My Random Six (Week 2)

So, these were the first batch from “My Random Six” titles that were pulled out from their various stacks and shelves, to be given the nod of recognition they deserved.
I am glad to say that it seems to have gotten off to a promising start. I started on the Ali Smith, and wondered why I had waited for so long before getting around to it. Better late than never, I guess. Will be finishing it in a day or two, hopefully, before it returns to the shelves. Same goes for the Robert Macfarlane, and maybe even the William Boyd. They are both slim enough volumes to get through, at least.
It may not be much, but I do find it rather encouraging in terms of making small steps towards my mountains of TBR.

And it feels good! 🙂

Anyway, here are the next six in line.

My Random Six (Week 2)

John Steinbeck – East of Eden.
Ann Bridge – Illyrian Spring.
Evelyn Waugh – The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold.
Virginia Woolf – The Years & Between the Acts.
Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Sunset Song.
Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master & the Margarita.

Spot any personal favourites here?


New Year, New Plan (sort of)

“If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them – peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.”

Winston Churchill, ‘Painting as a Pastime’.

If those are not the words of a true kindred spirit, I don’t know what is. 🙂

It will not come as a surprise to anyone here to hear me say that I have long since come to the realization that the books I have acquired todate (& it’s still an ongoing thing) already far exceeds what I could possibly read in my lifetime. My only consolation is that, the pleasure that I get to derive from them are not just limited to the reading of them. It gives me tremendous joy and comfort just knowing that they are there waiting for me, for the right time.

At any rate, one of my intentions for this new reading year, is to endeavor to put Mr. Churchill’s wise words to practice. And to make it more fun (& random) I thought I’d use my Goodreads account to sort and select a random batch of titles in my TBR stacks for me to seek out and explore each week. I don’t mean that I’ll be reading these selections in proper (although I may very well do so too, if I find one that’s too good to be put down!), but rather just to do as Mr. Churchill suggests, to give them the recognition they deserve. This will hopefully help me get back in touch with some of the neglected titles that might have fallen ‘out of sight, out of mind’ along the way….
And so, as it happens, I’ll be starting off with these six here (within the box):

My Random Six (Week 1)

William Boyd, Protobiography’.
Ali Smith, ‘Hotel World’.
Barbara Carole, ‘Twevle Stones: Notes on a Miraculous Journey’.
Muriel Spark, ‘Aiding & Abetting’.
Bruce Chatwin, ‘On the Black Hill’.
Robert Macfarlane, ‘Holloway’.

We’ll see how it goes, and if there’s anything interesting to report back.

Happy Reading, dear friends! Any exciting plans for the year ahead?

“I call it Joy….”

I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.

― C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons behind one’s lack of restraint when it comes to buying books? :p

At any rate, here are some of the reasons for my recent joy and pleasure. 🙂

These two pair up rather well, don’t you think?
As with these two….

Happy reading, dear fellow readers!
Wishing all of you a brand new year ahead, filled with all things wonderful.


Highlights from the haul (2)

Of art and travel and memoirs, with a dash of espionage and the Russians…
Have been wanting to read this sad beauty for a long time now. I think this cover is done just right.
The Russian stack.
This is another beauty of a cover, done to perfection in my opinion. Can’t wait to dive in.
I was beyond thrilled when I saw this one at the bargain table. As it happens, I had been eyeing this one over the past couple of weeks and was contemplating of making an online purchase of it. :p


“Journey into an Obsession” / “Journey into a Painting”. Two rather one-of-a kind, distinct journeys. So interesting to see them placed side by side. 🙂
I may have just started on a new collection with these Apollo Library editions. The covers and endpapers are just so rich. And they seem to be a worthy set of forgotten works too. Anyone familiar with any of these?


