In which I try not to be a spoilsport….

I was surprised to have been the recipient of a fellow blogger’s nomination for the Liebster Award over the last weekend (and have since been squirming in my seat trying to get myself out of the task!) :p

As you would all have probably noticed, I have been steadily and progressively turning into a lazier and lazier blogger by the day, in recent months. I have not been putting up any posts that required much thinking or writing, simply because I don’t seem to find the time and energy to do so lately. And whatever little time and energy that I do seem to have, I always think I should put it to better use, probably for reading rather than for trying to wring out something worthy of a post that probably makes no difference to anyone reading it anyway. Sort of.

That is not to say that I don’t value this blog anymore. I do still love the fact that there is this little space out here that I can call my own. I guess I just need to remind myself of the reason for doing this in the first place. It was meant for pleasure, not duty. I just need to make sure it stays that way. 🙂

And so, back to the Liebster Award thingy, while I was tempted to just decline the nomination and go back into hibernation mode, I really did not relish the idea of being a complete spoilsport, either. So, after the initial struggle of getting into the right frame of mind to take on the task, I decided to (partially) play along. That is, I will participate in the first half of the award, which involves providing 11 facts about myself, and to answering the 11 questions set by Anna, my nominator from ink stains on a reader’s blog (which by the way, is a great place to spend time in, and one I am enjoying very much). However, I’m afraid I won’t be passing on the award to the next 11 nominees, as I do not wish to impose the obligation on anyone. (That is just a nice way of saying that I am actually much too lazy to come up with a set of 11 questions and bloggers to pass them onto!) :p

Anyway, here goes.
The 11 facts about myself:

1. I prefer spending time in the company of books more than with people.

2. Can be considered as an anti-social introvert.

3. Love animals.

4. But am ill at ease with babies and kids.

5. Have a phobia of walking through automatic sliding glass doors (I suffered a nasty concussion once when one of those glass doors closed in on me while I was walking out of a Toy R Us store when I was 7 or 8 yrs old).

6. Cannot stand the smell of perfume or strong fragrances, as they give me headaches and eye sores. Have resorted to holding my breath every time I need to walk through a departmental store where these are found.

7. I feel more comfortable communicating in the written form than in the verbal form, usually.

8. Biggest travel blunder ever : missed getting onto the bus from London to Nottingham 3 TIMES on the same day, during my first trip abroad with friends. (We ended up taking the bus to Manchester instead, after having missed the last bus for the day. Yes, it was shamefully unbelievable.)

9. Favourite ice cream flavour: green tea.

10. Favourite beverage: avocado milk shake.

11. I am unable to roll my tongue and pronounce the letter ‘R’ with the ‘rrrr…..’. :p


And here are the answers to Anna’s questions:

1. Name a piece of literature you consider the best you’ve read so far?

I don’t know if Sarah Water’s Fingersmith can be considered as the best literature I’ve read so far, but it certainly was one of my best reading experiences. (By the way, have you read this, Anna?)
And although I have yet to finish (listening to) Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, it has already doubtless left me impressed enough to know that its place is among the best (along with my two other favourites: Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent, and Isak Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast.)

2. What are the characteristics of your dream home library?

Spacious yet cosy, evokes a warm yet airy feeling. Filled with all manners of books and bookish mementos that are of interest to me. Must have comfortable seating arrangements. Preferably with windows looking out to the sea or mountains.
Something like this, perhaps?

books with sea view
found this on one of The Captive Reader‘s Library Lust editions and just fell in love with it.

3. What are your favorite places for buying books?

The annual Big Bad Wolf Books Sales held over here in recent years where I have managed to get many a great haul like this, this and this. There are also a few smaller scale clearance sales held every now and then which makes for some rather enjoyable hunting grounds too. I do enjoy going online to look for specific titles and getting them from online sellers such as Awesome Books and Better World Books, as well.

4. Should philosophy be taught from elementary school?

Since I never studied philosophy myself, I wouldn’t really know the breadth and scope of it to say how much of it should be taught at what age/ stage. However, if philosophy is essentially the art of thinking, then I supposed it wouldn’t really harm anyone to be taught how to think at an earlier age? Maybe they could get started off by reading Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World 🙂

5. What does it mean to be wise? / What is wisdom?

“How can men be wise? The only way to begin is by reverence for God. For growth in wisdom comes from obeying his laws.”
(Psalm 110:10, The Living Bible)

Or to put it in The New Living Translation version:
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.
(Psalm 110:10)

6. Which literary character feels like a real person to you (as a long known friend, an acquaintance maybe)? Is there any?

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, maybe. At least she seems like a good one to have for a ‘bosom buddy’. 😉

7. Quote one of the passages (from any book of your choice, of course) you had to stop by to reread, to note down or ponder upon?

These things – the straw, the ivy frond, the spider- had had the house all to themselves for many days. They had paid no rent, yet they had made free with the floor, the window, and the walls, during a light and volatile existence. That was the kind of companionship that Lady Slane wanted; she had had enough of bustle, and of competition, and of on set of ambitions writhing to circumvent another. She wanted to merge with the things that drifted into an empty house, though unlike the spider she would weave no webs. She would be content to stir with the breeze and grow green in the light of the sun, and to drift down the passage of years, until death pushed her gently out and shut the door behind her. She wanted nothing but passivity while these outward things worked their will upon her.

(Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent)

8. Best movie based on a book?

I can think of 3 favourites, so let’s make that ‘Best 3 movies based on a book’, shall we?
That will be (in no particular order): Stardust, Forrest Gump & Misery.
Of the three, I have only read (or rather listened to the audiobook for Stardust). I wasn’t even aware that Forrest Gump was based on a book until recently. And I really think I have no need for reading Stephen King’s Misery because I don’t believe it can be better than the movie.

