I've been lucky recently in that I have had good books to read, and time in which to read them. It can take me months to read a book; if I don't like it I'll leave it lying around, refusing to be branded a quitter but really wanting to quit. But sometimes I have a good run, like now.
Attention All Shipping is written by Charles Connelly, a Bill Bryson wannabe looking for an angle, who decided to visit each of the areas mentioned in the Shipping Forecast. Undaunted by the fact that some areas have no land (he had to content himself with flying over parts of the sea and ticking the box) he visits not just some of the most desolate and isolated parts of the UK, Iceland and Scandinavia, he finds himself on barren sandbanks and strange platforms in his quest complete his journey.
The closest he gets to my locality is a fleeting visit to Cromarty - he didn't venture over the bridge to the north of the Firth, missing out on the delights of Evanton and Invergordon, possibly as the result of some thorough research.
The book improves throughout and goes from copying Bill to not quite competing but certainly challenging him as an eye-rolling traveller shuffling rather than striding his way round the world in the search for little snippets of history and heritage.
Next on The Book Tower this week, the man himself. An inspired choice of birthday present from Muriel, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is essentially Bill's autobiography, but only covering his life in the 50s. If you have read Made in America you'll know how 50s obsessed he can be, and each chapter is loosely based on aspects of this decade and the results he saw within his family...and how his dad was a skinflint. It was good, but I can't help thinking that Bill has wrung himself dry now. Neither Here Nor There and The Lost Continent were the results of years of experience, research and observation and as a result are two of the funniest, most informative books I've read. But other Bryson books seemed rushed - especially the Australia one, and now that he's spilled his guts in Thunderbolt, what's next?
My final offering, and the book I am reading just now, is Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. Another gift, I recoiled at first from reading about teaching, cos I is one. For the same reason I don't watch "Teacher TV" on cable. I haven't read any of McCourt's other books, and haven't seen the film. Teacher Man is actully really good. Born in New York, he grew up in Ireland but then returned to New York in his youth and after a series of manual jobs embarks on a career teaching literature to American teens. It is really well written and his power to deviate from the storyline and give interesting tiny details would make Ronnie Corbett green with envy.