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166. Books Bought & Read, February 2018…

166. Books Bought & Read, February 2018…

The shortest month, but plenty of time for reading with winter making a late appearance in New York: 20 books bought, and 20 read, (although there is a case for counting the Harry Potter script as two books, since it literally says so on the cover…but since I bought it this month too, it wouldn’t affect the tally if I did, so it can stay as one, wonderfully nostalgic tome. I enjoyed it way more than I expected to, dipping my toes back into the history of Hogwarts and Harry’s (h)offspring).

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I also decided to stop including gifts in my Books Bought tally, (and if you don’t like it, go start your own bookblog!), so you can add around 20% to the totals from hereon in, and I even briefly considered not including ‘swaps’ – books I already own which I buy just for the new edition it comes in, (i.e. most of the Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions I picked up this month, in case you saw Bridget Jones and Amy Tan and were wondering if you had slipped into a time-warp and it’s the 1990s again).

There was, as ever, a surreal blend of genres in my reading this month, starting with an amuse-bouche of graphic novels, (Tomine and Clowes, two of my favourites in the field, proving yet again that graphic novels are some of the best literature around), and reading Chomsky is like an anti-palate cleanser; it’s always good to remind yourself how filthy western history is, in case the current political climate has you yearning for the ‘good ole days.’

Memoir met New York history with a wonderful foodie bent in Tamara Shopsin’s unique ‘Arbitrary Stupid Goals,’ the history of her parents’ fantastic shop-turned-restaurant in my new stamping ground, Greenwich Village. Having recently moved to the Essex Street Market, and featuring almost 1,000 menu items, I have a new restaurant to visit, (and guidelines how to avoid being thrown out of it!).

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I somehow keep finding posthumous Vonnegut collections I haven’t read, and they keep failing to disappoint, as do the wonderfully informative Last Interview series. I may have to dip into some Philip K.Dick sci-fi as a result, to see the physical manifestation of the extraordinary paranoia he displays in this collection.

Possibly my favourite, guilty pleasure this month was a glossy, gorgeous, watch-shaped compilation of photos of deluxe time-pieces, and the stories of their owners. I’ve always been a horologophile, and this collection proved a fascinating late-night treat for the eyes.

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Books Bought, February 2018

The Seducer’s Diary (Søren Kierkegaard)

Bridget Jones’ Diary (Helen Fielding)

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland & Alice Through The Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll)

The Last Interview (Philip K.Dick)

The Last Interview (Nora Ephron)

The Real Life Of Sebastian Knight (Vladimir Nabokov)

Kafka On The Shore (Haruki Murakami)

Letter To My Father (Franz Kafka)

Trickster Makes The World: mischief, myth, and art (Lewis Hyde)

The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)

Confabulations (John Berger)

Hector And The Search For Happiness (François Lelord)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

Swing Time (Zadie Smith)

Havana: autobiography of a city (Alfredo José Estrada)

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? (Kurt Vonnegut)

Shortcomings (Adrian Tomine)

Ice Haven (Daniel Clowes)

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, parts I & II (J.K.Rowling)

The Imitation Game: alan turing decoded (Jim Ottaviani)

 

Books Read, February 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

Drop Dead Healthy: one man’s humble quest for bodily perfection (A.J.Jacobs)

Everybody Lies: big data, new data, and what the internet can tell us about who we really are (Seth Stephens Davidowitz)

Table Manners: how to behave in the modern world and why bother (Jeremiah Towers)

The New Wine Rules: a genuinely helpful guide to everything you need to know (Jon Bonné)

You May Also Like: taste in an age of endless choice (Tom Vanderbilt)

The Last Interview (Philip K.Dick)

The Last Interview (Nora Ephron)

Arbitrary Stupid Goal (Tamara Shopsin)

Will You Always Love Me? (Joyce Carol Oates)

Hector And The Search For Happiness (François Lelord)

A Man And His Watch (Matt Hranek)

Ice Haven (Daniel Clowes)

Shortcomings (Adrian Tomine)

Confabulations (John Berger)

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? (Kurt Vonnegut)

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, parts I & II (J.K.Rowling)

Where Was The Room Where It Happened? the unofficial hamiton, an american musical, location guide (B.L.Barreras)

Roy G Biv: an exceedingly surprising book about color (Jude Stewart)

The Prosperous Few And The Restless Many (Noam Chomsky)

What Uncle Sam Really Wants (Noam Chomsky)

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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125. Books Bought & Read, August 2014…

125. Books Bought & Read, August 2014…

Books Bought, August 2014

The Art Of Travel,’ Alain de Botton

The Circle,’ Dave Eggersad_34488596_86a46fa8b11ca415_web

Zeitoun,’ Dave Eggers

One Summer: america 1927,’ Bill Bryson

‘Let’s Make Some Great Fingerprint Art ,’ Marion Deuchars

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets,’ J.K.Rowling

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire,’ J.K.Rowling

The Portable Dorothy Parker,’ Dorothy Parker

Everything And More: a compact history of infinity,’ David Foster Wallaceurl

Scoop,’ Evelyn Waugh

The Doors Of Perception/Heaven And Hell,’ Aldous Huxley

Lost And Found,’ Oliver Jeffers

Love, Nina: despatches from family life,’ Nina Stibbes

The Book Of Leviathan,’ Peter Blevgad

Where The Sidewalk Ends,’ Shel Silverstein

Sous Le Soleil Jaguar,’ (‘Under The Jaguar Sky’), Italo Calvino

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgramage,’ Haruki Murakami x2

