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90. ‘The Little Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry…

90. ‘The Little Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry…

The Little Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Walking down streets or sitting in cafes reading, there is one thing I own which gets me involved in more book-based conversations than anything else: a now slightly tatty, faded leather book cover of ‘Le Petit Prince‘ bought in a tourist shop at the foot of Seoul Tower in South Korea around five years ago. Strangers walk past in the street with a simple “Nice!” and waitresses whose boyfriends have handmade them a gold necklace of the snake-ingested elephant go wild for it.



I even have one friend, (who became a friend partially based on this fact), who sports a 4-inch high tattoo of the Little Prince being pulled across the night sky (and her left midriff) by stars, but she didn’t wish to have it broadcast to strangers across the world on my blog, for some reason, so you’ll just have to imagine how amazing a tattoo it is.

Le Petit Prince,‘ or ‘The Little Prince,’ for the less francophone inclined, is one of those books which you read when young and which stays with you. I won’t turn this into a review of the book, because either you’ve read it, or you can take an hour to go and read it. Some may find it a little simplistic in a Paolo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ kind of way, (one reason I think you appreciate it more if you experience the book for the first time when young, like Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbour Totoro‘ or ‘The Dark Crystal,’ the latter a film which really doesn’t stand up to re-viewing!), but for those who don’t need cute, life-affirming mottos, this little book offers plenty more.

Photo courtesy of David Burgess, and licensed under Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of David Burgess, and licensed under Creative Commons

It is the unique feel of the book which offers so much to the reader: firstly, the mix of fairly serious reality (the narrator throughout being in mortal danger after his motor breaks down in the Sahara desert ), and the fantasy world offered by a miniature person with miniature problems on a tiny planet who only cares about the simple things in life.

The illustrations, penned by the author Saint-Exupéry himself, (left), are timeless and affectionate.

Finally, the not-so-subtle symbolism of the various characters throughout the book are balanced by the underlying adorability of both the eponymous protagonist and the child which the narrator used to be. Morals are everywhere, but the basics can never be repeated enough: nature is good, (“Dessine-moi un mouton”/”Draw me a sheep”), greed and obsession are bad, you can’t always believe your eyes, and we should never, ever grow up.


Photo courtesy of flickr user gadl and licensed under Creative Commons  


Posted by on November 17, 2013 in BOOKS


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150. Books Bought & Read, November 2016…

150. Books Bought & Read, November 2016…

30 books bought, 14 read in the penultimate month of 2016, and around half of them were polished off on the beaches of Bali, on my honeymoon.

After October Comic Con in New York, the early part of November consisted mainly of reading a couple of graphic novels and finishing a few more books on Manhattan history, (since I begin my fourth incarnation is a vagabond guide next week), as well as polishing off a couple more in the wonderful (and wonderfully short) Ted Talks books, which are so good they will be getting their own blog entry soon.

But from November 14 my wife and I packed up our flippers, masks and a bag each of books and decamped to the land of temples, smiles, and nasi goreng for breakfast.

In hindsight, I realise that it may be slightly strange that the three main books I read on my honeymoon involved slavery, murder, and a blend of both in apartheid South Africa, but as you can see from the list at the end of the blog, they all ended up in bold, because they were all wonderful in their own way.

After every single person I have ever read had recommended it to me, I finally used the beach time to read Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History,’ (which was great although it lacked a final twist I was vaguely expecting). I also finally know why Colson Whitehead’s chilling ‘The Underground Railroad‘ won just about every award going last year, for his tale of an escaped 19th century slave experiencing various incarnations of the issue of slavery on a state by state basis.

Most surprisingly was how much I enjoyed ‘Daily Show‘ host Trevor Noah‘s autobiography, and not just because I have spent a few months in his native South Africa. The comedian writes simply and smoothly, with far less comedy than expected, but with wonderful stories on the importance of languages in the incredibly multilingual Johannesburg, and how a life of crime can seem commonplace when you’re inside a practically hopeless situation.

He even manages to make an anecdote about burning down somebody’s house seem somehow innocent.


Continuing my gradual Americanisation, I managed to buy not one but two books on baseball this month…although I haven’t read either of them yet, and may well never even open them.

And talking of books to be seen and not read, most of my haul from work last month fell firmly into the ‘coffee table‘ category, (or, since we don’t own a coffee table, the ‘Top Shelf of the Bookshelf‘ category), mainly art books along with a beautiful, over-sized tome on the making of the musical ‘Hamilton‘, (the closest I will get to the Broadway show for a while, I fear).

Perhaps most exciting was finally reading a graphic novel from my old friend Sylvain, (under his pen name of Runberg), who provided me with a signed copy of his latest, (of 68!), when he came to town last month.


Go check them all out.



Books Bought, November 2016

Follow Your Gut: the enormous impact of tiny microbes (Bob Knight & Brenda Shuler)

The Botany Of Desire (Michael Pollan)

Jeter: unfiltered (Derek Jeter)

McSweeney’s No.48 (various)

Pitching In A Pinch: baseball from the inside (Christy Mathewson)

Silence (Suhusaku Endo)

Color (Victoria Finlay)

The Learners (Chip Kidd)

Day Of The Oprichnik (Vladimir Sorokin)

Peter Pan (J.M.Barrie)

1Q84 (Haruki Murakami)

Awful Auntie (David Walliams)

The Search (Geoff Dyer)

The Colour Of Memory (Geoff Dyer)

The Missing Of The Somme (Geoff Dyer)

Hamilton: the revolution (Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter)

Justine (Lawrence Durrell)

Saints And Strangers (Angela Carter)

Fireworks: nine profane pieces (Angela Carter)

History Of Beauty (ed.Umberto Eco)

The Speech Writer: a brief education in politics (Barton Swaim)

Payoff: the hidden logic that shapes our motivations (Dan Ariely)

The Geography Of Genius: lessons from the world’s most creative places (Eric Weiner)

Slice Harvester: a memoir in pizza (Colin Atrophy Hagendorf)

Birth And Present: a studio portrait of yoshitomo nara

Warren The 13th And The All-Seeing Eye (Tania Del Rio & Will Staehle)

The Infidels (Marcel Dzama)

A Picasso Portfolio

Si Pangeran Kecil/The Little Prince (Indonesian version) (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)

Decoded (Mai Jia)


Books Read, November 2016

Warship Jolly Roger (Sylvain Runberg & Miguel Montlló)

Payoff: the hidden logic that shapes our motivations (Dan Ariely)

Follow Your Gut: the enormous impact of tiny microbes, (Bob Knight & Brenda Shuler)

Inside The Apple: a streetwise history of new york city (Michelle & James Nevius)

Summer Blonde (Adrian Tomine)

Naming New York: manhattan places and how they got their names (Sanna Feierstein)

Awful Auntie (David Walliams)

The Coast Of Utopia, pt.1: voyage (Tom Stoppard)

Secret New York: an unusual guide (T.M.Rives)

The Speech Writer: a brief education in politics (Barton Swaim)

Born A Crime: stories from a south african childhood (Trevor Noah)

The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead)

The Secret History (Donna Tartt)

Wilderness Tips (Margaret Atwood)



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Posted by on December 11, 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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