Friday, August 7, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - August 7

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a pile of books on the floor that you keep meaning to read or at least make space for in a bookcase.

I have a small office off my living room that is very cozy in the winter but at the moment is full of books on the floor, on the chairs, on the radiator, filing cabinet, desk, and windowsills (that sounds like the beginning of Millions of Cats).  Instead of putting 50 books on hold at the library, I should read the books in this room.  I chose one of these piles today. 

Most of these books came from library book sales and include books I knew would be interesting or entertaining such as The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (I liked The Secret History, although recall being disappointed by the ending), The Engagements by Courtney Sullivan, and The Last Waltz, set in Boston and Newport by Massachusetts author Nancy Zaroulis.

The Great Hunger by Cecil Woodham-Smith belonged to my grandmother and was one of her favorite books.   It is considered the definitive work about one of the worst disasters in world history: the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.  About seven years ago, she invited a neighbor and her doctor son over for a drink.  The son, who lived in Tennessee, apparently admired my grandmother’s books and expressed interest in this one.  She insisted on lending it to him.  Knowing my grandmother, it is possible he didn’t really want it and was just being polite but that would never have occurred to her.   Not long afterward his mother died and my grandmother was very perturbed and phoned me, asking if I could write to him, express her condolences and delicately request her book be returned.   I offered to buy her another copy but she said this one had sentimental value.  The doctor responded very coldly and said he had no idea what had happened to the book but would order her a replacement, which eventually appeared.  Awkward!   When she died two months before her 100th birthday, after all that, I decided I should read the book in her honor and in support of those who starved to death.  I just haven’t got to it yet.
Blenheim Palace

At least two other books were also Granny’s.   The worn hardcover is The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, another of her favorite authors, and I kept Blenheim, Biography of a Palace, as I was planning a visit to Blenheim in 2017.  I loved it, especially a Winston Churchill exhibit.  This is the room where he was born.

Do you remember a couple years ago there were quite a few novels about knitting?  They all seemed to be about young widows coming back to life as they clicked their needles (not to trivialize grief but it was quite the niche topic!).  The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club is one such: “When a man enters [widowed] Jo’s life, the knitting club has even more trouble confining the conversation to knit one, purl two.”  It's actually a three-book series and it turns out I did read it in 2012 (apparently not very memorable)! Knitting books always have pretty covers.
My book group liked Allegra Goodman’s Kaaterskill Falls several years ago so when I knew she was speaking at an All-of-a-Kind Family event (which, weirdly, took place on the street I grew up on), I brought The Cookbook Collector for her to sign.  It is supposed to be a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility.  Goodman is a Radcliffe graduate.

It never occurred to me to read James Michener but someone said my brother should read Poland when he was working in Warsaw so I sent him a copy, then picked one up for myself.

When I was in London my friend Nicky gave me Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson.  There is a certain type of person (and I am one of them) who enjoys reading about the famous sisters.
The new Blogger is really cumbersome and annoying!  I hate the extra spaces it adds that I can't get rid of and it wouldn't let me put my Blenheim pictures next to each other.  I think it took twice as long as usual to draft this post.


Test said...

I find that putting in text first, then uploading the picture, right justifying it, then making it smaller makes things line up properly, but it is annoying! Hope it becomes more comfortable. Enjoyed hearing about the books you have, especially the ones from your grandmother.

TracyK said...

Very interesting story about your grandmother and The Great Hunger. I have a copy of The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney and hope to read it in the next year or so. The book about Blenheim sounds interesting. I want to read something about the Mitford Sisters. I think my husband gave me some book about them but now I can't find it.

The solution described in Test's comment above sounds like what happened to me, but it was accidental. I will try to remember that sequence. Image placement is frustrating, but I have hopes it will improve.

CLM said...

This Mitford book by Lovell is considered to be the stronger book but sometimes it is nice to simply read what you've got! What did you think of An Air That Kills, Tracy?

I finished the 12th Penny very late last night - another great one. I need to slow down.

I appreciate the image tips above. We will probably all get used to the new Blogger but it is annoying.

TracyK said...

Thanks for that link to another Mitford book. Another blog I read recommended Take Six Girls and the book by Lovell; I would be happy to read either... someday.

Are you asking about An Air that Kills by Andrew Taylor? If so, it has been long enough ago that I remember little about it (2009). I have two other books with that title, one by Margaret Millar, and one by Christine Poulson.

Judith said...

What a great Rabbit Hole of a Bookshelf!!
I have spent the past half-hour crawling down the holes to find out what each book was about. SO many fascinating titles here.

I also agree with you wholeheartedly that I could not continue with Louise Penney after I read that first book. (Saw your comment on another blogger's page.) My friends tell me, just skip that book and move on. I haven't yet, and most likely it's because I have so many other books to read. As always, help! But I will get back to Louise Penny regardless.

Dixie Lee said...

I read quite a lot of Michener as a young girl. He was a terrible writer but a fabulous storyteller. I was obsessed by "The Source" as a high schooler, and when I got to college, realized that he had depended on many of the same sources that we used in a class on ancient Semitic civilizations. Man did research!

CLM said...

Tracy, we should try to read The Tenderness of Wolves at approximately the same time. After all, it can't stay in that pile on the floor forever! And I was thinking of the Andrew Taylor but I guess because I had just read your Poulson review I forgot which you had read most recently. The second in the series is on its way to me but I have way too many books out of the library at present and grad school resuming in ten days, so I am not sure when I will get to it.

Judith, I got nostalgic for book sales all over again just contemplating this random group of books. I even walked in this ridiculously hot weather down to a shop called Boomerangs - what in the UK is called a charity shop. I donated most of my grandmother's clothes and household items to them but never really did more than look at the shelves of books because it seems grungy. I was shocked to see it had closed in March and was completely empty through the windows. Anyway, I would recommend downloading the second Penny to your phone and listening as you walk with the dog. The narrator is perfect and soon you will also love Armand Gamache.

Deb, I also urged you to start the Louise Penny books. The first is Still Life. I have seen hardcovers in good condition at library book sales so often and am annoyed I never bothered to collect them.