Friday 14 January 2011

Old Habits...

Those who thought I have learnt good habits, or become a better person, under the strictures of Project 24 probably had those beliefs dispelled on January 1st, when I bought twenty-four books. Just in case there are any lingering doubts, I thought I'd better share with you my purchases since the beginning of the year (Jan. 1st purchases not included - posted about them already!) Oh, how I missed going into a bookshop, gleam in my eye, wallet in hand, knowing the only things holding me back were time and the limited number of bags one man can carry at any one time!

One of my favourite bookshops for potential bargains is Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange. A cramped ground floor, with the choice pickings - and three sprawling, untidy basement rooms, where books are all only £1 each. Last time I went they were 50p each, but I suspect they made nary a jot of profit that way. Last Saturday I met up with Sakura (aka Chasing Bawa) and we went book-hunting. Sakura wisely took books to exchange, thus getting vouchers to spend in the shop. I can never find more than one or two books I am willing to part with, and they're always in Somerset rather than Oxford, so it was cold cash I parted with.

I bought nine books... and they came to £9. Not all were downstairs, but they actually only charged me 50p for some, so it balanced out. Nine pounds! When you think that the uncomfortable bus journey to and from London cost £13... Anyway, enough prevarication - here's what I got.

- Foreigners by Leo Walmsley
Jane (Fleur Fisher) wrote this very compelling review of Love in the Sun by Walmsley - I've not been able to track that down, but thought it might be worth picking this one up.

- The Gipsy in the Parlour by Margery Sharp
Another author Jane likes, but one I actually first read in 2003 or thereabouts - I read The Foolish Gentlewoman after reading in letters by P.G. Wodehouse that he liked it a lot. And last read in 2003, so far, but I've got a fair few waiting on my shelves.

- Loving by Henry Green
All manner of people have told me to read this, and a nice Penguin never goes amiss.

- The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill
I've not read any of Hill's ghost stories... I'm not entirely sure I want to, as I'll most likely be terrified, but... maybe in the summer.

- The Empty Room by Charles Morgan
Like Margery Sharp, Morgan is an author I read once, enjoyed, and never quite returned to. Still, at least this will give me another option.

- Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark
You all know that I've become besotted by all things Spark - and this is simply another (short! hurrah!) novel of hers to add to the shelves.

- The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
I read this a year or so ago, but it was a library copy, and I thought I'd quite like one for myself. You know how it is.

- The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford
I've been considering getting this one for a while, since it sounds exactly the sort of thing a bibliophile would enjoy, and at £1 I felt I could take a gamble.

Most excitingly, I spotted Potterism by Rose Macaulay. To be honest, I still can't remember whether or not I have a copy (LibraryThing says no) BUT when I flicked it open...

Eeek! And for only £1! Having checked it against examples of her autograph online, I am confident that it is bona fide Macaulay - and am utterly delighted.

After all this excitement, we then popped to a nice little cafe, where Sakura kindly bought me a cup of tea, and we ooohed and aaaahed over each other's purchases.

But this is not all! I have been hungrily around Oxford's bookshops; I have bought one or two things online - here are my other finds.

- Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield
Yes, of course I already have this - but my 4-in-1 copy is falling apart, and I've been looking to replace it.

- Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
This novel has been on the edge of my book-consciousness for a while, but I can't remember why. Did one of you mention it? A beautiful Folio edition (sans boxy-thing - it's the yellow patterned book) swung the deal. But illustrations by Beryl Cook... can't say I'm excited about those.

- Leonard Woolf by Victoria Glendinning
Oh, the times I walked past this in the £2 bookshop last year! Praise be that it was still there in 2011...

- Letter from New York by Helene Hanff
I didn't realise the author of 84, Charing Cross Road had done much more, so was pleased to spot this collection of articles.

- The Demon Lover and other stories by Elizabeth Bowen
I bought this in Langport, Somerset in the sweetest, and most bizarre, bookshop I've seen in ages. Dozens of pieces of furniture placed at random... not many books, but this collection of stories might help me find my way back to Bowen, after not enjoying The Last September. 2010 was the year of giving authors another go; something I should continue this year - since it was so rewarding.

- The Bondmaid by Pearl S. Buck
Since I loved The Good Earth last year, this leapt into my hands. I daresay Buck will follow the Sharp-Morgan path, of arriving on my bookshelf and never making it to being read, but... maybe one of you can give it a shove in the right direction?

- Daphne by Justine Picardie
Everyone else was reading this a few years ago... now I might join 'em.

- England, Their England by A.G. MacDonell
This was recommended to me by Tim, my colleague, and the first page was very funny. I'm not sure what led Tim to recommend it, since I don't think we've talked much about books we like, but... I'm quietly hopeful.

Not pictured is The Public Image by Muriel Spark, which I bought in Somerset and left there. And lovely Deanna, who reads this blog, says another Spark is winging its way from her... I will thank her suitably profusely when it arrives!

Phew! There you go. For those who didn't read my blog before 2010, this is more or less standard Stuck-in-a-Book behaviour...

And as always, I'd love to know your thoughts on them: have you read any? Which should fight its way to the top of the tbr pile first? Just how exciting is that Rose Macaulay signature?!


