• Hitchhiker at a Book Club: If the idea of the "Big Read" was to get the British public reading books they otherwise wouldn't have, it certainly succeeded, says correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley. "My wife's book club normally feasts on a diet of modern female authors treating delicate contemporary issues," he says.
Then along came the survey of Britain's most popular novels (page 1). "Suddenly, they're all giggling away at the bizarre science fiction of Douglas Adams in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' It was so popular that they all confessed to reading bits aloud to their partners. And it got one of the highest scores their book club has ever recorded," says Mark. Will there be a book - or a DVD - under the Christmas tree for his wife? Mark says it will be a book ("not one about hobbits or Harry Potter," he says), but he won't reveal the title. His wife reads this column.
• Reporters as Refugees: The economic and political turmoil in Zimbabwe does not stop at the border (this page), notes staff writer Abraham McLaughlin in Johannesburg. There's a significant exodus of Zimbabwe residents to neighboring African countries. Botswana is even building an electric fence at its border - ostensibly to keep cattle in, but more realistically to keep Zimbabwe's refugees out.
"I've met several refugees - all journalists, in fact, here in Johannesburg," says Abe. "One had to move his wife and family to South Africa, leaving their car and other belongings behind, when harassment by the government got too intense. Two others, who worked for the banned Daily News, are still living in Harare but have come to South Africa to attend workshops. They're searching for writing jobs with foreign newspapers," he says.
David Clark Scott