147. Books Bought & Read, August 2016…

147. Books Bought & Read, August 2016…


So my plan to spend a few weeks catching up on the past year of blogging didn’t quite work. On the contrary, when I finally sat down this morning, killing time before a flight to Colorado, (to visit my in-laws and, I presume, learn how to ski), I discovered that not only had I not made a dent in the missing months, but three more had passed in the meantime.

Here, at least, is August’s reading tally.

(Admittedly there are 14 hours of August left, but I will do my best not to finish any books between now and midnight; since the two which made the cut for this trip are both dense, 400-page history books, (on the life of Alexander Hamilton and John D.Rockefeller, Jr, respectively), even I should be in little danger of falsifying this month’s total.)

Whilst still awaiting my US visa, I had enough free time to read 22 books.

Awkwardly, I am now spending two of my free seven days a week volunteering at an incredible bookshop, (or ‘bookstore,’ as I still refuse to call it), which I will be writing about MUCH more in a later blog.

This is the equivalent of allowing Cookie Monster to work in the Oreo warehouse, and I am therefore getting fat on books and, since I get a frankly ridiculous volunteer discount, this volunteer job is costing me a fortune.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


That’s how come I took home 61 books this month.

A few new trends emerged, from converting my nighttime, bed-bound reading from US history books to comics/graphic novels, (discovering the beautiful and disturbing work of Charles Burns and the minimalistic hispter-chic of Daniel Clowes), to a passion for short, educational non-fiction, covering everything from the basics of modern science to a call to feminism, and including Chip Kidd’s manifesto of mystery, (the first and last of these three being from a TED Talks series, which I will have to hunt down until I’ve caught them all).

Dragging around giant history tomes, (the thickest of which, ‘Gotham,’ I finally finished this month, making my bag 1,200 pages lighter each day), led to me buying a variety of ‘classic’ paperbacks to read on the move or on trains. The sole criteria for them was that they be no more than around 130 pages long, and therefore not add to my backache.

Many were authors I vaguely knew and never gotten around to reading, (the wonderfully creepy Doris Lessing, the fairly dull Eudora Welty), whilst one or two were names I had never heard of, but were recommended by prizes, (mainly the Nobel), title content, (in the case of one completely misleading football reference), or simply their slimness.

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Vintage International and Farrar, Straus & Giroud proved to be a good furnishers of this size of book, (and I recognise that, when you have favourite publishers based on their dimensions, you are probably far too far down the rabbithole).

Lagerkvist’s ‘Barabbas‘ was simple and fascinating, reminiscent of  Colm Tóibín’s masterpiece ‘The Testament Of Mary,’ whereas Peter Handke’s ‘experimental‘ novel, despite cover comparisons to Camus’s ‘L’Étranger,’ was just frustrating.

One final drawback to working in a bookshop is that sometimes your dreams come true...and they’re not always cheap. I have a list of half a dozen lifetime goal books I wish to obtain at some point before I die, and I discovered one of them in our ‘Rare Books’ dungeon this month: the very first edition of McSweeney’s quarterly, an ultra rare find which completes my collection.



It was actually the second book on my list which I’d uncovered down there in consecutive months. ‘What was the other?’ I hear you cry.

You’ll have to drop by next blog to find out.



Recommended books in the ‘Books Read‘ section are in bold

Books Bought , August 2016

Ghost World (Daniel Clowes)

Hangsaman (Shirley Jackson)

The Italians (John Hooper)

Barabbas (Pär Lagerkvist)

Sag Harbor (Colson Whitehead)

Super Sad True Love Story (Gary Shteyngart)

Native Son (Richard Wright)

Cleopatra (Stacey Schiff)

The Optimist’s Daughter (Eudora Welty)

Judge This (Chip Kidd)

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Where The Wild Things Are -Russian version (Maurice Sendak)

McSweeney’s no.1 (various)

Building Stories (Chris Ware)

Under Wildwood (Colin Mely & Carson Ellis)

The Great Bridge: the epic story of the building of the brooklyn bridge  (David McCullough)

Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)

Snow White (Donald Barthelme)

Leaving The Atocha Station (Ben Lerner)

Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

The Odyssey (Homer)

The Iliad (Homer)

The Aeneid (Virgil)

Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton)

War And Peace (Leo Tolstoy)

The Fifth Child (Doris Lessing)

McSweeney’s no.31 (various)

The Laws Of Medicine (Siddhartha Mukherjee)

Collected Stories (Roald Dahl)

Flatland: a romance of many dimensions (Edwin Abbott)

