Sex, drugs, and gobs of gore! – the books that make you love TV

Sex and the City, Dexter or True Blood?  When TV turns to modern fiction, every one’s a winner – so says Hattie French

Last week, writing up the best of the Big Read, I was struck by how many popular books are made into films.  Maybe it started with the blistering success of Gone with the Wind in the thirties.   Today, books are getting optioned for film before they go into print.

There are varying degrees of success for these adaptations.  Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings had more money thrown at it than the London Olympics, and yet only really scratched the surface of Tolkien‘s original.   And as I’ve expressed previously, the great advantage of the Harry Potter books over the films is that you don’t have to look at the smug, grinning face of the multimillionaire Daniel Radcliffe while you’re reading. Continue reading


The Best of the BBC’s Big Read – five-ish better picks!

The BBC’s Big Read best-loved books were not all a waste of trees – here are a scattering of gems that slipped through the net, according to Hattie French

Two weeks ago I poured scorn upon the results of the BBC’s Big Read poll to find Britain’s best-loved book.  To redress the balance, this week a look at some of the books which, in my view, deserve their place on the list.

I’m well aware that, in the pantheon of English literature, the likes of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and their ilk are regarded as deities who look down upon the rest of us from unassailable heights of cultural superiority.  For the purpose of this list, however, they have been branded bores and pushed off their pedestals by authors who can resolve a sentence in under half a page. Continue reading

The inevitable Salinger…

If you’re tuning in for the best of the Big Read, prepare for a disappointment.  This week, there is genuine news from book world: Salinger is dead. By Hattie French

Of course the news reports have gone on and on about two things only: the classic status (with occasional plot summaries) of The Catcher in the Rye, and Salinger’s notorious hermit-like existence.

Two things wrong with this approach, in my view:

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Breaking down over bad books – why the BBC’s Big Read has to be a joke!

Everyone knows you’ve never read War and Peace – you’re all still stuck on Jacqueline Wilson!  The BBC poll of our Nation’s favourite books is a big fat sham…hopes Hattie French

I was going to write about Jacqueline Wilson this week.  And not in a good way.  I’ve long despised her smug, over-rated books.  So, researching in the traditional student manner, I looked her up on Wikipedia.  I discovered, in close succession, the nauseating sentences “Jacqueline is the proud foster mum to a little cat called Whisky” and “Over 25 million of Wilson’s books have been sold in the UK alone.”

Then something catches my eye which stops me in my tracks.  “In the list of the UK’s 200 favourite books there are 14 books by Jacqueline Wilson.” Continue reading

Now that’s what I call a Christmas present 2009! The best of the Books

Douglas Coupland can be relied upon to be himself, the Screenburn and Wire writers, a recap of Pohl, Fischer and Eggers, comics on t’internet and the positive side of bookstore receivership…By Hattie French

Like most of the country, the double whammy of Christmas and New Year’s in close succession has turned my brain into a slightly alcoholic mush.  So to make life easy for myself, here is my own version of the festive round-up: a look over the books I was given for Christmas.

Some of you may be wondering if I have actually read these books I’m about to review, so soon after the holidays.  Well, wonder no more: I haven’t (not most of them anyway).  But if eight years as a bookseller has taught me anything, it’s that you can judge a book by its cover.  Particularly as the author’s name will appear somewhere on it. Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Blight of the Child Star

Why Daniel Radcliffe ruined a good read – By Hattie French

I liked the Harry Potter books.  They’re a good read.  The characters in particular are classic: the heroic son, who thought he was just another kid; the unspeakable dark lord; the wise old teacher.  It’s such a typical set-up that I studied Philosopher’s Stone at university, and wrote an essay comparing it to Oedipus Rex.  The magical world is vividly and wonderfully realized.  The plotlines are very strong and gripping. Well, except for book five – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  You could cut its 800 pages in half and receive more thanks than condemnation.  Harry Potter gets politics – an experiment that failed. Continue reading

Philosopher-criminals: Tibor Fischer’s The Thought Gang exposed

Philosophy, bank robbery, immorality and the letter Z…meet another great underrated author – Tibor Fischer and his motley Thought Gang.  By Hattie French

He’s written six books to date, including his volume of short stories, entitled Don’t Read This Book If You’re Stupid. Regrettably, the title was one of the best things about this particular book, but now, at least, you don’t have to read it to find this out.

Fischer’s earlier novels are much more rewarding.  His 1993 debut, Under the Frog, follows two young basketball players as they struggle to enjoy life in Soviet Hungary – despite being “under a frog’s arse down a coalmine” – a proverb for when you are really at the lowest point in life.  His third novel, The Collector Collector, remains the only book I have ever encountered which was narrated by a piece of sentient pottery – the eponymous collector – who obsessively catalogues every aspect of its five-thousand-year existence, down to types of noses and most obnoxious owners. Continue reading