Happy New Year, to come…..

First book haul of the year in early March that went missing in transit and never arrived till replacements were despatched in October. Good things come to those that wait, though….and these were well worth waiting for.
Next book haul happened in May when I found these beauties at the hypermarket (after a long dry spell of having found nothing exciting on their bargain tables).

And so, believe it or not, I managed to arrive at December with only 6 books bought for the year. Have not seen the likes of this in the past decade or so.

Somehow, I’ve actually been rather contented with just enjoying the offering I had on my own shelves this past eleven months (well, that as well as those on my Scribd account – I so love Scribd, by the way!)

Of course one particularly bad Wolf saw it as rather ‘unbefitting’ of a self professed book hoarder to end the year with anything less than a bang (or thud!) and so, a Fire Sale was started and thus bad begins. :p

Haul from 1st trip to the sale.

Bounty from 2nd trip to the sale.

This was not found to be in the best of shapes externally (the internal contents were intact, though) but even if it was in tatters I would still have brought it home, I think.
Final haul from the sale (and for the year).

Not a bad way to ring out the year, I suppose. Yes, there is much to be thankful for.

Personally, I was hit unexpectedly by some bleak and discouraging news during a recent medical follow up just the week before Christmas, and it had put a damper on my spirits. But God has been faithful and good, and while not everything is completely out of the woods yet, I can thankfully at this moment say, it is well with my soul.

Wishing all of you a blessed new year, and may you find much hope and light in the days to come! God bless….

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28

The end of a journey.

I have often had the feeling that, despite our common heritage and our present-day contracts, Europe as it was in spring 1914 exhibited a greater cultural unity than it does today, more than ninety years later. Then, a worker in Warsaw led more or less the same life as a worker in Brussels, and the same went for a teacher in Berlin or in Prague, a shopkeeper in Budapest or in Amsterdam.

Our common disaster can be summarised briefly. Around 1900 there was a tree and an apple, and everyone ate of it. At the heart of Europe lay a young, unstable nation that did not recognise its own destructive potential. Two hellish wars followed, and we all experienced them in our own way. After that, for the East, began four deadly decades, while for Western Europe the gates opened onto a paradise of mopeds, electric mixers, cars and televisions. Close to the end of the century, the Wall fell, but for millions of Eastern Europeans hard times arrived again, the years of humiliated men, frightened women and broken families. At the same time, the West was celebrating the boom of the 1990s, without realising what their Central and Eastern European kin were suffering. Immigrants from other cultures came and went, closed societies were broken open, there arose a new set of dynamics with new tensions. In short, we still have a great deal to tell each other and a great deal to explain, and all that has yet to begin.

Geert Mak, ‘In Europe’.

Took me a little more than a decade to finally get through a century. But what a privilege it was to have been able to travel along, with Geert Mak leading the way. 

And I had long since gone on to acquire all his other works, even while I had yet to complete my journey with this tome, simply because I find his tone and style to be so readable and enjoyable, despite the heavy subject.

This was also actually one of the first few books I had bought from my very first trip to the Big Bad Wolf Books Sale, right at the very beginning, in their early days. Spotting this volume among the random titles on the table back then, was for me, an early indication as to the quality of this newcomer to the book sale scene. 

And sure enough, they didn’t disappoint. ūüôā

Neither did Mak.  

This is a highly recommended piece of work, worthy of its weight, in every sense of the word.  

2020 : How the year has been for me

[source]
 

 

What a year this has been!

While nothing went quite the way we thought it would have panned out at the onset of the year, there was (and still is) much to be thankful for. 

Things could have been worse, and is indeed worse, for so many, and I can only thank God for having kept me and mine, well. 

And that I could still take delight and comfort, refuge and shelter, in these little joys…..

  • Some minor ‘shelf improvements’ around the house.
Very pleased with this new column. And so much shelf space freed up! ūüėÄ

 

Another little tweak given to put some books onto the TV console in the living room.

 

  • On one of the occasions before the days of ‘lockdown’, I chanced upon this interesting sight at a cafe and tried my best to zoom in on the book title, without looking like a stalker. :p
After more editing and filtering, managed to finally make out that it’s a Vintage Classics edition of a Haruki Murakami, and I could rest easy finally. Anyone here does this sort of stuff too? :p
  • Some reorganizing of the shelves/ stacks.
Decided to dismantle these bedside stacks to see what’s hiding in there, during the initial weeks of lockdown.
 
Took me forever to get anything organized, as I was too busy flipping through titles that have been hidden from sight (or reach) for so long. :p
 
Things got really unruly, like weeds, all over the place.
And still I was reluctant to pile them back into stacks before spending more time going through them leisurely. Managed to just clear out a pathway, though….
 
