It 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.
The 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.
I 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