Tag Archives: The Strand

174. Books Bought & Read, October 2018…

174. Books Bought & Read, October 2018…

To be fair, October is my birthday month, so it was only to be expected that I would go a little crazy with my book-buying, but this month was especially ridiculous.

I went somewhat wild knowing that there were only so many more times I would be able to get lost (both literally and figuratively) volunteering among the basement shelves at Housing Works, or browsing the boxes of books at The Strand at Central Park.

We’re moving, you see. Ditching one New for another, from anglicised to gallic, from York to Orleans.

So I had to make sure I had something good to read on the plane…

Hence this month’s totals: a full deck of 52 bought, a (comparatively) paltry 19 read.

As well as reading literature this month, I managed to hear it too, as my birthday weekend coincided with that rarest of sightings, a public talk by Haruki Murakami. He featured at the New Yorker Festival in Manhattan, and since tickets were priced obscenely I decided to simply show up at the venue and see if anyone had a spare.

They did, it was cheap, and I got to watch one of my literary idols spend over an hour charmingly explain how he never re-reads his own works, barely seems to remember plot minutiae which his audience clearly obsess over, and answer every other question/thesis from fans with some variation of: “I have no idea what that character was thinking, or what I meant by that. But yours sounds like a good theory!”



Haruki Murakami charms the audience at the New Yorker Festival, October 2018

My favourite revelation from him concerned a line in one of his most popular novels, “Kafka On The Shore.” The interviewer asked how he had uncovered the rare and wonderful fact that Franz Kafka loved diagonal lines. Murakami’s response: “I just made that up! It sounded right!”

If that’s not master fiction writing in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.


I continued my novella-buying spree, the perfect bedside companions, and went on a boxing spree too. The excellent poetry collection on legendary African American boxer Jack Johnson (no relation) seemed to have been based directly on the chapter on him in Joyce Carol Oates’s expanded essay on the Sport of Kings which I’d happened to read just before it, and both were carefully crafted looks at the sport (if, as Oates may have convinced me, it is indeed a sport).

I also keep turning up beautiful editions of Arthur Miller plays, thanks to Penguin (as always).

I found and devoured the prequel to a book I’d much enjoyed several months ago, The Geography of Genius, this time Eric Weiner following a hot topic by reporting on various countries’ sense of happiness (or lack thereof) in The Geography of Bliss. This dovetailed with my recent obsession with ‘hygge‘-mania, and was a fun travelogue of a read.


Nick Hornby led me to Carlo Rovelli’s simple but mind-boggling short treatise on time and how it doesn’t really exist the way we experience it. The part of this densely packed scientific exploration which stuck with me, and seemed so simple and yet so inexplicable, was that most natural processes look different going forwards and backwards, since they all involve a transfer of heat in some way. All except time, which in its purest form would look identical flowing in either direction.


I’m not quite sure what this means, but I found it both beautiful and powerful.

Finally, I read Bertolt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, (another Penguin Classic find, which dominated this month’s haul), and learned what an incredible impact it has had on our culture; I never knew the backstory to Sinatra’s hit Mack the Knife, and was blown away hearing the German original.

One more mystery book was included in this month’s reading, and next month will reveal the reason for all the redaction. Stay tuned…


Books Bought, October 2018

All My Sons (Arthur Miller)

A View From The Bridge (Arthur Miller)

Death Of A Salesman (Arthur Miller)

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

The Big Smoke (Adrian Matejka)

Haruki Murakami And The Music Of Words (Jay Rubin)

The Elephant Vanishes (Haruki Murakami)

The Dept.Of Speculation (Jennifer Ofill)

The Tale Of Tales (Giambattista Basile)

The Threepenny Opera (Bertolt Brecht)

While Mortals Sleep (Kurt Vonnegut)

Moomin: the complete lars jansson comic strip, vol.iv (Lars Jansson)

James Joyce: a life (Edna O’Brien)

The Laramie Project (Moisés Kaufman)

The Last Interview (David Foster Wallace)

The Pathseeker (Imre Kertész)

Adventures In The Rocky Mountains (Isabella Bird)

The Cobra’s Heart (Ryszard Kapuscinski)

Borneo, Celebes, Aru (Alfred Russel Wallace)

Across The Empty Quarter (Wilfred Thesiger)

from The Meadows Of Gold (Mas’Udi)

