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! 😀

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. 🙂 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―from 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! 🙂

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! 😀

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. 🙂

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.

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?

My Vintage February

vintage-1

My February book haul has been an unexpectedly fruitful one. But what was even more unexpected was the source of the bounty – the hypermarket in my neighbourhood.
Although I have had success before, in coming across a couple of good finds from their bargain bin offering (at RM 5, or the equivalent of less than a pound each), it was more of a few and far between kind of affair. The quality and choice was never as abundant as how it has been in recent weeks.

And I was definitely one happy shopper who went home with more than just groceries! 🙂

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I didn’t know that Jane Campion (director of The Piano) had made a film on the tragic romance between John Keats and Fanny Brawne until I came upon this edition of Keats’ complete poems and selected letters. Will have to check that out.

 

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I actually already have the Yates in my other Vintage copy of his Collected Stories, but I found the cover of this one rather irresistible, hence the indulgence. The Hartley is another brilliant find which I am very excited about! As with the Murdoch and Peake.

 

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Lovely covers, aren’t these? I wonder if I should watch ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ first before reading the book. I didn’t know that Seven Pillars of Wisdom was actually the memoir of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, did you?

 

vintage-3
The Shepherd’s Life and Walking to Vermont were the only ones that were bought from another sale elsewhere. I’ve heard quite abit of good things about the Rebanks, and although I knew nothing about the Wren, the tale of one man’s journey on foot from New York’s Time Square to the Green Mountains of Vermont sure sounds fascinating enough!

And just when I thought that I should be done for the month, guess what I found on the very last day of February when my mum asked me to drop by the hypermarket to pick up some toilet rolls that were on offer just for the day? :p

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These two beauties! :))))

I don’t suppose it would be a surprise to anyone here to know that I have started to look forward to my weekly grocery errands with so much more enthusiasm! 😉

 

A Bookish Interlude

wpid-cam01528.jpgTime for another bit of some bookish goodness before I continue on with more photos from my trip to France.

So, here we go…. I managed to grab these from a recent book sales where everything was going for RM5 (that would be less than a pound, and slightly more than a US dollar each, based on the current exchange rate). As you can see, I have certainly gotten more than my money’s worth here.

Hidden Cities : Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises (by Moses Gates)
In this fascinating glimpse into the world of urban exploration, Moses Gates describes his trespasses in some of the most illustrious cities in the world from Paris to Cairo to Moscow.

Gates is a new breed of adventurer for the 21st century. He thrives on the thrill of seeing what others do not see, let alone even know exists. It all began quite innocuously. After moving to New York City and pursuing graduate studies in Urban Planning, he began unearthing hidden facets of the city—abandoned structures, disused subway stops, incredible rooftop views that belonged to cordoned-off buildings.

Sounds like something that is off the beaten track, but I think I’d prefer to do the ‘exploring’ from the safety of my home and leave the trespassing for someone else to do. 😉

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie (by Wendy McClure)
“… an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones—and find that our old love has only deepened.”
And I find the premise of this book rather appealing even though I have to admit that I have never read Little House on The Prairie before.

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse (by Thomas McNamee)
Described as ‘… the first authorized biography of Alice Waters (the mother of American cooking, and the person responsible for introducing Americans to goat cheese and cappuccino). Looking forward to this.

No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence (by Emily Herring Wilson)
I have not heard of Elizabeth Lawrence before but after coming across this book, I have a feeling I will be hunting down her books on garden writing as well as her correspondence with Katherine S. White, the legendary editor at The New Yorker, wife of E.B. White, and fellow garden enthusiast in Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence–A Friendship in Letters. (I can hear the shelves groaning already.)

Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small (by Rita Mae Brown)
I have been wanting to read her infamous Rubyfruit Jungle for some time now, but somehow have yet to do so. Maybe I’ll start with this instead.

The Last Days of Haute Cuisine: The Coming of Age of American Restaurants (by Patric Kuh)
Chef and food writer Patric Kuh offers an excellent, clear-eyed look at the death of old-fashioned American restaurants and the advent of a new kind of eating. Kuh takes readers inside this high-stakes business, sharing little-known anecdotes, describing legendary cooks and bright new star chefs, and relating his own reminiscences. Populated by a host of food personalities, including Julia Child, M.F.K. Fisher, and James Beard, Kuh’s social and cultural history of America’s great restaurants reveals the dramatic transformations in U.S. cuisine.
This should go well as a companion read with the Alice Waters.

Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley)
As most of you would have already known, I love reading letters. So, this was a no-brainer for me.

Same goes for Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh (edited by Irving Stone).

The Memory Chalet (by Tony Judt)
A memoir in the form of essays, composed when the acclaimed historian was paralyzed with a devastating illness that finally took his life, this book seems like a poignant read. I love the book cover. Reminds me of Christmas. Or maybe something from Agatha Christie….

Memory Chalet

Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride (by Alyssa Harad)
Perfumes are not something that I can enjoy in real life but in the realm of words, I think it should be more pleasurable.

I managed to bring home two very interesting books by Simon Garfield, one is about maps, On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks, and the other is about fonts, Just My Type: A Book About Fonts. Has anyone here read them yet?

The Beauvoir Sisters: An Intimate Look at How Simone and Hélène Influenced Each Other and the World (by Claudine Monteil)
This was an unexpected find, and is one that I am rather excited about.

Sprinkled with astounding fragments of conversations Monteil witnessed firsthand between Simone, Jean Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, and other luminaries, the sisters’ story is told by a woman who had the distinct privilege of belonging to their intimate circle of friends and who has been a leading figure in France’s women’s movement since the 1960s. Spanning the period between World War I and Helen’s death in 2001, The Beauvoir Sisters is also the story of an era, as Monteil immerses the reader in the artistic and intellectual life of twentieth-century Paris, the effects of the Cold War, and the feminist movement in France and in the United States.

Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time (by Lisa Tracy)
Am very thrilled with this find. Sounds just like the kind of book I’d love to read.
After their mother’s death, Lisa Tracy and her sister, Jeanne, are left to contend with several households’ worth of furniture and memorabilia, much of it accumulated during their family’s many decades of military service in far-flung outposts from the American frontier to the World War Two–era Pacific. In this engaging and deeply moving book, Tracy chronicles the wondrous interior life of those possessions and discovers that the roots of our passion for acquisition often lie not in shallow materialism but in our desire to possess the most treasured commodity of all: a connection to the past.”

One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces (by Ann Voskamp)
A devotional comprising of sixty reflections on how in the world do we find real joy and experience grace in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and all the daily duties.

Photos: Style Recipes (by Samantha Moss & David Matheson)
An inspiring volume that gives one plenty of ideas on how to tastefully decorate one’s living space with photos. Am looking forward to be inspired into action. 🙂

wpid-cam01533.jpgI don’t often read graphic novels but came across two really interesting volumes that look really appealing to me. Feynman by Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick, and Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (whose works I’m fast becoming a fan of). While one is a biography of one the greatest minds of the twentieth century, the other is an honest, thoughtful and funny memoir of a talented young cartoonist who loves food. Being the daughter of a chef and a gourmet probably played a large part in fuelling that passion.

Relish 2 Relish

The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World (by Sophia Dembling)
A book that’s just right up my alley.

I have read good things about Patrick Gale’s works before but have yet to read any until now. And amazingly, I have already actually finished reading one of the two books of his that I found at the sales, which is something that doesn’t happen very often. I seldom read my new purchases that soon (as I feel that it’s some sort of an injustice to the others who have been queuing in the long line of TBRs), but had simply found The Cat Sanctuary to be very readable and hard to put down. I loved it.

Now I am half tempted to move on to the next book of his, The Whole Day Through, a bittersweet love story, told from the events of a single summer’s day.

Calvin Trillin’s About Alice is a moving portrait of the writer’s devastating loss of his beloved wife Alice. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.” I have only read some of his essays on food so far, this will certainly be something else.

I was really happy to spot a copy of the Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume Two, The Defining Years, 1933-1938 to add on to the first volume which I had gotten from last year’s sales.

William Trevor’s Two Lives is actually made up of two novels, Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria. Getting two for the price of one is certainly incentive for me to try Trevor again as I seem to have failed to get on with his writing before.

The Maine Woods is Henry David Thoreau’s account on the three trips that he made to the largely unexplored woods of Maine over a three year period. He climbed mountains, paddled a canoe by moonlight, and dined on cedar beer, hemlock tea and moose lips while taking notes constantly. This should be interesting.

The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Work
In this unique collection scores of these literary legatees from the U.S. and around the world take the measure of Twain and his genius, among them: José Martí, Rudyard Kipling, Theodor Herzl, George Bernard Shaw, H. L. Mencken, Helen Keller, Jorge Luis Borges, Sterling Brown, George Orwell, T. S. Eliot, Richard Wright, W. H. Auden, Ralph Ellison, Kenzaburo Oe, Robert Penn Warren, Ursula Le Guin, Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Gore Vidal, David Bradley, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Min Jin Lee, Roy Blount, Jr., and many others (including actor Hal Holbrook, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, stand-up comedians Dick Gregory and Will Rogers, and presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Barack Obama).

The Maid and The Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc by Nancy Goldstone.
Having just been to view the site where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake in Rouen during my recent trip to France, this book appeals much at the moment.

And last but certainly not least, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. This one probably needs no introduction as most of you would have either read or heard of it. I am actually more interested in her Testament of Friendship: The Story of Winifred Holtby but until I get my hands on a copy of that, I think I should content myself with this first.

Any of these appeals to any of you? 🙂

In which I try not to be a spoilsport….

I was surprised to have been the recipient of a fellow blogger’s nomination for the Liebster Award over the last weekend (and have since been squirming in my seat trying to get myself out of the task!) :p

As you would all have probably noticed, I have been steadily and progressively turning into a lazier and lazier blogger by the day, in recent months. I have not been putting up any posts that required much thinking or writing, simply because I don’t seem to find the time and energy to do so lately. And whatever little time and energy that I do seem to have, I always think I should put it to better use, probably for reading rather than for trying to wring out something worthy of a post that probably makes no difference to anyone reading it anyway. Sort of.

That is not to say that I don’t value this blog anymore. I do still love the fact that there is this little space out here that I can call my own. I guess I just need to remind myself of the reason for doing this in the first place. It was meant for pleasure, not duty. I just need to make sure it stays that way. 🙂

And so, back to the Liebster Award thingy, while I was tempted to just decline the nomination and go back into hibernation mode, I really did not relish the idea of being a complete spoilsport, either. So, after the initial struggle of getting into the right frame of mind to take on the task, I decided to (partially) play along. That is, I will participate in the first half of the award, which involves providing 11 facts about myself, and to answering the 11 questions set by Anna, my nominator from ink stains on a reader’s blog (which by the way, is a great place to spend time in, and one I am enjoying very much). However, I’m afraid I won’t be passing on the award to the next 11 nominees, as I do not wish to impose the obligation on anyone. (That is just a nice way of saying that I am actually much too lazy to come up with a set of 11 questions and bloggers to pass them onto!) :p

Anyway, here goes.
The 11 facts about myself:

1. I prefer spending time in the company of books more than with people.

2. Can be considered as an anti-social introvert.

3. Love animals.

4. But am ill at ease with babies and kids.

5. Have a phobia of walking through automatic sliding glass doors (I suffered a nasty concussion once when one of those glass doors closed in on me while I was walking out of a Toy R Us store when I was 7 or 8 yrs old).

6. Cannot stand the smell of perfume or strong fragrances, as they give me headaches and eye sores. Have resorted to holding my breath every time I need to walk through a departmental store where these are found.

