Box The Second

BBW Box 2b (2016)a

Here we go again…. un-boxing the bounty from  my second trip to the box sales, which turned out to be no less fruitful than the first, but a lot more relaxed as it happened to be on a weekday.

First up, three more additions to my ‘armchair gardening’ reads.  I was most thrilled to find Anna Pavord’s The Curious Gardener after having read some good things about it. Though I have yet to read her other book that’s sitting on the shelves (The Naming of Names), something tells me that she’s my cup of tea and I won’t regret collecting her works.
Our Lives In Gardens by Joe Eck & Wayne Winterrowd is new to me but I love the title and what it suggests, and the same goes for Clyde Phillip Wachsberger’s Into The Garden With Charles: A Memoir.

The Mark Kulansky and A Card From Angela Carter were picked mainly due of their convenient size for filling up the odd spaces in the box, but it’s fair to say that they do seem to have something interesting to offer between those slim covers too.

The Irene Nemirovsky biography by French biographers Philipponnat and Lienhardt looks likely to be another promising read. “This book elegantly balances her life and the work, painting a portrait (if at some distance) of a spirited young asthmatic writer, daughter, wife, and mother.” I wonder if I should read Suite Francaise first before starting on this.

I was glad to be able to finally get my hands on The Joy of Eating: The Virago Book of Food, after finding a copy of The Joy of Shopping at the sales some years ago. “Beatrix Potter wove one of her most malicious tales around the roly-poly pudding. Colette counted the nuts she would pick before falling asleep in the French countryside. Dorothy Wordsworth noted her pie-making sessions in her diary and Anne Frank observed the eating habits of her companions in hiding. Food is a constant in our lives, and it has always been a basic ingredient of women’s writing—in household books, cookbooks, diaries, letters, and fiction. In this anthology concentrating on international food writing by women, indulge your appetite with such diverse writers as Edwidge Danticat, Barbara Pym, and J. K. Rowling.” Sounds fun!

Next, is a beautiful hardback copy of Marilynne Robinson’s Lila. I seem to be collecting Robinson’s work based on the strength of the good reviews I’ve read but have not actually read any of it for myself yet. Should really rectify that soon.

Witold Rybczynski’s City Life is completely unfamiliar to me but I am curious to find out more after reading the blurb. “Witold Rybczynski looks at what we want from cities, how they have evolved, and what accounts for their unique identities. In this vivid description of everything from the early colonial settlements to the advent of the skyscraper to the changes wrought by the automobile, the telephone, the airplane, and telecommuting, Rybczynski reveals how our urban spaces have been shaped by the landscapes and lifestyles of the New World.”

Thoreau is another writer I really want to get acquainted with. A person who can find such contentment and pleasure in solitude and quietness holds great appeal for me, and so finding a copy of the Penguin Nature Library edition of his Cape Cod was a much welcomed sight.

The slim volume of Trollope’s biography by Graham Handley was yet another good choice for acting as a box filler.

Blessings for the Evening by Susie Larson makes for a great gift book. It’s filled with pages of beautiful photography of landscape, nature and animals combined with encouraging Biblical scriptures meant to be read as one prepares to wind down and retire for the night, reflecting on the day gone by with thankfulness.

The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink edited by Kevin Young.
Poetry is said to feed the soul, each poem a delicious morsel. When read aloud, the best poems provide a particular joy for the mouth. Poems about food make these satisfactions explicit and complete.” Some of the poets whose works can be found in this collection are Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Frost, Seamus Heaney, Adrienne Rich, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath and W.B Yeats, among a host of others.

BBW Box 2a (2016)

Next comes the pile of architecture, food and design coffee table books. Finding Peter May’s beautifully photographed Hebrides, was a real bonus. The breathtaking landscapes that serve as the background to his Lewis Trilogy are a real visual treat.

A Table in The Tarn: Living, Eating and Cooking in Rural France by Orlando Murrin, a former journalist and cook who gave up his life in London to open a gourmet bed and breakfast with his partner in southwestern France. The premise for this has certainly whet my appetite for more.

