Book News

Penguins, Green

Penguin has released a new series of cheap and cheerful classics. I think I have raved about the ingenuity of the reissuing of the Orange classic series before and bringing long forgotten classics back to the mass market. It’s also nice to see Penguin continue to embody the company’s original idea that good literature should be accessible to all. I just love how they freshen up the old titles. The new Green series harks back to the original Green crime series. The titles all look amazing and, of course, those lovely looking green spines wouldn’t look too shaby on my bookcase next to the numerous Orange Penguins I have collected. First off my list to purchase will be this:

greenpenguin

 

I read it awhile ago after a serious hunt and sourced it at a library. That copy was old, dusty and smelled a little mouldy. It was a wonderful read and now it will be great to own a copy too. You can find the complete list of the fifty titles here.

(Disclaimer: It looks like I’m raving a lot about Penguin but this isn’t a paid advertisement. I just really love how they keep invigorating old Classics!)

The Year So Far…

I had lost my reading mojo but I think I may have quietly found it again. The past few months have been rather chaotic in my life and, to my utter dismay, I no longer found myself interested in books. What would I do with my life if I didn’t like books anymore? Happily, I’ve been reading again.

It would have been a bad time to lose my reading mojo as this year in Australia is the National Year of Reading! That’s right – 2012 is the year where all those who work in any way with books or are simply lovers of books are pushing it onto the national agenda. As a (still newish!) librarian and lover of books, this is an important year where hopefully the love and importance of a reading culture is instilled once more into society. The movement kicks off on February 14th which is also Library Lovers Day (and also Valentine’s Day!).

As part of the NYOR, I’ve given myself the small challenges of:

  1. Reading all those books I’ve been meaning to read for ages. E.g. Anna Karenina, The Female Eunuch, those Hardys, etc.
  2. Read as much as I can from my TBR pile.
  3. Read more widely and include more non-fiction.
  4. Try and read at least two books each week and for two hours each day.

I’ve read quite a variety of books this year including classics, non-fiction and a contemporary thriller. I’ve just finished Dorothy Whipple’s High Wages and the story has just blown me away. Whipple’s writing is simply amazing. Such simplicity but so vivid. Her characters are so well drawn particularly her female protagonists. This was my third Whipple and I think I like this latest one even more than the last!

Finally, I found this great and endearing post: A Girl You Should Date. Read it and I guarantee you’ll love it! 🙂

 

And Yet Another Book Loot…

Somebody stop me!

My reading has slowed down once again, I keep hogging all these books from the library and I continue to buy books. *sigh* Life is difficult sometimes.

Book Loot

  • Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl (I first heard about this on Reading Matter’s Triple Choice Tuesday).
  • East Lynne – Ellen Wood (this wraps up the Sensation Fiction list).
  • Women in Love – D. H. Lawrence
  • On Liberty and Other Essays – John Stuart Mill
  • Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde. A prize from Gaskella. It’s signed!
  • Stoner – John Williams. Another prize from On My Porch. I had free reign on Book Depository and I picked this.
  • The Humbling – Philip Roth. I got this for $1 during the final stages of a Borders sale.
  • Past the Shallows – Favel Parrett.
  • Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks. I won these two titles from Boomerang Books.

Looks like June was my month for winning books! 🙂

And what’s with Book Depository being sold to Amazon?!!!

In a Nutshell

So – I haven’t been around much and I’ve been extremely lax about posting. I’ve reverted back to my lurking ways and have been lurking about on various blogs. 🙂 However, I have been reading much more than usual so that’s always a good thing. I’ve been reading mainly contemporary books which is not quite my style at all since I always usually lean towards the classics but all my library reservations decided to come in at the same time.

These are the books I’ve recently finished:

  Brilliant book and incredibly intense. I’m glad that she managed to control her depression and write this amazing memoir. I initially thought the book would largely be a criticism of pill popping and society’s, or America’s, reliance on anti-depressants or a ‘pill that will fix everything wrong in my life’ but it was largely focused on Wurtzel’s debilitating mental illness.

 

 

 

Another amazing read. It’s regained popularity around various blogs due to the book becoming a TV series. I’m not it’s something I want to watch but I loved everything about this book particularly the way Summerscale (what a great name!) draws in contemporary works during the time and place everything in context. The historical aspect about the advent of detectives and policing is also fascinating.

 

 

This was another fabulous read (I’m repeating myself, aren’t I?) I stayed up last night finishing it because I had to find out how everything ended. It’s about a woman who has an unusual case of amnesia. For the last 25 years, Christine would only remember things for 24 hours. When she goes to bed for the night, her memory is wiped clean and every morning her husband would have to remind her about everything. This would be alright except for the persistent unease and fear Christine feels.

 

Proper reviews might follow if I can be inspired and motivated enough! I’m currently trying to read Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brookes but it’s a little difficult to get into. I think I just want to escape into some old classics for a bit.

In other news, Borders in Australia is now closing all its stores which I find extremely sad and disappointing. I’m anticipating the sales though but it’s really quite sad about the collapse of Borders. although I’m very annoyed this happened after the chain destroyed all other independent bookstores. Such is life in the world of retail, I suppose.

The Downfall of Borders

The news that the company that owns two large bookstore chains in Australia had gone into voluntary administration last week came like an expected cold, hard slap, particularly since it came the day after Borders in U.S. also revealed that it was going to administration too. Red Group, who took over Borders a few years ago, also owns Angus and Robertson, one the first and oldest bookstore chains in Australia.