7. I feel more comfortable communicating in the written form than in the verbal form, usually.

8. Biggest travel blunder ever : missed getting onto the bus from London to Nottingham 3 TIMES on the same day, during my first trip abroad with friends. (We ended up taking the bus to Manchester instead, after having missed the last bus for the day. Yes, it was shamefully unbelievable.)

9. Favourite ice cream flavour: green tea.

10. Favourite beverage: avocado milk shake.

11. I am unable to roll my tongue and pronounce the letter ‘R’ with the ‘rrrr…..’. :p

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And here are the answers to Anna’s questions:

1. Name a piece of literature you consider the best you’ve read so far?

I don’t know if Sarah Water’s Fingersmith can be considered as the best literature I’ve read so far, but it certainly was one of my best reading experiences. (By the way, have you read this, Anna?)
And although I have yet to finish (listening to) Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, it has already doubtless left me impressed enough to know that its place is among the best (along with my two other favourites: Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent, and Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast.)

2. What are the characteristics of your dream home library?

Spacious yet cosy, evokes a warm yet airy feeling. Filled with all manners of books and bookish mementos that are of interest to me. Must have comfortable seating arrangements. Preferably with windows looking out to the sea or mountains.
Something like this, perhaps?

books with sea view
found this on one of The Captive Reader‘s Library Lust editions and just fell in love with it.

3. What are your favorite places for buying books?

The annual Big Bad Wolf Books Sales held over here in recent years where I have managed to get many a great haul like this, this and this. There are also a few smaller scale clearance sales held every now and then which makes for some rather enjoyable hunting grounds too. I do enjoy going online to look for specific titles and getting them from online sellers such as Awesome Books and Better World Books, as well.

4. Should philosophy be taught from elementary school?

Since I never studied philosophy myself, I wouldn’t really know the breadth and scope of it to say how much of it should be taught at what age/ stage. However, if philosophy is essentially the art of thinking, then I supposed it wouldn’t really harm anyone to be taught how to think at an earlier age? Maybe they could get started off by reading Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World 🙂

5. What does it mean to be wise? / What is wisdom?

“How can men be wise? The only way to begin is by reverence for God. For growth in wisdom comes from obeying his laws.”
(Psalm 110:10, The Living Bible)

Or to put it in The New Living Translation version:
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.
(Psalm 110:10)

6. Which literary character feels like a real person to you (as a long known friend, an acquaintance maybe)? Is there any?

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, maybe. At least she seems like a good one to have for a ‘bosom buddy’. 😉

7. Quote one of the passages (from any book of your choice, of course) you had to stop by to reread, to note down or ponder upon?

These things – the straw, the ivy frond, the spider- had had the house all to themselves for many days. They had paid no rent, yet they had made free with the floor, the window, and the walls, during a light and volatile existence. That was the kind of companionship that Lady Slane wanted; she had had enough of bustle, and of competition, and of on set of ambitions writhing to circumvent another. She wanted to merge with the things that drifted into an empty house, though unlike the spider she would weave no webs. She would be content to stir with the breeze and grow green in the light of the sun, and to drift down the passage of years, until death pushed her gently out and shut the door behind her. She wanted nothing but passivity while these outward things worked their will upon her.

(Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent)

8. Best movie based on a book?

I can think of 3 favourites, so let’s make that ‘Best 3 movies based on a book’, shall we?
That will be (in no particular order): Stardust, Forrest Gump & Misery.
Of the three, I have only read (or rather listened to the audiobook for Stardust). I wasn’t even aware that Forrest Gump was based on a book until recently. And I really think I have no need for reading Stephen King’s Misery because I don’t believe it can be better than the movie.

9. What is the thing that fascinates you the most?

The condition of the human heart.
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”
(Jeremiah 17:9, The Message – Bible)

10. Suppose you live in several houses. Is there a book you would want to have in every one of them?

The Bible, I suppose.
And I guess I will be carrying my tablet with me to each of the different houses I go to. That way, I can at least have my virtual library with me in all the houses. 🙂

11. Would you accept the invitation to the Mad Hatter Tea Party?

No, being the anti-social introvert that I am, I do try to avoid parties at all cost.

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Done.
(Phew… that wasn’t so bad after all, I guess!) 😉

What One Finds in a Fireball Book Sale…..

BBW FS (all)

This picture does look rather familiar now, doesn’t it? The the story that follows is just as familiar, I’m afraid. Same old, same old …..
Yes, I have gone a book-hunting again, and came back with no small haul (as usual), I’m afraid. It was the lure of the Big Bad Wolf’s Fireball Book Sale, where every book has been given a further mark down in prices, following the mega year end sale they had back in December. Technically, these were supposed to be the ‘leftovers’ from the previous sale. But in reality, I found many more exciting stuff here that I had not even come across during the December sale. And to find all these at even lower prices…. well, it is just pure bliss! 🙂

BBW FS (1)

I have the first volume of Virginia Woolf’s collection of essays in The Common Reader sitting on the shelves for awhile now. So, getting the second volume to keep the first one company was just the natural thing to do, I guess. I also found a biography of hers, Virginia Woolf: Bloomsbury & Beyond by Anthony Curtis and thought, why not? At any rate, it was a nice looking hardback, bountifully illustrated with sepia photographs.

As you can see, I also convenienty found her dear friend Vita Sackville-West’s volume of letters with her husband (Vita’s, that is) Harold Nicolson, as well as a volume of Nicolson’s diaries. I would not have thought of wanting to read his diaries or letters if it were not for those delightful excerpts that I had read on The Captive Reader’s blog sometime back. Getting these at only RM5 (less than a pound) each, makes the find all the more delightful!

France On Two Wheels by Adam Ruck “…. follows the writer through six intricately plotted Gallic cycling routes; from Lake Geneva to the Channel, the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, Vichy to Roanne, Paris to Provence, Roanne to the Atlantic, and Burgundy to Spain. Both a practical companion and a story of exploration and rediscovery, France on Two Wheels offers detailed descriptions of useful routes, stop-off points and watering-holes, along with detours into subjects as varied as wine, Flaubert, windmills, Wodehouse, belfries, battlefields and beer. It is vivid proof that the only way to experience the French countryside is on two wheels.”  Sounds good to me.

