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A Common Reader
A Common Reader is an independent book review site published from England. The site contains an emphasis on literary fiction, biography, history and current affairs with a particular interest in contemporary European books in translation.
I live with my wife Margaret in East Sussex, having managed to return to ny favorite part of England after many years in exile. I took early retirement from a lengthy career in I.T. and am now able to devote myself to many of my interests including reading, walking and playing the mandolin. I retain a vestige of usefulness by running websites for a various local organisations and fixing computer problems for other people.
Why do I write this book blog?
Reading has been a lifelong passion. Some years ago I realised that by reading so many books I was actually forgetting most of them within a few weeks (or even days) of finishing them, so I started to write reviews, firstly for Amazon and then for my own website, solely in order to keep a record of them. Having now left a career in which I ended up writing reports for government ministers and H.M. Treasury on the latest I.T. debacles it is a pleasure to be able to write about one of the things I love – books – without needing to submit the results to consultation and quality-assurance reviews.
What do I most get out of it?
My tag line is “writing for my own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or to correct the opinions of others”. I do this because I enjoy it and have few expectations that it will be of any great use to anyone else – if people find it of value, then that is a welcome bonus to me.
Some featured articles
I have written reviews of a few books by Gregor Von Rezzori and have brought them together with some biographical information here.
I have become interested in the life of Jan Karski, a major figure in the Polish Resistance in World War 2. Links can be found here.
I have written a study guide to W G Sebald’s novel Austerlitz.
This website is run on WordPress blogging software, which I host on computers in the USA owned by much-disliked GoDaddy, who also provide my domain registration services. I have never had any problems with GoDaddy and over the years have had very good customer service from them and complete reliability. The appearance of the blog is largely governed by the Atahualpa theme provided by BytesForAll and allows me to customise the features of the website to my own specifications with the minimum of fuss. I have looked extensively at paid-for themes and none seem to equal the flexibility and customisability of Atahualpa. I took the photographs of Sussex in the header image – there are a number of these and the image will usually be different each time you load the page.
Anyone who writes needs a clipboard manager so that you can copy and paste large numbers of quotes, links etc. I highly recommend Spartan which let’s me retain thousands of clips for easy pasting in whenever I need them. Spartan also includes a very useful photo-editor which is perfect for cropping and resizing images (e.g. the book covers I use). It looks a bit clunky but it’s worth every penny.
Another tool which I find essential is the free Windows Notepad replacement Notepad++ which lets me keep numerous tabbed notes of URLs, quotes etc.
As a writer of review of European books I frequently have to use accented character and I don’t just mean é and â. I use a fantastic Firefox add-on abcTajpu which lets me add in every possible accent such as Ķ å ĕ and ø all via the right-click menu (sorry Apple Mac fans, I assume you have another way of doing it).
Finally, I recommend Firefox and Opera web browsers