Updates: 9/2/2012: library sales, Kate Atkinson, and maternity pants

This past week included another trip to a library book sale, probably the last of the year. But it’s not the last book-buying trip of the year! Next weekend we have plans to visit a favorite Connecticut used bookstore. I have accumulated quite a few books in the past month or so, but if I ever start to feel bad about it, I think of it as stockpiling for the days when going book shopping won’t be quite as easy (although I did see quite a few parents with babies at these library book sales, so book-accumulation won’t be at a complete end). So, what I came home with this time:

  • Eat the Document, by Dana Spiotta. I liked her recent novel Stone Arabia very much and so want to read more.
  • The Mystery Guest, by Gregoire Bouillier. Did Litlove recommend this one at some point? I think so… anyway, it’s been on my list of books to check out for a while.
  • Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell. Cloud Atlas was great, and he seems like such an interesting writer.
  • Running with Scissors: A Memoir, by Augusten Burroughs. I’ve read enough memoirs and have read enough about memoirs, that it makes sense to me to collect some of the major ones, and this one seems important.
  • Borrowed Finery: A Memoir, by Paula Fox. See above.
  • Death in the Garden, by Elizabeth Ironside. I know nothing about this book or this author, but it’s published by Felony and Mayhem Press, which is an awesome name, and it looks appealing.
  • In the Land of Pain, by Alphonse Daudet. I think I heard about this from David Shields, of Reality Hunger fame. It’s translated by Julian Barnes. It looks like the kind of nonfiction I like.

As for reading, I had less time than in previous weeks because school is starting to get back into gear. My classes start on Tuesday, but last week I had meetings and advising to keep me busier than usual. With the reading time I had available, I finished Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes in the Museum. I liked it. I was hoping to love it, which I didn’t exactly, but still, it was good. I had thought it had something to do with museums, which it doesn’t, at least not in a direct sense: it’s about a family and the changes it goes through throughout the 20th century, so the idea seems to be that the novel is showing the real-life, ordinary events behind the “museum” of history. It has a first-person narrator who tells her life story, and in between each chapter are footnotes to the main narrative that are flashbacks to earlier generations and their stories, all of which are shaped by larger historical events, usually wars. I liked the main narrator, and her sections are the most enjoyable. I also liked the family Atkinson created. It’s kind of a messed-up family, with a lot of stories of unfulfilled dreams, disappointment, unhappy marriages, and unwanted children. But she shows how each person got where they did and creates sympathy for them and their struggles. The title phrase “behind the scenes” also captures the importance of family secrets; there is a lot that the younger generations don’t know about the older ones, or that they only slowly find out about them. There are also many stories that are captured by objects, seemingly unimportant ones that turn out to carry greater weight than the younger generations realize. I did think the book got a little long towards the end, but overall, Atkinson manages her large cast of characters and her complicated story very well.

In other news, I bought maternity pants this past week. Fortunately, I have a friend who is willing and eager to go shopping with me, and she helped me navigate the shops and find some decent things. As of now, I have two pairs of stretchy running shorts I can wear, two pairs of yoga pants I can wear, and now two pairs of maternity pants, which I will do my teaching in. Eventually probably the shorts and yoga pants will get too tight, and then I’ll … live in my two pairs of maternity pants? Not sure. I’m such a terrible shopper. Fortunately again, this same friend is going to help Hobgoblin and me figure out what baby equipment we want to register for, and I’m so grateful for the help, because the world of baby equipment is bewildering. I’m so happy to be pregnant, but, my goodness, there is just so much involved.


Filed under Books, Life

17 responses to “Updates: 9/2/2012: library sales, Kate Atkinson, and maternity pants

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed Behind the Scenes at the Museum. As you know, I love that book, mostly because of the main character’s voice. I also really enjoy the humor in her books. She manages to make me laugh out loud even in the midst of a genuinely heart-wrenching story.


    • You are right about the humor, Teresa — I liked that as well, although I couldn’t quite agree with the blurb that said the book is one of the funniest to come out of Britain in years. But she does lighten what could be a very dark story with humor, and that’s great. It’s a book that gets better in my mind the more I think about it.


