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5th March
written by Steph

Falling off the wagon has never felt so good...

After months (or at least what feels like months) of avoiding bookstores, I finally caved last weekend and asked Tony if we could visit McKay’s. You knew something had to give!  I am confident this is my first time visiting in 2010, and if the logs on this site are correct, I haven’t been to my favorite place on earth since October!  Surely the best way to celebrate is by buying some books, am I right?

To be fair, I only purchased 9 books on this visit, which is probably the most self-control I have ever exhibited at this bookish paradise. Moreover, this time rather than relentlessly combing the ENTIRE fiction section, I went in with a list of specific authors I wanted to seek out, and largely stuck to those. I admit that a few unexpected titles jumped into the cart, but I wouldn’t say that there were any wildcard picks this time. Also, I’m very excited by the relatively international scope of the fiction I picked up. Check it out in-depth after the jump!
  • Naipul, Murakami, Márquez, and Joyce

    A Way in the World
    by V.S. Naipul – I confess that Naipul is an author I haven’t read, despite picking up one of his books back in September. I realize I probably should have read that one before picking up another title, but the concept behind this one really intrigued me. It’s a bunch of linked historical narratives that explore the way in which history shapes our personalities (and the reverse) and the search for belonging. I might just pick this one up before I do A Bend in the River.
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami – Another author whose work I already own but have yet to read. But Murakami is so hard to come by at McKay’s, and I’ve always heard that this is one of his very best. Question: Should I perhaps read some Kafka before tackling this?
  • The General in his Labyrinth by Gabriel Garcia Márquez – I am always on the lookout for more work by Márquez to add to our home library, because his writing always feels like such a great gift. Unfortunately his books are always quite expensive at McKay’s, generally around $7 or so (and when most books I pick up are $1.50, that is a pretty steep jump in price!). I pretty much know nothing about this one, but I took stock of these three factors and decided to purchase it: 1) It was translated by Edith Grossman, who also did a wonderful translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude; 2) It was a hardcover in pristine condition; 3) it was only $4!
  • Dubliners by James Joyce – I’ve never read any Joyce – at least not successfully – but of course I’d really like to!  Ulysses scares the bejeebus out of me, but I’ve always heard that Dubliners is perhaps Joyce’s most accessible work. I figure it might be a good warm-up to Ulysses, and even if I still fail with that behemoth, at least this way I can say that I’ve read some Joyce. This edition is also annotated, which I think could wind up being really helpful!
  • Heller, Bowen, Ishiguro, Pahmuk, and Coupland

    Notes on a Scandal
    by Zoë Heller – Y’all know how much I enjoyed The Believers back in January, so I’ve been looking for this book ever since. I’m really excited about it and am saving it for when I’m in a reading slump.
  • To The North by Elizabeth Bowen – Yet another author I already have an unread book by at home but who I felt compelled to buy more from regardless. It probably had a lot to do with the impeccable condition To The North was in (and these Anchor editions are really gorgeous) and the fact that it was only 75¢!
  • The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro – When I wrote about my love for The Remains of the Day a few weeks ago, I solicited suggestions for my next Ishiguro read. I’m pretty sure this was the book most of you said you didn’t like AT ALL, and it certainly wasn’t the one I intended to tackle next… but it was the only book by him that McKay’s had!  It was only $1.50, so even if I hate it, I think it’s ok!
  • Snow by Orhan Pahmuk – This is an author who I’ve become increasingly curious about, so I decided to finally give him a shot. This isn’t the book I was most interested in from those that were available, but it was the only one that wasn’t going to break the bank to purchase. We’ll see how I like it and then go from there!
  • Generation X by Douglas Coupland – After loving Generation A so fiercely last year, I’ve been on a mission to get my hands on as much Coupland back catalog as possible. I figure it might be interesting to read the “original” Generation novel, and at $1, I could hardly say no!
So there you have my relatively modest haul!  What do you think of my choices?  Have you read any of these, or are any of these books that are on your TBR pile?


  1. 03/05/2010

    heheh, I know I certainly said I hated The Unconsoled. I hope you like it much better than I did!

  2. 03/05/2010

    Great haul, Steph. I’ve always wanted to read that Heller book, more so after reading The Believers. Orhan Pamuk is on my TBR list, and I applaud you for taking on Joyce.

