25 October 2013

Going crazy at the bookstore

Recently I got together with Frances from Nonsuch Book for coffee.

Since I needed to make room on my shelves for new books, I brought Frances a few duplicates to satisfy her Barbara Pym cravings (and an EF Benson to boot). 
Given that the cafe where we met is in the basement of the area's best independent bookstore, more than hot cocoa was purchased. My reading tastes and my penchant for combing through used bookstores, means that I don't often I buy new books. But lately I have had a hankering for books published this century.

All this is to say, I had a big itch to scratch. And boy did I scratch.

Even crazier, is the fact that I bought so many hardcover books. But I really wanted some recent stuff so I had to take the plunge. And I should mention that at least four of the HCs were remainders and cheaper than their PB editions.

(In order, beginning with the stack on the left.)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I bought this one because it is one of the two books discussed on the recent inaugural episode of the podcast Hear...Read This. I am going to wait until I read these books before actually listening to the podcast.

The Bookstore by Deborah Merler
Not surprisingly, I bought this because it has the word "bookstore" in the title. No more to say about that.

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
I remember looking at this book several months ago and thinking I may like it. This was way before I heard of The Luminaries. More recently Frances said she was going to read this one as a warm-up to The Luminaries. But it wasn't until Frances pointed it out to me at the bookstore that I realized that they were the same book.

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn
I think Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, and perhaps Nevil Shute's In the Wet are the only two books I have read that get the current royal family right in fiction. Oh, and Peter Lefcourt does a good job in Di and I.  Emma Tennant really gets it wrong in The Autobiography of the Queen and Mark Helprin really got it wrong in Freddy and Fredericka. Where will this one land I wonder?

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
First the cover got my attention then the blurb "...rocky patch of Italian coastline..." how could I not pick it up. Oddly "Jess" is a man. I am guessing it isn't short for Jessica.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
I hadn't even noticed this book until Frances pointed it out. I think she was skeptical because of the Oprah endorsement, I was skeptical because the title is so god awfully cute. In the end we both bought it. At least I think Frances did as well. I was sold on "...small English village..." on the back cover.

The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt
I've liked pretty much everything Leavitt has written so I picked this one up without even reading the dust jacket flap. Now that I open it and take a gander I can see I made the right choice. Two couples wait in Lisbon in 1940 for a ship to take them back to the U.S. I might have to start this one soon.

HHhH by Laurent Binet
This is the second of the books on the first episode of Hear...Read This. I have already started reading this one and finding it pretty fascinating. A tale of Nazi mastermind Reinhard Heydrich but the story is told in a pretty interesting and unconventional way.

The Love of My Youth by Mary Gordon
I have moderately enjoyed other Gordon novels so this seemed a good choice from the bargain table.

The Good House by Ann Leary
I've seen a few friends bring this up on Goodreads and I love a New England setting.

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem
This one was on the bestseller list at the bookstore. Daughter moves away from her communist mother in Queens to Greenwich Village. The title helped push me over the edge as well.

The Bottom of Everything by Ben Polnick
Also a bestseller at the bookstore and it appears to be set in Washington DC which doesn't happen too often.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Aichie
The story of a Nigerian woman studying at Princeton and dealing with life as an African in the US (in contrast to being an African-American). Sounds fascinating and my reading list is way too white.

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble
I like Drabble a lot and since I was buying so many books, one more didn't seem like a bad idea.

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Holmes
I have never read anything by Holmes and this one is on the longlist for the Green Carnation Prize.

The Infatuations by Javier Marais
Frances said this was excellent and it takes place in Madrid. I think I have spent more time in Spain (ten days) than I have read books set in Spain. Doesn't seem very worldly of me does it?

Have you read any of these? Do you want to?


  1. That is an amazing pile, Thomas, I hope you like all of them! The Harold Fry book is absolutely amazing, a wonderful story!

    Kind regards,

  2. I think our genetic structures must indicate we may have been separated at birth?? I love these. I too would buy any book w/ the word 'bookstore' in it. Harold Fry is an interesting read and like the sound of the location in Greenwich Village. Love New York locations. Look forward to your thoughts on them. Enjoy-enjoy.

  3. Ooo, great minds think alike don't they? (Or, at least readers think alike.) I just hit send on an order containing HHhH and Mrs. Queen Takes the Train - the first because I was so intrigued after listening to the podcast you reference, and the second because I saw it mentioned somewhere and came across it browsing the same website. (BTW, if you aren't familiar with it and you stay in "recent book" mode, go check out bookoutlet.com - based in Canada - yes, you have to pay shipping, but I only paid $4.99 each for those two titles - ended up with 7 or 8 books for about $30 total. Their stock really varies, but they've recently updated their website to let you have wishlists, etc.) I'm getting too verbose - a picture of a big pile of books on a Friday has that affect on me - but must add, "What self-respecting bibliophile wouldn't pick up a book just for having Bookstore in the title?" :) Happy weekend reading to you.

