Christmas came early…..

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I have been busy, can you tell? And it’s definitely not all related to bookish bliss, unfortunately. How I wish it was, though! Trips to the annual year end Big Bad Wolf Book Sale provided the much needed respite in between the on-going mini crisis at work (brought on after my hard disk crashed sometime towards the end of November). Many months of data were lost as a result of that and to cut a long story short, much time and effort had to be put in to recover what was lost. Time that would otherwise have been well spent reading or bonding with my new books.

Anyway, enough with the gloom, let’s move on to the happier stuff, shall we?
Finding these lovelies to bring home were indeed the little sparks of joy that helped made these dreary days more bearable. Just looking at them is at times therapeutic enough, I find.

Especially if it’s something as beautiful to behold as Jane Mount’s My Ideal Bookshelf. It’s always fun to read about other book lovers’ choice of favourite books and why they matter to them the way they do. And it’s even better when these essays are accompanied by a visual display of beautifully illustrated book spines.

I found a fair few books on travelling (both the conventional and unconventional kind), ranging from those who attempt to travel on foot (in this day and age!) across Europe to Rome in Harry Bucknall’s Like A Tramp, Like A Pilgrim, to those who decide to take “a train journey to the soul of Britain” – Matthew Engel’s Eleven Minutes Late. Then there are those who would cycle all the way home to England from Siberia – Rob Lilwall’s Cycling Home from Siberia: 30,000 miles, 3 years, 1 bicycle, while another’s  yearning for adventure would inspire him to take flight with flocks of snow geese, journeying through thousands of miles to arrive at the Arctic tundra – William Fiennes’ The Snow Geese.

For a more historical flavour of travels in the days gone by, there’s Edmondo de Amicis’ classic Memories of London and Stephen Inwood’s Historic London: An Explorer’s Companion.

I was also able to bring home some really interesting memoirs/ biographies that I’m very excited about. Top off the list is Noreen Riols’ The Secret Ministry of Ag. & Fish: My Life in Churchill’s School for Spies.

It was 1943, just before her eighteenth birthday, Noreen received her call-up papers, and was faced with either working in a munitions factory or joining the Wrens. A typically fashion-conscious young woman, even in wartime, Noreen opted for the Wrens – they had better hats. But when one of her interviewers realized she spoke fluent French, she was directed to a government building on Baker Street. It was SOE headquarters, where she was immediately recruited into F-Section, led by Colonel Maurice Buckmaster. From then until the end of the war, Noreen worked with Buckmaster and her fellow operatives to support the French Resistance fighting for the Allied cause. Sworn to secrecy, Noreen told no one that she spent her days meeting agents returning from behind enemy lines, acting as a decoy, passing on messages in tea rooms and picking up codes in crossword puzzles.”

This reminded me of the film The Imitation Game, which I really loved.

Derek Tangye’s first volume of his Minack Chronicles, A Gull on the Roof: Tales from a Cornish Flower Farm has been on my wishlist ever since I knew of it, probably five or six years ago after my first visit to Cornwall, a place I have been longing to go back to ever since. So, until I get to do that, I will just have to ‘revisit’ Cornwall by living vicariously through Tangye’s tales.

I will probably save Elizabeth Jane Howard’s memoir Slipstream for until I have at least read the first volume of her Cazalet chronicles, which I have been meaning to.

A few others that also caught my fancy:

The Jamie Oliver Effect: The Man, the Food, the Revolution by Gilli Smith
In The Dark Room: A Journey in Memory by Brian Dillon
Underneath the Lemon Tree: A Memoir of Depression and Recovery by Mark Rice-Oxley
The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon

And for something really unusual and one of a kind, Philip Connors’ Fire Season.
For nearly a decade, Philip Connors has spent half of each year in a small room at the top of a tower, on top of a mountain, alone in millions of acres of remote American wilderness. His job: to look for wildfires.
Capturing the wonder and grandeur of this most unusual job and place, Fire Season evokes both the eerie pleasure of solitude and the majesty, might and beauty of untamed fire at its wildest.”

How enticing does that sound!

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Patricia Hampl’s Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime – a memoir with an artistic slant.

Dominique Browning’s Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness – I have a copy of her other book, Around the House and In The Garden which I kept meaning to get around to but still have not.

Sara Midda’s A Bowl of Olives “….. is a work of pure enchantment, celebrating food of the seasons, of family, of travel and memory.”
This is a gem to be savoured, no doubt. I was thrilled to chance upon this, having loved her art in In and Out of the Garden, which is just pure delight.

