THIS week I have been enjoying the splendid LibriVox podcasts of readings from the 1831 classic "The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty : Its Causes and Consequences" by Sir John Barrow. For anyone not familiar with LibriVox, it is a non-commercial Foundation dedicated to making books in the public domain available in audio form free of charge on the internet. It uses a panel of volunteer readers and currently has a catalogue of over 3,000 books which can be downloaded - free of charge - in a number of ways. One way is to trust to chance and subscribe to the thrice-weekly LibriVox podcast. Here the book is chosen by the LibriVox editors and you just sit back or - if like me you are walking the dog - stride out, and enjoy listening to whatever happens to be the book of the moment. Recent choices have included such diverse fare as David Copperfield, The Decameron and The Return of Sherlock Holmes : but currently it features Barrows' book on the Mutiny on the Bounty.
THAT element of serendipity, also tends to be carried over into my reading habits in that I am a sucker for those "three for two" offers you find in bookshops. My own personal rule of thumb is to choose two books I would have bought anyway, but go for very much of a lucky dip with my third (notionally free) choice. Which explains why I am currently reading a surprisingly lucid account of the lives and times of four great Central Bankers in the period leading up to the great economic crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s. I am never sure what the secret of a good group biography is, but whether it is a readable style, a dusting of wider historical colour, or just the one-and-a-half times spacing between lines of print : whichever it is, Liaquat Ahamed's book seems to have it. I am not going to suggest that everyone should rush out and buy it - like salt and vinegar crisps, it might be a matter of taste - but if you ever encounter it on a three-for-the-price-of-two table, it is worth a second glance.
Is there any finer pleasure associated with this time of the year than the widespread availability of A PUNNET OF FRESH STRAWBERRIES? For readers from outside these shores I might need to explain the word punnet - a small plastic or cardboard basket used to sell or deliver a specific quantity of soft fruit - but, as far as I am concerned, the word itself is an essential component of the joys of summer strawberries. Nothing beats the ability to go into a greengrocers' shop and order a punnet of fresh strawberries. Not strawberries that have been picked two continents away, frozen and flown in by air, but strawberries that were picked in the same time zone and in the same month. Delicious.