Recent Reading


In this year of Darwin, I’ve just read This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson. It is I suppose a historical novel, based on Fitzroy, captain of the Beagle who took Darwin as a companion. It is not only a fascinating insight into the achievements of Fitzroy himself, but also into the social mores of the time, particularly in respect of bringing native Tierra del Fuegans back to England to “civilize” them, and of the awful consequences of Christian missionary activities in far-flung places.

Above all it is a brilliantly well-written book. I’d never heard of this author before and I was surprised at the sheer accomplishment in everything he attempted.

Also, I’ve just finished C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake novels, all four of which have been superb, and I’m sorry I have to wait for another one to be published. My own fault for reading them all back-to-back.

Currently reading Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, a satirical take on Les Misérables and revolutionary politics, among other things. Also dipping in and out of various historical studies of 16th century popular revolt, the English Reformation, and the Pilgrimage of Grace.

In one of his travel programmes for TV, Bernard Levin used to take a hefty book with him (cheap paperback) and tear out each page as he read it thus lightening his rucksack as he went along (it also saved having to carry toilet paper). His justification for doing this was that whereas he considered books to be “sacred” he did not consider paperbacks to be real books.


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