Friday 28 May 2010

Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany

Happy Weekend, everyone - and, for those in the UK, it's a Bank Holiday Weekend. Which makes little odds to me (especially since I'm at work tomorrow) but will give you lots of time to read Barbara Comyns' The Vet's Daughter - for those who are joining in a group readalong, informally organised by me and Polly (aka Novel Insights) and Claire (Paperback Reader). I finished the book today, and thought it was brilliant - feel free to post a review anytime next week (pop a link in the comments, and I'll organise them together). If you don't have a blog but have read the book, I'd be more than happy to post your thoughts here.

1.) The link - is to 50 Iconic Book Covers, as chosen by abebooks... not perhaps all ones I'd have chosen, but it's nice to see them as actual books, rather than just pristine pictures of their covers, don't you think?

2.) The book - was mentioned by a few people on an email book discussion list I'm on; the new one by Bill Bryson called At Home : A Short History of Private Life. I've only read a couple of his books (Mother Tongue and Shakespeare) but I loved them both. Bryson is able to relay all manner of fascinating facts without ever sounding dry, and his sense of humour is a delight. To give you an idea about the sort of thing Bryson's doing, I'll quote the Author's section from Amazon:
Early in the course of my research for my new book I learned that houses are amazingly complex repositories. What I found, to my great surprise, is that whatever happens in the world - whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over - eventually ends up, in one way or another, in your house.

Wars, famines, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment - they are all there in your sofas and chests of drawers, tucked in to the folds of your curtains, in the downy softness of your pillows, in the paint on your walls and the water in your pipes.

Houses aren't refuges from history, as I hope you are about to discover in At Home. They are where history ends up.
So there you are - irresistible to me, I think I might have to wait til the library gets it. Or perhaps it'll come in at no.11 in Project 24? Tempting...

3.) The blog post - is from Claire at kissacloud, and is here. It's about Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco, a Filipino author of whom I hadn't heard, but am now very eager to read. But it also opens up a wider question, specifically for those who have emigrated - do you try and stay in touch with your birth-nation (if such an expression exists!) through literature? As someone who was born and bred in England, I can't answer the question - but on a regionalist note, I do get excited if a book mentions Worcestershire, since nobody seems ever to do so...


  1. Where is the Virago cover for Vet's Daughter Simon?!

  2. I just love the NYRB edition so much, it even beats Virago...

  3. I have yet to read a Bryson book, and I really should give him a try. I think I want to read the one about England and English people the most first, as I think it will make me laugh knowing some of the types of people he writes about.

  4. I am perpetually looking for books about Japan and Sri Lanka - even though I'm happy where I am and have been in the UK for over 20 years, there's still a part of me that wants to know more about where my family's from.

  5. Re- the lack of books set in Worcestershire, funnily enough I am reading one at present. Broken Music by Marjorie Eccles is a historical mystery set around the time of the First World War, which is centred on the mythical village of Broughton Underhill, described as being between the Worcestershire countryside on one side and the Black Country on the other.

    According to that arbiter of literary taste the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, Broken Music offers "a flavour of Jane Austen meeting Agatha Christie". I've only got to page 80 so far, so it's too early for me to say how accurate I find that assessment.

  6. Dear savidgereads, do you mean the book about the British? I don't know of the one which is only about the English. To address Simon's question, I was born and bred in Scotland, though by now I have lived slightly more than half of my 50 years in London. I have a huge affinity with the canton of Geneva too via work and pleasure. My answer to your question is a resolute no! I have never, ever given it a second thought in that respect. I've read plenty of dead and living Scottish writers and a few French Swiss (or adopted Swiss), but that's because they are interesting and talented and not as a way of "staying in touch."

  7. Haha, and yet at least a quarter of the comments you put here are correcting people who write 'English' instead of 'British', Peter - I think you've stayed more 'in touch' than you think!

  8. Dear Simon, yes you are correct and I'm in danger of being rather boring about it! I'm actualy a huge anti-nationalist, whether Scottish, English or any other flavour, although I'm very proud of my Scottish birth nation and many aspects of its influence and culture. I guess I'm just always so surprised to see people write England when they mean Britain and indeed v.v, for example the "British" legal system. In this particular instance I wondered whether Bryson had written a book about England, so I went to check, so there was some literary benefit I suppose.

  9. Thanks for the link love, Simon! xo

  10. Bryson's At Home sounds interesting, but I doubt it can top my favorite, Witold Rybczynski's Home: a Short History of and Idea.

    I just discovered your blog, and love it. I am now officially a follower.

  11. Bill Bryson is great - 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' is about the history of science in recentish times - how things got discovered, why and by who. Who measured how heavy the earth is? and more pressing questions. If someone can write about that and make it interesting they are good! Also Notes from a Small Island all about the UK in the 70s - his first impressions. Landladies, chips etc.

  12. Oops I am half Scots myself - Actually it is about Britain not just England!

  13. Simon - I've not read that one yet myself, but it's definitely on my imaginary tbr pile.

    Sakura - Thanks for answering that bit, I'm really interested in hearing people's answers.

    David - interesting! Although right the other side of Worcestershire from where I grew up... we were right next to the Gloucestershire boundary.

    Claire - you're welcome!

    La BV - thanks! And, yes, I read most of Home a while ago, and found it really interesting.

    Jane - He has such a wide range of interests, doesn't he? Humbling!


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