When it comes to books, it will only be a ‘more and more’ and never ‘none’ scenario for me, I guess. As with previous years, I wish I had read more and bought less. But as it has been said that anticipation is half the pleasure, I suppose then there’s really no reason or need to feel much regret (or remorse) over this past reading year.
These final book hauls came from two different book sales that took place earlier this month. As compared to previous years, I must say that this time I have shown much more restraint and exercised better control over the buying. See, just one photo to fit it all in. (hah!)
I was more than delighted to find the lovely Penguin Christmas Classics edition of Anthony Trollope’s Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories. This collection makes for the perfect Christmas reading, while being the thing of beauty that it is, to hold and behold.
Another equally satisfying find from the sale came in the form of a Penguin Threads edition of Jane Austen’s Emma. I was hoping to be able to get a copy of it in time to read in conjunction with its 200th anniversary celebrations. So, this came at just the right time, and in the exact edition of my choice too! Couldn’t be happier.
A Month in The Country by J. L Carr has long been on my wishlish. I have read many good things about this book and am highly anticipating it.
The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy.
This is a volume of 24 short stories, including those from an earlier collection titled Love Begins in Winter. “Set in a range of locations, from Cornwall, Wales, and New York to Paris and Rome, these stark and beautiful stories are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, isolation and the power of memory are Van Booy’s themes, and in spare, economical prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity, and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.”
On Looking : About Everything There is to See by Alexandra Horowitz.
I have another book by Horowitz, Inside of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know which I have not yet read, and was surprised to find this one, which despite the misleading picture on the cover, has nothing to do with dogs. Instead, it talks about our inattention to the things around us. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived ‘ordinary’ and how to rediscover the ‘extraordinary’ in our ordinary routines. Sounds interesting?
After reading and loving Patrick Gale’s The Cat Sanctuary just a couple of months back, I have been on the lookout for more of his works. And so A Sweet Obscurity was picked solely on the strength of my previous encounter with his work. If I had just gone by the blurb on the back of the book, I would surely have passed it by.
Colm Toibin is an author whom I have been meaning to read, particularly his latest novel, Nora Webster and his much earlier piece, The Master. I managed to find two of his titles, both of which I am unfamiliar with, but am much interested in – The Sign of The Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe and The Story of the Night.
I have read good things about Stella Duffy’s The Room of Lost Things and have been curious to try out her books one of these days. Since Calender Girl was the only title I came across at the sale, I took a chance with it.
The Big New Yorker Book of Cats is an anthology of essays, poetry, fiction and cartoons contributed by a stellar list of writers such as Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Elizabeth Bishop, Roald Dahl, Ted Hughes and Haruki Murakami. .Defiinitely a good one to dip into every now and then when one is in the mood for all things kitty.
The Picador Book of Journeys on the other hand, is an anthology of writing which challenges that which we define as travel writing. This selection takes us on a fascinating journey of writers and discoverers such as Chekhov, Doris Lessing, Tobias Wolff, Flaubert, Elizabeth David and V.S Naipaul, among others.
Charles Timoney’s An Englishman Aboard: Discovering France in A Rowing Boat offers an unique way of seeing France via travelling by boat along the entire length of the Seine. Sounds like my cup of tea.
Landscape with Figures: Selected Prose Writings by Richard Jefferies.
“Richard Jefferies was the most imaginative and least conventional of nineteenth-century observers of the natural world. Trekking across the English countryside, he recorded his responses to everything from the texture of an owl’s feather and ‘noises in the air’ to the grinding hardship of rural labour. This superb selection of his essays and articles shows a writer who is brimming with intense feeling, acutely aware of the land and those who work on it, and often ambivalent about the countryside. Who does it belong to? Is it a place, an experience or a way of life? In these passionate and idiosyncratic writings, almost all our current ideas and concerns about rural life can be found.” I have never heard of Richard Jefferies before but am now interested to get acquainted.
The Missing Ink: How handwriting made us who we are by Philip Hensher.
