Unplanned Plans

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.

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A¬†for Ali Smith, one of my favourite writers. I have been collecting a fair few of her works and reading my way through them over the last ten years. Still a couple of unread ones on the shelves, so I guess it’s high time I pick another.

 

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B for Bennett. Arnold Bennett’s masterpiece, ‘The Old Wives’ Tale’ has been sitting on my TBR shelves for long enough. Its time has come, I think.

 

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C for Charlie Connelly. Years ago, I was fascinated with Connelly’s idea for his two travel writing books – ‘And Did Those Feet: Walking Through 2000 Years of British And Irish History’, and ‘Attention All Shipping: A Journey Around The Shipping Forecast’. It’s strange how both these ‘fascinating’ books are still sitting unread on my shelves after all these years. :p

 

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D for Don Quixote. The sheer size of this tome is daunting for sure, but I really do want to have a go at it. Besides, I really love this Harper Perennial edition…. French flaps and deckled edges are my favourite combinations in a book. It also helps that Edith Grossman’s translation is so very readable (from the little that I’ve sampled).

 

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E for E. M. Forster. I had this packed along with me during my trip to Italy three years ago, thinking how good it would be to read this in Florence, where the book is set. Sadly, I ended up with not much reading done, but at least it was great fun setting up this shot with my friend at the hostel we were staying at, in Florence! ūüôā Time to take care of the ‘unfinished business’ this year.

 

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F for Father Brown. G. K. Chesterton’s endearing Father Brown makes for a rather unlikely, but certainly not unlikeable, mystery solving ‘Sherlock’. I love the cover designs and colours of this Penguin Classics set. Am actually in the middle of the red one, The Wisdom of Father Brown, and I can safely say that it’s as good as it looks!

 

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G for Geert Mak. ‘In Europe: Travels through the Twentieth Century’ is one of the books I am quite determined to get read this year. It’s an account about the year long journey Mak took back in 1999, across the European continent in his quest to trace Europe’s twentieth century history, before the world slipped into the twenty-first.

 

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H is for my favourite travel writer, H. V. Morton. Travel writing has always been one of my favourite genres, and not many can do it as good as Morton, I’d say. His writing is evocative of the old world charm and of a bygone era, brought vividly to life for the reader. It’s a pleasure to ‘see’ the world through his lenses.

 

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I is for ‘I Capture The Castle’. I have long heard of the many good things that fellow readers love about this coming of age modern classic, but have somehow still not gotten around to reading it for myself yet. It’s about time I ‘capture this castle’ too!

 

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J is for James. “When a man has neither wife nor mistress and leads a life which is both orderly and prudent, he does not invite the conventional biographical approach. Henry James was such a man. The richness of his life lies in his words and his relationships.” – Miranda Seymour. These lovely Konemann classics should be good enough incentive to finally get me started on some Henry James. Time to get acquainted with the man through his own words, as suggested.

 

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K is for Kate O’Brien. “O’Brien exquisitely evokes the harem atmosphere of (Irish) convent life, the beauty and the silence, the bickering and the cruelties…… If novels can be music, this is a novel with perfect pitch.” ~ Clare Boylan. Having loved Antonia White’s Frost in May (another coming of age novel with a convent school setting) when I read it some years back, I have been meaning to read O’Brien’s ‘The Land of Spices’ for some time now.

 

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L for The Lost Carving: A Journey To The Heart of Making, by master woodcarver, David Esterly. “Awestruck at the sight of a Grinling Gibbons woodcarving masterpiece in a London church, Esterly chose to dedicate his life to the craft – its physical rhythms, intricate beauty, and intellectual demands.” I have been saving this on the TBR shelves, waiting for just the right moment to savour the journey. I think I should wait no more.

 

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M for The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. Having collected a fair few of the sisters’ (Nancy, Diana, Jessica and Deborah) individual memoirs, biographies, correspondences and writings but without having read any in proper yet, maybe this would be a good place to start getting acquainted with this extraordinary family!

 

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N for Nabokov. I have decided that this will be the year I read my first Nabokov. And it’s gonna be a toss between The Luzhin Defense, and Pnin. Probbaly The Luzhin Defense….. am in the mood for some chess, I think. These Penguin Classics editions are my favourites. Such beauties to hold and behold, don’t you think?

 

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O is for Orlando. Once described as ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’, this was Virginia Woolf’s¬† playfully ingenious tribute to her intimate friend and one-time lover, Vita Sackville-West. This has been biding its time on my TBR shelves for some years now. Thanks to this challenge, some of my sadly neglected books are being brought back to the fore!

 

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P is for Pollan. Michael Pollan’s ‘A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams’ tells the inspiring, insightful, and often hilarious story of Pollan’s quest to realize a room of his own – a small, wooden hut in the forest, ‘a shelter for daydreams’ – built with his own admittedly unhandy hands. It not only explores the history and meaning of all human building, but also demonstrates architecture’s unique power to give our bodies, minds and dreams a home in the world….. Don’t we all need a place like that?

 

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Q is for Q’s Legacy, by Helene Hanff. After reading and loving Hanff’s 84, Charring Cross Road some years back, I immediately went about tracking down her other works too, and was more than happy to net this omnibus of hers which holds four of her other memoirs (as well as Charring Cross Road). Q’s Legacy tells of how a library copy of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s series of lectures On The Art of Writing, became the foundation upon which her own writing career took shape. This is a tribute to her mentor whom she had never known except through the printed page.

 

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R for Rainer Maria Rilke. I was thrilled to find these two beautiful hardback Vitalis editions of Rilke’s work at what was once Kafka’s cottage but is now a books and souvenir shop along the Golden Lane in Prague, six years ago. I know I should have brought home a Kafka or two with me instead, but these happened to be in the bargain bin that day….. and I happen to prefer Rilke to Kafka, anyway. :p

 

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S is for Sarton and solitude. “May Sarton’s journal is not only rich in the love of nature, and the love of solitude. It is an honorable confession of the writer’s faults, fears, sadness and disappointments…. This is a beautiful book, wise and warm within its solitude.” ~ Eugenia Thornton. Solitude has always been a subject that is close to my heart. Can’t wait to read this.

 

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T is for A Treasury of Mark Twain. I found this lovely Folio edition in almost pristine condition at a second hand bookshop in Paris five years ago. I’m ashamed to confess that it’s still ‘almost pristine’, sitting patiently on the shelf waiting to be taken out of its slipcase to be read. Will need to rectify that soon!

 

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U is for Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Marriages in Literary London 1910 – 1939. The seven pairs featured in this volume are H.G. & Jane Wells, Vanessa & Clive Campbell, Radclyffe Hall & Una Troubridge, Vera Brittain & George Caitlin, Katherine Mansfield & John Middleton Murry, Ottoline & Phillip Morrell, and Elizabeth von Arnim & John Francis Russell. These couples are said to have triumphantly casted off the inhibitions of the Victorian age while pursuing bohemian ideals of freedom and equality. Time to take a peek at how it’s done back then, I guess.

 

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V is for Van Gogh: The Life, by Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith. This doorstopper of a biography may look daunting, but from what I’ve read (the first two chapters), it is highly readable and a very engaging one, too. I just need to try harder to not let the other books distract and detract me from staying on course! Hoping to also get around to reading some of his letters too.

 

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W is for Words In Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Bishop is one of my favourite poets, and it’s time I start reading one of the many volumes of correspondence I’ve been collecting. Just realized that this photo has another three Ws that can fit the challenge too…… Lucy Worsley’s If Walls Could Talk, Deborah Mitford’s Wait For Me, and a volume of Woolf’s letters. Looks like I’m really spoilt for choice!