    And, eep, I gave The Unconsoled away last year, after trimming down my bookshelf. I figured I’d never ever read him. Eek.

  3. 03/05/2010

    Oh how sweet it is to fall off the wagon! Congratulations on your loot. BTW, Dubliners is really good and quite accessible.

  4. 03/05/2010

    What a coincidence. I fell off the wagon yesterday too and went to the library. My intention was to get my Zola book for the upcoming Classics Circuit, but I left with 10 books in all!

    I haven’t read any of the books you acquired, but I have both the Murikami and the Heller on my shelf. I’m looking forward to reading them both…someday.

  5. 03/05/2010

    Oooh, purty.

    I loved Kafka on the Shore, and I’m certainly not familiar with Kafka.

    The rest of the authors I have no experience with, although I do have Ulysses sitting on the shelf. Oh, and I’ve read half of Pamuk’s Istanbul. Someday I plan to finish it.

  6. 03/05/2010

    Oh, what a falling off was there! (to paraphrase Hamlet’s dad)

  7. 03/05/2010

    Lots of good stuff there Steph. I am so super excited that you got Notes on a Scandal and think that you will really love it’s creepiness. Some of the others are on my list too, but I admit to not knowing too much about them. I have always wanted to read something by Pahmuk, but I think I was most interested in My Name is Red. I also am intrigued by the Murakami and can’t wait to hear what you think of it. I tried one book by him, I think it was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. It will be good to revisit his work through your review. I also have always wanted to try some Joyce, although I, too, am really intimidated by Ulysses. I am curious about the Ishiguro because it’s one that I don’t hear mentioned a lot and know nothing about. I am also very excited that you got the Marquez because I have been wanting to read a review on that one and have been thinking of buying it for myself. I have loved everything I have read by him. I am also thrilled for you that you got the Coupland, because I remember that you really gave Generation awesome marks. All in all, I would say you did a wonderful job with your choices this time, and it seems that you managed to save a lot too. I will be so excited to see what you think of all these!! Happy Reading!

  8. 03/05/2010

    Steph, I love love love your new haul! The only title unfamiliar to me is Elizabeth Bowen’s.

    I loved Notes on a Scandal (and I believe you will, too). Also loved Kafka on the Shore, even if I hadn’t read any Kafka (like Jill above). I also really liked The Unconsoled, although it is quite unconventional, and probably the least popular of his books. Though brilliant. But you know me, I like weird. I want to reread it, too.

    A Way in the World I had read half of, but then we moved and lost my copy. Have not had a chance to find another copy, but I want to finish it one day. He writes really, really well. Very intelligent. I’ll be reading A House for Mr Biswas maybe next week. The General in His Labyrinth I also read only about a third of. I borrowed it, plus One Hundred Years, plus Of Love and Other Demons all at the same time from the library, and I remember they were due and I hadn’t finish it and couldn’t renew, and then didn’t feel compelled to borrow it again months after. It’s still in future plans, though.

    And then: I want to read Snow and Dubliners and most especially Gen X! See how much I love your stack? Great reading ahead of you. (I’m always amazed at how cheap the books are at McKay’s; wish we had one here.)

  9. Interesting mix! I loved Kafka on the Shore and Notes on a Scandal.

    I bought Generation X after loving Generation A too. I hope that it is as good!

    I wasn’t really a fan of Snow – it did have its good points, but it was hard work.

    Enjoy your new books – I recommend you start with Notes on a Scandal, making sure you have the DVD to watch when you’ve finished. Both are wonderful!

  10. 03/06/2010

    You could just look at them all day, couldn’t you? The babies home from the bookstore. Unless you start smelling them like I do, there is still hope for you. 🙂

    Elizabeth Bowen is an absolute favorite of mine, and I can’t wait to see what you make of this one. She tends to be one of those authors with whom people instantly click or the exact opposite. If you connect, then it become addictive. You have to have them all. The Last September is my favorite but The House in Paris is a close second.

    I could go on and on about all these lovelies but you already know how great your prizes are. Happy reading!

