Saturday, 15 November 2008

Books and reading

Among the many pleasures that dot my life are books, and anything to do with them really. I read for escapism, for knowledge, for my studies, for research for my articles, but mostly just for the sheer pleasure of reading. I love the thrill of receiving a parcel of books, of touching and smelling new and old books. I love browsing in bookshops old and new, buying books, choosing a new book to read or selecting an old favourite to re-read. The photos here show some of the books have read in the last month or so, not all by any means, just a sampling of them. Unfortunately, although they looked all right on screen, by the time they translated to the blog, the covers were all but indecipherable. Sorry, but I am no expert with the digital camera.
'Variable Winds at Jalna' is one of a series of sixteen books written between 1927 and 1960 which cover one hundred years of the Whiteoak family and their estate Jalna. The matriarch of the family is Adeline, a strong female character who lives to be over a hundred and a driving force in the family to the end. It is the usual saga of family rivalries, tangled relationships and secrets, and was written by Mazo de la Roche, probably not known to many who will read this blog, if any at all. My late mother had all the books in the series, which I now have, but because of my penchant for old dustjackets, I am trying to buy old hardback copies of it when I see them, for the artwork. I also like to re-read the stories from time to time.

The Margaret Forster is another of those books I bought because I knew her writing, but mainly because I loved the artwork on the dustjacket. Many people will know her for writing 'Georgy Girl' perhaps this maybe less well-known. At the beginning of the book Maudie, who is 68, from Glasgow and as outspoken and domineering as you can get, decides to make the long bus journey to London to visit her daughter, a disastrous visit, only to be outdone in its awfulness by her next trip, a visit to her other daughter... she finishes up with 'the mecca' of her travels as it's described, visiting her beloved son. But again the visit doesn't match the expectations, but you know that because of duty, these visits will be repeated the next year.
I recently bought a boxed set of classic Penguins, and have begun working my way through them, starting with 'Notes on a Scandal' by Zoe Heller, because it had been recommended by several friends. It was a good book to start my reading with, though the next one didn't appeal as much and has been put aside until I am perhaps in the mood for it. I tend to do this with books, trying them for a couple of dozen pages, then strong in the belief that life's too short and there are too many unread books to waste time on those I am not connecting with or enjoying, I will put the book aside and try it again at a later date. But three strikes and it's out, off to a friend or the charity shop!

Jodi Picoult is an old favourite, but this, 'Songs of the Humpback Whale' I found more of a struggle, it zapped about from one time to another and left me confused at times. But, it was a good read for all that, engrossing as her books are, and with a satisfying ending.

Kate Atkinson is another favourite, and I especially like the books featuring the retired policeman, Jackson Brodie, of which this is the latest. Each time I read one of them, I think it's better than the last, and this was no exception. The first book of hers I read was her first novel, 'Behind the Scenes at the Museum', which was just so brilliant, and like many debut novels I have read over the years, left me feeling a bit deflated, wondering why I bother trying to write mine.
'The Wonderful Weekend Book' by Elspeth Thompson is just such a pretty book, the photo doesn't do it justice. I often buy a book because of its cover; unless the author is known to me, it's the first thing I notice, and if like the read of the blurb, then I buy it. This delightful book gives you lots of ideas for passing the time at weekends. For those who need inspiration.

And these two may give the impression I am an idle glutton.. not so. But I am a follower of idle pleasures, and a lover of food and cooking. The Idle Pleasures includes such pursuits as sneering, paper folding, and yawning amongst its more energetic pursuits, so you can see it's not for the faint-hearted! There are useful idle pursuits such as learning the names of trees, gathering food from the hedgerows and hanging out washing, so you can see it has it's not all laying about and contemplating your navel.. though strangely enough, that's not one of the pursuits. And the 'Joy of Eating' is another of those irresistible covers, and the book itself is a hotpot of international food writing, recipes and thoughts on food and cookery. Anyone who likes food and anthologies will enjoy this book.
So there you have a brief example of some books I have been reading - there may be more another time.


Frances said...

I could spend every waking hour reading ... but just cannot.

I love your pictures of the books, and have to say that I have read many of them and have had the pleasure of meeting Ms Heller and Ms Atkinson, over on this side of the Atlantic. Both lovely folks.

Keep up your own writing, though it might cut into your reading hours.


Mid Life Hopes said...

Love your books, and the look of them too. I so understand about the strike three method.
My dad had over 3,000 books in his collection, and he tried to read a book a day!
I have some lovely antique books, that are just like old friends.
I have one history book that is titled "A Consise History of the United States" Author: M'Culloch, John, 1754-1824.
Title: A concise history of the United States, from the discovery of America, till 1813 [microform].
Edition: 4th ed.
Published: Philadelphia : Printed and sold by W. M'Culloch, 1813.
Description: 320 p. : map ; 19 cm.

It is not considered rare, but the only a few places (colleges) have the actual book.

For you, I would make it a gift to you...

Calico Kate said...

Oh Jaln Oh Jalna reminds me so much of holidays in Scotland where for some reason I always seemed to come across them, now I live here they have all gone down south. Loved them all though. & Jody P Kate A and I think I might make a present of the Idle Pleasures one. Just off to Amazon.........

Milla said...

great list of books - I do hope you try the WIlliam Boyd pictured, I loved that book. And love the writing of Margaret Forster. I've enjoyed the detective Kate Atkinsons and "museum", but recently had to give up on Human Croquet - it was just too much.