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145. Books Bought & Read, May 2016…

145. Books Bought & Read, May 2016…

Dear Book-Lovers,

I have been away for well over a year, working on other projects such as publishing my first book, moving to a new country and getting married.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading.

My ‘Little Princediary is full of my scribblings, recording the books which I have bought and read over the past eighteen months or so, to make sure that my mania for recording the details of my literary life don’t disappear into the ether. For the next few weeks I will be going back in time, month by month, to let you know what good stuff I have been imbibing.

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Beginning with last month, May 2016: 39 bought, 11 read, and that is not an untypical total seeing as I now live in New York, and have made friends with many of the marvellous second-hand bookshops which line the streets of this city. Indeed, once this monthly rundown is complete I will be bringing you a regular series on the best bookshops of New York, including the tale of how I came to have my own ‘dealer’ who is enabling my habit…

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With three months until I can legally work in this country, I have just about enough time to learn the complete history of this small, relatively new, historically dense place in order to begin giving walking tours in the summer. This explains the high proportion of American history books both bought and, to a lesser degree, read this month, (and in the months to come, which is to say, just gone).

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This historical book-binge, (my fourth, after my time guiding in Berlin, London and Lisbon), began with a Sarah Vowell marathon: I love her, (and her covers of miniaturised life), and her ability to take a single, dense subject, (the role of 19-year-old French posh boy, Lafayette, in the Revolutionary War, for instance, or the history of Hawai’i), and make fact-filled fun out of it.

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I revisited two YA favourites when I picked up new works by Daniel Handler and David Almond, neither of which were quite up to their previous standards, whilst finally giving another chance to an author I thought I disliked, (after a bad experience with a smug Paul Auster novel years ago), and finding myself enjoying the Borgesian literary labyrinths of his faux-detective ‘New York Trilogy.’ With the backlog of books I have literally looming over me, it’s not often I give an author a second chance.

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In an attempt to fill in the lacunae (or holes: not sure why I’d use an obscure Latin word with an even more obscure plural when I could just say holes; all of this reading must be getting to me…) in my knowledge of classic American fiction, I finally got around to reading Mark Twain’s weird and wonderful ‘Huckleberry Finn.‘ This was Hemingway’s favourite ever book, and many people’s vote for where American literature began, but as Hemingway points out the last few chapters get just silly: skip them. It brought back great memories of watching the TV series as a child on lazy weekend mornings

*NB: under a radical new classification system, in the BOOKS READ section below I will be highlighting any which I highly recommend, for all of those who browse this blog for recommendations but don’t have time to read the actual entry. You’re welcome.*

Books Bought, May 2016

The Care And Feeding Of An Independent Bookstore: three instructive essays (Ann Patchett)

Wise Children (Angela Carter)

In The Shadow Of Young Girls In Flower (Marcel Proust)

The Innocent (Ian McEwan)

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

A People’s History Of The Supreme Court (Peter Irons)

Hermit In Paris: autobiographical writings (Italo Calvino)

The Clothes They Stood Up In & The Lady In The Van (Alan Bennett)

How To Read A Novelist (John Freeman)

The Numbers Game: why everything you know about soccer is wrong (Chris Anderson & David Sally)

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

Collected Fictions (Jorge Luis Borges)

The Big Oyster: history on the half shell (Mark Kurlansky)

The Last Bad Man (Miranda July)

Jim Henson: the biography (Brian Jay Jones)

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)

In Persuasion Nation (George Saunders)

The Analects (Confucius)

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)

Mody Dick (Herman Melville)

A Wild Sheep Chase (Haruki Murakami)

The Descent Of Man (Charles Darwin)

The Epic Of Gilgamesh (anonymous)

The Ramayama (anonymous)

The Twelve Caesars (Seutonis)

Jane Jacobs: the last interview & other conversations

There Was A Country (Chinua Achebe)

Revenge Of The Lawn/The Abortion/So The World Won’t Blow It All Away (Richard Brautigan)

The Watcher: and other stories (Italo Calvino)

Gotham: a history of new york city to 1898 (Edwin G.Borrows & Mike Wallace)

The Master Of Petersburg (J.M.Coetzee)

Headlong (Michael Frayn)

Revolting Revolutionaries (Elizabeth Levy)

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

Swann’s Way (Marcel Proust)

Middlemarch (George Eliot)

Seven Nights (Jorge Luis Borges)

The Vinland Sagas (anonymous)

33 1/3: If You’re Feeling Sinister (Scott Plagenhoef)

 

Books Read, May 2016

The Care And Feeding Of An Independent Bookstore: three instructive essays (Ann Patchett)

City Of Glass (Paul Auster)

The Tightrope Walkers (Paul Almond)

Ghosts (Paul Auster)

The Locked Room (Paul Auster)

We Are Pirates! (Daniel Handler)

The Clothes They Stood Up In & The Lady In The Van (Alan Bennett)

Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)

Hermit In Paris: autobiographical writings (Italo Calvino)

The Epic Of New York City: a narrative history (Edward Robb Ellis)

The Partly Cloudy Patriot (Sarah Vowell)

 

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Posted by on June 22, 2016 in BOOKS

 

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129. A Night At The Bookshop…

129. A Night At The Bookshop…

Waterstones, which boasts the largest bookshop in Europe (as I was informed by staff when I spent the night outside it recently to meet Haruki Murakami), recently turned a potential publicity nightmare into a publicity dream with some slick marketing.

