Wednesday, 15 May 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday

Happy Wednesday chaps!

Officially halfway through the week and already halfway through May. Having finally made it to some semblance of summer weather in London, we have suddenly regressed. A fact not helped by having a brother in Florida and parents in Missouri, both locations currently experiencing 30 degree weather (Celsius, that is). The oppressive rain does, at least, make my intense revision schedule slightly less painful. Although all of my self-control is now going towards not casting aside the textbooks and throwing myself into Dan Brown's new thriller. And on that note, we turn to the pressing business of What I'm Reading Wednesday...

Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux

Does anyone else find this cover immensely disturbing?

If you are not familiar with the unbelievably talented Theroux dynasty, I highly suggest turning to Google for enlightenment. Marcel Theroux, son of the travel writer Paul Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar among his best works) and brother of the truly fantastic documentary-presenter Louis Theroux (seriously do look up his Weird Weekends series - unbelievable), is a writer of substantial reputation. Hailed by the likes of Haruki Murakami, I had high expectations for Marcel Theroux's newest novel, Strange Bodies, which came out at the beginning of this month in the UK (I'm currently looking into the US publication date). I must admit that the few reviews I had read before purchasing left me a little confused - the complexity of the plot was obscurely summarised, leaving me with the impression that this was a novel requiring a particularly high level of commitment and intellectual prowess. Given my unrelenting and study-induced brain ache, I am enormously relieved that this is not the case. 

Strange Bodies tells the story of Dr. Nicholas Slopen, as he relates the events leading up to his incarceration in a mental institution. Because Nicholas is not who he appears to be. His memories, experiences, and consciousness are all those of Nicholas Slopen - the problem being that Nicholas Slopen has already died. Currently about halfway through the book, Strange Bodies has already proved itself to be a truly astonishing feat of imagination and research. A mix of thriller and science fiction, reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, Strange Bodies is also something of a philosophical reflection on the nature of 'humanness'. It explores what defines us, whether our physical being (or 'carcass' as so affectionately termed in the book) or something inherent in our consciousness. 

This is truly one of the most fascinating reads that I have come across in recent memory and I am hugely excited (if a little daunted) at the prospect of reviewing it for you.

Inferno by Dan Brown



Yes, friends! The time has finally arrived for Robert Langdon to again whisk us along on a white-knuckle ride through the world of symbology. Having decided (wisely) to cancel my Amazon order in favour of focussing on my studying, I ended up (unwisely) buying the book from WH Smith on the day of release anyway. So far, a truly remarkable and surprising level of self-discipline has prevented me from devouring Inferno in one sitting. Both The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons forced me into hermetic habits for a couple of days, as I fell head-first into the mysteries of Opus Dei, the Illuminati, and Robert Langdon's penchant for Harris tweed. I know that Dan Brown's books get something of a bad wrap in literary circles, a particular target for critics of 'popular' fiction. But the apparently seamless blending of fact and fiction, constructed into plot lines of fantastic pace and detail, remains truly astonishing to me. Needless to say, I have been waiting for Inferno with bated breath.

True to the intellectual themes permeating Dan Brown's works, Inferno alludes to Dante's masterpiece of the same name. The book begins as the symbologist Robert Langdon wakes up in hospital with no memory of how he came to be there. Subsequently pursued by individuals of an unknown identity, Langdon, accompanied by Dr. Sienna Brooks, finds himself thrown into a chase across the city of Florence (depicted in applaudable detail). As any reader of Dan Brown's previous works would expect, Inferno is a novel of conspiracies, laced with code-breaking ventures and allusions to numerous literary and artistic treasures. This book undoubtedly has potential to see Dan Brown return to Da Vinci Code form (in case you cannot tell, I was not a fan of The Lost Symbol), and I can't wait to get properly stuck in. As you may sense, my current restraint is giving me an almost physical pain. Permission given to start taking bets on how long I resist throwing my lecture notes aside in favour of an uninterrupted quest to Inferno's final page.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


So, full disclosure, I am not yet technically reading this book. Study scheduling, combined with an attempt to keep on top of my other reads, means that I am reining back a little on the number of books I have on the go. But I am flagging The Perks of Being a Wallflower as the next on my list. For those who have been following The Book Habit since its inception, or have any outside familiarity with my reading habits, this read may come as a bit of a surprise. Despite having a truly eclectic taste in books, I tend to steer well clear of teenage angst (hello Harry in Order of the Phoenix, sort it out friend). So The Perks of Being a Wallflower was certainly not on my radar (a fact aided by my aversion to Emma Watson...yes, I admit it, and I can almost hear your screams of protest). Why then, I hear you ask, has it suddenly worked its way onto this post? One reason only...

Steering clear of the drunken photos with enormous restraint.

My brother. Not, as I think he would admit, much of a reader. But still one of my favourite people in the entire world. So when he asked me to read and write a review of his favourite book - The Perks of Being a Wallflower - how could I refuse? Knowing that Dan made it through Perks and loved it enough to recommend it to me, I am surprisingly excited to give it a go. Relating the exploits of the high-school student Charlie and representing one of the most popular coming-of-age stories recently written, it promises to be an interesting departure from the other books in my 'To Read' pile. Hopefully, having done two years at high school in the US, I have a good basis for understanding what's going on!

Here's hoping my review does not divide this cutest of partnerships...

Because I couldn't resist. And I still look equally awe-struck whenever we're together.

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Anyway, those are the three books that I'm working on this week. Hopefully returning to you next week with a guest post, following the fantastic contributions from Dan and Isabella. If you are interested in guesting for What I'm Reading Wednesday, drop me an email at thebookhabitblog@gmail.com

Also, I want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to those of you who emailed or sent me comments about yesterday's Right to Write post on censorship. I had a great thanks from English PEN and hopefully I'll be returning with some similar topical posts over the coming months!

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