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153. Books Bought & Read, February 2017…

153. Books Bought & Read, February 2017…

An increasingly ridiculous 72 books bought, and an impressive, round, if comparatively underwhelming 20 read, (and don’t forget, this was the shortest month of the year: I was almost on a book-a-day rate!)

This month, I devoured a couple of fun Ted Talk books and a couple of School of Life self-help books, (one of each on how/with whom to fall in love, which I seem to have done OK without but recommend for any single readers out there for hints on how to broaden your horizons).

Whilst celebrating Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, (or Norlins, as the locals have taught me to properly pronounce it, y’all), I found my Travel Pile accidentally consisting of several books on a fitting theme, given my vacation destination and the fact that it was Black History Month.

I felt, as just about everyone did, that Harper Lee’s long delayed ‘Mockingbird’ sequel was a delightful read until the bizarre conclusion, and the wonderfully named NoViolet Bulawayo’s modern take on the themes of immigration, race and roots in her debut novel ‘We Need New Names‘ was an amazing tapestry of snapshots from Zimbabwe to ‘Destroyed, Michigan,’ (as the title suggests, names play a fascinating role in her book).

After seeing the stunning documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro‘ at the cinema, I took James Baldwin’s advice to read ‘A Raisin In The Sun.‘ I had never heard of it but, according to its cover, ‘Raising’ is up there with ‘Death Of A Salesman‘ in the pantheon of American theatre, and it was indeed a great read, joined on the shelf by a collection of Baldwin writings I went straight out to buy after the movie too.

Alongside the Last Interview series on Martin Luther King Jr. which I also read, I am feeling simultaneously marginally more informed and hugely more depressed, a state of affairs not aided by another Oscar-nominated documentary, ‘13th,’ which I watched to educate myself some more on race and the American prison system this month.

My plunge into US and NY history continued apace. I explored New York’s food history with Robert Sietsema, its architectural history with Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, and its immigration history with the wonderful ‘Let The Great World Spin,’ (yet another novel I had long avoided because everyone else was reading it), the tale of hookers and immigrants and judges and housewives woven around my current favourite NY legend, Philippe Petit, aka the Man on Wire.

Across the US I was accompanied by Stephen Fry, (in a rather silly road trip), which contrasted drastically with one of my favourite books this month, ‘State By State,’ in which 50 writers, artists and celebrities, (from Anthony Bourdain to Joe Sacco, Dave Eggers to Carrie Brownstein), were allocated a state each and allowed to represent it anyway they wanted/knew how, resulting in an unpredictable but incredibly informative and entertaining 500+ page guide to the USA.


I read a couple of bad books this month, (the Bayard, mainly), but the worst book was also one of the best: my friend Nick has been recommending immersive journalist Bill Buford to me for a while, and I finally took the plunge with his ‘Among The Thugs,’ the story of how he became accepted into various football hooligan organisations in the UK during the 1980’s.

This was the time when I was first attending matches in England, and later abroad, and I both recognised the atmosphere of hostility and sectarianism whilst being left open-mouthed at the toxic politics and sheer aggression which I luckily rarely saw first-hand, and which was reported graphically, horrifically and, somehow, poetically, by Buford. A literary ‘This Is England,’ for those who saw and loved/hated the movie/TV show.

Finally, I fell asleep several nights in a row reading the unclassifiable Thunder & Lightning by Lauren Redniss: part art statement, part green manifesto, part science textbook, part myth and legend, part story-telling, all beautiful.