How To Think Like An Entrepreneur (Philip Delves Broughton)

A Room Of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)

Once Upon An Alphabet (Oliver Jeffers)

The Buck Stops Here: the presidents of the united states (Alice & Martin Provensen)

Dance, Dance, Dance (Haruki Murakami)

South Of The Border, West Of The Sun (Haruki Murakami)

Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World (Haruki Murakami)

Jason And The Argonauts (Apollonius of Rhodes)

We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Buddha (Karen Armstrong)

On The Road (Jack Kerouac)

A Man Without A Country (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Double (José Saramago)

The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick (Peter Handke)

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)

The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) x2

Muhammad: prophet for our time (Karen Armstrong)

A Place Of Remembrance: official book of the 9/11 memorial

The Heart Goes Last (Margaret Atwood)

Persuasion (Jane Austen)

The Trial (Franz Kafka)

The Metamorphosis & Other Stories (Frank  Kafka)

The Last Interview And Other Conversations (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

The Elephant Vanishes (Haruki Murakami)

McSweeney’s Presents Comedy By The Numbers: the 169 secrets of humor and popularity (Eric Hoffman & Gary Rudoren)

This Is Water: some thoughts, delivered on a significant occasion, about living a compassionate life (David Foster Wallace)

How To Age (Anne Karpf)

Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo)

The Elements Of Music: melody, rhythm & harmony (Jason Martineau)


Books Read, August 2016

13 Days: a memoir of the cuban missile crisis (Robert Kennedy)

Black Hole (Charles Burns)

Ghost World (Daniel Clowes)

Barabbas (Pär Lagerkvist)

Judge This (Chip Kidd)

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: black dossier (Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill)

The Laws Of Medicine (Siddhartha Mukherjee)

The Optimist’s Daughter (Eudora Welty)

Palestine (Joe Sacco)

Gotham: a history of new york to 1898 (Mike Wallace & Edwin G.Burrows)

Safe Area Goražde: the war in eastern bosnia, 1992-95 (Joe Sacco)

We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

How To Think Like An Entrepreneur (Philip Delves Broughton)

The Fifth Child (Doris Lessing)

The Ladybird Book Of Mindfulness (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

A User’s Guide To Neglectful Parenting (Guy Delisle)

Redshirt’s Little Book Of Doom (Robb Pearlman & Anna-Maria Jung)

The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick (Peter Handke)

Lost New York In Old Postcards (Rod Kennedy Jr.)

Mastermind: how to think like sherlock homles (Maria Konnikova)

The Last Interview And Other Conversations (Kurt Vonnegut)

This Is Water: some thoughts, delivered on a significant occasion, about living a compassionate life (David Foster Wallace)


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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in BOOKS


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146. Booklyn, New York!

It has been a long time since this was anything like a weekly blog, and even monthly went out the window a while ago, but starting from next week, I hope to change all that.

Writing my book took up most of 2015, and after it was published earlier this year studying the complete history of New York (and the USA) in order to start work shortly as a tour guide took up the rest of my time. Essentially, this blog has been book-blocked by the likes of this 1,300page monster:


But I finally finished it last night, and to celebrate (along with a glass of whiskey), I am getting back into the blogging business, (different from any other kind of business in that I don’t actually make any money from it. Although someone once sent me a proof copy of their new book, which was nice).

This entry is also to tell you one of the many, many things I love about living in Brooklyn: people often leave unwanted books on the pavement, (or ‘sidewalk,’ as I’m now legally obliged to call it).

In ones or twos or a dozen, free-range or in cardboard boxes, and not (always) nonsense books: I’ve picked up a couple of Nobel Prize winners and some classics literally on the corner outside my apartment. Wednesday appears to be a particularly good day for stoop-surfing for books, apparently.

Why do people do this? I have no idea. But, obviously, I’m not complaining…


Image courtesy of Diamond Valley College

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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in BOOKS


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145. Books Bought & Read, May 2016…

145. Books Bought & Read, May 2016…

Dear Book-Lovers,

I have been away for well over a year, working on other projects such as publishing my first book, moving to a new country and getting married.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.

My ‘Little Princediary is full of my scribblings, recording the books which I have bought and read over the past eighteen months or so, to make sure that my mania for recording the details of my literary life don’t disappear into the ether. For the next few weeks I will be going back in time, month by month, to let you know what good stuff I have been imbibing.


