The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

 

 The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell is published by Profile Books (£14.99).

 

Monday, 3 March

Online orders: 9

Books found: 8

Another beautiful day, marred at an early stage by a customer wearing shorts and knee-length woollen socks who knocked over a pile of books and left them lying on the floor. Shortly afterwards, a whistling customer with a ponytail and what I can only assume was a hat he’d borrowed from a clown bought a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, I suspect deliberately to undermine my faith in humanity and dampen my spirits further.

A book we had sold on Amazon called Orient-Express: A Personal Journey, and which we had sent out three weeks ago was returned today with a note from the customer that reads: ‘Unfortunately not as expected. Require a more pictorial version. Please exchange or refund. I suspect that the customer was treating us like an online library and had read the book.

Till total £90

customers 4

 

 

Reading books about books is what I do when I’m not reading books. Doesn’t make a lick of sense, but bibliophiles will get it. And what’s more delightful than a snarky, acerbic daily diary written by a bookseller?

Answer: perhaps a wee kitten sleeping, but precious little else.

 

Cute overload.

 

It didn’t take long to start ordering books from Amazon.co.uk, once I’d settled back in Scotland. As I slammed the last drawer in my dresser, clothing folded away, my hand’s muscle memory awoke, typing A-M-A. Google knows me. Like a crack addict, I had to have it. Like an enabler, it provided.

An unabashed Anglophile, my “Buy Later” queue of books only or more readily available in the UK is already longer than most people’s list of “books to read in my lifetime”. I pop one in the cart with every order, and I order everything from Amazon. With Prime free delivery, I’d be silly not to. The price of a taxi to and from the local mall costs the equivalent of an average paperback.

Tell me I’m not penny-wise.

Shaun Bythell’s book was the first to jump the queue. Bythell is the owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland, the largest second-hand bookshop in the country. One of the most entertaining and satisfying works of humorous nonfiction I’ve read in quite a while, I’m struggling to remember what else has made me snort-laugh so hard. Bill Bryson’s sent his share of coffee spraying out my nose. Ditto David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs.

I love a good curmudgeon, especially a man with so great a knowledge of books. Shaun Bythell doesn’t hold back. Were I ten years younger, and not living in the house of another bookish man, hoooo boy. I’d throw myself across his path.

Hey, big boy.

Summary: it’s damned funny. I don’t hand that compliment out often. It’s difficult writing funny prose. Or prose I find funny, the important point. I’m a tough audience. I don’t throw my laughs around willy-nilly. Not for me the polite laugh. If you delight me, my reaction’s genuine.

Read this book if you love books. Read it even harder if used books are your thing, hardest yet if you have a streak of evil a mile wide.

N.B.: I must lodge one little complaint: I sent The Bookshop a Facebook message inquiring if they have any novels by Muriel Spark. I need to replenish my supply and thought what better way to compensate the man who’d just entertained me with his biting wit for several days, but never received a response.

It’s been over a week now, and nothing. Sorry, I may love your book, but I take my book buying awfully seriously. I’ll have to take my business elsewhere this time. Now I’ve given you a reason to snipe at me.

Feel free to run with it. I can take it.

 

 

Yup, still breathing.

 

April brought violets.

 

Thanks to all who’ve sent notes asking if I’m still alive. Sorry I wasn’t able to reply to all, but I’m popping in to reassure you I haven’t yet left this earthly plane. For some of you, hopefully that’s what you’d hoped to hear. For the rest of you, I know lots of Scottish swear words and insulting phrases. But I’ll let you slide this time.

Time really gets away from you. This year’s halfway over already, can you believe it? I’d been blogging religiously through most of it, then life reared its head. I had things to attend to, and everything plummeted into the roiling pit of despair.

I pretty much read nothing the entire month of April. I slowly returned to reading this month, but just couldn’t summon the energy to write about it. Welcome the tail end of May, when finally I rear my curly red head.

Once I’ve gathered the few books I’ve not shared about, I’ll do my best to form sentences summarizing thoughts. Then I’ll get myself back on track, as I’d done so well the early months of 2018.

Lots of personal things going on right now, like the continuing search for a librarian position. As I’m willing to go nearly anywhere in the U.S., it’s both easier and tougher. Try hunting for a job in a country of over 300 million people occupying gawd knows how many thousands of square miles.  Narrowing it down is tough, even eliminating areas I’d never want to live. Sift the remainder, and that’s still an awful bit pile.

Uprooting again will be an undertaking, once I do find that mythical job, though not nearly as tough as last year’s wee jaunt to Scotland. I never filled up my new home, anticipating the wanderlust itch was still great with me. I’m not sure the furniture I’m left with wouldn’t be best sold off, new things bought at my destination, considering the cost of moving. But that’s jumping ahead.

Meanwhile, time to get back to life’s plans – both big and small. I aim to post about books over the coming weekend. I may not blow you away with what I’ve read, but I sure as hell will with books I’ve bought and received for review. Still buying back some I sold before I moved away last year, and, as always, adding some everyone would agree are necessary.

Until then.

 

March in Review: Much more reading, many more books. That’s more like it.

I had faith March wouldn’t let me down, unlike my crappy January and February. Lie: I had no such faith, but told myself things could hardly go further south. And there were no Olympics, no television distracting me. The TV reverted to its usual function: background noise for napping and covering the surface of my TV stand, while looking impressively large.

Size matters, friends.

Of course, March brings out my Irish. It’s also my birth month, meaning I have an excuse to binge buy books. This year, March threw in a nasty virus, gratis, getting me three days off work in which I was too sick even to read.

Still, I managed to fit in a few.

I’d hoped to take a short vacation in March. SPOILER: that didn’t happen. I was too ill, no desire to leave the warmth of my home and comfort of my sofa. It’s still cold here in Chicago. Distressingly so. On this April 1, it’s the coldest it’s been in years, hovering around freezing.

