What a difference a few days can make! At the end of November I was feeling smug that I was making slow but steady progress in reducing the scale of my mountain of owned-but-unread books (aka the TBR).
Only a few days ago I wrote a blog post in which I included this forecast:
Unless I completely go off the rails I’m still likely to finish the year with the TBR at a lower level than end of 2022 (when it was 292).
I’d forgotten of course that Christmas falls in December and it was highly likely I’d receive books as gifts.
And so it proved to be so. Santa brought five new additions to my book collection. Unusually — in fact I can’t think of a single previous occasion in which this has happened — all were non fiction.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Mr BookerTalk came up with a perfect choice of book for a library lover. New York Times journalist delves into the world of the public library, tracing the way they evolved from small but worthy charitable initiatives to symbols of national pride. Her entry point is an arson attack in 1986 which destroyed more than 400,000 books in the Los Angeles Public Library. It survived through the concerted efforts of library staff, supporters and the community.
Landlines by Raynor Winn
Having enjoyed The Salt Path and its follow up, The Wild Silence, I was really hoping the latest episode in Raynor Winn’s memoirs would appear under the Christmas tree. Landlines finds Raynor and her husband Moth set out to walk Cape Wrath Trail — two hundred miles of gruelling terrain through Scotland’s remotest mountains.
They begin under the shadow of a relapse in Moth’s condition. But walking helped him once so the couple put their faith once more in the healing power of nature.
The Armchair Explorer, edited by The Lonely Planet Team
I’ve loved exploring the literature of different countries in my Reading The World project so I’m hoping this book will give me inspiration to add a few more countries. The editors list five books and films for each country along with a soundtrack of ten tunes. The books recommended are a mix of titles written by authors from the selected country and those where the author strongly evokes the culture/landscape of the country. There are also some feature on notable artists, genres or movements from a variety of countries.
Threads of Life by Clare Hunter
My new found hobby of making patchwork quilts reignited my interest in this book which i first heard of through Non Fiction November in 2021. Its description as “A history of sewing and embroidery, told through the stories of the men and women, over centuries and across continents” might not make it sound all that interesting or the book could come across as something of a niche interest. But the examples she gives of how people have used sewing to give them hope or a voice are fascinating — for example the traumatised soldiers from World War 1 or the women who campaigned against an RAF establishment being used as a nuclear weapons base.
Quilts Around the World by Spike Gillespie
On the same theme but with many more illustrations, Gillespie’s book looks at the history of quilting around the world. In my ignorance I’ve always thought of quilting as very much a British and North American craft but in fact it’s just as traditional in Japan, China, India and Hawaii. The creativity shown in the illustrations is breath-taking — well beyond my skill level but I can still drool over them.
Drift by Caryl Lewis
Moving onto the last of my Christmas gifts, we come to Drift, selected by Waterstones as their Wales book of the month for December. Caryl Lewis is a familiar name since she has twice won the Wales Book Of the Year Award but I’ve never read any of her work because it has all been in the Welsh language.
Drift is her English language debut, a novel described as “a love story with a difference, a hypnotic tale of lost identity, the quest for home and the wondrous resilience of the human spirit.”
People From My Neighbourhood by Hiromi Kawakami
Our book club read for December wasn’t the book we were expecting. We thought it would be a quick read because it’s only 121 pages long but it took a surprisingly long time to get to the end. It’s a series of 30 plus short stories (some just two pages long) featuring people who live and work in one Japanese neighbourhood. Odd things happen that are never explained and some characters appear in several stories but it’s not always clear how they are connected. It’s a strange, unsatisfying book.
Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawami
I bought this — an earlier book by Kawakami — at the same time as People From My Neighbourhood. I’m more hopeful this will be to my taste. It’s a tale of an unusual romance between a woman in her late-30s and her former high-school teacher who is much older. I was a little wary of this book when I first heard about it, thinking it would be a modern day version of Lolita (a book I detested) but I’m reassured there is nothing sordid about this relationship.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Published in 2017, Pachinko is an epic historical fiction novel following a Korean family who immigrate to Japan. From what I’ve heard, it covers a period of about 70 years and is very good at evoking the different cultures of those two countries and the harsh reality of being made to feel unwelcome in another land. I thought it would be a good connection to the novels I’ve already read by Japanese and Korean authors.
And finally, we have a purchase from a National Trust second hand bookshop….
The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale
I’ve enjoyed both books by Patrick Gale that I’ve read so far: Notes from an Exhibition and A Perfectly Good Man. This one was so cheap it was impossible to resist. Published in 2009 it’s a tale of a woman forced to abandon her independent, stylish life in Paris to return home to England and care for her ageing mother. She thinks this be the end of any romantic aspirations until an unexpected encounter with a man who was a great love in her younger days. Can they rekindle their relationship or will a belief in a duty to care for their family members hold sway?
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Visit her blog to find out how you can join in and discover the list of weekly prompts.