01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

The Society's Community

Reading is not just for Christmas



I don’t know about you, but Christmas is one of the periods of the year when I can really indulge in reading. The university I work for always closes between Christmas eve and the new year, add to that an extra week off I took – and there’s plenty of time to escape into book-world.

At the moment I am reading Neil McGregor’s Living with the Gods – a fascinating and thoughtful account about the importance of Faith in human history. Even a godless person like me is finding this really interesting. I love his compassionate style of writing, and if you’re into history- I can also recommend his wonderful book Germany, Memories of a Nation. A heart-breaking read at times!

The other book I’m enjoying as my ‘night cap’ is the most recent Maigret – Maigret and the Ghost. Great read! I think I said on another thread that Maigret (and Simenon in general) can be a challenge to read if you’re a woman (oh, the sexism!!), a Jew (thinly veiled anti-Semitism, especially in the earlier ones) or if you’re just human (racism abounds). Despite all of this, I find his descriptions of Paris in each decade since the 30’s the most evocative I’ve ever read. It’s almost cinematic in quality.

So… what are you/will you be reading over the festive period? Anything you would particularly recommend? Most recently I went on the @Ghost-of-Mr-Tallis’s recommendation and bought Imagined Communities – which has been a seriously thought-provoking and enjoyable read, so looking forward to hearing about other recommendations.

Hit me with your reading stick! :grinning: :green_book:


It sounds a bit clichéd but I’m actually just starting War and Peace.


Used to love a good Maigret, despite all the misgivings! It was Simenon who helped me with my French O-Level oral exam. The examiner, on learning that I was originally from Edinburgh, asked me if anyone lived in the Castle. I said: “Oui, il y a une caserne.” (barracks) I had learned the word when, as a class, we had read Maigret et l’inspecteur Malgracieux a few months previously.
Living in Lausanne from 1981 to 1985, we were aware of Simenon’s villa in Epalinges at the end of the no. 5 trolley bus route, but he was pretty much a recluse by then. Someone pointed him out to me in town once.

My most recent ‘big read’ was ‘Crime and Punishment’ - amazing novel that totally engrossed me from start to finish. Had more difficulty with his ‘The Idiot’, although I tried and tried.

Funniest book I have read in a long time is The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

For pure escapism I’m forever dipping into the four-book ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ trilogy which makes me chuckle every time, no matter where I open it.


Fantastic! I must admit, I am yet to tackle this beast.

My ex-husband read it a few years back, and my daughter and her step-sister made a film of him reading it and growing old as he does (they added a white beard and other silly props). It was hilarious. He loved it, though. Let us know what you think!

I like Woody Allen’s summary of it: “It’s about some Russians”. :wink:


I considered reading it back in the uni days and chickened out - went for Anna Karenina instead, on the basis that it was on the right side of 1,000 pages…


Quite a lot of women in France must have thought the same (sorry, crude, rude and horrible of me! But have you ever read his biography?!!!)

Exactly my experience! Loved Crime and Punishment - had to do it for my finals in High School, but even that did not diminish its power. Did not get on with The Idiot at all.

My all-time-escapism book is Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. I never tire of reading it, and - other than Black Adder- I quote it all the time, to the boredom of my loved ones.


Thanks for these, and for the reminder that I really need to have a go at ‘Imagined Communities’! Stirred by November’s Armistice centenary, I’ve been reading Covenant With Death by John Harris. Written in the 1960s, meticulously researched and very, very good - manages for the most part to avoid the various glib traps that war-related fiction written some time after the fact can fall into.

Have also been dipping into a recent edition of English poems by Fernando Pessoa. Some gems among the juvenilia, but nothing on The Book of Disquiet, which is one of my all-time favourites.

On the ‘comfort re-read’ front, I’m considering another go at A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Still the funniest public-transport-glare-inducing-snort-laugh-prompting collection of words I’ve ever read :slight_smile:


Interestingly I found ‘The idiot’ an easier read… was a long time ago though (both).


I think he died in his 90’s, didn’t he? What was he like…?!


Born in 1903, died in 1989. Looked pretty much like he does in the pictures - trilby and raincoat, shuffling along. Had a successful operation on a brain tumour in 1984, which was in the Lausanne news at the time. Was probably the reason for the shuffling when I saw him in 1982.


Just finished a book called Fragile Lives by Prof. Stephen Westaby about his career as a heart surgeon. Quite gripping and emotive, especially if you’ve been on the receiving end. Not up there with Tolstoy but an interesting read and a lot quicker too!
About to start Jo Nesbo’s latest, I think, called Macbeth. If it’s anything like the Harry Hole novels it’ll be finished in a couple of days, so probably back to fantasy for Christmas.


I read a lot mainly crime fiction. However I am embarking on the 100 books to read before you die list. First book is The Great Gatsby. It is being delivered tomorrow. I am 100% confident that I will drink 100 bottles of wine before I read the 100 books.


Have you got a good recommendation?

Although I am cursed with a weak heart (metaphorically speaking) and can’t watch any crime dramas, I do enjoy some crime fiction. As long as it doesn’t indulge in gore or descriptions of mindless violence (is there a mindful violence, I wonder?!). I went through a slightly obsessive Marlow phase (Raymond Chandler) recently, but Maigret is probably my favourite.


Can’t go wrong with Jeffrey Deaver, the Lincoln Rhyme series, or Jo Nesbo. Too many to mention.

Great site https://www.fantasticfiction.com for searching books/authors/sequence etc.

My wife has started reading Alexander McCall Smith, been to seen him in talks a couple of times recently, and he is apparently hilarious.


I try to manage my fondness for crime novels by having a rule of one non-crime book after a crime book (I really enjoy Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels and Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks series). Recently I’ve read Ian McEwan’s Nutshell - which I’m not really sure I’d recommend - and I’m currently just about to start William Boyd’s Waiting for Sunrise. Best book of the recent run was Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor which was superb. The new Jonathan Coe is up next (after another Peter Robinson…)


The Maisie Dobbs novels by Jacqueline Winspear and the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L Sayers are my go to sleuth books. Very little violence and great on period detail.


I was given a Daunts’ subscription for my birthday - a new book every month for the year. A lovely, and thoughtful present, and the people at Daunts talk to you about likes / dislikes so that they can properly curate. the last arrival was ‘The Second Rider’ by Alex Beer, and Austrian writer I had not heard of before. A wonderful evocation of the seamier side of immediately post WW1 Vienna (though there will be gore, I am sorry to say :)).
Really enjoying Bettany Hughes’ ‘Istanbul’ at present; an engrossing read.


Thanks, @JayKay! Sounds just up my street. I’ll look into it :+1::+1:


Gosh! What a lovely present! :grinning: someone clearly really likes you! :wink::+1:


I have yet to hear of anyone who has actually finished it, I never did :wink: