Book stuff

New Books!

I really should be saving some money but darn Book Depository and their tempting extra ten percent off voucher. I also found an Australian website that had Perspehones for sale! Persephones!

New Books!

The titles are:

  • What I Loved – Siri Hustvedt. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, I got a cheap edition to take it travelling with me. I hope it’s good because I’m only taking two books!
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson
  • Little Boy Lost – Marganita Laski
  • The Victorian Chaise-Longue – Marghanita Laski (not pictured)
  • The Law and the Lady – Wilkie Collins
  • A Game of Hide and Seek – Elizabeth Taylor
  • And an awesome Penguin tin I got on sale at Borders that has Breakfast at Tiffany’s on one side and …


The Great Gatsby on the other. Pretty nifty but I still don’t know what I’m going to put in it.

Shelving Update

An update on re-arranging my new shelves. The weather has cooled considerably (to the point of flash floods, thanks Mother Nature) so it was a good time to get books sorted.

Shelves much more organised now.

While the books look organised, I had the problem of what I call the ‘upstairs-downstairs books’. My other main shelf is downstairs and that holds the majority of my books whereas the new shelves in my room is a new addition and largely held new or TBR books. The problem now is, being the geek that I am, I like to be near my books as much as possible so I’ve found myself playing favourites (books are like children. Feel free to disagree!) although I try not to. The visual effect also came into play for the first time and I spent a grand five minutes agonising over whether or not to group my books alphabetically for all the classics or by publishers. As you can see, I chose the latter and no regrets so far. I also decided to put the Oxfords on the top shelf purely because ‘o’ comes before ‘p’. Aren’t I a diplomat? 🙂

Of course, it would be fantastic if all my books were finally shelved together like one big happy family but that’s not going to happen until I get my own place. The good thing is now I have a wee bit more room to store more books. I really thought I had more books than this. The library books live on the floor now though. Shhh…

On another note, I’m three quarters of the way through The Mandarins and it’s incredibly perplexing. I’ve found myself making marks and notes but I’ve also discovered that using pieces of tissue just doesn’t have the same reliability as post-its. The scraps tend to float away and lose their spot which defeats the purpose.

Tissues ain't no substitute for post-its


It’s Come to This…

I have been running out of shelving room for awhile now (I’m sure this is an ongoing with all bibliophiles out there!) and I’ve been too lazy to make my way to Ikea to pick up some Billy shelves.

So I did some creative brainstorming and bought one small bookcase and stacked it upside down on top of my other small bookcase to make a larger bookcase.


The new smaller shelf, already filled with library books...

The completed bookcase! I'll have to buy some clamps or superglue to secure the two shelves properly though.

Don’t mind the mess. The bottom shelf is actually much neater than it looks. I haven’t organised the new shelves yet and I’ve just stuck my library books in there. Something tells me that it’s going to get filled rather quickly.

End of Year Wrap Up

It’s that time of the year where we do a bit of naval gazing. I’ve pinched the first half of this meme from Other Stories and the second half from Shelf Love. I steered clear of challenges this year, except the ever on-going 1001 Books and my own completist reading list (list also a work in progress). My only goal was to read 52 books which I have achieved! Hurrah!

How many books read in 2010? 58

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio? 54/4

Male/Female authors? 27/31. It’s pretty even which is a surprise. I’ve never really had a preference for authors of a certain gender which I find very unnecessarily limiting.

Favourite book read? Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. It broke my heart and made me appreciate my education that much more. Hardy is a misery but his stories are so captivating.

Least favourite? The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

How many re-reads? Just one ‘real’ re-read which is a surprise since a lot of the books I read last year were re-reads. This year, only Wuthering Heights is the re-read which was something I had been meaning to do from the moment I finished the book for the first time many years ago. Throw in a couple of Agatha Christie re-reads (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) and Tintins.

Most books read by one author this year? Surprisingly, Susan Hill with her three short ghostly novellas.

Any in translation? Around seven titles. I can’t remember if Unbearable Lightness of Being was translated or not. If it is, then it is eight. There were a lot of French and Swedish translations this year.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library? 34 from the library and only a ghastly 24 from my own shelves. I’ll have to start reading from my own shelves more particularly since I’ve bought more books this year than any other year.

Favorite New-to-Me Author: Shirley Jackson and her sumptuous We Have Always Lived in this Castle. M.C. Beaton also comes a close second. Something to snuggle up with when after a comfort read.

Favorite Classic: I can cheat a bit here since I already named Jude as my favourite 2010 read. For this question, I’ll have to say The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre. It was so enjoyable and stimulating and the prose wasn’t stuffy at all or wrapped up in theory which was what I was afraid and intimidated by.

Most On-the-Nose Title: Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Harbour, as in the docks by the sea, and harbour, as in harbouring someone or something, both which the book was all about.

Most Disturbing: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Disturbing, yes, but also unexpectedly very funny. I was surprised to find myself chuckling through the first quarter of the book constantly … until the first eyeball popped.

Most Accessible Author Who Intimidated Me for No Good Reason: Again, I have to say Sartre, whose very readable prose, I think, is underrated but I wouldn’t go as far to say he intimidated me for no good reason! Also Emile Zola, who I conquered this year by reading Nana although I was never interested in Zola until I wanted to read Nana.

Most Discouraging Realization: That whatever was haunting the house in The Little Stranger was not going to be revealed and also the foreboding that Maggie Tulliver’s life would not end well in The Mill on the Floss from the moment she is introduced. Anybody with an uncontrollable mass of dark hair did not have a bright future ahead in those days (see also Aurora Floyd).

Most Reassuring Realization: That the Queen was not going to let anybody stop her from pursuing her recently discovered love of reading in The Uncommon Reader.

2011 Reading Goals: Lots of chunksters to look forward to such as Anna Karenina, The Mandarins, Our Mutual Friend and possibly Doctor Zhivago because I want to go and see the new stage production of it.

Bookish Tidbits

Things are a bit slow on the reading front. The weather is freezing and I can’t feel my hands. Suddenly, I envy those enjoying the Northern Hemisphere summer! But I suppose our winters aren’t as bad since we don’t get snow except out in the country and alps.

'Chop Suey' by Edward Hopper (1929)

Anyway, onto bookish stuff:

  • I have nearly finished with Poor Miss Finch which has been an enjoyable read but it’s not the typical Wilkie Collins (in a good way).
  • Finished Muriel Sparks’ The Prime of Miss Brodie and enjoyed it but not as much as I thought I would. I’m a bit unmotivated writing up a review since there’s so many on the blogosphere already.
  • The lovely BBC adaptations of  Emma (with the very talented Romola Garai) and Little Dorrit are making me want to read them. I gave Emma a go last year but got nowhere with it and Dorrit intrigues me.
  • For some reason, winter always makes me want to devour French existential literature. I existential-ed myself out around this time last year. I think I will make July my existential month (ha!). I’m hankering to read some more de Beauvoir and Sartre which is great timing since I’m hoping to attend this month’s existential lecture run by an existentialist society. There are lectures every month but I always keep forgetting to go and Tuesdays are rather a bad time.
  • Did I mention we also suddenly have a new Prime Minister? Yep, she’s the first female Australian PM (and the media is not about to let us forget about it either, making a song and dance about her gender and appearance) and she kicked out our other PM rather unceremoniously. And Australia lost the World Cup on the same day. Even though we won the game.
  • Book Depository makes buying books far too easy. Two clicks and you’re done! It’s far too dangerous for bookaholics!
  • A new bookshelf is hopefully on its way to my house later in the week. Hurrah! And to celebrate, I’m probably going to buy more books.
  • AND, I got roped into signing up for Literary Speed Dating, aptly titled ‘Love in a Cold Climate’ at the Wheeler’s Centre. It’s … different, but I’m a little scared! The spots have booked out amazingly fast. We shall see what will transpire if I do attend. 😉 Anybody done something else similar?