And I had no idea that stone could be so interesting a subject until I came across Dan Snow’s Listening to Stone and In the Company of Stone: The Art of the Stone Wall. It’s an ancient skill–building with only what the earth provides. No mortar, no nails, nothing to hold his creations together except gravity, an invisible glue he can sense in the stones’ “conversations” of squeaks and rumbles. 

BBW Box 2c (2016)

In a voice as expressive as Annie Dillard’s and as informed as John McPhee’s, Snow demonstrates astonishing range as he touches on such subjects as geology, philosophy, and community. We learn that stone’s grace comes from its unique characteristics—its capacity to give, its surprising fluidity, its ability to demand respect, and its role as a steadying force in nature. In these fast-paced times, Snow’s life’s work offers an antidote: the luxury of patience, the bounty and quietude of nature, the satisfaction of sweat. “I work with stone,” he ultimately tells us, “because stone is so much work.”

The luxury of patience……. hmmm, I think we could definitely use some of that too when it comes to dealing with our never-ending, ever-growing stacks of unread books! :p


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? 🙂

Footprints in Provence

Charming Roussillon.

It’s been rather quiet here for the past few weeks if anyone has noticed, but thankfully this time there’s a happy reason behind it. 🙂

Yes, I have gone a travelling and now am back, with photos to share.


I had the pleasure of exploring the south of France (Provence and the Cote d’Azur) for the first nine days of my trip, and then moved on to the north (Normandy and abit of Paris) for the remaining five days. Two weeks flew by faster than I could have imagined, and before I knew it, here I am again….. back home!

Pretty as a picture, eh?




Les Baux-de-Provence.
The view magnificent view from across Gordes.
The Abbaye de Senanque, one of the most photographed sights in Provence, with its fields of lavender surrounding it. How it would look like before the harvest.



We stayed a night at this lovely secluded guest house in Cereste.


The adorable one-eyed furry friend I made acquaintance with at the guest house.
Which made it all the harder when it was time to go…. sigh.





Tuesday Teaser: Olivia

Olivia (french)

I have occupied this idle, empty winter with writing a story. It has been written to please myself, without thought of my own vanity or modesty, without regard for other people’s feelings, without considering whether I shock or hurt the living, without scrupling to speak of the dead.
The world, I know, is changing. I am not indifferent to the revolution that has caught us in its mighty skirts, to the enormity of the flood that is threatening to submerge us. But what could I do? In the welter of the surrounding storm, I have taken refuge for a moment on this little raft, constructed with the salvage of my memory. I have tried to steer it into that calm haven of art in which I still believe. I have tried to avoid some of the rocks and sandbanks that guard its entrance.
This account of what happened to me during a year that I spent at school in France seems to me to fall into the shape of a story—a short, simple one, with two or three characters and a very few episodes. It is informed with a single motive, tends to a single end, moves quickly and undeviatingly to a final catastrophe. Its truth has been filtered, transposed, and, maybe, superficially altered, as is inevitably the case with all autobiographies. I have condensed into a few score of pages the history of a whole year when life was, if not at its fullest, at any rate at its most poignant—that year when every vital experience was the first, or, if you Freudians object, the year when I first became conscious of myself, of love and pleasure, of death and pain, and when every reaction to them was as unexpected, as amazing, as involuntary as the experience itself.

Dorothy Strachey, ‘Olivia: A Novel’ (1949)

Any coming of age novel that is autobiographical in nature and told in the first person’s narrative with a French finishing school outside of Paris just before the Great War as its backdrop, is sure to pique my interest.

Dorothy Strachey, sister to the more well known Lytton Strachey, dedicated this (her only novel, written originally in French in 1933) to Virginia Woolf when it was finally published in English by the Hogarth Press in 1949 to much acclaim. Even Colette had her hand in the writing of the screenplay for the 1951 film adaptation of the book. I must say that I am rather surprised that I had not heard of this piece of work before, and had only stumbled upon it by chance while searching for something else entirely. Better late than never, I guess.

