Tag Archives: David Almond

156. Books Bought & Read, May 2017…

156. Books Bought & Read, May 2017…


Yipppeeeee! For the first time in quite a while I read more books than I bought this month, giving me the feeling that I have added the tiniest grain of order to an entropic universe, doing my smallest part in the fight for organisation in an uncaring, chaotic world.

It’s even better than the tally of 22 bought, 25 read seems, since several of those were presents, (or headed to the increasingly bulging Books To Gift stack), meaning I managed to get a few books ahead of myself in the past 31 days. This was almost miraculous given that I began a new job two weeks ago, and am spending much of my spare time trying to figure out the difference between computer storage and memory.

Sure, many of the books I read were (as ever) graphic novels, but when Neil Gaiman declares a work “The best graphic novel I’ve read in years” you know it’s going to be worthwhile, and it was: Scott McCloud’s ‘The Sculptor‘ was a tender, mythical look into art, life, Faustian bargains and final intentions by the writer/artist who brought us the excellent ‘Understanding Comics‘.


Many were Penguin Great Ideas, the series of beautifully bound, 100-page selections ranging across styles, centuries and themes, from Orwell on the price of books to Marco Polo on his adventures, and one each came from Penguin’s Great Journeys series (shipwrecks in the Americas) and their Great Loves collection (the slightly interminable Abelard and Heloïse), as well as the highly (and rightly) acclaimed Paul Kalinithi on turning from doctor to patient when cancer curtailed both his career and his life in ‘When Breath Becomes Air‘.

But I also found time to finally devour George Saunders‘ debut novel, ‘Lincoln In The Bardo,’ a sweet, smart sea of voices from beyond the grave commentating on life, death, politics, and everything else which makes us human, with all of Saunders’ typically tender touch.

In ever-eclectic fashion, I devoured books on feminism (after attending a talk by the excellent Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie); modern American racism (by the powerfully persuasive Michael Eric Dyson); and the history of Dungeons & Dragons in graphic novel form.

But this month’s highlights were stories: firstly from one of my favourite Young Adult authors, David Almond, who crafted a collection of childhood memories into allegorical tales so powerful one of them left me in tears.


And secondly, a first collection from The Moth story-telling events, which take place monthly at my workplace, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, and which I finally plan to attend next month.

Ranging from the famous to the everyday, from euphoric yarns to tragic tales, from universal themes to the peculiarly personal, these snapshots of life should be enough to entertain anyone, whatever you’re looking for.


And, of course, Neil gets to write the foreword.



Books Bought, May 2017

We Have Always Lived In The Castle, (Shirley Jackson)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

The Shadow Of The Sun (Ryszard Kapuściński)

Setting The Table: the transforming power of hospitality in business (Danny Meyer)

The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)

Rise Of The Dungeon Master: gary gygax and the creation of d&d (David Kushner)

The Sandmeyer Reaction (Michael Chabon)

Hostage (Guy Delisle)

Wall And Piece (Banksy)

Nobody’s Fool (Yoshitomo Nara)

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud)

In Persuasion Nation (George Saunders)

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)

The Moth Presents – All These Wonders: true stories about facing the unknown (various)

The Book Of Cheese: the essential guide to discover chesses you’ll love (Liz Thorpe)

The Dinner Party and other stories (Joshua Ferris)

Last Night’s Reading: illustrated encounters with extraordinary authors (Kate Gavino)

A Graphic History Of Sport: an illustrated chronicle of the greatest wins, misses, and matchups from the games we love (Andrew Janik)

The Greek Myths (ed.Robert Graves)

Scribbled In The Dark (Charles Simic)

A Book Of Sleep (Il Sung Na)


Books Read, May 2017   (Recommended books in bold)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

Tears We Cannot Stop: a sermon to white america (Michael Eric Dyson)

Absolutely On Music: conversations with (Haruki Murakami & Seiji Ozawa)

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Occupy (Noam Chomsky)

Books vs Cigarettes (George Orwell)

Travels In The Land Of Kublai Khan (Marco Polo)

Lincoln In The Bardo (George Saunders)

Rise Of The Dungeon Master: gary gygax and the creation of d&d (David Kushner)

The Shipwrecked Men (Cabeza de Vaca)

Forbidden Fruit: from the letters of aberlard and heloïse

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud)

Half A Creature From The Sea: a life in stories (David Almond)

Setting The Table: the transforming power of hospitality in business (Danny Meyer)

The Sandmeyer Reaction (Michael Chabon)

Hostage (Guy Delisle)

Snow White (Donald Barthelme)

The Moth Presents – All These Wonders: true stories about facing the unknown (various)

Last Night’s Reading: illustrated encounters with extraordinary authors (Kate Gavino)

A Graphic History Of Sport: an illustrated chronicle of the greatest wins, misses, and matchups from the games we love (Andrew Janik)

Scribbled In The Dark (Charles Simic)