Books Bought, February 2017

Lost For Words (Edward St.Aubyn)

Wimbledon Green (Seth)

The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)

A Load Of Hooey (Bob Odendirk)

One Hundred Apocalypses (Lucy Corin)

Further Joy (John Brandon)

The Annotated Sandman: Vol.I (Neil Gaiman)

The Annotated Sandman: Vol.II (Neil Gaiman)

The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountain (Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell) x2

The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Weird Stories (H.P.Lovecraft)

McSweeney’s No.28

The Wisdom Of The Myths: how greek mythology can change your life (Luc Ferry)

The Familiar: Vol.4 (Mark Z.Danielewski)

A Literary Tour Of Italy (Tim Parks)

Coming In To Land: selected poems, 1975-2015 (Andrew Motion)

Number 11 (Jonathan Coe)

Beyond Measure: the big impact of small changes (Margaret Heffernan)

A Really Good Day: how microdosing made a mega difference in my mood, my marriage, and my life (Ayelet Waldman)

How To Be Bored (Eva Hoffman)

Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman) x2

Havana: a subtropical delirium (Mark Kurlansky)

How To Choose a Partner (Susan Quilliam)

American Gods (Neil Gaiman)

On The Origin Of Sports: the early history and original rules of everybody’s favorite games (Gary Belsky & Neil Fine)

Trivium: the classical liberal arts of grammar, logic, & rhetoric (various)

Quadrivium: the four classical liberal arts of number, geometry, music, & cosmology (various)

Sciencia: mathemetics, physics, chemistry, biology, & astronomy for all (various)

Martin Luther King, Jr: the last interview and other conversations

The Mathematics Of Love: patterns, proofs, and the search for the ultimate equation (Hannah Fry)

The Art Of Stillness: the art of going nowhere (Pico Iyer)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Cat (Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley)

The 13 Clocks (James Thurber)

The Liars’ Club (Mary Karr)

Lincoln In The Bardo (George Saunders)

Sag Harbour (Colson Whitehead)

SPQR: a history of ancient rome (Mary Beard)

Pour Que Tu Ne Te Perdes Pas Dans Le Quartier (Patrick Modiano)

Mortality (Christopher Hitchens)

Museum Legs: fatigue and hope in the face of art (Amy Whitaker)

The Member Of The Wedding (Carson McCullers)

An Anthropologist On Mars (Oliver Sacks)

After Dark (Haruki Murakami)

Kafka On The Shore (Haruki Murakami)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Haruki Murakami)

Memórias De Mis Putas Tristes (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Pnin (Vladimir Nabakov)

Bend Sinister (Vladimir Nabakov)

King, Queen, Knave (Vladimir Nabakov)

The Luzhin Defence (Vladimir Nabakov)

Glory (Vladimir Nabakov)

Travels With Epicurus: a journey to a greek island in search of a fulfilled life (David Klein)

Gratitude (Oliver Sacks)

The Intuitionist (Colson Whitehead)

Numbers In The Dark: and other stories (Italo Calvino)

Albion (Allan Moore)

Mannahatta: a natural history of new york city (Eric W.Sanderson)

A Raisin In The Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

Lonely Planet: Portugal

Galápagos (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Enchanter (Vladimir Nabakov)

The Cross Of Redemption: uncollected writings (James Baldwin)

Bicycle Diaries (David Byrne)

Why We Work (Barry Schwartz)

The Future Of Architecture In 100 Buildings (Marc Kushner)

Mr.Bridge/Mrs.Bridge (Evan Connell)

McSweeney’s No.2

Patience (Daniel Clowes)

Pussey! (Daniel Clowes)

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, 1969 (Allan Moore)


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

Thunder And Lightning: weather past, present, future (Laura Redniss)

Wrestling With Moses: how jane jacobs took on new york’s master builder and transformed the american city (Anthony Flint)

The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountain (Neil Gaiman & Eddie Campbell)

Among The Thugs (Bill Buford)

How To Talk About Places You’ve Never Been: on the importance of armchair travel (Pierre Bayard)

New York In A Dozen Dishes (Robert Sietsema)

How To Be Bored (Eva Hoffman)

How To Choose a Partner (Susan Quilliam)

State By State: a panoramic portrait of america (ed.Matt Weiland & Sean Wilsey)

Martin Luther King, Jr: the last interview and other conversations

Beyond Measure: the big impact of small changes (Margaret Heffernan)

Stephen Fry In America (Stephen Fry)

Museum: behind the scenes at the metropolitan museum of art (Danny Danziger)

