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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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163. Books Bought & Read, December 2017…

163. Books Bought & Read, December 2017…

It took some willpower, (and weather cold enough to keep me curled up indoors with some honeybush tea for most of December, rather than riffling through beaten-up boxes in New York’s plentiful secondhand bookeries), but I managed to end 2017 as I had just four times in the previous year: reading more books than I bought, and continuing to eat my way into my almost infinite To Read pile, like an over-stuffed diner at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Thirteen books made their way to my once-more filled Billy Bookshelves, whilst fifteen were consigned to the past tense, and this month saw one of the highest ratio of recommended books I’ve shared for a long time. More than half of them I deemed good enough to make your winter warming list, from poetry beautiful in every sense to literature by a teenager; old English classics to modern American legends.

Firstly, (and fittingly, given the weather), this was a Penguin-heavy month. I discovered four further additions to my Penguin Classic Deluxe menagerie (Machiavelli, an African Achebe trilogy, the previously unknown Ernst Jünger, whose novel about World War I now sits incongruously next to a colourful Anne of Green Gables), whilst reading one old favourite and one complete newcomer to me, (although I only bought T.S.Hinton’s work from my new friend ‘D’ on the Southeast corner of Union Square due to its shiny 50th Anniversary Penguin Classics cover).

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Considering it was written by a 16-year-old, ‘The Outsiders‘ was an astonishingly gripping, insightful story of the grey areas between right and wrong, good and bad, rich and poor, mature and im-, and I thoroughly enjoyed the short read, a feeling reproduced days later (although with less surprise) when I revisited one of my literary crushes and polished off Graham Greene’s ‘England Made Me,’ also in a Penguin edition.

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Reading Greene again after several years was the literary equivalent of stalking an ex-girlfriend on Facebook, making sure that Greene is still beautiful but depressed, fascinating but pessimistic. I may have learned more about love, life, and how they slowly wear you down than from any other author.

Greene made up for the first ever (slightly) disappointing Borges collection I have encountered to date, (‘Brodie’s Report‘ being more prosaic than his usual magical tales), but that was washed away by the surreal, raw energy of another unknown, this time the wonderful weirdness of the prose poem ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers‘ in which crows come to some sort of life in the place of a loved one who has left it. Breathtakingly powerful.

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My brother has several original pieces of art on his apartment wall from a graphic novel I had never read, but due to its title had been sitting on my wife’s bookshelf since I bought her a dedicated copy at ComicCon a few years ago. This winter seemed like as good a time as any to tackle the toe-breaking omnibus compilation of Terry Moore’s ‘Rachel Rising,’ and it was a dark and funny roller-coaster of a tale, part Gaimany magic and part Stoppardian riposte and repartee, with some pretty twisted moments.

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Chuck Klosterman’s decade’s worth of collected articles (titled simply: ‘X‘) are cultural artifacts which remain a joy to browse, whilst Christopher Hitchens‘ interviews are a time capsule from another political era which seems like it was centuries ago. Both were thought-provoking and highly enjoyable, (balanced by the tale of Trumpian Brexiting which even my favourite living philosopher, A.C.Grayling, failed to make anything but depressing, if informative, in ‘Democracy And Its Crises‘).

This month, I learned how much magic goes into movie-making from legendary (and highly readable) film critic David Thompson; the danger that comes with overthrowing the Egyptian government from Bassem Youssef, (‘The Egyptian Jon Stewart‘); the wonders of a support system for the broken-hearted in yet another excellent Ted Talk book; the views on war (as if I didn’t know them already) of the ever excellent Kurt Vonnegut; and ploughed through one of the most beautiful (if awkward to read) books with a newly illustrated Walt Whitman, which proved that art and literature can go hand in hand. But sometimes shouldn’t.

And with these pages, and these words, I end the month, and the year, and invite you to follow me on another twelve month journey through the books which cross my path in 2018.

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Happy reading!