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (J.K.Rowling)

All Souls (Javier Marías)

An Incomplete Book Of Awesome Things

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: a fairies primer (Jennifer Adams & Alison Oliver)

Close To Jedenew (Kevin Vennemann)

Penguin Mini Classics box set (various, 80 books)

The Order Of Time (Carlo Rovelli)

Same Same (Peter Mendelson)

The Infinity Of Lists (Umberto Eco)

The Union Jack (Imre Kertész)

Customer Service (Benoît Duteurte)

Parnassus On Wheels (Christopher Morley)

Fun Home (Alison Bechdel)

The Confidence Game: why we fall for it…every time (Maria Konnikova)

Moomin: the complete tove jansson comic strip, vol.I (Tove Jansson)

Iggy Peck, Architect (Andrea Beaty & David Roberts)

What Do You Do With A Problem? (Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom)

The Tiger’s Wife (Tea O’Brecht)

Julia Child: a life (Laura Shapiro)

The Wind In The Willows (Kenneth Graham)

Nutcracker And Mouse King/The Tale Of The Nutcracker (E.T.A.Hoffmann/Alexandre Dumas)

Orient Express (Graham Greene)

101 Things I Learned In Film School (Neil Landau & Matthew Fredericks)

Spell (Anne Lauterbach)

The Intergraphic History Of The World (Valentina DEfilippo & James Ball)

The Wondrous Workings Of Planet Earth: understanding our world and its ecosystems (Rachel Ignotofsky)

A Portrait Of The Artist (James Joyce)

Moral Disorder (Margaret Atwood)

The Man Who Had All The Luck (Henry Miller)

Black Panther, Vol.IV (Ta Nehisi-Coates)

Between Eternities: and other writings (Javier Marías)


Books Read, October 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

The Pickle Index (Eli Horowitz & Ian Huebert)

On Boxing (Joyce Carol Oates)

The Big Smoke (Adrian Matejka)

The Geography Of Bliss (Eric Weiner)

All My Sons (Arthur Miller)

A View From The Bridge (Arthur Miller)

Death Of A Salesman (Arthur Miller)

The Last Interview (David Foster Wallace)

The Laramie Project (Moisés Kaufman)

The Threepenny Opera (Bertolt Brecht)

The Golden House (Salman Rushdie)

While Mortals Sleep (Kurt Vonnegut)

James Joyce: a life (Edna O’Brien)

*******’ **** **** **** ******* (**** & ***) (Book redacted pending future update)

The Order Of Time (Carlo Rovelli)

Fun Home (Alison Bechdel)

101 Things I Learned In Film School (Neil Landau & Matthew Fredericks)

Black Panther, Vol.IV (Ta Nehisi-Coates)

Spell (Anne Lauterbach)

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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in BOOKS


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162. Books Bought & Read, November 2017…

162. Books Bought & Read, November 2017…

There are a number of questions I often get asked: which is my favourite country? Where can I find those funny wireless earphone thingies? Are you still in bed? Please could you stop doing that? etc. But one of the most common is: How do you find time to read so many books? And whilst there are many answers, (my supernatural ability to simultaneously read and walk without falling foul of open manhole covers; my ability to brush my teeth without getting pastesplatter on my reading material, etc), the simple one is: I sometimes find myself reading very short books.

TED talks are, for me, the best example of this form, sharing short, punchy stories and ideas on paper with the same panache as in their short talks. This month I learned the benefits of living on Mars, the fact that birds are dinosaurs, and that the plight of refugees can be even more horrific than I realised. (The fourth one I read was the first of the series which really did nothing for me, but that’s not a bad hit rate considering how many of them I have gone through).

Before Ted, there was the School of Life series from Alain de Botton, and I found another useful and informative copy of their modern-day How To series on leadership which inspired me to either become a leader, or follow leaders, I haven’t quite decided which yet.


Comics and graphic novels are another way to pad out my stats, but they are not gratuitous: I will read absolutely anything put out by the embarrassingly talented Oliver Jeffers, and always come away having learned something and/or feeling better about myself/the world/humanity.

I only learned recently that we are (essentially) neighbours in Brooklyn, and so it wasn’t too surprising to hear that he was appearing at The Strand to promote his latest masterpiece, ‘Here We Are.’

