Reading plansTop Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection

Image shows some of the recent acquisitions for my bookshelves including a novel by Patrick Gale and the latest memoir from Raynor Winn

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.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

28 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection

  • I absolutely loved The Library Book – I read it a few years ago and it’s really stayed with me. I hope you enjoy it too!

  • You got some good ones. I absolutely loved Pachinko and the Library Book. Pachinko was a book club read and from what I recall, most, if not all, the members enjoyed it. I also loved The Library Book. It is a great look at a historical event.

    • Maybe I’ll suggest it to our book club based on your comment Nicole. We take it in turns to propose a book – my turn is in January but I’ll likely get another go later in the year

  • I’ve read many praises about Pachinko, so I can’t wait to read your thoughts on that one.
    Anyway, happy holidays! 😊

    • You may have to wait a while – I seem to be a very slow reader these days!

  • Oh yes, I was the same – on track to finish with a smaller stack than I started the year with, but a visit to my local bookshop changed that! Never mind, a happy accident.
    The Armchair Explorer books looks great – I’ll have to get my hands on a copy. Will also look forward to your review of the Winn (you recommended Salt Path to me many years ago, and I absolutely loved it).

    • I’ll have to send you the Armchair Explorer recommendations for Australia – would be interesting to see what you think of the choices!

      I’m very curious about the Raynor Winn and whether it will be more in the style of the Salt Path or the Wild Silence.

  • *chuckle* Your loved ones are sabotaging your TBR quest!

    • I did drop several hints so it’s not all their fault….

  • The elves did you proud! Threads of Life has now joined my wishlist and Drift looks quite intriguing. After reading People From My Neighborhood, I wondered if there was any there there. It is strangely unsatisfying.

    • People from my neighbourhood felt to me like a series of ideas for a short story or a novella but which she just couldn’t make work

  • The Armchair Explorer sounds really useful as a guide for someone like me who’s barely delved into the cultural and, especially, literary delights the world’s nations have to offer. I enjoy bookbloggers’ reviews but the choices then become so many and various I end up like a rabbit caught in headlights…

    • I have struggled to find books from some countries so thought this would be a way to solve that problem. I was curious what they would choose for Wales – inevitably we got recommended to read How Green Was My Valley and Dylan Thomas

  • tracybham

    All of these books sound good. I used to quilt (a little) and that book about quilts sounds awesome. The three that sound best to me are: The Armchair Explorer, Strange Weather in Tokyo, and The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale. I still haven’t read anything by Patrick Gale, but you have inspired me too. I read Strange Weather in Tokyo for the Japanese Literature Challenge earlier this year and I loved it.

    TracyK at Bitter Tea and Mystery

    • Did you stop quilting for any particular reason Tracy? I can see how it can become so absorbing – I’m now dreaming in squares and patterns!

      • tracybham

        I started piecing and quilting when I took a class when I was about 32. I joined a group where we quilted or did other needlework one night a month. I had my first (and only) child when I was 34 and the combination of working and a new member of the family eventually was too much for me to keep up with a focus on quilting. And I never got back to it. But I still appreciate the art of quilting and quilt designs.

        • Small children and quilting don’t really go well together – they both demand attention – so I’m not surprised you had to let one of them fall by the wayside. Maybe you’ll feel enthused to pick it up at some point

  • Ooooh! Santa really did well, The Library Book is a FANTASTIC book! Be prepared: you’ll be “entertaining” your loved ones with fun facts about libraries for days when you read it 😂

    • I’ll put the family and friends on notice to expect that! I already have two friends keen to borrow it…

  • Very much enjoyed Strange Weather in Tokyo. Have you ever been to the American Museum in Bath, Karen? It has a magnificent collection of quilts, both contemporary and historic.

    • I haven’t found my way there yet Susan – didn’t know they had a quilt collection. Yet another reason to make a trip to Bath a priority next year

  • I absolutely loved Pachinko. But then I read it a few months after our return from a month in South Korea when our daughter was working there, so it was interesting to compare modern Busan with the community there so many years before. Patrick Gale? I’ll always read anything by him with pleasure: my last was Mother’s Boy, a fictional re-imagining of the life of Charles Causley, and it sent me back to Causley’s work with pleasure. I think I might give any of these books a go with interest. But is the Susan Orlean best appreciated by an American audience, or is it more general?

    • A month in South Korea – wow, that was an eye-opening experience I bet. How did you get on with kimchee? i found it hard to get away from it – even omelettes came with a kimchee filling. It wasn’t to my taste unfortunately.

      I have a copy of Mother’s Boy but hadn’t realised the connection to Causley.

      Hm I don’t think the Susan Orlean book is just about the American experience – I suspect my husband wouldn’t have bought it for it that had been the case.

      • I’m a kimchee addict now! But it is a bit of a Marmite thing – you either like it or you don’t. More challenging for me were the tiny dried fish which they sprinkled over everything. They were just too – well – fishy. It sounds as if you’ve ben to South Korea too?

        • I had responsibility for communications in our Asia operations for a few years so did end up visiting South Korea. Sadly I never got the chance to travel outside Seoul. Fascinating country and culture that I would have loved to explore further

        • If you get the chance, please take it. I found a welcoming people still unused enough to tourism from beyond China and Japan to take a real interest in visitors.

        • So many places I want to visit – not sure it’s going to be possible though because my husband has had some health issues in recent years so I’m a bit nervous about venturing anywhere overseas.

        • I understand that: it’s a real issue these days. Armchair travelling it is then …

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