Tuesday Teaser: Memories of London

I was seventeen years old when I made my first journey to London in 1909. I had never until then left my family, where I was as happy as one can be at that age of torment, with a mother and a sister who were ideally companionable. The three of us lived in a state of perpetual enthusiasm for everything that seemed beautiful to us, in whatever domain it might be. Debussy and Maeterlinck were our gods. That year, 1909, had brought us the dazzle of the Ballet Russes.

The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier.

Just started dipping into (& very much enjoying!) this delightful collection of essays by Adrienne Monnier, the lifelong companion and advisor to the legendary Sylvia Beach, founder of The Shakespeare and Co. bookshop in Paris. The bookshop was originally located across the street from Monnier’s Maison des Amis des Livres (literally translated as the ‘house of the friends of books’) on the Left Bank. ūüôā

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‚Äēand 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‚Äēthe ways in which we learn from our parents, and then learn to see them separately from ourselves.”

Herta M√ľller’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.¬†¬†ūüôā

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 Cats.¬†Definitely 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 Off.¬†Then 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. ūüôā

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 Waves,¬†so 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?





Boxes of delight! (Part 1)

I have been so overwhelmed by the amount of treasures that came home with me from this year’s Big Bad Wolf Box Sale that it has taken me forever to get this post up on the blog, simply because I just didn’t know where to begin¬†in sharing the¬†richness of this loot! ūüėÄ

There are so many good finds in there that I am more than excited to show and tell. So, without further ado, here there are:


I found quite a few gems in the nature/ animals section!

I remember having read some good things about the Beatrix Potter biography some time back and was very happy that I also managed to get my hands on a Peter Rabbit box set to bring home with me. As I have never been properly acquainted with Potter and her creations before, they would do well to complement the biography, I think.

Finding a copy of Durrell’s The Corfu Trilogy and The Whispering Land also brought much cheer to the box. ūüôā I recall finding two other of his works at last year’s box sale and they were also in the same edition as the one found this time, so that makes it even better.

I have never heard of The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs by Tristan Gooley but this winner of the 2015 BBC Countryfile Magazine Country Book of the Year looks very promising indeed.

Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines: A Conversation with The Natural World. Unlike the Gooley, I’ve heard much about this one and they are mainly good things, so into the box it went, together with Mister Owita’s Guide To Gardening (by Carol Wall), The Urban Bestiary: Encountering The Everyday Wild (by Lyanda Lynn Haupt) and Over Vales and Hills: The Illustrated Poetry of the Natural World.

A beautiful volume containing an anthology of 100 best loved poems with timeless vintage photographs of landscapes and natural scenes.

Another beautiful find was the Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library.

Natural Histories allows readers a privileged glimpse of these seldom-seen, fully illustrated scientific works. Forty essays from the museum’s top experts in a variety of disciplines enhance each rare tome’s unique qualities and scientific contribution, and three to four illustrations accompany each one. This beautiful book will fascinate natural science and art lovers alike.”


The beauty of natural science revealed.


Just as beautiful without the dust jacket.

As usual, the loot also included a fair few tomes on one of my favourite genres: travel writing.

I was especially happy with the Geert Mak (I actually gave a small squeal of delight, I think!) when I saw the solitary volume among the stacks on the table.¬†In America: Travels with John Steinbeck has been on my wishlist ever since I knew of it. I love Mak’s writing and am currently making slow¬†but steady progress with his In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century.

Bill Barich’s Long Way Home: On The Trail of Steinbeck’s America is another take on the same route & subject matter. It will be interesting to¬†see how these two narratives go together in¬†recounting Steinbeck’s travels.

Gary Kamiya’s Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, “…. is a one-of-a-kind book for a one-of-a-kind city. It’s a love song in 49 chapters to an extraordinary place, taking 49 different sites around the city as points of entry and inspiration-from a seedy intersection in the Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Lands End. Encompassing the city’s Spanish missionary past, a gold rush, a couple of earthquakes, the Beats, the hippies, and the dot-com boom, this book is at once a rambling walking tour, a natural and human history, and a celebration of place itself-a guide to loving any place more faithfully and fully.”
Next to New York, San Francisco (& Seattle) are the cities I would love most to have the chance to visit in the US, someday. Am expecting good things from this one!