Long Weekend Delights

Finally, the long weekend is upon us and wholly due to a certain queen celebrating her birthday. It’s been a hectic few weeks and there are several more to come before things, hopefully, will quieten down a bit. I’ve been a bad blogger these past weeks and a bad reader. I’m nearly finished with Jude which I am enjoying immensely (although Arabella does make my blood boil) and I hope to squeeze in some more reading the next few days. The weather has also been quite horrid (hello Winter! and lashings of Rain!) so I’m looking forward to bunkering down in bed with doonas, books, sweet goodies and hot drinks.

'Still Life with Drawing Board, Pipe, Onions and Sealing-Wax' (1889) - Vincent van Gogh

Things I’m hoping to get done:

  • Finish Jude the Obscure. I think I’ve been reading this for three weeks, although I did get distracted by Lost for about a week.
  • Ignore the still very large pile of library books and start something from my own collection. However, I did just borrow The Uncommon Reader today (the perils of going near libraries) and it would a very fitting read…
  • Watch a few DVDs. I finally got my hands on The Lovely Bones. I also have the first season of the Tudors and back episodes of, er, Glee.
  • Visit and catch up with the many lovely other bloggers that I’ve been neglecting these past few weeks.
  • I found an answer to my dilemma of the ‘reading elbow’: a Book Seat!
  • Get up, or stay up, on Monday morning (at 4am!) to catch the first Australian FIFA match: Australia vs Germany. I’m going for the aussies, of course, but I do have a soft spot for the Germans. There’s a bit more of an affinity between aussie fans because we all have stayed or woken up at the strangest hours to watch a ball being kicked around. I love the understanding that passes between people who are bleary eyed, grunt ‘soccer’ and the understanding nod. Ah, soccer mania. 🙂

The Value of Books

While reading an old copy of one of my favourite magazines, Good Reading, there was a mention of the often forgotten monetary value , or cost, of a personal library. Of course, this would be a casual collector (or hoarder!) and not a professional collector. If the average cost of one book in your collection is $15 and you have over 400 odd books then, well, you’re sitting on a small fortune. Some titles will depreciate such as those tacky copies of V. C. Andrews (*cough*) but I think many will hold their value.

Library, Vinters by Charlotte Bonsanquet (1843)

The article also mentioned taking out insurance to ensure your books are covered. I had never thought of insuring my books or even their value but I have thought about how absolutely horrified and devastated I would be when I imagine my books go up in flames or under water. I don’t think the insurance payout would make me feel better but I guess it would be start. Do you insure your books or are they already covered with your other home or content insurance?

And, of course, the emotional ties and sentimental value of books can never be measured!

Reading Patterns

'Lady in a Green Jacket' - August Macke

I was just looking through my reading records and I have never realised how erratic my reading choices are. I have only kept track of books I’ve read since I started this blog which was three quarters into 2008. There is no pattern in my reading choices. I don’t have a planned out TBR list where I read one book after another according to the structured list nor do I stay in one genre or period. I tend to jump around a lot. For example, last year I re-read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and then I read She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir. That is quite a dramatic leap! Then I re-read Chamber of Secrets followed by reading Anais Nin’s Delta of Venus. Just looking at the sidebar of recent reviews, there is Jules Verne’s sci-fi classic followed by American Psycho!

There seems to be more of pattern or stability this year. I would like to stick with one author or one period for a little while to get a deeper knowledge and to immerse myself fully into the period or author but as soon as my brain realises that book selection is no longer a whimsy choice, it rebels. This is why I always fail at reading challenges no matter how simple they are – my disobedient brain. Ever since university finished, I have really enjoyed having the luxury to simply pluck books from shelves and begin reading them and I’m able to read whatever takes my fancy.

How do you decide what to read next?

P.S. The painting hasn’t really anything to do with the post but I just love it. 🙂

A Book Town Adventure

Today, I finally got to go along to and explore the annual Book Town event at Clunes, Victoria. A friend and I have been trying to get ourselves there for probably the last two or three years and we finally made it! After a brief detour where we got onto the wrong freeway and were actually heading towards the opposite direction, we found our way towards the sleepy town of Clunes for some book gorging. We just hoped it wouldn’t rain.

