2016 Reading List

This is a pretty short list, because the first half of the year was spent reading A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James. It won the Man Booker and I read several glowing reviews but considering the number of times those reviews (and its cover) used phrases like ‘dizzyingly complex’ and I was deep in the trenches of newborn sleep deprivation, I decided not to bother. Until the brilliant Andy sent it for my birthday and I had no more excuses to just push past my initial intimidation and have a go. And it was dizzyingly complex, and enormous, which is why it took me six months to read. But also excellent.

Since then, I have also made my way through…

The Dry, by Jane Harper. This was my 2016 birthday present from Andy, and it wasn’t dizzyingly complex but a perfectly readable and satisfying Australian crime thriller set in rural farm country. Thanks Andy! I’ve seen it mentioned on lots of ‘best summer reading’ type lists, and it definitely deserves to be there.

All That I Am, by Anna Funder. This might be my #1 pick of the year. It was amazing. It takes the old “if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?” ethical dilemma and creates a novel out of it. And that makes it sound so much more ordinary than it really is. Highly recommended.

Vivian Rising, by Daniella Brodsky. My friend Daniella has written a bunch of books and when I first met her and asked which one she was most proud of, this was it. (Although that was before she published the Patrons, which I read last year.) It hasn’t been available in Australia before but now it’s on Kindle and I finally got to read it. I can see why she was so proud of it. It’s a love story, not only about the main character and the hot guy next door, but more particularly between the main character and her grandmother who is also her main guardian. Theirs is an amazing relationship – and the grandmother a fantastic character based on Daniella’s own grandmother – that I loved reading about.

The Feel of Steel, by Helen Garner. I’ve never read any Helen Garner but I listen to a lot of Leigh Sales & Annabel Crabb’s podcast and they are always going on about her, so when I found this in my mother in law’s house while we were staying there I stole it. It’s a collection of essays and I loved it. More Helen Garner in 2017 for sure.

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. I’d also never read any of Liane Moriarty’s books but Annabel Crabb talks about her a lot and then I read an article that called her the “best selling author you’ve never heard of” (cue lots of angry comments from people who of course had heard of her, because otherwise she wouldn’t sell so many books, and there is something kind of sexist about that really, if you know what Liane writes about). Anyway, I really enjoyed this for lots of reasons, on lots of levels. Apparently it’s going to be a movie (or TV series?) with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley soon? I’ll be adding more Liane Moriarty to my 2017 list along with Helen Garner. I love discovering new-to-me authors that have already published lots of books to devour.

The Birdman’s Wife, by Melissa Ashley. I actually haven’t finished this and I’m not sure I’m going to, so that’s why I’m including it here. Mum and dad gave it to me for my birthday because I had it on my wish list, because I’d read a couple of good reviews and thought it sounded really interesting, but it’s been a big disappointment. I don’t know if it’s because it started life as a PhD or what, but it feels stilted and too self-conscious to me. Which is a shame, because it’s a good idea and a good story.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. So this is the first in the Neapolitan novels that everyone has been talking about the past couple of years, people say they have to call in sick to work because they want to keep reading. Which I…did not. I struggled through this and haven’t bothered even looking at the next two. I can see that the writing is pretty good but maybe it’s a lot better in its native Italian, or maybe the other books are better than this one. I just had very little interest in anything that happened or anyone who was in it. The most interesting part of these books are the fact that the writer is anonymous, or at least was until recently.

2015 list here, 2014 list here, 2013 list here.

My 2015 book list

This list presented in no particular order! (Just kidding, it’s almost in chronological order based on Goodreads, but then also the order of things as they appear on my Kindle home page, and then what I saw on my bookshelf when I went to see what I’d missed.)

Sharp Objects – by Gillian Flynn. I got this because I liked the movie Gone Girl but didn’t want to read Gone Girl due to the fact I knew the ending. It was a good read, not going to win any awards but if you like her style (mystery, interesting female protagonist, etc) then I’d recommend.

