Tuesday 21 April 2015

The books I bought in the US of A

I'm back! Thank you for your lovely comments on my previous post - and for those of you who emailed/Facebooked/tweeted because of Blogger being so hopeless with comments. Any sort of communication is always a delight :)

I had such a wonderful time in Washington DC (and bits of Virginia and Maryland too). I'll be writing more about the trip soon, including meeting up with a whole heap of bloggers, but I'll start with what you really want to know: the books I bought.

Well, dear readers, I bought a heck of a lot. 34, I think. And, since I'd brought 7 books with me, that meant carrying more than 40 to the airport - and a substantial percentage were crammed in my hand luggage. It was quite the feat. And... here they are, with a little bit about why I bought them. As always, do comment (or email/tweet etc.!) if you have read any, want to know more about any, etc. etc.

The World in Falseface - George Jean Nathan
I was partly drawn to the prettiness and neat size of this book, but (less shallowly), it's about the theatre, and I always love that.

The Small Room - May Sarton
Big-time May Sarton fan Thomas (from My Porch) wasn't even with me when I picked this up - but it seemed like it could be a fun one.

Last Leaves - Stephen Leacock
A Leacock I didn't own, to join the piles of Leacock books I've yet to read... In fact, I don't think I've read any for about ten years, so must get onto that.

Nabokov's Butterfly - Rick Gekoski
A book about books - specifically book dealing with 20th-century classics. Called Tolkien's Gown in the UK, I think.

The Pilgrim Hawk - Glenway Wescott
Someone recommended this... Anyway, an NYRB Classic and an intro by Michael Cunningham sold me on it.

Alien Hearts - Guy de Maupassant
And another beautiful NYRB by an author I've been intending to read.

Portrait of an English Nobleman - E.F. Benson
Janet - E.F. Benson
Two in a series EFB wrote about different periods in London, with beautiful dustjackets.

The Shelf - Phyllis Rose
Non-fiction, about an experiment where Phyllis Rose decided to read everything on the LEQ-LES shelf of the New York library. I read this one while in DC, and it's BRILLIANT. More soon.

Soap Behind the Ears 
Nuts in May
The Ape in Me 
Dithers and Jitters 
Family Circle - Cornelia Otis Skinner
I really loved Popcorn by Cornelia Otis Skinner (and I'm going to write about it soon) but she's quite tricky to track down in the UK. So I had a parcel of Skinner books delivered to my friend's address, to take away with me...

Barrel Fever - David Sedaris
Naked - David Sedaris
Sedaris is another one who is readily available in the US, and a little less so here.

Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House - Eric Hodgins
This one went on my Amazon wishlist ages ago, and I can't remember why. But this edition is a beauty, and the two things combined made it irresistible.

Classics for Pleasure - Michael Dirda
Book about books = sold.

Why I Read - Wendy Lesser
...and another.

Benefits Forgot - G.E. Stern
A really beautiful copy of one of Stern's memoirs - which are piling up on my shelves now.

Bookends - Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern
I enjoyed their book about friendship and book dealing, and, well - this one seems to be about the same thing.

The Ironing Board - Christopher Morley
Morley is everywhere in the US, and I nabbed this fun-looking collection.

By Nightfall - Michael Cunningham
On the plane, I read the Cunningham novel I bought last time I was in the US (A Home at the End of the World) so I thought I should replace it with another!

Mr Whittle and the Morning Star - Robert Nathan
The Enchanted Voyage - Robert Nathan
And last time I bought, read, and really enjoyed Robert Nathan's Portrait of Jennie - so, this trip, I took the opportunity to buy a couple more.

Absence of Mind - Marilynne Robinson
I've never really tried any of Robinson's non-fiction works (and am rather daunted by them). This one is on theology and science, and maybe one day I'll be brave enough to give it a go.

Family Man - Calvin Trillin
Remembering Denny - Calvin Trillin
Trillin is another author to be found everywhere in the US, and these two caught my attention - particularly the intriguing Remembering Denny, about a high school star who came to nothing.

Literary Feuds - Anthony Arthur
I can't lie, I love a literary feud...

Letters from the Editor - Harold Ross
I also love a collection of letters, and this one from the man who set up the New Yorker promises to be the best of the literary 1920s.

The Year of Reading Proust - Phyllis Rose
Another book by Rose that I bought and read while in America. It's even made me think about give old Marcel a try...

The Faithful Servants - Margery Sharp
Despite intending to only buy books that were hard to find in the UK, I couldn't leave this lovely Sharp behind.

Two-Part Invention - Madeleine L'Engle
This is another one that was on my Amazon wishlist for ages and I don't remember how it got there - but now it's all mine!

More on the bookshops, people, and activities soon - but, for now, let me know your thoughts on my purchases!


  1. Well, they look even more impressive in the flesh than just as a list! I loved Phyllis Rose's Parallel Lives, about five Victorian literary marriages, & I've been tempted by The Shelf so I'll be interested to read your thoughts.

