I had started the year without any specific reading plans or lists because I knew I was not a good one for keeping to pre-planned plans when it comes to reading. I prefer to do my reading at whim.
So, I thought it was probably futile to have one and was not quite inspired to make any.
But then something changed.
And now, I think I do have one, and it’s one that I am quite excited about and feeling rather determined (or hopeful!) to see it through.
What happened was this.
I started an Instagram account sometime in December, after discovering the delights in being able to feast my eyes on a regular dose of book porn, through the various bookstagrammers’ feed out there. I was actually amazed to find that there are so many talented book lovers (cum photographers) out there who can effortlessly make books look so desirable as objects.
Creating the account was intended to mainly facilitate my ease of accessing to these feeds on a regular basis.
But when the new year started out on an unexpectedly rough note for me, I soon found myself in desperate need for a diversion of sorts.
As it happens, there was a book challenge hosted by some bookstagrammers that was taking place for the month, called the #AtoZbookchallenge, whereby one is to post a photo a day for each of the alphabets, relating to either book titles or themes or authors that goes with the particular alphabet each day.
Preferably, it should be books that are already on one’s existing physical TBR shelves.
I thought that sounded diverting enough.
And that’s how my unplanned reading plans came to be.
Here’s the A to Z of it.
Not sure how long it will take for me to complete this A to Z reading list, being the slow reader that I am. What I do know is that right now, I’m feeling pretty enthusiastic about it, and that’s a good start!
Let’s just hope that I won’t be stuck at ‘D’ for a long, long time…….
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
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.’
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 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‘.
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?
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.
Book-hunting and bookshop browsing is always one of the most ‘looked forward to’ highlights for all my travels. As such, I had noted down some of the bookshops that I wanted to look out for (based on the suggestions gleaned from various sources), before setting off for my recent trip to the Netherlands and Paris. Special thanks to the helpful recommendations from Bundleofbooks for pointing me in the right direction.
This little gem of a bookshop had some real treats hidden down those stairs! If not for having read about this bookshop on Bundleofbooks’ blog, I would surely have missed out on this one. And that means I would not have found my two copies of Monica Dickens (Mariana, One Pair of Hands) and Christopher Isherwood’s memoir Christopher and His Kindfor 2 Euro each. Two other titles which caught my eye but had to be left behind due to luggage constraint issues (as both were in bulky hardcover tomes) were a volume of Isak Dinesen’s Letters From Africa and Boswell’s London Journal. Like I said, who would have thought that a hidden little nook like this could have such treasures within?
And then there are those that had looked so promising as you enter but in the end, you find yourself coming out empty handed.
As abundant though, as the offering was to be found here, somehow I didn’t manage to come away with anything. The ones I had spotted and really wanted (ie: Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art: Letters and a couple of other literary biographies/ diaries) were either too bulky or too costly for my limited constraints. Sigh….
However, all is not lost, as I soon found my way to this :
When I entered the Straat Antiquaren, all I could see were shelves of books in languages that I wasn’t familiar with. As I made my way around the shop, skimming through the foreign titles on the rows of shelves thinking it’ll probably be another round of fruitless browsing, I came to the last row that was facing the walls on the right side of the shop. And voila! I found myself staring at shelves that were packed and stacked with English literature! How thrilling it felt. Although I came away with just two books (Katherine Mansfield: Letters & Journals, and D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book), it was not for the lack of choice but rather due to budget and luggage contraints, as mentioned earlier. Otherwise, I would definitely have taken home with me the complete set of Virginia Woolf’s volumes of letters that were in almost pristine condition…..
Still, I have to say that I am pretty satisfied with the bounty from this trip, which had actually exceeded my expectations, as believe or not, I really wasn’t planning on buying that many books. Just a couple to serve as mementos for this trip, I had thought, would have been good enough. Really.
But I ended up with all these instead.
And oh, I think there’s just a couple more which are not in the picture. But no worries, we’ll come to that when we get to Paris.