On The Road, by Jack Kerouac

Buy On The Road on Amazon

OK, this really is not my kind of book. I listened to it given that it is a Great American Novel, the book that inspired the Beat Generation, stuff like that.

You can read elsewhere about this book. Apparently it is largely autobiographical. Well, I found the characters unappealing. Had I been in close company with Dean for any length of time I would have hit him.

The story also didn’t hold my attention. Frankly I was bored. I only kept going for the last three quarters because of the legendary stature this book has attained. The listing of names of people at particular events became tedious. The treatment of women, blacks, “Okies” and gays is probably of its time. I doubt that at any time in the last 20 years anyone would joke out loud in the US about dressing as Arabs and threatening to blow up New York.

I was reminded of something I was told nearly 40 years ago, about another book that has a similar reputation. “Anything that’s seminal is usually a load of wank”. Maybe this is a book that had to be read at the time it was published, in 1957, to appreciate its effect at the time. Perhaps that is its true significance – as a groundbreaker, leading the way that others would follow.

The narration by Matt Dillon is a saving grace.

But, for me, it was a load of self-indulgent drivel. 3 out of 10 (because it’s not as bad as the books I have only marked as 1 or 2).

27. Self & I, by Matthew de Abaitua

In 1994, just out of a University creative writing course, the author spent 6 months living with and sort of working for the writer Will Self.  This book is partly about that time, written 20 or so years later.  The title is an obvious reference to Withnail & I.

The book is also partly about Will Self and his writing (I have never read any of his books, and Self & I does not encourage me to), and partly discourse about the state of the novel as a form of writing.

The author writes books (science fiction, apparently) and also teaches creative writing.  I felt it would be of greatest interest to students on those courses. It wasn’t really for me.

3 out of 10.

DISCLOSURE – I was given a free kindle copy by the editor, following a conversation on Twitter.  The only way that influenced me was that I felt I owed him the courtesy of reading this book through to the end.

23. Rosewater, by Tade Thompson

I have given up on this audiobook about a third of the way through. It wasn’t really engaging my interest sufficiently to see how it carries on.

Rosewater is a kind of sci-fi thriller, set in Nigeria in 2066. There has been some kind of alien contact – the alien entity is contained in a biodome. Somehow it is capable of curing people of their illnesses, even reanimating the dead. And it gives some people ESP or telepathic abilities.

Elsewhere this book gets good reviews.  So I can only say that it wasn’t really for me.

3 out of 10.

18. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

I picked up this book in Waterstones’ cafe last year. The beginning intrigued me.

The premise is that Harry August is re-born each time he dies.  He lives his life over again, albeit never in the same way.  He accumulates knowledge and experience across his lifetimes, as do others of his rare kind.

The story becomes something of a time travelling thriller, a cat and mouse chase over several repeated lifetimes.  I am sorry to say that the characters lacked credibility and depth. I would say a good idea that needed a better writer. Sorry. 3 out of 10.