Sunday Salon: 19 and counting

Nineteen days into my self-imposed ban on buying new books, and I have succumbed — but only the once and there were exceptional circumstances (I can see you rolling your eyes already).

My nemesis was not a Booker prize winner or a classic or even a novel in translation which are the types of books I’ve decide I want to spend most of my time reading this year. It was actually a work of non fiction: Roman Architecture: A Visual Guide by Professor Diana E. E. Kleiner. She is the tutor on a MOOC (Mass Open Online Course) offered by Coursera and Yale University that I started this week.

We’re just getting started by looking at the origins of the city of Rome and how it grew to became the epicentre of an enormous empire encircling the Mediterranean. Although the course material contains many still and video images of the villas, temples and monuments she’ll be teaching us about over the next 15 weeks, there are scores more in her book. The iBooks version not only contains useful maps and geolocation links, and a list of monuments by location, it comes with pop up image references and embedded flashcards. It’s simply stunning and a bargain at just under 8 UK pounds.

But otherwise I have been very restrained despite the allure of the welter of promotional emails from publishers and booksellers that seem to have come into my in box in ever increasing numbers. They are so seductive it’ s impossible not to open then and browse all the offers. I almost faltered a few times and let my mouse hover the BUY button but stopped in the nick of time. Then there are the temptations of reading about some great sounding books other bloggers are recommending. My wish list is growing to giant beanstalk proportions as a result.

I have however started to make a little progress with the 100 plus books I discovered I owned but had yet to read. I finished Still Life, the first book in Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series a week ago and was so sorry to say goodbye to the wonderful community of Three Pines. I’m now slowly working through a rather oddly titled book I bought on a whim at the Hay Literary Festival last summer when I was just starting to read more works in translation: I Killed Scheheradaze: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman by Joumana Haddad, a journalist, activist and poet from the Lebanon. It’s something I can read in small doses in between drooling over the pictures of the Romans.

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