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2nd May
written by Steph

Book-based stalagmites are now developing at an alarming rate around our apartment...

Book-based stalagmites are now developing at an alarming rate around our apartment...

I’ve noticed that a lot of book bloggers out there do weekly accounts of the inventory they have coming into their libraries.  Normally the book influx is on the order of 3 to 7 books, which seems reasonable.  Of course, I don’t really participate in Library Loot or the like, because I really don’t have book entering the apartment on a regular basis.  Instead, I seem to operate under the “When It Rains, It Pours” principle, when it comes to acquiring books.  Total damage this time?  27 books (3 of them are graphic designy, so I’m not including them in this run down… I think 24 books are plenty to keep us busy.)… and this time, we paid with our own pocket money.  No vouchers or anything! Sigh.  I guess we’d better cut the preamble, as this is going to be long enough.  Let us go and revel in my total lack of self-control.

Hulme, Vigorito, King, Foer, Morrison, Harwood, Steinbeck & Tartt

Hulme, Vigorito, King, Foer, Morrison, Harwood, Steinbeck & Tartt

  • The Bone People by Keri Hulme – A while back I did a search on GoodReads for New Zealand authors, and found this book, which won the Booker Prize in 1985.  Apparently it’s supposed to be quite dark and sad, but the writing is very strong.  Also, I’m always looking to broaden my literary horizons; I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by a New Zealander before!
  • Just A Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito – This was on the bargain shelf at McKay and was 75¢.  A friend of mine read this a couple of years ago and I recall her liking it quite a bit.  It’s supposed to be fun and zany in a Kurt Vonnegut/Tom Robbins kind of way.
  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King – Full credit to Eva over at A Stripe Armchair for bringing this series to my attention.  It features Mary Russell, a sleuth in the making, who has the formidable Sherlock Holmes as her mentor… how could I pass this one up?  I was elated to find it at McKay’s (they had a bunch of other books in the series, but I figured I’d start off just with the first one for now).
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – I borrowed this a few months ago from the school library and enjoyed it a good deal.  Foer’s books are hard to find at McKay’s – the last time I found one, it had so much marginalia that it was unreadable – so I hastily snagged this copy when I found out it was in pristine condition… well, all except for the AUTOGRAPH on the title page!
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison – Y’all know that one of my most exciting discoveries this year has been Toni Morrison (I’ve already read two books by her thus far in 2009). I want to read all of her books, and everyone raves about Beloved, and this untouched copy was 25¢!  I almost did a happy dance in the aisle when I found it!
  • The Ghost Writer by John Harwood – I’ve been reading about Harwood on a bunch of blogs (mostly relating to his more recent novel, The Séance), and my interest was piqued.  Victorian era spooky novel?  Sounds just like my kind of thing!
  • The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck – I completely had no idea that Steinbeck ever wrote a book by this name, so you can imagine how I felt upon finding this in the Classics section.  Add to that the fact that this is one of those gorgeous New Penguin Classics that I covet universally, and I didn’t even hesitate to add this to our pile (even if it was our most expensive book of the day at $8).  The only thing that made me feel slightly uncomfortable was that the Introduction is written by Christopher Paolini, or as I put it to Tony, “that boy who writes those dragon books”… I feel like Paolini & Steinbeck are a pair not ever really meant to exist in nature.
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt – Ever since I became aware that Donna Tartt doesn’t actually write smutty chick lit and purchased The Secret History, I’ve been intrigued by her (even though I have yet to read The Secret History), and I actually decided to actually read the back cover of this one today.  And wonder of wonders, it sounded really good!  Something about a murder that rocks a small-town and the victim’s childhood friend setting to solve it herself… Sounds good to me!
  • Laird, Gowdy, Lessing, Greene, London, Krauss, Glass, & Lawson