Will spring ever come. I’m beginning to wonder.

Books Read March 2018:
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (for library classics book group)

I’ve been putting off reading this one since the upset wrought by the first few minutes of the Kubrick film. Not a fan of random violence and rape, I wrote this off as not for me.

It’s about a young man literally addicted to violence, the leader of a pack which wreaks nightly havoc on an English town. The first part was difficult to read, partly for the made-up language Burgess creates (which wore on me) and constant, gratuitous violence. The second part is much more interesting, once main character Alex is finally arrested for his crimes, and re-programmed, for lack of a better term.

The best thing I can say about ACO is I finished it. Not a fan.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)

The lovely Jesmyn Ward has written another moving story set in Mississippi, this one about a family ripped apart by the slow death of the matriarch from cancer. Told from shifting perspectives, including that of the ghost of a young black boy lynched decades ago, it’s a short and rich novel.

It deserves to be shortlisted.

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

This one, good God. Absolute brilliance, beginning to end. It’s been a while since I’ve read a modern book I believe has the staying power to become a modern classic. Ruby is it and then some.

The story, the brilliant and sensuous language, the characterization and use of magical realism… It’s huge in scope, so difficult to summarize.

The title character is born a beautiful young girl, her life of poverty dooming her to prostitution starting from a very early age. Having escaped the South for a privileged life with a relative in New York City, upon the death of a woman she’d loved she makes the fatal mistake of returning home. Ruby loses her mind, becoming feral, as she’s again pulled back into sexual abuse and violence.

Love enters, and Ruby resists, unable to believe anyone could truly love such a damaged, broken woman.

I can’t recall the last time I finished a book and wanted to turn back around and re-read it immediately. If I weren’t engaged in other projects, I’d have done so.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)

Schmidt’s book is a novelization of the story of possible murderess Lizzie Borden, she of the axe murders of her father and step-mother.  Generally, I don’t care for historical fiction, but this was an exception. What bothers me about it is the inability to know what’s true and what’s imagination. I’d far rather read non-fiction, getting to the truth of the matter.

 

The Notorious LB

 

I enjoyed Schmidt’s approach, telling the story from different perspectives. And while the case remains unsolved, she lets the reader know what she believes truly happened. It’s what I’ve always believed, as well, minus a few suspicions on the details.

Though an enjoyable read, I’d be surprised if this one makes the shortlist.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)

Merchant shipman Jonah Hancock, one of his ships lost on a voyage, is handed a small, shrivelled “mermaid” as recompense. His only choice to help re-coup some of his losses is to display it as a curiosity, in PT Barnum fashion.

In the course of its travels, it lands in an upper class whorehouse, at which Mr Hancock meets the lovely courtesan and former mistress of a nobleman: Angelica Neal. Struck by her beauty, he’s lost.

Later, in order to win her love, she demands he bring her another mermaid, this one genuine. Believing it impossible, she believes she’s seen the last of him. When her fortunes change, however, Mr Hancock becomes much more desirable.

Ultimately, the creature Mr Hancock presents her with induces a terrible melancholy on everyone associated with it, begging the question what is the price to be paid when you get everything you think you want.

Not a candidate to win the Women’s Prize by any means, it’s an overly long book I nearly gave up at the 3/4 point. It meanders, interesting lesser characters never fully fleshed out. I finished it to find out what happens, and because I’d ordered it from Ireland and paid enough in shipping I didn’t want that to be for naught.

 

Books Bought March 2018:

In addition to a couple from the Books Read in March list (See What I Have Done and The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock), there were these:

Happy by Nicola Barker (Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlist)

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg (for review)

And these:

And, for my birthday:

 

Nothing new read for the Muriel Spark project, unfortunately, but I’ll resume that in April. I thought I owned a copy of The Bachelors – next up chronologically – but can’t find it anywhere. Hesitant to buy more books after my slutty indulgence this month, I may have to skip over it for the next, bite the bullet and order it, then read it out of sequence.

I hate doing that, but needs must. One last search of my library, then I’ll do what must be done.

 

Such was my March. I’m happy with what I managed to read, definitely happy with the stream of new books. April needs to be a less expensive month. I went a little crazy, and need to re-coup. Still searching for that elusive sugar daddy to support my habit. Ah, but rare as mermaids are they.

April will hopefully herald spring, lifting my mood. I’d be lying if I said the first quarter of the year hasn’t brought me down. Still too early to plant flowers in the Chicago area – we’ve had frost as distressingly late as May, in years past – a warm-up, at the least, would be more than welcome. At least the days are lengthening, so there’s that. Sorry not to be more perky. I just don’t have it in me at the moment.

Spring’s hope’s eternal.

 

I blame it on the Olympics.

 

February 15th: 50% off!

 

A couple nights ago, the crown on tooth #2 (top right, back molar) popped off again, for the second time in as many weeks. It chose to do so in the evening, after my dentist was closed. Instead of bucking up like a brave little toaster, I ran to my phone and scrolled madly, finding a 24-hour dentist. Weirdly, he’s located directly across from my work. I half expect the building to be gone the next time I pass by, a Brigadoon-like romance. He shows up when you need him, disappears when you don’t. That is, if a character from a Scottish play can be of Pakistani descent, instead of haggis and whisky, exuding the scent of Asian spices (and garlic, dear god, the garlic) from every pore. I hadn’t eaten dinner. Every time he leaned over me I had the urge to bite him.

He cemented my crown back with a composite so strong he said my real dentist will be pissed off. At first I’m thinking, “Great! There’s no way it’ll pop off again before time to get my permanent crown.” Then, I realized my dentist will have to break out the TNT to pop the mother off.