 

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X is for Michael Dirda’s Bound To Please: An eXtraordinary One-Volume Literary Education. Yes, I know it’s abit of a cheat but it’s the closest ‘X’ I have on my shelves. :p This lovely collection of essays were responsible for introducing me to many a great writer and their works. Dirda’s enthusiastically persuasive essays made me want to read almost every book that is recommended. A great book to dip into, but a very ‘bad’ one for the TBR shelves!

 

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Y is for Yates. “Richard Yates was acclaimed as one of the most powerful, compassionate and accomplished writers of America’s post-war generation. Whether addressing the smothered desire of suburban housewives, the white-collar despair of office workers or the heartbreak of a single mother with artistic pretensions, Yates ruthlessly examines the hopes and disappointments of ordinary people with empathy and humour.” High praise indeed, but I have to confess that it was mainly the fabulous cover that sold the book to me!

 

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And lastly, Z for Zweig. I have read and loved Stefan Zweig’s short stories and novellas, but have yet to read any of his full length novels in proper. Think I’ll start with this one. “In this haunting yet compassionate reworking of the Cinderella story, Zweig shows us the human cost of the boom and bust of capitalism. The Post Office Girl was completed during the 1930s as Zweig was driven by the Nazis into exile, and was found among his papers after his suicide in 1942.”

 

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…….

ūüôā

And Then There Were ….. More! (final book hauls for the year)

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Bounty from the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales.

When it comes to books, it will¬†only be a ‘more and more’ and never ‘none’ scenario for me, I guess. As with previous years, I wish I had read more and bought less. But¬†as¬†it¬†has been said that anticipation is half the pleasure, I suppose then there’s really no¬†reason or need to feel much regret¬†(or remorse) over this past reading year.

These final book hauls came from two different book sales that took place earlier this month. As compared to previous years, I must say that this time I have shown much more restraint and exercised better control over the buying. See, just one photo to fit it all in. (hah!)

I was more than delighted to find the lovely Penguin Christmas Classics edition of Anthony Trollope’s Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories. This collection makes for the perfect Christmas reading, while being the thing of beauty that it is, to hold and behold.

Another equally satisfying find from the sale came in the form of a Penguin Threads edition of Jane Austen’s Emma.¬†I was hoping to be able to get a copy of it in time to read in conjunction with its¬†200th anniversary celebrations. So, this came at just the right time, and in the exact edition of my choice too! Couldn’t be happier.

A Month in The Country by J. L Carr has long been on my wishlish. I have read many good things about this book and am highly anticipating it.

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These covers had me at hello.

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy.
This is a volume of 24 short stories, including those from an earlier collection titled Love Begins in Winter.¬†“Set in a range of locations, from Cornwall, Wales, and New York to Paris and Rome, these stark and beautiful stories are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, isolation and the power of memory are Van Booy’s themes, and in spare, economical prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity, and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.”

On Looking : About Everything There is to See by Alexandra Horowitz.
I have another book by Horowitz, Inside of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know which I have not yet read, and was surprised to find this one, which despite the misleading picture on the cover, has nothing to do with dogs. Instead, it talks about our inattention to the things around us. It is about attending to the joys of the unattended, the perceived ‘ordinary’ and how to rediscover the ‘extraordinary’ in our ordinary routines. Sounds interesting?

After reading and loving Patrick Gale’s The Cat Sanctuary just a couple of months back, I have been on the lookout for more of his works. And so A Sweet Obscurity was picked solely on the strength of my previous encounter with his work. If I had just gone by the¬†blurb on the back of the book, I would surely have passed it by.

Colm Toibin is an author whom I have been meaning to read,¬†particularly his¬†latest¬†novel,¬†Nora Webster and¬†his much earlier piece, The Master. I managed to find two of his titles, both of which I am unfamiliar with, but am much interested in –¬† The Sign of The Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe and The Story of the Night.

I have read good things about Stella Duffy’s The Room of Lost Things and have been curious to try out her books one of these days. Since ¬†Calender Girl was the only title I came across at the sale, I took a chance with it.

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I really love this cover.
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But I was even more excited to see this ……

The Big New Yorker Book of Cats is an anthology of essays, poetry, fiction and cartoons contributed by a stellar list of writers such as Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Elizabeth Bishop, Roald Dahl, Ted Hughes and Haruki Murakami.  .Defiinitely a good one to dip into every now and then when one is in the mood for all things kitty.

The Picador Book of Journeys on the other hand, is an anthology of writing which challenges that which we define as travel writing. This selection takes us on a fascinating journey of writers and discoverers such as Chekhov, Doris Lessing, Tobias Wolff, Flaubert, Elizabeth David and V.S Naipaul, among others.

Charles Timoney’s An Englishman Aboard: Discovering France in A Rowing Boat offers an unique way of seeing France via travelling by boat along the entire length of the Seine. Sounds like my cup of tea.

Landscape with Figures: Selected Prose Writings by Richard Jefferies.
Richard Jefferies was the most imaginative and least conventional of nineteenth-century observers of the natural world. Trekking across the English countryside, he recorded his responses to everything from the texture of an owl’s feather and ‘noises in the air’ to the grinding hardship of rural labour. This superb selection of his essays and articles shows a writer who is brimming with intense feeling, acutely aware of the land and those who work on it, and often ambivalent about the countryside. Who does it belong to? Is it a place, an experience or a way of life? In these passionate and idiosyncratic writings, almost all our current ideas and concerns about rural life can be found.” I have never heard of Richard Jefferies before but am now interested to get acquainted.

The Missing Ink: How handwriting made us who we are by Philip Hensher.
From the crucial role of handwriting in a child‚Äôs development, to the novels of Dickens and Proust ‚Äď and whether a person‚Äôs writing really reveals their true personality ‚Äď The Missing Ink goes in search of the stories and characters that have shaped our handwriting, and how it in turn has shaped us.” Interesting food for thought, eh?

What There is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell edited by Suzanne Marrs.
Through more than three hundred letters, Marrs brings us the story of a true, deep friendship and homage to the forgotten art of letter writing.”
Although I have only read Maxwell and nothing of Eudora Welty, I am all for books that pay homage to friendship, as well as the art of letter writing.

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Sharon Lovejoy’s A Blessing of Toads: A Gardener’s Guide to Living with Nature is a lovely discovery. Beautiful illustrations accompanying delightful essays on the boundless joys of a country garden. This is a lovely addition to the growing pile of armchair gardening books that I seem to have been steadily acquiring in recent years.

A. W. Tozer’s¬†My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day is a treasure trove of never-before-published teachings from the author of the spiritual classic, The Pursuit of God.

 

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A book that every bibliophile should have.

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Lastly, a coffee table book that every bibliophile should have – Living With Books¬†by Alan Powers. “This is an inspirational book that explores over 150 ways in which books can not only be stored, but made to play a full part in the character of a home, be it large or small, minimalist or full of cluttered charm. Books are among the commonest but most treasured possessions in a home, yet their storage and display is often neglected and not given serious consideration as part of the interior design – something all the more necessary as the functions of home and workplace now often merge.”
Now, this will probably give me a better idea as to how to deal with these new stacks!

Alright, moving on to the next haul….

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The bounty from the other book sale. These were all priced at approximately less than USD1.20 each

First up, Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire¬†by Judith Thurman.
I had no idea what the book was about before picking it up, although the author’s name sounded familiar. Upon closer inspection, I found that this is a volume of essays and profiles written for the New Yorker by the author (and biographer of Isak Dinesen & Colette) on the subjects of human vanity & femininity. Looking forward to this one. And yes, there really is a write up on Cleopatra’s Nose, in case you are interested. ūüėČ

Gentry: Six Hundred Years of a Peculiarly English Class by Adam Nicolson.
Adam Nicolson tells the story of England through the history of fourteen gentry families ‚Äď from the 15th century to the present day. This sparkling work of history reads like a real-life Downton Abbey, as the loves, hatreds and many times of grief of his chosen cast illuminate the grand events of history.”
With BBC’s Downton Abbey having finally drawn to a close, this might not be a bad alternative to consider helping with the possible withdrawal symptoms.

