I’m back from a month-long blogging break after moving house this month. Thankfully, everything has gone smoothly and I managed to fit in some reading (albeit at a much slower pace than normal) with non-fiction being the order of the day in the run up to Christmas.
Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth won this year’s Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award earlier this month and documents Weymouth’s 2,000 mile journey by canoe along the Yukon river through Canada and Alaska to the Bering Sea in a highly original and ecologically aware travel memoir. The remotest areas of the world tend to be where the effects of climate change, globalisation and industrial fishing are felt most keenly and the far north-west of North America is no exception. Local communities relying on King salmon (also known as chinook) for their livelihoods now face huge uncertainty with rapidly dwindling numbers of fish now spawning there. Fishing quotas might not sound like the most fascinating topic but the lyrical descriptions of the landscape alongside tales of the people he meets along the way, help put the worrying statistics into context. I doubt I would have come across ‘Kings of the Yukon if it hadn’t been shortlisted for the Young Writer of the Year Award and I hope that the extra exposure from winning the prize will see Weymouth’s audience expand much further.
Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson is a collection of his essays and other pieces of journalism for various magazines and newspapers from 2005 to 2012. As those familiar with Ronson’s writing will know, he has a knack for bringing out humour when investigating genuinely disturbing subjects as he did so memorably in ‘The Psychopath Test’ and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. ‘Lost at Sea’ includes a frivolous account of what goes on behind the scenes of Channel 4’s Deal or No Deal, a look through Stanley Kubrick’s archives and an investigation into the staggering number of people who go missing from cruise ships every year. One of the best chapters in this book is ‘Who Killed Richard Cullen?’ which is a chilling piece of reportage about the methods used by credit card companies to target vulnerable people, even before the age of social media ubiquity. Inevitably, the eclecticism means some parts are hit and miss but I found this was an ideal book to dip in and out of in the middle of the chaos of moving house.
Finally, I couldn’t resist sneaking a read of The Joy of Quiz by Alan Connor last week before passing it on as a Christmas gift to my sister and brother-in-law who are both keen quizzers. Connor is the question editor of the fiendish BBC 2 quiz show ‘Only Connect’ presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell and this history of quizzing covers all aspects of the popular past-time with a focus on British and American radio and television shows. From the highs of winning to the lows of losing, quizzes have also been the subject of a number of controversies from the legal challenges faced by the creators of Trivial Pursuit to the very public downfall of Major Charles Ingram after his now notorious appearance on ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ and the subsequent trial which followed. With around 300 quiz questions seamlessly woven into the narrative, ‘The Joy of Quiz’ is a quick, fun and nostalgic read for anyone who loves trivia.
What have you been reading this month?