Awesome.

I hope he knew what he was doing. His office certainly looked professional. It had one of those blinding search lights they use to find you if you try to bolt, a chair that lays back beyond horizontal so all the blood rushes to your head and your nerves throb even more vigorously, and all those pointy, proddy instruments. The odd thing was, once he was finished and we were leaving (my son happened to be getting off the train coming back from the city 20 minutes after I sent up a distress flare, so he drove me) we had to be lead out of the building via the flashlight on the dentist’s wife’s phone.

That’s normal.

The building’s under construction, and for whatever reason, the power in the hallway was out. The elevator worked fine, mind. And the electricity downstairs. It was just that outside their office, in the space of time I was sitting in the chair, suffering like a whiny little beyatch, it cut out.

Nothing in my life can be 100% normal, can it.

In reading news, there isn’t much reading news. The Olympics have been a seductive little siren, plus my son’s stopped by a few times during his extremely busy semester. The break hasn’t been a bad thing.

 

Martin Eden (1909)

 

My library’s Great Books group is reading Jack London’s lesser work Martin Eden for discussion next week. There’s a reason it’s a lesser work. I’m about 85 pages in, and it’s exclusively about an uneducated sailor’s desperate attempts to impress a pretty girl named Ruth, a university student who runs in literary circles. Already bent on self-improvement, it’s made that much more urgent by his obsession with the girl. But there’s no other storyline so far, in nearly 1oo pages. It’s grating. London repeats the girl’s attributes, and the young man’s devotion, over and over. I’d throw it across the room, but it’s on my Kindle.

It was chosen because one of the members is a London fan, yet, another member doesn’t like the American writer’s subject matter about snow and ice and wolves. So, there’s Martin Eden, Jack London without the animals.

HINT: Generally, when a classic writer’s known for a certain quality it’s their best. Don’t like wolves? Just don’t read Jack London.

The Olympics are tough competition for my attention, but there’s a lot I need to get read before the end of February. I may just have to turn the sound off and glance at it every now and then. If you’ll recall, I’m paying extra for the television channels, so I’m not about to stop watching. It’s about balance, splitting my attention.

I haven’t even bought any books, I just realized, though I did receive a gift in the mail from the Scot. How he knew I love vintage Puffins and symbols of Edinburgh, I don’t know.

Intuition, I guess.

 

Puffin Edition, Greyfriars Bobby

 

Though I didn’t buy any books, I did buy a bookshelf and found this lovely painting at Goodwill, for a mere $ 2.50.

 

Thrift Store Queen Strikes Again!

 

Not bad, if I do say so myself.

That’s been my week. Partly awful, partly pretty okay. Expect more book talk next time. And, for gawd’s sake, please let there be no more tooth news save it’s taken care of, and my long nightmare is finally over.

 

Frankenstein 200: Muriel Spark on Mary Shelley

2018 marks not just the 100th anniversary of Scottish writer Muriel Spark’s birth, but also the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s science fiction classic Frankenstein.

Time flies, friends.

 

 

Spark admired Mary Shelley. Extra exciting for me, her biography of the English novelist is where both my Muriel Spark project and participation in the Frankenstein 200 festivities intersect.

In other words: I get twice the bang for the buck, bishes!

Frankenstein is one of those novels you think you know, until you actually read it. It’s so different from the film adaptations. Those are fun, but the book goes far deeper. It’s also stranger, and that’s saying a lot. Same for Dracula. Neither book should be judged by the films. The resemblance is at best vague.

 

I went there.

 

I’m heading into my third reading of Frankenstein after Spark’s bio about its author. The background is fascinating, since I’ve never known much about Mary Shelley except she wrote an iconic novel as the result of a bet.  Almost as impressive, she felt no intimidation going up against literary heavyweights Lord Byron and her lover Percy Shelley, also in on the bet. She was only a kid, a mere teenager, while the two men already had staggering reputations for genius.

You go, girl. You go.

I have to be honest, here. The behavior of the Romantic poets – especially Shelley and his pal Lord Byron – is spoiled and distinctly lacking in ethics. Sure, I wish I had a patron to take care of my bills, so I could spend my time drinking and having picnics with my erudite friends. But honey, other writers bust their arses producing not when the muse strikes, but when the rent is due.

Grow. Up.

 

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.

– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

 

 

Percy Bysshe Shelley pimped Mary out for money. He pimped her out. A wealthy lawyer friend of his had an unspoken arrangement; love letters from Mary to this man imply she was just waiting for her baby to be born so they could get it on for cash. Shelley and Mary kept no secrets. She wasn’t running around behind his back. Percy was just that classy.

Ironically, that baby died.

Shelley was forever running from creditors, yet, on at least one occasion when a friend felt sorry enough to slip him a fiver (most likely to shut him up), he and Mary went to see a play before spending the remainder on food and accommodation. Bitch, please.

I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush, but between Shelley’s bad behavior and Lord Byron’s even worse, it leaves a bad taste. The two men left women and children along the side of the street, because geniuses cannot be bothered. Byron was okay for money, but didn’t hesitate knocking up Mary Shelley’s half-sister, dumping her at Mary’s, and prancing off to Italy. The result? Mary was left feeding both her half-sister and the child, while George merrily spread his seed elsewhere.

And Percy Shelley? The estranged wife he left for Mary committed suicide from despair, leaving their two children orphaned. Hoping to gain custody, he finally married Mary to make himself appear more respectable. Unfortunately, the courts gave him a big ol’ dose of nope. His children were adopted out to another family.

 

 

Mary’s own mother – iconic feminist Mary Wollstonecraft – lived with her lover William Godwin (Mary Shelley’s father), yet Godwin all but disowned his daughter for shackin’ with Shelley. The apple didn’t fall far from that tree, but it didn’t look so appetizing held by his 19-year old daughter.

