Summer Reading Choices: Jan Zalasiewicz

Jan ZalasiewiczToday’s holiday reading selector is Jan Zalasiewicz, who teaches geology at Leicester University. He was a guest on the very first Blackwell Online podcast, in which he told me about his book The World after Us. You can listen to the interview here. I’m hoping to interview him again this autumn when his new book, The Planet in a Pebble, appears.

Here is his summer readiing recommendation:

Holidays! It’s off to the beach or café terrace or simply that rickety deckchair in the weed-strewn garden. Now – what to pack to read? Nothing too demanding or (the Gods forbid!) improving. An adventure that rattles along with zing and charm and fun and characters you can live with. But that’s so hard to find…

There are the staples, of course, that rarely disappoint: Terry Pratchett and George MacDonald Fraser and – a personal quirk, mostly from the charity bookshop, now – the early Saint stories of Leslie Charteris, admired for their style and craft by that other old dependable, P.G. Wodehouse. But more of that ilk?

Janissary Tree coverOne tries so many books, hoping for a new star to come into one’s personal firmament. But either it’s too serious, or too dull, or too clunky or clichéd, or (these days) too gruesome, with authors outdoing each other in their serial killers’ inventiveness at means to disembowel and flay. For me, thank you but no thank you.

But here’s one I lately found. The Janissary Tree, a first novel by Jason Goodwin, an engagingly Byzantine mix of history and harems, food, friendship, grue (just a soupçon, mind), politics and the mysterious requiting of love. It’s all set within the comfortably familiar frame of a nineteenth-century whodunit and I found le tout ensemble a delight.

There are sequels, too, so my spies tell me, so one can bring out the deckchair, put on the kettle and… enjoy!

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