Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven


Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Several seemingly unrelated storylines and well-written characters come together. At first, it seems they only have one thing in common—a private detective hired to help each one find a person who’s been lost, but as time goes on it comes out that the world is smaller than they think. Inventive and difficult to put down with some of the most interesting characters I’ve read.

Celebrity Chekhov by Ben Greenman. Review .

The Celibacy Club by Janice Eudice. I bought this during my last trip to New York at a great little feminist bookshop called Bluestockings (it is on Allen St. way down at the tip of the island.) And I loved it, this is the first book of short fiction I have enjoyed, although the title story was a little disappointing in the end.

Chicagoland Detective Agency 1: Drained Brains Caper by Trina Robbins. Review .

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley. Review

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I really enjoy books about books and THIS book is about three or four books, even better! What do you get when you combine The Three Musketeers, a secret society, a handful of mysterious stranger and Satan himself? A fabulously intricate read. Very highly recommended!

Come Together by Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd. Now here is something refreshing: a relationship viewed from both the male and female perspectives simultaneously. Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd wrote this book in alternating chapters beginning with each writer picking up where the previous left off. A hysterically funny, totally believable account of the roller coaster of emotions anyone who has ever been in a relationship can identify with.

Complications by Atul Gawande. That show ER, while I adore it, does not even begin to cover what it is like for a new surgeon in the field. Well written and human. It is like those books about what goes on behind the scenes at a restaurant; it makes me never want to be in hospital again.

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. Review here .

Convent Girls edited by Jackie Bennett. With my predilection for nuns and convent life it would have been difficult for this collection of essays about attending convent schools to go wrong. There were one or two essays that were bleak and ‘Magdalene Sisters’ but on the whole they were a riot. Some were harrowing, others were memories fondly recalled, but most were done with humour at being taught the facts of life by a bunch of people who probably knew nothing about them. Anne Robinson’s (Ms Weakest Link) and Germaine Greer’s were highlights.

Conversations with Spirits by E.O. Higgins. Review

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
[Focus on the Coast Review]
Boy, young adult books have come a long way since I was a ‘young adult’! Light-hearted yet hyper-realistic, these loosely-connected vignettes follow the hopes and worries of a group of teens in a small town, as well as the journey of the necklace one of the girls loses. The characters experience everything from having a crush on the cool kid to being accepted by your older sibling’s friends; from discovering your talents to the wonder of learning about the power of music. Though it takes place in the real world and the characters seem like people you bump into every day there’s also an air of other-worldliness, everything is cast with a shimmery glow. Perkins so accurately conveys what it is to be young today I had to look her up to see how old she is (she’s a grown up). Unassuming without being sentimental—this is the sort of book adults as well as teens will enjoy.

Crush by Jane Futcher. My way of attempting to find out what it would be like to attend a private school in secondary school and how it would be to be gay during that time. Of course it had to end badly, but that is probably true to life.

The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen. Wow. This book is so amazing; it made me question my perceptions about the world and everything in it. Fuses philosophy, religion, politics, history and personal experiences. Beautiful in a horrific way. I could only read about fifty or so pages at a time because it was very heavy, but great. This is the kind of book you want to tell all of your friends about; written by the kind of author you want to get to know better.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. An autistic boy decides to find the killer of his neighbour’s dog—during the investigations he also learns that his father has lied about something rather important and it puts his fragile, controlled world into a spin. Paul Collins’ book about his autistic son, Not Even Wrong, sparked my interest in the condition and this is a good demonstration of the way it affects the everyday lives of the people who have it. Haddon also wrote from experience—he worked with autistic children before writing the book.


Damage by Josephine Hart. Review .

Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa by Katherine Dettwyler. Review .

Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Strange and Fascinating Cases of a Forensic Anthropologist by William R Maples and Michael Browning. Review .

The Dead of Jericho by Colin Dexter.
I picked this up when I was writing a trilogy set in Oxford and wanted to see how authors capture the city. What started out as research for writing quickly drew me in. Dexter’s protagonist, Inspector Morse, might be an acerbic alcoholic, but he’s a genius when it comes to solving murders. This one concerns a woman whose death is originally thought to be a suicide, but Morse has a hunch that there’s more to the story than that. And he’s right. Dexter is brilliant at capturing atmosphere and building suspense—I’ll definitely pick up more of his books.

Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. I’m a warped individual. At thirteen my hero was Hannibal Lecter (he killed rude people—c’MON!). So when I heard there were two books about a serial killer who only kills serial killers I new I had to check them out. Oh boy. ‘Black humour’ isn’t a big enough phrase, my twisted friends. I was cackling at nearly every other page as our boy hunted down someone who was offing people in a particularly gruesome way. This is the second of the two, though they don’t need to be read in order (the first is Darkly Dreaming Dexter ) and they’re going on my Books to Re-read shelf. I can count the number of books I’d re-read on one hand, so that’s saying something.

Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. A god of death, Shinigami, drops a Death Note (a notebook that kills anyone whose name is written in) in the human world. A very bright young man picks it up and decides to use it to kill criminals. Law enforcement agencies around the world attempt to stop him. Compelling, though confusingly complicated at times; a good start for someone new to manga. Complete review here .

Deep Shell by Paddy Kelly. Review .

The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov. A chess genius finds love very late in life and due to having spent his formative years playing chess all over Europe, has no social skills. One of the traits of Nabokov’s protagonists is that they fall in love completely and at first sight with whatever woman happens to cross their paths. This time, our protag is driven insane by chess and winds up killing himself. I wrote this review two weeks after reading the book and am only able to remember that much—odd.

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov. A man discontent with his life and failing fortunes sees a vagabond who is his doppelganger. He immediately hatches a plan to kill the man and claim his half a million in insurance money. The majority of the plot is taken up with his making of the plans and setting them in motion. After he has killed the man and taken on his identity he flees to France, where he finds out he looks nothing like the man he killed. An excellent example of an unreliable narrator, as it’s not until the end that the reader realises no one has seen the hobo other than our protagonist. The book is written from his hiding place in France and ends in him being caught less than a month after the murder. The protag shares a trait with the murdered husband in King Queen Knave in that he can only see his own version of people—he takes his wife for a simpleton and writes his cousin off (not seeing their obvious affair) as a drunken wastrel.

Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig. I didn’t know a memoir of an obsessive-compulsive teenager could be so hysterical, but I found myself laughing at every page. Seeing the world through her eyes was both enlightening and unsettling. She had a form of OCD called ‘scrupulosity’ which is when a person feels compelled to stringently observe commandments—unfortunately Traig didn’t have much religious training so she made up her prayers and commandments. From her toddler years and the compulsion to tap the bookcases to her teen years and her inability to park a car without doing damage to light poles, kerbs and other stationary objects this is a singular memoir.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This goes in the Truth is Stranger Than Fiction list. It’s about the World’s Fair held in Chicago in the late 1800s, as well as the U.S.’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. The guy is right out of a Poe story. I’d heard great things about the book for some time and eventually picked it up as a possible Halloween recommendation for Focus on the Coast because of the psychopath angle and wound up being drawn in by the description of the fair. I never thought I’d be so fascinated by architechture, but I couldn’t wait to find out if they’d get it together in time for the opening or what sorts of calamities would befall the organisers. Truly compelling, truly compelling. And that Holmes was a real prince.

Devlin by Michael Hibbard. Review .

The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth. Review .

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay. Review .

The Digested Read by John Crace. Review .

Dirty Tricks by Michael Dibdin. I read this because it is set in Oxford and I was just beginning a novel set there. About halfway through I realised I had seen the television adaptation on BBC America a few months before, but could not recall how it ended, so it was not a problem. The book was great, I did not see several plot twists coming and the author took a chance by having our narrator/protagonist be a schmuck.

The Divine Economy of Salvation by Pricila Uppal. Dark and literate and creepy. The tone reminded me of The Secret History. Hard to put down, but predictable. Extra points for being set in a convent and an all girls’ school.

The Diviner’s Tale by Bradford Morrow. Review .

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. Review.

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