These people did hypocrisy well, too.

I don’t mind being in the minority when it comes to these poets. I cannot muster patience for elitists, much less elitist bed-hoppers. Makes you wonder why I love Virginia Woolf so much. She and her group were no different. Good lord, she was a snob, and a brilliant one, but you’d need a scorecard to figure out who slept with whom in that bunch. Maybe I can do hypocrisy, my own self.

Shrug.

I’d better get back to it. I want to polish off the biography, move on to Frankenstein, then read Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye by March. But first, sleep. Because some of us who love reading and writing must still get up and go to work in the morning.

Right, Percy?

Psssh. Slacker.

 

Reading David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books: A Son’s Tribute

 

David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, is embarking on a project to read his father’s top 100 favorite books. Kicking off on Twitter February 1, the first discussion will be on Peter Ackroyd’s novel Hawksmoor.

 

 

I’m not sure exactly how he plans to carry it out, if he’ll just be tweeting out thoughts or something more organized. Does it matter? It’s about reading and the love of books, and how these particular works influenced a great artist.

Because they’re greedy bastards, Amazon sellers have set prices on Ackroyd’s out-of-print novel as high as $ 1,000. They’ve obviously found out about the reading project, because there’s nothing especially valuable about the book in used paperback edition. Even signed, I can’t imagine there’s a Peter Ackroyd title going for that much.

I almost grabbed the cheapest copy left for $ 35, then decided no, that’s still extortionate. Screw you, bottom feeders. It can be had other places, including:

  • Local indie used bookshops
  • Libraries
  • Audible.com (available with their free trial offer, how I’m “reading” it)

No doubt these same unscrupulous sellers will jack up the prices on other out-of-print books on Bowie’s list. If you’re planning to join in with Duncan Jones, be forewarned: as soon as he announces the next read, prices will soar.

I let Mr Jones know about the price gouging via Twitter:

 

I also shared with him that it can be had at audible.com, which he re-tweeted. I helped a few potential readers find an affordable option. Because that’s what librarians do.

It is my superpower.

I’ll pop in and out of the reads as the spirit moves me, my schedule clears and my interest is piqued (subject to book availability, as well). I am adding it to my list of organized reads for 2018, but I don’t plan to make it as regular as, say, the Muriel Spark Project and of course the films. It came up rather serendipitously, I happened to see it, and figured what the hell.

Let’s go for it.

 

God, he was a lovely man.

 

I’m not a huge Bowie fan, per se. I mean, come on, we all know he was a genius. I loved many of his songs; they get stuck in my head and are there for the duration. “Fame” has been playing on a loop since I started writing this, interrupted for brief moments by “Under Pressure.”

He was larger than life. When he  died it was a shock; I felt genuinely sad for the loss to the music world. But I’ve never owned any of his albums, never followed him.

My interest went into overdrive once I saw what he’d loved to read. It made me appreciate him more, admire his mind. Yes, he was out there and hugely famous. You can’t NOT know about David Bowie. But, unsurprisingly, it’s the literary element that grabs me most.

I respect this man’s mind. I admire him for what he read, as much as any other reason. Through reading what he read, it just may lead me back to more of his music, as well.

I’ll be coming at him backwards, perhaps, the opposite of how virtually everyone else experiences or has experienced him. Still, I’ll get to know him via the way I know and love best: literature.

 

I’m a real self-educated kind of guy. I read voraciously. Every book I ever bought, I have. I can’t throw it away. It’s physically impossible to leave my hand! Some of them are in warehouses. I’ve got a library that I keep the ones I really really like. I look around my library some nights and I do these terrible things to myself–I count up the books and think, how long I might have to live and think, ‘F@#%k, I can’t read two-thirds of these books.’ It overwhelms me with sadness.

  • David Bowie

 

 

I wonder at what point in his life David Bowie put this selection together, and for whom? Perhaps Duncan Jones will shed light on that. I’m hoping he’ll shed light on an awful lot of interesting tidbits about his father.

He’s a very nice person, approachable and interactive. This could be loads of fun.

Fascinating that so much of Bowie’s reading taste lay in works by American writers and/or about American subjects. But then, that would make sense if you’re talking about American music genres, such as rock and roll and the blues. Why would you not go straight to the source?

As far as the fiction, though, I’m interested by how heavily it’s weighted toward Americans. Not exclusively, no. But there are a lot.

Below is Bowie’s list, as near as I’ve been able to gather via internet sources (a couple had conflicting lists, but I’ll fix that if I can). I’ve noted which may be more difficult to obtain (in bold font) and indicated those I’ve personally read (red highlight):

 

David Bowie’s 100 FavoUrite Books

 