  11. 03/06/2010

    @ Amanda: I hope I like it better too! 😀
    @ Sasha: I remember you mentioning you got rid of all your Ishiguro! I can’t say that I blame you, since I often feel the need to cull my shelves and some books sit so long on them that after a few years they no loner appeal. Plus, he’s mainstream enough that should you ever choose to read him one day, it’ll be easy enough to find his works!
    @ Kathleen: It’s so true! I’d fall off the wagon less if it weren’t so fun! 😀
    @ Teresa: I guess it was that time for some of us to crumble in our resolve! At least you only went to the library though!
    @ softdrink: Glad to know I don’t have to read Kafka in order to approach this Murakami. Although I do intend to read The Metamorphosis at some point…
    @ rhapsody: Indeed! It was a grand falling off!

  12. 03/06/2010

    @ zibilee: I am super confident I will love Notes on a Scandal. Really looking forward to it! And Snow wasn’t my first Pahmuk choice, but all the other options (including My Name is Red) were $7.50 or so, which I felt was too steep to shell out on an author I’d never tried before. And I’m really excited to see how I respond to Murakami; I admit The Wind-up Bird Chronicles has always intrigued me, but I’ve never found a copy.
    Really, I’m just glad that I picked so many books that you’re curious about! Hopefully there are some winners in this bunch! 😉
    @ claire: I felt this was a very “claire” haul when I was posting, so I’m so so glad to hear that you’re familiar with so many of these titles! I’m very excited to experience my first Naipul, Pahmuk, and Murakami, and I’m even feeling good about the Joyce! Also, I have three Couplands on my shelf now that are unread, so I will certainly be making time for him this year!
    @ Jackie: I was so happy that you loved Gen A as much as I did! I hope Gen X is just as good!
    I have been in the mood to challenge myself reading-wise this year (though I need to intersperse difficult reads with lighter fare), so I am hoping I will be up to the task to tackle Snow! And I will keep your rec for the film version of Notes in mind! It’s already on our Netflix queue!
    @ Frances: I haven’t gotten to the smelling stage… yet. I do admit to stroking the covers though, which is probably not far off!
    I will definitely be trying out Bowen this year. I have The Last September, actually, and am excited to hear it’s your favorite! Don’t know if I’ll start with that one or this one, but either way, I hope I have good reading ahead of me!

  13. Lu

    Never read Kafka and I LOVED Kafka on the Shore.

  14. 03/07/2010

    Generation X is excellent, though not one of my favourite Couplands. Kafka on the Shore is also excellent, and actually IS one of my favourite of Murakami’s books. And oh, Naipaul! I’ve only read a couple of his books, but I enjoyed them immensely. Looking forward to your thoughts on A Way in the World.

  15. Eva

    I swear I already commented on this post!! I have a copy of Kafka on the Shore-I really do need to get around to it. 🙂 I was not a fan At All of A Bend in the River, but I’m hoping you like A Way in the World. It’s in my Booker Challenge pool, and I’d like to give Naipul a second chance.

    I’ve been wanting to read Dubliners ever since I read “The Dead” and really enjoyed it. Ulysses scares me too.

    I love Bowen, and I loved To the North. I think I have the same edition as you-is there a woman wearing something blue on the cover? If so, it’s totally gorgeous. 😀

    I still love Marquez, even though I just read Autumn of the Patriarch and hated it. *sigh* Grossman wasn’t the translator though.

    I’ve read two Pamuk novels-I enjoyed one and didn’t enjoy the other. I’m reading his nonfic book Istanbul next. 🙂

  16. 03/07/2010

    Great list of new books! I’d suggest going for Portrait of an Artist next when it comes to Joyce — that would make a good jumping-off point into Ulysses, I think. I’d really like to read The Unconsoled, and I’d like to try Bowen again; the first one I tried didn’t work well, but I think it’s possible I might like something else of hers.

