Books I’ve Read – April To Early May #SSAWeek

Welcome to Hour Sixteen of the Token Skeptic Sunday Sessions!


There’s 24 posts for every hour of today, looking at issues involving secularism, skepticism, atheism, feminism, science, philosophy and more – in order to support and urge you to donate to SSAWeek2013 at

Well, as I type this… I have no idea if you’re reading this. The blogposts are all out of time-order due to the different time-zone settings of the site… and unfortunately I can’t change it.

I hope at least one person donates something. Hint

So, you’ll just have to take my word for it that I’m blogging this live. At 6pm in the evening, however. Bloody time zones.

Here’s my cat, with the books I’ve read over the past thirty-five days:

She’s a little blurry, because – well, she’s a little blurry. Usually she’s scooting past at full speed, especially if she thinks there’s food.

Do you think cats have a natural tendency towards the aesthetic? “Here is a box. I will fit in it. Here is a page of paper. I will look great sitting on it. Here is a fan-out of books. I should sit on the very top of the fan, looking as if I am the author.”

Anyway. She hasn’t got anything to do with the books, but she has sat on the side of the bath (aesthetically) while I’ve read some of these.

Why so many (April 1st – May 5th – seventeen books in total) books? Well, I did go on holidays. The holiday books are:

Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho. A book I’ve read before and decided to take with me on holidays. Mostly because I lost my original Picador copy and found this “original cover” version. Its a book that has pretty much haunted the rest of Ellis’ career, features Patrick who turns up in later novels… and I hadn’t read it for a while. Since I was thinking of picking up new Ellis books, I thought I’d revisit the original. The movie was okay. Just okay. It was for one friend, their first introduction

As I type this, the cat has returned to her perch on top of the books – I’ll take another photo:

Give a cat a place to pose and they’ll take it. Better shot of the books as well.

One book is missing from the pile – Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Long time favourite, and also one I repurchased in order to take with me on holidays. As you may know, Tartt and Ellis went to the same college.

Speaking of Tartt, the book The Lake Of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman is compared to it early on, and it’s a fair comparison. This is another repurchase (all from second-hand bookstores, in cas you’re wondering), since I seemed to have lost my original copy.

Also taken on holiday (and second-hand copy) – Almost French by Sarah Turnbull is a very enjoyable non-fiction read about an Australian journalist who becomes an author in Paris. By the way, she’s returning to Australia and talking in Perth (Joondalup) on May 18th. See you there.

Other books in the pile that I took with me: another non-fiction memoir by comedian, radio personality and film-maker Tony Martin called Lolly Scramble. Sheer brilliance. Although he’s pro-chiropractic. Also, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell – I enjoyed the film for the parts about Julia Child. Not so much for Julie’s story. But this was an enjoyable read regardless. This was one I mostly read in the bath, with the cat. The cat sits on the side of the bath, not in the bath, by the way.

Also a science-fiction/fantasy novel called Sunshine by Robin McKinley, which took some getting into at first, and reads like it’s got a pending sequel. There isn’t one. Still, the vampires don’t sparkle and the back-story of a war of magic is interesting enough.

Other than that, there’s a lot of cheap books that I read when I got home from holidays, mostly because I. Forgot. To. Pack. Them.

Three books by Stuart McBride were picked up as a combined package at the post-office and were waiting for me by the door when I returned home. Broken Skin / Flesh House / Dark Blood only cost me as much as three coffees and were intended to be read by the poolside. Something about dark gloomy Scottish murders with plenty of gore, while detectives have crisises in confidence with indecipherable accents, as the author insists on having women do stunts that challenge the laws of physics and one’s suspension of disbelief… these are books which are oddly soothing. Don’t ask me about the accuracy of the forensic investigations within the pages, I suspect they’re probably okay. I hope.

Speaking of suspension of disbelief, the very nice folk at Random House allowed me to win a pack of four more murder mystery books via Twitter and I zipped through those in the bath – they’re the James Patterson one-page-per-chapter-on-average novels. I’m not one to look a gift book in the mouth, and they were a nice soothing respite from work.

For podcasting, I read two books, but only used one: Damon Young’s Philosophy in the Garden was a lovely, refreshing read and I enjoyed interviewing him for the 365 Days of Philosophy podcast. However, I read The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking by Matthew Hutson, and just as I finished it… the Point of Inquiry podcast interviewed him first. I think of it not-so-much as “damn, they beat me,” as “hey, I don’t have to do the additional work of an interview and can just enjoy the book”. Besides, Indre did the interview, and she’s got a great interviewing style.

Elsewhere in the pile: The Boys’ Club by Wendy Squires – only $4 second hand and finished it in a night. It was mostly an exercise in “spot-the-Australian-media-reference”, and I don’t think that the misogynistic world of television has changed since the time it depicts.

Books That I’ve Had Hanging Around FOREVER and pick up to read when I need to settle down my mind: Snobs by Julian Fellowes. Yes, the man who wrote Downton Abbey. I picked up this book at the LA airport in the mid-2000s when stuck en-transit, on a whim. I didn’t know anything about the author… and I’ve followed his career ever since. You can also see a copy of Christopher Ciccone’s memoir of his sister, Life With My Sister Madonna, which I flick through whenever life seems terrible and I think to myself “at least I’m not hindered by people who’ll resort to almost anything to be famous”.

There you go. Probably more for-fun-reading than anything else, but there’s plenty of months to go. I’m always up for recommendations.

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