Category Archives: curated reading

Why you should be reading Christopher Priest.

1. Slipstream, forget all the young pretenders, those johnny come latelies, this man has been doing it, subtly, cleverly and in ways that will haunt you, for years and years.
2. Dystopian visions, read FUGUE FOR A DARKENING ISLAND, a short uneasy read which has scarily become more unsettling as the years go by.
3. THE GLAMOUR, a novel which I re-read every year or so and which never fails to sneak into my own dream landscape
4. You might find his books in the Sci-Fi section in Waterstones, do not be put off by this.
5. He is quite genuinely a writer whose books need to be read twice, not because they are “difficult” but because the complexities of style, content and structure only reveal themselves on second reading.
6. Because he incapable of writing a dull book
7. The DREAM ARCHIPELAGO series will become part of your own dreams and they will be the better for it.
8. There was nothing wrong with the film version of THE PRESTIGE, but you will get far more from the novel itself.
9.If he did not have a Sci-Fi identity, THE SEPERATION would be on long lists for major prizes.
10.Because he has possibly the worst blog/web site identity in the known world and personally, I find that comforting.

And here’s a Wikipedia link……


Happy Blooms Day



What is is ……………………….

Bloomsday is a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived. It is observed annually on 16 June in Dublin and elsewhere. Joyce chose the date as it was the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle; they walked to the Dublin suburb of Ringsend. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses.


if like me, you’re a bit scared of actually reading Ulysses, which has a fearsome reputation, Radio 4 iu running lots of special programmes today, check out Radio 4 listen again if you’ve missed any.

for a gentle introduction to James Joyce, start with

Portrait of the artist as a young man and to give you no esxcuse not to give it a go, here’s a free PDF file of the whole book


and even more accesible, the short story collection



and here’s a link to an e-book version

if nothing else – read” the dead” – the most haunting, sublime writing you will ever come across.







more uncertain reading for uncertain times

On the Beach is a post-apocalyptic, end-of-the-world novel written by British-Australian author Nevil Shute after he emigrated to Australia. It was published in 1957.

The novel was adapted for the screenplay of a 1959 film featuring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire, and a 2000 television film starring Bryan Brown, Armand Assante and Rachel Ward. BBC Radio 4 broadcast a full cast audio dramatisation in two hour-long episodes as part of their Classic Serial strand in November 2008.

this is how I hope i would face the end of the world, but suspect that I would quickly turn to cannibalism and people farming.

this novel describes a quite end of the world, where all the characters retain their innate dignity and everybody behaves rather well in that 1950s style. the quietness of the writing allows the reader to focus on the sadness of knowing that you are the last few people alive as you wait patiently for the end of the world.

Earth Abides is a 1949 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer George R. Stewart.

it explores the end of civilisation with 3 snap shots following the fall of civilisation after a deadly plague over a 60 year period. it is particulalry strong in its depiction of how useless people are when faced with the colapse of civilisationm, the survivors have no useful skills and end up ekeiing out a life in which they scavenge from the leftovers of their pre-plague lives and within 2 generqations have lost all tecnological knowledge – by section 3, they are using hammered out bullets as arrowheads in their bows and arrows.

Oryx and Crake is a novel by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Atwood has at times disputed the novel being science fiction, preferring to label it speculative fiction and “adventure romance” because it does not deal with ‘things that have not been invented yet’[1] and goes beyond the realism she associates with the novel form.

The events of Atwood’s The Year of the Flood (2009) are contemporaneous with those of Oryx and Crake and contain some of the same characters.

complex, sprawling and with multiple story strands, it looks at eco terrorism, genetic modification and how big business spells the end of the world – oh & its beautifully written too


the end of the world – curated reading – uncertain reads for uncertain times

I like the idea of curated reading, reading around a theme or topic creates an experience more than the sum of its parts and gives you, the reader, a sense of historicity and for those obsessive completers allows you to tick off those key texts.

This is in no way an attempt to provide a complete list of all end of the world writing and I can take little credit for these suggestions [ Thank you P – best read of friends] but in uncertain times we need uncertain reading.

so, in no particular order –

Cormac McCarthy – 2006

The novel was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006

If you’ve only seen the film, the book is a very different experience, quiet, beautiful and madly optimistic in a bleak lost world. It asks a question at the heart of many of these end of the world writing, when all values have gone, how exactly do you know if you are still the good guys?

The Road

The Death of Grass  -John Christopher – 1956

Yes- it’s a little dated, but its depiction of the collapse of British culture, law and order within weeks of a plague that destroys all grass based crops is beautifully observed and like the best of these end of the world novels, it focuses on the experiences of ordinary people and how quickly they loose the patina of civillisation

The Death of Grass (Penguin Modern Classics)


What happens to Britain when drought, pestilence and disaster destroy the African continent, originally written in 1972 – with a more recent re-write, it makes for uneasy reading.

The end of the world is nigh…………