Pic: Tufty club safety sheet, c.1964, (c) Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents I’m really looking forward to checking out the British Library’s new exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, which just opened this weekend. As well as historical materials it includes ‘everyday’ propaganda: banknotes, social media, and, um, the Tufty Road Safety Club (anyone...
I’d like to think whoever owned this book before me motored across France for their holidays in St-Trop in a ridiculously glamorous and unpractical open-top car with this Michelin guide stashed in the glove compartment. Buying out-of-date guide books is, of course, completely pointless behaviour, except when they’re as lovely as this one. It’s packed with gorgeous maps and...
Murder in the library
If you love crime novels and have easy access to Euston Road, the British Library’s current exhibition, Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction, is well worth a look. It’s a very brief but brilliant overview of the genre, featuring well-known and well-loved crime writers (Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Henning Mankell) as well as more surprising ones...
I adore spy novels, especially if they’re by John Le Carré. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is one of my favourites. Set in London and East Germany, it depicts the spy’s life as one of reluctant ruthlessness, doubt and mundanity, with a ‘hero’ who’s at the mercy of the bureaucrats and is pretty much the opposite of James Bond.
from Jo Shapcott, "Border Cartography"
writteninsentences: “In this light, the red stone is more tender than stubborn: the castle keep gifted with the surface of a peach.” Just over the border from MacDiarmid’s (and apparently Neil Armstrong’s) Langholm is Carlisle, and its sandstone castle, one subject of Jo Shapcott’s poem sequence. Can’t you just see, in gentle winter light, in late afternoon, the keep walls in all their...
Down and Out
“…With bread and margarine in your belly, you go out and look into the shop windows. Everywhere there is food insulting you in huge, wasteful piles; whole dead pigs, baskets of hot loaves, great yellow blocks of butter, strings of sausages, mountains of potatoes, vast Gruyere cheeses like grindstones…” - George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London I love this book...
New York was an inexhaustible space, a labyrinth of endless steps,and no matter how far he walked, no matter how well he came to know its neighbourhoods and streets, it always left him with the feeling of being lost. -Paul Auster, The New York Trilogy
Le Petit Prince
Greetings from Prague
I love Milan Kundera’s novels so I couldn’t resist this vintage copy of Granta from 1984. As well as interviews, essays and an extract from The Unbearable Lightness of Being, it also features stories by Martha Gellhorn, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jay McInerney.
The Pelican Project
If you love old book covers, you might enjoy this project by Jonathan Bell – a catalogue of his personal (and apparently massive) collection of vintage Pelican books. The Guardian has a lovely online gallery of the covers here, but the full collection has serious scale, covering dozens of books from the 1930s to 1980s. The artwork varies from decade to decade, from the relatively restrained...
What I'm reading at the moment
A friend from work lent this to me and sadly I didn’t manage to make much progress reading it on the long-haul flights I took recently, so I’m just starting it now. Set in an elite New England college, the spooky atmosphere is amplified by peculiar, prickly characters and the mystery laid down at the outset - how and why was Bunny killed? Beautifully written crime story starting...
In search of a bookshop
I’ve just returned from a trip to Australia, where I fell in love with Fremantle, WA. It has old colonial buildings, a great maritime museum… and a fabulous second-hand bookshop! As well as large sections of Australian fiction and naval history, this bookshop had the ultimate display (for me, anyway) - an entire cabinet devoted to books by Graham Greene. The pictures...
The number of breweries in the UK is apparently at a seven-year high, and based on my own rigorous research, there’s a definite beer renaissance going on. It ain’t cheap and sometimes it tastes a bit like soap, but craft beer is popping up everywhere. Sampling beers from breweries practically on my own doorstep inspired me to pull out my beautiful copy of Home Brewed Beers and...
My other obsession, apart from books and writing, is fashion, and I love this photoshoot from October’s issue of British Vogue, inspired by Wuthering Heights - and featuring a lovely old copy of Emily Bronte’s classic.