  • The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby, 2008
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz, 2007
  • The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard, 2007
  • Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage, 2007
  • Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, 2002
  • The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens, 2001
  • Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler, 1997
  • A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes, 1997
  • The Insult, Rupert Thomson, 1996
  • Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon, 1995
  • The Bird Artist, Howard Norman, 1994
  • Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, 1993
  • Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C. Danto, 1992 
  • Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia, 1990
  • David Bomberg, Richard Cork, 1988 – best of luck with this one, be quick
  • Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, Peter Guralnick, 1986
  • The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin, 1986
  • Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd, 1985 – see above
  • Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey, 1984
  • Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter, 1984
  • Money, Martin Amis, 1984
  • White Noise, Don DeLillo, 1984
  • Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes, 1984
  • The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White, 1984
  • A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn, 1980
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
  • Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester, 1980
  • Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler, 1980
  • Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess, 1980
  • Raw (a ‘graphix magazine’) 1980-91
  • Viz (magazine) 1979 –
  • The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, 1979
  • Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz, 1978
  • In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan, 1978
  • Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977 – series of at least 7, as far as I can tell
  • The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, 1976
  • Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Sanders, 1975
  • Mystery Train, Greil Marcus, 1975
  • Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara, 1974
  • Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich, 1972
  • In Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner, 1971
  • Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky, 1971
  • The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillete, 1970
  • The Quest For Christa T, Christa Wolf, 1968
  • Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn, 1968
  • The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, 1967
  • Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg, 1967
  • Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr., 1966
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote, 1965
  • City of Night, John Rechy, 1965
  • Herzog, Saul Bellow, 1964
  • Puckoon, Spike Milligan, 1963
  • The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford, 1963
  • The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, Yukio Mishima, 1963
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin, 1963
  • A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962
  • Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell, 1962
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, 1961
  • Private Eye (magazine) 1961 –
  • On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding, 1961
  • Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage, 1961
  • Strange People, Frank Edwards, 1961
  • The Divided Self, R. D. Laing, 1960
  • All The Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd, 1960
  • Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse, 1959
  • The Leopard, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958
  • On The Road, Jack Kerouac, 1957
  • The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard, 1957
  • Room at the Top, John Braine, 1957
  • A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno, 1956 – *** pretty much impossible ***
  • The Outsider, Colin Wilson, 1956
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1949
  • The Street, Ann Petry, 1946
  • Black Boy, Richard Wright, 1945
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, 1856
  •  Iliad, Homer, c. 1194–1184 BC
  •  As I Lay Dying , William Faulkner, 1930
  •  Tadanori Yokoo,  Tadanori Yokoo,
  •  Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin, 1929
  • Mr. Norris Changes Trains, Christopher Isherwood, 1935
  • Halls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art, James A. Hall,
  •  Blast, Wyndham Lewis, (magazine)
  • Passing, Nella Larson, 1929
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus, 1942
  • Infants Of The Spring, Wallace Thurman, 1932
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
  • The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot, 1922
  •  McTeague, Frank Norris, 1899
  • Zanoni, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1842
  • Inferno, Dante Alighieri, 1320
  • Maldodor, Comte de Lautréamont, 1869
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence, 1928
  •  Vile Bodies, Evelyn Waugh, 1930
  • The Bridge, Hart Crane, 1930
  •  The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos, 1938
  •  English Journey, J.B. Priestley, 1984
  • The Day Of The Locust, Nathanael West, 1939
  •  Beano (comic, ’50s)
  • Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual, Eliphas Lévi, 1854

 

Lovely, isn’t it?

I’ll let you know how it goes, natch. And, if you’re interested, pop on by Twitter and follow @manmademoon to participate.

Don’t forget.

February 1.

Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

Reading at the tail end of 2017: Ethical dilemmas thereof, and the future of my blog

 

It’s a real problem for the reading and book tracking obsessed: must you add books half-finished at the end of 2017 to that year’s tally (post-mortem, as it were), even if you don’t finish them until 2018, or is it morally justified migrating them to first reads of 2018?

My Code of Ethics Regarding Reading Protocol doesn’t cover this. Time to go rogue and make up my own rules:

Books finished in 2018 count as 2018 reads! 

Such a saucy minx.

30 December 2017: Books in Progress

 

Classics Group Read: An Easy Choice

 

A no-brainer. The classics group that chose Nicholas Nickleby doesn’t meet for discussion until late January. I have no qualms saving this for 2018’s list.

Is it the book’s fault I needed the full four weeks? I think not. Only eight chapters in, there are still 50,000 pages to go. It is Dickens, after all. The man doesn’t do short – though you’d have to ask Ellen Ternan for the official word on that.

HAHAHAHA! Sorry. Nerd humor.

Paid by the word and long-winded, some dislike him for it. Despite the fact his tangents run to dozens of pages, I adore him. The wonky characters and snarky side-comments, even the sentimental plots, have made him one of my favorite writers ever. His insights into human nature are spot on, still relevant.

That is the definition of classic literature.

My favorites of his novels are: Our Mutual Friend, Bleak House and Great Expectations. I do wish I could time travel back to the Victorian era and destroy all copies of Little Dorrit. It’s like Paul McCartney’s collaboration with Michael Jackson… very bad judgment. Almost reputation ruining, teeth grittingly bad work.

Ah, but the rest of his canon makes up for it.

I wonder how the group will like it. Recently returned after several years’ hiatus (I was an original member back when it was first formed, six or so years ago), I vaguely remember a few aren’t fond of the Victorians. It will behoove me to step up and defend the literature I love best. There are also new members, wild cards. I can’t predict their reactions.

Was Nickleby the best choice to reel in the uncertain? An early novel in his career, it’s nowhere near on par with the titles I love best. A number of film adaptations have been done of it, so it has some staying power.

Fingers crossed I won’t find the response too negative. I can argue points like its length and diversions, but flowery Victorian prose isn’t for everyone.

 

It’s not you, it’s me. Or maybe it’s you,

 

Whole new problem, if I abandon a book begun in 2017, is it cheating to carry on reading it a bit past the New Year with the intent of listing it as a DNF (did not finish, for the uninitiated) for early 2018?

So much dilemma.

 

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge. With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…

 

Frustratingly, the elements sound fascinating – the execution not so much.

It sounded such a delight I ordered it from the UK, paying international shipping. I hate paying international shipping for new books. They’re such a crap shoot. Classics, yes. Persephone or other reliable-quality editions, of course. Vintage Penguins, certainly!

But books recently published are just plain risky.

Eighty pages in, it’s not gripping me. The writing is loose, there’s no tension, no sense of menace above the barest trace. The haunted house should loom, not feel vaguely creepy in a pedestrian sense. A door closes and locks itself. Woooooo!!!

Not scary.

When I read a gothic, I want to be spooked, half looking back anticipating a cold hand dropping heavily on my shoulder.

