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21st March
written by Steph

The end of The Worst Book Slump Ever of 2011?

I have seen the future, my friends, and apparently my life ends with me being crushed by the piles of books that have taken over my apartment. What a way to go, eh? Seriously though, I think my reading slump may be nearing its end. I mean, I can’t go and buy 21 books over the course of two days and claim that books and I aren’t on speaking terms, can I? I mean, that would just be silly.  These two piles of books are from two separate hauls… on Friday, I took a personal day because the weather was so nice… which doesn’t exactly justify how I wound up spending two hours INDOORS at McKay’s, but just roll with it. The books in the right column are the ones that I picked up there. Then on Saturday, Tony and I took a little roadtrip up to Louisville, Kentucky which just happens to have several Half Price Bookstores! After hearing so much great stuff from so many bloggers who live in HPB cities, I knew we had to visit one. And that is how the second stack of books (the one on the left) happened. So what exactly did I pick up? I’m so glad you asked! First up, the McKay’s loot!
  • McKay's Loot

    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami - I picked this up because it was the first Murakami I ever heard of and I thought it sounded super weird, and also because having now finally read a Murakami novel, I want to own all of his stuff!
  • A Good And Happy Child by Justin Evans - I read about this one over at Lu's site and she made it sound deliciously creepy. Which is perhaps my favorite genre of book... if "deliciously creepy" were a genre. Plus, I have a penchant for novels featuring scary kids, so you know I couldn't pass this one up.
  • The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry - This is one that I've been wanting to read for a few years but could never find a reasonably priced copy. This was only $2 so I knew my time to read it had finally come. It's a mystery involving a mental patient, and I don't even want to know any more until I start reading, but that was definitely enough to pique my interest.
  • England, England by Julian Barnes - Even though I didn't wind up writing about it, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes was one of the best books I read last year. He's now on that list of authors who I want to collect and read everything they've ever written. Also, I love England, so a book all about it (even if it is a satire) is exactly my cup of tea.
  • Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart - Speaking of authors I'm collecting, Gary Shteyngart appears to be one of them. I now own every book he's ever written... and have read exactly zero of them. Why has this happened? I really couldn't tell you. This is probably the one book by him that I've most wanted to read, but again, the cost always prevented that from happening. Until Friday.
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - I have a love-hate relationship with Margaret Atwood (I love to hate her?), but even though not all of her books work for me, this is the first book I read by her that I actually did like. I am also a complete sucker for Everyman's copies, so this  had to come home with me.
  • Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen - Tony and I watched the film version of this memoir a while back and I really connected with it. I have always been interested in mental illness and have recently become increasingly interested in the way mental illness is perceived in women in general and young women in particular. I think this will be really fascinating!
  • Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller - Just joking! This slipped into the pile but is not actually a recent purchase...
  • Arabella by Georgette Heyer - I am so excited that I will finally get to try one of Heyer's regency romances! I have one of her mysteries, but I've heard so much about her lady love stories (as Tony calls them) that I've really been waiting to find one of them at McKay's. Score!
  • The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier - this is another book that I've been wanting to read for several years. I've watched the price slowly creep down from $7.50 to $4.50, and that's when I finally nabbed it. It's kind of dystopian sci-fi, I believe, and looks at the issue of memory, which is another one of my literary triggers.
  • Family Album by Penelope Lively - I love Penelope Lively! Moon Tiger was one of my favorite books last year, and I think Lively is such a challenging and interesting author. This is her most recent novel and I'm happy to add it to my connection. Who doesn't love a novel featuring a dysfunctional family that is full of secrets?
  • Mary & O'Neil by Justin Cronin - Most people probably recognize this author from his big blockbuster hit The Passage that came out last year, but I am not really all that interested in reading that one. It did allow me to realize that Cronin had written other things that might be more my speed, so I was intrigued when I saw this at McKay's. Apparently it calls itself a "a novel in stories" and while short stories aren't really my thing, I think interconnected ones tend to work better for me as they don't leave me with that unfinished lingering feeling. The writing was really good, so I'm willing to give Cronin's debut novel a shot.
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff - Another book that I recall reading about over on Lu's site, but which I know tons of people have read and reviewed. And most importantly, enjoyed! I normally am not interested in books that mention WWII on their back covers, so the fact that I picked this up means a lot!
Moving on to the HPB pile!
  • HPB Loot