I’m loving the BBC’s adaptation of Parade’s End at the moment, so I took the opportunity for a bit of geeky book tourism the other day by stopping off at Winchelsea, East Sussex, where Ford Madox Ford lived for several years at the beginning of the twentieth century. FMF’s residence was one of the town’s lovely white weatherboarded houses, and at one point Joseph...
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol
A: I like your apartment. B: It’s nice, but it’s only big enough for one person - or two people who are very close. A: You know two people who are very close? - Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol I loved reading this borrowed copy of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. Published in 1975, it’s witty, weird, and very Warhol. Loosely based around a series of taped...
Rye in East Sussex is the definition of quaint and an absolute haven for anyone who loves history and shopping for old stuff. Not only is it home to dozens of amazing vintage and second-hand shops, it has loads of quirky and beautifully-preserved buildings, pubs, cafes and restaurants, including Simon the Pieman (check that out here). My favourite discovery of the day was probably the Tiny...
Believe it or not, Generation Y might just be the most bibliophilic generation...– Gen Y: the most book-loving generation alive? - CSMonitor.com (via infoneer-pulse)
Old and new
These are the latest additions to my already ridiculous-sized second-hand book collection, bought last week in the new Oxfam Books in Islington. Graham Greene is one of my favourite writers and over the past few years I’ve read most of his novels, though not Stamboul Train and A Gun for Sale, so I’m really looking forward to them. And aren’t the covers great?
Under the Net
This copy of Under the Net is not so much second-hand as found lying around and cheekily snaffled. Hope nobody missed it. Under the Net tells the story of charismatic drifter Jack Donaghue - an occasional translator and serial sponger on a series of whirlwind, brandy-fuelled adventures around London. I love the descriptions of the places Jack and his gang of messy comrades pass through. From...
The Ministry of Fear
“An umbrella shop was burning on the corner of Oxford Street; in Wardour Street he walked through a cloud of grit: a man with a grey dusty face leant against a wall and laughed and a warden said sharply, ‘That’s enough. It’s nothing to laugh about.’” Graham Greene, The Ministry of Fear The Ministry of Fear is one of my favourite books set in London, partly...
I was a total latecomer to reading One Day (that’s the trouble with second-hand books). A friend from work lent it to me last summer, around the time the film version was released, informing me that ‘everyone’ was reading it on the train to work. I read it while on holiday and have to admit I didn’t really like the characters much at first - and by the end, I wondered if...
Today the London 2012 Olympic Games finally begin and in spite of myself - and my complete lack of interest in sport - I’m actually pretty excited. And what better way to mark the occasion than with… a reading list! Here’s a list of top ten books set in London from the Guardian, and I plan to blog some of my favourites here too.
“Now she knows: that was the moment, right then. There has been no other.” Michael Cunningham, The Hours This copy of The Hours has been on my bookshelf for years, unread, until I saw the film on TV recently. It was delicate, moving, elegant: I loved the way the three stories of its characters, Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown and Clarissa Vaughan, were woven together (plus great...
Le quatorze juillet
From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (drawings by Harold King).
“If it still smells okay on Monday night - you’re eating it.” -Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential I rarely stray away from my love of fiction long enough to read many autobiographies, but I really enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s memoir Kitchen Confidential. Sweary, unpredictable and energetic, it’s a funny and at times gruesome account of his 25 years in the...
Someone Like You
I’m reading Roald Dahl’s fantastic collection of short stories, Someone Like You, at the moment. On the bus home from work the other day I read the first three stories and they’re every bit as gleefully dark, disturbing and full of suspense as his other collections, Tales of the Unexpected and Switch Bitch. For example, in the creepily-titled story Lamb to the Slaughter, a...
For better or verse
It’s July and wedding season is in full swing, so I thought I’d post about this anthology today. The New Faber Book of Love Poems is basically the perfect book for finding literary inspiration for a wedding or civil ceremony - or for escaping from it all with 435 pages of verse. I bought this book in a charity shop last year and read the entire collection cover to cover. (Trust me,...
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