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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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What's really important, though, is that I made apple crumble today. [20091115|22:52]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |peppermint tea]

I'm intrigued at the way my reading habits have evolved over the past few years. I used to be an avid re-reader. I own books whose re-read counts approach or surpass double digits, most of which are fiction (either novels or collections of short stories). I would also rarely fail to finish a book, even if I hated it.

Now, however, I read a good deal more non-fiction that isn't just science articles. I'm also very choosy about the fiction I read. If something fails to grip me, it goes to the charity shop without any sense of guilt or agonizing over my inability to appreciate it.

Below the cut are the books I've read since I started commuting from Cambridge to London at the end of July. Not a single one is a re-read.


  1. Marilynne Robinson Housekeeping, fiction
  2. Mitchio Kaku Physics of the Impossible, popular science
  3. Margaret Atwood Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, non-fiction
  4. Mark Kurlansky Nonviolence, non-fiction
  5. Anne Brontë The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, fiction
  6. W. Somerset Maugham Ah King, fictional short stories
  7. Hanif Kureishi Midnight All Day, fictional short stories
  8. Erich Maria Remarque All Quiet on the Western Front, fiction
  9. David Low Dodge War Inconsistent with the Religion of Jesus Christ, non-fiction, referenced by 4
  10. Anne Brontë Agnes Grey, fiction
  11. Orhan Pamuk My Name is Red, Nobel fiction
  12. Orhan Pamuk Istanbul, autobiographical
  13. Edith Wharton The House of Mirth, fiction
  14. Mary Elizabeth Braddon Lady Audley's Secret, fiction
  15. Jane Austen Northanger Abbey, fiction
  16. Richard Matheson Button, Button, fictional short stories
  17. Jane Austen & Ben H. Winters Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, fan fiction
  18. Ben Goldacre Bad Science, popular science
  19. J. M. Coetze Disgrace, Nobel fiction
  20. Gerald Durrell The Stationary Ark, non-fiction
  21. C. P. Snow A Coat of Varnish, fiction
  22. Simon Singh Fermat's Last Theorem, popular maths
  23. Georgina Ferry Dorothy Hodgkin: A Life, biography
  24. Saul Bellow Herzog, Nobel fiction
  25. Muriel Barberry The Elegance of the Hedgehog, fiction



I could probably have gotten through more if I didn't mix in the New Scientist, the Economist and the more than occasional guilty indulgence in sudoku & crosswords. However, I think my Christmas present to myself might be a re-reading of the David Eddings series The Belgariad, which I adored when I was twelve but hardly qualifies as Nobel-prize winning literature.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-16 10:14 (UTC)
Possibly. We'll see how much of it I can tolerate.
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[User Picture]From: thalassius
2009-11-16 18:39 (UTC)
I'm still happy with it as comfort reading. Actually, the second world I didn't like as much when I was twelve has grown on me since, and I prefer it more than the Belgariad one - The Elenium and The Tamuli are somewhat more nuanced. Somnewhat. But they keep the banter. Which is really the best bit :)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-16 10:14 (UTC)
Help yourself. It's in the pantry.
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[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2009-11-16 00:13 (UTC)
Rereading books is a comfort thing for me. When I'm stressed out I tend to reread things I've read a zillion times before and know I enjoy.

Also I was just looking at a copy of Fermat's Last Theorem in Half-Price Books yesterday. Also also I got a giggle out of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters being classified as fan fiction.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-16 10:18 (UTC)
Yes, it was always a comfort thing for me too. I think part of the reason I've gotten out of the habit is that I've moved around so much in the past few years, I haven't been able to bring a big chunk of my "comfort library" with me. Some of it is still sitting in storage in California. One of next year's goals is to bring all that stuff over now that I have housing for it!

I just realized I also classed "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" as non-fiction. The perils of late-night posting...
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[User Picture]From: dizzykj
2009-11-16 19:09 (UTC)
That's just made me realise quite how stressed with work I've been - I haven't read a new book since I started this contract (end of Sept) - I've been firmly in the comfort reread area...

I think I may now start using this as a stress-o-meter - anyone got a thought about a healthy new/reread ratio?!
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[User Picture]From: returntosender
2009-11-16 07:23 (UTC)
Northanger Abbey is such a great read!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-16 10:19 (UTC)
I wasn't expecting it to be quite so hilarious, either. I kept having to suppress laughter on the train.
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[User Picture]From: greyface
2009-11-16 10:38 (UTC)
I was a massive re-reader.

Now, however, my books are mostly in boxes, in a storage unit, in Placentia, whereas I'm in Ichikawa. The distance is kind of irritating.

I have very few books (like, 6? 7?) on hand, and there's no particularly cheap way to get more (Amazon does deliver to Japan) and what's more, I don't want to have boxes (or shelves) of books here, in Japan, where moving is an everpresent danger, and space in my home is remarkably limited.

So, I've gotten myself a library card! A week ago Thursday, I got 2 books I hadn't read (a collection of Twain short-stories, and "Shadow of the Hegemon" )and 1 I had ("A Clash of Kings") Today I dropped them all off back at the library, an act which made me feel almost as bad as walking out of the library a week and a half ago with a bunch of books that I didn't have to pay for made me feel good. My desire to reread "A Clash of Kings" like, 3 days after I read it, was remarkably high (primarily because the library doesn't have any of the other books in the series) but I held off, because I hadn't started the Twain yet...

That said, I've been reading my 6ish books CONSTANTLY. I think I've read "Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrel" about 5 times in the last 18 months... "Spook Country" about 4.

By the way, Mark Twain is a great short-story writer! I never really enjoyed Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer (maybe because they were required reading, maybe because I was too young, maybe because they aren't as good, maybe some other reason I haven't thought of).
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-22 14:40 (UTC)
I know the feeling. I've stopped re-reading at least in part because I've been separated from the bulk of my library by an ocean for over five years now. But like you, I didn't want to bring it over until I had a long-term/permanent home for it. It looks like I probably do now, so finally it can move.

I keep meaning to get a library card, but I never seem to spend much time in Cambridge, and the time I do spend here is working on the house. Hopefully this phase won't last forever.

I'll have to read some of Twain's short stories. It seems like much of our required reading in school is often not of the author's best book. I don't get the urge to re-read The Catcher in the Rye, but I've read Nine Stories a dozen times at least.
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[User Picture]From: senusert
2009-11-16 18:24 (UTC)
I (and my mother) made an apple and plum crumble, and I read the economist.

I tend to re-read essays (especially if they're by Gore Vidal or Steven Landsburg), and short stories (or novels with less than 200 pages). It's not such a big thing with me, as I tend to remember whole passages fairly easily.

Also, storage of books is a problem; so, I can't wait to have a kindle.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-22 14:37 (UTC)
One of the things that makes me giggle when I read The Economist is the sense I get from some of the articles that the writers are thinking, "Because I am writing this in The Economist, it is TRUE."

Yes, I've been pondering purchasing a Kindle for my commute but the things I've read about not being able to use it outside the UK have put me off a bit. Plus, you can't take it in the bath.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-22 14:33 (UTC)
I think it's his latest, yes. The bloke got it for Christmas last year. It's a very read, has a coherent, passionate but not overly emphatic message.

I've changed it to fiction. Maybe I can get away with calling it "investigative fiction"?
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[User Picture]From: gourou
2009-11-17 08:32 (UTC)
The Belgariad is formulaic, obvious and still a great comfort read :-)
Second only to Bio of a Space Tyrant from Piers Anthony.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-11-22 14:34 (UTC)
Piers Anthony! I'd forgotten about him. He was another favourite through my teen years. :-)
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