The Other Side of The Tiber: Reflections on Time in Italy by Wallis Wilde-Menozzi.
“Beginning her story with a hitchhiking trip to Rome when she was a student in England, she illuminates a passionate, creative, and vocal people who are often confined to stereotypes. Earthquakes and volcanoes; a hundred-year-old man; Siena as a walled city; Keats in Rome; the refugee camp of Manduria; the Slow Food movement; realism in Caravaggio; the concept of good and evil; Mary the Madonna as a subject‚Äēfrom these varied angles, Wilde-Menozzi traces a society skeptical about competition and tolerant of contradiction. Bringing them together in the present, she suggests the compensations of the Italians’ long view of time.” Another one that sounds rather promising.

Howard Norman’s My Famous Evening: Nova Scotia Sojourns, Diaries¬†and Preoccupations, is a book of “selective memories”, combining stories, folklore, memoir, nature, poetry, and expository prose, in its goal to portray the emotional dimensions of the writer’s experience.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic travelogue, Travels with A Donkey in the Cervennes, was picked mainly for its slim size which is a very handy feature to look out for in a box sale. They make for great¬†gap-fillers¬†(no offense to Mr Stevenson, I hope!) :p

I found an unexpected piece of gem in¬†London: A Literary Anthology, a lovely British Library Publishing edition¬†that¬†features “……¬†a wide-ranging collection of poems and scenes from novels that stretch from the 15th century to the present day. They range from Daniel Defoe hymning “the greatest, the finest, the richest city in the world” to Rudyard Kipling declaring impatiently, “I am sick of London town;” from William Makepeace Thackeray moving among “the very greatest circles of the London fashion” to Charles Dickens venturing into an “infernal gulf.” Experience London for the first time with Lord Byron’s Don Juan, and James Berry in his Caribbean gear “beginning in the city.” Plunge into the multi-racial whirlpool described in William Wordsworth’s Prelude, Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album, and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. See the ever-changing city through the eyes of Tobias Smollett, John Galsworthy, and Angela Carter. From well-known texts to others that are less familiar, here is London brought to life through the words of many of the greatest writers in the English language.”
There is much to be savoured from this one, no doubt! ūüôā

Two lovely volumes of illustrated histories of the cat and of man’s best friend.

The Spirit of the Dog and The Elegance of the Cat are two lavishly illustrated volumes that is bound to be treasured by dog lovers and cat lovers alike. Beautiful photography by the award-winning photographer Astrid Harrisson makes these two a real pleasure to behold.

And now, on to¬†the fiction stack…..


I get excited just looking at these pretty spines. What pleasures await! ūüėÄ

First up, the recent Penguin reprints of William Trevor’s backlist. I just love the black and white photos used on these covers. I find the effect to be so very evocative and appealing. Just like an invitation to step into another world,¬†another time…..



Can’t wait to dive in!

As opposed to the beautiful set of¬†Trevors, the¬†copy of Willa Cather’s The Bohemian Girl¬†that I managed to¬†bring home from the sale, has¬†to be one of the ugliest edition I have ever come across! :p ¬†If it was not Cather’s name that was on the cover, I would never have picked it up. Yes, I am a shallow reader who¬†tends to judge a book by its cover, sorry!

Colette’s The Last of Cheri¬†was another one that was picked for its handy size and purpose.

Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond¬†has been on my wishlist for some years now, so spotting it at the sale was a joy. And it was in¬†very pretty edition too. ūüôā

Angela Thirkell’s¬†recent¬†VMC reprints are another set of titles that have been on my wishlist in the last couple of years. I just love the cover designs on all their covers! Pomfret Towers¬†is¬†the first one I have managed to get my hands on, and I am sure it won’t be the last.

Also¬†managed to add¬†two lovely editions of Gabriel Garcia Marquez into the box, and I am especially in love with the cover for¬†his One Hundred Years of Solitude. Hope it’s as good as it looks!


Yet another fabulous find, James Joyce’s Dubliners in the Penguin Classics Deluxe edition. Am so glad it was this that turned up, and not Ulysses! :p

Last but not least,¬†the Centennial Edition of Steinbeck’s masterpiece East of Eden.¬†This had to come home with me even if it had meant the disposing of some other books in the box to make room for it, and ignoring the fact that I already have a perfectly fine copy of it in¬†the Penguin Modern Classics edition!

Blame it on those French flaps and deckle-edged pages.