More surprising was showing up to the event to learn that he had brought some mates along to help, and that those mates included the creator of the Humans of New York project, the creator of the wonderful Brain Pickings website (“An Inventory Of The Meaningful Life‘), and, of course, Chelsea Clinton. And his infant son. And artisanal, book-covered cupcakes.

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Short stories remain one of my favourite ways to pass a few hours in bed before sleeping, and I can’t believe it had taken me so long to grab a copy of my hero’s latest compilation, ‘Men Without Women‘ by Haruki Murakami, (although halfway through several of the more prosaic than usual tales I often found I had read them before, in the New Yorker or another compilation. The pitfalls of the avid fan!).


A new name in short stories (and surely one of the greatest in literature, if not the world generally) fell into my lap this month when I cracked the spine on the complete tales of Breece D’J Pancake, (his first and last names are (somehow) real; the unpronounceable middle name the result of a misprint of his middle initials). Sparse, descriptive, inconclusive, set in the midwest in fields and farms and bars and cars and often full of silence and thought, a shopping list of things which would normally turn me off a story, these were so powerful and heart-wrenching that they overcame all of those negatives to leave me depressed and in awe, sometimes all I ask for in literature.

An underwhelming Dorothy Parker play, a bizarre Gabriel Garcia Marquez novella, a beautiful (and beautifully bound) Mark Haddon poetry compilation, a fascinating but pessimistic sequel to the excellent Sapiens, the excellent history of the Daily Show…my interests rambled from cover to cover in November, but came together in ‘The Undoing Project.’

In the interests of learning everything I can about this world we live in, I will read anything Michael Lewis writes, and when what he’s writing is the history of two of the modern age’s greatest thinkers, I’m sold. One of my favourite books ever (and most-read blog to date) Daniel Kahnemann’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow was the culmination of events described in Lewis’s work, and a fascinating read, if less specialised than previous works.


Thanks to shot-sized books of facts, short stories, poetry and graphic novels, I managed to outread my purchases by the finest of margins, with 18 books bought and 19 read. Will this trend continue into the final month of the year? There’s only one way to find out…

Books Bought, November 2017

The Book: a cover-to-cover exploration of the most powerful object of our time (Keith Houston)

The Ladies Of The Corridor (Dorthy Parker & Arnaud D’Usseau)

The Talking Horse And The Sad Girl And The Village Under The Sea (Mark Haddon)

How To Be A Leader (Martin Bjergegaard & Cosmina Popa)

Here We Are: notes for living on planet earth (Oliver Jeffers)

A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers)

Rescue: refugees and the political crisis of our time (David Miliband)

The Misfit’s Manifesto (Lidia Yuknavitch)

Coyote vs Acme (Ian Frazier)

Sweet (Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh)

How To Watch A Movie (David Thomson)

The Book Of Spice: from anise to zedoary (John O’Connell)

The Daily Show (The Book): an oral history (Chris Smith)

The Age Of Caesar: five roman lives (Plutarch)

How We’ll Live On Mars (Stephen L.Petranek)

Why Dinosaurs Matter (Kenneth Lacovara)

Men Without Women (Haruki Murakami)

Fables, Volume 5: the mean seasons (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)


Books Read, November 2017 (highly recommended titles in bold)

A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers)

Here We Are: notes for living on planet earth (Oliver Jeffers)

The Talking Horse And The Sad Girl And The Village Under The Sea (Mark Haddon)

How To Be A Leader (Martin Bjergegaard & Cosmina Popa)

Rescue: refugees and the political crisis of our time (David Miliband)

The Misfit’s Manifesto (Lidia Yuknavitch)

Coyote vs Acme (Ian Frazier)

Educating Peter: how anyone can become an (almost) instant wine expert (Lettie Teague)

Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow (Yuval Noah Harari)

Fables, Volume 5: the mean seasons (Bill Willingham & Mark Buckingham)

How We’ll Live On Mars (Stephen L.Petranek)

Memorias De Mis Putas Tristes (Memories Of My Melancholy Whores)(Gabriel García Márquez)

Why Dinosaurs Matter (Kenneth Lacovara)

Men Without Women (Haruki Murakami)

The Daily Show (The Book): an oral history (Chris Smith)

The Undoing Project (Michael Lewis)

Stardust: illustrated edition (Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess)

The Ladies Of The Corridor (Dorthy Parker & Arnaud D’Usseau)

The Stories Of Breece D’J Pancake (Breece D’J Pancake)





Posted by on December 27, 2017 in BOOKS


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139. Books Bought & Read, February 2015…

65 books bought.