Beginning with last month, May 2016: 39 bought, 11 read, and that is not an untypical total seeing as I now live in New York, and have made friends with many of the marvellous second-hand bookshops which line the streets of this city. Indeed, once this monthly rundown is complete I will be bringing you a regular series on the best bookshops of New York, including the tale of how I came to have my own ‘dealer’ who is enabling my habit…

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With three months until I can legally work in this country, I have just about enough time to learn the complete history of this small, relatively new, historically dense place in order to begin giving walking tours in the summer. This explains the high proportion of American history books both bought and, to a lesser degree, read this month, (and in the months to come, which is to say, just gone).


This historical book-binge, (my fourth, after my time guiding in Berlin, London and Lisbon), began with a Sarah Vowell marathon: I love her, (and her covers of miniaturised life), and her ability to take a single, dense subject, (the role of 19-year-old French posh boy, Lafayette, in the Revolutionary War, for instance, or the history of Hawai’i), and make fact-filled fun out of it.


I revisited two YA favourites when I picked up new works by Daniel Handler and David Almond, neither of which were quite up to their previous standards, whilst finally giving another chance to an author I thought I disliked, (after a bad experience with a smug Paul Auster novel years ago), and finding myself enjoying the Borgesian literary labyrinths of his faux-detective ‘New York Trilogy.’ With the backlog of books I have literally looming over me, it’s not often I give an author a second chance.


In an attempt to fill in the lacunae (or holes: not sure why I’d use an obscure Latin word with an even more obscure plural when I could just say holes; all of this reading must be getting to me…) in my knowledge of classic American fiction, I finally got around to reading Mark Twain’s weird and wonderful ‘Huckleberry Finn.‘ This was Hemingway’s favourite ever book, and many people’s vote for where American literature began, but as Hemingway points out the last few chapters get just silly: skip them. It brought back great memories of watching the TV series as a child on lazy weekend mornings

*NB: under a radical new classification system, in the BOOKS READ section below I will be highlighting any which I highly recommend, for all of those who browse this blog for recommendations but don’t have time to read the actual entry. You’re welcome.*

Books Bought, May 2016

The Care And Feeding Of An Independent Bookstore: three instructive essays (Ann Patchett)

Wise Children (Angela Carter)

In The Shadow Of Young Girls In Flower (Marcel Proust)

The Innocent (Ian McEwan)

Object Lessons: the paris review presents the art of the short story (various)

A People’s History Of The Supreme Court (Peter Irons)

Hermit In Paris: autobiographical writings (Italo Calvino)

The Clothes They Stood Up In & The Lady In The Van (Alan Bennett)

How To Read A Novelist (John Freeman)

The Numbers Game: why everything you know about soccer is wrong (Chris Anderson & David Sally)

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

Collected Fictions (Jorge Luis Borges)

The Big Oyster: history on the half shell (Mark Kurlansky)

The Last Bad Man (Miranda July)

Jim Henson: the biography (Brian Jay Jones)

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)

In Persuasion Nation (George Saunders)

The Analects (Confucius)

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

Mody Dick (Herman Melville)

A Wild Sheep Chase (Haruki Murakami)

The Descent Of Man (Charles Darwin)

The Epic Of Gilgamesh (anonymous)

The Ramayama (anonymous)

The Twelve Caesars (Seutonis)

Jane Jacobs: the last interview & other conversations

There Was A Country (Chinua Achebe)

Revenge Of The Lawn/The Abortion/So The World Won’t Blow It All Away (Richard Brautigan)

The Watcher: and other stories (Italo Calvino)

Gotham: a history of new york city to 1898 (Edwin G.Borrows & Mike Wallace)

The Master Of Petersburg (J.M.Coetzee)

Headlong (Michael Frayn)

Revolting Revolutionaries (Elizabeth Levy)

Founding Fathers: the revolutionary generation (Joseph J.Ellis)

Swann’s Way (Marcel Proust)

Middlemarch (George Eliot)

Seven Nights (Jorge Luis Borges)

The Vinland Sagas (anonymous)

33 1/3: If You’re Feeling Sinister (Scott Plagenhoef)


Books Read, May 2016

The Care And Feeding Of An Independent Bookstore: three instructive essays (Ann Patchett)

City Of Glass (Paul Auster)

The Tightrope Walkers (Paul Almond)

Ghosts (Paul Auster)

The Locked Room (Paul Auster)

We Are Pirates! (Daniel Handler)

The Clothes They Stood Up In & The Lady In The Van (Alan Bennett)

Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)

Hermit In Paris: autobiographical writings (Italo Calvino)

The Epic Of New York City: a narrative history (Edward Robb Ellis)

The Partly Cloudy Patriot (Sarah Vowell)


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Posted by on June 22, 2016 in BOOKS


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