Monday, 30 June 2014

Bookspotting Day 8 & 9

It's been a busy couple of days and didn't write anything down, so am going to have to do from memory. Also, I'm writing this early the following week as it has been a busy weekend too. I'll do my best...

The first book I spotted was 'To Hull & Back: On Holiday in Unsung Britain' by Tom Chessmyre, which was being read by a trainee accountant colleague of mine. There has been something of a trend in the last decade or so for writing "warts and all" travel books going to the more unfashionable places off the tourist track and this is one of these. Unusually for this sub-sub genre, the author apparently isn't intentionally trying to be funny, its more of a straight up travel book. A straight up travelogue about reputedly dull places, but it gets fairly good reviews on Amazon.

Next book spotted was 'Deadline'. Only problem was I only caught a glimpse of the cover, and not the title. In turns out that there are quite a few books called Deadline, it is particularly popular in the crime genre - there are books by Craig McLay, Simon Kernick, Sandra Brown, John Townsend... All I saw was that it had a green cover with blood splatter and heartbeat monitor. After scrutinising the titles, I found it was 'Deadline' by Mira Grant. This is Book 2 of the Newsflesh Trilogy (the first book is 'Feed'). It's about zombies... in 2014, two viruses, designed to combat the common cold and cancer, combine to form a new virus that... raises the dead. Book One starts out with two bloggers covering an American election, this book is more political and more nuanced than most zombie novels you'll read.

'Swimsuit' by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro. Set in 1906 about the ancestors of Patterson's character Alex Cross, this story is about a swimsuit model who disappaers, and then her parents get the phone call the next day. Seems very run of the mill story, but this gets good reviews.

Arabian Nights. Arabian Nights is a collection of South & West Asian folk tales collected together over the course of centuries. The stories vary depending on the version of the collection you are reading, with some of the more famous stories to Westerners - Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor etc - were actually only added in by English translators although they were undoubtedly Asian folk tales. The overall story which 'frames' many of the others is that of a Persian ruler, Sharyar and his wife Schehezerade. I didn't know anything at all about Arabian Nights before spotting this, other than a vague memory of reading some of the stories in a children's book of tales. But it sounds interesting and as it is free on Kindle, I might just have a read.

'The Black Box' by Michael Connelly was next. It is book 18 in the Harry Bosch crime series, about a Los Angeles police detective. I've read a few Harry Bosch books and they are almost universally good. If you've not read any more you might want to go back to one of his earlier books like 'The Black Echo' which is the first book he features in. But generally, the stories are standalone so you could start with any one of them.

'My Autobiography' by Alex Ferguson marked the first sports related book I've spotted. For those of you who don't know him, he was Manchester United manager from 1986 to 2013, a record in top flight English football. He won the English Premier League with Manchester United 14 years in his tenure, along with lots of other trophies and is considered one of the most successful British football managers ever. There's a lot about his football manager days (particularly the last 10 years or so) and various opinions on football.

On Friday afternoon, I spotted a book with 'Death' in the title by Charlaine Harris but alas didn't note down the name. I looked up on Amazon and most of her books have death in the title, so I can't identify the exact book. It was probably one of her books about 'Sookie Stackhouse' novels, which is a supernatural series about vampires. It formed the basis of the TV series True Blood. If you want to check it out the first book (there are 13 in total) is 'Dead until Dark', first published in 2001.

To finish off for the weekend, there was an older lady reading 'Head over Heel: Seduced by Southern Italy' by Chris Harrison. Until I looked this up later, I thought it was a romance novel, it had that look (and the lady reader was in my eyes a stereotypical older woman who reads romance novels) but it turns out it is a travel book about Italy. The author fell in love with an Italian girl, whom he followed back to Italy and then fell in love with the place too.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Bookspotting Day 7

The day didn't start well. I normally like to get to the train station in plenty of time so I can spot anyone reading on the platform, maybe even have a nosy in the waiting room. Today though I was running late and the train was already on the platform so I had to jump on. Then I caught a glimpse between the seats at a woman reading a book. Great! Not so much. After shuffling about in my seat to get a better glimpse and can see the book: 'Teach Yourself Further German'. Now all books have value, and I like the variety of books I come across, but in this case I think the chances that someone who stumbles across my blog would be interested in this book are slimmer than most that I spot, not least because you'd presumably have to know a fair bit of German already to progress on to this book. Anyone interested in learning German would probably be best starting with 'Teach Yourself Beginners German' or something like that.

