So, what have I bought since New Year?

As you no doubt know, I was only buying 24 books last year. It was entirely self-imposed, in an effort to read more books from my shelves – and, by the end of the year, because I don’t have much space in my lovely little flat. When the sanctions were lifted on January 1st, what did I buy?

We’re three weeks into 2018, and I haven’t gone completely crazy. That’s partly because I got lots of books I really wanted for my birthday and Christmas presents (thanks friends and fam!) and partly because I’ve decided to Be a Bit Sensible. So, I’ve only bought a handful of books so far. Basically I deserve a medal or Nobel laureate etc.

Ok, I took a week break after starting this post and writing those first paragraphs, and in that time I went to a great secondhand bookshop in Wantage with my friend Lucy, and we did go a little crazy. So I may need to return that medal. So – what have I bought in January?

Let’s start with the books I got in Wantage, which is the left-hand pile:

The Reluctant Cook by Ethelind Fearon

I didn’t realise that The Reluctant Hostess was the first of a series – it’s a fun mid-century humourous book about a self-deprecating housewife. I.e. my jam completely.

The Poet’s Corner by Max Beerbohm

Every now and then I threaten to myself that I’m going to collect all the King Penguin books, because they’re so beautiful. But then lots of them are on lakes or moths or anything I’m not interested in. But this one had to come home with me – and was a present from Lucy, as we each picked one of the other’s books to be a belated birthday present.

How to Shoot an Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell

Adding to my pile of humorous non-fiction by Mr Durrell – always good to put something on the shelves that is guaranteed to be fun whenever it comes off the shelves.

The Unnatural Behaviour of Mrs Hooker by Eileen Marsh

I don’t know anything about this author or this book, but that title is so beguiling. Does anybody know anything about it? I was also provoked into buying it by the subtitle ‘a book for women’. We’ll SEE, Eileen Marsh.

The Three Brontes by May Sinclair

How come every 20th novelist wrote biographies too? I’m intrigued to see how this book compares to May Sinclair’s novel The Three Sisters, which is vaguely based on the Bronte sisters. (But not, dear LibraryThing, the same book.)

Up the Country by Emily Eden

After loving Eden’s novels The Semi-Detached House and The Semi-Attached Couple earlier in the year, I was excited to find her book of letters from India.

Mr Punch in the Family Circle

This is an edited collection of Punch sketches – in both senses, since there are images and skits – to do with the family. And, yes, A.A. Milne features. It’s a lovely edition too – will be fun to dip into.

Selected Letters by Charles Morgan

I read a novel by Morgan in about 2003, and have been meaning to read something else by him ever since – this collection of letters is apparently selected based on being about writing and the writer’s life, which is ideal.

And onto the right-hand pile – and the books that didn’t come from Wantage, but have come in fits and starts over the first few weeks of January.

Often I am Happy by Jens Christian Grondahl

I loved JCG’s novel Virginia, and have now got… three more books by him waiting. I hadn’t heard of this one, and hadn’t realised that it had been translated – it looks lovely, and it was on sale at Blackwells.

The Givenness of Things by Marilynne Robinson

I picked this up in a charity shop, and I feel like I’ll take the plunge and read some of Robinson’s essays if I only fill the house with enough copies. I started one of them once and felt wildly out of my depth… one day. If nothing else, at least the charity benefited.

Plays 4 by Alan Ayckbourn

I’ve been on an Ayckbourn binge with audiobooks – more anon – and found this collection for £1 in Blackwells. Not the same as seeing them on stage, but apparently the season for Ayckbourn revivals is not quite yet. Well, not in the south. The north is seemingly a perennial Ayckbourn revival.

Company in the Evening by Ursula Orange
Begin Again by Ursula Orange
Landscape in Sunlight by Elizabeth Fair

All the Furrowed Middlebrow reprints came out while I was restricting my book buying, so obvi I went back and bought a handful of them when 2018 began. I needed those Ursula Oranges while the opportunity was there.

The Curtain by Milan Kundera

I had some book tokens from work, and this long essay by Kundera seems really interesting. And can keep the other unread Kundera books I’ve got waiting company.

Appointment in Arezzo by Alan Taylor

And the other book tokens went on this – a book about the author’s friendship with Muriel Spark. One of my favourite genres is books-about-unique-relationships-with-authors, and I love me some Spark.

I’m pretty pleased with my choices from January, and nearly all of them pass my “I really want this” test – I’m trying to buy fewer books in a just-in-case way. Which is a brilliant way to buy books, but not when you have about 1400 books you haven’t read. I might miss some gems this way, but I’ll also read some of the gems I have waiting for me.



8 thoughts on “So, what have I bought since New Year?

  • January 29, 2018 at 11:55 am

    I loved “Up the country” and haven’t read it for a long time, thanks for reminding me to re-read it. Wish I had your self restraint when it comes to book orphanages (shops!)

  • January 29, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    I too have a shelf full of Gerald Durrell. When I feel like reading something light and funny, I always reach for his books. 😊

  • January 29, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    So far I have stuck to my resolution. I am feeling very virtuous!
    I have a stack of books bought before the year’s end. One has yet to arrive.
    I think I have enough to keep me going for some time – allowing for reader’s block!- and then it’s on to long promised re-reads.
    Of course, I have to resist the suggestions that you inspire, Simon,together with Rachel.

  • January 29, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    Busy you! Not surprisingly, I’m most intrigued by the Punch collection. I have the two Ursula Orange books as ebooks but that’s not quite the same as having them on a bookshelf – maybe one day.

  • January 30, 2018 at 2:40 am

    Ahahahaha, this is quite a change from your last year’s incredible restraint. I have bought two books this year but after this, I am not going to buy any at all until the big library book sale in the spring. (FAMOUS LAST WORDS.)

  • January 30, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    I read Up Country a few years ago – can’t say I remember a huge amount about it, but I’m sure I liked it. I don’t know anything at all about Ursula Orange – is she someone I would like? Though perhaps you don’t know that yet. Great book buying skills there Simon.


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