I also found another book to do with bikes and travelling (pictured in one of the stacks below) Britain By Bike: A Two-Wheeled Odyssey Around Britain by Jane Eastoe. That one is based on a six-part BBC series, Britain by Bike providing all the authoritative information a biker needs, from interesting routes and unusual attractions to great lodgings. Well, that should be quite enough biking now for someone who doesn’t even own a bike. :p

So having gotten off the bikes, I found myself a copy of Caroline Sanderson’s Rambling Fancy: In the Footsteps of Jane Austen. “Following in Jane Austen’s footsteps, Sanderson tramps the muddy fields around Austen’s childhood home in rural Hampshire, walks the elegant streets of Bath, and strolls along the breezy promenades of south coast resort. Drawing upon Jane Austen’s letters as well as her many novels Caroline Sanderson charts her own experiences of the very places from which Jane Austen sought inspiration, reaching some original and fascinating conclusions.”
Hmmm, I wonder what might those be.  Anyway, I also managed to find a pretty Penguin English Library edition of Austen’s Mansfield Park and thought it’s high time I read more Austen.

I think it’s also high time that I get down to reading some Orhan Pamuk as well, and was glad to find a copy of his The Naive and Sentimental Novelist. In this fascinating set of essays, based on the talks he delivered at Harvard University as part of the distinguished Norton Lecture series, Pamuk presents a comprehensive and provocative theory of the novel and the experience of reading. Drawing on Friedrich Schiller’s famous distinction between “naïve” writers—those who write spontaneously—and “sentimental” writers—those who are reflective and aware—Pamuk reveals two unique ways of processing and composing the written word. He takes us through his own literary journey and the beloved novels of his youth to describe the singular experience of reading. Unique, nuanced, and passionate, this book will be beloved by readers and writers alike.”

Another writer whom I’m really looking forward to reading more of, is Wilkie Collins. I loved his No Name and am halfway through listening to The Moonstone. Have yet to read his supposedly best work, The Woman in White (which incidentally, is said to be the partial inspiration for Sarah Water’s Fingersmith, one of my all time favourite reading experiences). So I’m looking forward to read Peter Ackroyd’s take on the man himself, Wilkie Collins.

Next are two books on reading. One is the general history of reading over the ages, while the other, John Tytell’s Reading New York, is a combination of memoir and historical criticism on a more personal note.

BBW FS (2)I have not read anything by Richard Yates before, and all I know of him is that he wrote the book behind the movie, Revolutionary Road. What got my attention here was the the title Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, the book from which some of the stories found in this collection, The Collected Stories of Richard Yates were taken from. I will see what I make of my acquaintance with Mr Yates and report back duly.

I have not heard of Nabokov’s The Luzhin Defense before, but this came in a beautiful Penguin hardback edition which has the kind of fonts, paper texture and binding that I just love, so it was definitely coming home with me. I was glad to know upon further examination that the story is actually about “….. the strange yet oddly endearing chess-playing genius Luzhin. Discovering his prodigious gift in boyhood and rising to the rank of international Grandmaster, Luzhin develops a lyrical passion for chess that renders the real world a phantom. As he confronts the fiery, swift-swooping Italian Grandmaster, Turati, he brings into play his carefully devised defence. Making masterly play of metaphor and imagery, “The Luzhin Defense” is the book that, of his early works, Nabokov felt “contains and diffuses the greatest warmth”. Back in my school days, I used to play chess competitively and was President of the Chess Club. For me, it wasn’t just the game itself that I enjoy. It was also very much the opportunity for long talks and quality time that the game offers me to spend with a friend, or with someone whom I would like to get to know better and wouldn’t mind looking at (discreetly, of course) for a few good hours maybe. 😉

I have read good things about Lucy Wood’s Diving Belles and from the little samplings that I have taken from it so far, I’m already finding myself falling under its charm.

Colette Rossant’s Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes looks to be another charming read. “It is 1947 and Paris is recovering from the war. As soon as Colette’s family arrive from Cairo, her mother abandons her yet again. Terribly homesick, Colette finds solace in the kitchen with the cook Georgette, and discovers a love for French food – roasted lamb stuffed with garlic, springtime strawberries bathed in creme fraiche, the first taste of truffle. And it is through food that Colette finds happiness in Paris, skipping school to go to the farmers’ market in Port de Neuilly and dining in Michelin-starred restaurants with her new stepfather. Then at sixteen, she meets a dashing young American – and, despite all opposition from her family, never looks back…”

I found both Michael Holroyd’s A Book of Secrets and Margaret Drabble’s The Pattern in The Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws and brought them home with me without realizing that both these writers were married to each other! It was only when I started reading Drabble’s introduction the next day, that I got to know it. Margaret Drabble weaves her own story into a history of games, in particular jigsaws, which have offered her and many others relief from melancholy and depression. Alongside curious facts and discoveries about jigsaw puzzles — did you know that the 1929 stock market crash was followed by a boom in puzzle sales? — Drabble introduces us to her beloved Auntie Phyl, and describes childhood visits to the house in Long Bennington on the Great North Road, their first trip to London together, the books they read, the jigsaws they completed. She offers penetrating sketches of her parents, her siblings, and her children; she shares her thoughts on the importance of childhood play, on art and writing, on aging and memory. And she does so with her customary intelligence, energy, and wit. This is a memoir like no other.