  4. What a great haul! The audio version of The Good House will be one of my favorites this year. I really liked The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, too. My book club will read it in January, so I'm considering a reread... maybe audio this time. Enjoy your books :)

  5. In all that gorgeous book p*rn the thing that grabbed my attention was the mention of Nevil Shute's In the Wet which I had to google - *very* interesting, and one for my wishlist.

  6. Nice haul. I loved The Good House and Harold Fry,

    I did a lot of retail therapy lately as well, but it was sweaters, jeans and boots.

  7. Bettina: Thanks for the comment and good to know about the Harold Fry book.

    Pam: I just finished one of the bookstore in the title books: Mr. Penumbra. I loved it.

    Susan: Always good (and dangerous) to know about another good book source.

    JoAnn: You are one of the online peers I alluded to that got me interested in The Good House.

    Vicki:i LOVE the fact that you found the Nevil Shute reference the most interesting part. In the Wet is aces in my book despite the use of a racial slur as a nickname. Which is horrific and humorous in a ridiculous, how could he have been serious, kind of way when you read it in the text.

    Diane: Thankfully my shopping obsessions tend toward the inexpensive.

  8. Wow - of those the only one I have read is Beautiful Ruins, which is one of my favorite books of recent years. Several friends have raved about HHhH, so I look forward to your review!

  9. I read Beautiful Ruins this past summer for a book group. The group loved it but I was underwhelmed -- it jumps back and forth in time between the present and the 1960s. I would have preferred just the bits in the past set in Italy.

    And I've heard really good things about Mrs. Queen. I got the audio from the library a couple of months ago but could not get into it, but I think it may have been the wrong time, just not in the mood for whimsey that particular day. I will probably try it again.

    And what a lovely stack of Barbara Pyms!! I recently finished The Sweet Dove Died and really enjoyed it. I think I'm halfway through my own collection and hope to finish them all soon.


  10. My aunt adores Barbara Pym. I've been hearing about her for years, and I'm finally ready to her books. My aunt thinks that I should start with Excellent Women. What do you think?

  11. Great selection. I'll pick any title with "bookstore" in it too. Beautiful Ruins was a favorite of mine. Even though it was set in Italy (and even Idaho!), the European location reminded me of a Greek Island where I stayed years ago.

  12. I will be interested to know what you think of Americanah. I loved the first half and thought it was one of the best books I've read for a while...and then found the second half disappointing.

    Harold Fry was quite good. I'm not sure whether I thought it was a bit too twee (or maybe even too modern) for my taste.

    Loved May We Be Forgiven. One of my top 10 of the year.

    And I have a few books in mind to give you in December so do keep us updated on your incoming books!

    Have your reached 100 yet? I suspect that you have and don't want to depress me...

    (it's the Roz half of rozandlayla if you hadn't guessed!

  13. Ellen: I think you would appreciate HHhH for the way the novelist works out in the story the problems of a writer trying to write historical fiction about such a well documented event.

    Karen: Whimsey can often go wrong. I have my fingers crossed.

    Marie: Excellent Women is excellent, but I think Some Tame Gazelle might actually be a better one to start with. At least that was the Pym that really hooked me after having already read a few of hers.

    Rob: I am looking forward to Beautiful Ruins.

    Roz: Twee or too modern, hmm, now I am really intrigued. I am worried about what to get you for December because I no longer remember what I sent your way.

  14. Wow, great stack of books! I've read and enjoyed The Bookstore. Just finished The Pure Gold Baby... still gathering my thoughts on it. It was my first Drabble read and wow, is her writing ever beautiful. I've been eyeing the Rachel Joyce book for a while now, but haven't gotten around to buying it yet. Enjoy!

  15. Great stack!

    I really enjoyed reading the Rachel Joyce book. I’m a sucker for stories where someone just walks away from their life without any premeditation like in Anne Tyler’s novel Ladder of Years.

    Chimamanda is a genius. I love her other novels and haven’t read this one yet, but I heard her read from it. She talked a lot about the politics of hair and how black women in America are pressured to straighten their hair if they want to be taken seriously. She posed the question – what would happen if Michelle Obama wore her hair naturally and had a fro?

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Holmes’ novel. There are lots of great things about it but I had issues. If you haven’t read her before I’d recommend reading her short stories.

  16. Don't let anyone sway your opinion about "Harold Fry"; it's a wonderful book about the resilience of the human heart, and keeping your word to others. "Americanah" is a great read also. Just opened "A Winter on the Nile" by Anthony Sattin (about Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert) and eagerly awaiting "The Interestings" from my library wait list. Also read Mr. Penumbra, but wasn't overwhelmed.

  17. Excellent haul! Seriously, The Readers is increasing my book buying urge.


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