Through the month of madness that is April (I am part comedian, and I live in Melbourne, so I was rather busy during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival), I hardly touched the current book I'm reading for this project, which is putting me dangerously behind the curve. I've not been reading much else, either, though for after dipping into the first few pages I narrowly escaped being drawn into Asimov's The Caves of Steel. (It's a great book, but I mustn't get distracted - I have a big stack to get through!) But my thoughts strayed to other books when last night I caught, by accident, the First Tuesday Book Club.
I confess, to my shame, that I hadn't realised the series was still going, but Jennifer Byrne - radiant, enthusiasm emanating from every pore, dressed to kill - always reminds me what it's like to be enamoured, entranced, seduced by books. And one of the two books read for last night's programme was Rebecca Stott's Darwin and the Barnacle - one of my favourite books, and easily my favourite biography, though I've read some other great ones.
The book charts the era of Charles Darwin's life between his two most famous exploits - the voyage of the Beagle, and the publication of The Origin of Species. It's a beautifully written book that balances Darwin's twin passions - natural philosophy and his family - against a fascinating insight into not only the science, but the everyday life of Victorian Britons. I've listed it in various places as one of my top reads, but not mentioned it here before, which is an omission. I also can't qiute believe how long ago I must have read it - I bought it new in hardcover, indicating it was 2005!
I was moved to not only post comment on the show's web site, but also look up the author and see what she's been up to. Stott has written a bunch of other books, including Oyster, an entry in a series of books about animals from Reaktion Books; I already own the Tortoise volume, and it's a goldmine of both natural and cultural history. Stott has most recently tried her hand at fiction with a book drawing on her own research into Isaac Newton, Ghostwalk (and no, for the nerds among you, I'm sure it has nothing to do with the Dungeons & Dragons supplement of the same name).
The other upshot of my rediscovery of First Tuesday Book Club is that it gives me an obvious way to extend the life of this reading blog, beyond the Bunch of Authors project. Even though when I get busy I tend to start reading only short bites of prose - blog posts, magazine articles, even snippets of novels before putting them down out of fear of lost time - whenever I return to the arms of a good book I am once again smitten. Something like this blog will keep me from straying too far from the first love of my life, and Jennifer Byrne and company will be my allies.
Next month they're reading another book I've read and loved: The Great Gatsby. If you've not tried it before, give it a read and tune in. It's a very pleasing experience.