Reading Catch-Up Time.

So, for some reason, I seem to have fallen a bit behind in my blogging about the books that I have read. I think some of it was being very busy and some of it not having much to say about the book itself.  It’s also been a bit complicated as I chipped one of my knuckles on my prominent hand and so it’s been more challenging to type things up wearing this brace thing. (I hurt it in one of the baseball batting cages that I was playing in with some friends in July. The ball hit me instead of the bat and I’ve only just found out that I chipped my bone. The batting cages were still the best thing that I did last summer though, knuckle be darned. I’m a bit of a knucklehead. Arf arf. And I will be back. Oh yes, I will return. This time with padded gloves. 🙂 )

However, here is a brief round-up of what has been passing before my eyes, book-wise:

The Sign of Four – Arthur Conan Doyle (1890)

More of the typical goodieness that is traditional in a Sherlock Holmes read, this was the second of four novels which closely follow Holmes as he solves another case.  (Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories starring Holmes.) It was really a good read, exciting and well written, and I can’t help but love Watson as his patience is tried again and again by the good detective. (This was also supported by the fact that we ended up watching the two Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downie Junior in them… Fun films to watch, and if you are at all familiar with Doyle’s writing, you can see subtle homages to that throughout the movie.)

This novel also brings to the fore Holmes’ drug use and how Watson views it as beginning to be a problem. Holmes uses cocaine (in a 7% solution) and even has his own special syringe in a leather case that he uses.  A very interesting article here by J. Thomas Dalby, Ph.D., who is a forensic psychologist, reports that Victorian society was tolerant of opium, morphine and cocaine use, and even the retired Surgeon General of the U.S. Army at the time declared that it was effective in reducing fatigue and having mood-elevating properties. However, Watson sees otherwise and shows concern for Holmes in this story. Pretty interesting debate though.

Another link (this is quite obvious now that it’s been pointed out to me)  – how it could be argued that House M.D. (TV show) with Gregory House, the brilliant but troubled physician: he uses drugs to cope, he’s rude, he’s extremely logical, he has a sidekick… Plus, House’s last name can be seen to be as analogous to Holmes’ last name (See?…) I don’t know if I had just been particularly dense, but I hadn’t put that comparison together before…

Join Me – Danny Wallace (2003)

A true story of a young journalist in London who was bored one day and put a small ad in a local paper asking people to “Join Me”. He didn’t say why they should join, where they should join, what their plans would be. Just “Join Me”. And thus the Join Me movement (“It’s not a cult – it’s a collective”) began.

Wallace is a funny writer, and clearly he and I were both raised in similar backgrounds in England as reading his writing was just like hanging out with my old friends in Bedford so I really enjoyed that. I also really enjoyed how the project grew without Wallace really knowing what he was doing: more and more people kept joining his collective, but he didn’t actually have a plan for what they were going to do. He finally came up with the plan of doing a good deed on each Friday (thus making them “Good Fridays”) and to start out with “making an old man happy”. The group’s first project was to send a lonely old man friend of one of them lots of peanuts. 🙂

This sounds very silly and childish, but Wallace evolves as the movement matures, and although things don’t always move smoothly, they do make progress. One of Wallace’s winning points is that he is so very honest about how little he knew at the time – he was as lost as anyone would be, and it is this honesty (combined with a smarty-pants sense of humor) that makes the book such a fun read.

Started in 2003, the Join Me movement now has thousands of members and do good deeds across the world. It was a good read and helps me have hope for the world’s future.

And remember: It’s not a cult – it’s a collective. (Funny once you have read the book and you recognize the connection.) 🙂

Join Me site:

A Woman of My Age – Nina Bawden (1967)

This volume had been on my shelves for *literally* decades, and whilst I was scanning another blog (sorry – can’t remember whose), they happened to be reading this book (or similar). So, pulled it off the shelf. It’s a short read, it’s a pessimistic and miserable read, and no one is (or stays) happy. Ever.  I rather regret giving the book its half-an-inch space on the bookshelf for so long, but at least it’s off now. :-}

So – mostly some good titles with only one stinker. Not too shabby. 🙂

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