Reading Updates

I mentioned visiting a bunch of bookstores in London, and I spent a good bit of time in the two bookstores in Dingle, so I’d better tell you what I bought:

  • Chet Raymo’s Climbing Brandon: Science and Faith on Ireland’s Holy Mountain. Hobgoblin has already read this one, and he told me it’s good. Mt. Brandon is on the Dingle Peninsula, and I climbed it while we were there. We had a gorgeous view of the summit and surrounding area until about 3/4 of the way to the top, when the fog moved in and we could no longer see anything. Still, it was a great experience. We went up the back side of the mountain, and on the way down the front side, the most commonly-climbed side, we saw crosses through the mist at regularly paced intervals to mark the path religious pilgrims take. This book tells the story of how it became a religious site. I picked it up in the shop specializing in all things Irish.
  • At Dingle’s other shop, I bought Hermione Lee’s Body Parts: Essays on Life-writing. I already have the American version of this book, called Virginia Woolf’s Nose, but that one is a lot shorter than the British version, with many fewer essays. I liked the parts of Lee’s book I’ve read already, so I was glad to find the rest.
  • The rest of the books come from London. Since I never find books by Jenny Diski in American stores, I brought home three of them, including her new one, What I Don’t Know About Animals. This is one of those books that I wouldn’t be interested in at all if knew only the title, but with Diski writing it, I’ll read it happily.
  • Also, A View From the Bed and Other Observations, a collection of essays. I already read a few of them about moving to Cambridge that I thought were great.
  • And one Diski novel, Apology for the Woman Writing, about Marie de Gournay, friend of Montaigne.
  • Norma Clarke’s The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters, about eighteenth-century women writers and their changing fortunes throughout the century.
  • Travel Writing, by Carl Thompson, kind of an overview of the history of travel writing and current critical debates about it. This will be useful for my class on literature and the journey this fall.
  • Lila Azam Zanganeh’s The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness. I just heard an interview with Zanganeh on the radio yesterday, and it was great. This is a personal meditation on Nabokov and his writing.
  • Daisy Hay’s Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation. It’s about Byron and the Shelleys and other people in their circle. It will make a good addition to my collection of Romantic biographies, and it’s particularly appealing as a group biography.
  • Monica Dickens’s Mariana. This was my selection from the Persephone shop. The only thing that kept me from buying more was fear that my suitcase would be too heavy.
  • The Letters of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Selection. I’ve been reading this one slowly since the plane trip home. It’s fun to learn about her life and to get her perspective on what her brother William and his friends were up to.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to write detailed posts on what I read while I was traveling, but in case you’re curious, I started out with Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country (read on my Nook), which was great. I loved returning to her; she is such a great chronicler of social ambition. Then I read the second Mary Russell novel, which I liked quite a lot, after not particularly liking the first one. A Monstrous Regiment of Women was much more focused and coherent than her first, and I liked the London setting. The Mary Russell put me in the mood to read a Dorothy Sayers, so I read Clouds of Witness, also on my Nook. Dorothy Sayers is so much fun! I suspect my favorite will remain Gaudy Night, but I liked this one a lot too.

At the same time, I was reading Geoff Dyer’s collection of essays Otherwise Known As the Human Condition (the first book I bought for my Nook), which was fabulous. This is one it would be worth writing more about, but in case I don’t, I was surprised at how much I loved the essays on photography with which the book begins. I know very little about photography, so these essays taught me a lot, and Dyer’s voice is so fabulously entertaining. His essays on literature were good, but I was less taken with those, perhaps because the subject matter was more familiar. The book ends with personal essays, almost all of which I loved.

I didn’t read much while we were in London, but I started Monique Roffey’s White Woman on the Green Bicycle, and I finished it on the plane home. That one I do want to write a full post on, so more on that later.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve had a little trouble concentrating on reading, but I did finish up the Dyer collection and read Willa Cather’s novel The Professor’s House. Perhaps more on that later. Just today I started Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time for my mystery book group meeting next week, and I’m still reading the Dorothy Wordsworth letters now and then.

And I think that catches you up on my bookish news. Have a great weekend everyone!


Filed under Books, Lists

14 responses to “Reading Updates

  1. You made some great purchases!

    I’m pretty fascinated by Marie de Gournay after reading the Bakewell bio of Montaigne and visiting his château (where there’s a portrait and a few other relics of her presence), and I’ve been meaning to check out Diski, so Apology for the Woman Writing is intriguing to me! And good to know that Body Parts is longer/includes more essays than Virginia Woolf’s Nose—I had been confused about the relationship between those two books, but now I’ll definitely hold out for Body Parts.

    The only thing that kept me from buying more was fear that my suitcase would be too heavy.

    You are a wise, wise woman. 🙂


  2. Looks like you have got a lot of nice stuff with you from London. I have read Hermione Lee’s “Virginia Woolf”, which I really liked, I would happily read more of her writing. Looking forward to your comments on “Travel Writing”.


  3. Rohan

    What a great bunch of finds!