Edward Lear’s The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense¬†seemed like a fun one to bring home.
This delightful collection, the most comprehensive ever compiled of his work, presents all of Lear’s verse and other nonsense writings, including stories, letters, and illustrated alphabets, as well as previously unpublished material.
I used to enjoy writing silly limericks myself when I was much younger, and together with my best friend, we used to call ourselves The Rhyme Slime (doesn’t sound very complimentary, I know :p) so, this really should be my kind of book, I guess.

I also got myself two 3-in-1 volumes of The Adventures of Tintin (Volume 6 & 7), simply because they were such good value for the money. And besides,¬†I really like Snowy the dog. ūüôā

I have long been aware of Philip Roth’s fame¬†but somehow¬†have never found any of his books to be appealing enough to try. And even this one, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories, I was actually first drawn to it by its cover¬†more than anything else. I am happy¬†to find¬†that the stories¬†in this volume at least,¬† do not seem to put me off.¬†Let’s see how well Mr. Roth and I will get along then.

I¬†actually do¬†already own a copy of Virginia Woolf’s Between The Acts¬†but this was a lovely Vintage edition which I find really beautiful, plus it features a Foreword by Jeanette Winterson and an Introduction by Jackie Kay, which¬†were all the more reason to get this copy too.

Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places¬†¬†“…. is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places.”
I am wondering if I should start with this book first or The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot….. any suggestions?

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Christopher Benfey is a new name to me, but I found two of his works in this sale and both appeals to me very much.
A Summer of Hummingbirds: Love, Art, and Scandal in the Intersecting Worlds of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain , Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade.
“At the close of the Civil War, the lives of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Martin Johnson Heade intersected in an intricate map of friendship, family, and romance that marked a milestone in the development of American art and literature. Using the image of a flitting hummingbird as a metaphor for the gossamer strands that connect these larger-than-life personalities, Christopher Benfey re-creates the summer of 1882, the summer when Mabel Louise Todd-the prot√©g√© to the painter Heade-confesses her love for Emily Dickinson’s brother, Austin, and the players suddenly find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Calvinist world of decorum, restraint, and judgment and a new, unconventional world in which nature prevails and freedom is all.”

Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival.
An unforgettable voyage across the reaches of America and the depths of memory, this generational memoir of one incredible family reveals America‚Äôs unique craft tradition. In Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, renowned critic Christopher Benfey shares stories‚ÄĒof his mother‚Äôs upbringing in rural North Carolina among centuries-old folk potteries; of his father‚Äôs escape from Nazi Europe; of his great-aunt and -uncle Josef and Anni Albers, famed Bauhaus artists exiled at Black Mountain College‚ÄĒunearthing an ancestry, and an aesthetic, that is quintessentially American. With the grace of a novelist and the eye of a historian, Benfey threads these stories together into a radiant and mesmerizing harmony.”

The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return by Kenan Trebincevic and Susan Shapiro, is a memoir of a different kind. It tells the tale of a young survivor of the Bosnian War, returning to his homeland after two decades to confront those who betrayed his family. While the subject matter may be rather heavy, the heart of the story is said to be one mesmerizing tale of survival and healing.

Now for something much lighter, but no less thoughtful, Linda Grant’s The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter, the thinking woman’s guide on what to wear.
For centuries, an interest in clothes has been dismissed as the trivial pursuit of vain, empty-headed women. Yet, clothes matter, whether you are interested in fashion or not, because how we choose to dress defines who we are. How we look and what we wear tells a story.”
Hopefully this can help bring about some improvement/ enhancement on my wardrobe, of which my mum is of the opinion of it being a disgrace. :p

Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew by Suzanne Berne. 
Yet another memoir (I do have a fondness for them), and this time it’s about the writer’s attempt at uncovering the woman who was her grandmother.
Every family has a missing person, someone who died young or disappeared, leaving a legacy of loss. Aided by vintage photographs and a box of old keepsakes, Berne sets out to fill in her grandmother‚Äôs silhouette and along the way uncovers her own foothold in American history.”

Christopher Isherwood’s The Sixties – Diaries: 1960-1969.
This second volume of Christopher Isherwood’s remarkable diaries opens on his fifty-sixth birthday, as the fifties give way to the decade of social and sexual revolution. Isherwood takes the reader from the bohemian sunshine of Southern California to a London finally swinging free of post-war gloom, to the racy cosmopolitanism of New York and to the raw Australian outback.
The diaries are crammed with wicked gossip and probing psychological insights about the cultural icons of the time‚ÄĒFrancis Bacon, Richard Burton, Leslie Caron, Marianne Faithfull, David Hockney, Mick Jagger, Hope Lange, W. Somerset Maugham, John Osborne, Vanessa Redgrave, Tony Richardson, David O. Selznick, Igor Stravinsky, Gore Vidal, and many others. But the diaries are most revealing about Isherwood himself‚ÄĒhis fiction (including A Single Man and Down There on a Visit), his film writing, his college teaching, and his affairs of the heart.

As with memoirs and correspondences, diaries are yet another genre that I have a fondness for, as they are probably the most intimate insight we can hope to have of the person behind the writer. I still have his Berlin stories yet to be read, and but have enjoyed A Single Man (the movie version, though).

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Last but not least, this was one of the most promising unexpected finds from the sale – Jessica A. Fox’s Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets: A Real-Life Scottish Fairy Tale.
If it wasn’t for the cover, a book with a title like that would certainly have had my eyes glazing over it. Now we all know how important book covers are…. (as with book titles!) :p
Jessica Fox was living in Hollywood, an ambitious 26-year-old film-maker with a high-stress job at NASA. Working late one night, craving another life, she was seized by a moment of inspiration and tapped ‚Äúsecond hand bookshop Scotland‚ÄĚ into Google. She clicked the first link she saw.
A month later, she arrived 2,000 miles across the Atlantic in Wigtown, on the west coast of Scotland, and knocked on the door of the bookshop she would be living in for the next month . . .”

As it happens, I had just read about the same bookshop in Wigtown that offers travellers a holiday experience of the bookish kind, just a week or so before chancing upon this book.¬†A bookish¬†serendipity of sorts, for me. ūüôā

It’s always¬†a tough choice to decide which books get to be read first (out of all these lovelies), but this time, the choice has been rather easy and timely.

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Am halfway through this, and have been reminded that I really want to read more Trollope in the year to come.

 

And with that, I wish you all the very best in all regards and a very Happy New Year, to be filled with many joyous hours of reading pleasure, and all things dear.

Oh, one last bit of goodness to leave you with before I go….. enjoy! ūüôā

Tuesday Teaser: Olivia

Olivia (french)

I have occupied this idle, empty winter with writing a story. It has been written to please myself, without thought of my own vanity or modesty, without regard for other people’s feelings, without considering whether I shock or hurt the living, without scrupling to speak of the dead.
The world, I know, is changing. I am not indifferent to the revolution that has caught us in its mighty skirts, to the enormity of the flood that is threatening to submerge us. But what could I do? In the welter of the surrounding storm, I have taken refuge for a moment on this little raft, constructed with the salvage of my memory. I have tried to steer it into that calm haven of art in which I still believe. I have tried to avoid some of the rocks and sandbanks that guard its entrance.
This account of what happened to me during a year that I spent at school in France seems to me to fall into the shape of a story‚ÄĒa short, simple one, with two or three characters and a very few episodes. It is informed with a single motive, tends to a single end, moves quickly and undeviatingly to a final catastrophe. Its truth has been filtered, transposed, and, maybe, superficially altered, as is inevitably the case with all autobiographies. I have condensed into a few score of pages the history of a whole year when life was, if not at its fullest, at any rate at its most poignant‚ÄĒthat year when every vital experience was the first, or, if you Freudians object, the year when I first became conscious of myself, of love and pleasure, of death and pain, and when every reaction to them was as unexpected, as amazing, as involuntary as the experience itself.