Luisa Weiss’s My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) and Daniel Duane’s How To Cook Like A Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession are two deliciously promising memoirs that I also found at the sale.

I loved the cover of the George Orwell (Keep The Apidistra Flying) so it had to come home with me.

And for something more serious, but very readable (I sampled the prologue), The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World by Greg King.

I was also very happy with the two C. S. Lewis that I found – The Great Divorce and Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. Another interesting discovery was Marcia Moston’s Call of A Coward: The God of Moses and the Middle-Class Housewife. “Moses never wanted to be a leader. Jonah ran away from his missions call. And when Marcia Moston’s husband came home with a call to foreign missions, she was sure God had the wrong number. His call conflicted with her own dreams, demanded credentials she didn’t have, and required courage she couldn’t seem to find. She promised to follow where God led, but she never thought the road would lead to a Mayan village on a Guatemalan mountainside.”

 

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Erwin Raphael McManus’ The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art.
“McManus demonstrates that we all carry within us the essence of an artist. We all need to create—to be a part of a process that brings to the worldt something beautiful, good, and true—in order to allow our souls to come to life. It’s not only the quality of the ingredients we use to build our lives that matters, but the care we bring to the process itself. Just as with baking artisan bread, it’s a process that’s crafted over time. And God is the master artisan of our lives.” This should be good too!

Essay collections are another favourite of mine, and I was glad to have managed to pick these up.

Jonathan Raban’s Driving Home: An American Journey
Richard Rodriguez’s Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography
V.S. Naipaul’s Literary Occasions: Essays

A few more interesting finds :

Tessa Cunningham’s Take Me Home (memoir of a daughter taking care of her 95 year old father).
Joyce Cary’s A House of Children (an autobiographical novel about childhood).
Colm Toibin’s Homage To Barcelona (travel writing by a fine novelist).

And oh, there’s also a Virago Modern Classic that came in the form of Rumer Godden’s Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy (what a lovely title!).

 

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Speaking of lovely titles, Michelle Theall’s Teaching The Cat To Sit and Alexandra Fuller’s Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness definitely got my attention with theirs. These two, together with Charles Timoney’s Pardon My French, Fenton Johnson’s Geography of The Heart, Edmund White’s Fanny: A Fiction, Liza Picard’s Elizabeth’s London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London and Edith Holden’s The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady, were found in another two different book sales, besides the Big Bad Wolf.

Well, where books and book sales are concerned, the more the merrier I’d say!
So…… seen anything here that you fancy so far? 🙂

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I didn’t try this….. I was only hungry for the books!
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The Big Bad Wolf Box Sale: Box the First

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So, this is the sale where you pay for the box and get to stuff it with as many books as you wish, as long as the box can be closed and sealed, flat.

I have to say that I was quite impressed with my own packing skills (hahah!) considering the fact that I managed to squeeze all the above, and the ones below (plus a few thick hardcover volumes of food/ healthcare books that my mum wanted that are not in the photo), into one 32.5cm x 46cm x 20cm box.

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The Willa Cather letters was an unexpected (but utterly delightful!) find. A lovely hardback volume, with a beautiful dust jacket. I have to confess that I have yet to read any of her works, but have read so many good things about her that I am determined to get acquainted soon.

The two pretty volumes of Gerald Durrells (A Zoo In My Luggage; The Aye-Aye and I) are the lesser known titles compared to his popular Corfu trilogy, with The Aye-Aye and I being Durrell’s final adventure.

What made me pick out Evan S. Connell’s Mr Bridge was mainly because I had spotted its Penguin Modern Classics spine, and rare is the occasion where I see one and don’t bring it home. Now I guess I’ll probably have to look out for Mrs Bridge, too. :p

Julian Barnes’ Through the Window: Seventeen Essays (and one short story) looks rather promising as well. “From the deceptiveness of Penelope Fitzgerald to the directness of Hemingway, from Kipling’s view of France to the French view of Kipling, from the many translations of Madame Bovary to the fabulations of Ford Madox Ford, from the National Treasure Status of George Orwell to the despair of Michel Houellebecq, Julian Barnes considers what fiction is, and what it can do. ”

Adding on to my growing pile of ‘armchair gardening’ reads, are Richard Goodman’s French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France and The Roots of My Obsession: Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden. Delicious titles, don’t you think?

