One rainy Thursday afternoon

Book in hand – Edward Hollis’ ‘The Memory Palace’.

Five Thursdays ago, I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon at this lovely public library at Beitou Park, Taipei. It was a wet and cold day, and plans had to be changed and adjusted in order to accommodate the weather, but for me, it presented just the perfect excuse to seek refuge amongst friends……. books.

The beautiful exterior design of the library.

 

This eco-friendly piece of architecture was once voted as one of the 10 coolest green buildings in the world, as assessed by an international travel website.

 

It’s design is supposed to resemble that of a ship.

 

The interior is just as lovely.

 

I could spend hours between these aisles.

 

 

Found a delightful stack to settle down with.

 

I’ve only recently discovered Bernd Heinrich’s works. And this one has definitely been added into my wishlist. A real beauty of a book, with charming illustrations thrown in good measure.

 

Another interesting title to explore further.

 

If only there was a “Rewind” button that can wind back the hours, and return me to that particular rainy Thursday afternoon…..

 

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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. 🙂

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.

🙂

The World’s Loneliest Library….

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

 

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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?
🙂

Vintage madness

Gorgeous, aren’t they?

Can one actually complain of having too much of a good thing, when the ‘good thing’ in question happens to be….. books?
Nah, I didn’t think so too. :p And that is why I am still more than thrilled to share these beauties here, even though I had just posted on the last book haul barely (gasp!) two weeks ago!
Dear readers, you don’t mind, do you? 🙂

Technically, these are actually still considered as being April’s haul since they were picked up on the last day of the month. Really didn’t expect the dear ol’ trusty hypermarket to have such an abundance of riches still, after all that it has already yielded in the past weeks. Henry Green and Marcel Proust? Never would I have imagined bumping into them here!

I was especially elated with the Proust, not just because it is a thing of beauty in itself, but also because it sort of helped to seal my resolve to attempt at collecting the entire six volume in this lovely Vintage Classics edition, after having the first volume in my possession for the past few years.

Volume I and Volume VI.

And so it is with hope (by a long shot, though) that the rest of the volumes would appear in due course.

And as it happened, Volume II turned up exactly one week later!

I know, I know….. I am definitely being spoilt rotten. :p

Three down, three to go. Onward with the quest to find the remaining volumes to complete the set!

It would appear that my personal library is now taking on a different shade….. one that is pre-dominated by those tantalizing bright red Vintage spines.

And that’s not such a bad thing after all, is it? 😉

 

Just looking at these covers are enough to make me happy. 🙂

Spotted any particular personal favourites amongst these?

A poet for a table piece, anyone?

Book lover (HH)

BOOK-collecting is undeniably one of the most engaging pursuits in which a refined and artistic taste may be indulged. From the earliest times, and even before the days of printing, this pleasant diversion has been pursued by persons of moderate means as well as by those of wealth and distinction, and every succeeding generation of bookcollectors has exceeded its predecessors in numbers and in enthusiasm. The alluring influences of bibliophilism, or book-loving, have silently crept into thousands of homes, whether beautiful or humble; for the library is properly regarded as one of the most important features of home as well as mental equipment.
In The House Beautiful, William C. Gannett emphasizes the importance of considering the library as foremost in furnishing a home. He says:
“It means admission to the new marvels of science, if one chooses admission. It means an introduction to the noblest company that all the generations have produced, if we claim the introduction.
Remembering this, how can one help wishing to furnish his house with some such furniture? A poet for a table piece! A philosopher upon the shelf! Browning or Emerson for a fireside friend!
“A family’s rank in thought and taste can well be gauged by the books and papers that lie upon the shelf or table of the library.”

Henry H. Harper,’Book Lovers, Bibliomaniacs & Book Clubs’ (1904).

Imagine indeed, having ‘…. a poet for a table piece, a philosopher upon the shelf, and Browning or Emerson for a fireside friend’! What a dazzling thought.

