Chronicles of an easily diverted reader

So, after finishing Valeria Luiselli’s Sidewalks, I was prompted to dig out my Joseph Brodsky, as Luiselli’s rather engaging essay on the account of her attempt to search out Brodsky’s tomb in Venice had reminded me of how I had been wanting to read his essays ever since I came across a copy of Less Than One a couple of years back, at one of the book sales.

But once I opened its pages, the first thing that caught my attention was this quote by Czeslaw Milosz: “And the heart doesn’t die when one thinks it should”.
This again reminded me of how I had loved Milosz’s writing, when I had read some of his essays in his collection To Begin Where I Am, at the start of last year.

And so, back to the shelves I went looking for the other volume of Milosz’s essays which I have in the Penguin Central European Classics edition. This series was one of the more thrilling finds I had chanced upon at one of the previous years’ Big Bad Wolf book sales. I remembered how excited I was when I had picked those four volumes out, despite not having heard of any of the writers’ names before. Somehow my gut feelings told me that I was on to something good. ūüôā

I ended up favouring Thomas Bernhard’s Old Masters over the Milosz as my next current read.

This whole little episode has just reminded me again, of how essential and satisfying it is to have a personal library that is curated well enough to cater to one’s whole gamut of interests and inclinations. A library small enough to be housed within the confines of one’s limited four walls, and yet, large enough to allow for the occasional wandering around, that one’s bookish whims and fancies might call for.

ūüôā

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The World’s Loneliest Library….

[source]
The Sanlian seaside library, located in northern China’s Hebei province.

 

[source]
Aesthetic tranquility.

 

Reading with a view.

 

The perfect beach reading experience, don’t you think?

 

Reading is a solitary act, it has been said.

 

A setting like this would certainly help to amplify that solitariness….

 

A beacon of light, literally.

 

Am definitely adding this into my bookish bucket list!
Any one else wants to come along?
ūüôā

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, dear book loving friends! ūüôā

I thought I would have been able to put up a year end post before the new year commenced, but I¬†failed once again, just as I¬†have failed¬†at so many other points in time in the year gone by, with regards to maintaining this blog.¬†I’m sorry¬†that even my¬†New Year greetings¬†are four days late, but please do know that I sincerely wish all of you¬†the very best¬†in all things to come¬†for the year ahead!

I know I have been remiss and neglected this little space here badly, while I was busy tinkering away over at a new platform – Instagram. I¬†found myself¬†rather¬†enjoying the¬†instant gratification that came¬†from all the¬†bookish visuals treats¬†offered there, and¬†the convenience and ease¬†at sharing my bookish pursuits through snapshots¬†that are accompanied by just a brief text. While¬†it has¬†been fun (it still is!),¬†and new friends have been met and made¬†(and hopefully, to be kept), it isn’t the same as this. It¬†isn’t¬†‘home’.

This is. This little corner of the blogosphere here, is still that one special place which I¬†feel is¬†well and truly mine to call ‘home’. Coming here is¬†akin to coming back to my first love.

And so, although¬†I am not a good one¬†for making (and keeping to) plans, you have my word here that I have every intention¬†to¬†keep this space going! (btw, WordPress reminded me that today happens to be the 6th¬†year¬†since the day¬†A Reader’s Footprints began).

Anyway, before we start¬†the year off proper, here’s a quick peek at the¬†new stacks¬†that have mushroomed over the last month…..

Lovely hardback editions of Roger Deakin. ‚̧

 

This one has been on my wishlist for a long time. Finally found a copy at the right price! ūüôā
Can you tell that I’m a Francophile, by now? ūüėÄ Very excited about this one.

 

Another one that I’ve been on the lookout for ever since reading some glowing reviews on this around the blogs some years back. Can’t wait to dive in!

 

A much subdued stack from the Big Bad Wolf Book sales this time (there are still a few more volumes that are not pictured in this stack, though).

 

One of the loveliest finds from the sale, for this Van Gogh fan. ūüôā

 

Very intrigued by this one. Has anyone read it?

 

A graphic novel, with a strong message. Looking forward to this one, too.

 

The stack that came from another book sale.

 

This sounds very promising, although Pete Fromm is completely new to me. Love the title.

