credit: Bravo TV

Now this would be my dream cottage library – and I already have some handy tips ready for how to build the library collection once I take over ownership!


badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Well, my holiday is winding to an end, which comes with both pros and cons.  On the positive side, I get to go home and enjoy all the wonderful books that have been piling up at the library’s hold desk.  On the negative side, I will miss sunshine.  A lot.  There are a lot of grey, wet days in the forecast back home.

Next week I also start a brand new job after having taken most of the last year off to travel!  I’m going to work at a wonderful company and, most excitingly, in a role I had a major part in designing so it should be very satisfying and a great challenge for me.  But it will be busy, especially the first month or two, so I’m going to savour my relaxed reading time over the next few days!

A Positively Final Appearance by Alec Guinness – indulging in my occasional craving for celebrity with this collection of Guinness’ journals from 1996 to 1998.  It is one of the many books I added to my TBR list while reading Browsings by Michael Dirda last year and my decision to read it is based solely on that recommendation.  I know absolutely nothing about Guinness except that he starred in my favourite moving (The Bridge on the River Kwai) so this should be interesting.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory – It’s not every contemporary romance novel that gets a cover blurb from Roxane Gay.  Other readers seem to be just as enthusiastic as her and I’ve seen this described glowingly by a number of newspapers and magazines.

This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff – a workplace novel about five colleagues in the HR department of a small company, this may or may not be the best choice just as I go back to work!

Happy City by Charles Montgomery – I am fascinated by the systems, processes, and infrastructure that can improve people’s lives so this analysis of the importance of urban design looks like just the book for me.  Also, a timely read as the Mercer Quality of Life city rankings were recently released (Vancouver remains steady at #5, the only North American city to crack the top ten).

The Hollow Land by Jane Gardam – I discovered Jane Gardam back in 2014 and read seven of her books in quick succession.  I’ve not read much by her since then, wanting to savour the titles I had left, so am looking forward to reacquainting myself with her genius in these stories of two children exploring the Cumbrian fells.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – This sounds wonderful and just the right amount of odd to be perfect for me.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing – Loneliness is a popular and sadly critical topic these days but Laing’s much-praised book, published in 2016, seems to have been one of the first to bring the discussion into the mainstream.

Restart by Gordon Korman – when I was growing up, I adored Korman’s series about the boys of Macdonald Hall.  He’s been writing steadily for children for decades and while I don’t usually read many children’s books, this story about a bully who reinvents himself after memory loss sounds like the kind of thing Korman would excel at.

Live Lagom by Anna Brones – More secrets of why Nordic people are better than you!  I do love how defensive Swedes get when they see people swooning over the indulgent Danish art of hygge and am deeply enjoying their rebuttal with all these books about lagom (and am rather on their side).

What did you pick up this week?

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Our shelves currently (after a massive clear-out)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m in California right now staying at our family’s holiday home.  Between the swimming and the hiking and the general relaxing I have, naturally, had lots of time for reading and lots of time to consider our collection of books.

There is a certain uniformity to the oddness of any holiday home’s book collection and ours in no exception.  Which lead me to some musings on how that comes about…

1. Ideally, begin by inheriting a collection of books. These should be books on topics you have absolutely no interest in, primarily published during an era you have no interest in, and take up lots and lots of space on the bookshelf, leaving you little space for your own books.

2. Accumulate books abandoned by guests. Because you are a generous sort of person, you invite friends to visit you. Hopefully these are friends are literate and bring their own books.  However, even literate people chose ridiculous things to read on holiday and, once done, generally realise how ridiculous their choice was and so abandon it with you before they go home.  Watch your library grow with bad thrillers, mysteries, and other airport books in this deeply unsatisfying manner.

3. Watch your favourite books disappear. The majority of guests won’t bring enough books to last the length of their holiday.  If they had to fly to reach your place, they will inevitably need something to read on the flight home.  Equally inevitably, they will not pick something as trashy as what they contributed to your library.  No, they will pick one of the books you have carefully snuck into the shelves to ensure you have something to read.

4. Absorb the tastes of your family members.  Odds are, your close family are your most frequent visitors.  If one of them is a book-lover, be prepared for their tastes to begin to dominate your collection.  For some people (ahem), vacations are a wonderful time to browse bookstores and rejoice over library book sales.  You will inevitably be gifted books as a result of these.  Pray that your tastes align with your family member’s and hope for the best.

5. Get rid of nothing. You are on holiday when you are here, why would you want to spend that time sorting out books instead of reading them or doing vacation-y things?  A clear out every fifteen to twenty years is permissible.

Our shelves pre-clear-out – more soapy sagas, American bios, and books on early 1990s Russia

Many authors regret their first book.  They wish for it to disappear completely, never to be seen or heard of again, completely disassociated from any future career they might make for themselves.

