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131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

131. Books Bought & Read, October 2014…

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Don’t forget to check out and order my first ever published book, available here!

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October’s reading, (and purchasing), was brought to you courtesy of a three-week holiday (vacation) to the city that only sleeps when it’s tired, or has a job interview early the next morning, or because the bars have all closed at 2am: New York.

A long flight and metro journeys between my base of Brooklyn and the island once known by the natives as Mana-hatta, (amazing what you can learn on a walking tour…), allowed me to get through seventeen wonderful, and not always short books: The Strand and various lovely, (and cheap), book sellers on the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, allowed me to bring a further 26 home with me, (at least, the ones which weren’t left behind as presents).

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The Strand, the world’s largest bookshop…

One of them, Colson Whitehead’sThe Colossus Of New York‘ came to me in the opposite direction, a lovely and unexpected gift on my 17th 37th birthday, and the perfect jazz prose-poem for somebody wandering the streets of the city, for the first or fiftieth time. A new author for me to look out for, this slim and gorgeous time gets 9/10 on the Borges/Brown scale.

(I decided to abandon grading all of the books I read: my blog was almost impossible to even get to last month, so from this month I am just awarding the Borges mark of excellence to any book on the list which I highly recommend reading.)

Bill Bryson‘s story of a single topic (aviation) in a single year (1927) in American history is fascinating, thanks to not covering just one year or one topic but everything from Communism and Prohibition to baseball and murder cases, and I highly recommend it. Since I try to match my reading to my location, I also finally read Brooklyn-based Michael Chabon’s modern classic ‘The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay,’ a beautiful tale of World War II refugees, New York life, and comic books. Perfect.

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I was guilty of buying a book of which I already own two copies, but since my signed copies of Haruki Murakami’s latest offering is safe in The Cupboard in the UK, and the US version has a different, (and far more gorgeous) cover, I felt entirely justified. The book was everything I’ve come to expect from one of my favourite writers…although no more. Not underwhelming, just not as overwhelming as I’d hoped.

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After returning to Lisbon to continue life and work, I flew through a couple of comic books picked up at New York’s ComicCon, which were nowhere near as much fun as their animated originals, and got back to my latest love, Portuguese literature and especially a fascinating offering from Next Great Portuguese Thing, Gonçalo M.Tavares. If you can find him in translation, I recommend his experimental style highly.

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New York Comic Con…

If you like that sort of thing.

Which I do.

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Books Bought, October 2014

Burmese Days,’ George Orwell

Pastoralia,’ George Saunders

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america,’ ed. Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey

The Fiddler In The Subway,’ Gene Weingarten

Manual Of Painting And Calligaphy,’ José Saramago

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

The Graveyard Book,’ Neil Gaiman

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Strong Opinions,’ Vladimir Nabakov

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

On The Map: why the world looks the way it does,’ Simon Garfield

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,’ David Foster Wallace

Northern Lights,’ Philip Pullman

Anansi Boys,’ Neil Gaiman

Freedom Evolves,’ Daniel.C.Dennett

From Hell,’ Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

O Massacre Dos Judeus: lisboa, 19 de abril de 1506,’ Susana Mateus & Paulo Mendes Pinto

Antic Hay,’ Aldous Huxley

Chrome Yellow,’ Aldous Huxley

Mortal Coils,’ Aldous Huxley

Ballet,’ Arnold Haskell

Biografia De Lisboa,’ Magda Pinheiro

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Books Read, October 2014

One Summer: America, 1927: ,’ Bill Bryson borges

The Rachel Papers,’ Martin Amis

The Amazing Adventures Of  Kavalier And Clay,’ Michael Chabon borges

Salvador,’ Joan Didion

But Beautiful,’ Geoff Dyer

The Song Of Achilles,’ Madeline Miller

The Testament Of Mary,’ Colm Tóibín

Civilwarland In Bad Decline,’ George Saunders

The Colossus Of New York: a city in thirteen parts,’ Colson Whitehead borges

One More Thing: stories and other stories,’ B.J.Novak

Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,’ Gail Steketee & Randy Frost

Regular Show: trade paperback vol.1.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,’ Karen Joy Fowler

Adventure Time: trade paperback vol.2.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage,‘ Haruki Murakami

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M. Tavares borges

Provavelmente Alegria,’ José Saramago

borges = recommended book

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2014 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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