Let The Great World Spin (Colum McCann)

The Mathematics Of Love: patterns, proofs, and the search for the ultimate equation (Hannah Fry)

Albion (Allan Moore)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Cat (Joel Morris & Jason Hazeley)

We Need New Names (NoViolet Bulawayo)

A Raisin In The Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

Go Set A Watchman (Harper Lee)

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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in BOOKS


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148. Books Bought & Read, September 2016…

148. Books Bought & Read, September 2016…

15 more booksworth of information is now rattling around somewhere in my brain, and 62 more booksworth of books is now most definitely not rattling around in our apartment.

This is due to the life-changing news, (for me, at least), that after a 7-hour battle I finally emerged victorious in a war with four interlocking IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Everything feels better already.

(Fittingly, the best book I ‘read’ this month was pure shelfporn: Gary Johnson’s ‘Bookshelf,’ 250-pages of incredible, often ridiculous book-storage which I will never be able to afford!)


Domestic bliss…

By the time we speak next, I should be the proud holder of a license to give tours in the once-Royal city of New York, so again this month I have mainly been studying the weird and wonderful world of Manhattan-based trivia, (ever wondered where the word ‘cookie‘ comes from?  Or what the longest ever fall from an elevator shaft which didn’t result in death was? Come join one of my tours to find out!)

I re-read a fun book on the Founding Fathers, and ploughed through a fairly fascinating, Pulitzer Prize winning 550-pager on the construction of Rockefeller Center, (not a sentence I ever thought I’d hear myself say), which didn’t leave myself much time for recreational reading.

But it was worth it to learn that they spent weeks debating whether to call it Rockefeller ‘Center’ or ‘Centre’.


All I managed to consume away from NY history was a comic or two, one more in the wonderful TED Talks series, (this one on why it’s fun to meet strangers, and how to do it), and another in the similarly quirky ‘Modern Self-Help’ vein from The School of Life on ‘How To Age‘ (sample secret: imagine yourself in another 20 years, and feel better now!)

I left myself plenty of time for recreational buying, however.

62 books came home with me, almost exclusively from my volunteer shifts at the wonderful Housing Work Bookstore and Cafe. (And no, I take no pleasure in realising that I bought one more book this month than I did last month. Well, OK, maybe a little.)

On Mondays I help beautify the actual store and recommend books to unsuspecting customers, but on Tuesdays they let me loose sorting the incoming boxes of donated books, and it’s almost a case of one for you, one for me

I really think I may be their best customer.


This is what I do with my spare time in NYC…

Thanks to the folks at the store, I have finally complete my Lemony Snicket collection, and added considerably to my latest addiction: Penguin Classic Deluxe Editions. Any ‘classic’ you find on the ‘Books Bought’ list, from Austen to Joyce, probably came from this gorgeous collection, with their ruffled edges and glimmering covers.

This continued a trend of many of the books bought being ‘doubles,’ copies I already have to give to friends as gifts, or to keep because they come in nicer covers than the ones I already own. After finally completing my collection of McSweeney’s short story collections last month, I am halfway to accumulating another complete set: they just look to good on the shelf to refuse!


I’ve realised that most of you probably don’t have any desire to read through an obscenely long list of what books I’ve bought each month, so as of this month that list has been relegated to the very end of the blog, only for the diehard fans.

In the meantime, enjoy your reading, and stay tuned for an upcoming series of blogs on my favourite bookshops in NY!