 

Another lovely cover that I couldn’t resist. I’ve been meaning to read Bakker’s ‘The Twin’, though.

 

I’m actually more interested in these two earlier works of Doerr’s than his overhyped ‘All The Light We Cannot See’.

 

More finds from the same sale.

 

 

The most practical and useful book of the lot, I guess! Having been a dog person for most of my entire life, it is only in the last couple of years that cats have featured in, and they seem to be not very subtle in letting me know that I have a lot to learn! :p

Lastly, some bookish treats that I received for Christmas (something that does not happen very often!)

Told you I was a dog person. Isn’t this a beauty?

 

As with this.

 

And this. ‚̧

What about the rest of you? Found any¬†bookish treats under your trees? ūüôā

 

Picking up where we left off…..

This really is a literal picking of things up from where they were since my last post on the Big Bad Wolf Box Sale haul. As you can see, the books are still sitting quietly in the box, as pictured (there are two other boxes as well that are not shown), three months down the road from when they were first brought home. ¬†It really is high time to get things moving….

 

I managed to haul back quite an interesting selection and variety of non-fiction titles from the box sale this year.

Cezanne: A Life by Alex Danchev.
Victor Hugo by Graham Robb.
I have been a fan of Robb’s subject matters and style of writing for some years now, and this looks like another gem to be added to the stack.

Now All Roads Lead To France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis.
Another one that I’m quite looking forward to reading, especially having just recently learnt of the story of his close friendship with Robert Frost, whose words in ‘The Road Not Taken’ became the deciding factor for Thomas to enlist in the army, which sadly led to fatal consequences.

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul (illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton). This looks like a delightful volume, accompanied by some lovely illustrations.

Michelangelo’s Mountain: The Quest for Perfection in the Marble Quarries by Eric Scigliano.
As I’m currently reading (and enjoying) Jonathan Jones’¬†The Lost Battles:¬†Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance, I think this will make for some great further reading once I’m done with the Jones.

The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth.
“The Horologicon (or book of hours) contains the most extraordinary words in the English language, arranged according to what hour of the day you might need them….”.¬†I wonder what those words could possibly be.

A couple of C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed and Miracles. 

Mohsin Hamid seems to be getting quite abit of attention lately, with his Exit West being shortlisted in the Man Booker prize. Just realized that I had brought back one of his works from the sale too, Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York and London.

Barbara Demick’s¬†Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street is another piece of journalistic ‘dispatch’ that I am very interested to be given an insight to. I have been impressed with Demick’s writing (even from the little that I’ve read) ever since coming across her reporting on the lives of ordinary people in North Korea in Nothing To Envy. This looks to be just as good.

 

The Scientists: A Family Romance by Marco Roth is the memoir of a “…..¬†precocious only child of a doctor and a classical musician, whose world had revolved around house concerts, a private library of literary classics, and discussions of the latest advances in medicine‚Äēand one that ended when Marco’s father started to suffer the worst effects of the AIDS virus that had infected him in the early 1980s. [….]¬†it’s a book that grapples with a troubled intellectual and emotional inheritance‚Äēthe ways in which we learn from our parents, and then learn to see them separately from ourselves.”

Herta M√ľller’s¬†The Land of Green Plums¬†.¬†I’ve heard of this one for some time and was happy to find it at the sale. Has anyone here read it?

The Myth of Wu Tao-tzu by Sven Lindqvist is a meditation on art and its relationship with life. Inspired by the myth of the Chinese artist who was said to have walked right into his own piece of art and disappeared behind its painted gates, Lindqvist takes us on a fascinating journey through his moral awakening as a young man, and his grappling with profound questions of aesthetics.

Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell by David LaRocca.
“Estimating Emerson is the most comprehensive collection yet assembled of the finest minds writing on one of America’s finest minds. It serves as both a resource for easily accessing the abundant and profound commentary on Emerson’s work and as a compendium of exceptional prose to inspire further thought about his contribution to our thinking.”¬†I think I may have struck gold with this find.¬†¬†ūüôā

As with this, London: A Literary Anthology.