    Laird, Gowdy, Lessing, Greene, London, Krauss, Glass, & Lawson

    Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird – I picked this one up on a whim because the title amused me.  I showed it to Tony on a lark and then he got all interested in it, and into the cart it went.  I wouldn’t guess from the title that it’s about a stoned lawyer who’s an Irish loyalist, but apparently, it is!
  • The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy – I picked this one up and handed it to Tony right away because I thought he would like it, whereas I will give it wide berth.  Why?  Because it focuses on a pack of elephants as they struggle to survive against ivory poachers… as if that’s going to end happily.
  • The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing – I haven’t read any Doris Lessing, but of course I’ve been meaning to ever since she won the Nobel Prize.  This isn’t perhaps the book that I would have selected if I had been given her entire oeuvre, but then again, it actually sounded pretty creepy, as it revolves around the arrival of a family’s fifth child, and how he might possibly be evil… Awesome.
  • The Quiet American & The End of The Affair by Graham Greene – Given that Tony really enjoyed The Power & The Glory, I picked these titles out for him, as I believe these are two of Greene’s best known titles.
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London – Tony’s never read it.  He wants to.  So we bought it.  It’s actually a pretty cool hardback version.
  • Man Walks Into A Room by Nicole Krauss – Claire, I know you’re super jealous about this find!  Seriously, I was so surprised and ecstatic to find it that I really did squeal out loud and start jumping up and down with glee as I waved it about… and no, I wasn’t the only person in the aisle when this happened.  I didn’t even bother to read the back cover blub, because this one was an obvious purchase for me.  I’ve been wanting to read this ever since I read Krauss’s second novel, The History of Love (so, for about 3 years now).
  • Three Junes by Julia Glass – I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up if it hadn’t been on the bargain shelf, but it was, and it was only 50¢ and it won the National Book Award back in 2002, so I figured that was enough to justify giving it a try.  Also, I vaguely remembered Girl Detective possibly reading (she did!) and liking it.
  • The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson – I read Lawson’s debut novel, Crow Lake, earlier this year and found it very moving.  I’ve wanted to read this one ever since that, but I didn’t expect to find it at McKay’s (for some reason, I’m always shocked to see Canadian authors, with the exception of Margaret Atwood, at the used bookstores here).
  • Diaz, Mann, Warren, Auster, Kundera, Hazzard, & Bowen

    Diaz, Mann, Warren, Auster, Kundera, Hazzard, & Bowen

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz – Dudes, I know I’ve told you before how the pricing scheme at McKay’s makes absolutely no sense.  Generally speaking, I expect newer titles to be about half off the cover price (around $7), but every now and then you find something like this that you expect to be expensive because it’s new and a prize winner and probably popular… and then it is only $2.  So then you quickly fling it in your basket and triumphantly exclaim “Ha ha!” before moving on.
  • Death In Venice and Seven Other Stories by Thomas Mann – Tony picked this one up, and I thought the cover looked kind of eerie but cool, so we decided to give it a shot, even though Tony once tried to read Mann’s Doctor Faustus and failed horribly, even though Tony rarely gives up on books.  But he did on that one because it was SO boring.
  • All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren – If I haven’t said it on this blog before, then I’ve been horribly remiss, but I’ll say it now: All The King’s Men is one of my all-time favorite books.  I love, Love, LOVE it.  So naturally, we already own a copy of this book, but this is a revised edition that I’ve always coveted.  It was in perfect condition, and I very happily add this one to our library (where it will sit next to our other copy).
  • Timbuktu by Paul Auster – So, I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes wind up buying multiple books by authors I’ve never read when I go to McKay’s.  Here is another example of that.  I already have an unread Auster at home, and yet I couldn’t help picking this one up.  It is narrated by a dog!
  • Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively – I’ve had this one on my wish list for a while, though I can’t really articulate why.  I know it did win the Booker in 1987, and is generally highly regarded.
  • The Joke by Milan Kundera – I am kind of ambivalent about Milan Kundera.  No doubt the man can write, and he’s a deep thinker… but sometimes I don’t buy that he’s really writing fiction.  This one claims to be about thwarted love and revenge.  We shall see!
  • The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard – I picked this one off the shelf because I thought I recognized the author’s name.  I didn’t, but then I was intrigued by the fact that this had won loads of awards back when it was published in 1980.  The topic didn’t necessarily appeal to me (orphan sisters each navigating life in various countries between the 1950s to the 1980s), but the writing caught my attention.
  • The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen – I’ve wanted to read Bowen’s The Death of the Heart for ages now, but I’ve never gotten my hands on a copy.  Instead, I found this book on the bargain shelf, and figured that this might as well be the book of hers I first try.  If I sit around waiting for The Death of the Heart, I might never wind up giving Bowen a shot!
So that’s the haul this time round.  I’m seriously excited by all of these books, so hopefully I’ll be able to smother my reading slump and get back into the world of books.  Any books here that you’ve read and loved (or hated)?  Where would you start?


