather a blank Word document - doesn't he? Who would have thought someone could give such life, character and purpose to Heathrow Airport, a place I actively avoid if I can help it. A quick, brisk read this book's best feature is the way De Botton captures the people who work in Heathrow everyday or those who just pass through at the beginning or end of a new adventure. I must read more of this De Botton's work... apparently he's quite popular...
I've wanted to read this for years and am surprised at myself that I didn't after I devoured Howards End last year. Good things come to those who wait, and yes, Maurice is a good little novel. The book itself has its own story unpublished as it was until after Forster's death. Not only did the novel reveal (or confirm) the author's own sexuality but it revealed much about social attitudes to homosexuality in Edwardian England and the fear, confusion and desperation of those men suffocating under both societal and legal restrictions is accurately captured in Maurice. While I found the pacing a little slower than Howards End, and it wasn't always easy to feel good things for all the characters, there were some lovely Forster-isms - observations of human nature, the confusion and passion love brings - and I am glad I finally got around to reading this important novel.
Here we go with my first erotic book! Yes, really! A few months ago I was pitching an article about erotica and so started looking at the sexy books we should be reading (rather than the plethora of copy and paste "billionaire BDSM porn" you'll find clogging up Amazon's Kindle shelves). While I didn't get the commission, I did end up adding a lot of books to my reading list thanks to my research of erotic literature that is well written, well constructed and super seductive. Many of the short stories in Delta of Venus tick all these boxes, though I have to be honest and say I found them a little repetitive (lots of pert breasts, when we all know not all breasts are pert!) though this was possibly due to the fact that many of the stories featured the same characters. This is not a book for everyone but if you are intrigued by what erotic literature looks like without the "holy craps!" then Anais Nin is exactly the author you should start with.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I mentioned in last month's Moments of Happiness round up that I had started watching the BBC series Sherlock. I got to episode three before I realised it was ridiculous that I hadn't yet read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories so I set about making that right. The result was a very happy few hours. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a short story collection made up of mostly unconnected standalone cases that Sherlock and Watson must solve. While not much is made of the narrator Watson's character in these stories, and Sherlock isn't quite so socially awkward as Cumberbatch has made him, there is no denying that the sharp retorts, observations and conclusions which feature in the TV show are mostly Arthur Conan Doyle's original creation and no-one elses. With other obvious differences to the TV series - not least the time period setting - I loved learning how much of the books has been incorporated into the episodes I've watched so far and I'm definitely going to be reading more of Sherlock in the future.
This Year Will Be Different by Monika Kanokova
This review should be preceded with the disclosure that I am featured in this book. Nonetheless I read it eagerly as the premise was right up my street. 23 interviews with 23 entrepreneurial women who freelance or set up their own businesses, this is essential reading for anyone (male or female) considering starting a new professional venture of their own. From graphic designers to vloggers, interior designers to shop owners, there is plenty of personal experience on these pages. Each interview is introduced by Monika outlining steps worth taking to make yourself best prepared for whatever challenge you are hoping to undertake and I learned a lot reading these and the interviews in the book. I'm very proud to have been part of it, but even if I hadn't been I'd still recommend this book to anyone half-interested in freelancing or setting up their own business.
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens
It's a little shocking to me that this is the only contemporary fiction I read in March. It was also not my usual cup of tea. The story of a very overweight woman whose husband leaves her, I mainly gave this a go because I was such a fan of the author's other novel, The Girls. You only need to read the blurb to know that this book is very different and in many ways it was like reading a story by a completely different author. The reviews are mixed, but I actually enjoyed it. It pulled me in. I cared about the characters. I could see her troubles, sympathise, and yet still find it utterly frustrating that she didn't do anything about them for so long. In many ways it was the perfect beach read and I ploughed through it very quickly. I can't say I was overwhelmingly happy with the ending but I can see how other alternatives may have been clichéd or felt fake.
What have you read recently? I'd love to hear if you have any book recommendations for me!
P.S. Book reviews from January and February if you'd like some more recommendations.
Frances M. Thompson
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