Go Tell It On The Mountain (James Baldwin)

A Book Of Sleep (Il Sung Na)

House Mother Normal (B.S.Johnson)

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Posted by on June 2, 2017 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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93. Books Bought & Read, November 2013…

Books Bought, November 2013

The Marx Brothers Poster Book.‘ 

1Q84,’ Murakami Haruki

Stuff I’ve Been Reading,’ Nick Hornby

To The Letter,’ Simon Garfield

Fortunately The Milk…,’ Neil Gaiman

Pygmies,’ Chuck Palahniuk

Writings From The Zen Master,’ (Penguin Great Ideas Series)

Where I Lived And What I Lived For,’ Henry David Thoreau, (Penguin Great Ideas Series)

Toothpicks And Logos: design in everyday life,’ John Heskett

Nobody Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July

Fight Club,’ Chuck Palahnkiuk

The Scarecrow And His Servant,’ Philip Pullman

The Total Library: non-fiction, 1922-1986,’ Jorge Luis Borges

Burma Chronicles,’ Guy Delisle

Speaking With The Angel,’ ed.Nick Hornby

Skullduggery Pleasant: playing with fire,’ Derek Landy


Books Read, November 2013

Grantland, issue 5

Grantland, issue 6

Grantland, issue 7

The True Tale Of Billy Dean As Tellt By Himself,’ David Almond

Monkey,’ Wu Ch’êng Ch’ên

To The Letter,’ Simon Garfield

Seven Nights,’ Jorge Luis Borges

Toothpicks And Logos: design in everyday life,’ John Heskett

Super Sad True Love Story,’ Gary Shteyngart

Fortunately The Milk…,’ Neil Gaiman

The Believer, issue 102

I, Coriander,’ Sally Gardener

The Celestial Café,’ Stuart Murdoch

Gentlemen Of The Road,’ Michael Chabon

The Imperfectionists,’ Tom Rachmann

Mother Brother Lover: selected lyrics,’ Jarvis Cocker

52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem: a poem for every week of the year,’ Ruth Padel

Utopia,’ Thomas More

Burma Chronicles,’ Guy Delisle

Hell Screen,’ Ryunosuke Akutagawa

The Scarecrow And His Servant,’ Philip Pullman

The Coincidence Engine,’ Sam Leith

Pulling ahead of the books bought/read debit column yet again, I had a very varied and enjoyable reading month. The month started, tucked up warm in the family home in Essex, devouring a trio of Grantland sports journals, (an incredible way to catch up on a year’s worth of mainly US-based sports and culture), before I made my way through a backlog of YA (young adult) books from the wonderful David Almond, Sally Gardener, Philip Pullman and my beloved Neil Gaiman.

imgres I picked up a promo copy of the interesting but slightly disappointing ‘To The Letter,’ by the imgres-2author who wrote my favourite book of the year so far, ‘Just My Type;‘  learned about design in the modern day from a short tract by Chair Professor Emeritus John Heskett; and tracked down a further episode in Guy Delisles incredible graphic depiction of life in some of the most bizarre corners of the world, (Guy being a French-Canadian artist who follows his wife on her travels with Médecins Sans Frontières from North Korea to Jerusalem to, here, Myanmar).


With a month at home between countries, (where some people are between jobs, I am usually also between countries), I took the opportunity to read some of the signed copies which are confined to my childhood bedroom cupboard, most enjoyable of which was the excellent ‘The Imperfectionists‘ by Tom Rachmann, a multi-registered, decades-long look at the life of various characters in an imaginary newspaper, which simultaneously made me want to work in journalism and deeply glad that I don’t. Quite a feat.

Mainly, this was a month of poetry. I often find myself buying poetry collections, (either because they are small volumes, or beautifully bound, or with names I feel I should know and have read), and they have slowly built up a layer of dust on a poetry shelf above my bed. Having read Stephen Fry‘s excellent introduction to poetry, ‘The Ode Less Travelled,’ last year, I finally continued my education with Ruth Padel‘s ‘52 Ways To Read A Poem,’ a weekly newspaper column which examines and explains a series of short, contemporary poems. This inspired me to read two books I have from two of my favourite singers, Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch, (who wrote a poetic, although slightly dull, computer diary), and song lyrics from Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, although the enigmatic Cocker himself insists that lyrics are nothing like poetry).

I leave you with the final stanza from a simple, strangely beautiful and yet slightly disturbing poem by ‘folk-jazz musician’ Don Paterson entitled ‘Imperial,’ a paragraph which stayed with me after I’d finished reading all 52 poems in the collection, (which, being me, I decided to tackle five at a time: who has a year to read a book?!).

“and no trade was ever so fair or so tender;

so where was the flaw in the plan,

the night we lay down on the flag of surrender

and woke on the flag of Japan”

The most lyrical depiction of a slightly coerced taking of virginity you are ever likely to read.



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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in BOOKS


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