Once again, yet another fine example of how books most definitely do furnish a room. No wonder we find it such a delight whenever there’s a chance to take a peek at a fellow book lover’s rooms or shelves. We just never know whom we might happen to meet in there. 😉

Ballad of Books: The Library

light-on-bookshelves-2

THE LIBRARY

“Let there be Light!” God spake of old,
And over chaos dark and cold,
And through the dead and formless frame
Of nature, life and order came.

Faint was the light at first that shone
On giant fern and mastodon,
On half-formed plant and beast of prey,
And man as rude and wild as they.

Age after age, like waves o’erran
The earth, uplifting brute and man;
And mind, at length, in symbols dark
Its meanings traced on stone and bark.

On leaf of palm, on sedge-wrought roll,
On plastic clay and leathern scroll,
Man wrote his thoughts; the ages passed,
And lo! the Press was found at last!

Then dead souls woke; the thoughts of men
Whose bones were dust revived again;
The cloister’s silence found a tongue,
Old prophets spake, old poets sung.

And here, to-day, the dead look down,
The kings of mind again we crown;
We hear the voices lost so long,
The sage’s word, the sibyl’s song.

Here Greek and Roman find themselves,
Alive along these crowded shelves;
And Shakspere treads again his stage,
And Chaucer paints anew his age.

As if some Pantheon’s marbles broke
Their stony trance, and lived and spoke,
Life thrills along the alcoved hall,
The lords of thought awake our call.

John Greenleaf Whittier, ‘The Library’ (Sung at the opening of the Library at Haverhill, Massachusetts on November 11, 1875.)

Now I am really curious to know how this ballad would have sounded like, being sung to tune. I wonder if there is any possibility that this ballad might still be sung in any part of the world today, like an old tradition or old hymn that has been passed down through the generations, perhaps?  Wouldn’t it be lovely to know, if it was?

Off to a good start in Amsterdam….

You know you are in for some real bookish serendipity in Amsterdam when the first thing that greets you upon disembarking from the plane, while making your way to collect your luggage, is this stylish yet very functional Airport Library at Schiphol.

The library offers translated Dutch fiction in thirty languages, photo books, photo shows and videos that reflect Dutch culture. One can also listen to the music of Dutch musicians if one is in the mood for it.

Coming across this unique little library so unexpectedly right at the start of the trip was indeed a most welcomed and refreshing sight, especially after a 12 hour long haul flight.

After safely checking into our B&B, it was time to stroll the streets of Amsterdam and savour the pleasing sights of endless canals, bridges, boathouses and bicycles in the city.

Having had the day started at the Airport Library in the morning, it was not unbefitting to decide to end it at the largest public library in Amsterdam (and Europe, for that matter), the Centrale Bibliotheek which is conveniently located just about 5 minutes walk from the Central Station.

The children’s section.
The graphic novels section.
This was one of those moments when I wished I could read Dutch.

All in all, not bad for a first day, wouldn’t you say? 😉

Friday Feature : On The Library & The Librarian

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LIBRARIAN : Overdue again! Seven reminders I’ve sent out to you!

HANCOCK : My dear good fellow. One cannot rush one’s savouring of the classics of world literature. Rome was not built in a day and its decline and fall cannot be read in one.

LIBRARIAN : But you haven’t got Gibbon’s Decline and Fall there.

HANCOCK : That’s got nothing to do with it. I’ve got The Love Lives of the Caesars here and that tells me everything.

Alan Simpson and Ray Galton, Hancock’s Half Hour: The Missing Page (1960)

~~~~~

“The Librarian is, of course, very much in favour of reading in general, but readers in particular get on his nerves. There is something sacrilegious about the way people keep taking books off the shelves and wearing out the words by reading them. He likes people who love and respect books, and the best way to do that, in the Librarian’s opinion, is to leave them on the shelves where Nature intended them to be.”

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs, The Discworld Companion (1984)

Not being a regular library user myself, I have not had much encounters with librarians, be it good or bad.

But even so, I think I can still agree and share the same sentiments as Greer (below) in that,  one feels at home when in a library. I think this is simply because “home is where the heart is”, and for a book lover, the heart is for certain to be found among books. 😉

Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting. In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed.

Germaine Greer, Daddy, We Hardly Knew You (1990)