Just as I'm getting off the train, I spot a middle aged woman reading a book that I can't quite read the title of. I focused a bit more as I went past (okay I stared a bit), much to the annoyance of a man who was probably her husband. Luckily I was getting off at that point. Anyway, the book was 'The Testament of Mary' by Colm  Toibin. I thought it was some sort of religious book at first but it turns out it is almost the opposite, some might call it heretical. It is the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, who is bereft after the death of her son. In her mind, he was a vulnerable young man who was surrounded by people who couldn't be trusted. Not the traditional bible story anyway. This book was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

That was it for the morning. This afternoon I was expecting a quiet journey home, as England were playing. Evidently as they were already out of the world cup nobody was interested though, as the train was as busy as ever. At the station, a woman in her 30s was enjoying herself sat waiting for her train, feet up on her suitcase, reading 'The Fault in our Stars' by John Green. It is a love story about a teenage cancer patient, who falls in love with Augustus at a cancer support group. It is one of the most popular books of the moment, and there's a film coming out any day now at the cinema. It is classified as a young adult book, but from what I've heard just about everyone who reads it thinks it is amazing. It's on my to read list, I really should get to it soon...

In the seats in front of me was a bald young-middling aged businessman who was chatting with colleagues, but there were two books on the table in front of him. Does that count? Were both his? One was a book I'd already seen on Day 4 - 'The View from Castle Rock' by Alice Munro. I'm fairly sure it was a different person reading it though. The second book was 'Light Years' by James Salter. It is the story of a well off married couple who on the surface look very happy but underneath the cracks gradually start to show. The story is episodic and covers a long period of time, each episode covers a dinner party or other social occasion.

Thought that was it, but as I was getting off the train I passed a woman reading a book. I couldn't see the cover, but peered over her shoulder to look at the title at the top of the page she was reading... Further German Part 3. Argh! Same woman I saw this morning.

After getting off the train, I really did think that was it, but crossed paths with a man carrying 'Great North Road' by Peter F Hamilton, fingers keeping his place in the book as he walked for his train. Peter F Hamilton is a science fiction author who writes big, epic space operas - mostly multi book series, but this one is a standalone, albeit 1000+ pages. It is set several hundred years in the future, but set mostly in Newcastle (upon Tyne) in the North East of England. Also partly on an alien planet too, but mostly Newcastle. It is part big space opera, part whodunnit. The world building is excellent, and the story is good too. There's a murdered clone that apparently didn't exist, a mysterious alien and lots of technology, including a world where everything is 3D printed. (In the interest of full disclosure, Peter F Hamilton is a favourite author of mine, he won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I like his books a lot).

Monday, 23 June 2014

642 Things to Write About

While browsing in Waterstones bookshop at the weekend, I found '642 Things to Write About' and just had to have it. It is a book of ideas for writing, along with the space to write in. Of course, I mostly write on a computer these days, but there's still something magicial and putting pen to paper, and this book really encourages that. So I'll probably start off writing in the book, then switch to the computer if it's a longer piece.

This book was written, if you can call it that, by the San Fransisco Writer's Grotto. Basically the editor asked them all to submit via email some ideas to get the creative juices flowing, and that's just what they did. They range from random short prompts such as 'A bad smell and where it came from' and 'Pen an ode to an onion' to longer ideas that may be the basis for a story. An example of this: 'Find a world map or globe, close your eyes, pick a spot. Write about a person arriving there for the first time. I think one of the ones I'm going to do first is 'Write a letter to go in a time capsule to be buried in your garden and not opened for 500 years'. Wow. What would you include in a letter like that? The amount of space you get after each writing prompt - while not enough a lot of the time - is comensurate with whether the idea is big or small etc.

