One reason I can be glad of the two weeks I spent with my family in South Africa is because it gave me some time to catch up on some reading. It was also hot, so I didn’t actually write anything but we’ll forget that. Let’s start the 2018 book list!
Thank you, Jeeves (1934) by PG Wodehouse
I remember my interest in reading the Jeeves and Wooster stories came from a small extract in one of the English comprehension pieces we did at school. There wasn’t much there but there was something about it that made me curious and I was disappointed when I couldn’t find any copies of the books at the time.
My first real taste of “Jeeves and Wooster” came from the BBC adaptation of that name. While the pace was sometimes sedate it was really interesting seeing the old English manors, the lifestyles of the upper crust and hearing the language of the stories. It is an excellent series that I would highly recommend. If nothing else it features some superb and witty bits of both Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, if you’ll pardon the pun.
So what did I think of one of the actual books? I kinda liked it. I knew the story because of the BBC series so I could picture all the characters and everything and nothing was confusing. There were a few minor differences to the series but nothing major. I’m not sure if all the books were adapted or not because the close similarity means I didn’t really gain anything new above what I’d already known.
Animal Farm (1945) by George Orwell
Another classic that I hadn’t read but of whose contents I had a bit of an understanding. You can’t go far through life without an awareness of Animal Farm and many of the sayings and imagery associated with it. But I’d never known the full story and it was good to see the context in which things had occurred. I borrowed this one from my sister when my old computer stopped working and before I fixed it.
The story is pretty much what I expected. It’s clear and easy-to-follow. This is one of the most well-known allegorical stories and is mainly based on the Russian Revolution. I don’t know much about the Russian Revolution but the political commentary from Animal Farm is widely applicable. Much the same as when I read 1984, I could see many things in the text that are very similar to events happening in contemporary politics.
Even today we see movements and leaders with good intentions becoming corrupted, we see gullible citizens, we see principles being twisted and changed over time to suit the ruling party and we see how leaders will cosy up to supposedly reprehensible regimes to serve their own interests. Animal Farm was written decades ago but the lessons in it are timeless and the book is just as relevant today as when it was first published.
Furry Nation (2017) by Joe Strike
This should’ve been on the 2017 list. I started it only two or three weeks after the book was released but stopped halfway through for several weeks as other things took focus. This is a bit young to be a classic and, unlike the other two, this is non-fiction. Furry Nation is partly a historical account of the formation of the furry fandom and one of the major conventions and partly a description of the fandom, some of the author’s personal experiences and a refutation of certain media coverage.
There are almost no books about the furry fandom so it’s great to see something like this being made. I can certainly nitpick about a couple of things in the book. I think many of the non-historical chapters are far more reflective of the author’s opinion than of fact and are, sometimes frustratingly, focused on the American side of the fandom. It could’ve been a great book rather than just a good book but even the weaker chapters are seldom really bad. Very little of that criticism applies to the historical parts of the book though, which are the most important.
There were a lot of interviews with the people that started the fandom; the furry fandom has only been going since the late 70’s/early 80’s so most of the people are still around. In the book we read some things that were just not told before and its quite accessible to read. I’m sure even any fur would learn something new from this book and for non-furs its a much, much better starting point than most media coverage.