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106. Books Bought & Read, February 2014…

106. Books Bought & Read, February 2014…

Books Bought, February 2014

Cadernos de Lanzarote: diario 1, (The Notebook, vol.1), José Saramago

Lisbonne,’ Fernando Pessoa

59 Seconds: think a little, change a lot,’ Richard Wiseman

Taschen Art Book: Diego Rivera

Taschen Art Book: Albrecht Dürer

Taschen Art Book: Fernando Botero

Poemas,’ Fernando Pessoa, ed.Eduardo Lourenço

A Jangada De Pedra,’ (The Stone Raft), José Saramago

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Secret Lisbon,’ Vitor Manuel Adrio

L’âme Secrète De Lisbonne,’ (The Secret Soul Of Lisbon), various

Poemas de Fernando Pessoa,’ Fernando Pessoa

Odes De Ricardo Reis,’ (Odes by Ricardo Reis), Fernando Pessoa

Poesias Inéditas, 1919-1930,’ (Unpublished Poems, 1919-1930), Fernando Pessoa

Cain,’ José Saramago

The Cave,’ José Saramago

The Year Of The Death Of Ricardo Reis,’ José Saramago

El Cuento De Lo Isla Desonocida,’ (The Tale Of The Unknown Island), José Saramago

Children Playing Before A Statue Of Hercules,’ ed. Dave Sedaris

Where The Wild Things Are,’ Maurice Sendiak

The Road Home,’ Mark Haddonsweet-tooth

Sweet Tooth,’ Ian McEwan

Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway

Eric,’ Terry Pratchett

Quarantine,’ Jim Crace

The Master Of Go,’ Yasunari Kawabata

Thinking: the new science of decision-making, problem-solving and prediction,’ ed. John Brockman

Scott Pilgrim: scott pilgrim’s precious little life, Vol.1,’ Bryan Lee O’Malley

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Books Bought & Read, February 2014

O Pátio Maldito,’ (The Damned Yard), Ivo Andrić  

Lisbonne,’ Fernando Pessoa

Cadernos de Lanzarote, (The Notebook), José Saramago

Autos,’ (Acts), Gil Vicente

A Lenda De São Julião Hospitaleiro de Flaubert,’ (Illustrations for Flaubert’s ‘The Legend Of St.Julian The Hospitaller’), Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso

Cain,’ José Saramago

59 Seconds: think a little, change a lot,’ Richard Wiseman

Grantland: the complete collection so far...

Grantland: the complete collection so far…

The Believer, issue 103

Where The Wild Things Are,’ Maurice Sendiak

Eric,’ Terry Pratchett

Grantland, issue 8

The Master Of Go,’ Yasunari Kawabata

El Cuento De Lo Isla Desonocida,’ (The Tale Of The Unknown Island), José Saramago

Lord Malquist And Mr.Moon,’ Tom Stoppard

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, Vol.1,’ Bryan Lee O’Malley

No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July

Quarantine,’ Jim Crace

Angelmaker,’ Nick Harkaway

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I love round numbers, and I also love fractions: this month saw the latter, if not the former, when I managed to get through exactly 2/3 of the books I bought, (18 of 27), although the fact that I was one purchase away from exactly one-a-day in this foreshortened February left me, I’m sure you can understand, a tad frustrated..

I continued my love affair with the second-hand book shops and markets of Lisbon, picking up some of the fabulous Taschen art books, (which look great on the shelf above my bed as I continue kidding myself I will someday get around to reading them and learning more about art); am well on my way to owning something by each of Fernando Pessoa‘s heteronyms, (if that means nothing to you, check out my blog entry on my new favourite author from a few weeks ago); and almost at my goal of owning and reading everything ever written by José Saramago. There were a few wonderful surprises in there, too.

Mini José and Fernando

Mini José and Fernando

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The last book I read this month for example, (whilst recuperating from a trip back home to the UK with a 48-Miranda July + Short Storieshour stopover in the Algarve region of southern Portugal, where I flew through three books in just over two days), was Nick Harkaway‘s wonderful adventure-thriller-crime-novel-cum-history-of-London ‘Angelmaker,‘ a book which  I will be reviewing for you in the coming weeks; and that had come immediately after one of the funniest collections I have read for a while, (possibly ever), ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You‘ by Miranda July, which I think also deserves its own entry, so look out for it.