  1. Laura

    Last weekend I went to a church flea market and bought a ton of books and it made me jealous to think that you and Tony have a great used bookstore near you. This will have to be a stop on the tour when I come to visit you!!!

  2. _lethe_

    I believe this is my first comment here, so hi.

    I seem to be one of the happy few who have not only read but also loved The Little Friend. A lot of people were disappointed by it after The Secret History, and it’s true that it couldn’t be more different in atmosphere, but it’s just as great in my opinion. I love her writing style.

    So to up the chances that you will like them both it might be a good idea to read them in reverse order, The Little Friend first and then The Secret History.

  3. 05/03/2009

    I love Beloved. It is violent, though, so it may not be for everyone.

    What a great lots of books! Enjoy your reads!

  4. Lu

    So many excellent books! The ones I would recommend:

    Beloved has been known to change people’s lives.
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has such a unique and adorable narrator and the story is great too.
    I’m in the middle of The Ghost Writer right now and I really enjoy it.

    Can’t wait to see which one you choose!

  5. 05/03/2009

    @ Laura: Depending on when you make it down for the wedding, maybe we can figure in a stop at McKay’s!
    @ _lethe_: Thanks for the tip! I may very well try the order you suggest, and I will probably also space out my readings of the two books as well so that I can appreciate each one as its own book as much as possible.
    @ Rebecca: I’m really looking forward to Beloved! I am definitely expecting it to be dark, but thanks for the violence warning.
    @ Lu: Another person in favor of Beloved… is 3 Toni Morrison books in one year too many? 😉 I’ll be looking forward to your review of The Ghost Writer!

  6. 05/03/2009

    No, three Morrisons in a year isn’t too many! I loved Beloved, too, and as I read a library book, I’ve yet to own a copy, so I’m jealous!

    And, yes, I am sooo jealous of Man Walks into a Room. Of course, I am dying to know what you think of it. Please please don’t get your hopes up too high so you don’t get disappointed. I am hoping that you’ll love it, too.

    I am also jealous of The Joke, as I’m trying to collect all Kundera, and his books are so hard to find used!

    I also have never heard of the Steinbeck King Arthur. That’s definitely one I want to look out for. And also wanting to read Oscar Wao.

    And, also, I just got Extremely Loud used, too! In mint condition!! Glad you were able to get your own copy after loving it. You know what else? I just received Love in the Time of Cholera from a bookmoocher!! It’s the exact same copy I used to have, in hardcover. I am so happy!!!!

    Btw, I’m posting about 2666 today. Are we in for 2 weeks or 1 month, per book? 😀

  7. where oh where did you get all these goodies? i’m frothing over some of them. i recently picked up a few that you purchased but haven’t had a chance to read them yet. good luck with the reading…guess you won’t be doing any cooking or laundry any time soon!

  8. 05/03/2009

    @ Claire: I think it has been long enough that I could give Man Walks Into a Room a fair reading. It has been three years after all! I wish you could visit McKay’s, they always have tons of Kundera’s stuff (they had several copies of Unbearable Lightness and also one copy of… something I don’t remember, but I know they’ve had copies of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and also The Curtain). I’m so happy to hear that you got a replacement copy of Love in the Time of Cholera – and the exact same version to boot! Regarding 2666, let’s do 1 month per book as we originally discussed. I think it’s the smartest plan!
    @ nat: The one great thing about Nashville is this AMAZING used bookstore called McKay’s that has an insane selection (it’s about as big as a supermarket) and really good prices. I love it there so much, even if my wallet ALWAYS feels the burn afterward.