    I just reread Daughter of Time for my own purposes–I’ve been reading it since 6th grade and found it very interesting to return to it after so much time reading other detective fiction. I’ll be interested to see what your group makes of it.


  4. You’ve read a bunch of my favorites recently! I think Custom of the Country is my favorite Wharton. Undine is just beyond words. And I’m thrilled that you liked Monstrous Regiment. The third book may be my favorite in the series, but it’s impossible to choose! And Sayers is always a treat. I only have one of her novels left to read. I’m eager to hear your thoughts on White Woman because it impressed me a great deal–I’ve been recommending to quite a few people. And the Cather and the Tey, both very good.


  5. I loved visiting bookshops when I was in London and in Dublin–only wish I could have afforded to buy some of them but I was just lucky to be there at all! I have heard good things about The Young Romantics and would love to get that at some point. And Mariana is one of my favorite Persephones–good choice! Were you able to recharge your Nook over there? It seems the battery runs out quickly on mine. It sounds like you got in lots of good reading, too. I liked the second Mary Russell much more than the first as well and need to pick up the next book at some point. And I would love to read more Edith Wharton–and I have the Roffey book on hand so am curious to see what you make of it. Have a great weekend, too!


  6. I’m very glad to hear that the second Mary Russell is better than the first, because I didn’t make it through the first and I really wanted to. Now, I’ll just skip right on to the next one. I’m amazed by how many books you DID fit into your suitcase. Good for you. (By the way, Gaudy Night is my favorite Sayers too.)


  7. Eva

    Ohhh: this post made me excited! I just finished rereading a Wimsy (Strong Poison) and White Woman on a Green Bicycle, which I definitely want to devote a post to. 🙂 And I love Wharton, although I haven’t read Custom of the Country yet. I’ll be curious to see if you enjoy The Daughter of Time!

    I’m also glad that you enjoyed the 2nd Mary Russell novel; I love, love, love that series, but I’m sometimes hesitant to recommend the first book as the place to start because it is a bit more scattered.


  8. So much here that I enjoyed – love Wharton, love Cather, love Dorothy Sayers. I’m very interested about the Geoff Dyer essays, as I did like his book about Lawrence, apart from the academic bashing, Oh and I adored Mariana, and am very curious about that Nabokov book. Quite tempted to get that one myself.


  9. I loved The Daughter of Time and need to reread it. I just went to Amazon to add the Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters to my wishlist. You’ve just got too many interesting possibilities in this post!


  10. Look at all those good sounding books you got (and read)! My TBR list is done for. Thanks for the tip on the Hermione Lee book. I knew the titles were different but I didn’t know the U.S. version was not the same as the original.


  11. Emily — we considered shipping books home, but that seemed like it would be expensive, so the only option was a little restraint, although I could have snuck a few more in, I’m sure … I’d love to visit Montaigne’s chateau — how lucky that you got the chance!

    Sigrun — thanks! I’d love to read Lee’s biography of Woolf at some point, although it’s so long, it’s a little intimidating. I’ll get to it one day, though.

    Rohan — I’m about 3/4 of the way through now, and what an interesting book! It will be great to discuss in my group, since it does such interesting things with the mystery genre.

    Teresa — I’m very glad to hear the 3rd book may be your favorite, as I have something great to look forward to. I really liked Custom a lot. It’s not my favorite, I don’t think, but still, it was excellent, and there’s some tough competition for favorite!

    Danielle — I recharged my Nook quite a lot, actually, because you’re right that it does lose its charge quickly. I wonder if the black and white and the color are equally bad about that? Fortunately, I never ran out of battery, but I was worried about that and made sure I always had paper books around. I’m very glad you like Mariana so much! I’m looking forward to getting to it.

    Lily — I think it’s worth skipping to the second Mary Russell; I’m very glad I gave it another chance. Yay for Gaudy Night! It’s definitely worthy of a reread some day.

    Eva — I’m very glad I gave the second Mary Russell a chance! I have often heard you and others talk about how much you like it so I though it would be worthwhile. I’m hoping to write on the Green Bicycle book soon, although I’m having trouble making myself sit down and do it! I’ll look forward to your post.

    Litlove — I’m very curious about the Nabokov book; I may love it, or I may find it a little overheated, I’m not sure. We’ll see! I’d love to know what you make of the Dyer essays — there is quite a range of subjects, all very interesting.

    Jenclair — I’m glad to hear that about The Daughter of Time — I’ve been enjoying it quite a lot myself. I’m curious to see how my book group’s discussion goes!

    Stefanie — I have no idea why they published fewer essays in the American version. There are only four in that one, I think, and the additional ones in the British version look so interesting. Perhaps they wanted a closer focus on Woolf.


  12. So many good books. I’ve been reading, too, and haven’t had time to blog about them–but the reading is what matters most.


  13. Lilian — yes, I’m willing to drop blogging, but not reading! (But I don’t want to drop blogging either.)


  14. Yes I think both Nooks must drain the battery equally as fast. I don’t seem to spend long hours reading on it, however, so it hasn’t been a problem to charge it at night before reading again.


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