Dorothy Strachey, ‘Olivia: A Novel’ (1949)

Any coming of age novel¬†that is autobiographical in nature and¬†told in¬†the first person’s narrative with a French finishing school outside of Paris¬†just before the Great War as its backdrop, is sure to¬†pique my interest.

Dorothy Strachey, sister to the more well known Lytton Strachey, dedicated this (her only novel, written originally in French in 1933) to Virginia Woolf when it was finally published in English by the Hogarth Press in 1949 to much acclaim. Even Colette had her hand in the writing of the screenplay for the 1951 film adaptation of the book. I must say that I am rather surprised that I had not heard of this piece of work before, and had only stumbled upon it by chance while searching for something else entirely. Better late than never, I guess.

So, has anyone else read this or would this happen to be as interesting a discovery for you, as it was for me?

Blue Specs ~ A Teaser to A Tale

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source

In Egypt most tourists wear blue spectacles. Arthur Lomax followed this prudent if unbecoming fashion. In the company of three people he scarcely knew, but into whose intimacy he had been forced by the exigencies of yacthing; straddling his long legs across a donkey; attired in a suit of white ducks, a solar topee on his head, his blue spectacles on his nose, he contemplated the Sphinx.
But Lomax was less interested in the Sphinx than in the phenomenon produced by the wearing of those coloured glasses. In fact, he had already dismissed the Sphinx as a most overrated object, which, deprived of the snobbishness of legend to help it out, would have little chance of luring the traveller over fifteen hundred miles of land and sea to Egypt. But as so often happens, although disappointed in one quarter he had been richly and unexpectedly rewarded in another. The world was changed for him, and, had he but known it, the whole of his future altered, by those two circles of blue glass. Unfortunately one does not recognise the turning point of one’s future until one’s future has become one’s past.

Vita Sackville-West, ‘Seducers in Ecuador’ (1924)

Having read and loved Sackville-West’s quietly unassuming piece of gem, All Passion Spent, a couple of years ago, I have not¬†since managed to read any of her other works, other than just a smattering of her letters to her husband and lovers.

So, I¬†thought it’s about time I picked up her Seducers In Ecuador, a novella that was written¬†especially for Virginia Woolf at the height of their intimate affair back then, and see if I will once again be seduced by¬†her writing. Besides, I am now rather intrigued¬†by ‘….. those¬†two circles of blue glass’ that are said to have had altered one’s whole future. ¬†Aren’t you?

What One Finds in a Fireball Book Sale…..

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This picture does look rather familiar now, doesn’t it? The the story that follows is just as familiar, I’m afraid. Same old, same old …..
Yes, I have gone a book-hunting again, and came back with no small haul (as usual), I’m afraid. It was the lure of the Big Bad Wolf’s Fireball Book Sale, where every book has been given a further mark down in prices, following the mega year end sale they had back in December. Technically, these were supposed to be the ‘leftovers’ from the previous sale. But in reality, I found many more exciting stuff here that I had not even come across during the December sale. And to find all these at even lower prices…. well, it is just pure bliss! ūüôā

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I have¬†the first volume¬†of Virginia Woolf’s¬†collection of essays in The Common Reader sitting on the shelves for awhile now. So, getting the second volume to keep the first one company was just the natural thing to do, I guess. I also found a¬†biography of hers, Virginia Woolf: Bloomsbury & Beyond by Anthony Curtis and thought, why not? At any rate, it was a nice looking hardback, bountifully illustrated with sepia photographs.

As you can see, I also convenienty found her dear friend Vita Sackville-West’s volume of letters with her husband (Vita’s, that is) Harold Nicolson, as well as a volume of Nicolson’s diaries. I would not have thought of wanting to read his diaries or letters if it were not for those delightful excerpts that I had read on The Captive Reader’s blog sometime back. Getting these at only RM5 (less than a pound) each, makes¬†the find¬†all the more delightful!

France On Two Wheels by Adam Ruck “…. follows¬†the writer¬†through six intricately plotted Gallic cycling routes; from Lake Geneva to the Channel, the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, Vichy to Roanne, Paris to Provence, Roanne to the Atlantic, and Burgundy to Spain. Both a practical companion and a story of exploration and rediscovery, France on Two Wheels offers detailed descriptions of useful routes, stop-off points and watering-holes, along with detours into subjects as varied as wine, Flaubert, windmills, Wodehouse, belfries, battlefields and beer. It is vivid proof that the only way to experience the French countryside is on two wheels.”¬† Sounds good to me.

I also found another book to do with bikes and travelling (pictured in one of¬†the stacks below) Britain By Bike: A Two-Wheeled Odyssey Around Britain¬†by Jane Eastoe. That one is¬†based on a six-part BBC series, Britain by Bike providing all the authoritative information a biker needs, from interesting routes and unusual attractions to great lodgings.¬†Well, that should be quite enough biking now for someone who doesn’t even own a bike. :p

So having gotten off the bikes, I found myself a copy of Caroline Sanderson’s Rambling Fancy: In the Footsteps of Jane Austen. “Following in Jane Austen‚Äôs footsteps, Sanderson tramps the muddy fields around Austen‚Äôs childhood home in rural Hampshire, walks the elegant streets of Bath, and strolls along the breezy promenades of south coast resort. Drawing upon Jane Austen‚Äôs letters as well as her many novels Caroline Sanderson charts her own experiences of the very places from which Jane Austen sought inspiration, reaching some original and fascinating conclusions.”
Hmmm, I wonder what might those be.¬† Anyway, I also managed to¬†find a pretty Penguin English Library edition of Austen’s Mansfield Park and thought it’s high time I read more Austen.

I think it’s also high time that I get down to reading some Orhan Pamuk as well, and was glad to find a copy of his The Naive and Sentimental Novelist. In this fascinating set of essays, based on the talks he delivered at Harvard University as part of the distinguished Norton Lecture series, Pamuk presents a comprehensive and provocative theory of the novel and the experience of reading. Drawing on Friedrich Schiller‚Äôs famous distinction between ‚Äúna√Įve‚ÄĚ writers‚ÄĒthose who write spontaneously‚ÄĒand ‚Äúsentimental‚ÄĚ writers‚ÄĒthose who are reflective and aware‚ÄĒPamuk reveals two unique ways of processing and composing the written word. He takes us through his own literary journey and the beloved novels of his youth to describe the singular experience of reading. Unique, nuanced, and passionate, this book will be beloved by readers and writers alike.”

Another writer whom I’m really looking forward to reading more of, is Wilkie Collins. I¬†loved¬†his No Name and am halfway through listening to The Moonstone. Have yet to read his supposedly best work, The Woman in White (which incidentally, is said to be¬†the partial inspiration for Sarah Water’s Fingersmith, one of my all time favourite reading experiences). So I’m looking forward to read Peter Ackroyd’s¬†take on the man himself, Wilkie Collins.

Next are¬†two books on¬†reading. One is¬†the general history¬†of reading over the ages, while the other, John Tytell’s Reading New York, is a combination of memoir and historical criticism on a more personal note.

