Stuck in a Book’s Weekend Miscellany

Am I getting my first cold of 2018? Quite possibly. I only had two last year, and that is nigh-on miraculous for me, since I’m usually just counting the days between them. But whether or not I’m a picture of health (let’s face it – at the best of times, I’m not), here is a book, a link, and a blog post. Happy weekend!

1.) The blog post – I love, love, love Best Books of the Year blog posts. Don’t we all? I could link to any number of them, but here is the post from Juliana at The Blank Garden. I’ve chosen it because I also love book stats, and Juliana doesn’t skimp on those.

2.) The link – my friend Lorna sent a Guardian article to me, all about literature courses in Australia and how unprepared students are. It’s interesting, in that the author has (to my mind) lots of good points, but also demands that people read and act in a way she believes to be right. There’s a lot going on. It’s an interesting read.

3.) The book – I’ve bought it! Because I can buy books again, without restraint! (And, in fact, I had a book token I hadn’t used.) It’s Appointment in Arezzo by Alan Taylor, and falls into one of my very favourite categories of literature: memoirs about authors by people with a unique perspective. Taylor started by interviewing Muriel Spark, then became her friend, and this slim book tells the tale of it all.


StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

I’ve finished work for Christmas (sorry to people who haven’t!) and I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks of reading and relaxing – or trying to, and then ending up going to a zillion carol concerts and the like. But Christmas is my favourite time of year – because I get to spend it with family, and realising afresh the enormity of what God did for the world, and food. Those three things aren’t necessarily in the correct order there, but they are all wonderful. As are the usual trio of book, blog post, and link in my Weekend Miscellany!

1.) The link – I’m so proud of my brother Colin, who is now a crossword setter for The Times! And not just any crossword but The Listener crossword, the sort that is so fiendish that I don’t even understand the rules usually. His crossword is called ‘Jury’, and his pseudonym is ‘Twin’ – if you subscribe to The Times, you can see it here; if not, rush out to a newsagent and buy a copy.

2.) The blog post – Ali is planning a Muriel Spark year-long readalong in 2018. As with the Woolfalong, you can join in whenever you like. I’ve read lots (maybe most?) of Spark’s prolific output, but there are still a fair few on my shelves waiting for me.

3.) The book – I know nothing at all about Miss Jane by Brad Watson. But look at that coverrrr.

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

No braggies, but I’m spending my weekend in a castle. Five friends and I have booked one in Dorset, and I’ll give full reports when I’m back. I’m SUPER excited. But, don’t worry, I shan’t neglect you completely – you get a book, a link, and a blog post.

1.) The blog post – is a Shiny New Books round up of the books to buy for Christmas. They asked all their contributors to suggest the best book to give this festive season (including me). Find out what everybody chose!

2.) The book – this is another one I saw somebody mention on Twitter. I hadn’t heard of it before, though it is from 2010 – Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucien Freud by Martin Gayford. It seems to do exactly that – painting a verbal portrait of Freud at work. Sounds fascinating to me.

3.) The link – is a festive piece of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I for those of us who have anything to do with publishing content for the public to read.

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

It’s a cold and wet day here in my little village, but one of the things I love about the countryside is that every weather is beautiful, in its own way. A city is grey and bleak on this sort of day – but the countryside is atmospheric and somehow alive in the grey and the rain and the wind. Basically, I love being in a village. It’s just as lovely as I was hoping! Anyway, I hope you’re having a good first weekend of December – and here is a link, a book, and a blog post to enjoy as you do.

1.) The book – is another book about books. As long as they keep publishing them, I’ll keep telling y’all about them. It’s called Dear Farenheit 451 by Annie Spence, and I don’t have a copy (yet!) – it’s a librarian writing letters to various books that have affected her over the years. Anybody wondering what I’d like for Christmas…

2.) The blog post – is also sort of a book; the wonderful news (posted by Mirabile Dictu) that Penguin will be reprinting E. Nesbit’s The Lark! It’s already been reprinted by Dean Street Press recently, but it’s lovely that even more people will have a chance to read this delightful novel. It’s chosen by Penelope Lively in a new initiative they’re running. (Whenever I recommend a novel to Persephone to publish, somebody else seems to do it – fingers crossed that somebody picks up A.A. Milne’s brilliant novel Mr Pim Passes By.) Click through to the link above to see the lovely covers the series is getting, since I can only really fit one image in this post.