We finally arrived in Book Town after an almost two-hour drive and not without some anxiety that we would get lost. We arrived bright and early because we had to leave in the early afternoon to head back to the city. Friends couldn’t believe that I would actually get up so early on a Sunday, drive two-hours just to buy old books. As we made our way to the town centre we passed a little Shetland (at least I think it is) pony in somebody’s front yard!

Since we  were so early, people were still setting up. We were expecting more stalls but I guess the threat of rain pushed stallholders inside as a precaution.

What I found most impressive were these little sign holders decorated around the area. We wanted to snatch some and take them home with us but we resisted.

It’s a bit scandalous what they’ve done to the books but I suppose, at the very least, they’re being put to good use now and where people can admire them in a new light. From the moment we parked the car, we spent a solid four hours browsing through all the stalls that were there without getting tired or bored. We only stopped for lunch because we were famished and tired from our heavy packs. There were plenty of great stalls with a great selection but not as much literary fiction as I had expected. I did manage to pick up some great buys and bargains. It was lucky that we bought along backpacks to carry our purchases but they were very quickly weighed down. It was pretty funny seeing others in the morning also carrying empty backpacks around and then seeing them lugging it back to the car in the afternoon. There was a great atmosphere and it was quite fun to be surrounded by other bookish people who had travelled to Clunes for the sole purpose of pouring over books.

Here is my haul:

  • Iron in the Soul – Jean-Paul Sartre
  • The Marvellous Land of Oz – L. Frank Baum
  • The Rape of Venice – Dennis Wheatley
  • All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
  • Paddington Abroad – Michael Bond
  • Agatha Christie Crime Collection: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, They Do It with Mirrors, Mrs. McGinty’s Dead – Agatha Christie
  • The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
  • Thank You, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse
  • Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
  • The Wedding Group – Elizabeth Taylor
  • Full House – M.J. Farrell
  • The Chequer Board – Nevil Shute
  • No Highway – Nevil Shute
  • On the Beach – Nevil Shute

All were fantastic bargains. The last three Nevil Shute books were only $2 each so how could I resist? He is the author who wrote A Town Like Alice which is on my TBR pile. I was pretty excited to find some Virago in great condition. They were so clean and pristine. My most favourite finds were retro-ish editions of Western Front, Paddington and, of course, Land of Oz.

Some of the books are quite old and as much as I love brand new, pristine books I also love the history behind a old, well-loved book. I especially love those that ‘feel’ well thumbed through. Little markings like inscriptions, dates and even name plates adds that little something to the books.

Bookish Ramblings #2

I’m using these ramblings as an excuse to post incoherent thoughts. 🙂

  • Not exactly bookish per se but my desktop is giving me headaches. It had a graphics card problem almost half a year ago, got it fixed, and just last night, I saw my monitor go black and now it won’t show anything anymore. Yelling at it doesn’t seem to help nor does threatening it.
  • Started reading Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey but I’m having trouble getting into it. I’m only half way through the second chapter and it’s a struggle. Very disappointed but I’m going to try and persevere or perhaps give it up and try again later.
  • I have American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis lined up. It was surprisingly difficult to get a hold of a copy from the library because there is still a queue for it.
  • I should admit that non-fiction and I always do quite poorly together. Poor Herge’s biography have been languishing on the book stack as fascinated as I am with it.
  • Hooray for Book Depository resuming their postage after orders got held up by Iceland’s volcanic eruptions. And there I was thinking that the closing of air spaces won’t affect me.
  • I have to admit that I’m finding myself borrowing library books that I continue to see languishing on the shelves. I feel sorry for them so I take them home. Ah, bibliomania at its worst.
  • The biggest news of all is that next weekend I’m finally going to Book Town in Clunes, Victoria! I’m so excited! I’ve been meaning to go for the last two years but things always seemed to happen during that specific weekend. It’s blatantly inspired by Hay-on-Wye but I’m not complaining. I’ve been saving my money and have given permission for myself to splurge out while I’m there. Clunes seems like a lovely little town too. Perhaps if I pester enough, somebody will give me a job and I can stay up there! 🙂

Picture: Starry Sky Attempt by Wenzel Hablik [1909]. I love this painting and have been itching to include it in a post. Currently, Penguin uses it on the cover of The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche. Simply inspiring.