Also found a couple of fun coffee table books on London, on interior decorating, and a most practical one titled,¬†You Need More Sleep: Advice from Cats.¬†Definitely sound advice to listen to from the ‘experts’ on the subject, I’d say. :p (hahaha….)

 

Enough of non-fiction for now, let’s get back to some good old fashioned story telling, shall we? To start off, there’s the two lovely editions of Picador Classic that I am very happy to have picked up. Barbara Pym’s¬†Quartet in Autumn¬†and Robert McCrum’s¬†memoir on recovering after a stroke in¬†My Year Off.¬†Then there’s the lovely copy of Louisa May Alcott’s¬†A Merry Christmas & other Christmas stories¬†in a beautiful Penguin Christmas Classics edition. This will keep my Trollope’s¬†Christmas at Thompson Hall¬†in good company. ūüôā

Next up are the Penguin Modern Classics editions, another favourite of mine! Managed to find Penelope Lively’s¬†Moon Tiger, which is one book that has long been on my to-read list, and so naturally I am very happy about the find. Although I am not one who is much into reading plays, finding J. B. Priestley’s much acclaimed¬†An Inspector Calls and other Plays¬†was still nothing short of thrilling. I loved that it came in this edition.

The same can also be said for the two Inspector Maigret that I found, The Flemish House and Night at the Crossroads.

 

Don’t they look just so alluring?

 

Three slim volumes by three writers who are known for their ‘minimalist’ style of writing.

Patrick Modiano’s Ring Roads¬†(book 3 of the Occupation Trilogy).
Raymond Carver’s Cathedral.
Cees Nooteboom’s¬†Rituals.

I am generally not a fan of Japanese literature, but I quite like the title of Yukio Mishima’s¬†The Sound of Waves,¬†so into the box it went.

I have yet to read any Zola todate, and so finding his Therese Raquin at the sale seemed to be an added incentive to try him soon.

The same goes for Graham Swift, whom I have also yet to read. Earlier this year, I came across a fair few good reviews on his Mothering Sunday, which¬†sort of triggered my interest in checking him out. It’s a timely thing that I found two of his works at the sale.¬†Ever After¬†and¬†Making an Elephant¬†both seems like good starting points.

So, seen anything you like here?

ūüôā

 

 

 

To put in words

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

Alfred Tennyson, ‘In Memoriam’.

“For words, like Nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within”.
I came across¬†this line¬†of Tennyson’s in the preface of a book I was flipping through last night, and it struck a chord in me.

I have been struggling to come up with a post for the past one over month simply because I did not have the words.

July had been an unexpectedly trying month for me, filled with a fair share of loss, grief and stress.  Although it had to do with the animals in my life, and not the humans, it was by no means any less easy to bear. I was robbed of my peace and joy for the most part of it, and all plans for taking part in one of my favourite annual blogging events, the Paris in July, were sadly not to be. Plans for sharing the rest of my haul from the box sale were also not possible.  Even reading was at times, a struggle. Nothing seemed to appeal at first. And then, it was as if the pendulum had swung to the other extreme end, and everything seemed to appeal and I was eager to read as much as I possibly could.

Having had no words of my own to offer, it was as though I had to stuff myself with the words of others in order to¬†assuage the unrest¬†that was¬†within. I read with an intensity that was¬†quite unlike my¬†usual¬†slow and laid back¬†approach. I¬†got many a¬†book started but not all were able to hold my interest and mood right till the end.¬†Three¬†in particular, did. And one stood out, especially.¬†That book was Thornton Wilder’s exceptionally brilliant¬†Pulitzer Prize winner, The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.

‘Why did this happen to those five?’ If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. And on that instant Brother Juniper made the resolve to inquire into the secret lives of those five persons, that moment falling through the air, and to surmise the reason of their taking off.

The things that happen to us or those around us, are they (in the words of Wilder) “…. perhaps an accident?”, or are they “….perhaps an intention?”¬† That¬†was the premise of the book. But Wilder does¬†not pretend to¬†have the answers to those questions. “The business of literature is not to answer questions, but to state them fairly”, he¬†once said.

That was exactly what he did with book.
And that is how it is with life too, I guess.
We don’t always need to have all the answers….. in order for it to go on.