The Patrons – by Daniella Brodsky. Daniella is a friend of mine – YES, I have a friend who is  NOVELIST and hails from NEW YORK, I’m very sophisticated – and I’d never gotten around to reading any of her earlier work, but I knew she was proudest of this one so I nabbed it as soon as it was published on Kindle. It is a bit strange reading a book when you know the writer, because there are parts when you can hear their voice or their joke, and then other parts like sex scenes where you are like “OMG Daniella!” A main premise of the book is how shitty artists are paid and how they are so often expected to work for free, and how in the olden days a rich person might be patron to a younger, poorer person to allow them to pursue their creative ambitions. But it’s set in modern day Washington, against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential election, and stars a very interesting female character. Great read.

The Little Stranger – by Sarah Waters. I discovered Waters last year when I read the Fingersmith and loved it. I didn’t love this one in the same way; it’s still set in period England but is a ghost story so I guess it depends on how much you enjoy those. Still beautifully written though.

Life After Life – by Kate Atkinson. This is one of my top picks of the year. It takes that old chestnut “If you could travel back in time and kill Hitler, would you?” and turns it into a whole novel. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s a beautiful, fantastic novel that you will look forward to picking up at the end of every day.

The Girl on the Train – by Paula Hawkins. I got this because it was described as the new “Gone Girl” (and see above re why I’m not going to read Gone Girl). A great read for anyone who enjoys a good mystery.

Yes Please – by Amy Poehler. I love Amy. She’s super funny and smart and I’m glad she is getting so ubiquitous (along with Tina, natch) because the world will be a better place the more people like her are involved in it. So yes loved the book.

Midwinter Sacrifice – by Mons Kallentoft. Scandinavian crime. I never know if it’s the translation that make them poor written, or if they weren’t that great to begin with. I think I read it at the coast and everything is better when read there.

Sheila – by Robert Wainwright. I bought this for mum because I read a review and it sounded like her kind of book, and it turned out she’d been very keen to read it as when she and dad were visiting Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland she’d noticed a stained glass window featuring a kangaroo and found out there was a connection between the Rosslyns and an Australian woman who grew up on a farm near Goulburn. That was Sheila. So the book is a biography that draws on Sheila’s papers and letters and what not. I really enjoyed it at the beginning, but I was kind of over it by the end. And then they went to another party and all these famous people were there. And then she met this other handsome man and they went on this fancy holiday and all these famous people were there. Blah blah.

Foal’s Bread – by Gillian Meares. I finished this a few days into 2016 but I’m including it here because it was mostly read in 2015, and also it’s another top pick. Seriously this is an amazing book and I’m so happy it won so many awards. I just wanted to inhale the awesomeness and I read some lines and passages over and over again – sign of a good book. I will never look at horse jumping or jacaranda trees the same way again.

Room – by Emma Donoghue. I read this because the movie is about to come out and I wanted to read it first, otherwise I’ll probably never read it due to knowing spoilers (see above!) It’s been on my list for ages. I wasn’t sure how a book written from a five year old’s perspective would work, but it works brilliantly. It’s about a little boy born in captivity because his mother was abducted and is being held in a guy’s garden shed. Can’t say much more but it’s really great.

Disclaimer – by Renee Wright. I think I read this because again it was marketed as similar to Gone Girl (I think they are calling it suburban noir?) Easy read with a good mystery at the heart of it.

Without the Moon – by Cathi Unsworth. I read this because Life After Life made me more interested in the Blitz generally and it’s a crime novel set during the Blitz. Pretty good although I seem to remember finding it a bit confusing as there were a lot of characters and a lot going on. In my defence, I spent 2015 either pregnant or with a baby so I found a lot of things confusing.

Dark Places – by Gillian Flynn. I enjoyed this more than Sharp Objects. It’s about a girl who is the lone survivor of an attack  that killed her whole family. Her brother is serving time for the murders but there are lots of people who think he is innocent and that she can help them prove it.

The Wool Trilogy – by Hugh Howie. I read this because I needed something to read and Toby recommended it. It’s set in a dystopian future where people have set up a civilisation in a silo and the way they punish people is to send them outside to clean the windows where they die a horrible painful death. OR DO THEY. I enjoyed it a lot mostly for the story and ideas rather than the writing.

Hades – by Candice Fox. I read this because I saw a review about it being Australian crime by a female writer and it sounded good, but it wasn’t really. The ideas were there but I thought the writing was lacking and things like the timelines hadn’t been thought through to make the story make sense.

