Tuesday 27 September 2011

Books, books, books...

One or two of you have asked about my spoils from last Wednesday, when I gave Claire an entirely altruistic tour of some London bookshops... ahem.  Let's gloss over the fact that, thinking about her baggage allowance, she only bought four books to my nineteen (plus two for other people).  Here they are, and I am enjoying have a camera which will takes a non-horribly-blurry photo of amassed books.  Let's take a gander at them, in a vaguely left-to-right manner, in rows...

Red Sky at Morning by Margaret Kennedy : I seem to remember this was on a list of books about twins that abebooks published a while ago?  Does anybody know anything about this?  I haven't read a word by Kennedy yet.  This came from the lovely Ripping Yarns bookshop, where I had the chance to say hello to shop manager Jen
Awakenings by Oliver Sacks : this is my token non-literary book of the haul.  I'm a fan of Sachs', and I enjoyed Harold Pinter's plays based on these cases - where people were awakened from years of being in a coma.

Diaries and Letters 1930-39 by Harold Nicholson : as Darlene said, the dates alone would make me want to grab this book - but combine that with Vita Sackville-West's husband on the cover, and I couldn't leave it behind.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset : this is a hideous cover but a book I've been intending to secure for a while.  It came from an astonishing little shop (pictured below) near Archway tube station, run by an ancient Irish gentleman.  Books were piled at least forty high, in twelve stacks (four wide; three deep).  Teetering is the word.  Claire and I worked our way through as many as we could see without covering the floor, furniture and ourselves in paperbacks...

The Expendable Man by Dorothy B Hughes : I don't know much about this Persephone book, but I was lucky enough to come across one I don't have for only £3 in the wonderful Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange.  Indeed, most of these books came from there...

Mr. Tasker's Gods by T.F. Powys : I greatly enjoyed Mr. Weston's Good Wine and have been hoping to find this one for a while - finding it in this lovely Chatto & Windus edition was rather a treat.

The Topsy Chronicles by A.P. Herbert : while I know APH's name from A.A. Milne's autobiography and other similar sources, I haven't actually read anything by him.  These look good fun, and (as a bonus) I discovered APH had signed and given this book himself.  I love it when these things happen...

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald : I've had luck finding these beautiful editions...
The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald : ...and here's another!  Which Penelope Fitzgerald should I read next?

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann : I've heard good things about this novel, and wasn't about to leave it behind with a pricetag of fifty pence... (have I mentioned how much I love Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange?)

The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark : how many more Spark novels am I going to stumble across??  The woman seems to have been unstoppable.

Don't Look Round by Violet Trefusis : having loved her novel Echo earlier in the year, I was more than happy to add to my Bloomsbury Group library.

Here's How by Virginia Graham : this is the book I was most excited about - indeed, I've already started it, and it's hilarious.  I adored her faux-etiquette guide Say Please a couple of years ago, and this one is a faux-instruction guide.  So far I've read How To Sing, How To Dance, and How To Play the Piano.  It would be going too far to say I've learnt anything practical, but I've certainly laugh.  I'll quote some for you all soon...

The Celestial Omnibus by E.M. Forster : I read the title story from this collection when it was published by Penguin in their short story series, and now I'm keen to read some more.  And such a nice little edition...

Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates : chivvied on by Lyn's recent review, I grabbed this when I saw it on the shelf.  This'll be my first Bates...

The Devastating Boys by Elizabeth Taylor : I've heard all-round good things about this collection, not least in Nicola Beauman's biography of Taylor - and which of us Virago-fans can resist a VMC?

My Career Goes Bung by Miles Franklin : see above...

Across the Common by Elizabeth Berridge : this is the other book I bought in Ripping Yarns, on the basis that Berridge is a Persephone author.  Not that I've read anything by her yet...  Pictured above are the beautiful shelves in Ripping Yarns, which made me go a ltitle weak at the knees...

Stately as a Galleon by Joyce Grenfell : I need a little more Joyce in my life.  This might be my next dip-in dip-out book...