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‚ÄĒin 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‚ÄĒits 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‚Äôs 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


Bookish Goodness

Time for some long overdue bookish goodness to be shared on this little neglected blog of mine. While my reading may not have been all that ‘robust’ in the past few months, the book buying certainly seems ‘healthy’ enough. :p

Most of these came from a box sale, where I just had to pay for the box and I get to fill it up as best as I could. The average cost of each book came up to be around USD1 or less. Isn’t that a steal? ūüôā

Am really interested in both the John Updike and Will Gompertz books on art criticism. Before this, I only knew of Updike and his Rabbit books which I never did pay much attention to. This book of essays on art seem far more appealing.

Robert D. Kaplan and Rosemary George are both unfamiliar names to me, but with titles such as these, Mediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History & Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia and the Peloponnese and Treading Grapes: Walking Through The Vineyards of Tuscany, I think I wouldn’t mind getting better acquainted with them.

I love the cover of this one. And in my favourite Penguin Classics edition too! ūüôā

Another highlight from the stack was the McCullers. I was most excited with this find, The Mortgaged Heart. Although I have yet to read any of her works, I think I have heard enough of her high praises to be rightly so in anticipating a really good encounter with this one, a collection of her writings that were mostly written before she was nineteen. The fact that her masterpiece (The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter) was published just a few years later when she was only twenty three says much about the quality that can be expected from her teenage writing, I think. By the way, don’t you just love the cover of this one?

IMG_1750aOne can never have too many books about the love of books and the people who collect them. So, of course these two had to come home with me once they were spotted. I am still on the lookout for Basbanes’ classic, A Gentle Madness (love the title!) but for now, Patience & Fortitude will have to do.

IMG_1748aI never knew Sylvia Plath could draw, did you? Well, apparently she did and did quite well too.


IMG_1898aI foresee many pleasurable hours ahead with this haul.



The Loot (part 1)

IMG_0784[1] a

So, the shutters have finally come down on the biggest book sale in the world, and after all the hustling and bustling (and trolley dragging) in the last 10 over days, here is the bounty that was gotten from the many hours of happy book hunting I had.


The Paper Garden: An¬†Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72¬†by Molly Peacock.
This book in itself is an object of beauty.¬†¬†It is a treat¬†just to hold the book and caress¬†its pages¬†while your eyes are being treated to the beautiful illustrations & inspiring story of Mary Delany, the artist who begins her life’s work at the ripe old age of 72, back in the 1770s. Guess there’s still hope for all of us then? :p

Christopher Lloyd’s In My Garden is a¬†compilation of Lloyd’s garden¬†prose collected from¬†his¬†weekly column in the¬†“Country Life” since 1963. Although I am no gardener myself,¬†and do not enjoy any form of physical gardening chores, somehow I seemed to have developed a fascination¬†for reading about¬†them. Strange, I know. Some sort¬†of ‘armchair gardening’ perhaps?

Culinary Pleasures by Nicola Humble¬†“takes a unique look at Britain’s culinary evolution – a journey expressed through the development of its cook books. This remarkably accessible book spans the diverse panorama of British cooking from Mrs. Beeton to nouvelle cuisine concluding with the rise of the celebrity chef and the emergence of cuisine in all its familiar modernity”. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Milan Kundera’s The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts¬†is said to be a thought-provoking yet entertaining essay on the art of the novel.¬†As yet, I have not read any of Kundera’s works and though I still feel a little intimidated,¬†this one¬†does seem like a not-too-bad place to start.

Just by reading the title of Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana would have left me thinking that it’s a fantasy or sci-fi book and not something that would interest me. Who would have thought that it’s actually about a “sixtyish rare-book dealer who lives in Milan, has suffered a loss of memory- he can remember the plot of every book he has ever read, every line of poetry, but he no longer knows his own name, doesn’t recognize his wife or his daughters, and remembers nothing about his parents or his childhood. In an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws to the family home somewhere in the hills between Milan and Turin.There, in the sprawling attic, he searches through boxes of old newspapers, comics, records, photo albums, and adolescent diaries. And so Yambo relives the story of his generation: Mussolini, Catholic education and guilt, Josephine Baker, Flash Gordon, Fred Astaire. His memories run wild, and the life racing before his eyes takes the form of a graphic novel. Yambo struggles through the frames to capture one simple, innocent image: that of his first love.”¬†
Now, I am definitely interested!