But Beautiful,’ Jeff Dyer

The Song Of Achilles,’ Madeline Miller

My Many Colored Days,’ Dr.Seuss118345

The Rachel Papers,’ Martin Amis

60 Stories,’ Donald Barthelme

Brazil,’ Michael Palin

The Testament Of Mary,’ Colm Tóíbin

The Dog,’ Joseph O’Neill

Girl With Curious Hair,’ David Foster WallaceBoth_Flesh_and_Not_Front_Cover

Both Flesh And Not‘ David Foster Wallace

One More Time,’ B.J.Novak

Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry,’ B.S.Johnson

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden,’ Jonas Jonasson

The Signal And The Noise’ the art and science of prediction,’ Nate Silver

songreader_mockup_loresInterventions: a life in war and peace,’ Kofi Annan

Eating The Dinosaur,’ Chuck Klosterman

Drown,’ Junot Díaz

Song Reader,’ Beck

Alphabetical,’ Michael Rosen

 

Books Read, August 2014

Mack The Life,’ Lee Mack

The Still Point,’ Amy Sackville

The Penelopiad: the myth of penelope and odysseus,’ Margaret Atwood

Dream Angus: the celtic god of dreams,’ Alexander McCall Smith

Judy Bloom And Lena Dunham In Conversation: two cultural icons discuss writing, feminism, censorship, sex, and a sixth-grade literary hoax’

East, West,’ Salman Rushdie

What Are You Looking At? 150 years of modern art in the blink of an eye,’ Will Gompertz

Two Girls: One On Each Knee (7): the puzzling past of the cryptic crossword,’ Alan Connor

Love, Nina: despatches from family life,’ Nina Stibbes

The Portable Dorothy Parker,’ Dorothy Parker

 

OK, so August was ridiculous, even by my standards.

Thirty-seven bought, and a mere ten of those read, (and in only two of them were books I’d bought this month: the other eight were drawn from the deepest darkness of The Cupboard where several forests’ worth of books await my eyeballs).

In my defence, (as if, by now, I need a defence for buying books: addiction requires no explanation), eleven of the books bought were gifts for two special people I am visiting in New York in September; the two Harry Potters were bought before I attended an Apple Store event featuring Daniel Radcliffe and thought there may be a chance of getting his scribble in one, (nope); and the two Murakamis were obligatory, given that I had spent 16 hours waiting to meet him at a signing event, reported here.

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The rest were a muddle of back catalogues from favourite authors, (three giant David Foster Wallaces were added to my collection), modern classics I had never read, (Italo Calvino, Scoop,’ Dorothy Parker, etc), and everything from comedy short stories to autobiographies from Novel Prize Winning former UN Secretary Generals.

The usual.

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As for the ten books I managed to put in the past tense this month, there were some absolute crackers.

I finally got round to reading Dorothy Parker for the first time, and what a start: 600 pages of her after picking up the gorgeous Penguin edition featuring high quality, ‘hand-cut’ feel folio pages, and a great cartoon cover.

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Two books from Canongate’s ‘Myths’ series from two fantastic authors, Alexander McCall Smith and Margaret Atwood allowed me to delve into both Celtic and Greek folk tales and rekindle a love of legend which has never quite left me, from the days I used to rent little but books of Norse and Roman gods from the library.

BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz entertained me with a simple, logical and chronological history of modern art, from its ‘father’ Matisse to the modern stuff you look at and say: “That’s not art. It’s rubbish. Literally.” I now know a little more why I like what I like, and dislike the stuff I don’t like a little less for at least knowing what it is trying to do. There could have been more images, but if anyone is looking to understand the modern art world, it’s a great read.

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Will Gompertz

I enjoyed a change of pace with Amy Sackville‘s tale of a couple living in both modern England and the Victorian past, with the protagonist researching the (eventually unsuccessful) attempt of her great-grand uncle to reach the North Pole. The writing, simultaneously covering just a single day and at the same time an entire century, is impressive, and I had a shiver of déja vu (again) when the plot was taken up by reality this week with the discovery of a missing Victorian vessel which had been attempting to chart the Canadian Arctic waters.

Spooky.

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One of the books bought as a gift, (to either a great aunt or a fake aunt depending on which one got to me first), turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, and ‘Two Girls: One On Each Knee (7): the puzzling past of the cryptic crossword’ will soon feature in its own blog entry, for anyone that wants to know more about that most English of past-times, the cryptic crossword.

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A comedy autobiography which had me laughing out loud almost as much as the man Lee Mack himself does; an excellent short story collection by one of my favourites, Salman Rushdie; and a pamphlet-sized conversation sent to me by my beloved Believer Magazine rounded out the month’s intake.

