Tag Archives: Penguin books

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)

1 Comment

Posted by on June 2, 2017 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

97. 2013 In (Book) Review…

My 2013 In Books

The first week of the year has become a time for me to look back and reflect on the previous 365 days…of books, of course. (My life takes care of itself: books need to be carefully considered).

The final tally for 2013?

174 books bought, and 179 read.

That’s a book bought and read almost every other day, an achievement to be proud of, (if buying and reading books is something you’re proud of, at least).

Almost half as many books bought as the year before, (is my addiction coming under control? Or was I just living in more rural areas last year?), and 23 more books read than last year. Most importantly, I finally read more books than I bought, (just!). If I live another 837 years, I may read all of the books in my cupboard, (plus all the ones I have yet to buy).


The books were read in eleven countries on four continents:

England, Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, The USA, Portugal, Israel and Canada,

February was the only month where I bought the same number of books as I read, and there were two months when I somehow managed to buy only a single tome, (which contributed towards halving my addiction from last year). September was the most insane month either I or possibly anyone else has ever had purchasing and reading books, with an average of two bought and one read A DAY, (feel free to come read about it here).

     From real-life, to blog-life:

Thanks to YOU, in 2013 my scribblings were read by 5,651 people from NINETY-NINE COUNTRIES!!

The OCD side of me is heart-broken that we didn’t make a hundred; the literary in me loves the number 99, (not to mention the flake-topped ice-cream it represents in the UK, or its importance in music as varied as Jay-Z and Nena), a number as symbolic as forty in the Bible or 1,001 in literature.

(The latter may contain offensive language. Who am I kidding: the latter definitely does contain offensive language, not to mention illegal Beatles samples!)


Photo by Stan Shebs, used under Creative Commons license.

I didn’t quite keep up my blog-a-week goal, releasing only 42 word compilations into the netosphere, but maybe less is more, since 129 is now the number of views to beat in a single day, (up from 73 the year before), largely powered by the second part of my Top 10 of Favourite Authors featuring Haruki Murakami, who apparently has quite a devout online following. It was, however, the first part of that list which had the most hits throughout the year. Which is lucky, because I plan on writing a few more to expand my author Top 10, and to continue my Top 10 of Books, too.

The most searched-for term which led to my blog (besides my name, naturally enough), was Penguin and/or Puffin books, which helped people to find blogs like this one on the famed British publishing house: any guesses what next year’s will be?

Anyway, I’m honoured that readership doubled, and came from exactly 50% more countries than the previous year. If this trend continues, I see global domination in the near future.

Come join me!

1 Comment

Posted by on January 4, 2014 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

95. Penguins & Puffins…

95. Penguins & Puffins…

One of my proudest moments in life was when a friend asked me what she could do to get her baby to read as much as me. From what I have experienced, and have read on the topic, the only answer I could give was: read to him growing up, and hopefully he will stay interested and start reading on his own. If this was true for me, it was down to two things: my parents reading to me and buying me books, and Puffin Books.

For those of you who don’t know, Puffin is the children’s branch of Penguin Books, founded in 1940 and still going strong. Probably the strongest memory I have of junior school, (ages 8-11), was the day when, once a term, the Puffin Book Club magazine would arrive. This was a catalogue of the best of books for kids, and students (at least, those who loved reading), would take it home, peruse it, and pester their parents into writing them out a cheque or money order, (for any readers under the age of about 30, click here for details).


Puffin Club badge and certificate photo, courtesy of Thin Puffin

This was the second most exciting day of the term, but it didn’t even come close to the day, maybe a month later, (actually, it could have been three days, I don’t think my temporal perception was so hot when I was an eight-year-old), when the often grey-haired teacher would struggle into the classroom under several shrink-wrapped bundles of those Puffin-logo’d books from a range of genres and authors, the only one of whom I remember clearly being the ubiquitous and incredible Roald Dahl.

(Heartbreakingly, I learned in my research for this blog entry that the Puffin Book Club recently closed down. Sniff).

I grew up knowing that I was going to enjoy pretty much anything printed by Puffin, and it proved to be genius advertising and branding, since as an ‘adult’ I smoothly transferred my loyalty to the slightly more grown up sibling bird, Penguin. I recently bought and devoured two gorgeous, illustrated histories of the two companies, ‘Penguin By Design: a cover story 1935-2005′ and ‘Puffin By Design: 70 years of imagination 1940-2010,’ both by Phil Baines, and learned an awful lot about design and imagination.


From Penguin’s innovative use of colour-coordination on covers to inform the reader of the genre contained therein, to the evolution of the instantly recognisable Penguin and Puffin logos over the years, I was most excited to get to my era and recognise so many of the books which constituted my most formative years.

There were also sections on the different offshoots and box sets which, as a completist collector, I have become so addicted to. My favourite is the recent Penguin Great Ideas series, which has grown to feature 100 beautifully designed ‘best of’ works from some of the greatest and most influential authors of all time, and which I hope to eventually own all of. Those of you who have been with me since the start of this blog may remember my excitement at finding the first box set of twenty books way back in entry 12, and the photos I took of them.


If you were to create a personal ‘Brand Awareness’ survey just for me, my number one wouldn’t be Coca-Cola, McDonald’s or Marlboro, (none of which I partake in), but the book logos which surround me. No prizes for guessing which the most prevalent would be.





Posted by on December 24, 2013 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,