Reading for Bigger Biceps

Reading-wise, I have three books on the go at the moment and the one with which I’m making the slowest progress is Yuri Slezkine’s The House of Government. Not because it isn’t a gripping read, but because it’s too damned heavy to read in bed or on the train –  980 pages (excluding appendices) too heavy. I can only read it sitting in a well-lit armchair and sitting in any kind of armchair isn’t something I get much time for. This is a book that could have benefited from an editorial short back and sides but Professor Slezkine is an academic and I imagine he’d have put up a fight if anyone had suggested even a light trim.

I can see there’s a case for 1000 page non-fiction. For novels? No. Samuel Richardson, anyone? I was going to say his publishers should have given his novels the snip but I believe he may have self-published. In which case, Mrs Richardson could have done the world a favour and hidden his ink-well.

My bedtime reading, Robert B. Stinnett’s Day of Deceit,  is a mere 270 pages long but has an additional 100 pages of  notes and charts crucial to understanding the prelude to Pearl Harbor, so quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing is called for. Still, at least I can lift the book one-handed from my bedside table.

For my regular short train rides it has to be something that can be accommodated in my bag along with the pens, notebook, wallet, lipsticks, iron rations, receipts, balled up tissues and biscuit crumbs. I started reading The Burning of the World by Bela Zambory-Moldovan because it was translated by a friend of a friend. I’ve continued reading it because it is the most chilling personal account of going into WW1 battle that I have ever come across. It has so held me that I nearly missed my stop last Thursday. But, as this is a bit of a nitpicking post, I will just add that since the New York Review of Books had the wit to publish the book, I wish they had gone the extra mile and included maps that can be read without the aid of a helmet lamp and a magnifying glass.

2019 is shaping up to be the year of stronger biceps but ruined eyes.

Going dark now for a couple of weeks. I’m off to London to inspect my new grandson.


  1. Helen on January 27, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    How right you are! I am a great fan of C J Sansom’s detective stories featuring the 16th century lawyer Shardlake. Why do the publishers make them so BIG? My latest copy measures 9 1/2 by 6 1/4 by 2 1/4. Is this really necessary?

    Also, why do biographies have to be so weighty these days? Do the writers really HAVE to include every last little bit of research?

    Lastly, why are paperbacks (and some hardbacks) bound so that when reading them we have a constant struggle to keep them open? I am developing muscles I never wanted.

    Rant over, but does anyone agree with my points?

  2. Helen on January 30, 2019 at 4:46 am

    Hi, Laurie! I tried to post this a few days ago but think I didn’t press the right button.

    You are so right about the size and weight of certain books. I can’t think of a single reason why the publishers should do it. My latest C J Sansom measures 6 1/4 x 9 1/2 x 2 1/4, and someone has lent me the latest Robert Galbraith which I estimate measures even more. There is no good reason, to my mind, why a book should be so big that it can’t be carried around, read on a train, etc. Why do they do it?

    Also, why should reading a paperback be a constant struggle to keep it open?

    Also, many congrats on your new grandson. Enjoy!

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