9. What is the thing that fascinates you the most?

The condition of the human heart.
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”
(Jeremiah 17:9, The Message – Bible)

10. Suppose you live in several houses. Is there a book you would want to have in every one of them?

The Bible, I suppose.
And I guess I will be carrying my tablet with me to each of the different houses I go to. That way, I can at least have my virtual library with me in all the houses. 🙂

11. Would you accept the invitation to the Mad Hatter Tea Party?

No, being the anti-social introvert that I am, I do try to avoid parties at all cost.


(Phew… that wasn’t so bad after all, I guess!) 😉

Off to a good start in Amsterdam….

You know you are in for some real bookish serendipity in Amsterdam when the first thing that greets you upon disembarking from the plane, while making your way to collect your luggage, is this stylish yet very functional Airport Library at Schiphol.

The library offers translated Dutch fiction in thirty languages, photo books, photo shows and videos that reflect Dutch culture. One can also listen to the music of Dutch musicians if one is in the mood for it.

Coming across this unique little library so unexpectedly right at the start of the trip was indeed a most welcomed and refreshing sight, especially after a 12 hour long haul flight.

After safely checking into our B&B, it was time to stroll the streets of Amsterdam and savour the pleasing sights of endless canals, bridges, boathouses and bicycles in the city.

Having had the day started at the Airport Library in the morning, it was not unbefitting to decide to end it at the largest public library in Amsterdam (and Europe, for that matter), the Centrale Bibliotheek which is conveniently located just about 5 minutes walk from the Central Station.

The children’s section.
The graphic novels section.
This was one of those moments when I wished I could read Dutch.

All in all, not bad for a first day, wouldn’t you say? 😉

Friday Feature : On The Ever-Growing Collection


Later in my home in Toronto, I put up bookshelves just about everywhere – in bedrooms and kitchen, corridors and bathroom. Even the covered porch had its shelves, so that my children complained that they felt they required a library card to enter their own home. But my books, in spite of any pride of place granted to them, were never satisfied. Detective Writing, housed in the basement bedroom, would suddenly outgrow the space allotted to it and would have to be moved upstairs to one of the corridor walls, displacing French Literature. French Literature would now have to be reluctantly divided into Literature of Quebec, Literature of France and Literature of Other Francophone Countries. I found it highly irritating to have Aime Cesaire, for instance, separated from his friends Eluard and Breton, and to be forced to exile Louis Hemon’s Maria Chapdelaine (Quebec’s national romantic epic) into the company of books by Huysmans and Hugo, just because Hemon happened to have been born in Brittanny and I have no room left in the Quebecois section.

Old books that we have known but not possessed cross our path and invite themselves over. New books try to seduce us daily with tempting titles and tantalizing covers. Families beg to be united: volume XVIII of the Complete Works of Lope de Vega is announced in a catalogue, calling to the other seventeen that sit barely leafed through, on my shelf. How fortunate for Captain Nemo to be able to say, during his twenty-thousand league journey under the sea, that “the world ended for me the day when my Nautilus sank underwater for the first time.  On that day, I bought my last volumes , my last pamphlets, my last periodicals, and since then, it is for me as if humanity no longer thought nor wrote a single word”. But for readers like myself, there are no “last” purchases on this side of the grave.

Alberto Manguel, “The Library at Night”


The will-power necessary to get rid of books must be maintained at all costs. Even if one buys on a modest scale – say, one book a day on an average – they fill room after room with the inevitability of the rising tide. I once visited a house in Blackheath after its owner had died. It was solid books. Shelves had been abandoned years before; in every room narrow lanes ran between books stacked from floor to ceiling, ninety per cent of them utterly inaccessible. In one of the bedrooms there was a narrow space two feet wide round the bed, and there the owner had died, almost entombed in print. This macabre glimpse of the ultimate excesses of bibliomania has always been a warning.

A.N.L. Munby, ‘Floreat bibliomania’ (1952)

Much as most of us will agree with Manguel’s conviction that “there are no last purchases on this side of the grave” when it comes to books, I think it will also do us good to take heed of A.N.L. Munby’s reminder of what unchecked excesses of bibliomania can lead up to. Indeed, the will-power to be willing to get rid of (at least some of) our books, must be maintained at all cost.

How ruthless are you, when it comes to culling your books?

Has anyone been checking out from any of these…..

Stockholm Public Library
Central Public Library, Vancouver
Bristol Central Library, UK
Rijksmuseum Research Library, Amsterdam

These are just a few of the beauties included in the 25 Most Beautiful Public Libraries in The World, according to the people at Flavorpill, a New York based culture guide blog. Incidentally, these are also the same people who gave us the 25 Most Beautiful Bookshops in The World sometime back earlier this year.

So, back to my question at the top. Has anyone here been actually checking out books from any one of these 25 public libraries? Or are any of these to be found anywhere within your easy reach? If your answer is in the affirmative, I do envy you!

As for myself, sadly none of these libraries are in any way within my reach. The only comfort I can take is that at least I have had the pleasure of visiting this one, which happens to be the No.25 on the list. 🙂

Taipei Public Library, Beitou Branch

A 20 minute train ride north of Taipei City will get you there. Beitou is actually a lovely little spa town, famous for its many hot springs. We were there for the hot springs actually, and stumbling upon the lovely library was truly a delightful surprise.  

The Xinbeitou Metro Station, which is within walking distance to the library.
View of the library from the main road.
The library's outer deck. It does look like a ship's deck, especially after the rain and the decks are wet.
The Thermal Pools

Guess that’s one down for me, and 24 to go ‘a-hoping-to-visit-someday’!
What about you? Which ones are you most hoping to visit someday? 😉