  9. 05/03/2009

    What a fantastic stockpile!! I don’t know where I would start with this lot – it might be a good idea to just throw all the titles into a hat and draw one out?? I really enjoyed The Little Friend when I read it – I know a lot of Tartt’s fans didn’t like it as much as her first book but I enjoyed it far more. I’m also a huge Toni Morrison fan but Beloved was just too full on for me to enjoy – I could certainly appreciate the brilliant writing though.

  10. 05/04/2009

    Wow that is quite a pile!

    Laurie R King writes a great mystery and both Donna Tartt’s books are favourites, but I’d start with The Transit of Venus. Shirley Hazzard writes amazingly well, it’s a pity she’s not better known.

  11. 05/04/2009

    What a nice haul! I’m most excited to hear what you think about The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I read the Kate Martinelli series by the same author and had planned to dive right into Mary Russell, but decided to wait for a while after finishing the Holmes collection. I hope you really enjoy all of your new novels!

  12. 05/04/2009

    @ Karen: I find that sometimes the more I think about my next book choice, the more confused I become. I have started to think that maybe I need to implement some kind of filtering/randomized system to help me out, since choosing from 100+ books is kind of hard! Also, I’m glad you enjoyed The Little Friend… I’m really hoping I will too!
    @ Sarah: I’m glad someone’s read and enjoyed Shirley Hazzard! As I said in my post, the topic isn’t one that would normally snag me, but I was impressed by the writing I saw. I have high hopes for this one, and feel like it really was an unexpected treasure.
    @ Chavonne: I will absolutely let you know how The Beekeeper’s Apprentice goes when I read it… it sounds exactly like your kind of book! I’m trying to branch out in my mystery reading (I have P.D. James on the roster, and I’m looking to try some Dorothy L. Sayers as well!).

  13. 05/04/2009

    Wow – that is a wonderful bookstack. I’m drooling just looking at it. Enjoy!

  14. 05/04/2009

    I do Library Loot once a month because if I did it on a weekly basis, I wouldn’t have much to talk about. What lovely bookstacks! I don’t think Foer is for me, but everyone has said such great things about Toni Morrison that I’d like to give her a chance sometime soon.

  15. 05/04/2009

    I don’t even keep track of the influx of books on my blog because I don’t have new acquisition on a regular basis. One day I could bring home a whole case of books and I could go for the whole month without a new book. I rather talk about ongoing reads and post reading notes.

    I’m going to read Graham Greene and Thomas Mann this year. Graham Greene always reminds me of Somerset Maugham, and vice versa. Actually I have never read All Quiet on the Western Front, which is probably his most popular work. I enjoyed The Burnt-Out Case and The End of the Affair.

  16. 05/05/2009

    @ verbivore: I definitely will enjoy!
    @ Christina: I just discovered Toni Morrison this year, and my life is definitely the better for it! She’s a true master when it comes to writing – I’m always in awe when reading her works. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts when you give her a shot. As for Foer, I like his quirky style, but I can definitely see how he wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
    @ Matt: Yes, I think I acquire books just like you do. More often than not there’s a big book drought, but then there’s a huge onslaught! I haven’t read any Greene or Mann myself yet, but I’m definitely going to rectify that this year (I hope!).

  17. 05/05/2009

    You bought some nice books, a good mix between classics and newer fare.

    I am not a huge fan of Morrison. The writing is really good, and I appreciate the complex experiments with structure she tries in books like Jazz, but I have trouble getting into her stories. I found them a bit too jumpy with all the different characters. On the other hand, I’ve only read Jazz and The Bluest Eyes. Everyone keeps telling me that I should try Beloved before writing her off. I should probably also re-read those books. You planning to post a review when you finish reading it?

    When I was an undergrad we read “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann. Beautiful writing, but I also remember being extremely bored while reading it. That’s another one that I need to re-read sometime. Be interested in hearing your thoughts on that one too.

