Best Bits of (Published) Books

Tony Parsons One For My Baby

Oranges For Christmas is full of dirty-faced urchins having a rare old time hunting for rats on bomb sites while their next-door neighbours are being blown up by the Luftwaffe. There is a lot of death, disease and rationing in Oranges For Christmas but the reason it sold so well is because it is ultimately as comforting as a cup of hot, sweet tea and a milk chocolate digestive. For all the gritty anecdotes about polio, nits and the Nazis, my old man's book is endlessly sentimental about a kind of family that no longer seems to exist.
And that's ironic because Oranges For Christmas dropped like one of Hitler's doodlebugs among my father's family. My dad's eldest sister, my Auntie Janet, did not appreciate my dad telling the world about the time their own father had caught Janet jacking off a GI during a blackout. In the book the story was told as a loveable, where-are-my-trousers farce, but the revelation caused a sensation at Auntie Janet's branch of the Woman's Insitute, where to this day she remains chief jam-maker.

Douglas Adams HitchHikersGuideToTheGalaxy

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."

Charla Muller 365 Nights

Why is it that I, and many women I know, can't say no to the PTA, church, children's theater, neighborhood association or soccer club, but can say no to our husbands day in and day out? My girlfriend says she wakes up each morning and has to decide who she's going to be today - PTA Mom, Carpooler, Small Business Owner, Laundress/Maid/Cook and so on. "I never wake up and decide, 'Today I'm going to be a Wife.'" In an era of Wives Who Do It All, many of us are not doing "It" at all. Instead we're overextending ourselves with work, school,church, garden club and so on.
But here's the truth, at least for me.: everyone knows when you're not volunteering at school, driving your kids to choir, or baking for the sale. You're either doing it or you're not. But no one knows if you're not having sex with your spouse.

Ken Kesey One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

They're out there.
Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.
They're mopping when I come out the dorm, all three of them sulky and hating everything, the time of day, the place they're at here, the people they got to work around. When they hate like this, better if they don'y see me. I creep along the wall quiet as dust in my canvas shoes, but they got special sensitive equipment detects my fear and they all look up, all three at once, eyes glittering out of the black faces like the hard glitter of radio tubes out of the back of an old radio.

Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything

Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached to a favoured evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely – make that miraculously – fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 million years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to liv long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stuck fast untimely wounded or otherwise deflected from it’s life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result – eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly – in you.

Audrey Niffenegger The Time Traveller's Wife

I am halted by Isabelle’s voice saying “Perhaps Mr DeTamble can help you,” by which she means “Henry you weasel, where are you slinking off to?” And this astoundingly beautiful amber-haired tall slim girl turns round and looks at me as though I am her personal Jesus. My stomach lurches. Obviously she knows me and I don’t know her. Lord only knows what I have said or done or promised this luminous creature so I am forced to say in my best librarianese, “Is there something I can help you with?” The girl sort of breathes “Henry” in this very evocative way that convinces me that at some point in time we have a really amazing thing together. This makes it worse that I don’t know anything about her, not even her name.

Bill Bryson At Home

Everything at Fonthill was designed on a fantastic scale. Windows stood fifty feet high. Staircases were as wide as they were long. The front door rose to a height of thirty feet, but was made to seem even taller by Beckford's practice of employing dwarf doormen.The view down the central corridor stretched for over three hundred feet. The dining room table - Beckford its only occupant night after night - was fifty feet long. To preserve his privacy Beckford built a formidable wall, known as The Barrier, around the estate. It was twelve feet high, twelve miles long, and surmounted by iron spikes.
Among the additional planned structures was a mighty tomb, one hundred and twenty-five feet long, in which his coffin would be placed on a dais twenty-five feet off the ground, so that, he believed, no worms would ever get to him.

Tony Parsons One For My Baby

Suddenly the lights come on and the room is full of grinning people and far too bright. "Surprise!" someone shouts, and then the laughter abruptly dies in our throats.
My father is standing naked on the diving board, his disbelieving eyes slowly taking in the presence of everyone he knows. His eyes stop on my mother's face for a short horrible moment, and then he loks away in shame.
Lena is kneeling down in front of him, fully clothed, her golden head bobbing up and down to some inner rhythm. She is making the diving board squeak.
The party is paralysed for a few seconds. Then my mother turns and pushes her way through the guests, barging aside a waiter, who loses his balance, topples into the pool. A silver tray carrying half a dozen champagne flutes slips away from the palm of his hand and lands with a crash of metal and glass as he hits the water.
"Does this mean the party's over?" asks my nan.

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