The book has a really nice feel to it, with a very stiff card cover and nicely thick pages. It is a book that just makes you want to write in it.

I've not written any fiction in a long time, years in fact, having written mostly articles for the last few years now. I'm starting to consider having a go at writing fiction again soon though, and this may be just what I need to get started. I may even post some of them on here.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Weekend Bookspotting- a lost cause?

A day trip to Manchester today with my wife and daughter should give plenty of opportunity for Bookspotting. We're visiting Manchester University for an open day. It is kind of a corporate spying/industrial espionage thing (my wife works for Lancaster University) - we're not thinking of going back to university or anything, and our daughter is thankfully about 13 years too young!

Anyway it's an hour's train journey each way, three times as long as my normal commute, and the Manchester train is usually a really busy one, just not on this occasion! No books spotted on the way there, then again we were sat in a more or less empty train! Hopefully there will be more luck on the way back...

Well the day proved uneventful on a Bookspotting front. I visited the big Waterstones store on Deansgate in Manchester,saw lots of books but they don't really count... even in the cafe there were only a couple of people looking at books. I did spot these beautiful editions of Terry Pratchett books though.

They were those lovely cloth-bound hardback books with gorgeous designs engraved (if that's the right word?) directly onto the cloth. Simply gorgeous, and only £9.99 each, hardly any more than the paperback price.

Anyway, back to Bookspotting. It was the way back, and bookspotting is proving to be a bit disappointing still, until we got off to change trains at Preston that is. While waiting for our train back to Lancaster, I saw two young women reading books in a crowded waiting room. Alas I couldn't see what they were reading, but my wife, Kate, came to the rescue, by peering through the window to read the title of the book at the top of the pages the woman was reading. It was 'The Ambassador's Mission' by Trudi Canavan. This is a fantasy novel, the first in the 'Traitor Spy' series, which is a sequel to the 'Black Magician' trilogy. I've actually read the Black Magician trilogy and it is a good story - simple, uncomplicated fantasy but a fun read. I might go back and read the new series some day,there are just so many books to read though...

On the train, there are about five people reading books in my carriage,but they are keeping their books close to their chest making them difficult to identify. I did manage to identify two though: 'The Childhood of Jesus' by J.M. Coetzee. It's about a man and a boy who arrive together in a strange land and have to build a new life there. It is something of an allegory or fable, and not for those who like their books neat with easy explanations for everything!

The other book was 'My East End' by Gilda O'Neill. This is a collection of reminiscences about life growing up in Cockney London, with a bit of history thrown in too. These sorts of books, particularly about the East End of London, are quite popular at the moment.

So all in all a less successful Bookspotting day than many working days, but then as was pointed out to me, there's a lot more people travelling with their families at the weekend, so wouldn't be reading (I am a very good case in point here, my book stayed firmly in my bag all day). Weekdays there's a lot more people travelling alone for work, so more people reading. All in all though, a good day out (and if you are in Manchester anytime and want an eat all you can place for lunch, try out Peachy Keens in the Printworks - it is amazing).

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Bookspotting Days 4 & 5

An easier day bookspotting today, so I'll dive right in.

The first book spotted this morning, being read by a woman sat waiting for a train at Lancaster train station, was 'Sanctus' by Simon Toyne, book one of the Sancti trilogy. This is an 'apocalyptic conspiracy thriller', you know the type, and a debut novel for this author. It looks like quite a popular book, 413 reviewers on, average rating 4 stars.

The second book spotted was 'Charlotte Gray' by Sebastian Faulks. This was another woman, also sat waiting for a train south from Lancaster this morning. Charlotte Gray is the author's second novel, and a loose sequel to his first novel, the hugely successful Birdsong. In this book, the title character Charlotte is a young Scottish woman who falls in love with an airman. When he disappears while on a mission in France, she follows him as a British secret courier...