He was the awkwardest speaker in the world apart from the lore of the sea, but there are times when it requires a high courage to speak the banal. He could not be sure the figure on the floor was listening, but he said, “We do what we can. We push on, Esteban, as best we can. It isn’t for long, you know. Time keeps going by. You’ll be surprised at the way time passes.‚ÄĚ

Thornton Wilder, ‘The Bridge of San Luis Rey’.

Boxes of delight! (Part 1)

I have been so overwhelmed by the amount of treasures that came home with me from this year’s Big Bad Wolf Box Sale that it has taken me forever to get this post up on the blog, simply because I just didn’t know where to begin¬†in sharing the¬†richness of this loot! ūüėÄ

There are so many good finds in there that I am more than excited to show and tell. So, without further ado, here there are:

 

I found quite a few gems in the nature/ animals section!

I remember having read some good things about the Beatrix Potter biography some time back and was very happy that I also managed to get my hands on a Peter Rabbit box set to bring home with me. As I have never been properly acquainted with Potter and her creations before, they would do well to complement the biography, I think.

Finding a copy of Durrell’s The Corfu Trilogy and The Whispering Land also brought much cheer to the box. ūüôā I recall finding two other of his works at last year’s box sale and they were also in the same edition as the one found this time, so that makes it even better.

I have never heard of The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs by Tristan Gooley but this winner of the 2015 BBC Countryfile Magazine Country Book of the Year looks very promising indeed.

Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines: A Conversation with The Natural World. Unlike the Gooley, I’ve heard much about this one and they are mainly good things, so into the box it went, together with Mister Owita’s Guide To Gardening (by Carol Wall), The Urban Bestiary: Encountering The Everyday Wild (by Lyanda Lynn Haupt) and Over Vales and Hills: The Illustrated Poetry of the Natural World.

A beautiful volume containing an anthology of 100 best loved poems with timeless vintage photographs of landscapes and natural scenes.

Another beautiful find was the Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library.

Natural Histories allows readers a privileged glimpse of these seldom-seen, fully illustrated scientific works. Forty essays from the museum’s top experts in a variety of disciplines enhance each rare tome’s unique qualities and scientific contribution, and three to four illustrations accompany each one. This beautiful book will fascinate natural science and art lovers alike.”

 

The beauty of natural science revealed.

 

Just as beautiful without the dust jacket.

As usual, the loot also included a fair few tomes on one of my favourite genres: travel writing.

I was especially happy with the Geert Mak (I actually gave a small squeal of delight, I think!) when I saw the solitary volume among the stacks on the table.¬†In America: Travels with John Steinbeck has been on my wishlist ever since I knew of it. I love Mak’s writing and am currently making slow¬†but steady progress with his In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century.

Bill Barich’s Long Way Home: On The Trail of Steinbeck’s America is another take on the same route & subject matter. It will be interesting to¬†see how these two narratives go together in¬†recounting Steinbeck’s travels.

Gary Kamiya’s Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, “…. is a one-of-a-kind book for a one-of-a-kind city. It’s a love song in 49 chapters to an extraordinary place, taking 49 different sites around the city as points of entry and inspiration-from a seedy intersection in the Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Lands End. Encompassing the city’s Spanish missionary past, a gold rush, a couple of earthquakes, the Beats, the hippies, and the dot-com boom, this book is at once a rambling walking tour, a natural and human history, and a celebration of place itself-a guide to loving any place more faithfully and fully.”
Next to New York, San Francisco (& Seattle) are the cities I would love most to have the chance to visit in the US, someday. Am expecting good things from this one!

The Other Side of The Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy by Wallis Wilde-Menozzi.
“Beginning her story with a hitchhiking trip to Rome when she was a student in England, she illuminates a passionate, creative, and vocal people who are often confined to stereotypes. Earthquakes and volcanoes; a hundred-year-old man; Siena as a walled city; Keats in Rome; the refugee camp of Manduria; the Slow Food movement; realism in Caravaggio; the concept of good and evil; Mary the Madonna as a subject‚Äēfrom these varied angles, Wilde-Menozzi traces a society skeptical about competition and tolerant of contradiction. Bringing them together in the present, she suggests the compensations of the Italians’ long view of time.” Another one that sounds rather promising.