I think this one is going right to the top of the pile. I used to love doing jigsaws when I was younger and it’s been ages since I last did one. Drabble mentions in her book that The World’s Most Difficult Puzzle is a 340-piece jigsaw based on Jackson Pollock’s painting Convergence. Personally, the most challenging jigsaw that I have ever come across is one of those reverse perspective puzzles, in which the picture on the box is merely a clue for the puzzle you will be putting together. The image on the box depicts a cartoonish scene of surprise and tumult and the goal is to discover the source of the commotion by figuring out what the characters in the scene are seeing. I had gotten myself one of these in my enthusiasm back then but sadly, after a decade of more now, the pieces are still left sitting in the box, undone. I may yet again attempt it, someday.

I love the cover of Diana Athill’s Instead of a Letter: A Memoir. This classic memoir tells the story of Athill “…… as a young woman, was engaged to an air force pilot—Instead of a Letter tells how he broke off the engagement, married someone else, and, worst of all, died overseas before she could confront or forgive him. Evoking perfectly the picturesque country setting of her youth, this fearless and profoundly honest story of love and modern womanhood marks the beginning of Athill’s brilliant literary career.”

Being an Anglophile, I was happy to find A.N. Wilson’s The Elizabethans and both Liza Picard’s Elizabeth’s London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London and Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870. These books help make history come alive in the lively and engaging way that they were written. Highly readable stuff. Oh, and I also found a lovely hardback copy of England’s Forgotten Past: The Unsung Heroes and Heroines, Valiant Kings, Great Battles and Other Generally Overlooked Episodes in Our Nation’s Glorious History. Seems like a fun one.

BBW FS (3)For a more contemporary take on Great Britain, I got Ian Jack’s The Country Formerly Known as Great Britain. “In this selection from more than 20 years of reporting and writing, Ian Jack takes us to a place of which there are now only memories and ruins—the Great Britain that gave us the Industrial Revolution, a nation that led the world in feats of engineering, a Britain of empire, a place of vital cities, each with their own unique identity, and a country whose residual presence can still be found in the strangest corners of the world.”

I also found two short biographies, one of the great American evangelist D.L Moody, the other is that of F. Scott Fitzgerald in a collection of personal essays and articles written before his fatal heart attack at the age of forty four.

For my dose of armchair gardening, I found Jamaica Kincaid’s My Favourite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on The Plants They Love, E. Buckner Hollingsworth’s garden classic, Flower Chronicles, and Mandy Kirkby’s The Language of Flowers: A Miscellany.

As for my dose of armchair travelling, I found a lovely looking hardback edition of Umbria by Patricia Clough. “When Patricia Clough bought a house in Umbria, she knew that buying her dream home did not mean that one’s life became a dream. By the end of this book she is sure that “if one has basic requirements for being happy, then Umbria provides some of the best surroundings for happiness.”

In Made In Italy: A Shopper’s Guide to Italy’s Best Artisanal Traditions, Laura Morelli revisits Italy’s best shops and craftsmen to provide a thorough shopper’s guide to Italy’s best local traditions.

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Judith Martin’s No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice is said by Donna Leon to be one of those books that one must read before coming to Venice. This is the definitive book for managing an incurable passion for a decaying, water-logged village. Whether you already have a raging case of Venetophilia or are among the fifteen million people who yearly put themselves in danger of contracting it, here is where you get your fix of Venetian wit, history, practicality, and enchantment.” I have not been to Venice yet, so maybe I should take up the advice.

Eric Newby’s On The Shores Of The Mediterranean.
As they travel around the sea at the center of Western history, Eric Newby and his wife Wanda visit not only the better-known Mediterranean sights and cities but also venture into places where Westerners are few: Albania under Hoxha, the holy Muslim city of Fez, and a country about to disappear in civil war – the former Yugoslavia. Eric Newby entertains and enlightens as he follows in the footsteps of Cleopatra and St John, and waits for a meeting with Colonel Gaddafi. With his customary flair for description, he is equally at easy pondering King David’s choice of Jerusalem as the site for a capital city or enjoying a meal cooked by one of France’s finest chefs. His acute curiosity and encyclopedic knowledge combine to make absorbing reading, whether he is explaining the workings of a defunct Turkish harem or the contemporary Mafia. From antiquity to the present, Eric Newby’s erudite, engaging tale is not a simple tour but a tour de force.

For the longest time, Miguel De Cervantes’ Don Quixote has always seemed like an intimidating giant to me. But flipping through this Edith Grossman translation of the Spanish masterpiece, I found it to be surprisingly engaging and very readable. It also helped that this Harper Perennial edition comes in the form of one of my favourite combinations for a book – French flaps with rough cut pages. The book, though close to a hefty thousand pages, feels so easy on the hand. So, this is all looking very promising indeed, for my getting acquainted with Mr Cervantes.

Though I have heard of John Mortimer before, I have never read any of his Rumpole stories. But coming across a copy of his Forever Rumpole: The Best of the Rumpole Stories at one of the tables, my interest was suddenly stirred and I found myself enjoying the writing more than I expected. So, what better place to start than with ‘the best of the Rumpole stories’ right?
While still a practicing barrister, Mortimer took up the pen, and the rest is literary history. His stories featuring the cigar-chomping, cheap-wine-tippling Rumpole and his wife, Hilda (aka “She Who Must Be Obeyed”), have justly earned their place in the pantheon of mystery fiction legends, becoming the basis for the very successful television series Rumpole of the Bailey. Bringing fourteen of Rumpole’s most entertaining adventures (seven of which were collected in The Best of Rumpole) together with a fragment of a new story, Forever Rumpole proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Rumpole is never less than delightful.”

You would have probably noticed Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, sitting on my sidebar for quite some time now. What I had previously was just a copy of the e-book. Finding the physical edition of the book at the sale for only RM8 (slightly less than £1.5) was really quite the catch of the day for me! It is a highly readable biography of the artist’s life and works, generously illustrated with his paintings throughout. I am quite determined to finish reading this 900+ pages door stopper of a book, even if it’s gonna take me forever.