That was it for this morning. The afternoon proved even more fruitful, first with 'Ramble On: The Story of our love for Walking Britain' by Sinclair McKay. This describes itself as the 'definitive history of rambling' in Britain. It has got stuff about the Lake District walks of Alfred Wainwright, landowners battles to keep walkers off their land. These tales are all related while describing several walks across the country which the author went on.

The fourth book spotted is 'The View From Castle Rock' by Alice Munro. I've heard of the author before, but didn't know anything about her. It appears she's renowned for her short story collections, and is considered by many to be the best short story writer alive - to back this up she's won the Noble Prize for Literature. This book though is a novel, a fictionalized account of her ancestors starting from Edinburgh (the Castle Rock of the title) and following them as they emigrated to Canada. It sounds very descriptive and slow paced, but moving and beautifully written. Looking at the Amazon reviews, a few reviewers found it dull, but it sounds just my sort of book, so will be adding this (yet another book!) to my long to be read list.

The fifth book is 'The City of Strangers' by Michael Russell. It is a historical crime novel, with elements of a conspiracy thriller in too, set just before the start of the second world war and featuring the Nazi's, the Irish & IRA and America. It's the second book featuring Stefan Gilespie, being a sequel to the first book, 'The City of Shadows'.

Day 5. I don't know if it is the gorgeous sunny weather or something, but there was a lot of people reading today, at the train station, on the train, sat on the tarmac on the platform... Quite a few of them I couldn't identify - one older guy was reading a hardback book that had lost its dust jacket- red bookcloth with no writing on it makes it difficult to spot! Another one could have been a Harry Potter, but only got the briefest glimpse but couldn't be sure. Another was a book I'd spotted last week, which I'm fairly sure was (still) being read by the same person, stood in exactly the same spot at Preston train station as last week. Creature of habit.

So all in all at least 8 or 9 books, but only 3 real identified spots.

'The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden' by Jonas Jonasson. This is the author's second book, after last year's phenomenally successful (and incredibly funny) 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared', which was about just what it sounds like but with flashbacks to the man's life - he was involved in some way in of most of the 20th century's most historic events. This new book is more of the same, if you enjoyed the first you should enjoy this.

'The Places in Between' by Rory Stewart. This is a travel book about author Rory Stewart's 6,000 mile journey on foot across Afganistan, between Turkey and Bangladesh in 2002, in the aftermath of the US invastion when the country was in turmoil. He very nearly didn't survive, and only managed the complete his journey with the help and kindness of strangers and his travelling companion.

'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn. Sometimes I only get a brief glimpse of a book, not enough to catch the title. All I got with this one was that it had a bright orange title on the cover and the author was ... Flynn. I remembered seeing Gone Girl before and that it had a bright orange cover. I looked it up and confirmed it was the same book. This is a crime/thriller novel, about a woman who disappears on her 5th wedding anniversary. The prime suspect is her husband, but did he kill her, or is something much more strange going on?

That's it for today folks.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Old Books & Forgotten Authors

We went to stay with my wife's parents over the weekend, and while we were there we got given a pile of old books by their elderly neighbour next door. They'd belonged to his wife who died last year. He was clearing out, but didn't want them just going to the charity shop as they'd only end up in a landfill site when nobody bought them.

They were a mix of modern Folio edition copies of classics like Thomas Hardy, and old pocket sized hardback novels which date back to the 1920s.

Thomas Hardy Folio Edition Set

All of them are very nice looking and have a lovely feel to them, much nicer than modern/commercial hardback books. They just make you want to pick them up and read them.

Much more interesting than the modern Folio editions though were the old 1920s hardbacks. These were mostly 'Grove editions' from Grove publishing, and it looks like they were the first time that the books had been published in a pocket edition, making them cheaper and more accessible to the ordinary person (books used to cost up to a month's wages). There were a number of authors represented in the books I was given, but most of them were by two authors: John Galsworthy and Hugh Walpole. I recognised the name John Galsworthy but not Hugh Walpole (actually I thought I did, but I was getting him confused with Robert Walpole who was an 18th century British Prime Minister).

