Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Books books books - mainly

I'm posting two pictures of Grandson just because I think he's so cute - one on holiday in Durham and one in his sandpit in our back garden.

I think I took this one just before he tried eating the sand. A valuable lesson in life... .

But what this post is really about is books. I always have a book (or two) on the go, but don't usually read except in the bath or in bed so don't get through them very fast. I don't really know why not - you'd think I'd have plenty of time, now I'm retired - but somehow life seems busy and it seems very decadent to read books during the day. On holiday, however, I get through far more reading. Above are some of the books I read while away. Aha, I thought: I'm diminishing the stash of unread ones.

But the snag is that one of the pleasures of British holidays is going to second-hand bookshops. Above are some of those I found myself buying... . No will power, that's the trouble.

Since turning 60, nearly three years ago now, I've kept a note of the books I've read. I'm sure I've forgotten to note some down, but there are about 110 of them. And this makes me look at the goodness-knows-how-many books I possess and would like to re-read (as well as reading lots of new ones, of course) and think: unless I live till I'm 120 and never read anything else, I'm really not going to get round to them all.

Ah well.

The books I read in May are (with their marks out of 10):

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce (5 or 6)
The Smoking Diaries, Simon Gray (8)
Choir, Gareth Malone (8)
Last Letters to a Friend, Rose Macaulay (7)
What to Look for in Winter, Candia McWilliam (9 or 9 and a half)
A Lot to Ask, A Life of Barbara Pym, Hazel Holt (8)
Diary of a Country Parson, James Woodforde (re-read) (9)
The Last Diary, Alan Clark (7 or 8)
You Can't Be Neutral in a Moving Train, Howard Zinn (8)

and at the moment I'm reading a biography of Rose Macaulay because I didn't really know much about her apart from what she wrote in those letters.

I don't read very many novels - only one in my May list (Harold Fry - didn't like it much) is a novel. It's not that I don't like fiction - I enjoy some fiction very much indeed. But I find biographies and diaries and letters more reliably gripping. Which I suppose is why I like reading blogs.

And you? What are you reading and would you recommend it? Not that I can POSSIBLY acquire any more books till I finish the ones I've got.

Happy Birthday, darling Daughter 2. Miss you lots and lots.


  1. Oh I have just finished Harold Fry- ten out of ten! If I had pots of money I would buy a copy for everyone I know! Darn, you didn't like it. I was thinking of blogging about books this week. Hmm. I shall have to moderate my universal praise now! Before that I read All the Beggars Riding by Lucy Caldwell- 2013 One City, One Book. But last year's was better: Glenn Patterson' The Mill for Grinding Old People Young. That was a good read. I'm addicted to Cold Comfort Farm this year. I read it every two books. Can't stay away from it! Haven't touched a Barbara Pym in ages, but then she's my favourite summer read. One day I will have read them all and shall join the Barbara Pym Appreciation Society and go to the Gaudy Night thing at Oxbridge. (Some D. L. Sayers confusion there!)

  2. Oh books, yay. I get all my books from book depository because I like getting things in the mail - so there is a lovely list of everything I've read in my order history! It's mostly fiction though - Elegance of the Hedgehog was very enjoyable, and so was I Capture the Castle which I had never read before ...I loved The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and also Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman - not fiction, hard-arsed feminism. I don't know why I got Eustace Chisholm and the Works - gloomy depression-era gay fiction. And I have just read the Alexander McCall Smith Scotland Street series - Edinburgh! It sounds like a big village with lovely architechture.

  3. Isabelle, I read (and have always read) just about anything I can get my hands on, although I do draw the line at fantasy and science fiction. Really love a gritty who-dun-it....

  4. Isabelle, so sorry you didn't care for "Harold Fry". I'm with Mags-- a poignant story, and beautifully written. I tend to gravitate to contemporary fiction, most often by British or American authors, and mostly women. I am guilty of purchasing books on the strength of reviews I have read (I love Amazon's option of being able to purchase used books for a pittance) and then stockpiling them. At least they are on shelves now. I am seventy pages into Ian McEwan's "Sweet Tooth" and will have trouble attending to my chores today...

  5. Awww, it's DD2's birthday -- Happy Birthday DD2!!!

    Interesting that you didn't like Harold Fry -- it's been on my radar and I've read good things about it -- will hesitate now. Not that I'm getting much reading time lately, but... Wouldn't it be nice if we only needed an hour of sleep a day? Or maybe an hour a week???

  6. Thanks Mum! And thanks Anna! xxx

  7. I started keeping a list of books back in 2007. I use a blank book for this--when I finish a book, I write the date and the title in my blank book. I wish I had done this all my life! It's very interesting to look over. I am encouraging my 13 year old daughter, a voracious reader, to start a list, but right now she doesn't see the point. I would love to see a list of the things I read when I was a teen!

    I also use Goodreads online to keep track of books I've read and want to read. This is very useful when I find myself in a library or bookstore trying to remember titles--I can use my phone to pull up my want-to-read list.

  8. Oh yes! Would love to tell you what I'm reading. I keep a book diary, too.

    I just finished Harold Fry (holiday reading) and like you, didn't think that much of it. I felt it was a bit simplistic.

    Also like you, I really enjoy biographies. I took with me on our recent holiday Victoria Glendinning's bio of Anthony Trollope, and Antiona Fraser's "Must You Go" both of which I kept reading quotes from to long-suffering hubby.

    I've read the Hazel Holt bio of Barbara Pym, and would thoroughly recommend B Pym's own autobiography "A Very Private Eye" which tells you so much about her inner life. I noted down next to it in my book diary "Deeply sad."

    I've reviewed a biography of Rose Macaulay by Sarah LeFanu on Amazon (my pen-name is Addictive Reader), wonder if this is the one you are reading. Also wonder if those letters you are reading are the cache to be released in 2012, referred to at the end of the biography. If so, must look out for them!

  9. Ah, books......Sometimes I love to read new books, but just now I've been very ill, just home from the hospital late yesterday, and I've been rereading D.E. Stevenson because I've known her books since the late 60s and find them great comfort reads in stressful times, as well as quite interesting when carefully read. We have a yahoo group which has been discussing them since 1997.

  10. Here's someone else who is enjoying re-reading Barbara Pym:


  11. Piffle to all those know-alls who smugly claim that books will be a thing of the past in a few years. They obviously don't read blogs where people like Isabelle lead spirited discussions on books!
    I haven't read any of the books mentioned here, but I do love to read - just different authors. And I started keeping a book diary when a friend told me about hers, but after the first 50 or so books, I starte forgetting to write them down...
    Don't you have second hand bookshops in Scotland? (referring to your remark about going to these shops on British holidays). I go in to any bookshop I happen to be walking past, new or second hand, but second hand books do have a special appeal don't they.

  12. Anonymous5:52 pm

    yes he is cute, as my grandaughter is cute and of course we post pics of them! ann.

  13. Another item for B Pym fans: Radio 4 Extra is broadcasting "Jane and Prudence" at 2 pm every day next week. But you need a digital radio to catch this.