So, there you go!  As always, I want to hear your thoughts - on which books you've enjoyed, or think you would enjoy, etc. etc.  Over to you!


  1. I love second hand book shopping! Always end up with more than you expect.

  2. Another wonderful haul! Of them all, the only one I've read is Kristen Lavransdatter. I remember thinking it "okay" - meaning it didn't bowl me over, but I didn't think reading it was a total waste of time. It doesn't strike me as your sort of book. I guess because of the time period in which it takes place. But I'm not trying to scare you off - the woman who recommended it to me raved and raved about it. I'll be curious to read what you think of it when you get to it.

  3. I love how the "Love affair of a Bibliomaniac" prepared us for this post... nicely done =)

  4. That looks like a brilliant and eclectic collection, Simon. I do hope you enjoy the Forster and the Elizabeth Taylor, as those are favourites of mine. I like Penelope Fitzgerald too, although when 'Offshore' won the Booker Prize all those years ago, I was very puzzled by it! Happy reading.

  5. Lovely books!
    Simon, in IE the text above your pictures is non-existent. It works fine with Firefox.

  6. Oh I love the NHBE; I shall be going there in 3 weeks - can't wait!

  7. "My brilliant career" was one of the first (and few) books I've given up on because I just didn't like or care about the main character (possibly because I ws too close in age at the time). I'll be interested to hear how the sequel goes down.

  8. *Beyond* envious of that Elizabeth Taylor VMC cover - I'm trying to collect all of hers published by Virago with the lovely flower covers & I *never* see them. It's not *fair*

  9. Marvelous! I'm drooling over those Virago titles.

  10. I love the paper printed "Books" sign hung off the side of that stack. Brilliant.

  11. The Mandelbaum Gate was good, but probably a much more conventional Spark than you are used to.

  12. What a marvellous haul of books! *Jealous*. Did you have to carry them all home by yourself? Or did you have a camel or donkey handy to help?

    liz in texas

  13. That's almost a library in itself! I will be interested to see what you make of Don't Look Round. There was once a Brighton bookshop, two shops opposite each other in fact, that had the teetering piles of books - the owner knew exactly where everything was. Much missed.

  14. I have The Celestial Omnibus, and have always loved the comment: 'After No.39 the quality of the houses[in Buckingham Park Road] dropped very suddenly, and 64 had not even a separate servants' entrance.' Fabulous.

  15. Simon you are so naughty! I love that Archway/Highgate has so many book shops...looks like I'm going to be getting in trouble!!

  16. Rachel - I do especially! I feel bad if I leave a bookshop without having bought at least *one* book... but this doesn't happen very often.

    Susan - I did like another of Undset's books, the title of which escapes me, but I mostly bought this because so many people seemed to be reading it in the 1930s...

    Samara - haha, yes! That wasn't deliberate, but it certainly paved the way...

    Sue - I was very pleased with my haul! I think At Freddie's might be next Fitzgerald, mostly because I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else.

    cmm - oh, I had so hoped my troubles with IE were over... *sigh*

    Verity - I never come away empty-handed! Although I must confess the new bookcases downstairs make everything a little too claustrophobic now - I concentrate my energies upstairs!

    Anon - I haven't read the first, in fact I don't even own it, so the sequel will be going on the back-burner for now...

    Ali - sorrrryyyyyyy!

    Amanda - delicious, aren't they?

    Debs - I know! He clearly thought we needed some assistance in identifying them.

    Thomas - the blurb didn't look much like the Spark I know and love. I might put it to the bottom of the pile - I prefer unconventional Spark.

    Liz - I did, somehow! I have got very used to carrying big piles of books...

    Tanya - the shop reminded me a lot of one in Cheltenham, which was covered floor to ceiling with books - in fact, the desk was made of books, as I recall.

    Myrtle - what a wonderful quotation! Thanks for sharing.

    Rachel - I knooooow... you're so good with books and weeding them. I hope Archway drags you down to my depths!


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