John Galsworthy was a prolific writer who wrote many novels, short stories and plays, but is most well known today for his 'Forsyte Saga' series of books. Galsworthy was popular during his lifetime, but his popularity waned soon after. He was fading into relative obscurity until the BBC made an adaptation of the Forsyte Saga (the first of many) in the 1960s, which revived his popularity.

Hugh Walpole was not so lucky after his death (if anyone can be said to be lucky or unlucky after their death that is). He was a bestselling author in the 1920s and 1930s, but today is all but forgotten - perhaps because he didn't have his books adapted into popular television series like his contemporary, Galsworthy. During his writing career he averaged at least a book a year, and ultimately wrote 36 novels, 5 volumes of short stories and 3 volumes of memoirs. His stories covered a vast range of subjects, his most popular was his "Herries Chronicles", a historical fiction series set in the Lake District. The first book in the Herries Chronicle is "Rogue Herries".

The fate of bestselling author Hugh Walpole is the same as many long forgotten authors from yesteryear. Did they deserve to be forgotten, perhaps because they were books 'of their time', or is there more to them than that? What makes one book become a classic and stand the test of time, while others fade into obscurity?

I'm now going to add some of these books to my To Be Read list, both The Forsyte Saga which I've never read, and perhaps some of the long forgotten books which I can, in some small way, bring back into the light of day.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Book review: 'Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore' by Robin Sloan

This is a book I've had my eye on for a while (I mean books, google, secret cults, what more could you want?). It's mainstream contemporary fiction rather than science fiction, but is one geeks will enjoy. Yes you, you know who you are! Anyway here's my review which will also be going up on Goodreads soon.

Clay Jannon, formerly chief web designer at the New Bagel Company, is unemployed and looking for a job. There aren’t that many good jobs about, what with the recession and all, so when he walks past a bookshop with a job advert in the window for a night clerk he soon applies. It doesn’t take him long to realise this is one seriously weird book shop, doubling as some sort of library for a weird secret cult. Or something like that. With the help of friends including best friend from school Neal who made millions from boob simulation software, and girlfriend Kat who works at Google, he sets out to try and figure out what is going on…

This is a very fun, albeit strange book. It successfully brings together the world of old books, even older mysteries and modern technology in a way I’m not sure anyone has before. It is very up to date, and talks a lot about Google, iMacs and Kindles, OSR software and hacker communities. Computer geeks will love this book, as will book lovers. If you are a computer geek and a book lover, well you are probably already firing up Amazon to buy the book…

I enjoyed the book a lot. It was a fun book, you never quite knew what was going to happen next, and the many culture and tech references dropped in were great to see. It might have hidden mysterious and secret societies in common with The Da Vinci Code but it is not a thriller. There’s never really any great physical danger for the characters, it is much slower paced and gentler than that, and all the better for it.

I debated whether to give this book a 4 or 5 star rating. I gave it 5 in the end, it won’t be my favourite book of the year, it didn’t have characters to fall in love with, a plot that keeps you glued to the page or truly beautiful writing, but it was a lot of fun. And that’s what books should be all about.

If you are after a bit of bookspotting, well it's been a busy weekend and no opportunity to spot anything. Working from home tomorrow, then at sport's day at my daughter's school in the afternoon, so next opportunity for Bookspotting is Tuesday.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Bit of Friday Bookspotting

After a couple of days off, I'm back again for some more bookspotting. Only one book spotted this morning. It was 'Free at Last' by Tony Benn. It spent the whole 20 minutes I was on the train on the table not being read, the woman whose book it was seemed more interested in chatting than reading. Maybe it is the sort of book she wants to be seen reading but isn't enjoying. Or maybe not.

Tony was a career politician, and served as a Labour MP for 47 years between 1950 and 2001. He was very left wing, all for the working man which was very interesting as his father was a hereditary peer. On his father's death Tony Benn was due to inherit his father's title, but this would have prevented him continuing as an MP. He fought for and successfully won the right to renounce his title. He was a great writer, diarist and public speaker (I once went to one of his courses at an economics conference in London). I've always respected Tony Benn as being one of the few conviction politicians - he would do anything as long as it was right, sticking up for his constituents.