 

Books Bought, December 2017

Storm Of Steel, (Ernst Jünger)

Cuba On The Verge: 12 writers on continuity and change in havana and across the country (ed.Leila Guerriero)

Song Of Myself (Walt Whitman, illustrations Allen Crawford)

Anne Of Green Gables (L.M.Montgomery)

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers (Max Porter)

How To Fix A Broken Heart (Dr.Guy Winch)

The Last Interview (Christopher Hitchens)

Snoopy: Not Your Average Dog (Charles M.Schulz)

Walden and Civil Disobedience (Henry David Thoreau)

The Prince (Machiavelli)

The Outsiders (T.S.Hinton)

Democracy And Its Crisis (A.C.Grayling)

The Africa Trilogy (Chinua Achebe)

 

Books Read, December 2017

X (Chuck Klosterman)

Rachel Rising (Terry Moore)

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers (Max Porter)

The Last Interview (Christopher Hitchens)

How To Fix A Broken Heart (Dr.Guy Winch)

How To Watch A Movie (David Thomson)

Armageddon In Retrospect (Kurt Vonnegut)

Democracy And Its Crisis (A.C.Grayling)

The Outsiders (T.S.Hinton)

Song Of Myself (Walt Whitman, illustrations Allen Crawford)

Brodie’s Report (Jorge Luis Borges)

Snoopy: Not Your Average Dog (Charles M.Schulz)

England Made Me (Graham Greene)

Think Like A Freak (Steven D.Levitt & Stephen J.Dubner)

Revolution For Dummies: laughing through the arab spring (Bassem Youssef)

 

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2018 in BOOKS

 

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157. Books Bought & Read, June 2017…

157. Books Bought & Read, June 2017…

In ‘Willpower,’ the fascinating study of that illusive character trait which I have in abundance when it comes to alcohol and not at all when it comes to purchasing books, Baumeister and Tierney discuss how strict diets can set the average weight watcher up for failure as, once you transgress your self-imposed limits once, it often leads to the food floodgates opening.

The bibliographic equivalent befell me this month.

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Since last month, I have made a vague effort to not read at least as many books as I buy, and with a week to go I was a couple of copies ahead of my purchasing potential.

And then I visited my friend Chris at the Central Park Strand Stand, and all the month’s good work was undone.

So it didn’t seem worthwhile holding back anymore, and I emerged later that (hot, humid, New York) afternoon from the mythical underground East Village Books and Records with three as-yet unowned editions of the Last Interview series (all B’s, bizarrely: Bolaño, Bradbury and my beloved Borges), as well as a second Kerouac of the month, (not bad for an author I’m pretty sure I dislike, but when Penguin decides to include him in their Classic Deluxe Editions, what’s a collector to do?!)

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So, 33 bought, 23 read, and a new written dietary regime begins afresh in July.

Frustratingly, in an effort to hurriedly rebalance the scales, I ended up reading a book I HAD ALREADY READ. Denis Johnson is an incredible, versatile author, and ‘The Laughing Monsters,’ his short tale of passion, betrayal and spies in Africa, may have been equally fun the second time around, but there are too many books in the universe, (or on my bookshelves, even), for me to read books twice. Fie.

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I was depressed by Joshua Ferris’s wonderfully bleak short story collection ‘The Dinner Party‘, (his debut novel, ‘Then We Came To The End,’ is still one of my favourites of the past few years); thought-provoked by Klosterman’s challenging ‘But What If We’re Wrong?’ (with its ingenious, OCD-infuriatingly upside-down cover); and discovered a new author when I finally read some Carson McCullers short stories, and went straight back to the shelf to wolf down her ‘ The Member Of The Wedding.

Nothing much happens in this lilting, Southern tale, but it fails to happen in such gorgeously described detail, and features a kind of female Catcher In The Rye, (as I saw the main character described), which makes for a wonderful reading experience.

But if there is one theme to last month’s reading, it is: beautiful editions.

Naturally, there were a few more informative TED talks , and I finally started in on the small corner of sweet, red-bound New York Review of Books kids series I have tucked away, (with a bizarre and bizarrely dark tale by Astrid Lindgren,), but it was the equally Scandewegian, equally fairy taley H.C.Anderson who provided the most beautiful bindings for my shelf.