BBW FS (2)I have not read anything by Richard Yates before, and all I know of him is that he wrote the book behind the movie, Revolutionary Road. What got my attention here was the the title Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, the book from which some of the stories found in this collection, The Collected Stories of Richard Yates were taken from. I will see what I make of my acquaintance with Mr Yates and report back duly.

I have not heard of Nabokov’s The Luzhin Defense before, but this came in a beautiful Penguin hardback edition which has¬†the kind of fonts, paper texture and binding that I just¬†love, so it was definitely coming home with me. I was glad to know upon further examination that the story is actually about¬†“….. the strange yet oddly endearing chess-playing genius Luzhin. Discovering his prodigious gift in boyhood and rising to the rank of international Grandmaster, Luzhin develops a lyrical passion for chess that renders the real world a phantom. As he confronts the fiery, swift-swooping Italian Grandmaster, Turati, he brings into play his carefully devised defence. Making masterly play of metaphor and imagery, “The Luzhin Defense” is the book that, of his early works, Nabokov felt “contains and diffuses the greatest warmth”. Back in my school days, I used to play chess competitively and was President of the Chess Club. For me, it wasn’t just the game itself that I enjoy. It was also very much the opportunity for long talks and quality time that the game offers me to spend with a friend, or with someone whom I would like to get to know better and wouldn’t mind looking at (discreetly, of course) for a few good hours maybe. ūüėČ

I have read good things about Lucy Wood’s Diving Belles¬†and from the little samplings that I have taken from it so far, I’m already finding myself falling under its charm.

Colette Rossant’s Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes¬†looks to¬†be another charming read. “It is 1947 and Paris is recovering from the war. As soon as Colette’s family arrive from Cairo, her mother abandons her yet again. Terribly homesick, Colette finds solace in the kitchen with the cook Georgette, and discovers a love for French food – roasted lamb stuffed with garlic, springtime strawberries bathed in creme fraiche, the first taste of truffle. And it is through food that Colette finds happiness in Paris, skipping school to go to the farmers’ market in Port de Neuilly and dining in Michelin-starred restaurants with her new stepfather. Then at sixteen, she meets a dashing young American – and, despite all opposition from her family, never looks back…”

I found both Michael Holroyd’s¬†A Book of Secrets and Margaret Drabble’s The Pattern in The Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws and brought them home with me without realizing that both these writers were married to each other! It was only when I started reading Drabble’s introduction the next day, that I got to know it. Margaret Drabble weaves her own story into a history of games, in particular jigsaws, which have offered her and many others relief from melancholy and depression. Alongside curious facts and discoveries about jigsaw puzzles ‚ÄĒ did you know that the 1929 stock market crash was followed by a boom in puzzle sales? ‚ÄĒ Drabble introduces us to her beloved Auntie Phyl, and describes childhood visits to the house in Long Bennington on the Great North Road, their first trip to London together, the books they read, the jigsaws they completed. She offers penetrating sketches of her parents, her siblings, and her children; she shares her thoughts on the importance of childhood play, on art and writing, on aging and memory. And she does so with her customary intelligence, energy, and wit. This is a memoir like no other.

I think this one is going right to the top of the pile. I used to love doing jigsaws when I was younger and it’s been ages since I last did one. Drabble mentions in her book that The World’s Most Difficult Puzzle is a 340-piece jigsaw based on Jackson Pollock‚Äôs painting Convergence. Personally, the most challenging jigsaw that I have ever come across is one of those reverse perspective puzzles, in which the picture on the box is merely a clue for the puzzle you will be putting together. The image on the box depicts a cartoonish scene of surprise and tumult and the goal is to discover the source of the commotion by figuring out what the characters in the scene are seeing. I had gotten myself one of these in my enthusiasm back then but sadly, after a decade of more now, the pieces are still left sitting in the box, undone. I may yet again attempt it, someday.

I love the cover of Diana Athill’s Instead of a Letter: A Memoir. This classic memoir tells the story of Athill “…… as a young woman, was engaged to an air force pilot‚ÄĒInstead of a Letter tells how he broke off the engagement, married someone else, and, worst of all, died overseas before she could confront or forgive him. Evoking perfectly the picturesque country setting of her youth, this fearless and profoundly honest story of love and modern womanhood marks the beginning of Athill‚Äôs brilliant literary career.”

Being an Anglophile, I was happy to find A.N. Wilson’s The Elizabethans¬†and both Liza Picard’s Elizabeth’s London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London and Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870. These books help make history come alive in the lively and engaging way that they were written. Highly readable stuff. Oh, and I also found a lovely hardback copy of England’s Forgotten Past: The Unsung Heroes and Heroines, Valiant Kings, Great Battles and Other Generally Overlooked Episodes in Our Nation’s Glorious History. Seems like a fun one.

BBW FS (3)For a more contemporary take on Great Britain, I got Ian Jack’s The Country Formerly Known as Great Britain. “In this selection from¬†more than 20¬†years of reporting and writing, Ian Jack takes us to a place of which there are now only memories and ruins‚ÄĒthe Great Britain that gave us the Industrial Revolution, a nation that led the world in feats of engineering, a Britain of empire, a place of vital cities, each with their own unique identity, and a country whose residual presence can still be found in the strangest corners of the world.”

I also found two short biographies, one of the great American evangelist D.L Moody, the other is that of F. Scott Fitzgerald in a collection of personal essays and articles written before his fatal heart attack at the age of forty four.

For my dose of armchair gardening, I found Jamaica Kincaid’s My Favourite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on The Plants They Love, E. Buckner Hollingsworth’s garden classic, Flower Chronicles, and Mandy Kirkby’s The Language of Flowers: A Miscellany.

As for my dose of armchair travelling, I found a lovely looking hardback edition of Umbria by Patricia Clough. “When Patricia Clough bought a house in Umbria, she knew that buying her dream home did not mean that one‚Äôs life became a dream. By the end of this book she is sure that ‚Äúif one has basic requirements for being happy, then Umbria provides some of the best surroundings for happiness.‚ÄĚ

In Made In Italy: A Shopper’s Guide to Italy’s Best Artisanal Traditions, Laura Morelli revisits Italy‚Äôs best shops and craftsmen to provide a thorough shopper‚Äôs guide to Italy‚Äôs best local traditions.

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Judith Martin’s No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice is said by Donna Leon to be one of those books that one must read before coming to Venice.¬†This is the definitive book for managing an incurable passion for a decaying, water-logged village. Whether you already have a raging case of Venetophilia or are among the fifteen million people who yearly put themselves in danger of contracting it, here is where you get your fix of Venetian wit, history, practicality, and enchantment.”¬†I have not been to Venice yet, so maybe I should take up the advice.

Eric Newby’s On The Shores Of The Mediterranean.
As they travel around the sea at the center of Western history, Eric Newby and his wife Wanda visit not only the better-known Mediterranean sights and cities but also venture into places where Westerners are few: Albania under Hoxha, the holy Muslim city of Fez, and a country about to disappear in civil war – the former Yugoslavia. Eric Newby entertains and enlightens as he follows in the footsteps of Cleopatra and St John, and waits for a meeting with Colonel Gaddafi. With his customary flair for description, he is equally at easy pondering King David’s choice of Jerusalem as the site for a capital city or enjoying a meal cooked by one of France’s finest chefs. His acute curiosity and encyclopedic knowledge combine to make absorbing reading, whether he is explaining the workings of a defunct Turkish harem or the contemporary Mafia. From antiquity to the present, Eric Newby’s erudite, engaging tale is not a simple tour but a tour de force.

