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Today's quote:

Monday, September 14, 2020

More subjects than you can poke a stick at


Simon Winchester is the English version of Peter FitzSimons; in fact, they both have written so many non-fiction books - my favourite kind of books! - that I sometimes get them mixed up. The first book by Simon Winchester which I read was "The Professor and the Madman" which, as it happens, also made him famous (and rich) and changed his life.

Modern publishing turns a successful writer into a brand, like Kleenex: write one book that establishes the theme, then write that book over and over again. Think John Grisham and Tom Clancy and Stephen King and Bryce Courtenay and Robert Ludlum; Ludlum is so well established as a brand that there were still books coming out under his name (written from "notes" and with an "editor") after his death in 2001.

Maybe it was ever thus; maybe even Charles Dickens wrote the same novel of manners time and again. And while this may border on the monotonous with fiction, it seems to work for Simon Winchester who's written non-fiction books on more subjects than you can poke a stick at:

* The Map that changed the World
* Krakatoa
* The Sun Never Sets : Travels to the remaining outposts of the British Empire
* Korea : a Walk through the Land of Miracles
* Pacific : the Ocean of the Future
* The Men who united the States : America's explorers, inventors, eccentrics, and mavericks, and the creation of one nation, indivisible
* The fracture Zone : a Return to the Balkans
* Their noble Lordships
* The River at the Centre of the World : a Journey up the Yangtze, and back in Chinese time
* Atlantic
* The professor and the Madman : a Tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary
* A Crack in the Edge of the World
* Pacific Rising
* Simon Winchester's Calcutta
* The Man who loved China : the fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom
* Pacific Nightmare : how Japan starts World War III, a future history
* The Meaning of Everything : the Story of the Oxford English Dictionary
* The surgeon of Crowthorne : a Tale of murder, madness and the Oxford English dictionary

And these are just some! There are many others which are not available for free online reading on www.archive.org. Not that I enjoy online reading. I prefer the tactile experience of holding a book in my hand, of turning the page, of sometimes even making notations in the margins.

Simon Winchester and I also share a favourite book. As he writes on his website, "Once my voice broke and I got spots, there was 'The Riddle of the Sands,' by Erskine Childers, the best of all sailing adventure spy stories, which I must have read a dozen times before I left school."

And one of his favourite authors is Paul Theroux. 'Nuff said!

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