    1. I'm hoping to blog about it soon, before I forget what is in it, because I thought it was such a fun and interesting book. I did see the Parallel Lives book while I was there, but foolishly left it behind... I thought I might only like Rose when she's talking about her own projects.

  2. Have you seen the vintage film of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House? Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. Hollywood-ized beyond belief, but lots of fun. You're fortunate to have a good copy; mine is quite tattered. Susan T. Case

    1. I have not seen that! Something to line up after I've read the book...

    2. One of my favorite Cary Grant movies!!

  3. I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on The Shelf. I absolutely loved all four of L'Engle's memoirs. I think it was Claire that put me on to them. And I've got to say, it defies.my.mind how you can come over here and find in one short trip authors that I can NEVER find! (E.F. Benson, Margery Sharp, e.g.) Perhaps the stores in the northeast are just better stocked than the stores in Texas, but I can't say that out loud. I'd rather just assume that you have a sharper eye for finding needles in haystacks than I do. ;) Glad you had a good trip! Enjoyed listening to you on the Readers as well.

    1. I was surprised by the number of Brits I saw on the shelves, and left lots behind - you clearly need to take a trip up to DC ;) Although Virginia had a lot, and that's further South, right?

      But now I feel a bit bad about taking them away from the US... I should have put those things on the customs form!

  4. Great haul and I second that the picture is drool worthy. I am always interested in seeing what you pick up in your travels/book buying excursions, especially since your tastes are so specific. As you know, most books by ________[Insert bestselling author’s name here] are fairly easy to find second hand, as Susan points out certain other authors... not so much. Interesting to hear that Trillian is more commen in the US (or at least DC).

    I have been lurking and not commenting recently and I am sure you will do a post about it, but can I say I was SO EXCITED to find out you did The Readers podcast with Thomas while you were in town! I haven’t listened to it yet, but am so, so looking forward to it.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Ruthiella! In my two trips to DC and surrounding area, I've been determined to buy US authors etc., and still end up bringing some that are more my usual reading (British authors of a certain period and certain unpopularity!!) I have seen some Trillin here, but he was in stacks in almost all the bookshops I went to on my trip.

      I was super excited too! Like you, I'm a massive fan of the podcast, so was thrilled to be invited to take part.

  5. Many things I could say about some of your purchases but I will limit myself to just one exhortation. Read The Magnificent Spinster before you read The Small Room. Not that you won't like it, I just think the former is so fabulous.

    1. Noted! I really will read it before too long. (Notice how I do not define my terms?)

  6. Wow, you certainly did not hold back! Well done for managing to fit these all in your luggage going home (40 books? I can't even begin to imagine. I would have wussed out at 10). I'm super intrigued by Phyllis Rose, who I'd never heard of before, and I adore Two-Part Invention. It's one of my favourite books I've read since I started blogging and I cannot wait to hear what you think of it.

    1. Of course it was you who recommend Two-Part Invention! Yes! It went on my Amazon wishlist then, and remained there until I stumbled across it - and then I saw it in a bunch of other shops too. I'll shunt it up the pile :)

      And it took some very judicious packing, as my bag was quite small! But needs must...

  7. I bought that Cunningham recently, too!

  8. Welcome back! Literary Feuds? That sounds really interesting! *adds it to "to-investigate" folder on goodreads

    1. Thanks! That book looks v interesting - and somehow less trashy than it should be, cos the feuds are about 19th century writers, Russian 20th century writers, etc.

  9. Welcome back to the UK Simon! And what a fabulous haul! But which will you read first....? :)


    1. Thanks Karen! I immediately started with The Shelf - but of the ones I've yet to launch into, I'm very tempted by Two-Part Invention...

  10. I went to the UK last November and bought 5 books - and I thought that was a haul! I need to know when I've been beat! These are all good TBR selections....it never ends.

  11. Nice list of goodies you purchased. I read all the Crosswicks journals by Madeleine L'Engel and even have a postcard she sent me. Plus I read the first of the Proust books and loved it; I kept pausing to write down words and sentences that were breathtaking. Now you will be busy reading

    1. A postcard she sent you! How glorious!
      My willingness to read Proust seems to be abating already, so maybe I should act on it before it disappears altogether....

  12. I'm very impressed that you managed to get all of those across the Atlantic. I'm so afraid to buy books when I'm on trips for fear of tipping the scales on the baggage weight.

    1. I had to take quite a few in my hand luggage, to get around that problem (since they don't weigh carry-on). In the end my main bag only came to about 15kg, believe it or not.

  13. Goodness, what an impressive haul of books. I've never managed to bring that many back from a holiday, even on the occasions when I've jettisoned some clothes to make way for books! The EF Bensons look good, and the Margery Sharp, and presumably Christopher Morley is the same Christopher Morley who wrote Parnassus on Wheels, which is one of the best books ever. Happy reading!

  14. I am impressed!! Both by that lovely pile of books (lovely and how lucky to get to travel here--hope you had a terrific time!) and by the fact you managed to get these mostly in your luggage. Now that is determination!

  15. David Sedaris is amazing. I love his books.


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