When an American tourist popped to the upper floor of the Trafalgar Square branch of the chain, he came down to discover he was locked in.

Rather than roll around naked covered in all of the books, or make the coolest book-fort ever, he tweeted about it until he was released.

The fool.

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Waterstones quickly teamed up with Air B ‘n’ B to offer ten lucky readers the chance to spend the night in their flagship Piccadilly shop overnight, with inflatable mattresses, celebrity guests and, of course, tea to keep them company.

For some reason, a friend of mine thought this might interest me and posted the details on my Facebook page.

All potential lock-ins had to do was to answer the question:

“…what book you would read if you were to spend the night in a bookshop, and why.”

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This is, obviously, an impossible question to answer. To obvious, and hundreds of others will have answered the same. Too obscure, and you will look like you are showing off. Anything about bookshops is out, of course, and after hours of trying to think of a single book which might stand out and get me picked, I decided to do what the best students have been doing since time immemorial, and answer a different question instead: what bookS I would read!

Here is my answer: what would yours be?

“If I were to spend the night in a bookshop, I would (not wasting time sleeping for a minute, of course), do my best to read a book from each formative stage of my (reading) life so far, and finish (around coffee o’clock in the morning) with a book I have always wanted to read but never gotten around to, these being in order: my childhood (and current all-time) favourite, ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de St.Exupéry; my pre-teen years passion, ‘The Worst Witch‘ by Jill Murphy; my teenage companion in pain, ‘The Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4′ by the much missed Sue Townsend; my high school graphic novel-discovery days staple ‘The Sandman‘ by Neil Gaiman; my university-days, tongue-tapping go-to ‘Lolita‘ by Vladimir Nabakov; a selection of short stories, possibly ‘Fictions, by Jorge Luis Borges to represent my (ongoing) world-travelling days; and I would finish, if there were any minutes left in the day (night?), by reading a book of poetry, a promise I often make to myself and rarely fulfil, maybe ‘The Waste Land‘ by T.S.Eliot, (with Whitman’sLeaves of Grass‘ as a potential substitute, should I somehow finish them all.)”

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PS In case you’re wondering, I didn’t win. I probably should have answered the question and taken my chances. Maybe they didn’t believe I could have read all of those books in one night, but they obviously don’t know me: if I don’t sleep on overnight flights in order to watch as many movies as possible, I certainly wouldn’t be sleeping if I got to spend the night in Europe’s largest bookshop!

Since I wasn’t in the country at the time of the sleepover, not winning was probably a good thing. Although if you think I wouldn’t have paid whatever it cost to fly back to London for the night to spend the night in a book shop, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to this blog…

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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90. ‘The Little Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry…

90. ‘The Little Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry…

The Little Prince,’ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Walking down streets or sitting in cafes reading, there is one thing I own which gets me involved in more book-based conversations than anything else: a now slightly tatty, faded leather book cover of ‘Le Petit Prince‘ bought in a tourist shop at the foot of Seoul Tower in South Korea around five years ago. Strangers walk past in the street with a simple “Nice!” and waitresses whose boyfriends have handmade them a gold necklace of the snake-ingested elephant go wild for it.

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I even have one friend, (who became a friend partially based on this fact), who sports a 4-inch high tattoo of the Little Prince being pulled across the night sky (and her left midriff) by stars, but she didn’t wish to have it broadcast to strangers across the world on my blog, for some reason, so you’ll just have to imagine how amazing a tattoo it is.

Le Petit Prince,‘ or ‘The Little Prince,’ for the less francophone inclined, is one of those books which you read when young and which stays with you. I won’t turn this into a review of the book, because either you’ve read it, or you can take an hour to go and read it. Some may find it a little simplistic in a Paolo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’ kind of way, (one reason I think you appreciate it more if you experience the book for the first time when young, like Miyazaki’s ‘My Neighbour Totoro‘ or ‘The Dark Crystal,’ the latter a film which really doesn’t stand up to re-viewing!), but for those who don’t need cute, life-affirming mottos, this little book offers plenty more.

Photo courtesy of David Burgess, and licensed under Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of David Burgess, and licensed under Creative Commons

It is the unique feel of the book which offers so much to the reader: firstly, the mix of fairly serious reality (the narrator throughout being in mortal danger after his motor breaks down in the Sahara desert ), and the fantasy world offered by a miniature person with miniature problems on a tiny planet who only cares about the simple things in life.

The illustrations, penned by the author Saint-Exupéry himself, (left), are timeless and affectionate.

Finally, the not-so-subtle symbolism of the various characters throughout the book are balanced by the underlying adorability of both the eponymous protagonist and the child which the narrator used to be. Morals are everywhere, but the basics can never be repeated enough: nature is good, (“Dessine-moi un mouton”/”Draw me a sheep”), greed and obsession are bad, you can’t always believe your eyes, and we should never, ever grow up.

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Photo courtesy of flickr user gadl and licensed under Creative Commons  

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2013 in BOOKS

 

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