Well, back to the British and their eccentrics. David Mckie’s Bright Particular Stars: A Gallery of Glorious British Eccentrics ….. examines the impact of 26 remarkable British eccentrics on 26 unremarkable British locations. From Broadway in the Cotswolds, where the Victorian bibliomaniac Sir Thomas Phillipps nurtured dreams of possessing every book in the world, to Kilwinning in Scotland, where in 1839 the Earl of Eglinton mounted a tournament that was Renaissance in its extravagance and disastrous in its execution, McKie leads us to places transformed, inspired, and sometimes scandalized by the obsessional endeavors of visionary mavericks. [….] But together their fascinating stories illuminate some of the most secret and most extraordinary byways of British history.”

Maybe reading Sir Thomas Phillipps’ story would help put my book buying habits (and yours too, perhaps?) in their proper perspective. 🙂

Johnson’s Life of London: The People who Made the City that Made the World by Boris Johnson promises to be quite another interesting one too. “Boris narrates the story of his city as a kind of relay race of outsized characters, beginning with the days when “a bunch of pushy Italians” created Londinium. He passes the torch on down through a procession of the famous and infamous, the brilliant and the bizarre – from Hadrian to Shakespeare to Florence Nightingale to the Rolling Stones- illuminating with unforgettable clarity each figure and the era he or she inhabited. He also pauses to shine a light on places and developments that have contributed to the city’s incomparable vibrancy, from the flush toilet to the King James Bible. As wildly entertaining as it is informative, this is an irresistible account of the city and people that in large part shaped the world we know.

CAM00326aEnough of the British for now. Let’s move over to Paris for a change in scenery, shall we?

Ross King’s The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave The World Impressionism.
While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, would at times resemble a battlefield; and as Ross King reveals, it would reorder both history and culture, and resonate around the world.

I have always been interested in the lives of the Impressionists, ever since being introduced to the BBC mini series, The Impressionists, by a dear friend back in 2006. I have a copy of Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of The Impressionists which I am looking forward to reading too. I think that will tie up quite well with the reading of the Ross King one.

Paris: Capital of the World by Patrice Higonnet.
In an original and evocative journey through modern Paris from the mid-eighteenth century to World War II, Patrice Higonnet offers a delightful cultural portrait of a multifaceted, continually changing city. In examining the myths and countermyths of Paris that have been created and re-created over time, Higonnet reveals a magical urban alchemy in which each era absorbs the myths and perceptions of Paris past, adapts them to the cultural imperatives of its own time, and feeds them back into the city, creating a new environment. […] Insightful, informative, and gracefully written, Paris illuminates the intersection of collective and individual imaginations in a perpetually shifting urban dynamic. In describing his Paris of the real and of the imagination, Higonnet sheds brilliant new light on this endlessly intriguing city.

Yes, I do find Paris to be endlessly intriguing, and certainly don’t think there can be too many books on it. Do you?

And for something completely different from all the rest, I had picked Oliver Sacks’s A Leg To Stand On for a very personal reason.
Dr. Oliver Sacks’s books Awakenings, An Anthropologist on Mars and the bestselling The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat have been acclaimed for their extraordinary compassion in the treatment of patients affected with profound disorders.

In A Leg to Stand On, it is Sacks himself who is the patient: an encounter with a bull on a desolate mountain in Norway has left him with a severely damaged leg. But what should be a routine recuperation is actually the beginning of a strange medical journey when he finds that his leg uncannily no longer feels part of his body. Sacks’s brilliant description of his crisis and eventual recovery is not only an illuminating examination of the experience of patienthood and the inner nature of illness and health but also a fascinating exploration of the physical basis of identity.”

A very dear friend of mine, the same one whom I had mentioned was the one who introduced me to The Impressionists, had an accident a little over a year ago. Like Dr Sacks, her journey to recovery has been (and still is) a rather strange one. While it was a leg in Dr Sacks’s case, for her it was an arm that she finds herself being alienated from. And all these has taken a toll on her general state of mental well-being. I am hopeful that what Dr Sacks has to share in his journey would be helpful in shedding more light to understanding some of these anomalies my friend is experiencing, and be of an encouragement to her.

BBW FS (4)Lastly, a few lovely coffee table books on gardens and gardening. And I should really end this seemingly never-ending post, and start spending some time with all these lovelies instead!

Happy reading to you all, too! 😉

Favourite First Lines

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The American Book Review has come up with a list of 100 Best First Lines from Novels. While there were quite a few of those first lines that I could recognize  in the list, it was fun to be acquainted with many more which were unfamiliar to me. Do have a look at it yourself and see if you can spot any of your favourite openings in there as well.

Personally, two particularly memorable first lines that come to mind are :

Have you ever tasted a Whitstable oyster? If you have you will remember it.

Sarah Waters, Tipping The Velvet (1998)

and

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

C.S Lewis, A Grief Observed (1961)

I first read those lines of C.S. Lewis when I was twenty and grieving over the loss of my first dog, whom I have had since I was four. It was my first full blown encounter with grief, and I can still remember thinking upon reading those lines, ‘Here is someone who is really saying it as it is. This is exactly what I feel!’ Those lines managed to help express what I was quietly internalizing. It articulated the process that was taking place in my systems, when I had no way of doing it myself. And that’s why they have stuck by, even seventeen years on.  

What about the rest of you? Care to share abit on your own personal favourites?

A Tattoo With A Twist

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The next night I tell you I’ve decided that I’ll only have a tattoo done if you choose what it’s going to be.
Right, you say, I know exactly what.
You go to your bookshelves (this is before we’re living together, before we do the most faithful act of all, mix our separate books into one library) and you take down a slim volume of Jane Austen, open it and flick through it till you find what you’re looking for.

