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26th February
written by Steph

The first (and last?) books of 2011

If you'll recall, I vowed at the start of the year that I was going to refrain from purchasing books and would instead focus on reading books I already own. Obviously, this little pile here is proof that I was unable to keep from bringing new books into our home. I really tried to refrain, but McKay's did me in once more. In my defense, I will say that I went and traded in some books that I had culled from our shelves and did not leave with more books than I dropped off AND we only had to pay about $2 after getting our trade-in voucher. So here's what I wound up with:
  • The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw - One thing that's been harder for me in terms of sticking to my own books is that I have way more US & and UK authors than I do international authors, so I have felt I've been quite limited in my reading scope so far this year. When I read about Tash Aw over at Chasing Bawa recently, I flagged him as an author that I needed to read. I've never read a Malaysian author before and think his first novel will be a great introduction.
  • Kiss Kiss/Switch Bitch/My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl - I like that Dahl's short stories and writing for adults is quite dark and twisted. This seemed like a good investment as it compiles some of his best non-PG work in one handy volume.
  • The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh - Ghosh is another author I've been wanting to read and while there were a few of his books at McKay's I decided to try this one because it spans Burma, India, and Malay, which are all places I'm interested in. I'd like to read more (South East) Asian writers in particular when it comes to reading internationally, so I'm happy to add this to my collection.
  • The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin - We all know that An Object of Beauty made me a big fan of Martin's fiction writing, so while I'd already snagged a cheap copy of Shopgirl on a past visit to McKay's it seemed only right that I should also rescue his second novel from the bargain section as well. I'm intrigued by this one because while I've heard less about it, some people argue that it's better than Shopgirl...
  • Memento Mori by Muriel Spark - I am on a wicked Muriel Spark kick at the moment. I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie right before I started blogging back in 2008 and didn't think much of it. But for whatever reason, I felt compelled to pick it up again and just recently finished a vastly superior re-read of it and now I feel like I must own and read everything Spark has ever written. Was very excited to find this one at McKay's as many feel this is even better than Jean Brodie.
  • Mantissa and The Collector by John Fowles - I am also obsessed with the idea of John Fowles of late. I haven't read anything by him, but I feel like I've been wanting to challenge myself of late and think his writing may fit the bill. I will probably tackle The French Lieutenant's Woman again before I try either of these, but I am sure I'll be happy to have them.
So there you have the proof of my lack of will and resolve. Rather than lashing myself for my bad behavior, I think I shall just look on the bright side about accruing these new lovelies and will satisfy myself with the knowledge that this splurge could have been so much worse. Compared to past expeditions this is a positively restrained and meager haul, wouldn't you say?


  1. 02/26/2011

    LOL I did the same thing this week! I brought a ton of books to HPB and got a voucher, then spent it on (far less) books. I figure I’m not breaking the buy-ban if I only spend store credit. πŸ˜€

  2. Kathleen

    I’ve had Sea of Poppies by Ghosh on my list for too long. I’ll be interested to hear what you think about this author.

  3. 02/26/2011

    Wonderful haul! I loved The Glass Palace.

  4. 02/26/2011

    I liked the Glass Palace and I will recommend Sea of Poppies myself as a wonderful book. I have also got Tash Aw on my TBR after Sakura’s recent review. I think you can forgive yourself for these wonderful buys at such a bargain price. It is almost free.

  5. I thought the Tash Aw was only OK so I’ll be interested to see what you make of it.

    I have a copy of The Glass Palace so I’d like to know your thoughts on that too. Enjoy your new books!

  6. JoV

    There are worse vices Steph. I have The Glass Palace and Harmony Silk Factory on my pile which I have yet to read.

    Enjoy your well deserved purchase!