3.) The link – if you were thrilled about all my chat about The Room recently and want more… here’s an ‘honest trailer’ for it. And I’ll stop soon, promise, because I realise that the overlap of people who love cringey bad movies and people who love middlebrow interwar fiction might just be me.

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

It’s so dark, guys. It gets dark while I’m sat in the office, and I’ll be driving home in the dark until February or March or something. But – on the plus side – that does mean evenings curled up in front of my log burner electric heater made to look like a log burner.

I’m still intending to give a proper overview of my trip to Canada, and talk about the many books I got my birthday earlier in the week, but those things will wait til next week. For now, I’ll give you a book, a blog post, and a link.

1.) The book – is What Might Have Been by Ernest Bramah, which I’ve picked to represent Handheld Press. It’s a new publishing house started by my fellow book fox Kate, and they’ve published a couple of classics so far (with new fiction also on the horizon). Bramah’s novel was published in the early 20th century and is a political satire often said to have influenced Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

2.) The blog post – you might know that I loved Diary of a Bookseller. Well, let the review at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat further convince you.

3.) The link – my friend Kirsty recommended the Radio 4 programme The Adoption (available as podcast download). Each episode is about 10-20 minutes – currently 16 of them – and it follows the adoption process from more or less the beginning, interviewing birth parents, birth grandparents, adoptive parents, social workers, etc. It’s non-fiction, very moving, and a sensitive insight to a complex process.

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

It’s been another busy week, and I feel like I’ve hardly been in my flat at all – so it’s nice to be here for the weekend, and I’ve got various friends coming around too. The more people who see it, the more it feels like home. And I’ll give a proper tour before too long, I hope!

Hope you’re having a good weekend – and here is the usual weekend miscellany round-up of book, blog post, and link.

This Little Art1.) The link – is an exciting new initiative called Bluestocking Book Tours. Lauren got in touch to tell me about it, and it sounds fantastic – 2.5 hours of a guided specialist tour of some of London’s bookshops, with different themes for different tours. The link above has details about when and what they are, and if you come on the 18th November one then I’ll be there too! I’ll also report back fully on the tour I attend, of course.

2.) The blog post – I’m over at Shiny New Books writing about one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, and it’s hilarious. Anybody who loves non-fic about books will adore this one – think of it as a slightly more cynical version of 84, Charing Cross Road.

3.) The book – I think David mentioned this on Facebook, though could have misremembered – it’s This Little Art by Kate Briggs, about translation. It’s part of a series of interesting essay collections, beautifully and simply printed by Fitzcarraldo Editions, and one I’ll probably give in and buy at some point when Project 24 is over…

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

It’s been quite the week. I burst a tyre! I changed a tyre! I got Shania Twain tickets! Well, that’s the rollercoaster over and done with. I suppose it hasn’t really been quite the week, all things considered, but it feels more active than usual. And I’ve come oh-so-close to finishing unpacking in my new flat, and there’s basically no room for any more books. And – spoilers – it’s quite possible that I’ll buy more books at some point. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it… but, for now, here’s a book, a blog post, and a link.

It's Too Late Now1.) The link – is a book group that I wish I could get to, but can’t. All the Forgotten Fiction book groups at Gower Street Waterstones in London look amazing, but their fifth one – on 25th October – is a dream. It’s Shirley Jackson AND Barbara Comyns! I would be there in a heartbeat, but I’m going to be on holiday. If you can go, please follow that link and let me live vicariously through you.

2.) The blog post – it was published nearly two months ago, but I loved this list of 10 Books Set in the English Countryside, at Bag Full of Books – the seven I’ve read are all rather lovely.