I’m left with a dilemma: do I keep going despite its mediocrity, considering I’ve spent the money, or write it off since the money’s gone, anyway, and I can’t recoup it through squandering precious reading time.

One or two more chapters. I’ll give it only that.

The Silent Companions reminds me of overblown books of “gothic horror” like David Mitchell’s Slade House and Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. The two of them were just not scary, yet readers loved them.  Their premises sounded perfect; they didn’t deliver.

WHY ARE THEY SO LOVED.

David Mitchell is capable of brilliance. Audrey Niffenegger, for great ideas with results somewhat lacking. Most writers occasionally drop a dud. Such is the nature of the beast.

Like truly funny books, works of gothic horror are tough genres to nail. They must be perfect, taut as hell, without a single moment’s lapse.

I have not read a truly great work of gothic horror in a very, very long time. One title that springs to mind is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Brilliant book. It’s not white knuckle terrifying, but a very good gothic. A couple others are just on the edge of my memory, elusive. One was about a house with a shifting staircase. Really spooky. I’ll think of it in the middle of the night and hate myself for forgetting it.

 

Forgotten female writers, a love of mine

 

Anne Royall was quite a rebellious woman, indeed. I’ve barely started the book; already I love her for that.

Publishing her first book in 1826 at the age of 57, Royall reinvented herself as a “women politico” a generation before the Women’s Suffrage Movement. She was a pioneering travel writer and satirist who broke ground on the wagon trails a generation before Mark Twain, and an investigative journalist who took on bankers and prison conditions a half century before muckrakers Ida Tarbell and Nellie Bly. She was the author of 10 original books, and publisher of a newspaper in Washington, DC for 25 years until the age of 85.

One of the most famous, sharp-witted and controversial women of her times, Royall was raised in the backwoods of the South but educated herself in one of the great libraries in the region. She openly cohabitated with her husband prior to their wedding, but was then left widowed and destitute after her husband’s family declared their marriage invalid. Turning to writing, Royall acquired fame and then enemies for her scathing and hilarious denouncements of corruption, incompetence and the blurry lines between church and state.

 

Author Jeff Biggers was the inadvertent cause of one of my biggest embarrassments as a newly-minted library programmer. Hiring him to come speak about a previous book about Appalachia as well as the writing process, I was devastated when no one showed.

It certainly wasn’t his fault, not was he upset. Relying on the public to care one whit about literature is precarious. Writers know this.

He stayed a while and talked with me, but I had a hard time getting past the humiliation I wasn’t able to fetch him an actual audience. I took a lot of things much too seriously back then, and I wasn’t as used to hanging out with writers as I am now. I’ve since learned they’re Actual People, not demigods. I love them, but they don’t intimidate me anymore.

Did I tell you about the time I chatted with Salman Rushdie and made him laugh? Because I pretty much tell everyone about that. How about the time former poet laureate Billy Collins left NOT ONE but TWO messages on my home answering machine, regarding an upcoming interview?

I’m slacking if I mention neither of those, at the very least.

His latest is one I’d like to devote serious attention to, not merely skim. I have to put reading time in reserve, as the chances this book will lead me to others is high. I’ll need a lot of note-taking time.

Most definitely a 2018 read.

All the Rest

Not members of my Ethical Reading Dilemma are books I’ve dipped into so superficially I don’t consider I’m technically reading them. Winding up next to or in bed with me, I page through them before I turn off the light. Not in the official reading queue, they’re transitional bedtime rituals.

2018 for sure.

Future Tense: Where am I going; where have I been

I did want to talk more about 2018 formal reading plans before the New Year, but I’m afraid I’ve already flooded you with posts. After a long drought, the dry ground of Bluestalking may not be equipped to absorb so much new blathering.

We all know my 2017 was amazing, that I don’t expect to see its equal again, though I dearly hope I will. Early plans for 2018 – another topic I’ve teased about – are awfully adventurous as well, though perhaps not quite so much as leaving the country for good. Leaving the area, perhaps. In fact, probably.

Don’t ask where… Mum’s the word.

Whatever becomes of me, Bluestalking is on track to change course a bit. My new tagline may be temporary, but gives an idea how I’m going to proceed. I’m not just a reader and writer, I’m also past the strict definition of mid-point in my life (unless I live past 100, and I have no plans to). Living alone and content, having had one wild rollercoaster of a life, I’d like to write more personal posts, keeping the literary slant.

There are not enough blogs written by Women of a Certain Age, not enough that speak frankly about concrete realities of living a solitary life. I’ll also feature more photographs, like I used to long ago. I replaced my DSLR camera, and am retraining myself in how to take decent pictures.

There are still many to share from 2017, as well.

I’m very excited about it all, looking forward to 2018. Thank you to everyone who’s followed me on my journey so far, for all the support and kindness on and off the blog over the past decade plus. I hope you enjoy where I’m taking things in the next stage of my life, that you’ll hop in the backseat and ride along.

Much happiness and health to you in 2018. All my very best.

Lisa

x

Reading Projects 2018: Muriel Spark read-along

 

I love projects. Adore them. Camaraderie with fellow book bloggers is something I’ve sorely missed; I’ve been away from it too long.

Ladies and gentlemen: Bluestalking is picking up the organizational pace! That blur you just saw out of the corner of your eye? That was me: woman on a mission.

Hold onto your bonnet, Lucille. It’s going to get theme-y around here.

 

My 2018 mission: to kick reading’s arse.

The lovely heavenali is hosting a Muriel Spark read-along to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Scottish writer’s birth. When I was in Scotland I’d hoped to do more investigating about Sparkish sites, read her books, and soak in the atmosphere of her native city while thinking very hard indeed about one of the greatest contemporary Scottish writers to breathe upon this earth.