Hope Farm – by Peggy Frew. This was on my want list and I got it for my birthday from the parents, thanks guys! It was great, I really enjoyed it. Story of a girl who has grown up in hippie communes with her single mother during the 70s and 80s. Well written, interesting characters, everything you want. Top pick.

 

My 2014 reading list

2014 was not as good a reading year as 2013, even though it began with the Goldfinch which I loved. In chronological order, I also read:

  • Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters. I just finished this a few days ago. This is probably my favourite from the year. It was a birthday gift from my parents and to be honest I wasn’t sure about it as it was about an orphan in mid-19th century London and that’s not exactly my favourite starting point for novels. But it was a fantastic story beautifully written, the kind of book I looked forward to picking up every night and wanted to read for hours (but couldn’t because I’m a tired pregnant lady). It was great to finally be on holidays and be able to finish it off in great big chunks. Even better, it’s not her first novel so I have lots more of her writing to enjoy.
  • Breath, by Tim Winton. I usually enjoy Winton’s writing and this one was no different even though I only realised after I started that it’s been called a “meditation on surfing”, which like the London orphan is also not my favourite starting point.
  • The Blood Countess, by Tara Moss. I like crime novels and have been meaning to try one of Tara Moss’s, so I picked this up at the Lifeline Book Fair. It was terrible. I didn’t realise when I got it but it’s not one of her crime novels, it was the beginning of a series about vampires. I think. I’ve mostly blocked it from my mind. I’m embarrassed to even put it on here.
  • The Smallest Things, by Angela Mollard. I’d not heard of Angela Mollard because I don’t watch commercial breakfast TV and I don’t read the Murdoch press, but apparently she’s pretty well known and has been around a long time. I don’t usually read parenting books but this one was given to me and I decided to give it a go. She had some good ideas and some silly ones, and I appreciated the overall philosophy, but the overwhelming stench of privilege was pretty hard to get past. Also she seems to have forgotten what it’s like to have babies and young toddlers, which as far as I can tell is a pretty different kettle of fish to pre-schoolers and older kids in terms of what’s possible and what counts as a ‘small thing’.
  • Emma, by Jane Austen. When Emma was born a couple of people asked if it was because of this book and I had to admit I’d never read it. Since you can now get it for free on Kindle I decided to give it a go. I’m not very good at reading old books (I find the language difficult and my mind wanders) but I enjoyed this, of course, and am pleased at Emma’s namesake even if it wasn’t a conscious choice.
  • Enduring Love, by Ian McEwan. I usually like McEwan’s stuff and I enjoyed this.
  • On Love, by Alain de Botton. I’ve read a few of de Botton’s philosophy books but this was the first novel I’d tried (or is it his first novel? I’m not sure). Anyway, I liked it.
  • A Question of Love, by Ian Rankin. I hadn’t read a Rebus book in a while and I’m not sure what made me pick this one up. But I enjoyed it, I like them even more now after our stint in Edinburgh and they are always a good read.
  • Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan. I didn’t realise I’d read two McEwans this year. This was a very different story but again I enjoyed it.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer. This was a great read with lots of interesting characters set in a place I didn’t know anything about.
  • Eyrie, by Tim Winton. Hmm two McEwans and two Wintons this year. I enjoyed this one more than Breath – it probably helped that it wasn’t a meditation on surfing.

So there were no total duds this year (although I firmly believe life is too short so if I do find myself reading a dud I usually stop) but the only true stand-out was Fingersmith which I highly recommend.

My 2013 reading list

Bumper reading year, 2013 was. I started using Goodreads in 2012 to keep track of things I wanted to read, because I hate when you give yourself permission to buy something and can’t remember anything you wanted to read, or when it gets to birthday time and people ask if you’d like a book and you’ve forgotten all those reviews. Now when I go through the SMH weekend reviews I put anything that looks interesting into Goodreads. For my 2012 and 2013 birthdays dad got very technical and used Goodreads to choose three books for me that he then bought on the Kindle. Genius! This list is pretty much in chronological order rather than the order of awesomeness. I only had a couple of duds this year, which is why I’m going to consider this a bumper reading year.

  • Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’m several years behind on this. I appreciated it, but found it really dense a lot of the time. It wasn’t really a book I looked forward to picking up, even though when I always enjoyed it when I did.
  • The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. Loved it. Don’t know anything about baseball but still loved it.
  • Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy. I try to read lots of McCarthy because he wrote The Road which is one of my all-time favourites, if not the favourite. But this was weird. Well-written, of course. But weird.
  • Quiet, by Susan Cain. Life changing, as I wrote about here. Probably my book of the year for that reason.
  • The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I enjoyed this more than Middlesex. Not as dense and I empathised a lot with some of the storyline.
  • A Possible Life, by Sebastian Faulks. Faulks is prolific, but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything else he’s written. This was a Christmas 2012 gift from my parents and it took a couple of attempts to get into it, but once I did I loved it.
  • Hospital by the River, by Dr Catherine Hamlin. My mother in law gave me this, she visited the hospital in question this year and met Dr Hamlin (the book was even signed). This was a great story about Dr Hamlin and her husband setting up the hospital in Ethiopia, but I struggled a bit with some of the un-PC wording and phrasing she used that sometimes came across as patronising or downright racist. I also struggled with how it seemed that the hospital was only focused on the cure and they never seemed to put any thought into how to actually prevent all the terrible traumas that were happening to women that landed them in the hospital. 
  • Bossypants, by Tina Fey, a gift from Andy. Brilliant, of course. I’m a big fan of Tina and her career advice to women which is to not wear tube tops and only cry when you really want to frighten people.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon. I inherited this when my sister moved to London and was getting rid of books. I’ve seen it around for years and been intrigued by the title. It was a good read (and short, which is always nice).
  • Farther Away, by Jonathan Franzen. I loved Franzen’s Freedom but haven’t read anything else of his until this collection of essays, which I think I bought because it was $5 from the bookstore at Majura Park and I was like, “Five dollars for Jonathan Franzen?!” Yeah, you get what you pay for. I did learn some interesting things about bird watching (don’t laugh) but mostly he came across as a grumpy old man.
  • Watching You, by Michael Robotham. Mum always buys Robotham’s books because he’s a cousin of dad’s. Luckily, he is also an awesome crime writer and mum and I both ripped through this one. Dad can’t read them because they sound too much like Michael apparently.
  • How It Feels, by Brendan Cowell. I bought this second-hand, intrigued because I usually like Brendan Cowell acting in things and also he once dated my cousin who is also a writer. It was terrible. Very self-conscious, rambling, pointless, etc etc. I keep meaning to tell my cousin how terrible it was, just in case she would like to feel superior (probably not, she is a nice person).
  • There’s No Place Like Home, by Caroline Overington. I’m pretty sure this is on my Goodreads list because I read a good review of it in the SMH. It was awful. The story was okay but the writing was terrible, the editing dreadful, it felt misogynistic in its descriptions of women and especially women who had jobs (I think “office girls” was used multiple times, as though that’s an actual job, while actual jobs like executive assistant were put in inverted commas as though they are pretend jobs), it was repetitive, it felt like just a chance for Overington to hate on government policies – and I hate the same policies, and I still hated it. I  wish someone else had gotten the story and done it some justice instead. Its main saving grace was that it was super easy to read so it was over and done with really quickly – otherwise I probably would have given up. Life’s too short to read things like this.
  • The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. I was so excited to get this because Tartt’s The Secret History is another one of my all time favourites. I’m still in progress with this one but it is definitely not a disappointment. Brilliant.

Oh so quiet

I come from a family of introverts and we are currently passing around my sister’s copy of Susan Cain’s Quiet. Is it too dramatic to say it’s changing our lives, as my sister said? Probably. In any case it is changing the way we are thinking of ourselves, and our place in an extrovert’s world.

I’ve always known I was an introvert, but I kind of thought all it really meant was the way I recharge my batteries – to fuel my social and work life – was to be alone. After a weekend visiting rellies when we were kids, our family would all retreat to our bedrooms or other nooks in the house and not speak to each other for hours. We loved seeing our family and friends but we got ‘peopled out’ as mum and dad called it, and needed that time alone. That’s what I thought being an introvert meant. And it is.

