The year begins with Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Now, I haven't read any of the books in this series, despite the fame and love showered on its heroine, Precious Ramotswe (could she have a more delightful name?). But over 10 years ago, a dear friend gave me the first two books in what is now called the Isabel Dalhousie series, The Sunday Philosophy Club and Friends, Lovers, Chocolate. Set in Edinburgh, Isabel is an independently wealthy philosopher, the editor of a small magazine, who solves problems for friends and strangers. I'm delighted to see the 12th in the series will be published this year. I'm still reading along.
Next up could be a series (Harry Potter is too obvious, right?), a female detective (perhaps Aimee Leduc?), or a book set in Edinburgh (Ian Rankin?). But thinking about philosophy reminds me of Sophie's World: A novel about the history of philosophy. Written by Jostein Gaarder, this was a publishing phenomenon in 2007. I bought it hoping it would provide me with a quick guide to Philosophy. Perhaps I read it too quickly - none of it has stuck.
Jostein Gaarder is Norwegian and, as I'm starting to melt sitting here at the computer, I think we need to be somewhere cold for a few moments. Jo Nesbo is Gaarder's compatriot but his crime novels featuring Harry Hole (another detective, another series) have become a different kind of publishing phenomenon. The first in the Harry Hole series, The Snowman, is the only one I have read - although there is another on my TBR pile. I think I could become quite fond of Harry.
Let's keep with the 'snow' theme. Do you remember reading Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson? I can't quite believe it was published in 1994! I'd forgotten that it, too, is a murder mystery but I have a very strong memory of its depiction of anti-Japanese sentiments on the west coast of the United States in the 1950s. Much of the story is told in flashback and, if my memory serves me correctly, the novel also depicts Japanese Americans being interned during the war.
Internment takes me to my next book - I'm thinking of Always Afternoon (1981), a novel by Gwen Kelly, set in Australia during World War 1. Internment stories intrigue me. My grandfather was a chaplain at the Hay Internment Camp during World War 2. A beautiful television adaptation of the novel lead me to the book, which tells the story of German internees living in Trial Bay, NSW, during the war. Kelly published five novels, many short stories, and was awarded four Henry Lawson prose awards. You can read a little bit about her here.
I'm a bit stuck for where to end, partly because I'm thinking about the book I have been reading this afternoon, George Saunder's Lincoln in the Bardo. Maybe it's a bit of a cheat, but being interned is a little like being stuck in the 'bardo', that no-man's land between life and death. And both books are set during ugly, horrific wars. I'm so close to the end of the Lincoln in the Bardo, that there's only one thing left to do: go and finish it, while standing in front of the open freezer.
Wishing you many great and cool reads in 2018.