Thoughts: The Plague Dogs, by Richard Adams

Yeah, I did this to myself.

When Richard Adams died, I wanted to put one of his books on my list. I read Watership Down as a teen, and though it was all about nature being hard there was a pleasing amount of worldbuilding around the rabbits that scratched my fantasy itch, and I enjoyed it greatly.

I knew people talked about The Plague Dogs in the reverent tones reserved for the British tradition of traumatising kids with beloved media, and I kind of wanted in. Surely it couldn’t beĀ that b-

Reader, it’s harrowing. Spoilers and cruelty to animals follow.

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Thoughts: To Sir, With Love, by E. R. Braithwaite

Yep, another book with a film based on it that I haven’t seen. I really want to see this one though.

It seems to have been a little bit forgotten – I put it on the list when Braithwaite died (yes, I am still in 2016 on my book list) but hadn’t heard of it before then. It’s an autobiographical novel of the author’s time teaching in a post-WWII London school, and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it, in a lot of ways.

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Thoughts: Closed For Winter, by Georgia Blain

I didn’t read this one particularly quickly, but I kept going back to it, a slow immersion of a reading experience. The reviews on Goodreads are pretty divided, and I can see why – it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea – but the things that make it anathema to some are catnip to others.

Not sure if there are many spoilers ahead? Probably not many? And not big ones that would spoil the reading anyway. It’s not the bare plot that makes the book.

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Thoughts: Tony and Susan, by Austin Wright

First things first, if you look this book up all the marketing blurbs tell you it’s a thriller. It is not. And expecting it to be a thriller does a disservice to the book.

As we’re still in “books based on films I watched in 2016” I only had vague memories of this one (the film’s title is Nocturnal Animals). The story within a story’s beginning I remembered, and some dark weirdness in the framing story. Some of it matched the book and some of it didn’t. I’ve since looked up a synopsis of the film and I can see those differences pretty clear now. Interesting choices were made!

This time, an actual spoiler warning. Also contains men raping and murdering women, if that’s something you are not in the mood for.

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Thoughts: Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt

I was vaguely aware this had been a film, but haven’t seen it, so as usual there will be no insightful comparison from me. The posters make it look gloriously romantic though. And thankfully Winnie is aged up. Because oh boy.

It was shorter than I had expected, and a little younger (the heroine is ten), but I found it thoroughly charming. The story is pretty simple, in the same way as I realised The Hobbit is simple when I reread it as an adult, so I sort of wish I’d found it earlier.

Snip for length, kept it pretty spoiler-free.

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Thoughts: Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, by Chesley B. Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow

This is the last non-fiction for a while – 2016 Sneak was really full of Based on True Story films – and it was a nice one to end on. Sullenberger is the pilot who landed that plane in the Hudson, if you will recall. If you’re like me, you may not have immediately appreciated how impressive this was!

The film was a little ehhh – you could tell it was reaching for drama, and the ratcheting up of tension in the post-ditching inquiry scenes might be seen by some as distasteful (I don’t doubt they’re stressful but in the end they do good work and must be thorough) – and I wasn’t expecting much from the book, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Snip for length.

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Thoughts: The Infiltrator, by Robert Mazur

Another book I saw the film of, but I think we’re still in 2016 here so I don’t remember much about the details… I remember finding the film pretty interesting as far as Sneak-films-based-on-true-stories go, and that’s about all that remains.

I know the war on drugs is very unfashionable at the moment, but this is a far cry from sending someone to prison for fifty years for smoking a joint. I also don’t know enough about the US to know if undercover customs agents are part of the general police problem over there, so all I can do is apologise if so, but at the same time I think Mazur is the kind of person I’d want to be bringing financial criminals to account.

You know what though? I really enjoyed this one.

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Thoughts: Shoeless Joe, by W. P. Kinsella

Before we start, no, I have not seen Field of Dreams, so you won’t find anything out about how similar or different it is to the book.

Secondly I don’t know if the classic spoiler warning counts here? Field of Dreams was popular I guess? And it’s quite old? Eh, who knows. Use your best judgement.

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Thoughts: Time of the Octopus, by Anatoly Kucherena, translated by John Farndon with Akbota Sultanbekova and Olga Nakston

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

– The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

Never have I wanted a book to be narrated by Holden Caulfield more than this one.

If you’ve been in pretty much any chat with me or follow me on social media then you may have worked out that this book is objectively terrible.

Really, it isn’t just my opinion that it’s the worst book I’ve read since Foxcatcher, or the most frustrating translation since Basti. It really is those things in reality.

Snip for length, we’re not bothering about spoilers here, you probably shouldn’t read this book!

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Thoughts: Eva, by Peter Dickinson

I think I have a reading problem.

Anyway. This was sort of unintended – I’d meant to read a Dickinson a while ago after I heard he died, but I couldn’t find the book that was on my to-read list. Later, in a secondhand bookshop, I saw Eva and bought it, forgot to put it on my to-read list, and went on. The other day I was doing some tidying and came across it, and as I’d just finished The Snowden Files I thought it would serve nicely as a fluffy palate cleanser before I dived back into the murky world of depressing international politics.

It was… not fluffy. One day I’ll learn this about kids’ books.

It was so good.

The back copy of this book is intentionally very vague to avoid a major early event/twist, so if you want to read about animal rights, environmentalism, scientific morality and the nature of the self, I will lend this book to you. Don’t spoiler yourself.

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