From there, you say, to there.
I didn’t know there was an earlier Jane Austen than Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. This is from something I’ve never heard of called Jack and Alice. I read it:

{The perfect form, the beautifull face, & elegant manners of Lucy so won on the affections of Alice that when they parted, which was not till after Supper, she assured her that except her Father, Brother, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins & other relations, Lady Williams, Charles Adams & a few dozen more of particular freinds, she loved her better than almost any other person in the world.}

Okay, which bit do you want? I say.
All of it, you say, from The to world, and I’ll expect your tattooist to spell beautiful like Austen does, with two l’s, and friend like the young Austen did, with its i and its e the other way round, f r e i n and d. Or you’ll need to get yourself a new skin because nothing less will do for me if you’re so determined to have a tattoo. Okay?

All of it? I say
Lucky for you the ands are ampersands, you say.

Ali Smith, Artful.

Just so you can see why I’m loving the book.

The Loot (part 2) & A Proper Farewell to 2013

IMG_0778aIt has been fun checking out on what bookish goodness other bloggers have been getting under their Christmas trees this year. And as usual, I got none under mine. Yeah, it’s kinda DIY over here for me, when it comes to books. :p

Hope everyone is spending many happy book-filled hours at their own corner of the world. And as promised, here are the rest of the loot (a.k.a “my Christmas presents to myself”!).

I just love this cover for Ali Smith’s Artful. Isn’t it so very ‘artfully’ done?
Artful is a book about the things art can do, the things art is full of, and the quicksilver nature of all artfulness. It glances off artists and writers from Michelangelo through Dickens, then all the way past postmodernity, exploring every form, from ancient cave painting to 1960s cinema musicals…..  it also reminds readers of how great literature—of Shakespeare, Lawrence, Hopkins, Ovid, Plath, Rilke, and Flaubert—requires them to reorient their line of vision. Nothing—Smith shows her reader—forces such reorientation more than violating conventional boundaries, often in dangerous ways. These most unlecture-like of lectures deliver the thrill of perilous border crossings. 

I was happy to come across a copy of Dodie Smith’s The New Moon with The Old, and although I have yet to read my copy of I Capture The Castle, I am anticipating good things from this one.

Mark Twain once said of Jane Austen, “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” And then there’s George Bernard Shaw on the Bard: “With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare.”  This is just a taste of some of the ‘literary invective’ found compiled in Gary Dexter’s Poison Pens. Here’s one by Samuel Butler on Thomas Carlyle which I find particularly amusing, “Yes it was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs. Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four.” :p

On The Origin of Tepees: Why Some Ideas Spread While Others Go Extinct by Jonnie Hughes, sounded really interesting and fun, so into the bag it went.

Italo Calvino’s Why Read The Classics? is a ‘posthumous collection of thirty-six literary essays that will make any fortunate reader view the old classics in a dazzling new light.’
I love to read essays, and if it happens to be on the subject of books and reading, then all the better!

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings.
“The English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been bitter; often they’ve had more to do with morality, politics, and the values of the age than with language itself. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is essential reading for anyone interested in the contemporary state of the English language, its contested history, and its future.” Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.
I have been aware of this book, and had in fact listened to part of it in audiobook, some time back. The premise of the book, which ‘aimed to tell the history of humanity through the stories of one hundred objects made, used, venerated, or discarded by man’, sounded very intriguing, and since I couldn’t make it to the exhibit at the British Museum where these 100 objects were shown, getting the book would be the next best thing, I guess.

I have been collecting Claire Tomalin’s books over the past few years, being convinced that I would love them (even though I have yet to read one in proper!). So naturally, this copy of her take on Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life had to come home with me.

The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century by Jeremy Black “….. considers not only the standard destinations of France and Italy but also the Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland and the Balkans. The modes of transport are described in detail, along with the range of accommodation, the food and drink, the pleasures and hazards of travel, ranging from sex and sensibility to debt and dysentery, as well as the effects of the French Revolution on the British tourist. Included are extensive quotes from 18th-century tourist correspondence, particularly hitherto uncited manuscript collections, to build up a vivid and frequently amusing picture of travel experience of British aristocrats on the Continent.” Another good one for doing some armchair travelling  à la 18th Century style.

David St John Thomas’s Remote Britain: Landscape, People and Books “…. relishes the ever-changing landscapes of Britain and the people who grow out of them.” It is described as a thinking traveller’s tour of some of Britain’s most out-of-the-way places. I have his earlier volume of Journey Through Britain: Landscape, People and Books, which sounded just as promising as this one, sitting on the shelves waiting to be dipped into. I do intend to get to it, sooner than later.

IMG_0782cThe Maker of Heavenly Trousers by Daniele Vare.
Isn’t that the most heavenly title, ever? I had no idea such a lovely book existed. I have never heard of the writer before, and to find such an exquisite title in the form of a Penguin Modern Classics edition (one of my all time favourite editions), was truly icing on the cake.  So what’s the story about? ‘A foreign bachelor living in Peking’s Chinese quarter finds himself guardian to the young daughter of an Italian railway worker……. Set against the mysterious and turbulent backdrop of Peking with its disparate inhabitants in the early twentieth century, “The Maker of Heavenly Trousers” is a charming, and at times tragic, story of love and family.’

Elaine Showalter’s A Jury of Her Peers: Celebrating American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx is ‘an unprecedented literary landmark: the first comprehensive history of American women writers from 1650 to the present.’ Among the 250 women writers included here are Harriet Beecher Stowe, Dorothy Parker, Flannery O’Connor, Toni Morrison and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Susan Glaspell.

What Caesar Did for My Salad: Not To Mention The Earl’s Sandwich, Pavlova’s Meringue and Other Curious Stories Behind Our Favourite Food by Albert Jack.
… Albert Jack tells the strange tales behind our favourite dishes and drinks and where they come from (not to mention their unusual creators). This book is bursting with fascinating insights, characters and enough stories to entertain a hundred dinner parties.” This should be a fun one!

Nancy Mitford’s Voltaire in Love is an account of the passionate love affair between two brilliant intellects, Voltaire and the physicist Emilie du Chatelet. Their affair is said to be a meeting of both hearts and minds, bringing scandal to the French aristocracy and provoking revolutions both political and scientific with their groundbreaking work in literature, philosophy and physics.