  2. Did I tell you that my library stopped their library sales? They didn’t exactly stop them, but now they have a shop that is open all the time (well–day hours when I am working of course–and not at my branch), so I just haven’t gone–not sure what the selection would be like. I guess I should check it out sometime. I really liked the Ironside, which I read years ago, so I hope you will, too. I generally have good luck with Felony & Mayhem Press titles. I had the Paula Fox memoir checked out from my library earlier this summer but didn’t get to it–I want to read it still, so I am sure I’ll be taking it home with me again sometime. And I am terrible at shopping, too, so I can relate to your woes–I wouldn’t want to buy a lot of clothes that you won’t need when the baby arrives either. It sounds like a great pile of books by the way–you’ll get to them eventually, so good to have them on hand.


    • Danielle — that doesn’t sound good at all, too bad the shop is inaccessible. I like the feeling of a special event once a year — seeing all those books at once is exciting. I’m glad to hear you liked the Ironside — it’s great to have a good recommendation. That book might make good new-baby reading. That’s exactly the problem with maternity clothes — I don’t want to spend money on them since I don’t plan on being pregnant again and so will never use them any more. But somehow I have to survive the next five months!


  3. I felt exactly the same as you about Atkinson’s first novel – so much to admire in it, but it didn’t completely blow me away. But it certainly did encourage me to read her other novels! Lovely library sale finds and you will need a bit of a stockpile, so no need for guilt! And I seem to remember that by the end of my pregnancy I lived in a couple of pairs of maternity leggings and they saw me through. It’s amazing what you manage with, and that probably goes for equipment too. At the start, it’s all about the equipment, but quite quickly the absolute need for stuff passes!


    • Litlove — Maternity leggings sound great. I may need to buy something like that for lounging around the house in. I’m definitely determined to get by with as little as possible. The nice thing about baby equipment is that so many of our friends have given us pieces of it, which will certainly help our budget. Our house will be SO super crowded, though!


  4. I know that Atkinson’s first novel is sitting on a shelf somewhere in the study and the very fact that it escaped last month’s serious cull is indicative of the fact that I really do want to read her earlier work. But, I came to her via her Jason Brodie books and I haven’t yet summoned up the reserves of energy necessary to tackling her in a rather different light. I believe she has a new book due out that is not part of the Brodie series, so maybe I’ll read that first and let it take me back to those first novels.


    • I’ve heard from various people that the non-Jackson Brodie are among her best, but it did take me a while to make the move myself. Interesting to know that she has another non-JB coming out — that does seem like a good place to start.


  5. Nice finds at the sale. In the Land of Pain is a most excellent book. I found it very thought-provoking on illness from the pov of the sick person. Plus it has a lovely meditative quietness to it.


  6. In terms of registering, I think I can say pretty confidently that you need less than the stores/family/friends might make you feel you need (although having a friend help you will be wonderful!) – but in my experience the things you absolutely positively should register for are (1.) a high-quality thermoter for temperature taking (and piece of mind) and (2.) an electric snot sucker. Sounds disgusting, I know, but babies HATE having their snot suctioned and they can’t blow their nose and the electronic version of the snot sucker makes it happen SO FAST , and they don’t even see it coming.

    Also, you will have time for reading and book shopping. It is very very good for babies and their mamas to get out of the house!


    • peace of mind.seriously. I did not write piece of mind…I did…but I meant peace of mind.


    • Thanks, Courtney, for the recommendations and also for the encouragement that I will have time to read and get out. I’m grateful for all encouragement I get! I find I’m both grateful and amused by the equipment recommendations people give me, because everyone has their favorite one or two or three things, and they are all different, and if I got them all, I’d be getting everything 🙂


  7. Have you written a review on Cloud Atlas? Do you know there’s a film adaptation coming out this fall? I’d like to read it but then again I’m intimidated by its, shall I say, postmodern style of writing? Can I manage to follow these different story lines? I’ve not read any books by David Mitchell, but would like to try Cloud Atlas before the film comes out.


  8. I read Black Swan Green before I read any of Mitchell’s other work and I loved it – I was warned, however, by other readers that they ended up being disappointed with it after having read Cloud Atlas first. Black Swan Green is a very very different book – completely straightforward storytelling in the way that Cloud Atlas isn’t. But I still think Mitchell is just amazing and I loved it.


    • Michelle — one of my friends made a comment about Mitchell that each of his books is different, and so I’ll be going into them without detailed expectations. I’ve got a copy of the Jacob de Zoot book I want to get to before too long as well.


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