  1. What a lovely haul! Do try and find all of the Helene Hanff books, she is delightful. If you have trouble I can probably send you one or two - I think they may be easier to find here in the US. And please do a review of Loving. I have had Loving; Living; Party Going on my Amazon wish list for ages and would love to know your thoughts.

  2. You have such a gorgeous haul here. I am also glad that I have read at least a few of the books! Very often I am lagging so far behind what others have that I am very often green with envy!!!

  3. I really have to laugh! I've never bought 24 books in a day, but I could.

    I told my husband and he said you have to be making it up. :}

    Off to buy maybe one book.

  4. Oh my goodness! Yes, coming to you at the very end of '09 for the first time, I had no idea you were so like myself in your buying habits! :) However, we've traded places this year. I'm trying out your "limited buying" approach - forcing myself to stay at 36 for the year and not buying any until March 1. None of my dc think that I will make it, but I think my dh is a little more confident. (He can hope anyway!) The first week of January wasn't so bad, but now I'm starting to get the coupons in my inbox and everybody's recommending their new finds...and it's starting to get HARD! :0 (It's not even the middle of January!) Oh, bad habits are so hard to break. ;)

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  6. Not sure I can get over my jealousy at how cheap these books were to congratulate you on your haul. I'm excited if I can find anything at a used book store for $5. How depressing.

    Obviously this just means I'll have to come and do my book shopping in the UK. Possibly not entirely cost-effective but doubtlessly quite satisfying!

  7. I haven't read any of these, but have become enamored of Potterism - I, myself, am a Potter and now think I need to buy a copy of this. Very cool that it is signed!

  8. Oh, what fun--and how exciting about the Macaulay. Her work can be bit hard to find in the US, and I'm not familiar with that title. I love English bookshops--Oxford and York have both yielded good finds for me.

  9. What a pile of goodies! I loved Daphne although I thought the modern bits were unnecessary & too derivative of Rebecca. The Daphne Du Maurier & Symington sections were wonderful. Helene Hanff's books are also good. You would love Q's Legacy, about how she educated herself in English Literature by reading Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch's lectures. Very jealous about Macaulay signature.

  10. Wow, you got some really lovely books. I love the old orange penguin editions, they are so pretty and just make me want to start reading immediately! Lucky Simon :-)

  11. You've definitely got a great selection of books, for a brilliant price. Also it's so exciting that came across a signed book!

    I haven't order any books this year so far. However, I'm preparing to order an enormous amount of books soon. I don't want to think about how much it's going to cost me!

  12. Ah, I love finding autographed/inscribed books. Typically it's not the author (alas...), but what a wonderful surprise to find!

    Enjoy your books!

  13. Hooray for book binges! Now you've proved you can control yourself with Project 24, you can just go wild;P It was great to see you Simon and looking forward to seeing you again sometime in the near future!

  14. Oh Simon, simon simon. You are a book buying fiend. I have only bought two. Although I did say I wasn't going to buy any in Jan. I got 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong mega cheap on Amazon and yesterday I got the new Roald Dahl biography in Blackwells half price.

  15. Hmmm, I see you are really making up for your moderate behaviour in 2010! I go "wild" in other ways I guess, usually ones that won't require me to rent out storage space. I'm glad you had such a fun time in London and I do not think I have read a single one of the books you list.

  16. I do hope you enjoy England, their England - I first read my father's copy, and laughed out loud - especially at the unbelievably funny account of a cricket match . The book was lost in the mists of time, but last summer I found another copy, and read it with trepidation - would it still make me laugh? It did, it did, and it probably always will!

  17. Oh, I must try Notting Hill Book Exchange. Echo Claire's comment that it is tough to find anything half so cheap as A POUND A BOOK. Insane.

  18. I believe I read that Leonard Woolf biography. It's so rare to hear of a happy marriage, and even rarer, a happy literary marriage. I think I read once that Virginia said that every time Leonard walked into the room, she was curious to hear what he had to say.

    That's love.

  19. Fantastic haul! It would be lovely if you could pop on over to my blog.I followed yours. My url is

  20. Daphne is a good book in my opinion. I do not think I have bought 24 books in a day.

    Something to aim for perhaps? Only have a Waterstones available to me where I live.

  21. I went to the NHBE at your recommendation. I came away £10 lighter and 22 books heavier (and not all trash either). Result. This is definitely the cheapest book source around.

    If I go bankrupt (unlikely, at 50p a book), it's all your fault!

  22. I don't think anyone has mentioned how GORGEOUS that Folio Christopher Isherwood book is. Not only is he an amazing writer...but the cover?!

    I recently gave a friend 'The Pursuit of Love' in a stunning Folio edition. It was painful enough releasing it from my claws, but the fact that she was like 'oh wow' then tossed it over her shoulder really rubbed salt in my wounds.

    WHEW! I feel a lot better getting that out.

  23. I love the look of those Penguin classics. Sorry to have missed you this weekend but sounds like you had a lovely time and found some treasure!

  24. Wow! The combination of Leo Walmsley, Margery Sharp and a Rose Macaulay autograph left me speechless for a while. I'm pleased to see so many lovely books finding a good home.