He was a real serial political diarist, nine volumes in all spanning thousands of pages. I am sure it would be an amazing experience to read through all of the diaries,you'd learn an awful lot of history and politics as well as find out about a great man. The only problem for me is that I wouldn't want to just read one, I'd want to read them all and that's a hell of a lot of reading.

The train was slightly delayed again this afternoon, so I was hanging around the station waiting for a while. It was literally packed on the platforms, there must have been a couple of hundred people. Literally at least a hundred people must have been on their mobile phones but only one person was reading a book. It took a couple of passes for me to get a clear view. It was 'Scott's Last Expedition' by Robert Falcon Scott. Basically, these again are diaries (it was obviously a diaries day), but in this case, these were Scott's diaries of his expedition to reach the South Pole between 1910 and 1912. He achieved this, but he wasn't the first as Norway's Roald Amundsen got there first. Scott's expedition hit misfortune, and he and his team died of cold and starvation only 11 miles from base camp. The journals were discovered with his body, several months after he died.

I then got on the train, but that was a complete blank, no reading (other than me that is - I was reading of course). It's the weekend now, so I doubt I'll spot anyone reading until next week, but I'll keep my eyes peeled!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Bookspotting Day 2

Okay so I caught a later train this morning to work, and was looking forward to hopefully spotting more books on the 9.38 train to Preston.My logic was these wouldn't be busy commuters but more leisurely travellers so there might be more books to spot. Nothing. No book in sight anywhere, in my train carriage or on the platform (and there was no one in the waiting room -I checked!). Disappointing.

I was getting a slightly later train back, in part because of the thunderstorm and torrential rain about the time I normally leave. The basement at work was flooded and the car park under a foot of water. Got to the train station to find that while all the trains were running normally, the station facilities were not. The waiting room, shop and cafe were all closed, with station staff rushing round with brooms, brushing water out of the buildings and onto the train tracks. Great, I thought, with everyone (literally) flushed outdoors there'll be more chance to spot people reading. I scanned the whole packed platform - nothing. Surely today wouldn't be a complete blank?

I had a few minutes before my train, so I wandered over to the next platform just to see. Nada. Zip. Then right at the end of the platform I saw a woman hunched over a book. Unfortunately I couldn't see what she was reading, and she really was right at the end of the platform, there was nothing beyond her and it would have looked really odd to walk past and then back. Plus my train was about to arrive.

As I walked onto my platform, I passed a guy in a baseball cap reading a big hardback book, probably a library book from the look of it (I've had a lot of those cumbersome hardbacks from the library before now) Despite giving him more scrutiny than was probably wise, I only got a couple of words 'Iron Mountain', so I quickly pulled out my phone to look it up. Sure enough I found the exact book: 'Daylight on Iron Mountain' by David Wingrove. It is the second book in the Chung Kuo science fiction series, a future history about an Earth dominated by China. The first book is 'Son of Heaven'. Interestingly, this series was first started in 1989, so although it is very fashionable and hardly prescient to write now about a future dominated by China, in the 1980s it was more of a long shot. For more information on this series, I suggest reading this Wikipedia article - there's a lot of books!

Then I got on the train and found three people reading books as I walked to my seat! Reading is clearly alive on well, on the 5.28 train to Barrow in Furness anyway! The books were:

'The Impossible Dead' by Ian Rankin - I used to read Ian Rankin's Rebus novels, until I watched a few tv adaptations and got lost between what I'd seen/read and what I hadn't. I've since lost track of what he's been writing, except he finished with Rebus and moved on. Apparently he's got a new character, Malcolm Fox, a divorcee in his 40s. According to one review he is quieter and 'warier of confrontation' than Rebus, but a great new character. Anyway, this is the second Malcolm Fox novel, the first is 'The Complaints'.

'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley. A classic science fiction novel, published in 1931 that accurately predicted many technological and societal changes. Regularly in the top novels of 20th century lists.