So, has anyone else read this or would this happen to be as interesting a discovery for you, as it was for me?

Not feeling so guilty now….

Sep'13 books

Since it has been made quite clear to us that there’s nothing much we can do about our incurable book-buying patterns, I feel less guilty about showing what just came in from the cold. (Yes, I do think that buying books from stock clearance sales is a form of book rescue.)

The Land of Spices – Kate O’Brien
I know nothing about this writer’s work but I was hooked after reading the blurb at the back of the book.
Set within the austere world of an Irish convent, 1941’s Land of Spices matches Helen, a Mother Superior feeling stymied by her monastic existence, with Anna Murphy, a bright young girl on the cusp of experiencing what promises to be a full, happy life. Although their destinies lie along separate paths, the two are pulled toward each other.
I am somehow reminded of Antonia White’s Frost in May, which I loved. This is also a Virago by the way, and the lovely cover photo gave it the final push.

Rebecca and Rowena – W. M. Thackeray
This one I had picked mainly because it was a Hesperus Classics. I just love those lovely French flaps in these pretty editions. Since I have had thoughts of wanting to try and read Thackeray’s Vanity Fair at some point in time but have always been daunted by the sheer bulk of it, I think this short novella would be good place to test the waters between Thackeray’s writing and my taste for it.
A hero is much too valuable a gentleman to be put upon the retired list in the prime and vigour of his youth; and I wish to know what lady among us would like to be put on the shelf, and thought no longer interesting, because she has a family growing up, and is four or five and thirty years of age?
Now, that’s a rather charming sentence to get the ball rolling! And it looks to be rolling in Mr Thackeray’s favour. 😉

A Life Worth Living – Joseph Prince
I’ve always enjoyed and learned much from listening to and reading Pastor Joseph Prince’s sermons and devotionals. His fresh and revelatory ways of bringing the Bible and the message of God’s grace to life has been invaluable to my own growth and walk with God in recent years. If you are looking for something that is liberating, inspiring and empowering, I highly recommend that you give this (as well as his other books and messages which can be found on Youtube) a try!

Mediterranean Summer: A Season of France’s Cote d’Azur and Italy’s Costa Bella – David Shalleck with Erol Munuz
Having just recently returned from a trip to the lovely south Italian coast myself, this book which tells of the adventures of a young chef hired by a super rich Italian couple aboard their yacht ‘Serenity’ one summer, looks simply too delicious to resist. Reading it will probably help to transport me back to those lovely (but sadly all too few!) summer days spent along the Amalfi Coast this past summer.

Who Was The Man Behind The Iron Mask – Hugh Ross Williamson
This seemed like a fun book to dip into for attempted answers to some of the enigmas found in English history. While it may or may not be historically accurate, no harm having a little fun with these “Historical Whodunits”. Here’s a sample of some of the contents: ‘The Princes in the Tower’, ‘The Parentage of Queen Elizabeth I’, ‘The Gowrie Conspiracy’, ‘The Poisoning of King James I’, and ‘The Wives of King George IV’.

So, that’s the loot for this round. Anyone familiar with any of them?

More New Acquisitions for February

Just three more, that’s all. But what a delightful trio it was! Again, these were gotten at unbeatable prices and in pristine condition. All three were such unexpected gems lying there among the sea of bargain books that I happened to chance upon. Finding them brought great delight and I am so excited to share this bounty with all of you! 🙂

Flight to Arras by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I fell in love with Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince when I first listened to the theatrical reading of the book about four or five years ago. It has since then become one of my all time favourite listening experiences ever. I never really went on to reading the book, nor searching out Saint-Exupery’s other works. Only recently after reading a blogger’s review on one of his other book Wind, Sand and Stars (a book recording his miraculous survival after crashing into the Libyan desert in 1935), was I more aware of the existence of his other works. And they sound like something I would really like to seek out for from here on. So you can just imagine my delight when I found this unexpected lovely sleek Penguin copy of Flight to Arras.
At the outbreak of the Second World War during the summer of 1940, Saint-Exupery had flew in a reconnaissance squadron from Orly over Nazi-occupied France to Arras. Though the mission was a pointless one, as the French surrender was only weeks away, it was still so dangerous that he was not expected to survive it. This book records that journey and his eventual safe return. It is also a profound and passionate meditation on mortality and war. I found it rather saddening though, to learn that in just over four years after the miraculous journey recorded here, Saint-Exupery’ plane was found to be shot down over the Mediterranean sea by German fighters, and his body never found.

