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On the reading front, I’ve been going non-stop, alternating fiction and non-fiction. On the fiction side, I’ve worked my way through a few John Grishams:

A Time to Kill, A Time for Mercy, Sycamore Row and Gray Mountain. The first three of those all feature the character of Jake Brigance, as played by Matthew McConaghy in the movie of A Time to Kill. Gray Mountain tackles the effects of open cast, coal-mining on communities in Virginia. Although a work of fiction some of the detail is based on fact and is disturbing to say the least. Highly recommended and, along with the others, good reads that rip along at a good pace.

Other reads include David Baldacci’s The Simple Truth, The Various Haunts of Men - Susan Hill, The Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, Charles Bukowski – Hollywood and Tolkien’s, The Hobbit which is essentially a children’s book but after reading Lord of the Rings felt I had to go back and read it too.

I would particularly recommend The Cuckoo’s Calling for the very likeable characters of Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin. This is the first in a series of four books and I look forward to reading the rest of them in the not too distant future. Bukowski’s Hollywood had some real laugh out loud moments where the main character basically drinks himself through the book and is certainly worth a read.

I also read The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. This is one of my favourite films and I also have the sound track on CD but had never read the book. There are a few differences between it and the film and I was lucky enough to get a first edition. The dust jacket has a bit of damage but one to add to the library. With all the war talk at present, it highlights the utter stupidity/futility of humanity and war. History teaches us nothing and it seems as if humanity will only learn the hard way.

On the non-fiction front, Nomadland by Jessica Bruder gives us a frightening look into the world of the poor and marginalised in today’s America. A damning indictment on the ‘allegedly’ richest nation on earth, something I would strongly dispute. The US is being dragged to its knees and is at the forefront of Western decline and nothing captures the utter waste and hopelessness of it all as much as this book does. Again, it highlights the absolute stupidity of those in charge; the military/industrial complex has bled America dry and this is the result. Old age must be terrifying for so many in the US. Is this really the best they can do for their people? Is this the best we can do for humanity?

Breath by James Nestor talks about how breathing through our mouths, coupled with dietary changes, has caused a lot of the dental problems we have today. Our breathing habits and soft diets have led to a loss of bone mass in our jaws and, consequently, the dental issues of ‘crowded mouth’ and sinus problems so many of us suffer from. The evidence is compelling when our modern features are compared to the strong jaws and great teeth of our ancestors, there is a reason the slack-jawed yokel is a slack-jawed yokel!

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel tells the strange, but true, story of Christopher Knight who lived undetected in the woods of Maine for 27 years with no other direct human contact. Although some suspect he did have contact with members of his family, as he wasn’t too far from home and was never reported as missing. He had been stealing to survive and was eventually caught and that is how the story came to light. He never really said why he did it and he remains a bit of a mysterious character. But it’s an interesting story and sort of ties in with Nomadland; those who choose to escape society and those who are forced into it. That is one of the good/bad things about the US, because it is so large, you can just disappear.

I have a love for all things Japanese and following on from Memoirs of Geisha, I read the Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki on whose story Memoirs was based. She wrote her memoir as she was very unhappy about the portrayal of Geisha in Arthur Golden’s book. As always, the real story is more interesting and provides a great look into an aspect of Japanese culture that is sadly, disappearing.

I also ready Peter Carey’s, Wrong about Japan, a look at modern Japanese culture. It details a trip he took with his son, who is a fan of anime, and different aspects of present day Japanese culture and life. It’s not a very long book but it was interesting all the same.

On the theme of escaping society, which is another thing I am very interested in, I bought Mark Boyle’s, The Way Home. Mark gave up modern life in England and moved to somewhere in Galway to live a sustainable life, off grid. He actually wrote the book by hand which has to be commended. One interesting point in the book was in relation to the changes in Irish society over the years and in a conversation with one of his elderly neighbours, the neighbour remarked that years ago when they heard that in the US old people were being put into homes, they found this shocking and now they were doing it in Ireland.

Thinking about this, I realised that this was one of the downsides of the feminist movement. When women stayed at home, they would have performed this duty, the women in the family would have pulled together and cared for the young and old. I’m not advocating a return to women having to stay at home but there is a case for women with young children to be allowed to stay home and for those who care for elderly relatives to be paid a decent allowance – I feel another blog coming on, anyway, happy reading!

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