Book Haul April 2017: Making Up for Lost Time

For the first three months of the year, I was on a book-buying ban, loosely participating in the TBR Double Dog Dare challenge on James Reads Books blog. I didn’t quite get to read that many from my TBR pile because a lot of ARCs came in for review, but by and large I managed to resist book buying temptations, with the exception of Lyon. However, since that was right on the last day of March, I consider that a success!


Since then, I may have succumbed *a little* to book splurges. I blame FictionFan for not bestowing her Queen of Willpower Medal on me! I blame Tony for sharing a picture on Twitter of his lovely Japanese novellas from Strangers Press, based at Norwich University. You too can get them here: Keshiki – New Voices from Japan. I also blame the other Tony for his rant about the Best Translated Book Award shortlist for ordering Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson (Brazil, Open Letter Books). Neither of these two orders have arrived yet, so I can fool myself that there will still be room on the shelves for them.

However, when I tell you that the 25 vintage Penguin classics which I ordered from World of Rare Books are still patiently lined up by the desk, awaiting shelving, you will realise that I may have overdosed on books recently.

But how could I resist a special offer on the Penguins – a surprise bundle of 25 titles? It was mostly the orange fiction series (John Wyndham, Somerset Maugham, Nancy Mitford, Charlotte Bronte), but there were also a few greens (crime fiction by Christianna Brand, Holly Roth and Erle Stanley Gardner) and some unusual finds, such as Passages from Arabia Deserta, a sort of travelogue/anthropological study by Victorian travelling gentleman Charles M. Doughty; a biography of G. K. Chesterton by Maisie Ward;a strange little genre-straddling memoir by Richard Jefferies The Story of My Heart, which looks like a prose poem with wood engravings by Gertrude Hermes; two novels about the British Empire in India by now-forgotten novelist (and former colonel) John Masters; and a book by Peter Wildeblood Against the Law, ‘a first-hand account of what it means to be a homosexual and to be tried in a controversial case and imprisoned’, published in 1955.

The final two books I felt obliged to buy attracted me for different reasons. The first, Rumba Under Fire, edited by Irina Dumitrescu (Punctum Books), was because of its content. It is a collection of essays, poems, prose, interviews about what it means to do ‘art’ in times of crisis. Can art and intellectual work really function as a resistance to power? How do works created during times of extremes of human endurance fit into our theories of knowledge and creativity – can we even attempt to understand them from our privileged and comfy positions? There is quite broad geographical representations here: Bosnia, Romania, Congo, Turkey, Afghanistan, World War 2 concentration camps, India and Pakistan.

The collaboration between poet Derek Walcott and painter Peter Doig Morning, Paramin (Faber & Faber) is pure indulgence. Each double page spread features a poem and a painting, calling out to each other, answering and completing each other. The one to blame here is Melissa Beck, who reviewed this so magnificently on her blog.

While commenting on the review, we connected with Anthony Anaxagorou on Twitter, who asked if we would be interested in reviewing two books of poetry from Outspoken Press, which he promptly sent along. The first is To Sweeten Bitter by Raymond Antrobus, the second Dogtooth by Fran Lock. You can expect to read reviews of both of these very soon.

26 thoughts on “Book Haul April 2017: Making Up for Lost Time”

  1. It’s definitely not a reflection on your willpower Marina Sofia, it’s everyone else leading you astray! This is what I tell myself too 😉

    The Walcott/Doig collaboration had completely passed me by & sounds stunning. I’ll definitely seek it out. It’s such a loss that Walcott died this year, a beautiful poet.

    1. Yes, a great poet, although apparently a somewhat controversial character. Like so many others – greatness in one area does not translate to greatness in all areas, alas.

  2. I, too, will seek out the Walcott/Doig book. I love books that talk to paintings. Chronicle of A Murdered House is already on my wishlist.

  3. They do sound like ‘essential purchases’ in the world of book buying. And you were very restrained for a very respectable period. I’ll look forward to reviews on these as time goes by 🙂

    1. I do wish I could read more of my existing books though and perhaps make more room on the shelves. I still haven’t brought down all the boxes of books from the loft either.

  4. I think you did marvellously well to be restrained for so long – I can’t manage it (although having said that, there haven’t been that many purchases lately). I was sorely tempted by the World of Books offer – but as I’m meant to be purging the books I resisted!

    1. Of course with those random selections you never know what you are going to get (and there were a couple which I already owned, although in different editions), but I feel I was quite lucky there!

  5. I don’t see how anyone could possibly have resisted those Penguins, Marina Sofia! You had absolutely no choice at all. And your other acquisitions look terrific, too.

  6. Hahaha! I’m afraid there’s very little chance of you being allowed to borrow my medal this month! I think this may be the biggest book haul I’ve ever seen – buying them in 25-book lots is excessive… but fun! And curses! I feel in my bones a couple of your links are going to test my own willpower to the breaking point… just off to check out the Japanese novellas…

    1. See, I knew I could blame you with impunity! Yes, I did go a bit overboard this month, didn’t I, but one might as well say goodbye to book bans in style!

  7. I think you’ve been remarkably disciplined, all things considered. Initially I thought your first photo was by way of a confession, so . . .

  8. Had I seen the alluring temptation of a job lot of random old Penguins, resistance would have been positively immoral. You did the right, and kindly thing, in offering them a good and loving home

  9. You couldn’t help it. You had to order those books. It’s like having a chocolate cake in the house and trying not to dig into it. At some point, one has to do it.
    I looked at the Japanese and translated book award shortlist and I can’t figure
    out how to choose books. So I’ll wait to read your reviews and see what appeals
    to me.
    And I have imposed a book buying ban on myself as I’m still working on holiday gift books. And also, luckily, I have a library branch nearby and am quickly reserving books as I read about them. However, some of these books won’t be available at the library, but before I buy any, I’ll read the reviews. Otherwise, bookmania will happen.

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