'A Feast for Crows' by George R R Martin - Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire, which began with Game of Thrones. The woman with this book was obviously reading ahead of the TV series, something I've been considering.

Another good day of Bookspotting, in the end anyway!

Monday, 9 June 2014

A spot of Bookspotting...

A few years ago I had a an idea for a blog - Bookspotting. Sort of like trainspotting but less geeky (somewhat). As with so many ideas, it got shelved as there's too many ideas and too little time, but have thought about it from time to time. Well I decided this morning I'd give it a go for a bit, despite the fact that it is much harder these days. Reading is on the decline, and lots of people are reading on their Kindles or phones - nigh on impossible to spot what they are reading unless you are sat next to them and peering over their shoulder. But some of us still read real books from time to time, so I'm going to try and spot what they're reading. I have a short train journey to and from work each day, which should give me ample opportunities.

I suppose you are asking why bother? Well partly because after seeing a study that showed reading is massively on the decline, I want to see how true this is. But the main reason is because I'm interested in what other people are reading. It is all to easy to just read the same type of books by the same authors, always heading to the same spot in the bookshop. Discovering new books and authors can be great fun, but where to find them? Bookspotting introduces a randomness to book discovery, you just never know what the person opposite you on the train, or sat next to you in the dentist waiting room is reading. I'm going to try and spot books on my daily travels, find a bit about them, and share online! Should be interesting I hope. Here goes...

Spotted one! I've only just sat down on the 8.27am train, and I spot a young woman on one of the seats across the aisle from me reading 'An Autobiography: Or the Story of My Experiments with Truth' by Gandhi. Sounds heavy going and it is a thick book, but gets 4.5 stars on Amazon. Read it if you want to find out more about Gandhi's life and learn some of his wisdom.

Shortly after this I realised I must have had a stroke of beginners luck as the woman next to me whips out a book too. The book is 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver. It's about a woman whose son commits a murdering rampage at school, killing seven of his fellow pupils. Two years later and she is, understandably, still trying to come to terms with this. It won the Orange Prize for Fiction and was made into a film. There's a 3 for 2 sticker on the front of the book, and it looks new so the reader probably bought it herself from Waterstones or WH Smiths, it's good to see that some people are still supporting bricks and mortar book stores rather than buying from Amazon.

No sign of anyone else reading a book (even a Kindle) in my train carriage. There's a guy reading a magazine, and someone else marking exam papers, but the rest of the passengers (and it is a full train) are either staring out the window or are glued to some electronic device or other. Still, this is a promising start!

The train journey back started frustratingly. The train was late, so I wandered up and down the platform looking for anyone with a book, I even peered in to one of the station cafes - not a book in sight. Then I spotted a man on the platform opposite reading a book. Bingo! Alas I couldn't make out what he was reading, and then my train arrived, obscuring him from view. On the train things didn't improve much. The only person reading in the carriage (apart from me) was a guy in the bay opposite me, reading a thick, well read paperback, its spine cracked in multiple places. The book was in his lap most of the time though, and I couldn't make out what it was. I didn't want him to spot me keep glancing either (I can imagine it now: "Oi you, why're you staring at my crotch?". "Me", I'd protest, "I wasn't, honest, I just wanted to see what book you were reading." Yeah right!). When my train arrived in the station I was resigned to giving up, but a quick glance from behind as I was waiting for the doors to open revealed the title and author at the top of the pages he was reading: 'The Generals' by Simon Scarrow. The author writes historical fiction and is most known for his 'Eagle series' set in the Roman empire. The Generals is the second book in his 'Revolution' series focusing on Wellington and Napolean. The first book in the series is 'Young Bloods'.

I thought that would be it for the day, but then after getting off the train I walked past a woman sat reading on the platform. This one was all too easy to spot: it was 'The Chimp Paradox' by Dr Steve Peters, subtitled The Mind Management Programme to help you achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness'. Quite obviously a self-help book, it does what it says on the tin. I've seen this book around before, I think it is quite popular and acclaimed. The 569 reviews on Amazon seem to think so anyway.

Anyway, that's it for today. More soon hopefully.