12 October 2013

Bits and Bobs

Looking backwards and forwards at American novels
On last week's episode of the The Readers podcast, Simon Savidge and I discussed American novels. It was fun discussing AmLit with my British co-host. During the discussion, Simon had the brilliant idea that each of us come up with a list of 10 novels that represent our countries. Being a big fan of BritLit, I can't wait to see his list, and may I just say, I have had a blast coming with my own top ten for the U.S. We haven't recorded the episode yet but it should air on Tuesday, October 22nd. The only thing I will say about my list is that it doesn't have all the usual suspects on it. No group of august scholars would come up with these ten titles.

Bloggers go a huntin'
The other Simon, Simon Thomas, made his inaugural visit to the U.S. this week to hang out with his best pal Lorna who moved to DC recently. Sadly, all of the amazing free attractions in DC were closed because of the government shutdown, but happily he had lots of time to go book stores. Yesterday Simon and Teresa from Shelf Love piled in the car and made our way to northwestern Virginia to go huntin' for books.

Our first stop was to a library book sale in near Winchester where the selection was pretty good and the prices couldn't be beat (mass PBs were 50 cents, trade PBs a dollar, and HCs a dollar). It might not have been worth the hour and half drive from DC but it also gave us a chance to check out three used book shops in the area. Simon, being wary of his ever expanding luggage was quite restrained while Teresa and I didn't really try to hold back. You can see her stack here.

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I couldn't resist the cover. And only $2 for a hardcover.

Have no idea if this is any good, but that is Maine through the window. 

I enjoyed the Tales of City series back in the day, but I couldn't resist this cover.
I love the illustration by Gregg Kulick.
The road trip also gave Simon the opportunity to have his first buttermilk biscuit...

and his first Dairy Queen...

Simon had some sort of Blizzard. Regular readers might recall that I am a huge fan of the DQ. As such I can never decide between the simplicity of a plain vanilla cone or something more elaborate. So when all was said and done I ended up having a small vanilla cone, a small Oreo Blizzard (but I had them add two scoops of chocolate that they use for dipping cones which gets all hard and crunchy when cold--it makes it like a chocolate covered Oreo Blizzard), and then finding Teresa's strawberry sundae irresistible, I went back up to the counter and got myself a small strawberry sundae. Yum.

Whilst the three of us were out and about Simon T. said something about a novella reading weekend. Since the discussion topics were coming fast and furious from all of us, I didn't have a chance to follow up but from what I understand, sometimes Simon will spend a weekend reading nothing but novellas. I think he does it occasionally to try and put a dent in his TBR. When he mentioned this I vaguely recalled some sort of novella challenge from a few years ago. Looking back at my blog from November 2009 I participated in a November novella challenge hosted by Bibliofreak J.T. Oldfield. (When I try and follow the link to Oldfield's blog now it takes me to a spam site.)

In any event, this got me to thinking I might want to do a novella read in the near future. I'm in the mood to do it now, but I figure that wouldn't be fair to my friend Roz who is currently in a race with me to get to 100 books this year. I think I may be in the lead, but reading a bunch of 150-page novella's may not endear me to her. So do I wait until one of us reaches 100? Do I wait until the new year? Although I like the sound of Novella November, I also like the idea of starting 2014 by knocking out 20 books in short order.

Or maybe the urge to read novellas will pass.


  1. That is quite a haul! I really enjoyed Gideon. Haven't read any Naipaul so will look forward to your reviews. Love that y'all took Simon to DQ. (We call their sign the "stop sign of Texas.") Happy reading!

  2. All the lovely Penguins! Great finds, Thomas! I'm glad you all had a good time and you weren't attacked by crazed-right wing truckers (omg DC is getting scary). I love the idea of Novella November although I think my reading plate is full. I find alliterative challenges the best (ahem... there may be a Wilkie in Winter and a Murdoch in March on the horizon). How do you define a novella? Less than 150 pages? Is that pretty standard?

  3. Ohhhhh! One Fine Day!!! I am so jealous.

  4. I'm not sure I can say Novella November more than once without tripping over my tongue -- very catchy!

  5. Oh I'd love to try the Chase think she was a Miss Read fan so might just be my cup of tea. So excited to hear about Simon's US adventures. It has been years since I had a DQ - they were v popular in Sask when I lived there - tho a summer joy! Looks like he'd be having a great time! Donna

  6. The Dairy Queen story made me laugh out loud. Had forgotten about them, must try to get to one when I'm over there in Nov. Think Novella Nov would be good planning for 2014 so we could line up our novellas and be good and ready. Good stash of books and love the Steinbeck. Love anything Steinbeck. Sounds like you all had a great day out.

  7. I'm so glad it worked out that we could do this! And I've already read one of the books from my stacks, so that's one less book to make room for on my TBR bookcase :)

  8. Nice stack of new books! I really liked Then We Came to the End and also the Marilynne Robinson. As for novellas, I just finished a great one by Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier. I'm trying to get to 100 books this year and novellas are lovely things in that situation!

  9. I often get bored when listening to podcasts, but I really enjoyed your lively discussion about American literature.

    I'd agree about 'The Catcher in the Rye', but I'm afraid I love 'Moby Dick'.

    Just one question though - when you said "Trollope and Bennett", did you mean Alan or Arnold?

  10. Susan: I've read a few Naipaul before and liked them, but still find them a bit dry.

    Amanda: Alliterative challenges are very tantalizing. I think I would take novella up to 180 pages.

    Laura: We had to flip a coin over One Fine Day. Simon found it and then Teresa and I fought over it (politely).

    Vicki: Maybe Novembella.

    Donna: I now have two Chases. I really need to see what they are actually like before I buy any more.

    Pam: I never forget DQ. I don't think I can wait until November 2014. I think it may happen as soon as I hit 100 books this year.

    Teresa: It was tons of fun. Which one did you read? I read the Salley Vickers almost in one go. Hit the spot.

    Rebecca: The worst is when a novella takes longer than a novel. I haven't had good luck with Robinson but Simon and Teresa are huge fans.

    Steerforth: Glad you like the podcast. RE: Trollope and Bennett - Joanna and Tony. Just kidding. You had it right.

    Stefan: Which I sometimes order without the peanuts plus I have them add a little marshmallow sauce.

  11. What a fun day it was! I've reported on all my other book activities, but saving this one for a separate post. I can't tell you how much I want some Dairy Queen right now. Definitely the non-people bit of America I'm missing the most...

  12. I have that Virago One Fine Day and will never part with it!


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