And given that I’m writing this in the middle of September and I know how many books I have already read this month, I can tell you a secret in advance: the reading shows no signs of abating…

 

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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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123. Five Seconds With Haruki Murakami…

123. Five Seconds With Haruki Murakami…

Are there any authors you would stay up all night for the chance to meet?

Are there any people you would sit on a stool outside a central London shop for the opportunity to say hello to?

I can’t think of many, but when I saw that elusive Japanese author, (and one of my favourite ever writers), Haruki Murakami was going to be meeting and signing books for the first two hundred people to cross the threshold of Waterstone’s Piccadilly branch, (and on a morning when I was actually in the country no less), I knew what I would be doing to make sure I was one of them.

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A few weeks earlier I had arrived at the same shop an hour before opening time to be one of the first to buy a copy on the morning of the release of his latest offering, ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage.’ I had considered staying out until midnight the night before when several shops held special late-night openings, but decided to settle for Cava and fresh pastries at 8am instead.

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The book is gorgeous, Waterstone’s offering a limited edition white cover version with some special stickers, and I was happy to pay £20 for it. I was even happier to be still awake at 8:30am last Saturday, August 30th, when my book and I were ushered up to the second floor, presented with special MURAKAMI wrist bands and allowed to pass out on carpet after an all-night vigil.

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I had arrived in London by bus from Oxford the evening before, unsure how many people would be there: could I have just shown up around 7am? Or would the 200 spaces already be filled when I showed up at 7pm the night before? Would I be camping in the street in central London alone, which would be pretty scary? Just how many people even knew Murakami, let alone cared about him enough to camp out to meet him?

It turns out I timed things perfectly: at 7pm, I was number 20 in the line, which grew steadily as the night wore on. At around 6am, the magic number of 200 was reached: we would be the lucky ones to meet the elusive author, whilst the 200 after us were promised a signed edition of the book but no access to the man himself.

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Some came with sleeping bags and duvets; others simply stood and waited for morning. I took a middle ground, parking myself on a jealousy-inducing stool (borrowed from my grandmother’s shower) and not getting a single minute of sleep, entertained by my fellow literature lovers and a 600-page edition of ‘The Complete Dorothy Parker’, (a wonderful collection). I was also lucky enough to have a friend drop by and discuss literature, football and jazz, which passed the early evening nicely.

Passers-by, on foot or in cars, demanded to know what we were doing: was the new iPhone coming out? Or, closer to the mark, a new Harry Potter release? Some got bizarrely indignant at how we had chosen to spend our time, whilst others invariably answered with: “Arooki ‘oo? Never ‘eard of her…” But one or two understood what we were so excited about, and even joined the queue.

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By morning, we were a team: sharing tips on which toilets may be open, debating what time we would be allowed entry to the shop, swapping literature tips, (I was wonderfully sandwiched between a father-and-son from Dorset, and three family members from Iran-via-Manchester). As the security roused the sleepers at 6am, the gorgeous weather briefly turned on us, offering an unrequested morning shower, but soon we were all led into the shelter of the shop.

As 11am drew closer, and activity picked up around the signing table where we were all kept penned up, workers came to tell us how things would work: books open to the signing page, no photos, make sure your wristband is visible, put away your phones there are no photos, say hi to the author, don’t take any photos, get the book stamped by someone who was either his assistant or his wife, (depending on who you listened to), and seriously there will be absolutely no photos.

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For once, I followed instructions.

Luckily, one of my fellow campers didn’t, and may have been the only person to fire off this snap before security (who you can see at the front of the queue there) gave him The Look, and all mobiles were sheathed.

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The elusive Mr.Murakami…

Suddenly, like a roller-coaster you have waited hours to ride, things flew into fast-forward and we were all suddenly swept along by events: a ripple of applause broke out as the diminutive Murakami-sama appeared and took his place; we all rose and shuffled into a make-shift line; and before we knew it, we were in front of him, one by one, shaking his hand and saying a few words.

Most of us had spent a fair amount of the 16-hour vigil trying to think of something fun, interesting or at least different to say that he may not have heard before: like me, everyone I spoke to on the way in had come up with absolutely nothing. But as it turned out my choice of clothing proved to be our talking point: I had dug out an old Japanese t-shirt from Oita, my old hometown when I lived there, and he asked if I had been there. He looked genuinely surprised and delighted when I replied in Japanese that I was Oitian, (more or less…) before continuing in his native tongue that it had been an honour to sit in a street all night in order to meet him.

He seemed genuinely surprised to hear that anyone had sat in the street overnight for him!

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With a few more Japanese words to the beaming Japanese lady stamping our newly-signed books with a HARUKI MURAKAMI stamp (which is only present in books signed in person, and makes our copies extremely rare, apparently), I was spat out the other end of the conveyor belt where I collected my belongings and, saying a few words of farewell to my fellow adventurers, staggered out into the sunlight to queues of people presumably still trying to get into the event.

Too late, guys…far, far too late…

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Come back soon for a review when I finally get around to reading it, (probably not my signed copy: I will have to wait until I buy another one, as this one isn’t going to leave my shelf!).

Also, please feel free to sign up for email reminders to the blog!

 

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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