  18. 05/05/2009

    Steph Steph Steph. TWENTY SEVEN BOOKS ON YOUR OWN DIME??? I don’t know if I’m jealous or…not. The bookcase with four shelves that holds my unread books is full. It has books two rows deep on each shelf, books on top of the bookcase and books on the floor in front of the bookcase. So I guess I’m a little flummoxed with where you will put an additional TWENTY SEVEN BOOKS. A book here or there I can trick myself into think I can find a place for it, but I couldn’t fool myself if I brought in that many books at one time.

    Sorry, I know I didn’t answer your question, but I can’t get past the 27 books. Seriously, that’s pretty awesome.

  19. 05/05/2009

    @ Eric: Toni Morrison is definitely a mental workout, but I really love her writing, so for me it’s worth it. I haven’t read either of the books by her that you mention, however, so perhaps those aren’t her strongest works? Beloved is considered to be her masterpiece. I will definitely review it when I’ve read it (everything I read, I review!). In the interim, I have reviews posted on the site of “Song of Solomon” and “A Mercy”, both of which I read earlier this year.
    I haven’t read any Thomas Mann, but Tony had one book by him that he tried to read and found abysmally boring so we chucked it (Doctor Faustus). Hopefully these stories will be better!
    @ Trish: I know! I have a huge problem! I’m hanging my head in shame. I already had two stacks of books on the floor prior to this shopping spree, as there is now room on our bookshelves for any more books. Now that you point it out, 27 books does seem kind of excessive… 😉

  20. 05/06/2009

    I am always amazed at the things you find! A wonderful and eclectic haul this time around.

    I have The Bone People, but have not read it yet. It does look good though.

    I am going to be getting The Beekeeper’s Apprentice shortly, as I have read only good things about the series and I am intrigued.

    I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly close, as I think I remember you did.

    I read The Ghost Writer about two years ago, and while I thought it was deliciously creepy, the ending fell flat for me

    I also have a copy of Three Junes that I haven’t gotten to yet.

    I have also heard good things about The Fifth Child and The Transit of Venus.

    I would probably start with the Beekeeper’s Apprentice or Three Junes. They both sound like wonderfully interesting stories.

  21. 05/06/2009

    @ Zibilee: I’m glad we have such an overlap in books! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on some of these. I definitely did love Extremely Loud, which is why I made sure to buy myself a copy (the one I read earlier was a library copy). All of the books you mention are ones I’m really looking forward to. I will keep in mind that The Ghost Writer has a bit of a dud ending, and hopefully I won’t be too disappointed by it!

  22. 05/07/2009

    I’ve been surprisingly disciplined about my book-buying in the last year. Of course, other things (like food) have taken priority. I am so looking forward to being allowed to contribute to our finances!

    I met Julia Glass in a bookshop in NYC just after she won the Nat’l Book Award. It was quite a surprise–and I almost missed out on the opportunity because I couldn’t understand the guy behind the counter, who had a thick accent and was whispering, “Have you heard of Three Junes? [something, something] National Book Award [something, something]” and it wasn’t until I was about to walk out the door that I realized he was telling me that the woman who’d just come in was the author of Three Junes, and she’d probably be happy to sign a copy of the book if I wanted to buy one. Which of course I did. And she did sign it. And her grandson (I assume it was her grandson) was very patient in his stroller. (My mom, who was there with me, said that when she slowed down next to the sale books table outside, the boy groaned, and she promised to be quick.)

    Anyway, I hope you like it.

  23. Eva

    Yay for The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Beloved, The Ghost Writer, The End of the Affair, Moon Tiger, and The Last September!!! I’ve read and love all of them. 😀

    I’ve read The Fifth Child, but I had no idea Lessing was a Nobel prize winner. Score one for me! 😉 It wasn’t frightening the way I expected it to be, just incredibly disturbing and depressing.

  24. 05/16/2009

    Eva, I’ve read about a bunch of the books you mention on your site, so no wonder they popped out to me on this shopping trip! I just got off of reading a disturbing/depressing examination of the parent-child relationship, so I’m trying to figure out if The Fifth Child would be a good chaser or not!

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