Howard Norman’s My Famous Evening: Nova Scotia Sojourns, Diaries¬†and Preoccupations, is a book of “selective memories”, combining stories, folklore, memoir, nature, poetry, and expository prose, in its goal to portray the emotional dimensions of the writer’s experience.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic travelogue, Travels with A Donkey in the Cervennes, was picked mainly for its slim size which is a very handy feature to look out for in a box sale. They make for great¬†gap-fillers¬†(no offense to Mr Stevenson, I hope!) :p

I found an unexpected piece of gem in¬†London: A Literary Anthology, a lovely British Library Publishing edition¬†that¬†features “……¬†a wide-ranging collection of poems and scenes from novels that stretch from the 15th century to the present day. They range from Daniel Defoe hymning “the greatest, the finest, the richest city in the world” to Rudyard Kipling declaring impatiently, “I am sick of London town;” from William Makepeace Thackeray moving among “the very greatest circles of the London fashion” to Charles Dickens venturing into an “infernal gulf.” Experience London for the first time with Lord Byron’s Don Juan, and James Berry in his Caribbean gear “beginning in the city.” Plunge into the multi-racial whirlpool described in William Wordsworth’s Prelude, Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album, and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. See the ever-changing city through the eyes of Tobias Smollett, John Galsworthy, and Angela Carter. From well-known texts to others that are less familiar, here is London brought to life through the words of many of the greatest writers in the English language.”
There is much to be savoured from this one, no doubt! ūüôā

Two lovely volumes of illustrated histories of the cat and of man’s best friend.

The Spirit of the Dog and The Elegance of the Cat are two lavishly illustrated volumes that is bound to be treasured by dog lovers and cat lovers alike. Beautiful photography by the award-winning photographer Astrid Harrisson makes these two a real pleasure to behold.

And now, on to¬†the fiction stack…..

 

I get excited just looking at these pretty spines. What pleasures await! ūüėÄ

First up, the recent Penguin reprints of William Trevor’s backlist. I just love the black and white photos used on these covers. I find the effect to be so very evocative and appealing. Just like an invitation to step into another world,¬†another time…..

 

 

Can’t wait to dive in!

As opposed to the beautiful set of¬†Trevors, the¬†copy of Willa Cather’s The Bohemian Girl¬†that I managed to¬†bring home from the sale, has¬†to be one of the ugliest edition I have ever come across! :p ¬†If it was not Cather’s name that was on the cover, I would never have picked it up. Yes, I am a shallow reader who¬†tends to judge a book by its cover, sorry!

Colette’s The Last of Cheri¬†was another one that was picked for its handy size and purpose.

Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond¬†has been on my wishlist for some years now, so spotting it at the sale was a joy. And it was in¬†very pretty edition too. ūüôā

Angela Thirkell’s¬†recent¬†VMC reprints are another set of titles that have been on my wishlist in the last couple of years. I just love the cover designs on all their covers! Pomfret Towers¬†is¬†the first one I have managed to get my hands on, and I am sure it won’t be the last.

Also¬†managed to add¬†two lovely editions of Gabriel Garcia Marquez into the box, and I am especially in love with the cover for¬†his One Hundred Years of Solitude. Hope it’s as good as it looks!

 

Yet another fabulous find, James Joyce’s Dubliners in the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition. Am so glad it was this that turned up, and not Ulysses! :p

Last but not least,¬†the Centennial Edition of Steinbeck’s masterpiece East of Eden.¬†This had to come home with me even if it had meant the disposing of some other books in the box to make room for it, and ignoring the fact that I already have a perfectly fine copy of it in¬†the Penguin Modern Classics edition!

Blame it on those French flaps and deckle-edged pages.

“Those dark fruitful hours….”

Although we are necessarily concerned, in a chronicle of events, with physical action by the light of day, history suggests that the human spirit wanders farthest in the silent hours between midnight and dawn. Those dark fruitful hours, seldom recorded, whose secret flowerings breed peace and war, loves and hates, the crowning or uncrowning of heads.‚ÄĚ

Joan Lindsay, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.