I had been coveting John Baxter’s The Most Beautiful Walk In The World: A Pedestrian In Paris ever since its publication a couple of years ago. Finding the one and only copy of this at the sale was therefore, pure bliss.

IMG_0794bI just love the cover of this Abacus 40th Anniversary Edition of Jane Gardam’s Old Filth. I have also read many good things about Jane Gardam and have been wanting to get to this one for some time. Am really looking forward to reading ‘the book that made the stiff upper lip tremble‘.

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge is a “…. compassionate and discerning exploration of the complex relationship between the server, the served, and the world they lived in, Servants opens a window onto British society from the Edwardian period to the present.” Might be a good one to dip into when Downton Abbey withdrawal symptom sets in.

I was able to also pick up two lovely Penguin English Library Editions of Trollope’s Barsetshire series (Doctor Thorne & The Last Chronicle of Barset) and one copy of  George Gissing’s New Grub Street. I have only read The Warden so far, and would like to continue reading the rest in the series in the right order, eventually, so picking the two Trollopes was the natural thing to do. As for Gissing, I still want to read his The Odd Women first before getting to this one.

Next are the two Penguin Classics I found, Isabelle de Charrière’s The Nobleman and Other Romances and Dickens’ Great Expectations (yes, I am ashamed to admit that I have yet to read this great classic till now). The de Charrière is considered to be “the only available English translation of writings by an Enlightenment-era Dutch aristocrat, writer, composer-and woman.” And her writing is described as ‘not unlike Jane Austen’. That should be quite something to look forward to. Has anyone read her? 

One of my last and most unexpected find from the sale turned out to be Lara Feigel’s The Love Charm of Bombs: Restless Lives in The Second World War. To see why this was such an exciting find, do take a look at Jane’s excellent review of it.

IMG_0783aI also couldn’t resist to splurge, that is if paying RM40 or the equivalent of USD12 for both the lovely coffee table books above – Culinaria Italy and Small Towns and Villages of The World, can even be considered a splurge and not a rather wise investment, *cough*!  The Culinaria Italy is actually much much more than a coffee table book, being generously and profusely illustrated with spectacular photography and abundantly peppered with authentic recipes. This is definitely a treat for both the mind and the palate. And the eyes too, I must say.

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The cover photo on this one had me at ‘hello’. Not just because it is a lovely piece of photography in itself, but more so because it is a scene that I could recognise and relate to. I knew this place.

Alberobello. It was the last stop from my recent trip to Italy this summer just past.

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In case you were wondering how the inside of one of these ‘houses’ (known as ‘trulo’) looks like…..
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It’s really quite cosy, actually.

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Looks like this post is turning into quite a visual feast, after all the bookish talk. Well, since we are at it (and hopefully no one is complaining), I might as well share with you some of my favourite book covers from the entire loot too.

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Did I mention that I really love this cover of Ali Smith’s Artful? I have actually started reading it, and am glad to say that I’m loving what’s between the covers just as much, if not more.

 

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Aren’t these lovely, too?

And with that, I think I had better wrap up this post. But not without first wishing all you a very Happy New Year!

I know I have been quite rubbish at keeping up with this blog for most parts of this year, and my reading has also been plagued with a somewhat stuck-in-a-rut kind of feeling. It has been a very trying year for me in many personal aspects, and I have exhausted much energy in the process of learning to let go of something that has been an important part of my life for the past seven years or so, but has now taken on a different form.

And so, it has been a year of learning, of persevering, of adapting to, and of growing up. I do want to look forward to the new year with renewed hope and refreshed aspirations, though.  

Here’s to 2014 …… may it be our best year yet! 🙂

Breakfast with a Brontë

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I’m not sure which was the better treat – the book or the lovely scones.
What I can say for sure though, is that both the book and scones make a great combination to a delightful morning! 🙂

How delightful it would be to be a governess! To go out into the world; to enter upon a new life; to act for myself; to exercise my unused faculties; to try my unknown powers; to earn my own maintenance, and something to comfort and help my father, mother, and sister, besides exonerating them from the provision of my food and clothing; to show papa what his little Agnes could do; to convince mamma and Mary that I was not quite the helpless, thoughtless being they supposed. And then, how charming to be entrusted with the care and education of children! Whatever others said, I felt I was fully competent to the task: the clear remembrance of my own thoughts in early childhood would be a surer guide than the instructions of the most mature adviser. I had but to turn from my little pupils to myself at their age, and I should know, at once, how to win their confidence and affections: how to waken the contrition of the erring; how to embolden the timid and console the afflicted; how to make Virtue practicable, Instruction desirable, and Religion lovely and comprehensible.

– Delightful task!
To teach the young idea how to shoot!
To train the tender plants, and watch their buds unfolding day by day!

It was a pleasure to be acquainted with the young and hopeful Agnes Grey, who started off so filled with aspirations and good intentions to have a hand in the shaping of young minds, but only to be found facing with the harsh realities of a ‘less than ideal’ world.

I knew the difficulties I had to contend with were great; but I knew (at least I believed) unremitting patience and perseverance could overcome them; and night and morning I implored Divine assistance to this end. But either the children were so incorrigible, the parents so unreasonable, or myself so mistaken in my views, or so unable to carry them out, that my best intentions and most strenuous efforts seemed productive of no better result than sport to the children, dissatisfaction to their parents, and torment to myself.

I am finding myself quite taken up with the voice of young Agnes, and by the time we got to Chapter 3, I can already feel the frustrations she was facing in her position as a governess in the Bloomfield family. And I have to say I have not met a more horrid boy of seven than that of Tom Bloomfield! Anyone who is capable of killing and torturing small creatures without any guilt or remorse (even at such a tender age!) is bound to incur my greatest sense of revulsion.

Anyway, I can’t wait to read further to see how Agnes will continue to fare in her endeavours at the Bloomfields (as well as what happens to horrid kids, if justice is served!) :p