That’s more than many people read in a year. More than some read in a lifetime.

Any other month, having read 23 books would have felt like quite an accomplishment, even for me.

Not this month.

I blame my brother and girlfriend, enablers of the worst possible kind. What kind of brother and girlfriend take me to an annual Brooklyn Park Slope book sale? With thousands of books on dozens of rickety tables just begging to be taken to a good home?! In my defence, I repaid their kindness in books, so not all of those 65 were for me…but most of them were.

And that was before I’d even set foot in my temple, The Strand

My favourite item of merchandise from The Strand...

My favourite item of merchandise from The Strand…

Series were this month’s obsession: a gift of the classic Ursula K Le Guin trilogy and the discovery of the wonderfully messed up Lemony Snicket tales by Daniel Handler were the cause of a few hours reading, and as ever when I’m in NY there were some great kids’ books which my niece introduced me to, (I finally got to read Oliver Jeffers‘ ‘The Day The Crayons Quit,’ which I’m not ashamed to say I became quite choked up over when she told me it was her ‘favourite ever,‘ since I bought it for her).


Whilst buying books as presents I had time to indulge in some re-reading, (something I very rarely do), of favourites such as Neil Gaiman, but there were four books which stood out and which I highly recommend for completely differing reasons:

Firstly, if you love the lost art of letters, and history, and a gorgeously bound book, ‘Letters Of Note‘ was just made for you. Originally a popular website, this was the biggest success story of the book-only crowd-funding website I love so much, Unbound, and I read it on my iPhone before gifting it to my girlfriend’s parents. If you want to read about how Elvis became Nixon’s drugs sheriff, how JFK was rescued from a desert island by carving an SOS into a coconut, or how Adolf Hitler’s nephew requested the right to join the US army to find the Nazis, all of this and more come straight from the source in one of the most fascinating, touching, educational and downright gorgeous books I have ever read.



Secondly, if you like to know how the world works, and have a thirst for topics as wide-ranging as baseball statistics, earthquakes, betting, voting, poker and the weather forecast, Nate Silver has the book for you. My brother had been recommending this meaty tome to me for a while, and the flight from Europe to the US was perfect for finally finding out what it means when a weather forecast says there is a 40% or a 60% chance of rain, (and why it is almost never 50%); how to predict elections; and how chess computers learned to beat Grand Masters. Among many, many other things. This was like a Gladwell book on super fast-forward, (and I’m sure you know by now how much I love a good Gladwell book!)


Thirdmost, after being incredibly disappointed by his ‘A Hologram For The King,’ Dave Eggers returned to wonderful, weird, genre-busting, hilarious form with the fantastically titled ‘Your Fathers, Where Are They? And Your Prophets, Do They Live Forever?‘ I won’t tell you anything about it. Just go and read it. It’s lots of fun.


Finally, a gorgeous edition of a book I had never heard of, and an author I really should have, proved that not only should you sometimes judge a book by its cover, but if you’re lucky that book will be wondrously weird and also contain an introduction by one of your all time favourite authors, as Neil Gaiman was there in the opening pages to tell me that when it comes to James Thurber’sThe 13 Clocks,‘ “…there has never been anything like this before, and there will never be anything like this again.”


It is, indeed, a gem of a nonsense children’s book, by an author I hope to explore further, but don’t let children hog all the fun.

(You can even get a free Kindle download of it here.)


Books Bought, February 2015

National Geographic: 100 melhores imagens,’ (National Georgaphic: the 100 best photos)

Violeta e Indigo Descobrem Picasso,’ (‘Violet and Indigo discover Picasso’), Isabel Zambuiac & Júlio Vanzelar

Violeta e Indigo Descobrem Leonardo Da Vinci,’ (‘Violet and Indigo discover Leonardo Da Vince’)Isabel Zambuiac & Júlio Vanzelar x2

Estorvo,’ (‘Nuisance’), Chico Buarque

Jerusalém,’ Gonçalo M.Tavares

The Believer Magazine’ issues 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

A Man: Klaus Klump,’ Gonçalo M.Tavares

The Best Of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency’ ed. Chris Monk & John Warner

