Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sunday Confessional #21

The Incoming
Brace yourselves, readers - it's been a mad one again this week!  Books flying in left, right and centre!  So, without further ado, let's get started...  First up, I popped onto the market on Monday to buy some flying saucer sweets (oh, the nostalgia!) and just HAPPENED to accidentally glance over to the book stall, where I spotted Becoming Queen by Kate Williams.  It's been on my wishlist for ages, so for £3.99 I snapped it up!

On Tuesday, I took some very deep breaths and went into the big local town with Mum (as opposed to the two smaller VERY local towns, including the one where I work).  My last visit was this time last year and it was a giant agoraphobic disaster - I ended up pretty much panicking after ten minutes, went to two shops, and tried very hard not to cry until we went home.   Nightmare.  Happily, I seem to have come a long way and this trip was much better!  I went all over town, and came home with LOTS of books, from The Works, Waterstones and the big library there.  An excellent result...  I found these two at The Works: A Brief History of Vampires by M.J. Trow for £2.99, and Nature's Great Events, a big glossy BBC book, for a miniscule £3.99.

These ones were also at The Works, in their brilliant '3 for £5' deal.  I'd actually gone in looking for the Rachel Vincent books having heard that they were part of the offer, so I was pleased to find Pride, Prey and Shift on the shelves.  I also came across a couple more interesting-sounding titles and decided to make up a second set.  The Planets by Dava Sobel was a pretty good find, considering that popular non-fiction is usually more expensive new anyway.  I haven't read his first book, but More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea, a memoir by ambulance man Tom Reynolds, sounded interesting, and having just bought a CD of Dame Vera Lynn's old wartime music, and seen a documentary about her time as 'The Forces' Sweetheart', her autobiography Some Sunny Day made up the third book in the offer.

After my haul there, I hit Amazon as well, to fill in the Werecat gap with Rogue, the second book in the series.  While I was online I also threw in The Book of Awesome, a compendium by Neil Pasricha based on his hilarious blog, 1000 Awesome Things.  Each entry is - you guessed it - an awesome thing that can brighten your day - all your socks matching up when they come out the dryer, popping bubble wrap, your birthday falling on a weekend... you get the picture!

Okay, back to the Big Trip to town.  On my way back to the car (struggling with all my library books - more on them in a minute) I managed to heave myself into Waterstones to spend some of the many vouchers I've been amassing from various places.  I hit the history and natural history shelves and found these three: The Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey, a fascinating look at everything from ancient hot springs in Iceland to modern skyscrapers in LA; Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham, about how cooking changed the way our early ancestors lived and thus formed a major step in our evolution; and Necropolis: London and its Dead by Catharine Arnold, who also wrote the brilliant Bedlam: London and its Mad, which I read and loved earlier this year.

Naturally, no trip to Waterstones would be complete without a good hunt round their 3-for-2 tables, so I also picked up these three!  I saw The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer over on my friend Rachel's YouTube bookshelf tour, so I was rather pleased to find it in the offer.  Barbara Ehrenreich's Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World has been on and off my wishlist for a while, and on my radar for even longer, so that went in the basket too.  I love Charlie Brooker on television so I thought I'd try one of his acerbic books for taste, adding The Hell of it All to the pile to round off the bunch.  And the best thing is, despite buying over £45 of books, thanks to all those vouchers I only paid 95p!  Now that, as Neil Pasricha would say, is AWESOME!

Every fortnight we do a book pick-up from the MIND charity shop where I volunteered for a few summers at school/university, and as a stepping stone to a paid job when I was getting over the worst of my agoraphobia.  Basically we fill donation sacks with the books that have been taken off the shelves that fortnight, and pay per sack.  They clear their books and get more money through the till, we stock up on fiction and gardening and cooking and all that kind of stuff for a great price!  Anyway, while I'm there I always have a peek at their current shelves, and usually end up buying something, much to Mum's chagrin!  This week I found an unread copy of Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, which was great since I almost bought it at Waterstones at full price, and my copy has a cute piglet on it instead of a neon rabbit on a chair, or whatever the latest cover design is...  I also bought Chris Stewart's A Parrot in the Pepper Tree, which means I can finally start reading his Driving Over Lemons travel-writing trilogy.  And I found a nice copy of Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie in one of the donation sacks, and swapped it with my old film tie-in copy.  What can I say, I'm a sucker for a nicer edition!