Henry James: The Matured Master by Sheldon M. Novick is described as the definitive biography of one of the world’s most gifted but least understood authors. Using hundreds of letters only recently made available and taking a fresh look at primary materials, Novick reveals a man utterly unlike the passive, repressed, and privileged observer painted by other biographers. Henry James is seen anew, as a passionate and engaged man of his times, driven to achieve greatness and fame, drawn to the company of other men, able to write with sensitivity about women as he shared their experiences of love and family responsibility.

The English Lakes: A History¬†by Ian Thompson is a good one for doing some armchair travelling around¬†England’s Lake District.¬†So is The Paris Book: Highlights of A Fascinating City,¬†in which every page is filled with¬†breathtaking images capturing the essence of the city. This is¬†one¬†real treat¬†that is bound to¬†make every Francophile squeal with delight. ūüôā

Carol Drinkwater’s Return To The Olive Farm is part of her series of memoirs¬†recounting her adventures in running an organic farm in Provence, France. I have not read any of her other memoirs yet, though.


Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand (illustrated by Edward Ardizzone) was added into the bag simply because I fell in love with the pretty little edition it came in. And having it illustrated by Edward Ardizzone was probably part of the reason why it looked so pretty.

Another little book on travel – IDEO Eyes Open: London, filled with fresh new inspiring images of the city.

The Queen’s Agent: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England¬†by¬†John Cooper is¬†‘…. a story of secret agents, cryptic codes and ingenious plots, set in a turbulent period of England’s history. It is also the story of a man devoted to his queen, sacrificing his every waking hour to save the threatened English state.’ I’m intrigued.

The Real Jane Austen: A Life In Small Things  by Paula Byrne.
I have another one of her biographies on Evelyn Waugh which I have yet to read (as usual) but somehow know that I will regret if I don’t pick this up as well.¬†It was also the one and only copy I managed to come across in the entire sale. So I guess it’s meant to be.

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle.
‘A new trend in biography is to profile the woman behind the man. In the case of the immensely talented and tragically infamous Oscar Wilde, that woman was the beautiful, intelligent, and forward-thinking Constance Lloyd Wilde.’ I have not heard of Constance Lloyd Wilde before, so I thought this¬†would be¬†a good opportunity to read her story. Has anyone¬†here read this yet?


A White’s Fine Edition of Sherlock Holmes: His Greatest Cases¬†by Arthur Conan Doyle.
The reason for this purchase is mainly because it was ridiculously low priced. Only at RM8 (roughly at USD2.40?), the same price as all those other paperbacks I got from the sale. The acid-free pages also sounded very good, as it is rather hard trying to keep the pages of books from developing those dreaded yellow spots over time, due to the humid climate over here. I wonder if acid-free papers will help with that. I hope it does.


H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to An Experiment in Autobiography by H.G. Wells
I am not into futuristic, sci-fi books and so have never felt compelled to¬†read any¬†H.G. Wells so far.¬†‘I was never a great amorist,’ wrote H. G. Wells in his Experiment in Autobiography in 1934, ‘though I have loved several people very deeply.’ This,¬†however, I am very interested to read.

Death and The Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart by Chris Skidmore.
I got interested in this one because I read a review saying that it reads like an Agatha Christie mystery. Chris Skidmore takes a fresh look at the familiar story of a queen with the stomach of a man, steadfastly refusing to marry for the sake of her realm, and reveals a very different picture: of a vulnerable young woman, in love with her suitor, Robert Dudley.

I have been collecting several of Jan Morris’s books on travel writing, so it only makes sense to add this one to the stacks as well – Coast to Coast: A Journey Across 1950s America.

Next is a slim volume of Monet (Life and Times) by Matthias Arnold, followed by a Vintage Classics edition of Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day. I have so far only read one complete novel of Woolf’s,¬†which is¬†Mrs Dalloway,¬†but have been¬†collecting quite a few of her other novels, essays, letters and diaries. This one¬†is going¬†to¬†feel right¬†at¬†home¬†with the rest of them, no worries.¬†

Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition¬†edited by¬†Hemingway’s grandson, Sean Hemingway,¬†is¬†an edition¬†which claims to¬†‘present the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.’ While some are of the opinion that the original version is better than this ‘restored’ edition, the¬†real plus points for getting this¬†restored edition¬†would be¬†the inclusion of new, previously unpublished chapters included after the main text, called “Additional Paris Sketches.”