The comparative splurge on books was facilitated by the return trip to the UK. Books in Portugal are unfeasibly expensive, partly due to a government law preventing shops from selling new books at discounted prices: that’s why, upon my arrival in England, there were two parcels of books awaiting me, now happily nestled on the shelf in my bedroom here in Lisbon. Sadly, work is getting busy, (that’s not really sad, I love my job!), and the weather is great at the moment, (again, not really very sad at all), so it may take a while to get through these.

I hope you’re all enjoying my Portuguese adventure anywhere near as much as I am!

 

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Posted by on March 3, 2014 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

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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).

burma_en

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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89. Books Bought & Read, October 2013…

89. Books Bought & Read, October 2013…

Books Bought, October 2013

Willpower: why self-control is the secret to success,’ Roy.F.Baumeister & John Tierney

More Than This,’ Patrick Ness

The Book Of Penguin, Duncan Campbell-Smith

The Canon: the beautiful basics of science, Natalie Angier

Young Bysshe,’ Claire Tomalin (Penguin 70’s series)

Utopia,’ Thomas Moore

The Complete Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino

City Of God, Paolo Lins

Lord Malquist & Mr.Moon, Tom Stoppard

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander

Delete This At Your Peril,’ Neil Ferguson

Hugo’s Spanish In Three Months. 

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Books Read, October 2013

The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and other stories, Etgar Keret

Martha And Hanwell, Zadie Smith (Penguin 70’s series)

The Snobs,’ Muriel Spark (Penguin 70’s series)

Stick Man,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

The Snail And The Whale,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

The Smartest Giant In Town,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Boomerang,’ Michael Lewis 

Willpower: why self-control is the secret to success,’ Roy.F.Baumeister & John Tierney

Simpkin,’ Quentin Blake

Cockatoos,’ Quentin Blake

Angelica Sprocket’s Pockets,’ Quentin Blake

Secret Lives Of Great Authors,’ Robert Schnakenberg 

Young Bysshe,’ Claire Tomalin (Penguin 70’s series)

The Great Cheese Conspiracy,’ Jan Van Leeuwen & Imero Gobbato

Jerusalem,’ Simon Sebag-Montefiore

The Cherry Orchard,’ Anton Chekov

More Than This,’ Patrick Ness

‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,’ David Foster Wallace

Diary Of A Bad Year,’ J.M.Coetzee

The Bear,’ Anton Chekov

The Complete Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino

Foundation,’ Isaac Asimov 

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander

Grantland,’ issue 3

The Believer,’ issue 101

Grantland,’ issue 4

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Of the dozen books bought this month, the last two were presents, so all in all a massive contrast from last month’s ridiculosity. 26 read, including a couple of kids’ trilogies whilst staying with a friend and her rugrat, and the rest was a fun mix of science, history, economics, science fiction and, mainly, short fiction.

Most of the list were read whilst on a family holiday in sun-drenched Israel, the wonderful bustle of Tel Aviv limiting my intake somewhat, (although I did get halfway through my ‘Hugo’s Hebrew In Three Months’ book…again…).

Enjoy these extracts from this month’s paper consumption!

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Secret Lives Of Great Authors,‘ Robert Schnakenberg

A fairly amusing compilation of life histories and little-known (to me, at least) facts about a few dozen famous authors down the ages, focusing on their foibles and (often sexual) bizarrities. What did I learn? I’m glad you asked…

“Fans of English football…can thank [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle] for helping found the Portsmouth Football Club in 1884. Doyle also served as the team’s first goalkeeper…”

W.B.Yeats subjected himself to a rudimentary form of Viagra, known as the Steinach Operation:

“The fifteen-minute operation, in which monkey glands were implanted into Yeats’s scrotum, went off without a hitch. Yeats got his groove back…”

This wonderfully led to Dubliners nicknaming him ‘the gland old man’!

