Books of 2019 – Man at The Helm

Should I keep a count and rating of all books read?

May be I will start now for 2019, and keep updating this list as I go.

I thought about actually using my Goodreads account, but that felt too “social” and also may be a bit competitive. It would sure feel great to have a visual representation of all the books read in a particular year – what with the lovely pictures they assemble of all the book covers. It’s also a good resource for digging out reviews and making a decision on whether I want to read something or not (though I’ve realised my opinions are most aligned with British readers, so I read reviews over at amazon.co.uk before making book purchase decisions).

The cons of Goodreads, apart from the social aspect is that I don’t know how long Goodreads will last as a platform. My blog is here to stay and it’s much easier to access, search and find what I thought about something if it’s documented here.

And honestly I can’t be bothered to write my thoughts down on multiple platforms. Mainly because I’m doing this for my own record (of my thoughts) and not as a way to keep any kind of score.

Also, have you noticed how Kindle books are pretty much the same price as paperbacks  – and sometimes more expensive than paperbacks – these days? I read it’s due to the Agency model, where the publisher determines the price of e-books. With paperbacks, the publisher sells them to the retailer at wholesale prices, and then the retailer determines the final price. Due to this, the retailer is able to offer steep discounts on paperbacks, whereas Kindle books remain at their usual pricing (which is not cut throat, as publishers do not wish to push kindle books over paperbacks).

Now, my dilemma is whether to purchase kindle books or paperbacks for books that I’m not likely to re-read (which is 99% of books). I was all for kindle books for such reads because they were much cheaper (and that also offsets the cost of the Kindle device). But, when prices are the same (or similar, within Rs.100 of each other), I instinctively feel like purchasing the paperback, because I can keep the book in my shelf, share it, and generally the book becomes a collectible. Separately, I quite like the tactical aspect of holding a paperback, it’s smell, and the ability to flip through it quickly.

Paperbacks also means more space for books, but also that your books are safe from an event where the kindle become obsolete.

Decisions, decisions!

For now, let’s start with the book that I just finished (numbering and will continue to number in future posts).

1. Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe – 3.5/5

 It’s marketed as a comedy, but for the most part, I don’t understand why.

What kind of a person would consider the plight of three little children stuck with their toxic narcissistic mother, desperately trying to find ways to make her happy and get a “new man at the helm” (after their parents’ divorce), because British society of the 1970s tended to ostracise divorcee (women) FUNNY? The book is written from the perspective of young Lizzie Vogel (Nina Stibbe is said to have channeled her own childhood in this autobiographical novel).

I sincerely have more to say about the people who have reviewed this book and said they laughed out loud multiple times, than I do about the book.

My explanation for this misrepresentation is that Nina’s first book (Love, Nina) was actually very funny and humorous, and Nina was hailed as a comic writer. Her publisher might have wanted to continue pitching her work as being in the humour category, and hence put together a bunch of quotes from other eminent authors saying things like this book is “comedy gold”.

This book deals with a heartbreaking subject in a light and airy way. Light and airy not in an insulting way, but because it’s written from the perspective of a child who did not really fully understand why things were the way they were, what she deserves as a child, and how she’s been robbed of that. I loved that Nina maintained her voice and did not “enter” as an adult in the narrative.

While reading this book, I felt very fortunate to have had a fairly normal upbringing. It also threw light on the utterly unfair and bigoted treatment of divorcees (women only) in 1970’s rural England.

What warms your heart up in the book is the resourcefulness and solution oriented-ness of the children. And of course the story itself is warm and uplifting.

I liked that this book dealt with a serious and depressing subject in a way that was not gloomy or bleak. It was full of optimism, something that only a child’s perspective can lend.

This is why I like Nina Stibbe’s work. She deals with everyday things with a light hand, but without losing its depth, but also not be preying on the vulnerabilities of the reader with the intention of producing a tear jerker (which sadly many bestselling books are).

I finished this book in about 4 days (I only read in the evenings after work) which means it was quite addictive once it got going. I’d recommend it to others but please don’t expect a to laugh out loud too much (and if you do, don’t tell me), the way your would in Love, Nina. Overall, it’s a lovely book which eventually warms your soul in a comforting way, and leaving you wanting to laugh a little and cry at the same time.

Next in this line of books is Paradise Lodge, but I think I’ll read some other things before that (considering how many unread books are lying in my shelves!).

Leave a comment