Some time last year, I had listened to the audiobook of David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris,¬†and loved it. The story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, hungry to learn and to excel in their work,¬†is so skillfully told, and with such vivid details that the Paris¬†of the 19th century, is brought to life within these pages. Many of the details and stories in the book have slipped me by, especially since I had only caught them by ear in the first instance, so acquiring a copy of this seemed like the¬†only sensible thing to do. This is really one highly readable piece of history writing, and I can’t recommend it¬†enough.

And with that, I think I should end the post for this first part of the loot. Too much of a good thing might end up being not so good a thing, although I don’t think¬†this should¬†apply to books. :p

Anyway, what I have just shared here are¬†the¬†books I picked up¬†on the first three trips I¬†made to the sale. I must say that the final two days of the sale were even more fun! So, stay tuned. ūüėČ

A bookish interlude….


Thought I’d take a break from my Italian photos indulgence streak¬†and share something more bookish instead. Besides, I am really excited about this latest¬†stash of bookish goodness that has just joined the stacks and just can’t wait to talk about them! ūüôā And¬†just for the record…. I didn’t buy any books from my trip this time (how did that happen?!),¬†so all these books here can probably be considered as quite, quite necessary in being part of¬†the remedy for my¬†‘post holiday blues’. (There’s just no shortage of excuses for a book buying addict, is there?)¬†:p

Anyway, my excitement for these books have more than overridden any guilt I may have for yet adding more to the numbers of TBR on my shelves and floors. So, here goes :

Memoirs of A Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir.
I have not read anything by de Beauvoir before and only knew that she was the author of an important book (The Second Sex) and that she was married to Jean-Paul Sartre. And I can’t even recall right now what it was that actually triggered my attention to this autobiography of hers, but having taken a look at it (by the way, I just love the black and white portrait on the cover, don’t you?) I am really looking forward to getting acquainted with this feisty French feminist.

Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi
I have read many good things about this one and have been keeping a lookout for it ever since.
“This alternately hilarious and melancholy classic of Hungarian literature plumbs the psyches of a husband and wife burdened with a homely daughter.”¬†¬†After sending off their “… unintelligent, unimaginative, unattractive,¬†unmarried and overbearing” daughter to some relatives for a week, the parents get to rekindle their joy in living¬†by eating out at restaurants, reconnecting with old friends, attending the theater etc. etc. “Then, Skylark is back. Is there a world beyond the daily grind and life’s creeping disappointments? Kosztol√°nyi‚Äôs crystalline prose, perfect comic timing, and profound human sympathy conjure up a tantalizing beauty that lies on the far side of the irredeemably ordinary. To that extent, Skylark is nothing less than a magical book.”

William by E.H. Young
This has also been sitting on my wishlist for a long time now. Again, it was through the number of good reviews I had come across around the blogs that made me keep an eye out for this.¬†So I’m rather¬†glad to have gotten a copy of this at last, and¬†in one of those lovely green VMC covers (almost pristine,¬†too!).


And over here, three different¬†books but¬†with¬†similar¬†themes running through them –¬†loneliness,¬†solitude and grief.¬†Books dealing with such themes¬†have always had a special place in my heart. Somehow, I find myself¬†rather drawn to such writings.¬†Probably that has something to do with the¬†fact that¬†I have always considered myself¬†a¬†sort of¬†loner¬†by nature. So it kinda¬†makes sense to want to read about how other loners (not necessarily by choice)¬†deal with the same issues, I guess. I suppose that also helps to explain why I think I can appreciate Anita Brookner’s works,¬†depressing as they may be. :p

The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
It was the title that first caught my attention. I thought it was very¬†unusual to see the words ‘lonely’ and ‘passion’ put together. I knew nothing about the author (although he was¬†shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize), but the storyline did appeal much to me.
“Judith Hearne is an unmarried woman of a certain age who has come down in society. She has few skills and is full of the prejudices and pieties of her genteel Belfast upbringing. But Judith has a secret life. And she is just one heartbreak away from revealing it to the world.” There’s something about unmarried women of a certain age that makes for some rather¬†interesting reading, don’t you think? Okay, maybe it’s just me who’s¬†the pervert here.

