Fieldwork
Mischa Berlinski

Atlantic Books; 320 pages

What links an anthropologist, a third-generation missionary, and a bored journalist? How much trouble can you get up to in Northern Thailand? Is Star Wars really the Devil's work? Fieldwork explores the unlikely intersection of ex-patriate lives, and questions whether obsession and cultural immersion are all they're cracked up to be.

I’ve been on the bandwagon for the past 3 years, so it seems rude to fall off now: time to look back at my reading and cinematic digestion in 2008. It was a slow year all round – just over 50 books read (I usually clear 60-70), and only 15 movies. I’m not sure what this indicates: possibly that I’ve spent more time planning renovations than reading in an evening, and had more trips to the theatre instead of the movies. Happily, this seems to be exactly what I thought would happen.

I suspect the dip in movie-going also reflects a fairly poor year at the cinema; I’m not left with the feeling that there were a lot of movies I missed out on – although I’ve been more aware this year of saying “I’d like to see that… on DVD”, which is new. But seriously: at £20 a trip for 2 people vs. £3.50 to rent the DVD in 3 months time, there’s an argument for prioritising movies that will capitalise on the big screen. Character-driven integrity holds up just fine at 26″ (yes, our TV is old. Very old).

It took me a long time to read Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors. I picked it up, put it down; read the table of contents, put it down. Eventually I got round to reading the Introduction, and then I was pretty much committed. And when I finally devoured the treasures within, I found I enjoyed them a lot. Much of it was dark, true, but that’s always suited me; much of it was also magical.

So there was no real doubt I would acquire and read Fragile Things.