I have the habit of having two books on the go: one fact, one fiction.
When the going gets tough or I get stretched, I go to the library and load up with thin, large-print, easy-read books that I hope are good trash. Because I have heard of very few of the authors I get some really good reads and others that go straight back because I can't get past the first few pages.
Otherwise, I choose my reading from reviews and get them from the library. I am trying to downsize my personal library but am finding it difficult because some books just won't go.
At present I am reading Upheaval, by Jared Diamond.
It came to me from a review and before I had read 50 pages, I had bought it. I was going through a crisis in my personal life. Diamond's subtitle, "How Nations Cope with Crisis and Change", doesn't tell you that he compares national crises with personal crises This seems a very abstract method of dealing with the problems but for me, it worked.
Diamond has lived in all the countries he writes about and has a deep understanding of their culture as well as of their history. Until I read this book I had no real understanding of the word "compromise". It always implied weakness and having to walk away from things you believed were right. Diamond showed me that no lasting peace agreement can be reached unless both parties are prepared to show a degree of compromise and he names a great many one-sided treaties that didn't last and caused wars that were longer and more catastrophic than the original disagreement.
I am a serious history buff but Diamond shows history from so many different points of view he has to be read more than once. Fortunately his style is so fluent it's easy to read and easy to remember. Upheaval has a permanent place on my shelves.
The fiction I am reading is The Reed Warbler, by Ian Wedde. I always enjoy his novels and this one has not disappointed.
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Wedde is a master of description that is so detailed that it should be boring - but it never is. It verges on the lyrical. He loves his characters with a passion, even the unpleasant ones.
The Reed Warbler is a complicated family saga. I found myself referring to the family tree much too often. Unfortunately, I have little knowledge of the period of history that inspired the novel and don't intend to do any further research, as it's not a period that interests me, turbulent though it is.
I can't say "the plot is complicated" but I can say "all the plots are complicated" and I'm confident that the author's sure hand will unravel them by the end.
The Nine Lives of Kitty K, by Margaret Mills (Mary Egan Publishing, $35) is out now.