Just finished this book over the weekend, and I am happy to report that it was one stellar bit of storytelling that Lindsay managed to pull off! I really enjoyed her style of writing (beautiful prose too, as can be seen from the quote)  and sense of humour which comes off surprisingly well in a book that is supposedly inclined towards the darker side of things.

If only Lindsay had written more books than just the handful (listed on Wikipedia), I would gladly seek them all out and explore further. As it is, I think I will probably just check out the film adaption of the book for a start.

Any other Lindsay fans here? ūüôā

 

Book Mail!

Look what the postman brought me! ūüėÄ

Belated birthday gifts from a dear book loving friend, who clearly knows what floats my boat. ūüôā

It has been a long while since¬†I last had the pleasure of having the postman drop books into¬†my mailbox. And it’s been even longer since I last received any books¬†as¬†birthday gifts. So¬†naturally, I was more than¬†thrilled to find these lovelies waiting for me at home on two separate occasions in the last two weeks.

 

My first ever volume of a Slightly Foxed edition! ūüôā

Thanks to the big hearted folks over at Slightly Foxed who had a recent huge giveaway on their Instagram account (@foxedquarterly), I am now the proud owner of one of their long-coveted objects of beauty!

John Moore’s Brensham Village, which captures¬†life in the English countryside¬†during the 1930s, sounds like a book that’s¬†just my cup of tea.

ūüôā

 

Two Solitudes

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…. one day, there will be girls and women whose name will no longer just signify the opposite of the male but something in their own right, something which does not make one think of any supplement or limit but only of life and existence: the female human being.

This step forward [….] will transform the experience of love, which is now full of error, alter it root and branch, reshape it into a relation between two human beings and on longer between man and woman.
And this more human form of love [….] will resemble the one we are struggling and toiling to prepare the way for, the love that consists in two solitudes protecting, defining and welcoming one another.

Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Letters to A Young Poet’.

Happy Valentine’s, everyone! ūüôā

Unplanned Plans

I had started the year without any specific reading plans or lists because I knew I was not a good one for keeping to pre-planned plans when it comes to reading. I prefer to do my reading at whim.
So, I thought it was probably futile to have one and was not quite inspired to make any.
But then something changed.
And now, I think I do have one, and it’s one that I am quite excited about and feeling rather determined (or hopeful!) to see it through.

What happened was this.
I started an Instagram account sometime in December, after discovering the delights in being able to feast my eyes on a regular dose of book porn, through the various bookstagrammers’ feed out there. I was actually amazed to find that there are so many talented book lovers (cum photographers) out there who can effortlessly make books look so desirable as objects.
Creating the account was intended to mainly facilitate my ease of accessing to these feeds on a regular basis.
But when the new year started out on an unexpectedly rough note for me, I soon found myself in desperate need for a diversion of sorts.
As it happens, there was a book challenge hosted by some bookstagrammers that was taking place for the month, called the #AtoZbookchallenge, whereby one is to post a photo a day for each of the alphabets, relating to either book titles or themes or authors that goes with the particular alphabet each day.
Preferably, it should be books that are already on one’s existing physical TBR shelves.

I thought that sounded diverting enough.

And that’s how my unplanned reading plans came to be.
Here’s the A to Z of it.

img_20170107_022952
A¬†for Ali Smith, one of my favourite writers. I have been collecting a fair few of her works and reading my way through them over the last ten years. Still a couple of unread ones on the shelves, so I guess it’s high time I pick another.

 

b-a
B for Bennett. Arnold Bennett’s masterpiece, ‘The Old Wives’ Tale’ has been sitting on my TBR shelves for long enough. Its time has come, I think.

 

c-a
C for Charlie Connelly. Years ago, I was fascinated with Connelly’s idea for his two travel writing books – ‘And Did Those Feet: Walking Through 2000 Years of British And Irish History’, and ‘Attention All Shipping: A Journey Around The Shipping Forecast’. It’s strange how both these ‘fascinating’ books are still sitting unread on my shelves after all these years. :p

 

d-a
D for Don Quixote. The sheer size of this tome is daunting for sure, but I really do want to have a go at it. Besides, I really love this Harper Perennial edition…. French flaps and deckled edges are my favourite combinations in a book. It also helps that Edith Grossman’s translation is so very readable (from the little that I’ve sampled).