For the longest time, Miguel De Cervantes’ Don Quixote has always seemed like an intimidating giant to me. But flipping through this Edith Grossman translation of the Spanish masterpiece, I found it to be surprisingly engaging and very readable. It also helped that this Harper Perennial edition comes in the form of one of my favourite combinations for a book – French flaps with rough cut pages. The book, though close to a hefty thousand pages, feels so easy on the hand. So, this is all looking very promising indeed, for my getting acquainted with Mr Cervantes.

Though I have heard of John Mortimer before, I have never read any of his Rumpole stories. But coming across a copy of his Forever Rumpole: The Best of the Rumpole Stories at one of the tables, my interest was suddenly stirred and I found myself enjoying the writing more than I expected. So, what better place to start than with ‘the best of the Rumpole stories’ right?
While still a practicing barrister, Mortimer took up the pen, and the rest is literary history. His stories featuring the cigar-chomping, cheap-wine-tippling Rumpole and his wife, Hilda (aka “She Who Must Be Obeyed”), have justly earned their place in the pantheon of mystery fiction legends, becoming the basis for the very successful television series Rumpole of the Bailey. Bringing fourteen of Rumpole’s most entertaining adventures (seven of which were collected in The Best of Rumpole) together with a fragment of a new story, Forever Rumpole proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Rumpole is never less than delightful.”

You would have probably noticed Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, sitting on my sidebar for quite some time now. What I had previously was just a copy of the e-book. Finding the physical edition of the book at the sale for only RM8 (slightly less than ¬£1.5) was really quite the catch of the day for me! It is a highly readable biography of the artist’s life and works, generously illustrated with his paintings throughout. I am quite determined to finish reading this 900+ pages door stopper of a book, even if it’s gonna take me forever.

Well, back to the British and their eccentrics. David Mckie’s Bright Particular Stars: A Gallery of Glorious British Eccentrics ….. examines the impact of 26 remarkable British eccentrics on¬†26 unremarkable British locations. From Broadway in the Cotswolds, where the Victorian bibliomaniac Sir Thomas Phillipps nurtured dreams of possessing every book in the world, to Kilwinning in Scotland, where in 1839 the Earl of Eglinton mounted a tournament that was Renaissance in its extravagance and disastrous in its execution, McKie leads us to places transformed, inspired, and sometimes scandalized by the obsessional endeavors of visionary mavericks. [….] But together their fascinating stories illuminate some of the most secret and most extraordinary byways of¬†British¬†history.”

Maybe reading Sir Thomas Phillipps’ story would help put my book buying habits (and yours too, perhaps?) in their proper perspective. ūüôā

Johnson’s Life of London: The People who Made the City that Made the World by Boris Johnson promises to be quite another interesting one too. “Boris narrates the story of his city as a kind of relay race of outsized characters, beginning with the days when “a bunch of pushy Italians” created Londinium. He passes the torch on down through a procession of the famous and infamous, the brilliant and the bizarre – from Hadrian to Shakespeare to Florence Nightingale to the Rolling Stones- illuminating with unforgettable clarity each figure and the era he or she inhabited. He also pauses to shine a light on places and developments that have contributed to the city’s incomparable vibrancy, from the flush toilet to the King James Bible. As wildly entertaining as it is informative, this is an irresistible account of the city and people that in large part shaped the world we know.

CAM00326aEnough of the British for now. Let’s move over to Paris for a change in scenery, shall we?

Ross King’s The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave The World Impressionism.
While the Civil War raged in America, another revolution took shape across the Atlantic, in the studios of Paris: The artists who would make Impressionism the most popular art form in history were showing their first paintings amidst scorn and derision from the French artistic establishment. Indeed, no artistic movement has ever been quite so controversial. The drama of its birth, played out on canvas and against the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune, would at times resemble a battlefield; and as Ross King reveals, it would reorder both history and culture, and resonate around the world.

I have always been interested in the lives of the Impressionists, ever since being introduced to the BBC mini series, The Impressionists, by a dear friend back in 2006. I have a copy of Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of The Impressionists which I am looking forward to reading too. I think that will tie up quite well with the reading of the Ross King one.

Paris: Capital of the World by Patrice Higonnet.
In an original and evocative journey through modern Paris from the mid-eighteenth century to World War II, Patrice Higonnet offers a delightful cultural portrait of a multifaceted, continually changing city. In examining the myths and countermyths of Paris that have been created and re-created over time, Higonnet reveals a magical urban alchemy in which each era absorbs the myths and perceptions of Paris past, adapts them to the cultural imperatives of its own time, and feeds them back into the city, creating a new environment. […] Insightful, informative, and gracefully written, Paris illuminates the intersection of collective and individual imaginations in a perpetually shifting urban dynamic. In describing his Paris of the real and of the imagination, Higonnet sheds brilliant new light on this endlessly intriguing city.

Yes, I do find Paris to be endlessly intriguing, and certainly don’t think there can be too many books on it. Do you?

And for something completely different from all the rest, I had picked Oliver Sacks’s A Leg To Stand On for a very personal reason.
Dr. Oliver Sacks’s books Awakenings, An Anthropologist on Mars and the bestselling The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat have been acclaimed for their extraordinary compassion in the treatment of patients affected with profound disorders.

In A Leg to Stand On, it is Sacks himself who is the patient: an encounter with a bull on a desolate mountain in Norway has left him with a severely damaged leg. But what should be a routine recuperation is actually the beginning of a strange medical journey when he finds that his leg uncannily no longer feels part of his body. Sacks’s brilliant description of his crisis and eventual recovery is not only an illuminating examination of the experience of patienthood and the inner nature of illness and health but also a fascinating exploration of the physical basis of identity.”

A very dear friend of mine, the same one whom I had mentioned was the one who introduced me to The Impressionists, had an accident a little over a year ago. Like Dr Sacks, her journey to recovery has been (and still is) a rather strange one. While it was a leg in Dr Sacks’s case, for her it was an arm that she finds herself being alienated from. And all these has taken a toll on her general state of mental well-being. I am hopeful that what Dr Sacks has to share in his journey would be helpful in shedding more light to understanding some of these anomalies my friend is experiencing, and be of an encouragement to her.

BBW FS (4)Lastly, a few lovely coffee table books on gardens and gardening. And I should really end this seemingly never-ending post, and start spending some time with all these lovelies instead!

Happy reading to you all, too! ūüėČ

The Loot (part 1)

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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

The windmills of Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk, a small village only 16 kilometres off Rotterdam, is unique for its impressive network of¬†19 well-preserved windmills built in the mid-eighteenth century. To get here, one can easily get onto a boat that cruises along the Maas River, starting from Rotterdam right up to this little village. The hour-long cruise is also able to offer one the experience of enjoying Rotterdam’s refreshing skyline of creative architecture at the same time. Much recommended.

It was a truly windy day, as I supposed is befitting that of a backdrop of windmills.
It had been drizzling for most part of the cruise and we were rather worried looking at the dark clouds looming in the sky. Thankfully, the weather held out for us when we got to the windmills.
I would imagine that it must be rather lovely being the occupants of this pretty house along the river banks with a view of windmills stretched out before you.
This was the view I meant.

I wouldn’t mind settling down on this bench with a good book, or a good friend.
The long way home…. bidding farewell to the windmills of Kinderdijk as we make our way back to Rotterdam.
Making the most of the remaining hours of daylight left when we got back to Rotterdam city centre.
And to my pleasant surprise, this was what I chanced upon! A branch of the largest used bookstore in Amsterdam. Joy, oh joy! I came away with a pristine copy of The Diary of Virginia Woolf (Volume Two). A perfect end to a beautiful day. ūüôā

Amsterdam, for the booklover….

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.

Antiquariaat POLK – had the most friendly owner/person manning the shop. The bookshop is actually the one below ground level (notice the stairs going down?). Sorry for the rather misleading snapshot.