The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
This is one that I am sure many of you are familiar with.¬†I¬†see quite a number of rave reviews about it on¬†a good number of blogs around, and¬†it is enough to convince me that this is a book I want to read. Reading this, helped too:”Recounting an epic battle of wills in the claustrophobic confines of the boarding house, Patrick Hamilton‚Äôs The Slaves of Solitude, with a delightfully improbable heroine, is one of the finest and funniest books ever written about the trials of a lonely heart.”
Besides, I rarely pass up on a book with ‘solitude’ in its title. Yeah, so now you know what’s the sure-fire way to sell me a book. ūüėČ

Staying on Alone: Letters by Alice B. Toklas
“Gertrude died this afternoon. I am writing. Dearest love, Alice.”
That is the first letter collected in this volume of letters covering the¬†two decades that Alice Toklas had lived on after the death of her lifelong companion, Gertrude Stein. It has been¬†said that, if letter writing is a lost art, then this volume of letters is a measure of what has been lost. “On tissue thin paper in tiny, often undecipherable hand, Alice Toklas described her daily life in Paris in absorbing detail. Here are shrewd, witty observations on some of the most interesting artists, musicians, and writers of the twentieth century: Thornton Wilder, Carl Van Vechten, Edith Sitwell, Anita Loos, Cecil Beaton, Janet Flanner, Bennett Cerf, among others. There are stories about Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cocteau, and Sartre – all revealing a sharp eye that was as much a part of Alice as her devotion to Gertrude and her passion for recipes and gardening.”
Having just finished reading her short collection of essays¬†“Murder In the Kitchen” , which I had rather enjoyed, I am looking forward to reading more of Toklas’ writing. I quite like her unassuming dry wit and humour which comes through in her straightforward style of writing (as can be seen from the letter above).¬†I have also started reading her¬†memoir “What is Remembered” and it is interesting to read her account of the great San Francisco fire after the 1906 earthquake, as well as her first meetings and walks together with Gertrude Stein in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. I have yet to re-attempt reading any of Stein’s works after having been completely stumped by a short story of hers relating to some cows or something. :p

IMG_0758aMoving on…. The Very Rich Hours of Adrienne Monnier“.
If the name Adrienne Monnier doesn’t seem to ring any bells, maybe it would help¬†if I were to¬†mention Sylvia Beach as well? Monnier’s bookstore and lending library¬†in the Rue de l‚ÄôOdeon in 1920s Paris, was the inspiration and model for Beach to start¬†her own¬†English & American literature bookstore, the Shakespeare & Company, in Paris.¬†¬†“Adrienne Monnier had the modest goal of wanting to share her love of literature with the public. It was the first free-lending library in France, which enabled Monnier to reach people from all walks of life and turn them into readers. The small bookshop-library invited readers to browse through books spilling from the shelves propped against the walls, sit in one of the antique chairs scattered around a large wooden table, and study the many photographs and drawings that hung high and low.”


And in the words of a reviewer of this volume of essays, letters & reviews: “Through the writings, one gets to know Adrienne Monnier and her friends. She is a gourmand, a bookseller, a denizen of Paris, an art lover, a theatre-goer, and a friend. She will provide you with a view of Paris between the World Wars unlike any other.”
I am really looking forward to dipping into this one!¬†I think it truly promises some¬†very “rich hours” of reading, indeed. ūüėČ


I had never heard of the term ‘miniaturist history’ before coming across Gillian Tindall’s works. And it was the cover of her The House by the Thames …. and the people who lived there” that made me¬†pull out the book from the bargain shelves at a local bookstore a couple of years ago. Much later, I¬†picked up another¬†book “The Fields Beneath” because¬†its contents interested me much, without realizing that it was by the same writer. At that time, Tindall’s name had yet to register in me (since I had¬†not read the first book which I had bought mainly for its lovely cover). When I finally made the connection later and realised that this is the kind of genre (miniaturist history)¬†which Tindall is a master of, it was then that I began to actively seek out her books.¬†Never mind the fact that I¬†still have yet to read any of the ones I already owned. Somehow, that¬†has¬†never¬†stopped¬†me from being sure that¬†I have to collect¬†everything else written by¬†a particular writer because I am sure that when¬†I finally get down to reading them,¬†I¬†am bound to love it! Am I the only one who feels this way? ūüôā


And so, the latest addition to join the collection is “The Man Who Drew London“. Isn’t that another one lovely cover?
“The seventeenth-century London Wenceslaus Hollar knew is now largely destroyed or buried. Yet its populous river, its timbered streets, fashionable ladies, old St Paul’s, the devestation of the Fire, the palace of Whitehall and the meadows of Islington live on for us in his etchings. Drawing on numerous sources, Gillian Tindall creates a montage of Hollar’s life and times and of the illustrious lives that touched his. It is a carefully researched factual account, but she has also employed her novelist’s skill to form an intricate whole – a life’s texture which is also an absorbing and occasionally tragic story.”

