Monday, November 4, 2013

All the Cool Kids are Doing It - A to Z Blogger Book Survey

If everyone else is doing it, then I'd better join in! (I can hear my mother saying "If Billy jumped off a cliff then would you do it too?") Everyone else? Well Conrad Kinch, Steve the Wargamer and Millsy just to name a few.

How can I not join in? I'm a librarian and so are several other people in my immediate family. Both my kids look like they're well on the way to become librarians, too. You can't get their noses out of books (except if the telly's on or if they've got a new app on the ipad! *sighs*)

So what is this survey, I hear you ask? Well, have a look at what the others have posted and stop asking silly questions! ;-)

Without further ado, on with the survey!
  • Author you've read the most books from:
That would probably be George MacDonanld Fraser and his wonderful series starring my favourite anti-hero Flashman the cad. I discovered this series in my early 20's and hoovered up every episode in the Victorian era's arch-bounder. My historical interests up to that period were the ancient era and WW2, with sketchy knowledge of everything in between. Flashman not only entertained me, but educated me in some of the salient points of how the Empire was won, while bedding every willing lady and skewering Victorian hypocrisy (and saving his own skin and reputation!) along the way.

  • Best sequel ever:
Richard Holmes' series of social/military history starting with Redcoat  

followed by Sahib, the history of the British soldier in India,

ending with Tommy, the history of the British soldier in the Great War 1914-1918.

  • Currently reading:
All in Scarlet Uniform by Adrian Goldsworthy.

Goldsworthy is better known as an academic and author of non-fiction history of the ancient era. His other historical interest, though, is in the Napoleonic era. He has written a series of novels  set during the Peninsular War following the exploits of the junior officers of a fictional regiment, the 106th Foot. 
While not on a par with authors like Mallinson or O'Brien, his novels are definitely much more interesting and engaging than Cornwell's Sharpe series (cue howls of outrage!). Goldsworthy's characters aren't the one-dimensional cardboard cutouts of the Sharpe series, but there is a little too much exposition of the plot in general and grand strategy  in particular in the characters' conversation. One character in particular is turning out to enjoy espionage and through him the grand strategy of the campaign is explained. I find this the weakest element to what is otherwise an enjoyable, but not entirely satisfying series.

This one is based around the first siege of Ciudad Rodrigo and the Combat on the Coa.

Incomparable: Napoleon's 9th Light Infantry Regiment by Terry Crowdy

I bought this to read via my Kindle app on my phone.  It's probably not the best format to read it in as I find it difficult to find the time to read it. It's not the sort of thing you can dip in and out of like you can with a novel.
  • Drink of choice whilst reading:
Tea or coffee while at home, water if I'm on the tram.
  • E-reader or physical book:
I have the Kindle app on my phone (see above) which I think is great for indulging in my guilty vice; Zombie Literature! Some of it's surprisingly good, others complete dross. The dross usually only costs a couple of bucks, so I don't feel too bad about deleting them if I can't stomach the nauseating prose.

The picks of my Zombie lit on my Kindle app are:

Stretching the term e-reader to include audio books, I've enjoyed listening to the last couple of the Matthew Hervey series by Alan Mallinson while doing mundane and boring tasks like washing the dishes and other household chores. Listening to the fortunes of Hervey's career has made housework a pleasure!
  • Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school:
I didn't say boo to a girl until I was about 17, and then it was only as a friend. I was incredibly shy as a boy (Aaaww! Isn't he precious?) and only came out of my shell as an adult.

I remember feeling great empathy towards Tess of the Durbervilles after first reading it for Year 12 English Lit. But after another couple of readings and analysing the text for a term, I was thoroughly sick of her passivity and was glad to be shot of her. A lot like many teenage romances I suspect!

  • Glad you gave this book a chance:
The Great Duke by Arthur Bryant

This was one of the books I inherited from my grandfather's library after his death in the mid-nineties and was probably one of the books that switched me on to the Napoleonic period more than any other. It was my first introduction to The Beau's career in India, the Peninsular War and gave me a sense of context for Waterloo which I previously had no knowledge of except that it was Boney's last hurrah. What his first hurrah was I had no clue!

It was one of those books that you read which then sets you off to find more about other important personalities and events, which I am still doing to this day!

  • Hidden book gem:
Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

My in-laws gave this to me for my birthday the first year I was going out with my wife before we were married. I was a bit non-plussed, but gave it a go because I thought I'd better be able to talk about it next time I saw them (I'm a good son-in-law!). I surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying it. He makes a really good argument as to why the West came out on top when there were so many other cultures more advanced a lot earlier. It's just that the West was dealt the winning hand in terms of what Diamond determines as the essentials for success.