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 Kind¬†for 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.

A lovely looking bookshop with an attractive shopfront, but sadly the books were mostly in a language I couldn’t read.
This would have been an interesting fair to attend.
The largest used bookstore in Amsterdam.¬†Each floor stocks tomes in various languages, across all genres, and covering many subjects. There’s also a large antiquarian book section in one of the floors.

The antiquarian books section.
There are some really interesting bookish decorative pieces that can be admired amongst the antiquarian tomes on display.
Do excuse the poor quality of this shot. But I think you can still catch a vague glimpse of the two adorable decorative items in there.
The arts and graphics section.
The literary section had quite a lot to offer as well (and these were all in English, too).
And this is part of the children’s books section. I never realised that the Dutch had such an attractive and appealing offering for their young ones. The book covers were all so lovely and delightful to look at!

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 :

I think that’s about as pretty as bookshops come by, don’t you agree? Somehow, having a bicycle in the picture always makes it look so much better!
A closer look at the bookshop on the left, the Straat Antiquaren.

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.

Books, glorious books!
These includes the bounty from Paris as well (the ones lying horizontal). I am especially happy with the Folio Society copy of Dicken’s London, which I got from a little bookshop that had everything going at half price. It was beside a bakery where my mum and I had stopped for an ice-cream and cranberry pie. Am also very happy with the second volume of Virginia Woolf’s diary which I found most unexpectedly in a branch of the De Slegte bookshop in Rotterdam. I hadn’t even known they had a branch there.

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.

Soon. ūüėČ

The not-so-new “new acquisitions”…..

I just checked, the last ‘new acquisitions’ post I had put up was in May earlier this year.¬†This¬†will probably give¬†the impression that I have been on ‘good behaviour’ and was contented with¬†reading¬†happily from my stacks of TBR on the shelves. This couldn’t be further from the truth than what the actual scenario is.

Truth is, I have been bad. I have been greedy and covetously acquiring more books than I could ever possibly finish reading in this lifetime. And yet I am not doing anything to stop the books from sneaking in. Why, I wonder? It is probably a disease. And I reckon it’s¬†one that I can¬†never be fully cured of. It could also be that I am probably a collector first, and only¬†a reader second.¬†Whatever the case may be, one cannot¬†somehow also discount the fact that the books themselves are often too good to resist!

And so, without much resistance, these somehow found their way to my shelves (or floor, more likely).

Leave the Letters Till We’re Dead –¬†this sixth and final¬†volume of Virginia Woolf’s collected letters will be the starting point¬†for my¬†on-going long-term ‘mission’ to collect¬†all the other volumes of her¬†letters (& diaries). And just in case you might be interested to know,¬†I have¬†managed to track down the first volume (The Flight of the Mind) and it’s already winging it’s way here even as I am writing this. If only my reading was as efficient as my buying…

The Mitfords : Letters Between Six Sisters –¬†Actually, I already have the hardcover¬†copy of this in a different edition but when I found¬†this paperback edition going¬†at a really unbeatable price¬†during a sale, I¬†just couldn’t leave¬†it behind. My reasoning was that it would be much more convenient & comfortable to read this tome in paperback rather than hardback. Right?

Anyway, moving on….

The Library At Night (by Alberto Manguel)
This has been sitting on my wishlist for a long time now. “Manguel, a guide of irrepressible enthusiasm, conducts a unique library tour that extends from his childhood bookshelves to the ‚Äúcomplete‚ÄĚ libraries of the Internet, from Ancient Egypt and Greece to the Arab world, from China and Rome to Google. He ponders the doomed library of Alexandria as well as the personal libraries of Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, and others. He recounts stories of people who have struggled against tyranny to preserve freedom of thought‚ÄĒthe Polish librarian who smuggled books to safety as the Nazis began their destruction of Jewish libraries; the Afghani bookseller who kept his store open through decades of unrest. Oral ‚Äúmemory libraries‚ÄĚ kept alive by prisoners, libraries of banned books, the imaginary library of Count Dracula, the library of books never written‚ÄĒManguel illuminates the mysteries of libraries as no other writer could. With scores of wonderful images throughout, The Library at Night is a fascinating voyage through Manguel‚Äôs mind, memory, and vast knowledge of books and civilizations.”¬†Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Virginia Woolf’s Women (by Vanessa Curtis)
“This is the first biography to concentrate exclusively on Woolf’s close and inspirational friendships with the key women in her life, including the caregivers of her Victorian childhood who instilled in her a lifelong battle between creativity and convention: her taciturn sister, Vanessa Bell; enigmatic artist Dora Carrington; complex writer Katherine Mansfield; aristocratic novelist Vita Sackville-West; and riotous, militant composer Ethel Smyth.”¬†
This should be an interesting one.

The Trials of Radclyffe Hall (by Diana Souhami)
I have been wanting to read The Well Of Loneliness (the book on the theme of ‘sexual inversion’ that caused Hall to be put on trial under the Obscene Publications Act, back in 1928) for some time now. This would pair nicely with the reading of that, I think. “….. Brilliantly written, this biography is a fresh and irreverent insight into the lives of one of the most alluring and eccentric women of this century.”

Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of the Brontes (by Jude Morgan)
Got this at the same bargain books sales as The Mitfords. Have not heard of this title, nor read anything by the author prior to this. But the subject matter appealed to me (not to mention the price, as well) and so, I was game to try this. “From an obscure country parsonage came three extraordinary sisters, who defied the outward bleakness of their lives to create the most brilliant literary work of their time. Now, in an astonishingly daring novel by the acclaimed Jude Morgan, the genius of the haunted Bront√ęs is revealed and the sisters are brought to full, resplendent life: Emily, who turned from the world to the greater temptations of the imagination; gentle Anne, who suffered the harshest perception of the stifling life forced upon her; and the brilliant, uncompromising, and tormented Charlotte, who longed for both love and independence, and learned their ultimate price.”¬†Anyone here read this?

Nothing If Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists (by Robert Hughes)
This is yet another writer that I was unfamiliar with but again, I found the subject matter highly appealing (as with the bargain price since it was at the same book sales) so into the basket it went. And I don’t think I will regret it. “This collection brings together over 90 essays, many of which have already appeared in major journals. Hughes considers the Masters, 19th-century art and artists, the Modernist spirit, American and European painters, and contemporary artists in prose that is historically informative, understandable, witty, and often opinionated. Perhaps most interesting is Hughes’s introduction, a recognition and partial analysis of New York City’s decline as the center of the art world. This well-written, thought-provoking collection will appeal to most who find art and the art world important and entertaining.” I do love a good collection of essays, so here’s hoping that they are.¬†

Down The Garden Path (by Beverley Nichols)
Although I am not one who is into gardening, somehow in recent years I find myself having a growing fascination for books that have gardens in their theme. This is probably the result from reading the blogs of so many of you¬†‘garden loving’ bloggers out there. I have always been curious about Nichols’s books, having read¬†many good reviews of them. And I always thought that the titles to his books are such delightful ones …..¬†Merry Hall, Laughter on The Stairs, Sunlight on the Lawn, etc… Don’t they just seem to have the word “JOY” printed all over them? Really looking forward to reading this. ūüôā

The Claudine Novels (by Colette)
Colette’s Claudine novels are another item off my long list of ‘anticipated reads’. And to get this complete set for the price of one (plus it’s¬†in the edition with the cover I like, unlike the ugly but newer and easier to get edition here) is really quite a good deal! “Among the most autobiographical of Colette’s works, these four novels are dominated by the child-woman Claudine, whose strength, humor, and zest for living make her seem almost a symbol for the life force.”