  7. 02/27/2011

    I’m glad you got the Tash Aw and will be waiting to see what you think. Coincidentally my sister bought a copy today too:) It’s great when someone who reads my blog gets a book on my rec but it also makes me a little nervous (I don’t know why as I always buy books because of blogs I read!) I hope you enjoy it. I also have The Glass Palace on my TBR after one of my friends raved about it. I’ve read other books by Amitav Ghosh, although not The Sea of Poppies which I’ve also heard is wonderful. I think I’ve also read some adult stories by Roald Dahl which I thought was deliciously dark. Great loot Steph!

  8. 02/27/2011

    I have broken my buying ban in so many ways. All used books, but still. I have no will power this year. You are not alone!

  9. 02/28/2011

    @ Amanda: You’re right that it somehow seems less naughty when you’re not spending real money but instead just using trade vouchers. In our case, we got $11 trade, which made more sense than taking $2 in cash! πŸ˜‰
    @ Kathleen: I’ve mostly heard about Sea of Poppies by Ghosh, but it wasn’t on the shelves, so Glass Palace it was! I’m waffling about whether to wait until April 1 to start any of these books (even though I didn’t officially sign up for the TBR dare), but I really want to try this one soon!
    @ rhapsody: Oh, so glad to hear that! I’m sure I read your review of it (along with others), but I kind of just picked it up on a whim.
    @ Mystica: Glad to hear you’re a Ghosh fan… I think Sakura got a lot of us interested in Tash Aw with her review! And you’re right that it’s impossible to resist the allure of McKay’s bargain prices!
    @ Jackie: I’ll have to go and read your review on Aw, but I am definitely excited to check him out. If nothing else, I have been wanting to read more authors from that part of the world.
    @ JoV: Yes, you are right that there are worse vices to have! I’m really looking forward to all of these books so I hope they do not disappoint!
    @ sakura: Your review was so great, that I was really excited to see a book by Aw when I was browsing on Friday night. And I have often found that my favorite books come from reading the reviews on trusted blogs, so I have no worries!
    @ Rebecca: Yes, these are all used so I’ve technically only spent about $3 on books this year. Not terrible, though my concern wasn’t so much to do with money as it was with accruing more physical books. Sigh.

  10. 02/27/2011

    I love it when you go book shopping, Steph. You always come home with such amazing finds and inspire me to pick up things that I might never have thought of before. I also have been creatively bending the book buying rules, so my resolution is not going all that well either. In any case, I hope that you enjoy them, and I look forward to hearing about all of them in time!

  11. 02/27/2011

    Oh, I just wanted to add that I finished Jane Eyre today, and have been kicking myself that I hadn’t read it sooner. It was just an amazing book!

  12. 02/28/2011

    Shame on you Steph! I’ve heard a lot about The Glass Palace, but am really looking forward to your review of the Steven Martin one.

  13. 02/28/2011

    @ zibilee: Oh, I’m so glad to hear you loved Jane Eyre! It’s really a wonderful book… I’m glad I revisited it last year!
    @ Alex: Not sure which Steve Martin I’ll tackle first. I’m actually thinking I might read this one before Shopgirl, but I guess only time will tell… πŸ˜‰

  14. 02/28/2011

    A scene from The Pleasure of My Company comes to mind where the main character attempts a run and dons khakis, a button down shirt, and loafers for this event. Which is exactly what I wear when I go for a run.

  15. 02/28/2011

    Ah see, one of the caveats to my 2010 book-buying ban was that books bought as trade-ins didn’t count, since no money was exchanging hands. Not that I ended up doing that, however – but that was a case of laziness on my part. I never got around to culling my own shelves.

    Maybe you should amend your ban rules. πŸ™‚

  16. 02/28/2011

    Awesome piles! Can’t wait to read what you think of the Steve Martin – hadn’t heard much about the one you bought, so will be writing that title down to remind myself to get a copy of it. Enjoy your new books πŸ™‚

  17. 02/28/2011

    Those books look great. It’s so very hard not to buy new books, so good for you to get these only when trading in others!

  18. 02/28/2011

    I’m the same way… banning myself from buying books equals setting myself up for failure. I just can’t do it. And yes your pile could be worse. You could have bought, say, 10 instead of seven. πŸ˜‰

  19. 03/01/2011


    I’m so envious that you have a store that trades books!