But it’s so much more. Oh so much more. Here is a list of stuff I don’t like, and/or feel a deep discomfort about, which apparently can also be explained by my introversion.

Meetings. (Oh, how I hate meetings. The bigger they are, the more I hate them.)

Group brainstorm sessions. (Nothing kills creativity like butcher’s paper and a scribe.)

Open plan offices. (I love a gossip as much as the next person, but my favourite desk ever was the one where I was tucked away and no one knew if I was there or not. It helped that I’m 5 foot 1 of course, you could probably see a taller person.)

Team sports. (I’d rather do just about anything else.)

Any kind of conflict or confrontation. (Even if it’s fairly minor, even if it doesn’t involve me. I can’t even watch Q&A without squirming and usually have to turn it off.)

Any religion that involves hundreds or thousands of people being really loud – Hillsong I’m looking at you. (Not just a family of introverts, but a family of Catholics, a religious tradition with a greater focus on solitude and quiet reflection.)

There are also many of my own behaviours and habits which I thought were just that, but perhaps many of these too can be explained by introversion.

For example, I thought my well-tuned sense of guilt was a result of the aforementioned Catholic upbringing, but it appears to be an introvert’s trait as well. If I think I might have upset or offended someone with a careless comment, it haunts me for days or weeks. Even years later I might think of it and feel a sudden rush of shame.

If I feel ashamed like that, when I feel I’ve done or said something wrong, I tend to retreat into myself. I often can’t even bring myself to say ‘sorry’, not right away anyway, because I’m so withdrawn and I find it difficult to initiate contact in that state. This is why you might get an apology from me a year after the fact – it’s not that I wasn’t sorry before, it’s just it sometimes takes me that long to get over the shame, to stop withdrawing, and then plan out what I want to say and when.

On the lighter side, I also suddenly understand why I might actually like running despite years of claiming and believing I hated it, why I like parties but need to have decent one-on-one conversations while I’m at them or else I come away feeling frazzled and drained, why I’ve had the same hobby since I was 10 and yet have never been able to get competitive about it, and why I’m not too nervous about public speaking but come across as incredibly nervous when I do it.

Another random example is that sometimes I feel like I’ve shared some private information with someone too soon – we might consider ourselves friends, or on the way to moving from acquaintances to friends, but then I share some kind of personal information and I often see the surprise in their faces. I am a pretty boring person with a boring life so it’s never anything particularly juicy, and to me it doesn’t feel like a big deal, and I don’t know how else you can become real friends other than sharing personal details, but later when I think about it I realise they have never told me anything like that about themselves or their life. I’ve never really known what that was about, because it’s never anything scandalous or awkward, but now I get it.

I feel somehow liberated by the fact that all these quirks of mine – some of them seemingly at odds with each other like enjoying running and the gym but despising team sports – can be explained by introversion. The book argues that once you understand your quirks and how they fit into your life, you can start arranging your life – how you spend your time, and how you organise your physical space – in order to keep yourself at your best and happiest. She talks about ‘restorative niches’ that give you this time and space, whether they be physical spaces (like hiding in the bathroom at work), time (like avoiding Sunday socialising if you know you have a big Monday at work, or something else (like sitting in the corner at meetings so you can observe rather than sit in the middle of all the action). I love the phrase ‘restorative niche’ and so now if I cancel a date with you with a flimsy reason it’s not because I don’t love you, it’s just I’m seeking out a ‘restorative niche’ so I can be a better friend the next time I see you.

I love how the book argues that introversion is not something you should hide in order to be successful at whatever it is you do. Introversion comes with lots of positive traits that should help in whatever you do, even if your field is not one traditionally known for its introverts – for example being a great listener can help you be a great salesperson. You might need to put on an ‘act’ at times, but as long as you’re carving out your restorative niches and being fundamentally true to yourself, you’ll be fine.

I also love how the book made me realise that the world is built for extroverts – it’s not that I’m not built for the world and there is something ‘wrong’ with me because I am happy to spend a day doing team-building exercises but then I’d love to just not talk to anyone after that. So many things we take for granted are perfect for extroverts, and are aimed at building skills and achieving goals we think are important because it’s an extrovert’s world. Making school children sit in little groups rather than in rows or at individual desks. Group assignments at uni counting for massive chunks of your grade. Open place office space, face to face meetings, public speaking, roundtables, forums, conferences, networking dinners, meet and greets, support groups. It all assumes we all love to be with each other, all the time.