Yes, it came out of nowhere that two ubiquitous, Goliath retail chains has been bought down on its knees but, really, those who frequently pop in to have squiz around can’t really be all that surprised. The stock is uninspiring, overpriced and usually always above the RRP, staff were usually rude, blase, or run off their feet, and the arrangement of books frequently made me dizzy (this last part might just be me). A couple of years ago, I posted a rant about Borders and I suspect that many of their little faults have all become one huge mess.

 

Yes, the store’s design was well decked out and it really did looked inviting but I rarely bought anything from there. Exceptions were their sometimes fabulous coupons they would send out in their weekly emails. I always waited for their 30-50% off ones but it really irritated me that they would force us to print out the actual coupons when they didn’t actually need it. They scanned their own plastic barcode up at the register. Not really saving the environment.

Another concept I never really quite understood was the store’s ‘mission’. Did they want us to buy books, meet friends, grab some magazines/stationery/DVDs/music, or grab a coffee? I understand that they wanted to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for customers to be able to settle down to browse their potential purchases and to do so without any pressure but I think they did that a little too well. People treated the store like a library. They would grab a book or magazine, settle down at the cafe at the back and flip through it therefore damaging the product (I don’t know about anybody else but when I buy new books, I like them pristine!), then they see their friends or decide that their train is due to arrive and then rush off without making a purchase. I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve seen someone snoozing on one of the couches!

The biggest criticism regarding Borders is, of course, the way they stormed into Australia around five years ago and pushed out other smaller, independent bookstores. Borders seemed to have thought that bigger was better and I think we were all seduced by its shininess and newness. I know I was. It was a haven filled with books – a basic bibliophile want. But I suppose they forgot that bibliophiles also know their books and know what they want. Not rows and rows and only rows of the latest top thirty. After awhile, we crave something of substance, of some individuality, quirkiness or eccentricities found in the best independent stores. My love relationship with the chain ended in 2009 when they didn’t have any Camus, de Beauvoir or Sartre in stock when I wanted to use my gift card. A store that large that finds room for a cafe and rows of imported and overpriced magazines but none of the most influential and well known authors had certainly lost its way for me.

Like the Starbucks giant that came, conquered and then disappeared, Borders have also been felled in a similar way. Too big, too fast, too much. Except this time, unlike Starbucks, I’ll be sorry to see it go. Yes, Borders had its faults in term of quality and service and yes, I did end up skulking back in time and time again with discount coupons in my hand but really, if something had to dominate retail space, I would much rather it be books.

The future of the book industry has never been clear, particularly for the past decade but I still think that the ‘old fashioned’ bricks and mortar bookstores will prevail despite a new mammoth bookstore taking over the world. Will it go down the way of Borders in half a decade’s time? It is certainly rather dire times for book retail but right now, I’m just shouting a little hurrah for those independent bookstores that have withstood the onslaught of such a large corporation.

Other interesting viewpoints, largely debating online vs offline purchasing:

Finally, here’s a clip from the wonderful Black Books where Bernard and Manny competes with Saga books:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEvDfZJlp5E

Watch for 2:29. 🙂

New Releases

Firstly, I’ve been a bad blogger lately so apologies for the lackluster updates and visits to your blogs. I’ve been lurking but only commenting occasionally. 🙂

Spring is in the air and summer is just around the corner and perhaps that the reason why there seems to be an onslaught of fantastic new releases. Here are the titles I’m very excited about:

The Romantic by Kate Holden. Labelled as a follow up to her 2005 memoir, In My Skin, this book chronicles Holden’s life after she overcomes her drug addiction. Kate Holden is also a fortnightly columnist in A2 and she’s one of my favourite Melbourne writers.

Great House by Nicole Krauss. I’ve never read anything by Krauss before but this book sounds so intriguing and well thought out. I love old houses and furniture and this one sounds like something right out of Dickens.

Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I’m quite a fan of Lindqvist (Let the Right One In, Handling the Undead) so I was excited to hear that he has a new novel out. Typical of Lindqvist, he mixes horror with the study of relationships. While his books may contain zombies and vampires, the horror is always very subdued and is a way of demonstrating mass perception.

I rarely become excited about new releases and tend to stay away until the hype goes down but these titles all sound fantastic. I hope they won’t be a let down once I get my hands on them! What about you? Have you heard of these titles? What titles are you  looking forward to?

Bookshelf Porn

I might regret including the word ‘porn’ in the title of this post but there is really a most lovely site featuring drool-worthy and heart-stopping bibliophile porn. Here’s a peep show:

And there’s more where that came from at Bookshelf Porn.

In other G-rated news:

  • For the first time, I’m itching to read some of the Booker prize long-listed titles especially Room by Emma Donohue and In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (how odd they both have ‘room’ in the title). I usually stay well clear of listed titles and winners and wait a few years before I read them. I have read The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas though and am glad that an Australian writer is listed.
  • I always love watching The First Tuesday Bookclub and leave it as a special treat when the show is repeated on Sunday evenings. This month’s show was particularly fantastic. One of the selected books, Anna Karenina, got such glowing and enthusiastic reviews from all five book clubbers that I’m inspired to read it after I finish my current books. It’s been lounging by my bedside after an attempt to read it during summer but the many, many Russian names put me off. I encourage you all to view the Book Club videos on their website if you haven’t seen them.
  • One of the book clubbers, author Richard Flanaghan, raised a very interesting point that the current writers in today’s industry write in a prize culture which I think rings very true. Winning an acclaimed prize not only raises the author’s profile significantly but it also boosts the writer’s and publisher’s coffers and reputation. Do we have too many literary prizes? Or not enough? Is it really a bad thing?
  • And Richard Flanaghan has uttered one of the best quotes I’ve heard in a long time, spoken in the context of discussing Anna Karenina:

Infatuation ends at the point when you know somebody.