 

img_20170111_002047
E for E. M. Forster. I had this packed along with me during my trip to Italy three years ago, thinking how good it would be to read this in Florence, where the book is set. Sadly, I ended up with not much reading done, but at least it was great fun setting up this shot with my friend at the hostel we were staying at, in Florence! ūüôā Time to take care of the ‘unfinished business’ this year.

 

f-a
F for Father Brown. G. K. Chesterton’s endearing Father Brown makes for a rather unlikely, but certainly not unlikeable, mystery solving ‘Sherlock’. I love the cover designs and colours of this Penguin Classics set. Am actually in the middle of the red one, The Wisdom of Father Brown, and I can safely say that it’s as good as it looks!

 

g-a
G for Geert Mak. ‘In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century’ is one of the books I am quite determined to get read this year. It’s an account about the year long journey Mak took back in 1999, across the European continent in his quest to trace Europe’s twentieth century history, before the world slipped into the twenty-first.

 

h-a
H is for my favourite travel writer, H. V. Morton. Travel writing has always been one of my favourite genres, and not many can do it as good as Morton, I’d say. His writing is evocative of the old world charm and of a bygone era, brought vividly to life for the reader. It’s a pleasure to ‘see’ the world through his lenses.

 

i-a
I is for ‘I Capture The Castle’. I have long heard of the many good things that fellow readers love about this coming of age modern classic, but have somehow still not gotten around to reading it for myself yet. It’s about time I ‘capture this castle’ too!

 

j-a
J is for James. “When a man has neither wife nor mistress and leads a life which is both orderly and prudent, he does not invite the conventional biographical approach. Henry James was such a man. The richness of his life lies in his words and his relationships.” – Miranda Seymour. These lovely Konemann classics should be good enough incentive to finally get me started on some Henry James. Time to get acquainted with the man through his own words, as suggested.

 

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K is for Kate O’Brien. “O’Brien exquisitely evokes the harem atmosphere of (Irish) convent life, the beauty and the silence, the bickering and the cruelties…… If novels can be music, this is a novel with perfect pitch.” ~ Clare Boylan. Having loved Antonia White’s Frost in May (another coming of age novel with a convent school setting) when I read it some years back, I have been meaning to read O’Brien’s ‘The Land of Spices’ for some time now.

 

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L for The Lost Carving: A Journey To The Heart of Making, by master woodcarver, David Esterly. “Awestruck at the sight of a Grinling Gibbons woodcarving masterpiece in a London church, Esterly chose to dedicate his life to the craft – its physical rhythms, intricate beauty, and intellectual demands.” I have been saving this on the TBR shelves, waiting for just the right moment to savour the journey. I think I should wait no more.

 

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M for The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. Having collected a fair few of the sisters’ (Nancy, Diana, Jessica and Deborah) individual memoirs, biographies, correspondences and writings but without having read any in proper yet, maybe this would be a good place to start getting acquainted with this extraordinary family!

 

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N for Nabokov. I have decided that this will be the year I read my first Nabokov. And it’s gonna be a toss between The Luzhin Defense, and Pnin. Probbaly The Luzhin Defense….. am in the mood for some chess, I think. These Penguin Classics editions are my favourites. Such beauties to hold and behold, don’t you think?

 

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O is for Orlando. Once described as ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’, this was Virginia Woolf’s¬† playfully ingenious tribute to her intimate friend and one-time lover, Vita Sackville-West. This has been biding its time on my TBR shelves for some years now. Thanks to this challenge, some of my sadly neglected books are being brought back to the fore!

 

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P is for Pollan. Michael Pollan’s ‘A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams’ tells the inspiring, insightful, and often hilarious story of Pollan’s quest to realize a room of his own – a small, wooden hut in the forest, ‘a shelter for daydreams’ – built with his own admittedly unhandy hands. It not only explores the history and meaning of all human building, but also demonstrates architecture’s unique power to give our bodies, minds and dreams a home in the world….. Don’t we all need a place like that?