Books Read, September 2016 (Highly recommended books in bold)

Great Fortune: the epic of rockefeller center (Daniel Okrent)

The Elements Of Music: melody, rhythm and harmony (Jason Martineau)

When Strangers Meet: how people you don’t know can transform you (Kio Stark)

A Place Of Remembrance: official book of the national september 11 memorial

Batman: the dark knight returns (Frank Miller)

A Room Of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)

How To Age (Anne Karpf)

A.D: new orleans after the deluge (Josh Neufeld)

McSweeney’s Comedy By The Numbers:  the 169 secrets of humor and popularity (Eric Hoffman & Gary Rudoren)

Unicorn Being A Jerk (C.W.Moss)

Why Unicorn Drinks (C.W.Moss)

A Wild Haruki Chase: reading murakami around the world (various)

Bookshelf (Alex Johnson)

Founding Brothers: the revolutionary generation  (Joseph J.Ellis)

The Great American Citizenship Quiz (Solomon M.Skolnick)

Books Bought, September 2016

A Wild Haruki Chase: reading murakami around the world (various)

The Art Of Procuring Pleasant Dreams (Benjamin Franklin)

When Strangers Meet: how people you don’t know can transform you (Kio Stark)

The Girl Who Married A Lion (Alexander McCall Smith)

Poetic Meter And Form (Octavia Wynne)

Classical Cocktails (Salvatore Calabrese)

Einstein’s Riddle: riddles, paradoxes and conundrums to stretch your mind (Jeremy Stangroom)

How To Talk About Places You’ve Never Been: on the importance of armchair travel (Pierre Bayard)

The Gene: an intimate history (Siddhartha Mukherjee)

The Great American Citizenship Quiz (Solomon M.Skolnick)

Unicorn Being A Jerk (C.W.Moss)

Why Unicorn Drinks (C.W.Moss)

Vacation (Deb Olin Unsworth)

The Seven Good Years (Etgar Keret)

Tortilla Curtain (T.C.Boyle)

Bagombo Snuffbox (Kurt Vonnegut)

The Power Broker: robert moses and the fall of new york (Robert A.Caro)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.9: the carnivorous carnival (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.10: the slippery slope (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.11: the grim grotto (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.12: the penultimate peril (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

A Series Of Unfortunate Events No.13: the end (Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler)

Dracula (Bram Stoker)

Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling)

Peter Pan (J.M.Barrie)

The Picture Of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.38

The Jaguar Smile (Salman Rushdie)

Moving To Higher Ground: how jazz can change your life (Wynton Marsalis)

Good Bones And Simple Murders (Margaret Atwood)

What Is The What (Dave Eggers)

The WPA Guide To New York City (various)

Presenting Shakespeare: 1,100 posters from around the world

Shiny Adidas Tracksuits And The Death Of Camp (various)

Sandman No.10: the wake (Neil Gaiman)

How The Other Half Lives (Jacob Riis)

Kristin Lavransdatter (Sigrid Undset)

I Wear The Black Hat: grappling with villains (real and imagined) (Chuck Klosterman)

City Beasts (Mark Kurlansky)

The Haunting Of Hill House (Shirley Jackson)

How To Think Like An Entrepreneur (Philip Delves Broughton)

A.D: new orleans after the deluge (Josh Neufeld)

Tradition (Daniel Khalastchi)

Gilliamesque: a pre-posthumous memoir (Terry Gilliam)

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.22

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.35

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.36

McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern No.37

Creating Room To Read (John Wood)

Salt (Mark Kurlansky)

Blankets (Craig Thompson)

Habibi (Craig Thompson)

The Dubliners (James Joyce)

Pride And Prejudice (Jane Austen)

That Is All (John Hodgman)

Moominpappa’s Memoirs (Tove Janson)

Paris Out Of Hand: a wayward guide (Karen Elizabeth Gordon)

Sound Bites (Alex Kaprianos)

Black Swan Green (David Mitchell)

Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World (Haruki Murakami)

What To Think About Machines That Think (ed.John Brockman)

The Sound Book: the science of the sonic wonders of the world (Trevor Cox)

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Posted by on October 16, 2016 in BOOKS


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32. Books Bought, May-June 2012…

32. Books Bought, May-June 2012…


A Clash of Kings,’ George R.R.Martin (signed)

