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…..
Lastly, some bookish treats that I received for Christmas (something that does not happen very often!)
What about the rest of you? Found any bookish treats under your trees? 🙂
…. 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.
I am here. Those three words contain all that can be said – you begin with those and you return to them. Here means on this earth, on this continent and no other, in this city and no other, in this epoch I call mine, this century, this year. I was given no other place, no other time…..
Czesław Miłosz , ‘To Begin Where I Am’.
Today marks the 5th year since A Reader’s Footprints came into being.
I had not plan for a post to mark this day initially, but something in Czesław Miłosz’s words, which I happened to have been reading today, prompted me to. I am here.
Yes, five years on, I am still here. And why wouldn’t I be? This is my ‘happy place-to-go-to’. This is my fortress built of books and of book loving friends, in which I take refuge in. From all that makes me feel helpless and vulnerable on the outside. From all that tends to rob me of my peace and joy.
Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote in The Secret Garden that “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.”
That is how I want this space to be.
A garden where no thistles can grow to choke out that which nourishes.
Miłosz seemed to have found just the right words in helping me see clearer the direction in which I would like for this blog to take in the year(s) to come.
I have written on various subjects, and not, for the most part, as I would have wished. But I am always aware that what I want is impossible to achieve. I would need the ability to communicate my full amazement at “being here” in one unattainable sentence which would simultaneously transmit the smell and texture of my skin, everything stored in my memory, and all I now assent to, dissent from. However, in pursuing the impossible, I did learn something. Each of us is so ashamed of his own helplessness and ignorance that he considers it appropriate to communicate only what he thinks others will understand. There are however, times when somehow we slowly divest ourselves of that shame and begin to speak openly about all the things we do not understand.
On that note, I will try to not let that ‘shame of my helplessness and ignorance’ deter me from my attempts to communicate on the things that matter to me, regardless of the level of understanding/ skill required. (Am I making sense here?)
For instance, I know that I suck at writing reviews, and that is why I usually avoid doing so. Why have my flaws exposed for all to see, right? But if the book or the reading experience had really meant something to me, I guess I will still try to communicate that over here, flawed as it may be.
I have read many books, but to place all those volumes on top of one another and stand on them would not add a cubit to my stature. Their learned terms are of little use when I attempt to seize naked experience, which eludes all accepted ideas. To borrow their language can be helpful in many ways, but it also leads imperceptibly into a self-contained labyrinth, leaving us in alien corridors which allow no exit. And so I must offer resistance, check every moment to be sure I am not departing from what I have actually experienced on my own, what I myself have touched. I cannot invent a new language and I use the one I was first taught, but I can distinguish, I hope, between what is mine and what is merely fashionable. I cannot expel from memory the books I have read, their contending theories and philosophies, but I am free to be suspicious and to ask naïve questions instead of joining the chorus which affirms and denies.
I will try to keep myself being ‘free to be suspicious and to ask naive questions instead of joining the chorus which affirms and denies’. That will also mean that my reading choices will be those that are really suited to me, what I really want to read, and not ‘what is merely fashionable’. By that, I don’t mean that all worthy recommendations from fellow readers will just be disregarded, of course. Discretion will be the key word.
Let’s see how well these ‘aspirations’ get to be translated over here in the days to come.
Anyway, I look forward to a good year filled with good books and some great reading.
And I wish the same for all of you, too.
Happy New Year!
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 Countryby 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 Loveby 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 Seeby 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.
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 Girlwas 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.
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?
Sharon Lovejoy’s A Blessing of Toads: A Gardener’s Guide to Living with Natureis 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.
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 Returnby 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 Knewby 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! 🙂
The old has gone, and the new has come. As usual, I didn’t managed to read quite as many books as I had wanted to, but bought a good deal more books than I had planned for, in the past year. And as always, I will still strive to do the reverse this year, with hopefully better results.
Nevertheless, I was thrilled to have made acquaintance with a few writers that were new to me in 2014. It was a pleasure to have discovered the writings of William Maxwell, Primo Levi, Javier Marias and Patrick Modiano. I will definitely be looking out for more of these writers’ works in the days ahead. The anticipation alone is exciting enough in itself. 🙂
The stack pictured above is the possible reading choices that I am likely to start the year off with. These are the ones that seem to be calling out to me at the moment. Am especially looking forward to the Ishiguro and the Nichols.
The Remains of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Down The Garden Path by Beverley Nichols. A Little History of British Gardening by Jenny Uglow. Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
What about the rest of you? Which would be the first book you reach out for to mark this new reading year?
Whichever your choice might be, I wish you all a happy reading year, filled with all the bookish goodness that one can possibly find! 🙂
So, the old has gone and the new has come. Whatever that has been left unsaid, unread, undone in the year just gone by, will just have to be left at that I guess. Thankfully, we can all start anew and afresh with the dawning of each new year.
2013 has been the year where I got acquainted with the brilliant Russian that is Mikhail Bulgakov, and became a fan of the gentle yet profound wit of Alexander McCall Smith’s writing. I am happy to know that there’s an extensive backlist of both the writers’ works still waiting for me to discover and to savour.
One other standout piece of writing that I encountered last year that calls to be mentioned was Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen (author of Out of Africa). This refreshing little gem, while being told in a quiet, unassuming way, left an indelible impression on both the heart and mind. Such brilliant storytelling!
My resolutions with regards to books and reading for this year are simply to be carried away by stories and to read without procrastination the books that are calling out the loudest at each particular moment, so as not to miss the ‘timing’ and the momentum that will help to give me the push to finish the books that I get started.
I also intend to get back into listening to audiobooks, something which I really enjoy doing very much but have fallen out of in recent months. This would also mean that I need to get back to regular workouts at the gym, because that’s where I get to do most of the listening done. So, more workouts = more audiobooks. An ideal way to be killing two birds with one stone. First in line would be picking up where I left off, the Julie Rose translation of Hugo’s Les Miserables read by George Guidall, which is a rather excellent combination, I must say. I’m hoping to finish the book before watching the movie proper.
Meantime, these are some of the books that I have got going and was thinking to spend time with this month. But even as I write this post, I think I am begining to hear the low rumbling of a different set calling out altogether ……. oh well.
Anyway, happy reading to all of you!
I hope you have all gotten off to a very good start to the new reading year. 🙂