76. Books Bought & Read, May 2013…

20 Jul
76. Books Bought & Read, May 2013…

Books Bought, May 2013

The Prague Cemetery,’ Umberto Eco

The Stories Of Vladimir Nabakov,’ Vladimir Nabakov

Nine Novels,’ F.Scott.Fitzgerald

Shah Of Shahs,’ Ryszard Kapuściński

De Profundis,’ Oscar Wilde

Into The Wild,’ John Krakauer


Books Read, May 2013

‘Brunelleschi’s Dome,’ Ross King

De Profundis,’ Oscar Wilde

Into The Wild,’ John Krakauer

Noah Barleywater Runs Away,’ John Boyne

The Lacuna,’ Barbara Kingsolver

Game Of Thrones,’ George.R.R.Martin

The Penguin History Of Latin America,’ Edwin Willamson

Wildlife,’ Richard Ford

Agatha Parrot And The Floating Head,’ Kjartan Poskitt

Eleven,’ Mark Watson

Tender Is The Night,’ F.Scott.Fitzgerald

Shah Of Shahs,’ Ryszard Kapuściński


May was a schizophrenic month for me: as far as reading went, it meant travelling. As far as buying went, it meant the Hay Festival. Both were amazing.

When May began, I was already on the road: somewhere between Belize and Honduras, I believe, and working my way through some monsters, both of which I’d picked up on the gorgeous Caribbean island of Cauy Caulker: the two day trip from Belize, through Guatemala and to the incredible island of Roatan, in Honduras, was whiled away reading my first ‘Game Of Thrones‘ tome, an easy and fun read even having seen the first few seasons of the HBO show, although the lack of a single post-it note for quotes to be noted later is clear evidence that it is more plot- and character-driven than stunning writing.


Tyrion Lannister, aka The Imp, from
‘Game Of Thrones,’
Camden, London version

Frida and Diego

Frida and Diego

Most of the rest of the journey was a struggle to get through the ‘Penguin History of Latin America’, which had proven so promising in terms of both content and bulk when I ran out of all reading material a week into my journey. Bar a few scattered interesting quotes, however, it was a fairly dry 600+-page trawl, far too focused on the Big Three, (Mexico, Argentina and Brazil), and leaving me wondering about the history of all of the smaller countries I was travelling through. Luckily, I was able to add to my Mexican history when I finally got around to reading Kingsolver‘s ‘The Lacuna,’ her fictional account of a young, gay man’s journey from poor nobody to assistant to art legends Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, before ending up in the US as a victim of the McCarthy Communist witch-hunts. A great read.

Then the books ran out, (anyone doing a trek around Central America, I recommend taking your own stash and not relying on trading: travellers these days appear to have terrible taste in books, or keep them with them, with the exception of a new friend, Gerry, who made me a present of the excellent ‘Into The Wild‘ on my last day in the continent, which was my aeroplane reading for the flight home).

What to do? After years of debating the pros and cons of eReaders, with pro and con friends, I can say this: imagesbeing able to download the complete novels of F.Scott Fitzgerald to read on the Kindle on my iPhone on eight-hour bus journeys for 49p is one of the marks of a great society. I also found it easier to read on my phone than on paper when being driven on often non-existent roads, hence my devouring of anything which happened to have been in my Kindle account from previous years: the classic ‘Three Men In a Boat‘ by Jerome.K.Jerome; ‘Eleven,’ a novel by comedian Mark Watson which I’d been eGiven and which was good, although surprisingly unfunny; a fairly amusing kid’s book given out at last year’s Hay Festival, ‘Agatha Parrot‘; and yet another freebie, a recent Richard Ford novel, ‘Wildlife,’ my first Ford and as depressing as I’d expected.

Before returning to the UK, I exchanged all the books I had collected over the months with Dutch Tony in his Magical Bookshop for a bundle of cash and a single, slim volume to read on the way to the airport, (Oscar Wilde‘s abusive love-letter to the lover who landed him in jail, ‘De Profundis‘), and that was soon succeeded by ‘Shah Of Shahs,’ one of the few Kapuściński works I hadn’t read and managed to pick up on my last night in Guatemala, a fascinating account of the history and downfall of the UK-supported Iranian monarchy.

The ‘Books Bought’ list is misleading, since anyone who knows me knows where I spent the last week of May, and how many books I usually buy there, but there will be a separate blog entry on this year’s Hay Festival and the (ridiculous amount of) books bought at the end of the month: the fact that I only had time to read one book in the week I was there, (John Boyne‘s beautiful ‘Noah Barleywater Runs Away‘), will tell you how busy I was during the event, but that’s another story for another blog.

0679729976.01.LZZZZZZZOf the other six bought, ‘The Prague Cemetery,’ the latest Eco, was traded up for in an island bookshop, and one third of them were gifts which I wasn’t at all sure about including since they weren’t technically ‘bought,’ (what do you think, readers?): The Krakauer, as mentioned, kindly donated by a fellow traveller and book-lover, and the incredibly gorgeous edition of Nabakov short stories, which I had somehow neither seen nor heard of before, by Erin, another bibliophilic traveller with whom I passed many hours, discussing life, love and literature. The power of books to bring people together is one of the many things I love about them.

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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in BOOKS


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