Picking up where we left off…..

This really is a literal picking of things up from where they were since my last post on the Big Bad Wolf Box Sale haul. As you can see, the books are still sitting quietly in the box, as pictured (there are two other boxes as well that are not shown), three months down the road from when they were first brought home.  It really is high time to get things moving….


I managed to haul back quite an interesting selection and variety of non-fiction titles from the box sale this year.

Cezanne: A Life by Alex Danchev.
Victor Hugo by Graham Robb.
I have been a fan of Robb’s subject matters and style of writing for some years now, and this looks like another gem to be added to the stack.

Now All Roads Lead To France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis.
Another one that I’m quite looking forward to reading, especially having just recently learnt of the story of his close friendship with Robert Frost, whose words in ‘The Road Not Taken’ became the deciding factor for Thomas to enlist in the army, which sadly led to fatal consequences.

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul (illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton). This looks like a delightful volume, accompanied by some lovely illustrations.

Michelangelo’s Mountain: The Quest for Perfection in the Marble Quarries by Eric Scigliano.
As I’m currently reading (and enjoying) Jonathan Jones’ The Lost Battles: Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Artistic Duel That Defined the Renaissance, I think this will make for some great further reading once I’m done with the Jones.

The Horologicon: A Day’s Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language by Mark Forsyth.
“The Horologicon (or book of hours) contains the most extraordinary words in the English language, arranged according to what hour of the day you might need them….”. I wonder what those words could possibly be.

A couple of C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed and Miracles

Mohsin Hamid seems to be getting quite abit of attention lately, with his Exit West being shortlisted in the Man Booker prize. Just realized that I had brought back one of his works from the sale too, Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York and London.

Barbara Demick’s Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street is another piece of journalistic ‘dispatch’ that I am very interested to be given an insight to. I have been impressed with Demick’s writing (even from the little that I’ve read) ever since coming across her reporting on the lives of ordinary people in North Korea in Nothing To Envy. This looks to be just as good.


The Scientists: A Family Romance by Marco Roth is the memoir of a “….. precocious only child of a doctor and a classical musician, whose world had revolved around house concerts, a private library of literary classics, and discussions of the latest advances in medicine―and one that ended when Marco’s father started to suffer the worst effects of the AIDS virus that had infected him in the early 1980s. [….] it’s a book that grapples with a troubled intellectual and emotional inheritance―the ways in which we learn from our parents, and then learn to see them separately from ourselves.”

Herta Müller’s The Land of Green Plums I’ve heard of this one for some time and was happy to find it at the sale. Has anyone here read it?

The Myth of Wu Tao-tzu by Sven Lindqvist is a meditation on art and its relationship with life. Inspired by the myth of the Chinese artist who was said to have walked right into his own piece of art and disappeared behind its painted gates, Lindqvist takes us on a fascinating journey through his moral awakening as a young man, and his grappling with profound questions of aesthetics.

Estimating Emerson: An Anthology of Criticism from Carlyle to Cavell by David LaRocca.
“Estimating Emerson is the most comprehensive collection yet assembled of the finest minds writing on one of America’s finest minds. It serves as both a resource for easily accessing the abundant and profound commentary on Emerson’s work and as a compendium of exceptional prose to inspire further thought about his contribution to our thinking.” I think I may have struck gold with this find.  🙂

As with this, London: A Literary Anthology.

Also found a couple of fun coffee table books on London, on interior decorating, and a most practical one titled, You Need More Sleep: Advice from CatsDefinitely sound advice to listen to from the ‘experts’ on the subject, I’d say. :p (hahaha….)


Enough of non-fiction for now, let’s get back to some good old fashioned story telling, shall we? To start off, there’s the two lovely editions of Picador Classic that I am very happy to have picked up. Barbara Pym’s Quartet in Autumn and Robert McCrum’s memoir on recovering after a stroke in My Year OffThen there’s the lovely copy of Louisa May Alcott’s A Merry Christmas & other Christmas stories in a beautiful Penguin Christmas Classics edition. This will keep my Trollope’s Christmas at Thompson Hall in good company. 🙂

Next up are the Penguin Modern Classics editions, another favourite of mine! Managed to find Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger, which is one book that has long been on my to-read list, and so naturally I am very happy about the find. Although I am not one who is much into reading plays, finding J. B. Priestley’s much acclaimed An Inspector Calls and other Plays was still nothing short of thrilling. I loved that it came in this edition.

The same can also be said for the two Inspector Maigret that I found, The Flemish House and Night at the Crossroads.


Don’t they look just so alluring?


Three slim volumes by three writers who are known for their ‘minimalist’ style of writing.