Chris West’s fascinating A History of Britain in Thirty Six Postage Stamps sounds like my kind of history book. Although I was never a stamp collector (I was more into coin collecting back then), this looks to be an exquisite volume that holds much appeal. 🙂

Being the Francophile that I am, I was thrilled to discover Lorant Deutsch’s Metronome: A History of Paris from the Underground Up. “Metronome follows Loránt Deutsch, historian and lifelong Francophile, as he goes on a compelling journey through the ages, treating readers to Paris as they’ve never seen it before. Using twenty-one stops of the subway system as focal points―one per century―Deutsch shows, from the underground up, the unique, often violent, and always striking events that shaped one of the world’s most romanticized city. Readers will find out which streets are hiding incredible historical treasures in plain sight; peer into forgotten nooks and crannies of the City of Lights and learn what used to be there; and discover that, however deeply buried, something always remains.”

If all I had managed to find in the sale was just this one book, I think I would still have felt that the trip was well worth it. Vivian Swift’s Le Road Trip: A Traveler’s Journal of Love and France has been on my wishlist ever since I knew of its publication four years ago. I became a fan of her works after chancing upon her first book When Wanderers Cease To Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put, in one of the Big Bad Wolf sales some years ago. Her beautiful illustrations and charming doodlings are a delight to feast upon. Highly recommended!

I was also very happy to bring home the pile of Home and Living coffee table books in the second photo, as these books are usually out of my budget (even during their normal sale), so if ever there was a good time to grab them, it’s during the box sale. And grab them, I did!

All in all, each book in the box had averaged out to just around 1 USD (or less) each. Now, that’s quite a hard bargain to beat, wouldn’t you say? As the sale is still on till the end of this week, I am planning to make another trip or two, and hopefully come back with more goodies to share. Until then…. happy reading, everyone! 🙂

 

 

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas….

chrismas'14 (b1a)Here’s wishing a very merry Christmas, to one and all!

 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

3 John 1:2 (NIV)

And I do believe that books are certainly a big help in keeping one’s soul well.

So, here’s to some good ol’ solid ‘soul food’, what do you say? 😉

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The whole loot that was gotten from the ‘Wolf’, and not Santa….

We should read to give our souls a chance to luxuriate.

Henry Miller

Couldn’t agree more.
Happy reading, everyone! God bless….

And off we go again…..

PopBKS 1aThe world’s biggest book sale (a.k.a The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale) begins today! But before I had even made my first trip to the sale, books have already started rolling in fast and furious! (wouldn’t it be nice if the same can be said for money! :p)

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PopBKS 4aYes, all these came from another unexpected book sale that took place just one week earlier (at even lower prices!) than The Big Bad Wolf one. Although selections were not as extensive, but I’m sure you can see that I had no complaints (nor any trouble in finding some pretty good stuff to come away with!)

Yes, life is good….. at least in the bookish side of things, it is.

Will talk more about these lovelies again soon. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a date with one bad wolf to go to.

See ya! 😉

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!) 😉

A Preview….

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……. of what has just been added to the shelves, and with more to come in the next couple of posts.

This was the bounty from the sales preview I went to last week, and although I am happy to have found these lovelies, I must say I was a little disappointed with the offering this year. The books were not as varied and as interesting (to me, at least) as the ones in previous years. But as usual, I knew better than to stop at preview day. Past experiences have taught me that perseverance might yet prevail. And so I have braved the crowds twice more since then, with the first of the two trips being even more disappointing than the preview. It was only in the third outing to the sales that I could finally feel more excitement in the hunting grounds.

And I am still planning to make yet another couple of trips to the sale before the shutters come down this Sunday. Like I said, perseverance might yet prevail. 😉

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

In less than 48 hours’ time, I will be navigating my way through 3 million books that have been discounted by at least 75% – 95% discounts. And it’s all brand new books at that, too. Plus the sale is going to be open 24 hours non-stop from Day 1 right up to Day 10. So, if you happen to be around the neighbourhood and find yourself having a sudden urge to go book hunting at, say 3 am in the morning, you may by all means do so. Yes, the organizers are thoughtful people, indeed.

You would be right to think that I must be beyond excited at having such exciting prospects for a book lover to look forward to. Oh, and I also forgot to mention that I have received preview passes to the sale, which means I am one of the blessed souls who get to have my paws on the books one day before everyone else in (and out of) town starts to push their way in to the sale.

I really should be a picture of joy, except that I am not.

And it’s because of this very disturbing piece of knowledge that has been brought to my awareness since last week. {Warning: the link opens up to some rather disturbing graphics involving animals}. It has wrenched out every ounce of peace and joy in me ever since learning of it. I am beyond words at how utterly horrified I am, at the inconceivable evil that man can do. Man, who is said to be made in the image of God.

Yes, it is ugly. And we cannot turn a blind eye to it.
Please sign the petition.