SPOILER: That didn’t happen exactly as planned.

The Scot did pick up a copy of the film adapation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for me, which was quite nice of him. I also bought a few of her books. Aaaand, that’s about it.

As a next best thing to studying her there, I’m going to cram as much writing by and about Muriel Spark into my noggin as I can in 2018. I shall celebrate her centenary vicariously, whilst back in the UK they go at it properly, with great gusto.

(Reading and holding Spark-inspired events, I mean. What did you think?!)

 

Not even close to all the books she wrote.

 

I’ve read two of her books, as far as I can remember: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Girls of Slender Means. Jean Brodie I read ages ago, in the autumn, the season that suits reading a book set in a girls’ school. I recall precious little about it, even having seen the film just a few months ago. Maggie Smith plays the character of Miss Jean Brodie. Does that count?

 

 

Ditto The Girls. I read it. I liked it. I think parts of it were funny.

This would be why I need to revisit Muriel Spark.

I learned somewhere or other – possibly by stalking him – that Ian Rankin is a huge fan of Muriel Spark. Before he left university to embark on his own writing career, he studied her work for a thesis or some equivalent project. Since I’m shameless and have a huge crush on Rankin, I took advantage and engaged him on Twitter:

 

And why not strike while the iron’s hot? DON’T JUDGE ME.

 

Heavenali has done the heavy lifting. She’s scheduled out a whole year’s worth of Muriel Spark reading with the intention participants can pick and choose what to read and when.

It’s like a big ol’ cocktail party: swing by, grab a drink and a canape, come as you are and leave when you please.

I know a few of the books I intend to read – the two which were Booker shortlisted, for sure – but I’ll wing the rest. For the first leg, I’ve ordered all three novels:

Phase 1 (January/February) Early novels – 1950s

• The Comforters (1957)
• Robinson (1958)
• Memento Mori (1959)

That doesn’t mean I’ll read all the books from all the sections, just that I happened upon an omnibus edition containing two out of three, and said what the hell. Why not?

The books are short. Here’s hoping I can manage to get through them in the two months allotted, while keeping up with everything else on my reading plate.

No pressure. I’ll read what I need to, followed by everything else I’m able. But Muriel Spark is at the tippy top. So looking forward to this.

Check out loads of events, and all sorts of Sparkish delights, at the Muriel Spark 100 website.

 

2017 Reads: A Recap of best reads

 

 

I didn’t keep very good track of what I read this year. I can’t imagine why, can you? It’s not like I was busy leaving one life and starting another, traveling and seeing the world – coming back to the States and starting everything all over again. Just no good excuse at all for my lack of record-keeping. It should have been right up there at the top of my list.

What was I thinking?

I am proud of myself for getting around to wrapping up my year in reading before Christmas has even passed, for having the wherewithal to assemble my thoughts and put together a blog post, no less. Last year I didn’t manage to sum things up until after the New Year; I’m so far ahead of the game right now I’m impressing even myself.

(Leave me my self-aggrandizing fantasies. At least I’m impressed with me.)

Busy as things are with the holidays and such, I don’t expect I’ll read any books better than my favorites of 2017. I reviewed a few books and covered some on Bluestalking, but unlike the old days when I kept track of everything from titles and authors to number of pages read – even breaking it down by gender and nationality of authors, and genres of the books – this year’s reading is a scattered mess. I ought to be ashamed of myself.

I’m not, but I ought.

Despite all the craziness and wonder, I managed to come up with this list (in no particular order):

TOP FIVE BOOKS OF 2017

 

Sebastian Barry – Days Without End 

Read for the Sir Walter Scott Prize shortlist – as I predicted, it was the winner. I hate to say I told you so…

That’s a lie. I’m more than happy to say I did.

This was a very un-Sebastian Barry novel. Set in the U.S. South, for the first third it lacked his trademark lyricism. It tackled issues of homosexuality as an  acknowledgement of his son’s real life coming out, simultaneously presenting a very different, more playful Barry. If you’ve read The Sisters Brothers or True Grit, it had a similar feel. Not as openly funny perhaps, but his characters wound up in oddly humorous and very American situations.

I could understand if readers who’ve loved his Irish novels didn’t like this one bit. You don’t have to be an American to appreciate what he’s done here, but I believe it helps.

Eventually he shifted back to the style that defines him, the book as a whole a strange and uneven display I wasn’t sure I liked at first. I started it, put it aside dissatisfied, picked it up to try again, and only then realized this was a truly great book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever Dundas – Goblin (my interview with the lovely Ever is here)

Oh, Ever Dundas. Such a heartbreaking novel you’ve written. So gorgeous, so rich and full. Addressing issues such as gender fluidity, Goblin is about a young girl on her own during the London Blitz, what she saw and a terrible secret she kept which came back on her in a way she could never have imagined.

Flashing back to the war in London and forward to contemporary Edinburgh, Goblin is a miracle of a book.

May 2017; Freight Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roxane Gay – Hunger

The only Best of 2017 book I read outside the UK, I’m realizing now this one non-fiction title is also the only book by an American that made my list. Roxane Gay is a black woman well-known in the states for her brutally honest stories about vicious childhood rape and the impact it’s had on the rest of her life.

In Hunger, Gay talks about how her obesity was a shield protecting her from unwanted attention from men. In wrenching detail, she outlines the reasons for her over-eating as well as the strain it put on her emotionally and physically. This is a hard book to read, emotionally speaking, but the message is important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graham Swift – Mothering Sunday

Also read for the Sir Walter Scott Prize, this was my choice as runner up.

I refer to what I wrote in my previous review in regard to Swift’s novel (follow Mr Linky, above). It’s not as vivid in my memory, though I know I loved it. As with Barry’s novel, it took two tries connecting with it, but once I did it was a marvelous read.