So, the question now is…. which Tindall should I ‘kindle’¬†first? ūüėČ
Suggestions, anyone?

Anyway, this has been fun!
Talking about books is always fun. I really hope there was at least something from the stack that has managed to pique your interest too, in some way or another.
I like the fun to be mutual. ūüôā¬†

And now if you don’t mind, it’ll be back to those Italian photos again…….

Friday Feature : Sylvia’s Shakespeare


It was great fun getting my little shop ready for the book business. I took the advice of my friends the Wright-Worthings, who had the antique shop Aladdin’s Lamp in the rue des Saints Peres, and covered the rather damp walls with sackcloth. A humpbacked upholsterer did this for me, and was very proud of the fluting with which he finished off the corners. A carpenter put up shelves and made over the windows for the books to be displayed in, and a painter came to do the few feet of shop front. He called it the ‘facade’, and promised it would be as fine when he finished it as that of the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville, his latest triumph. Then a “specialist” came and painted the name “Shakespeare and Company” across the front. That name came to me one night as I lay in bed. My ‘Partner Bill’ as my friend Penny O’Leary called him, was always, I felt, well disposed toward my undertaking; and besides, he was a best seller.

Charles Winzer, a Polish-English friend of Adrienne’s, made the signboard, a portrait of Shakespeare, to be hung outside. Adrienne didn’t approve of this idea, but I wanted it anyway. The signboard hung from a bar above the door. I took it down at night. Once, I forgot it, and it was stolen. Winzer made another, which also disappeared. Adrienne’s sister made a third one, a rather French-looking Shakespeare, which I¬† still have.

Now perhaps some people wouldn’t know what a ‘Bookshop’ is. Well, that’s what the specialist carefully spelled out above the window at the right, opposite the words ‘Lending Library’. I let ‘Bookshop’ remain for a while. It quite described Shakespeare and Company making its debut in bookselling.

The books in my lending library, except for the latest, came from the well-stocked English secondhand bookstores in Paris. They, too, were antiques, some of them far too valuable to be circulated; and if the members of my library hadn’t been so honest, many, instead of a few, of the volumes would soon have been missing from the shelves. The fascinating bookshop near the Bourse, Boiveau and Chevillet, which has disappeared now, was a field of discovery for excavators who were willing to go down into the cellar, holding a lighted candle provided by dear old Monsieur Chevillet himself – what a risk!- and dig up the treasures buried under layers of stuff.

[…..]¬†I went over to London and bought back two trunks full of English books, mostly poetry. [….] On the way to the boat train, I stopped in Cork Street at the little bookshop of the publisher and bookseller Elkin Mathews to order my Yeats, Joyce and Pound. He was sitting in a sort of gallery , with books surging around and creeping up almost to his feet. We had a pleasant talk, and he was quite friendly. I mentioned seeing some drawings by William Blake – if only I could have something of Blake’s in my shop! Thereupon he produced two beautiful original drawings, which he sold to me for a sum that, according to Blake experts who saw them later, was absurdly small.

[….] Another pleasant memory of my time in London was my visit to the Oxford University Press, where Mr. Humphrey Milford himself showed me the largest Bible in the world, made for Queen Victoria. It wasn’t a book you could read in bed.

Sylvia Beach, ‘Shakespeare and Company: Setting Up Shop’

I didn’t know Shakespeare and Co. had started out as a lending library, did you?¬†And I found it fascinating to read of how¬†Ms. Beach had gone about setting up¬†her shop¬†and the¬†kind of people she encountered¬†while sourcing for her¬†book supplies.¬†Also rather¬†interesting to know, that there must have been some really serious Shakespeare fans lurking in Paris at that time,¬†¬†to want to steal those signboard heads of his, although they did leave¬†his French-looking version alone! :p