3.) The book – Bello keep reprinting loads of my favourites – whether coincidence or not, who can say – and I’m thrilled that they’re bringing back some A.A. Milne titles, as Print on Demand and ebooks. All the available books are here, and include some titles which are very tricky to track down. You’ll never find Lovers in London except in Print on Demand, for instance. But I’ve highlighted It’s Too Late Now – his autobiography – which is one of my favourite books, and good homework before you see Goodbye, Christopher Robin at the cinema!

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

It’s been quite a busy week, but I’ve managed to read a book that I completely loved – Shaun Bythell’s The Diary of a Bookseller, a non-fic about running a bookshop in Wigtown. It’s hilarious and perfect for booklovers – watch this space for a full review, which will be appearing in due course as one of the Editor at Large slots on Shiny New Books.

On Saturday, I’ll be up in London going to a matinee with Colin – and on Sunday I am doing blissful nothing. Reading, I’d say, if I were a betting man. But, for now, I’ll leave you with a book, a blog post, and a link…

Mansfield and Me1.) The book – is one I saw somebody talk about on Facebook. Scott? John? Somebody. It’s a graphic memoir by Sarah Laing called Mansfield and Me and it parallels Sarah’s story with that of Katherine Mansfield. It looks wonderful and basically I’m going to need somebody to publish it in the UK… because at the moment it’s only available in New Zealand. Lucky New Zealand.

2.) The link – The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff is now available as a Persephone Classic, and at the special offer price of £7.50. A great time to snap up a really beautifully told novel. I can’t think of a way to word this that isn’t hideously promotional, but… it’s great. Read it this September!

3.) The blog post – it’s always fun to see people discover my own favourites and, while Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle isn’t exactly a little-known secret, it’s certainly become much more popular in the years since I started blogging. Back then, particularly, nobody in the UK knew who Jackson was. Anyway, there’s a great new review of it over at BookerTalk – enjoy, and if you’re one of those people who’ve yet to try Jackson, hopefully it’ll twist your arm.

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

The weekend is already halfway over – and I spent Saturday in London, catching up with friends and seeing the excellent Lettice and Lovage, starring Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman. So wonderful to see two such talented actors performing complex, unusual, and amusing characters – it was a real joy. It’s sold out, I’m afraid, but maybe it’ll transfer? Anyway, here’s the book, the blog post, and the link – as C.S. Lewis almost called his book.

Insomniac City1.) The book – how did I not know about Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes? A zillion thanks to Jenny for mentioning it in the comment section the other day – it’s written by Oliver Sacks’ partner, and you know I can’t get enough of all things Oliver Sacks. Having not bought a book for six weeks, I’m back on track for Project 24… so this could be one I end up treating myself to…

2.) The blog post – is by me, I’m afraid. I wrote (over at Vulpes Libris) about a book that was very famous in the early 20th century – An Adventure, purporting to document two women’s inadvertent time-travel to Versailles just before the French Revolution.

3.) The link – the ‘long read’ at the Guardian is about the word ‘banter’. That doesn’t sound promising, but I found the 7000+ word essay a fascinating look at sexism, popular culture, and the ways in which a very British sense of humour can get distorted and turn dangerous.

StuckinaBook’s Weekend Miscellany

By the time you see this, I’ll probably be driving off to a dear friend’s wedding – thankfully the temperature has come down a bit, so the idea of putting on a suit doesn’t make me collapse in a puddle of tears. I hope you’re having a great weekend, wherever you are – and I’ll help you along the way with a book, a blog post, and a link.

Scribbles in the Margins1.) The book – Scribbles in the Margins: 50 Eternal Delights of Books by Daniel Gray. WILL people please stop publishing books about reading while I’m on Project 24?? It’s the greatest temptation, and I very much want this. I went to school with a Daniel Gray, but I suspect it’s not the same one… though, who knows, maybe all the cool kids are bibliophiles now too.

2.) The blog post – be beguiled by this collection of excerpts about glass, courtesy of Jane at Beyond Eden Rock. Even more beguilingly, she doesn’t introduce it – so we have no idea why or how or when the idea and selection came to her.

3.) The linkBehind the GIFs. Silly but brilliant.