“From the crucial role of handwriting in a child’s development, to the novels of Dickens and Proust – and whether a person’s writing really reveals their true personality – The Missing Ink goes in search of the stories and characters that have shaped our handwriting, and how it in turn has shaped us.” Interesting food for thought, eh?
What There is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell edited by Suzanne Marrs.
“Through more than three hundred letters, Marrs brings us the story of a true, deep friendship and homage to the forgotten art of letter writing.”
Although I have only read Maxwell and nothing of Eudora Welty, I am all for books that pay homage to friendship, as well as the art of letter writing.
Sharon Lovejoy’s A Blessing of Toads: A Gardener’s Guide to Living with Nature is a lovely discovery. Beautiful illustrations accompanying delightful essays on the boundless joys of a country garden. This is a lovely addition to the growing pile of armchair gardening books that I seem to have been steadily acquiring in recent years.
A. W. Tozer’s My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day is a treasure trove of never-before-published teachings from the author of the spiritual classic, The Pursuit of God.
Lastly, a coffee table book that every bibliophile should have – Living With Books by Alan Powers. “This is an inspirational book that explores over 150 ways in which books can not only be stored, but made to play a full part in the character of a home, be it large or small, minimalist or full of cluttered charm. Books are among the commonest but most treasured possessions in a home, yet their storage and display is often neglected and not given serious consideration as part of the interior design – something all the more necessary as the functions of home and workplace now often merge.”
Now, this will probably give me a better idea as to how to deal with these new stacks!
Alright, moving on to the next haul….
First up, Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire by Judith Thurman.
I had no idea what the book was about before picking it up, although the author’s name sounded familiar. Upon closer inspection, I found that this is a volume of essays and profiles written for the New Yorker by the author (and biographer of Isak Dinesen & Colette) on the subjects of human vanity & femininity. Looking forward to this one. And yes, there really is a write up on Cleopatra’s Nose, in case you are interested. 😉
Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class by Adam Nicolson.
“Adam Nicolson tells the story of England through the history of fourteen gentry families – from the 15th century to the present day. This sparkling work of history reads like a real-life Downton Abbey, as the loves, hatreds and many times of grief of his chosen cast illuminate the grand events of history.”
With BBC’s Downton Abbey having finally drawn to a close, this might not be a bad alternative to consider helping with the possible withdrawal symptoms.
Edward Lear’s The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense seemed like a fun one to bring home.
This delightful collection, the most comprehensive ever compiled of his work, presents all of Lear’s verse and other nonsense writings, including stories, letters, and illustrated alphabets, as well as previously unpublished material.
I used to enjoy writing silly limericks myself when I was much younger, and together with my best friend, we used to call ourselves The Rhyme Slime (doesn’t sound very complimentary, I know :p) so, this really should be my kind of book, I guess.
I also got myself two 3-in-1 volumes of The Adventures of Tintin (Volume 6 & 7), simply because they were such good value for the money. And besides, I really like Snowy the dog. 🙂
I have long been aware of Philip Roth’s fame but somehow have never found any of his books to be appealing enough to try. And even this one, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, I was actually first drawn to it by its cover more than anything else. I am happy to find that the stories in this volume at least, do not seem to put me off. Let’s see how well Mr. Roth and I will get along then.
I actually do already own a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Between The Acts but this was a lovely Vintage edition which I find really beautiful, plus it features a Foreword by Jeanette Winterson and an Introduction by Jackie Kay, which were all the more reason to get this copy too.
Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places “…. is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places.”
I am wondering if I should start with this book first or The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot….. any suggestions?
Christopher Benfey is a new name to me, but I found two of his works in this sale and both appeals to me very much.
A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain , Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade.
“At the close of the Civil War, the lives of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade intersected in an intricate map of friendship, family, and romance that marked a milestone in the development of American art and literature. Using the image of a flitting hummingbird as a metaphor for the gossamer strands that connect these larger-than-life personalities, Christopher Benfey re-creates the summer of 1882, the summer when Mabel Louise Todd-the protégé to the painter Heade-confesses her love for Emily Dickinson’s brother, Austin, and the players suddenly find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Calvinist world of decorum, restraint, and judgment and a new, unconventional world in which nature prevails and freedom is all.”
Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival.
“An unforgettable voyage across the reaches of America and the depths of memory, this generational memoir of one incredible family reveals America’s unique craft tradition. In Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, renowned critic Christopher Benfey shares stories—of his mother’s upbringing in rural North Carolina among centuries-old folk potteries; of his father’s escape from Nazi Europe; of his great-aunt and -uncle Josef and Anni Albers, famed Bauhaus artists exiled at Black Mountain College—unearthing an ancestry, and an aesthetic, that is quintessentially American. With the grace of a novelist and the eye of a historian, Benfey threads these stories together into a radiant and mesmerizing harmony.”
The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return by Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro, is a memoir of a different kind. It tells the tale of a young survivor of the Bosnian War, returning to his homeland after two decades to confront those who betrayed his family. While the subject matter may be rather heavy, the heart of the story is said to be one mesmerizing tale of survival and healing.
Now for something much lighter, but no less thoughtful, Linda Grant’s The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter, the thinking woman’s guide on what to wear.
“For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain, empty-headed women. Yet, clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not, because how we choose to dress defines who we are. How we look and what we wear tells a story.”
Hopefully this can help bring about some improvement/ enhancement on my wardrobe, of which my mum is of the opinion of it being a disgrace. :p
Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew by Suzanne Berne.
Yet another memoir (I do have a fondness for them), and this time it’s about the writer’s attempt at uncovering the woman who was her grandmother.
“Every family has a missing person, someone who died young or disappeared, leaving a legacy of loss. Aided by vintage photographs and a box of old keepsakes, Berne sets out to fill in her grandmother’s silhouette and along the way uncovers her own foothold in American history.”
Christopher Isherwood’s The Sixties – Diaries: 1960-1969.
This second volume of Christopher Isherwood’s remarkable diaries opens on his fifty-sixth birthday, as the fifties give way to the decade of social and sexual revolution. Isherwood takes the reader from the bohemian sunshine of Southern California to a London finally swinging free of post-war gloom, to the racy cosmopolitanism of New York and to the raw Australian outback.
The diaries are crammed with wicked gossip and probing psychological insights about the cultural icons of the time—Francis Bacon, Richard Burton, Leslie Caron, Marianne Faithfull, David Hockney, Mick Jagger, Hope Lange, W. Somerset Maugham, John Osborne, Vanessa Redgrave, Tony Richardson, David O. Selznick, Igor Stravinsky, Gore Vidal, and many others. But the diaries are most revealing about Isherwood himself—his fiction (including A Single Man and Down There on a Visit), his film writing, his college teaching, and his affairs of the heart.
As with memoirs and correspondences, diaries are yet another genre that I have a fondness for, as they are probably the most intimate insight we can hope to have of the person behind the writer. I still have his Berlin stories yet to be read, and but have enjoyed A Single Man (the movie version, though).
Last but not least, this was one of the most promising unexpected finds from the sale – Jessica A. Fox’s Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets: A Real-Life Scottish Fairy Tale.
If it wasn’t for the cover, a book with a title like that would certainly have had my eyes glazing over it. Now we all know how important book covers are…. (as with book titles!) :p
“Jessica Fox was living in Hollywood, an ambitious 26-year-old film-maker with a high-stress job at NASA. Working late one night, craving another life, she was seized by a moment of inspiration and tapped “second hand bookshop Scotland” into Google. She clicked the first link she saw.
A month later, she arrived 2,000 miles across the Atlantic in Wigtown, on the west coast of Scotland, and knocked on the door of the bookshop she would be living in for the next month . . .”
As it happens, I had just read about the same bookshop in Wigtown that offers travellers a holiday experience of the bookish kind, just a week or so before chancing upon this book. A bookish serendipity of sorts, for me. 🙂
It’s always a tough choice to decide which books get to be read first (out of all these lovelies), but this time, the choice has been rather easy and timely.
And with that, I wish you all the very best in all regards and a very Happy New Year, to be filled with many joyous hours of reading pleasure, and all things dear.
Oh, one last bit of goodness to leave you with before I go….. enjoy! 🙂