52 books in 52 weeks – Challenge Complete!

Earlier this year when I realised I was spending more time than ever with my head in a book, I set myself the challenge of reading 52 books in 52 weeks in 2015.

Challenge complete!

Among the new titles, the following fiction stood out for me; Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl, Vesna Goldsworthy’s Gorsky and As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by my absolute favourite, Alan Bradley (not the one who got hit by a tram in Corrie!)

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However,  I found the year’s non-fiction to be even better; the collected lyrics and notes of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, So This Is Permanence, is a thing of heart-breaking beauty to be treasured forever. Gut by Giulia Enders has already been passed around several members of family and friends – a brilliantly interesting, funny and accessible explanation of the behaviour of our bowels!

so this is permancenc

And I have to mention the Welsh singer and a man personally adored by me, Tom Jones, who has written the most excellent and hilarious autobiography Over The Top and Back. A brick of a book which took me almost a month to read though not just due to its doorstep size but also due to re-reading such unrivalled anecdotes (not all about Elvis either!) and collapsing in fits of laughter. Do not read if bad language offends you – this is a man who loves the C word!

gut cover

But overall I tried to vary style, length, age and the classic with the contemporary. I loved every minute. Here’s what I got through, starting with my most recommended titles: Continue reading

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Going off alarming

GOING OFF ALARMING BY DANNY BAKER

Going off alarming

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Danny Baker but the sight of my husband absolutely shaking with mirth whilst reading the second volume of his autobiography was enough to convince me to get reading it myself. Boy, I’m glad I did!

Danny Baker is best known for his work on TV shows, for hosting football phone-ins on the radio, for being the star of the “Daz Doorstep Challenge” adverts and for being temporary tabloid fodder for his mid-1990s hijinks with Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne. He has worked with all the comedy greats – Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan, “a self-lacerating” Frankie Howard and has great yarns to spin from all of these meetings.  Keeping a furious Kenneth Williams waiting and then later on name-dropping the Carry-On star to buy his first house is particularly cracking material.

It’s hard to suck up that Baker is one of life’s lucky blighters who always come up smelling of roses. He has walked between the raindrops (a chapter heading here) and led a charmed life. But this is what sets his story apart from the run of the mill celebrity biographies clogging up supermarket bookshelves. There is no rags to riches, no point at where it all went wrong. Instead this is the story of an original Cockney boy getting away with it over and over again.

His is not an autobiography in the traditional sense. There is very little “I did this, I did that” going on here. Baker is far too clever for that. A natural and endearing raconteur, his amazing career twists and turns are merely squeezed in between hilarious and often unbelievable anecdotes. His recollections of Davey The Dwarf and the Rag and Bone Man story are particular favourites of mine. Even funnier and incredulous than volume one, I warmed to the witty wordplay and life experience of this writer and broadcaster. (Although I still find him a very smug and bumptious personality!)

However, just like his first book, Going To Sea In A Sieve, the star of the show is not the man himself but most definitely his docker father known as ‘Spud.’ An absolute character of a man with wheeling and dealing ways, a brazen attitude towards authority and financial affairs and a firm belief that everyone can be bribed, claiming; “they’ve all got their hand out.” I was choking on my own stifled guffaws on a train through West Sussex as Baker described in perfect detail Spud’s Sunday routine of elaborate ablutions and preparing the cockles for tea. Even the title of the book, Going Off Alarming, Continue reading