 

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Q is for Q’s Legacy, by Helene Hanff. After reading and loving Hanff’s 84, Charring Cross Road some years back, I immediately went about tracking down her other works too, and was more than happy to net this omnibus of hers which holds four of her other memoirs (as well as Charring Cross Road). Q’s Legacy tells of how a library copy of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s series of lectures On The Art of Writing, became the foundation upon which her own writing career took shape. This is a tribute to her mentor whom she had never known except through the printed page.

 

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R for Rainer Maria Rilke. I was thrilled to find these two beautiful hardback Vitalis editions of Rilke’s work at what was once Kafka’s cottage but is now a books and souvenir shop along the Golden Lane in Prague, six years ago. I know I should have brought home a Kafka or two with me instead, but these happened to be in the bargain bin that day….. and I happen to prefer Rilke to Kafka, anyway. :p

 

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S is for Sarton and solitude. “May Sarton’s journal is not only rich in the love of nature, and the love of solitude. It is an honorable confession of the writer’s faults, fears, sadness and disappointments…. This is a beautiful book, wise and warm within its solitude.” ~ Eugenia Thornton. Solitude has always been a subject that is close to my heart. Can’t wait to read this.

 

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T is for A Treasury of Mark Twain. I found this lovely Folio edition in almost pristine condition at a second hand bookshop in Paris five years ago. I’m ashamed to confess that it’s still ‘almost pristine’, sitting patiently on the shelf waiting to be taken out of its slipcase to be read. Will need to rectify that soon!

 

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U is for Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910 – 1939. The seven pairs featured in this volume are H.G. & Jane Wells, Vanessa & Clive Campbell, Radclyffe Hall & Una Troubridge, Vera Brittain & George Caitlin, Katherine Mansfield & John Middleton Murry, Ottoline & Phillip Morrell, and Elizabeth von Arnim & John Francis Russell. These couples are said to have triumphantly casted off the inhibitions of the Victorian age while pursuing bohemian ideals of freedom and equality. Time to take a peek at how it’s done back then, I guess.

 

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V is for Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith. This doorstopper of a biography may look daunting, but from what I’ve read (the first two chapters), it is highly readable and a very engaging one, too. I just need to try harder to not let the other books distract and detract me from staying on course! Hoping to also get around to reading some of his letters too.

 

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W is for Words In Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Bishop is one of my favourite poets, and it’s time I start reading one of the many volumes of correspondence I’ve been collecting. Just realized that this photo has another three Ws that can fit the challenge too…… Lucy Worsley’s If Walls Could Talk, Deborah Mitford’s Wait For Me, and a volume of Woolf’s letters. Looks like I’m really spoilt for choice!

 

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X is for Michael Dirda’s Bound To Please: An eXtraordinary One-Volume Literary Education. Yes, I know it’s abit of a cheat but it’s the closest ‘X’ I have on my shelves. :p This lovely collection of essays were responsible for introducing me to many a great writer and their works. Dirda’s enthusiastically persuasive essays made me want to read almost every book that is recommended. A great book to dip into, but a very ‘bad’ one for the TBR shelves!

 

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Y is for Yates. “Richard Yates was acclaimed as one of the most powerful, compassionate and accomplished writers of America’s post-war generation. Whether addressing the smothered desire of suburban housewives, the white-collar despair of office workers or the heartbreak of a single mother with artistic pretensions, Yates ruthlessly examines the hopes and disappointments of ordinary people with empathy and humour.” High praise indeed, but I have to confess that it was mainly the fabulous cover that sold the book to me!

 

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And lastly, Z for Zweig. I have read and loved Stefan Zweig’s short stories and novellas, but have yet to read any of his full length novels in proper. Think I’ll start with this one. “In this haunting yet compassionate reworking of the Cinderella story, Zweig shows us the human cost of the boom and bust of capitalism. The Post Office Girl was completed during the 1930s as Zweig was driven by the Nazis into exile, and was found among his papers after his suicide in 1942.”

 

Not sure how long it will take for me to complete this A to Z reading list, being the slow reader that I am. What I do know is that right now, I’m feeling pretty enthusiastic about it, and that’s a good start!
Let’s just hope that I won’t be stuck at ‘D’ for a long, long time…….

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