    A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes - the aforementioned much-loved book that I read last year. Tony picked this one up because he loves a hardcover... best of all, it turns out that this is actually a 1st edition! Cooool.
  • The History of Danish Dreams by Peter Høeg - I had never heard of this book but the spine popped out at me at HPB. When I started reading the inside flap of the dustcover, it sounded kind of like a fairy tale and also a lot like magical realism, one of my favorites. Apparently if magical realism can exist outside of South America (ha!) then this is what you would get were it to move to Denmark. I'm in!
  • The Effect of Living Life Backwards - Another random pick. I always like to have a few left field choices, because you never know when some random book you've never heard up winds up being the best book you've ever read. I don't know much more about this book than what the title suggests and that it is billed as a "cerebral thriller" and was lauded by people like David Eggars and Aimee Bender.
  • Shame and The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie - another author whom I am all completist about. Also, claire at Kiss a Cloud was incredibly convincing in her suggestion that Enchantress is amazing, so I had to have it.
  • The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry - Another book I've wanted to read for ages. Love detecting, love manuals, it's win-win-win!
  • Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee - Coetzee's books are so hard to find used... probably because he is a genius and so people don't think to get rid of his books, but when they do, I profit from it! Don't even know what this one's about. Don't even care. I know I will love it.
  • Brighton Rock & Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene - Just adding to the collection with these ones. Brighton Rock is some kind of thriller and while I though Travels was maybe going to be some kind of memoir, I was delighted to find that it is actually a piece of comedic fiction (Greene's only one). These were both those lovely Penguin Special Editions that I love so my other Greene novels will cower in shame before them.
So there you have it - 21 books in 48 hours and not a proper book review in weeks. My life is a tornado of contradictions! Do any of these appeal to you?


  1. Even after a busy book-buying weekend of my own (I was in Portland for the first time and Powell’s more than lived up to expectations) there’s nothing I love more than looking at piles of books. And what great titles you’ve picked up! I adore what I’ve read of Penelope Lively, though I still haven’t gotten around to Moon Tiger (my expectations are so high now that I am rather scared of starting it at this point). Arabella was one of my first encounters with Heyer and probably the one that turned me into a loyal fan.


  2. JoV

    You put a book addict like me to shame for book buying binge. You got some very good books there and I hope you enjoy them all!

    p/s: I love your colourful tri-colour tresses and wish I got the guts to wear that at work!

  3. Wow! That is impressive book shopping 🙂 I haven’t heard of The Effect of Living Life Backwards, but I love the way you suggest random choices could be the best book ever. I really hope it is because I love the title :-)I’m also pleased that you’ve discivered Murakami WUBC is wonderful. Enjoy 🙂

  4. 03/21/2011

    I read The Manuel of Detection recently and loved it. Hope you do too.

  5. 03/21/2011

    Yay CITY OF THIEVES! Eager to see what you think of this one.

    Heidi Julavits is an editor of THE BELIEVER — hence the Eggers blurb. I liked BACKWARDS pretty well: though I’m not sure I read the whole thing I did assign it for BP! Ditto GOOD AND HAPPY and the Brockmeier.

    ARABELLA is a good intro to Heyer.

    All that said, this book stuff is all well and good, but I want the skinny on Zappos!

  6. 03/22/2011

    @ Claire: Oh, I’m the same way! I never tire of looking at bookish loot!
    I don’t think you need to worry about Moon Tiger letting you down, re: Penelope Lively. It’s the only book of hers that I’ve read but it was SO good. Can’t wait to read more by her!
    @ JoV: Shame is certainly a word that comes to mind when it comes to my book buying habits. Do they have a 12-step program for this kind of thing?
    @ Jackie: I don’t really know that Living Life Backwards will be the best book ever, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it was? I will keep you posted! And so glad you enjoyed WUBC!
    @ Joanne: I am glad to hear you enjoyed the Manual of Detection. It sounds really cool, so I hope I love it too!
    @ Trisha: How lovely that I picked up so many Trisha Ping Approved Choices™! I didn’t know you were such a big fan of City of Thieves! Also: Zappos was pretty awesome – got five pairs of shoes. I think you would be in heaven there. Will tell (and show?) you more next time I see you!
    @ sakura: Another person who is a fan of WUBC! I thought I had read a bunch of less than positive reviews about it, which always made me sad because I thought it seemed so promising. Perhaps I won’t be wrong after all! 😀
    @ Kathleen: I think I just need to write that on my tombstone: Steph was crushed to death by books and was all the happier for it!

  7. 03/21/2011

    I love it when people go crazy in bookshops:) The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is the first Murakami I read and fell in love with so I hope you enjoy it. I’m also very curious about The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, The Brief History of the Dead, City of Thieves and The Manual of Detection. Everything looks great!

  8. 03/21/2011

    Well at least you will die happy if crushed by books?

  9. 03/21/2011

    So did you like Half Price Books? I love that store so much!!

