Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Latest from My Bedside Table

The Consolations of Philosophy
After being charmed by his airport book, I checked out Alain De Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy. Oh, such fun. I had no idea I was such a Stoic, but De Botton's section on Seneca showed me I am. (This would be my mature outlook. I was more of a Hedonist earlier in life, naturally.) Anyway, the concept of this book is that whatever you're facing - heartbreak, ennui, aging, job stress - there's a philosophy to help you through it. Each philosopher's history and teaching is related to a current situation, making it a very amusing and different kind of self-help book. Eminently approachable, too - I don't now have a deep knowledge of any of the great philosophers, but I do have a pretty good precis of a field I never paid much attention to before this book.

The PortraitThe Portrait is the novel Iain Pears wrote before Stone's Fall, which I enjoyed reading last year. It has a less complex structure, but is possessed of its own literary tricks. The narrator is the artist, and the entire novel is his soliloquies to his subject, an old friend and art critic who has come to visit him in his exile from the London art scene. So, lots of "you should" and "did you not know?" as the artist covers their interwoven histories and explicates the reasons for his exile - and what he plans to do about it. There are guns on every mantlepiece in this one, so the ending wasn't as suspenseful as I think Pears intended, but it's still a good story and the sense of place and voice is very strong.

Just One of the Guys (Hqn)I read plenty without philosophers or literary conceits, and in the past couple of weeks that's included Kristan Higgins's Just One of the Guys, as well as a couple of her other modern romance/chick-lit novels. Published by Harlequin, so happily ever after and all that. Higgins is a fun writer, very good at a conversational but intelligent style, and her characters are cohesive and fleshed-out, making these sweet love stories with a little heartbreak and soul-searching thrown in. And the three I've read (Too Good to Be True and Catch of the Day are the others) are distinct enough that I'll be able to pick up a Higgins anytime I see one and tell from the back cover whether I've read it already or not, which is a huge plus.


  1. Ohhhh, I love Kristan Higgins! Her newest one was just ok for me, but I LOOVVVEEEDD the one before that, All I Ever Wanted. Definitely read that one next, if you plan to pick up another Higgins' any time soon!

  2. L, that's the next one up off my hold list - now I'm totally antsy to get it! Thanks.