Call it ostrich behaviour or making hay before the financial crisis beckons, but I bought quite a large number of books at the Hay Festival. This is what comes of not having any second-hand bookshops in our local area (most of the ones I bought were second-hand, a bargain at £3 apiece). Of course, that shimmering, glimmering possibility of getting books signed also influenced my new book purchases. And I would have bought more, if the authors would have been available in translation (maybe next year).
The Bogota 39 panels heavily influenced me and my buying, and opened me up completely to Spanish Language literature (of which I sadly know all too little): Carlos Fonseca, Liliana Colanzi, Laia Jufresa, Lina Meruane and Juan Gabriel Vasquez are all associated with Bogota 39 past or present, while Javier Cercas was already known to me via The Soldiers of Salamis. I was also very impressed with the very candid assessments of contemporary British society via memoir/essays and poetry of Akala and Kayo Chingonyi respectively. I also bought Joanna Walsh’s first novel, although she was not there (yet) to sign it.
The second-hand buys were more impulse buys of authors that I’d previously enjoyed or books that I wanted to try but didn’t feel I could afford the full price.
In the first category, we have:
- Lauren Beukes: Zoo City – a delicious mash-up of genres, Lauren writes books that always leave me feeling breathless and exhilarated
- W. G. Sebald: Austerlitz – although his The Emigrants is probably one of my favourite books, I haven’t actually read this one
- Carol Shields: Mary Swann – I was familiar with her poetry and The Stone Diaries, but this obscure little book is one I’ve never heard of
- Bohumil Hrabal: The Little Town Where Time Stood Still – less well known than his two short masterpieces Too Loud a Solitude and Closely Observed Trains, this portrayal of small-town Bohemia between the two world wars certainly promises to be witty, satirical and brilliantly observed by a writer who never bores me
- Penelope Fitzgerald – a collection of three of her novels, two of my favourites plus one I haven’t read yet: The Bookshop, The Blue Flower and The Gate of Angels.
- Laura Kasischke: Be Mine – I love Laura as a poet and thought her novel Mind of Winter was very unsettling and atmospheric
- Mario Vargas Llosa: The Bad Girl – I’ve loved many of his works and disliked others, but I thought it would be fun to compare the older generation of Latin American writers with the younger generation
- Stevie Smith: Over the Frontier – another novel by a poet (do I detect a theme her?). From the blurb, it sounds quite unlike her usual stuff.
For my children I bought The Three Musketeers (although I hope they will also read it in the original) and Holes by Louis Sachar – an old and a new classic.
As for books I thought I would give a whirl, given the cheap price:
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein 1818 text with critical notes. A must after attending the Living Frankenstein event last week.
- Meg Wolitzer: The Interestings
- Kent Haruf: Plainsong
- Radclyffe Hall: The Unlit Lamp
- Elizabeth von Arnim: Love – I’ve read of course her two best-known books, but this story of an older woman and a younger man has passed me by – plus it’s a Virago Green cover!
- Alaa Al Aswany: The Yacoubian Building – always comes highly recommended when I ask about Egyptian literature
- Carlos Ruis Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind – because it features a library, what more could you want?
Now the big question is: how to get these books off the floor and onto my already double-packed shelves?