1. Unknown Pleasures, given away free with Melody Maker in 1995, possibly formative for a lot of my friends, borrowed by me early this year from boyofbadgers. This is basically a lot of "Please consider these albums that have been overlooked". The tone of the entries is split between "This album, though not one of the hits, should stand equal with them", "This album, though quite popular, is secretly better/more essential than all the others and should be crowned as such", and "No, really, this band are good!". Bizarrely, an example of the latter is ABC's "The Lexicon of Love", which I can just about imagine someone not liking, but surely not being ignorant of. Anyway, I have a general project (because, clearly, I need more of those) to actually listen to all of the albums on here and report back. I think it hit some rocky shores after some of the albums seem to have fallen all the way through the canon and not stopped in the last 13 years.
2. How to be Free by Tom Hodgkinson, also author of How to be Idle. This is a "Throw off
As in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, we are told that we are in a perpetual state of war - it's just that the enemy sometimes changes. We are no longer at war with the IRA; we are now at war with Al-Qaeda.
As a general rule, if you are going to quote the central brilliant conceit of that book, it would help if you had read it, and understood the concept.
3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt. This is the one that I've been meaning to get back to the most - apart from the amusement from having twins called Charles and Camilla in a 1992 book, it's written in a pleasant style, the sentences exactingly constructed and arranged. Ten years ago I'd have been unable to recognise this; even now it's a "nice trick" rather than the requirement that some of my friends seem to view it as.
4. An Utterly Impartial History of Britain, or 2000 years of upper class idiots in charge by John O'Farrell (no relation). This was actually recommended to me by a poster on the tube! a bit of study suggested that it would be exactly what I wanted: a history of Britain for those of us who paid no attention in class (or on my case had little choice), and if it covered familiar ground then at least it'd be funny. The solid covering of the subject was excellent, particularly for someone who didn't previously really know the Stuarts from the Tudors. I think the thing that excited me most at the time (so which some of you will have heard) was the idea that the class system has hung on longer here than most places because the immediate aftermath of 1066 was the wholesale replacement of the gentry with the new king's French mates (as he puts it "Many of whose descendants still have second homes in the Dordogne today"). The humor served a different purpose - mostly it was back of the class snide comments, not exactly "Black Plague LOL" but not much more trenchant. But the ways in which it clearly doesn't apply to the situations being snarked at is a very direct (for me) indication of the gulf between us and the people in these histories.
Best joke: During the chapter on the transition from Roman rule to the dark ages, the subchapter heading "CivilizationTM has encountered a problem and been forced to close"