Sunday, April 04, 2004

Well, The Sunday Times Bestseller Lists are up. Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (recent nominee for the Gumshoe Award) is still riding pleasingly high at number one on the hardback list. It's been there god knows how many weeks, constantly bouyed up by a new raft of awards and the fact that it is just so darn good. Next week, I'm pretty sure that it will occupy both number 1 slots - for paper and hardback. (I was a little surprised it didn't this week, actually.)

Holding stubbornly on at number 2 is James Patterson's embarassingly bad 3rd Degree (British public, please! With every week you allow it to remain there you demean yourselves even further), and The Last Juror slips once again, to position 6. That's about it for hardback fiction, aside from mentioning that it's wonderful to see Lee Child's The Enemy debuting at number 9. Next week, in true Child tradition, it will climb even higher I'm sure.

[Editor's note: Don't miss Fiona's scathing review of 3rd Degree on Mystery Ink.]

As for paperback fiction...The Da Vinci Code, a book I do fully intend to read but can't muster much enthusiasm for, still sits comfortably at the top, 6,000 copies ahead of Zoe Heller's wonderful Booker nominated Notes on A Scandal, which is at number 2. Trust me, get this book. That it has risen in the charts every single week since its publication is only one hint at how brilliant it is. Apart from that, there is nothing much of note. Kathy Reichs's disappointing Bare Bones goes straight to number 4. Oh, and The Lovely Bones has now ratcheted up a remarkable 41 weeks in the top 10, which annoys me. Of course, though, 41 weeks is nothing compared to the 77 that Michael Moore's Stupid White Men has dominated the non-fiction charts.

Also in the Sunday Times, Joan Smith takes a look at the latest crime fiction, including Jim Kelly's The Fire Baby, a book which certainly impressed me, and Boris Akunin's Leviathan. I have to say, I tried his Gold Dagger nominated debut The Winter Queen and found it wanting, but mainly because I didn't like the sometimes awkward translation. I will probably be trying this second one, though.

The Sunday Times also carries a nice little article on the recent hugely sucessful Oxford Literary Festival.

Meanwhile, as I delve into the archives of The Guardian, this is a particularly interesting article considering why Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series has not enticed the TV companies, as so many others do.

And, what am I myself currently reading? I want to mention it briefly, because it is so impossibly good. Vodka by Boris Starling, a spectacular portrait of Russia in 1991, after the fall of Communism. I have no idea when it's coming out in the USA (well, unless you believe Barnes and Noble when they say it will be released in 1915) but, when it does, do yourself a favour and get it. It is quite quite beautiful. It's full of enough profound ruminations on the nature of Russia (and vodka) to fill my large notebook. For example, the wonderful, "there is no such thing as Russian cuisine, only things that go well with vodka", or, "like vodka, the onion is another perfect symbol of Russia: onions have many layers, and the more you peel away, the more you weep."