The Violins of Saint-Jacques by Patrick Leigh Fermor
I have actually been on the lookout for PLF’s A Time of Gifts ever since reading about it on Danielle’s blog about a year ago. My interest in him grew when I found out about his long time friendship and correspondence with the Duchess Deborah Devonshire and have since gotten a copy of their collected letters In Tearing Haste, which I am much looking forward to read. Finding this little book (only 140 pages) is the perfect opportunity for me to sample a taste of his writing style, as I continue to hunt down his other more significant works.
This one tells of an English traveller’s meeting with an enigmatic elderly Frenchwoman on an Aegean island during one summer. He is captivated by a painting she owns of a busy Caribbean port overlooked by a volcano, and in time she shares the story of her youth there in the early twentieth century. It is said to be a tale of romantic intrigue and decadence amongst the descendants of slaves and a fading French aristocracy. Sounds interesting enough. Let’s see how it reads on. 😉

The Heptameron by Marguerite de Navarre
Of all my three lovely finds yesterday, THIS was to be the most surprising and thrilling catch of the day for me! Not only is the writer completely foreign to me (and I don’t just say this because she is French), it was also a book which I had never even heard of before. But what an exciting and fun premise the book is set upon!  Check this out.

They had all prepared their stories , and could hardly wait to tell them.

In the early 1500s five men and five women find themselves trapped by floods and compelled to take refuge in an abbey high in the Pyrenees. When told they must wait days for a bridge to be repaired, they are inspired – by recalling Boccaccio’s Decameron – to pass the time in a cultured manner by each telling a story every day. The stories, however, soon degenerate into a verbal battle between the sexes, as the characters weave tales of corrupt friars, adulterous noblemen and deceitful wives. From the cynical Saffredent to the young idealist Dagoucin or the spirited Parlamente – believed to express De Navarre’s own views – The Heptameron provides a fascinating insight into the minds and passions of the nobility of sixteenth century France.

Doesn’t this book sound like an absolutely fun ride to go on? I can’t wait to be transported back to sixteenth century France with this group of noble Frenchmen & women, and be among the audience to their stories. 😉
The books consists of a collection of some seventy stories spread over a span of eight days, each day with a different theme. Do take a look at the summary of the interesting daily themes :

First Day – A Collection of Low Tricks Played by Women on Men, and by Men on Women.

Second Day – On Which is Discussed All Manner of Thoughts, at the Pleasure of the Storytellers.

Third Day – Of Ladies Who Have Goodness and Purity in Love and of the Hypocrisy and Wickedness of Monks.

Fourth Day – Principally of the Virtue and Long-Suffering of Ladies in the Winning Over of Their Husbands, and of the Prudence of Men with Respect To Their Wives for the Preservation of the Honour of Their House and Lineage.

Fifth Day – Of Women and Girls Who Have Held Honour Dearer Than Pleasure, Of Some Who Have Done the Opposite, and Of The Simplicity of Others.

Sixth Day – On The Deceptions Perpetrated By Men on Women, By Women on Men, and by Women on Women, Through Greed, Malice and A Desire for Vengeance.

Seventh Day – Of Those Who Have Acted Contrary To Their Duty or To Their Desires.

Eighth Day – Truthful Accounts of Deeds of Folly, Which May Serve As Lessons To One and All.

Well, that was fun for me, even just to share those few bits with those of you who are reading this.  Hope it was just as fun for you too! 🙂
By the way, just wondering if anyone here has actually read this before? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.