  10. Lu

    I love having so much influence over your book purchases! I feel so powerful right now. My work is done 😉

  11. 03/21/2011

    Yay for Georgette Heyer! Arabella is not one of my favorites, but I know it’s popular with many others. I also own the Manual of Detection! If you smell a buddy read, I smell one, too 😉

  12. 03/21/2011

    Awesome new books! I want to read the Atwood. I’ve never read her, and it’s a ridiculous failure of mine. I hope to read her this year. I really liked the Barnes book as well, although I read it so long ago, I don’t remember it well. But I like his writing very much.

  13. 03/21/2011

    I am coveting The Handmaid’s Tale, because I went to B&N Saturday specifically to buy a copy. And they were out! The nerve!

    I have The Secret Scripture and The Manual of Detection on my shelves…two books I don’t see mentioned very often. I really should get around to reading them, huh?

  14. 03/22/2011

    @ Amanda: I did like HPB! I thought it had a very pleasant vibe, and the books were all in pristine condition! While some of the prices were more expensive than what I might pay at McKay’s, certain titles (like the Rushdie & the Greene) were far cheaper than what I would pay so it definitely worked out. I would happily include it in my book-buying rotations if it were closer!
    @ Lu: Seriously! You are a HUGE influence on my reading choices. I can’t wait to compare my reactions with yours on those two books!
    @ Aarti: Excellent! Perhaps a buddy read is exactly what I need to kick this reading slump in the butt?
    @ Dorothy W.: I just read the Barnes last year and even though I thought it was amazing, it was so rich (and at times, dense) that I know I only scratched the surface with it on my first read. I definitely need to re-read it again!
    @ softdrink: Ugh! I hate when I go with a specific book goal in mind only to find that it is not in stock! It’s even worse when they have all of the author’s other books and just not that one!
    @ Nymeth: Ooooh, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Girl, Interrupted! I’m sure they will be brilliantly insightful!
    @ zibilee: I full well expect to love Notes on a Scandal. It’s actually on the top of the pile of books I want to read next so I think I’ll be getting acquainted with it really soon.
    And I totally agree that the only response to prolonged book denial is an overdose on new books when the ban is finally lifted! 😀

  15. 03/22/2011

    “I mean, I can’t go and buy 21 books over the course of two days and claim that books and I aren’t on speaking terms, can I?”

    Ha – not exactly, no 😛 I also got a copy of Girl, Interrupted just the other day! Like you I’ve seen the film and really enjoyed it.

  16. 03/22/2011

    Several of these appeal to me, and I have a few of them on my shelves as well. Though Notes on a Scandal is not new, I think you are going to love it, and it fits with that theme of mental illness that you love so much. I also love books that have to do with mental illness, and am really intrigued at how it is portrayed in literature. I have not been as crazy about the book buying lately, as my husband has said “no more” in a fairly authoritative voice, but he knows that will only work for so long. I recently got a copy of The Postmistress, which I remember you liking, and have a little cash I’ve set aside for book purchases just calling my name. When I do buy, it’s going to be bad, because I have had to curtail for so long. Also, I tried that Murakami, an had some problems with it, but that was a long time ago, and I think I am ready to try again. Great stash there, Steph!

  17. Wow – that is an impressive stack of books. I really want to read that Murakami as well, so I’ll be waiting for your review. So much good stuff to read. I have a (much shorter) stack myself from a venture to Murder by the Book last night and can’t wait to dig in.

  18. 03/22/2011

    Steph, I’m jealous of your new books! Wow! Talk about a great haul – you outdid yourself 🙂 Can’t wait to hear what you think of the Murakami – it is awesome! And like you, there are some authors that I become obsessed with (meaning, I have to read everything they’ve ever written) – Jean Rhys, Kurt Vonnegt, Murakami, etc. Just looking at your pic of books makes me want to buy some books – perhaps I’ll treat myself to a few for Easter 🙂 Enjoy your books!!

  19. 03/22/2011

    How can I blame you for this loot? What an appealing bunch of books!

    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: I find this one very odd and surreal, drifting in and out of reality and plunging into connections that don’t seem to relate. I enjoyed his writing more than the story.

    The Secret Scripture: I’m at loggerhead with most readers on this one. I love it! Love the quiet prose and the beautifully rendered plot, even though a handful of readers complained about the predictable ending.

    England, England: I want to read this one even although Arthur and George left me somewhat skeptical about Julain barnes.

    Absurdistan: If you say so, I’ll follow. The book has come so close to be taken home on several occasions. Somehow it just intimidates me.

    The Handmaid’s Tale: This one one of the most provocative, not to mention haunting book I’ve ever read. It’s dystopian fiction at its pinnacle. I need to re-read it sometime.

  20. 03/22/2011

    aw, I’m glad you book slump may be ending. I hope one of these speaks to you and helps you out!