Right, my last bunch of bought books!  These all arrived from Amazon Marketplace this week.  First up, I finally succumbed to temptation and bought my second Richard Preston book, The Demon in the Freezer.  It'll scare me to death, I'm sure, but it sounds so interesting.  Along similar lines, I also bought Flu: A Social History of Influenza by Tom Quinn, which has been sitting on my wishlist for a looooong time and should be a fascinating read.  Last but not least, I got Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse, which has been on my list ever since an elderly woman picked up a copy in the shop last year and exclaimed that she still remembered it fondly from when she read it many, many years ago.

And now, the big one!  As if I didn't already have enough books to read, I hit the library while I was in town on Tuesday and came away with my full allowance of 16, mostly huge hardback, tomes.  Hence my struggle in Waterstones (and that's before I tried to get back up the stairs in the car park!)...  It's a much better stocked (and way, way bigger) library than our very local ones, so I like to take advantage while I'm there, checking out lots of non-fiction books that are expensive to buy and could either be fascinating (and I'll end up buying them) or really dry and dull (I'll be glad I just borrowed them).  Where to start... Okay, two novels that I've heard good things about but am hesitant to buy-before-I-try: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.  I'm a sucker for popular social-science type books, so Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way we Think, Read and Remember by Nicholas Carr were pretty good finds.  I guess Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola by Mark Thomas might also fit that category. 

This library's pretty strong on science and natural history, so I found a whole heap of books I'd been after in those sections.  The lovely Stephen over at LT (this is a good way to see if he's reading the blog!) read and recommended Microcosm: E-Coli and the New Science of Life by Carl Zimmer a while back, but it's hard to get hold of here so that was a bit of a coup.  Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin is another interesting look at evolution and how certain parts of the human body compare with our earliest water-dwelling ancestors.  I nearly picked up Dry Store Room No.1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey (two in one day!) last time I was there, so that went in the bag too.  Seasons of Life by Russell Foster and Leon Kreitzman is about the biological rhythms and cycles that govern our existence.  Atlantic: The Biography of an Ocean by Simon Winchester appeared on my radar recently, and sounds absolutely fascinating...

What else, what else?  I just bought one of the '50 Ideas' series and like the format, so I picked up 50 Physics Ideas You Really Need to Know by Joanne Baker.  I always feel like I need to know more about science and history and, well, everything, so books like these are handy for explaining some of the key principles, figures and theories.  I'm quite interested in honeybees - their amazing lives and their importance in the world - so Alison Benjamin's A World Without Bees should be right up my street.  Sticking with the nature theme, I've been looking forward to Rachel Smolker's To Touch a Wild Dolphin, an account of her work with a huge group of dolphins off the Australia coast.  I also picked up Mark Kurlansky's The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the Atlantic and our Disappearing Fisheries.

Last up, I picked up The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which seems to have been very well received judging by all the positive reviews I've seen, and topped it all off with a bit of light relief in the form of Danny Wallace's latest book, Awkward Situations for Men.  If I manage to read this lot before the librarians get sick of me renewing them, I'll be very proud of myself...

The Outgoing
Hearty congratulations, anyone who's made it this far!  Fortunately, as always, the outgoing section is significantly less... mad.  A whole three out this week!  I gave up my copies of Glass Houses and The Dead Girls' Dance, books 1 and 2 of Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires series.  The second book was a bit of a let-down, and given how many of them there are I doubt I'll read them all again, so I figured clearing them out as I went was probably a good idea...  I also gave up my old copy of Robert K. Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra, a tatty film tie-in edition, after I got the nice shiny new replacement from MIND.

The good news is that I'm having two huge new bookcases installed in my living room, so at least I have room for some of these new finds!  My stepdad kindly made them for me to fit neatly in the alcoves on either side of my fireplace, and they look great!  The first is already in and nearly filled, and the second should be fitted by the time I get home tonight, so I'll get them filled up, refill the little black bookcase I had to move out of the way, and take some photos... It seems to be a trait of all book addicts to love a good snoop along someone else's bookshelves, so I'll get them on here in the next few days!  :-)

So, what's in your mailbox this week?


  1. Oh my goodness Ellie, how did you have the energy to write that post after doing all of that book shopping, lol.

    Lots of interesting things coming and going...had not heard about the Coca Cola book, but that grabbed me as did Becoming Queen and the Dame Vera Lynn book...

    So glad to read that you enjoyed your shopping trip. You certainly have made some good strides this year :)

  2. Haha, thanks! The post took forever to put together, and don't even get me started on trying keep the photos from happily reformatting themselves all over the place... ;-)

    And I've managed to throw a few new books your way - my work is done!

  3. How do you do it?! Any photo I use always pops around the post like nobody's business before I manage to get it to settle. Clearly I need some more IT know-how.

    You also reminded me that I really should be reading more non-fiction! There really isn't enough time in a day! And congrats on the shopping trip - you must be feeling pretty fantastic about it :)


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