Hitler Cat photo from Monster Island

Hitler Cat photo from Monster Island, used under Creative Commons license

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Finally: Gertrude Stein owned a cat called ‘Hitler,’ due to its brush moustache. This may seem a strange pet name for a Jewish artist, until you learn that she also approved of the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy government in France, and apparently felt that Hitler “…should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ridding Germany of its troublesome Jews.” That’s quite some self-hating!

a-supposedly-fun-thing

‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,’ David Foster Wallace
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I am on a Foster Wallace binge right now, flying through every novel and essay collection of his I can find, (despite the fact that they are far from the easiest to read). This moderately slim collection of essays was everything I have come to expect from the sardonic, literate world-observer.
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“Third World rebels are great at exposing and overthrowing corrupt hypocritical regimes, but they seem noticeably less great at the mundane, non-negative task of then establishing a superior governing alternative. Victorious rebels, in fact, seem best at using their tough, cynical rebel-skills to avoid rebelled against themselves – in other words, they just became better tyrants…”
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A fascinating and illuminating idea on the brain states of infants, and one which simply  explains why the world seems so much more fun when we’re younger:
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“One of the few things I still miss from my midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakeable conviction that everything around me existed all and only For Me…this sense of the world as all and only For-Him is why special ritual public occasions drive a kid right out of his mind with excitement. Holidays, parades, summer trips, sporting events. Fairs. Here the child’s manic excitement is really excitation at his own power: the world will now not only exist For-Him but will present itself as a Special-For-Him…”
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On roller coasters:
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“I do not find terror exciting. I find it terrifying. One of my basic life goals is to subject my nervous system to as little total terror as possible. The cruel paradox of course is that this kind of makeup usually goes hand in hand with delicate nervous system that’s extremely easy to terrify…”
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Photo used under Creative Commons License

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And finally a lovely turn of phrase on tennis, (a recurring theme for child player DFW):
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“The top seed this weekend is Richard Krajicek, a 6’5” Dutchman who wears a tiny white billed hat in the sun and rushes the net like it owes him money and in general plays like a rabid crane…”
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Jerusalem: the biography‘ Simon Sebag Montefiore
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I like to read about the places I am visiting whilst I am there, and whilst I didn’t make it to the thrice holy city this time round, this 650-page history lesson encompassed several millennia of details on the region and religions which I have always wondered about. A few gems I took from it began with the fact that:
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“Jewish spoils paid for the Colosseum…”
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Jerusalem at one point was wonderfully described by Chateaubriand as “…this deicidal city.” I love new/invented words…
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I learned of a fascinating church in this multi-faithed city:
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“Christ Church was – and remains – unique in the Protestant world: there was no cross, just a menorah; all the writing was in Hebrew, even the Lord’s prayer. It was a Protestant church designed for Jews…”
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Finally, an interesting statistic, given the often-quoted ‘fact’ of America having been founded as a religious state, (despite whatever the Founding Fathers actually, specifically started in the Constitution:
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“In 1776, some 10% of Americans were church-goers; by 1815, it was a quarter; by 1914 it was half…”
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Foundation,’ Isaac Asimov
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A single quote taken from what was (for the first two-thirds, at least), a wonderfully thought-provoking sci-fi classic, more a book of ideas than of memorable lines but this one tickled me:
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“It was childish to feel disappointed, but childishness comes almost as naturally to a man as to a child…”
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A remarkably similar book to ‘Foundation‘ in many ways, this book by Italian genre-inventor/breaker also had similarities to his ‘Invisible Cities,’ which I quoted from a few weeks ago. Again, the only way to get across the beautiful, bizarre nature of these vignettes, (an omnipotent being who was present for every important event in galactic history, real or imagined), is to quote the start of one in full:
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“One night I was, as usual, observing the sky with my telescope. I noticed that a sign was hanging from a galaxy a hundred million light-years away. On it was written : I SAW YOU. I made a quick calculation: the galaxy’s light had taken a hundred million years to reach me, and since they saw up there what was taking place here a hundred million years later, the moment when they had seen me must date back two hundred million years.
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Even before I checked my diary to see what I had been doing that day, I was seized by a ghastly presentiment…”
the-bus-driver-who-wanted-to-be-god
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The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God: and other stories,’ Etgar Keret
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To conclude this month’s summary, I was thrilled to uncover another collection of short stories from one of my favourite contemporary writers, (and one of Israel’s too, apparently). The partly-absurd, partly-disturbing tales are, each and every one of them, gems. One of them, for no reason I can discern, at one point states:
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“I gave him a name; I called him Margolis, after a man who used to live in our mailbox…”
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And finally, there is the conclusion to a wonderfully macabre, Grimm-esque short story, with seemingly little to no relation to the two-page fairy tale which had gone before, but beautifully put nonetheless:
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“There are two kinds of people, those who like to sleep next to the wall, and those who like to sleep next to the people who push them off the bed…”

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in BOOKS

 

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