A little story on bookish serendipity here: I first spotted the Bowen and made a quick check on my Goodreads account to see if I already owned a copy of it (yes, it has come to that stage :p). While checking, I came upon a review of the Bowen by a reviewer (whom I have high regards for), and in it she mentioned about a neglected copy Norman Douglas’ South Wind being featured in one passage of The Last September. Her curiosity led her to eventually seek out the Douglas to read and found it to be so, so good. It was the first time I had heard of Norman Douglas too, and shortly after putting the Bowen into my cart, I glimpsed a copy of the just newly acquainted and ‘highly regarded’ Douglas on the next table. 😀
Two very unusual and unique books that tells the story of lives, that of the Bronte sisters and of women in the 20th Century, through the various objects found in a cabinet and button box. I just love books like these.
One of my favourite (yes, I have many favourites! :p) finds at the sale. This is a beauty to hold and behold (& also to read, of course). Have started reading this and am loving it so far. 🙂
The insides are just as lovely.

Highlights from the haul (1)

Let’s take a closer look at some of these, shall we? 🙂


Really thrilled to spot these three at the sale! Aren’t they simply gorgeous? These editions of the Vintage Classic Birds & Bees series are truly a thing of beauty, with their French flaps and intricate cover designs.
NYRB classics are something of a rare sight over here, I’ve noticed, and I think this is the first time I’ve seen any of them appearing at the BBW sale. What more, four!


Am especially pleased with these two – Edith Wharton and J. L . Carr (even though I already own the Carr in different edition). :p


Having read Brownrigg’s ‘Pages for You’ more than 10 years ago, I was really looking forward to getting my hands on this one, her sequel to the earlier book. It feels as if I too, have grown along with the protagonists over the passing years, and it would be interesting to see what has become of them, now. Also, I think the cover looks great, don’t you?
And while I’m being nostalgic, here’s another one that really goes back a long way with me. Definitely not going to pass up the chance of taking this Virago’s 20th Anniversary Edition of Sarah Waters’ debut home with me. I still think that my earlier edition of this (the one with the pair of dancing shoes featured) has the best cover ever, although sadly, its pages have long since yellowed…. this looks like a hardy one! :p


This was the most pricey item I paid for at the sale, at the whopping cost of RM30 (around USD 7), and it comes complete with a slipcase and two hardback volumes of Bishop’s complete poems and prose. I’d say it’s still a steal, what say you? 😀 On a side note, I’m actually more interested in her prose than her poems, although that is what she is best known for. Having said that though, her poem “One Art”, is possibly my all time favourite poem.


These two look really exciting, and inviting. One is a collection of stories by women celebrating women, while the other is about five women writers who changed the world!


In case you were wondering who the five women are. 🙂 And some of the contributors to the short stories include the likes of Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker etc….


To be continued…….

Dialogue between a bibliophile and a non-bibliophile


Non-bibliophile (a.k.a NB friend) : So, how was your trip to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale over the weekend? How many books did you manage to get?
Bibliophile (a.k.a Me) : It was great! But uhm…. I don’t think you would want to know exactly how many books I bought. You’d be much too shocked.
NB friend : Come on, it’s not like I don’t you by now. Try me.
Me : Okay. Around seventy.
NB friend : 17?
Me : 70.
NB friend : Seventy??!!

(~~~~~~ radio silence ~~~~~~)

Me (after the awkward silence) : Told you it would shock you.
NB friend : I didn’t say anything.
Me : Yes, but your disapproving vibes are loud and clear enough. And now, you’ve kinda spoiled my fun.
NB friend : Well then, tell me if you can find one other rational person who would approve of this, and to think that it’s normal behaviour?
Me : But these were such good finds and for them to be priced at just RM6 & RM8 each (the equivalent of around £1.10 & £1.50), I’m sure other fellow bibliophiles would find it hard to resist too! Besides, I value being happy, more than being rational.

(~~~~~ another wave of silence ~~~~~~)

NB friend : I still think that it’s way over the top and you are overdoing it.
Me : And I still say, I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this to be a joy beyond words (or rationale!) :p


…… or am I?
What say you, dear readers? Aye or Nay?

– further details and close-ups of these beauties to follow soon. 😉


No regrets….

Spot any favourites?

So, there’s been a small influx of books over here in the past couple of weeks, thanks to an outing to a book sales, as well as certain online discounts that I seemed to have gladly taken advantage of.