  21. 03/24/2011

    @ jenn: I think I am going to move all of these books into the bedroom and stack them under my nightstand. I get so overwhelmed when I look at our shelves because there are so many options that it might help to somewhat whittle down the pile…
    @ Nadia: I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the Murakami! I wonder where I got it in my mind that people didn’t like this book? I haven’t read anything by Rhys but Kurt Vonnegut is also on my list of authors I want to read everything by! His books are chronically expensive at McKay’s however… 🙁
    @ Matt: So glad you approve of so many of my choices! I think Absurdistan used to intimidate me but I’ve now added so many other “scary” books onto the shelves that it seems niggling at best! And I haven’t read A&G by Barnes, but I’ve heard it’s not one of his best – I think you should give him another try!
    @ Rebecca: I really want my slump to be over too! I think it really is almost over… Now I just have to get back into a blogging groove!
    @ Nishita: It’s weird but I feel like most of the time Margaret Atwood books are ones that I can read fairly easily (with the exception of Lady Oracle, which I read and HATED), but never really love. I did really like this one though when I read it in highschool, and Cat’s Eye is also really good. I feel like I’ll probably wind up reading all of her stuff because it’s easy for me to do so, but yeah, I don’t love her.
    @ Abby: I think NOTES will be my next read! I have been saving it for ages, but I think the time is right!
    @ taryn: I have Smila’s Sense of Snow! I need to read it, I know…
    Oh, and obviously I have not forgotten about saddle-bag thighs. I wonder what happened to that author and whether he ever found a Canadian publisher…

  22. 03/23/2011

    I am just drooling over that list 🙂 With you on the Margaret Atwood though, just can’t seem to enjoy her books the way other reviewers have. I”ve never heard of Absurdistan, but it sounds so intriguing. Just waiting to read your take on these books.

  23. Abby

    NOTES ON A SCANDAL is to die for. Much better (and dirtier) than the movie. My favorite professor in college assigned it for one of my modern lit. courses and then we got to have amazing/awkward class discussions about teacher seducing student…oh la la.

  24. taryn

    For a moment there i got super excited as i thought perhaps Peter Hoeg was “saddle-bag thighs” (remember??) and this meant his books had finally been picked up by an English publisher… sadly, not true. But the good news is that i know why i recognize his name: he wrote Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which you should definitely get to after …Danish Dreams as it is AWESOME.

  25. 03/26/2011

    City of Thieves! So good! I have The Secret Scripture, too, I think from Half Price Books. I should get around to reading it! I’m glad you got to check out HPB. My husband and I finally moved to a city with HPB last fall (ok, not because of HPB…just a perk!), and I love it! And Louisville…that’s not too far from where I grew up, in Ohio! Enjoy your new books…I hope one of them pulls you out of your slump!

  26. Oh MAN you got some good stuff! If those stacks don’t get you out of your slump, I’m sure that nothing will. Enjoy your haul!

  27. Incredible! Loved The Handmaid’s Tale, GIrl Interrupted and The Secret Scripture. Have Wind Up Bird Chronicle on my to-read list, and I love Coetzee despite not having read this one.

    Have you and the world of books reconciled yet?

  28. 03/30/2011

    @ Erin: I feel like I really scored getting City of Thieves since so many people seem to love it! I admit, the back premise doesn’t appeal to me at all, but I have decided that so many bloggers cannot be wrong! 😀
    @ Pam: I know! But I do think the slump is on the retreat! Yay!
    @ anothercookiecrumbles: Books and I are back on speaking terms. It feels SO good. I really cannot wait to dive into these books!

  29. 04/04/2011

    That’s so funny! 21 books for you and 21 books for me! And 2011 has barely begun, lol.

    Yay for The Enchantress of Florence! And Notes on a Scandal, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle! Love those books. The Secret Scripture I liked too but didn’t really make that much of an impression on me as I expected. But I hope you enjoy it.

    You’re so lucky to find two Rushdies in one visit! I want to read Shame too, and also Travels with My Aunt, and The Handmaid’s Tale. I also have a love/hate relationship with Atwood, not sure why or how but I find her brilliant but then also sometimes can’t stand her biting tone.

    I’ve had City of Thieves on the tbr shelf for about 2 years now, if I remember right. I feel sometimes that I don’t want to read it anymore, but then I hear good things about it all of a sudden and decide to keep it. Hope Lu is right!

    I agree about Coetzee! I also couldn’t find his books used!

  30. 04/05/2011

    @ Claire: Normally McKay’s has quite a few Rushdie’s (that’s where we got our ugly copy of Satanic Verses), but they’re always pretty expensive (~$8/book…); these were only $5, so I thought that was a steal!
    I think I have to go through my shelves and see if there are any books lurking there from old buying binges that no longer appeal. I then need to give them a try and either love them, or get rid of them!

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