That’s the stack for now. And that’s just the ones that came before my trip to Amsterdam and Paris last month. I haven’t yet¬†share my little bounty from abroad with you, have I? :p

I think it’s¬†better to leave that for another day. Meantime, I¬†will need to have some¬†reshuffling work done¬†to clear things up abit, and¬†make room for a little *cough* shipment that is due to arrive anytime now.

Like I said, it’s incurable.

April Acquisitions

Towards the end of March, I received an email from one of¬†my favourite¬†online booksellers¬†for new and¬†used books saying that they have not ‘heard’ from me¬†for¬†a while and that they missed me. They¬†also included a discount voucher code for 20% off¬†any purchase of their used books. And so, with an offer like that, coupled with the fact that though I have not been buying, I certainly have been picking and piling up¬†for myself quite a good load of books into the basket/ wishlist. It works as a kind of therapy¬†for the withdrawal symptoms that come when I seem to have not¬†been buying¬†any books for a substantial period of time, although in this case it was barely more than a month (strange, but it sure did feel much longer than that). What can I say, I kinda ‘missed them’ too. :p

With the exception of the first five books at the top of the pile, the rest are used copies, including the two standing hardcovers which I am particularly excited about. 

Writers and Their Houses: Essays by Modern Writers – A Guide to the Writers’ Houses of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland edited by Kate Marsh.
This collection features a wide range of contemporary writers, discussing the homes, lives and work of their predecessors, looking at the environments where some of the finest works of British literature were produced. The essay writers include John Fowles, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Drabble, P.D. James, Seamus Heaney, Malcom Bradbury, A.N. Wilson, Penelope Fitzgerald, Ian McEwan, Claire Tomalin, Peter Porter and Jenny Uglow. The reader is taken on a detailed tour through the work and homes of writers such as William Shakespeare, Beatrix Potter, James Joyce and Jane Austen. From lively social circles to places of retreat, the homes described here reveal unexpected facts about their occupant’s taste, habits and eccentricities.

Doesn’t that sound delicious? I am really¬†looking forward to reading these essays and poring over the photographs in there (unfortunately though, the photos are all in black and white). This book will complement my copy of¬†‘A Reader’s Guide to Writers’ Britain’¬†by Sally Varlow¬†very nicely, I think. ūüôā

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel.
Another compilation of interlinked essays on the history of reading. Manguel’s set of essays ‘…. explains not only the ability of the Bible and the classics to speak to successive generations, but also clarifies the deeply personal appeal of any favorite book: It says what we need it to say, what we wish we could say for or about ourselves. Manguel’s urbane, unpretentious tone recalls that of a friend eager to share his knowledge and enthusiasm. His book, digressive, witty, surprising, is a pleasure.’ Can’t wait to have the pleasure of dipping into this one!¬†

A closer look at the paperbacks.

I absolutely love the cover of Paris In Mind¬†(edited by Jennifer Lee). Next to being a major Anglophile,¬†I have to admit I am a lover of all things Parisian, too.¬†The city holds no end of fascination and appeal to me. ‚ÄúParis is a moveable feast,‚ÄĚ Ernest Hemingway famously wrote, and in this captivating anthology, American writers share their pleasures, obsessions, and quibbles with the great city and its denizens. Mark Twain celebrates the unbridled energy of the Can-Can. Sylvia Beach recalls the excitement of opening Shakespeare & Company on the Rue Dupuytren. David Sedaris praises Parisians for keeping quiet at the movies.”
Among the writers from which¬†these excerpts, essays, letters and journals are taken from¬†are James Baldwin, Sylvia Beach, Saul Bellow, T. S. Eliot, M.F.K. Fisher, Janet Flanner, Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Jefferson, Ana√Įs Nin, David Sedaris, Gertrude Stein, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton & E. B. White.

Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner.
Written with the French Revolution of 1848 as the backdrop, this is the story of¬†how a young Englishwoman from an aristocratic family¬†finds her way to Paris and ends¬†up forming the unlikeliest of relationships with her husband’s mistress. Bold and unconventional in its ideas, this novel is described as “at once an adventure story, a love story, and a novel of ideas, Summer Will Show is a brilliant reimagining of the possibilities of historical fiction.”

The classics.

Isn’t this another lovely cover? I fell in love with the cover of this latest Vintage edition of Anthony Trollope’s The Warden¬†and felt that I must have it. I think this is just the perfect starting point for me to¬†discover the charming world of Trollope’s Barsetshire chronicles. This is yet another significant Victorian novelist whom I managed to miss out on during my younger days. I intend to rectify that this year, and am thrilled to know that this is just the begining of a whole new series waiting¬†to be savoured.

Wordsworth Classics have recently been re-issuing a combination of Virginia Woolf’s works¬†in very affordable editions. I got my pre-ordered copy of The Years & Between The Acts¬†from The Book Depository for only USD2.36, which I think is a steal! And it has quite a¬†lovely piece of artwork for its cover too,¬†aptly¬†named The¬†Bookworm. ūüôā¬†¬†

Virago Classics and my first Thirkell.

I have to say that I much prefer this VMC cover of Lettice Cooper’s The New House as compared to the plain (though elegant)¬†grey cover of the Persephone edition.¬† Another writer whose works I have been looking forward to get acquainted with is Rose Macaulay. I remember reading a good review of Crewe Train¬†some time back on one of the blogs, and has since¬†been very¬†interested to read¬†it.¬†After reading all the rave reviews for Angela Thirkell’s books on Claire’s¬†blog, I just couldn’t resist adding¬†The Brandons¬†into the basket. Interestingly, it is also one of her series of novels that is set in Trollope’s Barsetshire. Guess I¬†can look forward to spending¬†quite abit¬†of time with the some rather memorable characters from Barsetshire this year. ūüėȬ†¬†

Having recently discovered Barbara Pym as¬†one of my new favourite writers, I grabbed hold of two more of her goodies. Civil To Strangers and A Vey Private Eye : An Autobiography in Letters And Diaries. The former consists of a collection of¬†materials that were unpublished during Pym’s lifetime, while the latter is as the title suggests, an autobiography in the form of Pym’s letters and diaries, two of my favourite formats in writing, by the way.¬†

Last¬†pile¬†of¬†goodies in this¬†stack is Elizabeth Bowen’s To The North, Catherine Hall’s debut novel Days of Grace¬†(whch I am already midway through, and am enjoying it very much) and Katie Roiphe’s Uncommon Arrangements¬†:Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1919-1939.

Love the vintage¬†black and white cover of Bowen’s To The¬†North¬†and can’t wait to read it after all the glowing reviews from so many fellow bloggers out there.

Uncommon Arrangement,¬†also promises to be an interesting read. Said to be¬†: “Drawn in part from the private memoirs, personal correspondence, and long-forgotten journals of the British literary community from 1910 to the Second World War, here are seven ‚Äúmarriages √† la mode‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒeach rising to the challenge of intimate relations in more or less creative ways. Jane Wells, the wife of H.G., remained his rock, despite his decade-long relationship with Rebecca West (among others). Katherine Mansfield had an irresponsible, childlike romance with her husband, John Middleton Murry, that collapsed under the strain of real-life problems. Vera Brittain and George Gordon Catlin spent years in a ‚Äúsemidetached‚ÄĚ marriage (he in America, she in England). Vanessa Bell maintained a complicated harmony with the painter Duncan Grant, whom she loved, and her husband, Clive. And her sister Virginia Woolf, herself no stranger to marital particularities, sustained a brilliant running commentary on the most intimate details of those around her.”

So, there you have it. My indulgences for the past month all laid bare here.
Has any one¬†of these¬†caught your eye (or attention) too,¬†in particular? ūüėČ