This was probably the ‘catch of the day’ from the outing to the book sale. Not too thrilled about the cover, though.
But pretty excited about what lies between the covers…..


It’s a truly beautiful volume to dip into.


And these are the ones that were not from the book sale. Am actually midway through the Jacobson and am surprised at how much I am enjoying it. Somehow I’ve always had the impression that his writing was not really my cup of tea.
Looking forward to the Koestler, most. The Highsmith was mainly a cover buy (given its ridiculously low price tag).


I have long since decided that I am a fan of Geert Mak, even though it has taken me forever to finish his ‘In Europe’ (still quite abit to go!) :p


This has got to be one of my favourite covers ever!

As I am already rather resigned to the fact that most of my stacks of TBR will very likely outlive me, I guess it’s futile to feel bad and guilty for this ‘extravagance’. Personally, I always feel that the joy and pleasure that I get by just simply gazing at them (even before any actual reading has commenced), is already well worth the price paid for.

As book collectors know all too well: We only regret our economies, never our extravagances.

Michael Dirda

My sentiments, exactly. 🙂





Throwback Thursday : “…. a kind of blue infinity”

I first came here in November 1995; I had just won some money in a short-story competition, and because I was thinking of maybe writing something about Pompeii (it would turn out to be my first novel), my partner and I came to visit the remains and look in the mouth of the volcano. One day on a whim we caught the ferry from Sorrento to Capri, where Gracie Fields and Graham Greene had both lived, which was pretty much all I knew about it. We arrived in the Marina Grande, small and excitingly ramshackle. There was a funicular railway running up the side of the mountain, so we got on. Then we boarded a bus which took us up a ribbon of road too small for a bus and let us off in a tiny white village square. We followed our noses down a shop-lined road, and came to a Moorish-looking building. In we went – by chance exactly 100 years after Munthe bought the land from Master Vincenzo, the carpenter.

[….] It’s as if the air is electrically alive with it. It’s like hearing your own ear waken. I move back into the study for a moment. A lot of people walk past me – one of the curious things about the Villa San Michele is that although it’s pretty busy, nothing feels crowded – and I listen, first to the birdsong at the back of everything, then to what the people say, in all the languages, every time the house springs its surprise of openness and light on them. Oh. Look.

That’s what it’s like to visit the Axel Munthe Museum. You walk through a hall, a kitchen, a bedroom, a study, a place to live that’s lined and scattered with fragments of art, junk, beauty, history. Then you find yourself on a path that gets lighter and lighter; then art, junk, history, home, trees, stone, leaves and sky all shift together on the edge of a view so open that it renews the very word “view” itself. I’m laughing at my own inadequacy, at the inadequacy of memory, but most of all at how cunning this place is, making you open your eyes, ears, senses, leading you through from space to open space until finally you hit it, it hits you – a kind of blue infinity, an epitome of openness.

Ali Smith, ‘The Wings of Capri: Villa San Michel’.

Just read this evocative piece of essay from Ali Smith, and was reminded of the surreal beauty that is Capri. 

There is a stillness and silence in the air up here, that is quite unlike any other I’ve ever encountered elsewhere.

Although this may not be the same view, as described, from Villa San Michele, but it certainly is about as close as it gets to looking at infinity, I’d say.

A lil’ off season reading….

The stories in this collection have the music in them. The rhythm, breath, movement of language, like music, creates emotional situations not dependent on meaning. The meaning is there, but the working of the language itself, separate from its message, allows the brain to make connections that bypass sense. This makes for an experience where there is the satisfaction of meaning but also something deeper, stranger. This deeper stranger place is an antidote to so much of life that is lived on the surface alone. When we read, when we listen to music, when we immerse ourselves in the flow of an opera, we go underneath the surface of life. Like going underwater the noise stops, and we concentrate differently.”

Jeanette Winterson

Am pretty excited with this impressive line up!

Have just finished the first five pieces in this collection, and so far it’s Ali Smith and Jackie Kay who did not disappoint! And Julie Myerson was a rather pleasant surprise, I must say, since I am new to her work. 🙂

Let’s see how the rest goes…..