Having a solid book journal to back up my reading would come in very handy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Tremain – Gustav Sonata

Again, read for the Sir Walter Scott Prize. I’m seeing a pattern here.

As with Mothering Sunday, please refer to what I wrote previously via the link. I remember the young boy in the tale, how his story broke my heart. I remember its beauty, precious little more than that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know I read more than the 15 I can come up with, and I’m frustrated I didn’t keep better track. All things considered, good enough.

For next year, I’m reverting to my old system. I’ve ordered a book specially designed for keeping track of books read that’s far more detailed and formal than my efforts in years past, when I kept religious track of every, single book read. I bought standard journals, noted titles and authors and general impressions so that, by year’s end, I could sit down and write proper “best of” lists.

I loved it, revelled in it. There’s a lot to be said for writing with pen and paper.

 

 

I had quite a collection of book journals, all of which I threw out when I left for Scotland, it saddens me to say. I’ll be starting fresh in 2018. Everything shiny and new.

Yes, it’s sad I don’t have the physical journals, but I do have Bluestalking and Goodreads, not to mention dozens of reviews peppered all over the place. I would say I have my memories of books read, but my recall is nowhere near what it used to be.

I can re-read old favorites and it’ll be almost like I’m reading them again for the first time. Indeed, every time you read a book you’ve read before the experience is different. Just as every time you think back to times past it comes with new perspective. You change and evolve; that’s life.

Let go of the expectation anything ever stays the same. I can’t express how much easier life becomes when you follow that bit of advice.

That’s my reading year, 2017. Not all of it, but enough to feel a sense of satisfaction, a closure of sorts.

You don’t always have the luxury of closure. Some things will never have an explanation. At least in this case, I’ve  managed to pull together enough I feel a sense of accomplishment. Controlling what you can is the very best you can do.

Next time I’ll reveal the books I’ve bought myself for Christmas. I’m not one hundred percent positive Santa’s finished shopping, but he’s made a very good dent in his list. A very good dent, indeed.

Until then, happy reading.

What I’m reading, what I’m writing

“A philosophical question: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? And if a woman who’s wholly alone occasionally talks to a pot plant, is she certifiable? I think that it is perfectly normal to talk to oneself occasionally. It’s not as though I’m expecting a reply. I’m fully aware that Polly is a houseplant.”

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

 

On the reviewing pile.

Having recently signed on with the Glasgow Review of Books, I’m patiently awaiting the arrival of my first assignment. It’s a reprint of a “forgotten” writer’s autobiography, a writer I’ve never heard of but found so intriguing I was happy to say aye.

Reading and more reading.

Meanwhile, I’m engaged in lots of other literary pursuits, natch. I’m working on a review of Ever Dundas’s remarkable Goblin, as well as a pending interview with this gifted debut novelist. Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – the IT novel of Summer 2017 – kept me enthralled throughout. I have Muriel Spark’s The Comforters simmering on the back burner, and just started Jenni Daiches’s Borrowed Time. On the Kindle there’s, a review copy of Rushdie’s upcoming The Golden House, featuring a satisfyingly sly portrait of a certain orange president.

Daaaang this was a good read.

Author events wise, Gail Honeyman’s appearing in Edinburgh this week. You don’t need to ask if I’m planning to go, because I’m planning to go.

As for July, current plans are to hit the road late in the month for Austen, Woolf and Bronte country. My son’s visiting the UK for a couple of weeks in early August, then the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Stellar lot of authors this year, but I haven’t picked my must-sees. Best fast-track that.

My reading plate’s full to overflowing, covered in comfort food. It’s a big ol’ buffet full of mashed potatoes, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese that isn’t flourescent orange and doesn’t come from a box. And is that chocolate cake I see on the dessert table?

I think it is (galloping noises).

Incoming! New books on the shelf this week.

When the dollar rose against the pound, I took advantage. Now that it’s inevitably fallen very ouchly, post-UK election kerfuffle, I need to consider cutting back on book purchases.

[Need. Such a vague word, isn’t it? Food, water, clothing, shelter… Got those, but do we not have other needs, less about pure survival, but nevertheless crucial?]

 

But it feels so right

 

Graeme Macrae Burnet climbed atop Mt. TBR after last year’s Man Booker Prize featured his His Bloody Project on its shortlist. If you’ve not heard of it, trot out and find it. I bought The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau because it’s his first novel. I’m planning to read everything he’s written, partly because I’m eyeing the Bloody Scotland literary event in September, and partly because he’s a writer just breaking out into the big time. He’s also the author Ian Rankin recommended when I asked which new Scottish authors should I make sure to read.

The Shore by Sara Taylor, Hotel World by Ali Smith, and Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood are three books consisting of inter-connected short stories recommended to me by trusted reading friends. It’s a side project of mine, an interest in studying how writers use this particular framework. They all sound fantastic.

Am writing.

In my free time, I’ve been working on a fiction project of my own, and is it ever slow going. It’s not the first fiction I’ve written, but working on it reminds me how bleeping hard the craft truly is. And the easier prose looks, the tougher it was to write. A writer can’t keep that from allowing a steady flow of absolute shite in the all-important first draft. It’s awful, oh god it’s awful, but it’s supposed to be.

I apply every bit as much severity to what I write as I do the writing of others, and expect the same scrutiny from fellow reviewers. More, actually, because I am an unabashed reading snob, expecting a very high level of quality in published fiction. I jealously guard my reading time. It’s limited, and I refuse to squander it. An advocate of struggling writers, every time I see another sub-par writer published I know dozens more far more talented have been slighted. It makes me very, very angry. I hope other reviewers feel the same, judging accordingly.

It’s a blustery day in Scotland. No better time to curl up and read.

Until next time, happy reading!