  • Important moment in your book life:
The Greek Armies by Peter Connolly

I got this book when I was 9. It still holds pride of place in my collection along with Connolly's other books on the Roman Army, Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome, and Pompeii. My sister made me a complete hoplite panoply from cardboard and papier mache for my 10th birthday based on one of the illustrations in the book. It was a total surprise and one of the best birthday presents of my childhood!

Needless to say, this was one of the books that sparked a life long interest in military history!

Other seminal books in my youth were the Eagle of the Ninth and the sequels by Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Viking Trilogy by Henry Treece, including The Road to Miklagard.

  • Just finished:
Send Me Safely Back Again by Adrian Goldsworthy

I received the latest two books in the series from my wife for my birthday. This one was set during the Talavera campaign.

  • Kind of book you won't read:
Anything that really doesn't interest me. It might be worthy, but if I don't feel like reading it, I really can't be bothered. 
  • Longest book you've read:
Technically not a single book, but it has to be the Song of Fire and Ice series by George RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR Martin (see, even his name is long!)

I finished the 3rd book suffering a little burnout and made the mistake of looking up the plotline on the web and saw that it just kept going on and On AND ON! I may come back to it at a later stage, or just wait to watch it on telly.
  • Major book hangover because of disappointing endings:
See above. I really find it jarring that after all the effort put in reading about characters and their development over time, Mr. Martin just kills them off like that (*snaps fingers* [Sorry works better visually and audibly]). Investing all that time reading about Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Robert Baratheon, Renly Baratheon etc. etc. and then he just offs them without a by your leave! Although it was highly satisfying when Joffrey got what was coming. Never a character deserved an ending like our Joff!
  • Number of bookcases you own:
Just one after moving house a couple of years ago, but it holds all the most important books!
  • One book you've read multiple times:
Neuromancer by William Gibson

I loved the whole cyber-punk oeuvre of William Gibson, but this was the one that really grabbed me. His whole dark and morally ambivalent future really struck a chord with me in my early adult years and coming back to it was a strangely comforting experience!
  • Preferred place to read:
At the breakfast table, on the tram to and from work, while walking from tram to work (I will probably die one day when a workman neglects to replace a man-hole cover!) and , most favourite, on the toilet (aah, solitude!).
  • Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read:
"But I am concerned with facts, and since many of them are discreditable to me, you can rest assured they are true."

Flashman, MacDonald Fraser, G., The Book Club, London 1969, p.11
  • Reading regret:
That I haven't finished the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien
  • Series you started and need to finish:
See above
  • Three of your all-time favorite books:
In no particular order:

  • Unapologetic fanboy for:
George MacDonald Fraser and his incomparable creation, Flashman. I was bereft when I heard the news the author had died and left the remaining volumes of the Flashman Papers unfinished!
  • Very excited for this release:
The Fallen by Charlie Higson

I read the first 4 in this series earlier this year. They are aimed at younger teenagers, but I loved them! In a Britain where everyone over the age of 14 has turned into crazed cannibalistic, lurching monsters, a group of kids try to survive in an apocalyptic London. The murderous adults aren't the only problem though!

This is the latest in the series and I suspect that it is also the last, as things seemed to be coming to a head in the last book.

  • Worst bookish habit:
Borrowing a whole stack of books from work, have them sitting on my bedside table and then return them without having read more than the one on the top of the pile!

  • X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book:

  • Your latest book purchase:
Does it count as a purchase if you rescued it from the library discard pile?

  • Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waaay too late:)
I reckon it probably was The Enemy series by Charlie Higson of which The Fallen (see above) is latest installment.

So there you have it, folks; looking back at this list it seems the overriding themes in Rosbif's literary life are military history and the Zombie apocalypse!

Funnily enough, I've started writing a story set in Spain during the Peninsular War which is best described as Goya's Disasters of War with with human-flesh eating monsters!


  1. Wonderful! I really must give the some thought.

  2. The Great Duke by Bryant.....started me on Napoleonics as well, back in the early 1970's. I liked Day of the Triffids, disliked Tess, great walk down the lane of books read.

  3. A very interesting and entertaining read... er post... whatever! Great selection of books that explains your Shelfari (I offer no such excuses for mine!) I am a similarly afflicted bookworm and have a very thumbed copy of Alan Moreshead's 'Blue Nile' which inspired me. Your post is an interesting exercise which I may have to do myself one day. Windham's 'The Triffids' was my favorite SF book until I was hijacked by fantasy in Year 11 by Tolkein's 'Lord of the Rings'. Thanks again for the entertaining post.


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