Ten Speed Press released stunning, cloth-bound editions of two Anderson tales, (the puzzling ‘The Fir Tree‘ and the deeply disturbing ‘The Snow Queen‘), with illustrations from neighbouring Finn (and contender for Most Melodic Name Of All Time Award) Sanna Annukka. They were originally intended as presents for my (newly) 8-year-old niece, but somehow haven’t found their way off my shelf yet.

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Luckily, the same can’t be said for probably my favourite book this past month: ‘I’m Just No Good At Rhyming,’  from TV comedy writer Chris Harris. Within half a dozen pages I was a kid again, (not that it takes much…) reading Michael Rosen and Dr.Seuss and Shel Silverstein, and laughing out loud perhaps more than a 39-year-old should at a kids book of poems.

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Harris and illustrator Lane Smith make full use of page space, visual gags, comedy callbacks, and surrealism, sprinkled with just the right amount of not-too-much emotion to produce a work I was more than happy to present to my equally delighted niece.

Mainly because I had two copies.

 

 

Books Bought, June 2017

Seiobo There Below (László Krasznahorkai)

The Sunset Limited (Cormac McCarthy)

The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe and other stories(Carson McCullers)

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

On The Road (Jack Kerouac)

The Wonderful O (James Thurber)

The Book Of The People: how to read the bible (A.N.Wilson)

Asteroid Hunters (Carrie Nugent)

Glaxo (Hernán Ronsino)

The Good Earth (Pearl S.Buck, ill.Nick Bertozzi)

Lord Of The Flies (William Golding)

Who Are You Really? the surprising puzzle of personality (Brian R.Little)

The Blue Fox (Sjón)

Vile Bodies (Evelyn Waugh)

Sputnik Sweetheart (Haruki Murakami)

Welcome To The Monkey House (Kurt Vonnegut)

Shenzhen: a travelogue from china (Guy Delisle)

The Crucible (Arthur Miller)

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (Mark Twain)

The Abolition Of Man (C.S.Lewis)

The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Anderson)

The Fir Tree (Hans Christian Anderson)

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

The Last Temptation (Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli & Alice Cooper)

Stories Of Your Life and other stories (Ted Chiang)

Am I Alone Here? notes on living to read and reading to live (Peter Orner)

My Friend Dahmer (Derf Backderf)

Object Lessons: the paris review presents the art of the short story (various)

Believe Me (Eddie Izzard)

Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac)

The Last Interview: Roberto Bolaño

The Last Interview: Ray Bradbury

The Last Interview: Jorge Luis Borges

 

Books Read, June 2017 (highly recommended books are in bold)

The Dinner Party and other stories (Joshua Ferris)

But What If We’re Wrong? thinking about the present as if it were the past(Chuck Klosterman)

Spork (Maclear & Arsenault)

Building The New American Economy: smart, fair & sustainable (Jonathan Sacks)

Writing In The Dark: essays on literature and politics (David Grossman)

I’m Just No Good At Rhyming: and other nonsense for mischievous kids and immature grown-ups (Chris Harris, illus.Lane Smith)

Color: a natural history of the palette (Victoria Finlay)

The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe and other stories(Carson McCullers)

Stay Where You Are, Then Leave (John Boyne)

Asteroid Hunters (Carrie Nugent)

The Laughing Monsters (Denis Johnson)

The Good Earth (Pearl S.Buck, ill.Nick Bertozzi)

The Bricks That Built The Houses (Kate Tempest)

Glaxo (Hernán Ronsino)

Who Are You Really? the surprising puzzle of personality (Brian R.Little)

The Blue Fox (Sjón)

The Member Of The Wedding (Carson McCullers)

My Son, Mio (Astrid Lindgren)

Shenzhen: a travelogue from china (Guy Delisle)

The Abolition Of Man (C.S.Lewis)

The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg (Mark Twain)

The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Anderson)

The Fir Tree (Hans Christian Anderson)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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