Sprezzatura,’ Peter D’Epiro & Mary Desmond Pinkowish

Barracuda,’ Christos Tsiolkas

Another Day Of Life,’ Ryszard Kapuściński

Founding Brothers,’ Joseph J.Ellis

13 Days,’ Robert Kennedy

Coach,’ Michael Lewis

Happiness: ten years of n+1′

The Little Endless Story Book,’ Jill Murphy

I Feel Bad About My Neck,’ Nora Ephron

Leaving Microsoft To Change The World,’ John Wood

The Genius Of Language,’ ed. Wendy Lesser

The Bedside Book Of Beasts,’ Graeme Gibson

I Explain A Few Things: selected poems,’ Pablo Neruda

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius,’ Dave Eggers

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.3, the wide window, ,Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.4, the miserable hill, ,Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.5, the austere academy,Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.6, the ersatz elevator,Lemony Snicket

S,’ J.J.Abrams & Doug Dorst

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And Your Prophets, Do They Live Forever?‘ Dave Eggers

Zeitoun,’ Dave Eggers

The Convalescent,’ Jessica Anthony

The Path To The Spiders’ Nests,’ Italo Calvino

Far From The Tree,’ Andrew Solomon

The Noonday Demon,’ Andrew Solomon

Hergé: son of tintin,’ Benoît Peeters

The Time Traveler’s Wife,’ Audrey Niefenegger

The Cheese Monkeys: a novel in 2 semesters,’ Chip Kidd

Blindness,’ José Saramago

Number9Dream,’ David Mitchell

Haroun And The Sea Of Stars,’ Salman Rushdie

The Better Of McSweeney’s’

‘I Am A Cat,’ Natsume Soseki

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges,’ Nathan Englander

Copenhagen,’ Michael Frayn

The Tipping Point,’ Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers,’ Malcolm Gladwell

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.11, the grim grotto,Lemony Snicket

Atonement,’ Ian McEwan

Boy Detective Fails,’ Joe Meno

Clockwork,’ Philip Pullman

Mating,’ Norman Rush

Written On the Body,’ Jeanette Winterson

First Love/The Diary Of A Superfluous Man,’ Ivan Turgenev

Poet In New York,’ Federico García Lorca

Holidays On Ice,’ David Sedaris

The 13 Clocks,’ James Thurber

The Further Adventures Of The Queen Mum,’ Harry Hill

Myth: a very short introduction,’ Robert A.Segal

Movie Charts: comedy graphs of the films you love,’ Paul Copperwaite

The Consolations Of Philosophy,’ Alain de Botton

The Last Wild,’ Piers Torday

Emil And The Detectives,’ Erich Kästner

Rembrandt,’ Michael Brockemühl

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory,’ Roald Dahl

The Hueys In:  the new jumper,’ Oliver Jeffers

Letters Of Note,’ ed.Shaun Usher


Books Read, February 2015

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.6′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.1)

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.7′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.1)

Coach: lessons on the game of life,’ Michael Lewis

Letters Of Note: an eclectic collection of correspondence deserving of a wider audience,’ ed.Shaun Usher borges

I Feel Bad About My Neck,’ Nora Ephron

The Little Endless Storybook,’ Jill Thompson
The Runaway Dinner,’ Allan Ahlberg & Bruce Ingman

Clockwork,’ Philip Pullman

The 13 Clocks,’ James Thurber borges

Fortunately, The Milk…,’ Neil Gaiman

The Signal And The Noise: the art and science of prediction,’  Nate Silver borges

Copenhagen,’ Michael Frayn

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And Your Prophets, Do They Live Forever?‘ Dave Eggers borges

The Best Of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency’ ed. Chris Monk & John Warner borges

The Hueys In:  the new jumper,’ Oliver Jeffers

The Further Adventures Of The Queen Mum,’ Harry Hill

Movie Charts: comedy graphs of the films you love,’ Paul Copperwaite

The Wizard Of Earthsea,’ Ursula K. Le Guin

The Tombs Of Atuan,’ Ursula K. Le Guin

The Farthest Shore,’ Ursula K. Le Guin

The Day The Crayons Quit,’ Oliver Jeffers & Drew Daywalt borges

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.1, the bad beginning, ,Lemony Snicket

A Series Of Unfortunate Events: vol.2, the reptile room,’ Lemony Snicket

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Posted by on July 15, 2015 in BOOKS


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