Ground zero.

 

The only thing to show for, after weeks of disarray.

 

  • Hitting a speed bump.
Everything came to a halt (books and reading, included) in the months of May – July, when my health hit a speed bump and I had to undergo surgery and thereafter, weeks of medication, follow ups, and medical leave.¬† It wasn’t an easy period for sure, but by God’s grace, the good that came out of it, did outweigh the bad.¬†
  • Discovered the convenience and joy in using e-hailing services and online food delivery orders, as a result of the above circumstances. (It used to be me, providing such services to the family :p)¬†

 

  • Book hauls & gifts (though far and few between, but came they did).

 

Made good of some exceptionally deep discounts from Book Depository, in the early quarter of the year and got these beauties in one of my most loved editions.

 

 
Fast forward to the last quarter of the year, and these came.

 

My new discovery of the year. Very excited about this one.

 

The other exciting new discovery for me this year – Kapka Kassabova. Don’t you just love the name? Makes me think of Kafka and bassanova. Strangely not Cassanova, though….

 

The year end Big Bad Wolf Books Sale happened online, this time. A much subdued affair (for me, by all counts) but nevertheless, still something to cheer for. ūüôā The title that you probably can’t make out is The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair, in case you were interested. :p

 

More from the BBW sale. Was most excited and thrilled to find both Janet White’s The Sheep Stell and Witold Rybczynski’s Now I Sit Me Down in the offering. Both had been sitting in my wishlist for quite some time. ūüôā

 

Last bit from the BBW. And they are in my favourite shades. ūüôā

 

And here are my Christmas presents that just arrived yesterday! Isn’t this a beauty?

 

The Ali Smith that I had first gotten acquainted with fifteen years ago was through her short stories. I still think I prefer them to her longer works. Maybe first love really does seem to leave a more lasting impact……

 

And that, was how my year had been for me.

How has it been for you?

“I call it Joy….”

I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.

‚Äē C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons behind one’s lack of restraint when it comes to buying books? :p

At any rate, here are some of the reasons for my recent joy and pleasure. ūüôā

These two pair up rather well, don’t you think?

As with these two….

Happy reading, dear fellow readers!
Wishing all of you a brand new year ahead, filled with all things wonderful.

ūüôā

Dialogue between a bibliophile and a non-bibliophile

 

Non-bibliophile (a.k.a NB friend) : So, how was your trip to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale over the weekend? How many books did you manage to get?
Bibliophile (a.k.a Me) : It was great! But uhm…. I don’t think you would want to know exactly how many books I bought. You’d be much too shocked.
NB friend : Come on, it’s not like I don’t you by now. Try me.
Me : Okay. Around seventy.
NB friend : 17?
Me : 70.
NB friend : Seventy??!!

(~~~~~~ radio silence ~~~~~~)

Me (after the awkward silence) : Told you it would shock you.
NB friend : I didn’t say anything.
Me : Yes, but your disapproving vibes are loud and clear enough. And now, you’ve kinda spoiled my fun.
NB friend : Well then, tell me if you can find one other rational person who would approve of this, and to think that it’s normal behaviour?
Me : But these were such good finds and for them to be priced at just RM6 & RM8 each (the equivalent of around ¬£1.10 & ¬£1.50), I’m sure other fellow bibliophiles would find it hard to resist too! Besides, I value being happy, more than being rational.

(~~~~~ another wave of silence ~~~~~~)

NB friend : I still think that it’s way over the top and you are overdoing it.
Me : And I still say, I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this to be a joy beyond words (or rationale!) :p

 

…… or am I?
What say you, dear readers? Aye or Nay?

– further details and close-ups of these beauties to follow soon. ūüėČ

 

Guess who’s back in town…..

…. no, I don’t mean me. Although, it’s true that I did seem to have disappeared for quite a while too…. :p

 

Yes, it’s the good ol’ Wolf. Or rather, the Big Bad one.

And so, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll have some serious book-hunting business to attend to for now.

But just like the big ol’ Wolf (or The Terminator, if you rather), I’ll be back.

ūüėČ

Am certainly feeding quite well, no worries! ūüėČ

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‚ÄĒto be a part of a process that brings to the worldt something beautiful, good, and true‚ÄĒin 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? ūüôā

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I didn’t try this….. I was only hungry for the books!

The Big Bad Wolf Box Sale: Box the First

BBW Box 1a (2016)

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.

BBW Box 1 (2016)

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. ūüôā

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 Lor√°nt 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‚Äēone per century‚ÄēDeutsch 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! ūüôā

 

 

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? ūüėČ

chrismas'14 m1chrismas'14 m2

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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….