Tag Archives: Puffin Books

160. Books Bought & Read, September 2017…

160. Books Bought & Read, September 2017…

13 read, 18 bought: the pretence of out-running my addiction finally came crashing into the back of me in September, and all because of whimsy. I was pacing myself nicely, buying books in ones and twos and reading them on my travels to the UK (to visit family) and to Italy (to get away from the UK), when in my last few days in my hometown I stumbled across a charity shop selling a collection of (my beloved childhood) Puffin Books editions of Tove Jansson’s Moomins, just a month after plunging into her adult fiction. Coincidence?

Yes. But that didn’t stop me walking away with the lot of them, and throwing my monthly book-buying equilibrium out of the window. Oh well, the things we do for our passions!

This was a month of travel, and I like to coordinate my reading with my whereabouts. Being home in Southend-on-Sea with my family, (immediate and in-lawed), didn’t inspire me to any specific literature, but a brief sojourn in Italy, on the beaches of Sardinia, led to a killer history/literature one-two combo of insightful and well-written books: Tim Parks (who wrote one of my all-time favourite football/travel combo books, ‘A Season With Verona‘), walking me through Italian writing over the centuries, before John Hooper led me up and down the country and the culture. I highly recommend both, although Hooper’s ‘The Italians‘ may be the more accessible primer for anyone wanting to delve into the country’s history from scratch.

I continued my attack on the glass-encapsulated box-set of Penguin Sci-Fi classics with Ursula K. LeGuin’s ‘Left Hand of Darkness,’ which I liked in theory but not so much in practice. The story of a planet whose inhabitants are both male and female depending on their cycle is timely and thought-provoking, but the plot itself reminded me too much of the boring council scenes in the woeful Star Wars remakes, and I only really enjoyed the historical asides between chapters, self-encapsulated vignettes of unfinished stories like aborted Italo Calvino chapters.

LeGuin wasn’t the only one to disappoint me this month: Demetri Martin’s latest collection of sketches and visual one-liners wasn’t nearly as much fun as his earlier books, although an early Colson Whitehead novel, ‘The Intuitionist,’ helped dampen the disappointment, weaving the history of elevation into a near-future detective tale of racism and prejudice against…people with intuition. A better novel than I’m making it sound, and Whitehead maintains his place as one of my favourite recently discovered writers.

I enjoyed four straight collections of Amy Hempel short stories, but I enjoyed them less as they went on (maybe reading them one after the other was a mistake or maybe, despite the claims of the prologue writer, I just prefer her early works to her later ones), and I’m loving discovering classic tales I’ve never read thanks to Melville House’s ‘Art Of The Novella‘ series, (which I’ve just learned, whilst googling it, contains at least 55 books; so just the 51 or so left to collect…)


But once again, the star of my Books Read pile was a flimsy-looking tale about nothing by Tove Jansson, the Finnish artist and tale-spinner who (apparently) has published some of the most subtle and uncategorisable fiction I’ve ever read.


In ‘The Summer Book‘ we follow a young girl and her grandmother, (who often seem to change places emotionally throughout the book), doing nothing but passing time on their under-inhabited island off the Finnish coast. I’ve rarely seen an author pack so much magic, mystery and wisdom into so little space: just 22 chapters like 22 rocks tossed into a pool, rippling out in the reader’s mind. How has it taken me so long to find Tove Jansson? How long will it take me to read everything else she has written?

Books Bought, September 2017

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers)

The Painter Of Signs (R.K.Narayan)

McSweeney’s Issue 2

Gulp; adventures on the alimentary canal (Mary Roach)

If It’s Not Funny, It’s Art (Demetri Martin)

The Acts Of King Arthur And His Noble Knights (John Steinbeck)

Bartleby The Scrivener (Herman Melville)

The White Castle (Orhan Pamuk)

Letters To A Young Scientist (Edward O.Wilson)

Histories Of Nations: how their identities were forged (ed.Peter Furtado)

Finn Family Moomintroll (Tove Jansson)

Moominland Midwinter (Tove Jansson)

Comet In Moominland (Tove Jansson)

Moominsummer Madness (Tove Jansson)

The Exploits Of Moominpappa (Tove Jansson)

Moominpappa At Sea (Tove Jansson)

Moominpappa’s Memoirs (Tove Jansson)


Books Read, September 2017 (highly recommended books in bold)

The Left Hand Of Darkness (Ursula K.LeGuin)

The Summer Book (Tove Jansson)

If It’s Not Funny, It’s Art (Demetri Martin)

The Intuitionist (Colson Whitehead)

Reasons To Live (Amy Hempel)

At The Gates Of The Animal Kingdom (Amy Hempel)

Tumble Home (Amy Hempel)

The Dog Of The Marriage (Amy Hempel)

Bartleby The Scrivener (Herman Melville)

Letters To A Young Scientist (Edward O.Wilson)

The Painter Of Signs (R.K.Narayan)

The Italians (John Hooper)

A Literary Tour Of Italy (Tim Parks)


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Posted by on October 30, 2017 in BOOKS


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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!

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Posted by on January 4, 2014 in BOOKS


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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


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