    I shall be very curious to learn your thoughts on Walmsley. His books seem impossible to find and the library service keeps its only copy of Foreigners in the the county reference library some miles away from me. One day when I'm not obliged to work for a living I shall have to spend a considerable time there reading many gems that are tucked away.

    And Potterism is one of my rather too many books in progress. I'm loving it so far - well how can you not love a book that describes itself as a tragi-farcical tract?!

  25. Wow! That really was a great haul. I think I may have The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford, it sounds very familiar. You'll love the Helene Hanff book, these pieces were read aloud by her for radio broadcast in England (15-minute clips). It gives a very good look into her personal life. Beryl Cook - how can you not like her illustrations! Of course, I can't imagine them paired with Isherwood text.

  26. Looks like coming off a restricted book buying regime is just like coming off a calorie-controlled diet! :)

  27. I loved the Leonard Woolf biography - I enjoy anything about Bloomsbury. And I'll be interested to know what you think of A Child That Books Built. That one's been on my TBR list for some time.

  28. Heather - the Hanff does sound the sort of book I'll love dipping in and out of. I must confess The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street annoyed me intently... but I loved 84 CCR, so let's hope it's *that* sort of Hanff! And I've also had Loving; Living; Party Going in my Amazon wishlist for ages - which is why I picked this one up!

    Mystica - What have you read, what have you read?!

    Frisbee - 20 of those were in a boxed set! But I suspect I've bought around that number on a trip to the Bookbarn or Hay-on-Wye...

    Susan - haha, now you see my true spirit! Huge good luck to your Project 36, and I look forward to encouraging you in splurging in January 2012! But it is difficult...

    Claire - Shops like this are definitely rarer and rarer. The internet has done many wonderful things for booklovers, but it has made bookshop owners know the value of their stock.. (but, still, come to the UK and come book shopping!)

    Anbolyn - I know, I was excited! One of those gaspy-gosh moments in a bookshop... I think we all have them.

    Mistress C - I don't know anything about Potterism, although oddly (and erroneously) I associate it with Stephen Potter's Upmanship (Oneupmanship?) - which I've got and haven't read...

    Lyn - Oh, Q's Legacy would be wonderful... especially since the village where I grew up (Eckington) has one claim to fame: that Q wrote a poem called 'On Eckington Bridge' about it. Not about the much bigger Eckington in Derbyshire!

    Willa - I do love the look of old Penguins, but I rarely seem to read them... perhaps because they're so unrevealing about their contents? But they definitely look nice on my shelves...

    Spangle - Happy buying with your big order! And coming across signed books is amazing, especially when it's an author one loves.

    Biblio - I was so anxious when I checked it against Rose Macaulay's signature online, lest it just be someone's idea of a joke... but if it's a fake, it's a very convincing one!

    Lucy - Are you surprised, my love?! You should be as extravagant as me :)

    Peter - I figure I could have my wildness in many more harmful ways, so I'll enjoy it ;) But you're right about the storage issue... which will come to a head at some point; for now I'm blithely ignoring it...

    Donna - that might be the first one I read, it started so amusingly. And I'm so pleased it stood up to repeat reading! But I've just remember all the books I got for my birthday which I haven't read yet...

  29. Liz - do go and try it out! Chances are you'll find something - just don't go in a rush, or the disorder may madden you...

    Shelley - their marriage is fascinating and, despite all the issues, does seem to have been a loving one.

    Shelly - thanks for stopping by!

    Jo - the internet is your friend when it comes to book splurging! I had seven parcels arrive yesterday, many of which were books...

    Yvann - I'm very proud of you! 22 books for £10 - that is astonishing. Now, of course, I'm dying to know what they are...

    Daniel - isn't it, though?! In fact, I had it off the shelf and in my hands before I even knew what the book was. I'd probably have bought it for is beauty, even if it weren't a book I was keen to get anyway.

    Polly - So sorry you couldn't make it - next time! And there's just something about Penguins, isn't there?

    Jane - I thought you might be pleased with my haul! I will do my best to get to the Walmsley as soon as I can, as your review of Love in the Sun really piqued my interest. Nice coincidence that you have Potterism on the go - and isn't it a wonderful subtitle!

    Nancy - The Hanff might become my, ahem, Bathroom Book soon. But I'm afraid Beryl Cook leaves me cold... not a fan at all. Folio does seem to pick its illustrators oddly - their edition of Provincial Lady, though in many ways beautiful, has fairly dreadful illustrations. I can't fault their Mapp & Lucia, though.

    Marcia - and how! Although, to be fair, this was fairly standard procedure before 2010...

    Joanne - thanks for pushing it up the tbr pile! I don't know much at all about Leonard, other than what I've read in connection to Virginia, so that will be interesting. If memory serves, he was at university with A.A. Milne...

  30. I too can't wait to see what you say about Green. What an incredible selection you found! Hanff has long been a favorite and I am also eager to read the L. Woolf biography. I've not read any Spark yet. Should I start with Prime of Miss Jean Brodie or something else?

  31. Careful with the Susan Hill, her ghosties are truly creepy!


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