  17. 03/08/2010

    @ Lu: Ok, good to know I don’t need to read Kafka to appreciate the Murakami! I often feel freakishly stubborn about reading books that appear to inspire other books (for instance, I wanted to read Great Expectations before reading Waterland by Graham Swift because the former inspired the latter), so I’m glad to hear that’s not necessary in this case!
    @ Nymeth: Have you told me what your favourite Coupland is? I have three of his books next and not sure which I will read… maybe Microserfs? And it seems like although feelings can be mixed about Murakami, Kafka on the Shore is the one fans seem to like a lot. Glad I found it!
    @ Eva: I also have Bend in the River, and I’m hoping that reading it rather than listening to it as you did will improve my general feelings toward it! I might start with this one instead though! 😉
    I can’t imagine you being scared of any book, but I guess that’s the “magic” of Ulysses. I’m sure this will be the Joyce that I start with. My gateway read if you will!
    And yes, it sounds like we have the same copies of To The North! So pretty! And so glad to hear you loved it!
    I was sad to hear your latest Marquez read was a disappointment. Parts of your review intrigued me, but I trust it wasn’t his best. I’m going to try to stick to Grossman translations when it comes to his books!
    Finally, I remember you having mixed feelings about Pamuk. I have no idea how I’ll find him!
    @ Dorothy: I have Portrait of an Artist and I can see that it’s probably more similar to Ulysses than Dubliners is… but I really don’t do very well with that modernist flare/stream of consciousness writing, so I think I have to work my way up. I think if I can read something by Joyce successfully then I can get over my mental block that he’s a difficult writer and not psych myself out!
    As Frances said, Bowen is a polarizing author, and I am thinking maybe her books are not uniform in terms of accessibility. I think it’s fair to give most authors a two-book shot. If after two books they’re still not working for you… well, they may just not be the author for you.

  18. 03/08/2010

    The only Ishiguro I’ve read it Never Let Me Go, which was for a book club, and I was one of the very small minority who really liked it. I’ve been meaning to read The Remains of the Day for years now and think it’s about time I added it to my list of books to read this year. Thanks for the push!

    And kudos to you for making it this long before buying the books! I think that’s very admirable, indeed. (I am just over two months into my book buying ban)

  19. kay

    I think you’ve been very reasonable, especially considering the price you paid!

    Funny thing : I also put my hands on a used copy of Notes on a Scandal this week, as well as an Ishiguro novel (except mine is Where we were orphans). I can’t wait to read your thoughts on The Unconsoled, I have read different opinions on this one.

    Douglas Coupland is an author I have been wanting to read for so long, I have seen interviews with him which made me curious of his novels. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this one as much as Generation A! I have Kafka on the Shore to read, too, although my copy is a French translation.

  20. 03/08/2010

    I have loved book buying vicariously through your post Steph! I have a copy of Dubliners waiting for me which I bought when we were (funnily enough!) in Dublin last year and I have yet to read any of Zoe Heller’s work but am very keen to.

  21. 03/09/2010

    I loved Generation X when I read if a few years ago and have been too afraid to read anything else by Coupland. I’m so glad you said you liked Gen A (as there’s been some mixed reviews), as it’s encouraged me to give it a go (once I’ve cut down on my tbr pile, of course).

    I read Kafka on the Shore last year and really liked it. I hope you enjoy it too!

  22. 03/09/2010

    @ Lesley: I actually really disliked Never Let Me Go, but LOVED The Remains of the Day. To me it was an impeccable novel, and I really hope you get the chance to enjoy it soon!
    Let’s hope I can make it another 4 months before I submit to the siren song of the bookstore again!
    @ kay: I guess great minds think alike, especially when it comes to buying books! 😀 I don’t know if I could like any of Coupland’s back catalog as much as I loved Gen A, but I certainly hope I do!
    @ Karen: I don’t know if blog posts by others helps or hurts me when it comes to books! Yes it’s a vicarious thrill, but at the same time, I get inspired to go out and stock my already overflowing shelves! Also, think you would love Heller, and I love that you bought your Joyce in Dublin!
    @ chasing bawa: Thanks so much for commenting! I know how it is about fearing a much loved author will not live up to a previous work. I adored Gen A, so I wonder if I’ll like any of his other stuff as much! I’m willing to take the risk to find out!

  23. 03/12/2010

    What a great way to fall off the wagon. The Murakami book especially appeals to me. I also want to read Snow; Pamuk — enjoy them all 🙂

  24. 03/13/2010

    @ diane: I hope I do enjoy them all! I definitely need to get to Murakami soon!

  25. 03/14/2010

    We all fall off the wagon sometimes Steph! Enjoy reading them all – let us know what your think of Bowen, I’ve never read her.

  26. 03/15/2010

    @ Nicola: Thanks for the support! I am sure I will enjoy all of my haul, and will absolutely report back on the Bowen!

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