Sometimes that wish is well founded.

In 1905, Lovers in London by A.A. Milne was published and it is exactly the kind of book he would rather everyone forgot about.  He certainly tried to himself; he considered The Day’s Play, published in 1910, his first book.  And as it is miles better than this I don’t wonder at that.  But these days it is all too easy to revive even the deeply forgettable and Lovers in London is now readily available from Bello as both an e-book and a print-on-demand paperback.

So what is this relic from Milne’s youth?  It’s a collection of linked short stories (sometimes it is referred to as a novel but clearly those people haven’t read it) about, you’ll be shocked to hear this, two young lovers in London.  The eager young Teddy is delighted when his American godfather comes to London with his family, including his lovely daughter Amelia.  Teddy, already half in love with Amelia based on her photograph, falls totally when he meets her and dedicates himself to her amusement (and wooing) with trips throughout London.

Teddy is a classic Milne young man: eager, romantic, inclined to whimsy, attempting to make a living as a writer, and terribly fond of cricket.  He is someone his twenty-three-year old author was clearly comfortable writing, since he basically was Milne at this stage in his life.  And Amelia is the prototypical Milne young woman, happy to go along with her suitor’s flights of whimsy and give as good as she gets, though Milne’s skills at writing women would improve greatly.

Crucially, his skills at writing would improve greatly in the years to come.

Milne had spent years writing and editing at Cambridge but when this was published hadn’t yet started his prolific career at Punch.  Punch, clearly, was where he refined his skill and these stories are sloppy compared to the clever economy of the excellent pieces he would write for the magazine over the coming years.  Some of the stories in this collection ramble terribly – Milne was a master of witty rambling but hadn’t yet managed the witty part at this stage – and Teddy indulges in far too frequent (and occasionally incoherent) fantasies about how he could impress Amelia.  In such a short book, so much repetition grates.  Teddy, as our narrator, express his own (and his author’s) opinion on how the book is going at one point:

Most of my stories have a way of avoiding anything that approximates to a plot.  They do this of their own intention, not regarding the wishes of the author.  Often have I longed, regretfully, in the retrospect for a plot.

The good news is that Milne would, eventually, find out how to write both with and without a plot and do it delightfully.  He just wouldn’t figure it out for a few more years.

As a Milne completist, I’m glad I read this.  It’s a fascinating step in his evolution as a writer.  However, on its own, it simply doesn’t have much merit.  (I will note that Simon read it back in 2012 and had kinder things to say.)

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I love this room but know I would be in big trouble if I were asked to a dinner party here. How can you concentrate on conversation when there are so many books to look at?

As I mentioned last week, I have fled south in search of sunshine, warmth, and, since they also like these things, my parents.  I have to say it is a nice change to see sun each and every day!  I am already deeply tanned after only a few days, chlorine-soaked from all the swimming, and slowly starting to relax into proper vacation mode.

And, as we all know, the best way to relax is with lots of books.  Most importantly, I did not leave my Kobo on the plane this time (like I did when headed to Croatia last June) so I have plenty of e-books and a few physical ones to keep me busy – in addition to the healthy but rather eclectic book collection that resides here at my parents’ condo.

Easing into holiday mode requires lots of light reading for me.  Which is why I’ve been dashing through romances, polishing off Alyssa Cole’s much-praised new release, the first book in a new series from Loretta Chase, and a collection of Georgette Heyer’s short stories.

But, because this is me and I can’t entirely forgo substance, I’ve also been reading a fascinating comparison of the Nordic societies and America (hint: America does not look great in comparison) and a beautiful, thoughtful book from Alberto Manguel about his relationship with his personal library, Packing My Library, with his customary digressions into the fascinating, obscure, and learned corners of history and literature.

Also entertaining me has been the audiobook of The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, one of my favourites of her novels.  I do a lot of walking down here (or anywhere, for that matter) and it’s a delight to have such a good book to keep me company on my strolls.

I’m a bit stalled as to what to read next.  Do I go with one of the many e-books I borrowed from the library?  Anne Tyler could be perfect right now, or maybe the early adventures of Eric Newby.  Or do I defer to one of the physical books I’ve brought along?  I only brought three (see what restraint is forced on me by harsh airline carry-on rules?) and, with the Manguel read, now have a history-rich travel book about the Byzantine East and a cosy-sounding wartime novel about a vicar’s wife awaiting me.

Life is good when these are biggest decisions I need to make.

My holiday books

This post contains affiliate links from Book Depository, an online book retailer with free international shipping.  If you buy via these links it means I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).  

Clonalis House, Co. Roscommon

A beautiful Irish library today. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!