Patrick Modiano’s Ring Roads (book 3 of the Occupation Trilogy).
Raymond Carver’s Cathedral.
Cees Nooteboom’s Rituals.

I am generally not a fan of Japanese literature, but I quite like the title of Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Wavesso into the box it went.

I have yet to read any Zola todate, and so finding his Therese Raquin at the sale seemed to be an added incentive to try him soon.

The same goes for Graham Swift, whom I have also yet to read. Earlier this year, I came across a fair few good reviews on his Mothering Sunday, which sort of triggered my interest in checking him out. It’s a timely thing that I found two of his works at the sale. Ever After and Making an Elephant both seems like good starting points.

So, seen anything you like here?





Tuesday Teaser : Metrostop Paris

Since the last Tuesday Teaser that was posted here, I am happy to say that I have been having a very enjoyable time reading Parisians : An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb. The book has managed to weave its historical facts together into what reads like a highly engaging (& entertaining) collection of narrative fiction. While I was reading the book, I came across something which I wanted to make a cross reference to, and recalled having caught a glimpse of it before in my copy of Metrostop Paris : History from the City’s Heart by Gregor Dallas. I had started the book about two years ago perhaps, and had not made it past the first chapter, always thinking of and waiting for the right time to pick it up again.

Now is the time.

The best time to visit Metro stop No.1, Denfert-Rochereau, is in the morning of Paris’s first day at work, which for most people in Paris is on a Tuesday. Except for bankers, nobody in Paris works on Mondays because its citizens have been too busy enjoying themselves over the weekend. Throughout the provinces of France bankers work on Saturdays, but Paris has for the last thousand years always wanted to be different from the provinces – which is why bankers in Paris work on Mondays instead of Saturdays. Civil servants, on the other hand, do not like to work on the first day of the week – which is why all the National Museums, to the annoyance of foreign travellers, are always closed on Tuesdays. So pick a Wednesday. Everything will be open at Denfert-Rochereau on Wednesday.

A visit to the Catacombs of Paris awaits; that is, if you do not get lost. The map in the underground is based on a terror-control theory designed to mislead an enemy alien; following those directions will lead you to two locked green doors marked ‘prive’. The two oldest buildings in the square date back to mid-1780s, just when everything happened here at Place Denfert-Rochereau. The only piece of decor is in the architraves below the roof, full of dancing Greek maidens, save the central figure. Who is that? An allegory of Life or Death? This place was once called Hell.

Tuesday Teaser


By the time I reached Paris, the Bastille had disappeared. The map supplied by the tourist agency clearly showed a ‘Place de la Bastille’ in the east of the city, but when I emerged from the Metro at the station called ‘Bastille’, there was nothing to see but an ugly green column. Not even the vestige of a ruin remained. On the base of the column was a date in dirty gold lettering – ‘JUILLET 1830’ – and an inscription praising citizens who had died in the defence of ‘liberte´s publiques’. The French Revolution, I knew, had taken place in 1789. Evidently, this was some other revolution. But if the King and the aristocrats had been guillotined, who had massacred the defenders of liberty in 1830? The monument offered no explanation. Later, an older boy at school told me of yet another revolution, which I had missed by only seven years.

For my birthday, my parents had given me a week’s holiday in Paris. The package included a room in a small hotel near the E´ cole Militaire, some clues to monuments and cheap restaurants, a voucher for a boat-ride on the Seine, and a coupon to be redeemed at the Galeries Lafayette for a free gift. My suitcase contained what seemed an excessive amount of clothing, some emergency provisions, and a second-hand copy of the works of Charles Baudelaire. This was my guide to all the mysteries and indefinable experiences that filled the space between the famous sights. I read the ‘Tableaux parisiens’ and the chapter on ‘L’He´roı¨sme de la vie moderne’: ‘Parisian life is bursting with wonderful, poetic subjects: the miraculous envelops us; we breathe it in like the atmosphere, but we do not see it.’ Deciphering Baudelaire in a cafe´ near the Tour Saint-Jacques, with the rain blurring the faces on the street, dissolving the Gothic stones into misty air, I was quite certain that I could see it.

Graham Robb, Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Think Paris and you may think Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, little cafés, the Seine. But what truly forms the essence of Paris? It would be the Parisians, I guess.

I’ve had this book sitting on the shelf long enough for it to be showing (to my horror!) signs of those awful yellow spots developing on its fine pages. This recent discovery is a wake up call for me to really start paying attention to the stacks of neglected books on the TBR shelves. And they are such good books in there, too. It would definitely be a shame if those yellow spots get to them before I do! Anyway, after reading the opening paragraphs above, I know that this is the book I want to read next. Besides, I think this will also tie in very nicely with my upcoming trip to Paris in September. 😉