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk,’ David Sedaris

How I Escaped My Certain Fate,’ Stewart Lee

Musicophilia,’ Oliver Sacks

Africa United: how football explains africa,’ Steve Bloomfield

Dave Gorman vs The Rest Of The World,’ Dave Gorman

How To Read A Novel,’ John Sutherland

The Fry Chronicles,’ Stephen Fry

‘The Sisters Brothers,’ Patrick deWitt

The Hare With The Amber Eyes,’ Edmund de Waal

Remember, Remember (The Fifth Of November): the history of britain in bite sized chunks,’ Judy Parkinson

The Pythons Autobiography By The Pythons,’ Cleese, Palin, Idle, Gilliam, Jones, Chapman (estate), Bob McCabe

Lonely Planet: The Travel Book

W.H.Auden: selected poems

‘Philip Larkin: selected poems’

‘Ted Hughes: selected poems’

McSweeney’s Number 11’ (already owned, but I wasn’t sure and found it in an Oxfam charity bookshop and couldn’t resist…plus it was sealed…)

More Things Like This,’ McSweeney’s

Good To Be God,’ Tibor Fischer

The Mozart Question,’ Michael Morpurgo

Thanks For Nothing,’ Jack Dee

Proust And The Squid,’ Maryanne Wolf

The Independent Book Of Interviews: Pt.1

Notes From A Small Island,’ Bill Bryson (my take home from a charity book swap)

This Is A Book,’ Demetri Martin

The Hunger Games,’ Suzanne Collins
I Never Knew That About London,’ Christopher Winn
Yoga For People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It,’ Tibor Fischer
I Am America (and so can you),’ Stephen Colbert
Midnight’s Children,’ Salman Rushdie
Lewis Carroll In Wonderland,’ Robin Wilson
The Football Men,’ Simon Kuper
Freedom,’ Jonathan Franzen
Sigmund Freud,’ by Ralph Steadman
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die,’ edited by Steven Jay Schneider
The Complete Winnie The Pooh,’ A.A.Milne
Delete This At Your Peril,’ Neil Forsyth
Disgrace,’ J.M.Coetzee
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,’ Nathan Englander
Taking Chances,’ John Haigh
plus: 16 books bought (and reported on) during the 2012 Hay Literature Festival
I have a notebook, (well, to be more precise,I have several: in fact, I have a kind of notebook addiction, possibly even fetish. But thats beside the point), in which I keep track of which books I buy, read, finish reading, on which dates. The plan was to spend most of the blogs writing about the books I’m reading, but it’s almost as much fun to note what I have been buying, and why. To me, at least.
So, 62 books over two months: over a book a day, which for some reason makes me happy, like I’m keeping up some sort of undecided, unnecessary average. Five bought in order to get signed by their authors at the Hay Festival, (with a 60% success rate); three presents, (grandmother, niece and housemates), two I already owned, (the McSweeney’s because I wasn’t sure if I already owned it or not, but there may not be a better emergency present around for literate friends; the Coetzee classic ‘Disgrace’ because I found a gorgeous, purple-paged edition in a charity shop and couldn’t resist), and just two London history books, (since I now know pretty much everything there is to know about the city, and just want to keep on my toes). Not to mention a complete set of six signed at the fantastic ‘School of Life’ event, as blogged about here.
I continued adding to my poetry collection, (which I never quite get around to actually reading, but I will do someday, I’m sure…), completed my Tibor Fischer collection, began my ‘Hunger Games’ hunt, and saw a distinct bias towards non-fiction: comedy autobiogs, football, music, literature, statistics, linguistics and a book on how the human brain has evolved and developed reading systems over the years. Fittingly.
I now have a shelf of around 40/50 books here in London, and maybe only a few more months left in the capital. The Olympics are coming, as are three solid weeks of work to enable me to take a fortnight off tours to enjoy the games, so I have made a conscious effort to a) stop buying quite so many books, and b) get through as many of the ones I have here in the meantime. So hopefully I’ll have more time to catch up on blogging about all the books I’ve been reading, piled up next to my shelf with little yellow Post-It notes donkey-ear’ing out of them by the dozen, and not just the ones I’ve been buying.

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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in BOOKS


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