Since my wife and I started sharing Amazon Prime, it has meant that books which I buy now appear on her Kindle, and vice versa.
I started, and finished March then by reading two of her Kindle novels.
The first was The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins (ISBN 978-0552779777, 414 pages). I confess to having preconceptions of what this mass-market novel, and subsequent film – which I have not seen – would be like.
I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was a very good read: a plot which was on the whole convincing, and which kept you engaged. Which of us has not looked at houses as we pass them on the train and has not wondered what goes on within them; or glimpsed people in kitchens or in their gardens and guessed at what their lives are like.
My second read was Utopia For Realists by Rutger Bregman (ISBN 978-1408890264 8, 299 pages), a factual work on economics and politics, which I read over 36 hours on two flights. This book, originally published in the Netherlands, and now in English in an excellent translation, is a terrific read. It sets out the case for Universal Basic Income (UBI) in a convincing way – and looks at complementary measures which would be needed to accompany such an economic shift: including a reduction in the working week, a more open approach to immigration and so on. Along the way it throws up some startling historic facts, backed up by research and studies. The most arresting of these was that the closest that the West has come to implementing UBI in recent history was under Richard Nixon in the USA. He was ultimately persuaded not to do do by an aide who misunderstood, or misrepresented the Speenhamland experiment from 18th century England.
My third book of the month was a secondhand collection of photos by Josef Sudek in the Pardon 55 series (ISBN 9780714841684, 128 pages). While I recognised Sudek’s name, I knew little of his work, and almost nothing of his long life or career spent mostly in his native Czechoslovakia. Such a compilation is interesting as a taster, and shows his style develop, often in the perspective of emerging trends in European and American photography.
Having watched all four seasons of the Netflix drama. House of Cards, and having a memory of the original UK version from the late 1980s, I bought the Michael Hobbs novel, House of Cards (ISBN 978-0006176909, 384 pages) when it was on special offer over the new year break. This was a very good read, and funnier, albeit in a dark way than the US TV drama. I need to rewatch the UK TV version to compare – and read the two sequels at some time.
My final read of March was The Gustav Sonata (ISBN 978-1784700201, 320 pages) by Rose Tremain. This melancholic tale, with just a few episodes to lighten it, shows three phases in the life of Swiss boy. Perhaps the most interesting was the period before his birth, and features his father, the Assistant Chief of Police in a town near the German border, who struggles to remain humane in the support of fleeing German Jews. The central theme appears to be that everyone is dysfunctional to some degree.
Total pages read for March: 1,545