    You know, I’ve never read any adult Roald Dahl, I’ll add it to my list.

  20. 03/01/2011

    @ charley: I admit that I never go running and do not own khakis, but I like the cut of your jib! πŸ˜‰
    @ Lesley: Unfortunately I think my “ban” for 2011 was to not acquire any books as I do want to reduce the actual number of unread books that I have in our apartment. It wasn’t so much a money issue as it was a space and preparing to move issue… I am doing better than I have in years past, I think, but obviously am still struggling to stay away from books!
    @ Nadia: I am so so glad that I read An Object of Beauty because it really allowed me to jump on the Steve Martin band wagon! Really looking forward to this one.
    @ Dorothy W.: Yes, I think I did a good job of essentially only using trade-in vouchers and not bringing back home more books than I brought to the store. That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment!
    @ Wallace: Or really, I could have bought 20… which, if you look at old book buying posts of mine, was not out of the question! πŸ˜€
    @ Monica: Well it’s a used book store, so they do need to have things to sell! It is a great one though, so I’m really so fortunate to have McKay’s in my life!

  21. I did sort of the same thing recently — I hadn’t really bought any new books, then went to a local used bookstore and grabbed a few. But, they were all ones I already wanted, which is a good thing, right?

    Looks like a good pile – enjoy! I’ll be curious to hear about the Dahl short stories.

  22. Reading that your reread of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was vastly superior to your first meeting thrills me. So many people seem to think that way about Prime but I loved it; it also disappoints me that more people do not follow up on that first experience. You are in for a treat with Memento Mori and then you simply must read The Driver’s Seat, a deliciously wicked novella.

  23. 03/05/2011

    I recently read the Harmony Silk Factory – still unsure of whether I liked it or not! It felt messy, and on the whole, a bit rushed (yet at the same time incomplete). It was still a very interesting read though. But Amitav Ghosh… he has to be one of my favourite writers. I loved The Glass Palace and The Hungry Tide, and The Sea of Poppies is on my tbr list! (Have to say his titles are rather bland/unoriginal though)

    Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on both books πŸ™‚

  24. 03/07/2011

    @ Claire: I’m really glad I decided to give Spark a second chance… it went SO much better and now I’m really excited to read everything else she’s written! πŸ˜€ I think I knew when I read Jean Brodie the first time that I perhaps just wasn’t in the right mental space for it, so it’s really for the best I read it again!
    @ tuesday: I will keep your thoughts on Harmony Silk Factory in mind when I finally read it. Perhaps Aw’s second novel is better? And I’m so excited for Ghosh, so I’m glad to hear you love him so much! πŸ˜€

  25. 03/08/2011

    I’ve had similar issues with purchasing. I’m allowing myself to buy this year but they have to be less than what I finish reading. For January, I read 8 books, bought 1. Feb, read 5, bought 3. March, read none yet, bought 2. Ha ha. I also made sure that I bought only books I absolutely couldn’t live without. Even if they’re all only 99 cents. It’s hard to resist when they’re so cheap, right?

    But anyway, I also have The Harmony Silk Factory on the tbr. I don’t remember reading a Malaysian author as well, which is why. I love Amitav Ghosh though. The Hungry Tide was nice but The Sea of Poppies really awesome. I haven’t read Muriel Spark but only heard of her when I started blogging. I picked up her The Ballad of Peckham Rye last year, and very eager to try her.

    I’ve also been looking out for The Pleasure of My Company, but haven’t seen a used one yet. I’m eager to know what you think of John Fowles. I tried reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman many years ago but didn’t get past the first few pages, only because the copy I was reading was too small and I had a hard time reading the font. It was straining. I also still want to try it sometime. As for Dahl, I’d love to read his more mature stories too. I found a copy of George’s Marvelous Medicine last week for 59 cents for my son but surely I’ll be reading it as well. πŸ™‚ Have fun with your loot and don’t feel guilty. You deserve them. πŸ™‚

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