And many of us introverts assume these are necessary evils in the world that we must just put up with. They reflect a world, as the book’s subtitle says, ‘that can’t stop talking’. The habits and traits that are supported and celebrated by these activities have come to be seen as desirable, if not vital. We know this because parents worry about how their shy children will fare at school or in the workplace, even if their children seem perfectly happy and intelligent and otherwise normal. Even as adults many of us probably assume that if we don’t want to chair a meeting or give a talk or go to whatever obligatory fun has been organised that we won’t get very far in our careers. But we shouldn’t assume that – instead we should work on our restorative niches so we can do what we need to at work to get to where we want to be.

The final thing I’m taking away from the book is that next time I’m at a conference, instead of being overwhelmed by all the people at morning tea and thinking to myself “I must network” and getting really stressed about the fact that I’ve been paid to go to this really interesting thing and now I’m not even going to meet anyone, I’ll happily take up those conversations started by others and focus on those. They are probably introverts too, with more experience than me, who have gotten to the point where they are comfortable to just go up to one other person, to have one ten-minute conversation over a caramel slice and a cup of tea, and that’s the extent of their networking. I can totally do that, and learn how to be the one to initiate it too, while the extroverts stand in groups telling hilarious anecdotes and planning drinks and dinners and swapping business cards.

As you can tell there is a lot I could say about this book, but the short of it is if you’re an introvert, you’ll probably like it and if you do let me know and we can have a one-on-one conversation about it. If you’re an extrovert but you’re married to an introvert or have introverted children or you’re surrounded by introverts at work and you don’t understand why we don’t talk at meetings and prefer reading to team sports and hate it when you invite someone over at short notice when we were planning a nice evening of pad Thai and Mad Men, you also might get something out of it. There’s something for everyone.

Birthday book review

For my birthday last year my dad got impressively high tech while giving the best old fashioned gift of reading. While they were at our house for dinner he kept asking if I’d checked my emails lately, and I finally asked why he cared. When I did check them, there were three emails from Amazon saying I had three new books gifted to my Kindle. Not only that, they were three books I actually wanted to read! “But how?” I spluttered, before realising that Dad and I are friends on Goodreads and he’d been perusing my wish list. Genius! He was so pleased with himself.

The first one I read was Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. In her mid-twenties Cheryl finds herself divorced and grieving her mother and decides the best way to deal with these things is to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. By herself. Without any kind of walking experience. In the days before internet research and forums existed, when you could actually find out what was what. As you do. This was one of those great books that was easy to read without being dumbed down. I looked forward to picking it up at the end of the day. The protagonist wasn’t too good to be true, but was perfectly likable and relateable. One of the best bits was the end, which I thought it was completely realistic and exactly how life often turns out after something life-changing – and that was refreshing. In my googling tonight I’ve also discovered Cheryl Strayed is Dear Sugar. Who knew?

The second one I read was Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides, because my wish list is about a decade out of date. This seems to be a polarising kind of book. I didn’t hate it, I’d come close to saying I loved it, but I found it very difficult to read. It was dense, and long-winded. I was mostly interested in the protagonist’s childhood and coming of age, rather than the incestual origins of a chromosomal disorder, which actually took a good half of the book. I could see the genius, and appreciate the genius, I just didn’t look forward to picking it up in the same way I did with Wild, although I always enjoyed it once I did. I am still looking forward to read Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot though, which is in my 2013 reading pile.

The third one was The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach. I loved it. I don’t know anything about baseball, and while I probably would have gotten more out of the baseball scenes if I did, I got plenty from the book generally. It was written like it was from the 1950s, but it wasn’t – for some reason I found this really interesting and I kept being surprised when Facebook or mobile phones were mentioned. It was set on a university campus, and there is something about spending time in quadrangles, in pubs, with cerebral types, that appeals to me somehow. The characters were interesting. The musings on sport and greatness were interesting. Highly recommended.