My Day in Books

6 December, 2012

The Secret History

I’m not sure whether I’ve done this before but having seen Simon T‘s effort via Cornflower, I thought I’d give it a try and see what I can come up with. Although I’m not sure if it makes much sense, I like a challenge.

I began the day by Twelve

before breakfasting on Snuff

and admiring the Wide Sargasso Sea.

On my way to work I saw The Crippled God

and walked by The Forge of Darkness

to avoid The Possessed,

but I made sure to stop at Bangkok 8.

In the office, my boss said, You Came Back,

and sent me to research The Shadows in the Street.

At lunch with The Last Werewolf

I noticed the Chinaman

in The Night Circus

greatly enjoying The Curfew.

Then on the journey home, I contemplated God’s Own Country

because I have The Secret History

and am drawn to the Weight.

Settling down for the evening in Wolf Hall,

I studied the Song of Achilles

by The Garden of Evening Mists

before saying goodnight to The Thief.

So, what did you think? And why don’t you have a go too? Just complete the sentences with the titles of the books you’ve read this year. Go on!

This has been doing the rounds and I couldn’t resist. Do check out Simon’s blog where it all started and see what everyone else is reading.

1) The book I’m currently reading:

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam. I’m a huge fan of Anam’s after reading her debut, A Golden Age, which deservedly won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book in 2008. It’s a beautiful, still novel about the very violent conflict between East and West Pakistan resulting in the birth of Bangladesh, told through the voice of Rehana, a wife and mother. The Good Muslim is the sequel, told in the voice of Rehana’s daughter Maya, and although I’ve just started it, I’m already under its spell.

2) The last book I finished:

Read This Next by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark. I love lists of book titles, especially ones that veer away from the quotidien (god, I love using this word). And this one is eclectic, erudite and hilarious. I don’t know how many times I burst out aloud laughing like a maniac. Brilliant. And they recommend China Miéville.

3) The next book I want to read:


Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka because I had read an amazing short story by him in Blue . Although this book is about cricket, I’m sure an author with his talents will make it interesting enough for someone who normally avoids reading about sports.

4) The last book I bought:

London Walks! by badaude which is out on June 1st. I couldn’t wait and ordered this on-line and am eager to read it as 1) I love badaude’s work, 2) I live in London and 3) have you seen the fabulous cover??

5) The last book I was given:

People rarely give me books so you’d think I’d remember it if people did, right? I keep telling everyone I love receiving books as gifts but it’s not working. Apart from myself and some lovely publishers, I think the last book I was given is The Mystery Reader’s Walking Guide: London by Barbara Sloan Hendershott and Alzina Stone Dale from my friend J who brought it all the way from the States because he knows I love mysteries, London and that the best way of seeing the city is by walking!


The Big Read

25 November, 2010

I saw this on Gnoe’s blog Grassland and thought it would be interesting to compare what I’ve read. You can also check out Boof’s list at The Book Whisperer too. I’m not sure how representative the selection of titles are as I feel there are many worthy titles missing here. But then it’s impossible to pick only 100 titles without pissing someone off. And they’ve got The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as two separate entries as well as The Complete Works of Shakespeare and Hamlet. Really.

I’ve read 65 titles, watched 47 and started 4 that I haven’t finished. What surprised me was realising that I’ve actually only read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and the others I’ve only seen in tv and film adaptations when I though I had read more!

What about you?


* Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
* Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt.
* Underline the ones you’ve seen the movies of.
* Tag other book nerds.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre– Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (all)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (yes, all of them!)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma– Jane Austen
35 Persuasion– Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune– Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I’ve been a big fan of In Spring It Is The Dawn’s Hello Japan! mini-challenges although I haven’t been participating as often as I like recently (bad me!) This month’s challenge is to answer five questions about all things Japanese, so check it aht!

My favourite Japanese store is Matsumoto Kiyoshi or Matsukiyo because it has the largest range of cosmetics and toiletries at very decent prices and you can spend a whole day there. Make sure you check it out if you visit Japan as many of the stores also have customer service people who speak English! And you’ll spot them a mile away because of their garish yellow and black signboards. My next favourite place to while away a few hours is any Japanese convenience store or combini. Love them.

The best Japanese book I’ve read this year is The Samurai by Shusaku Endo.

What Japanese author(s) or book(s) have you enjoyed that you would highly recommend to others?

Yukan Club by Yukari Ichijo is a manga like no other. It has everything in it: romance, the supernatural, mystery and sports and you learn so much about history, mythology and culture in Japan (and other countries too). Plus the illustrations are GORGEOUS.

What is something Japanese that you’d like to try but haven’t yet had the chance?

I would love to try shojin ryori, the cuisine of the monks perfected by classically trained Japanese cooks. It’s all vegetarian but in a way you’ve never seen before. Here’s an example from NYC.

You’re planning to visit Japan next year. Money is not a concern. What is on the top of your list of things you most want to do?

Go to a renowned onsen and sit in a rotenburo (that is outside) while it’s snowing. No monkeys, of course. Visit Okinawa as my mama says it’s beautiful. And to go to Kagoshima and research my grandfather’s family history.

Bonus question: What was your favourite Hello Japan! mini-challenge topic?

My favourite topic was the one with food!

What topic would you like to see as a Hello Japan! mini-challenge in 2011?

I wouldn’t mind a topic asking us to talk about our favourite characters in a book/film/manga. That would be fun!

What about you?

It’s the second day of BBAW which means Interview Swap! I swapped questions with lovely Julie from Booking Mama who has a wonderfully eclectic book blog and hosts Kid Konnection where bloggers can share posts about children’s literature every Saturday. As well as participating in a wide range of challenges, Julie also hosts a number of them which you can read about below.

I set some tough questions for Julie, but she answered them with aplomb. Enjoy!

1) You’ve been blogging for 2 1/2 years. How do you keep yourself motivated to blog regularly? Do you ever experience periods of self doubt and blog fatigue as happens to quite a few bloggers?

Great question! I don’t really have a problem keeping myself motivated to blog regularly — I just love it and I never seem to have a problem with running out of content. Plus, I love the feedback from fellow bloggers and followers. I admit that there are days when I don’t always feel like writing reviews, so when I’m in the mood, I try to write a few at a time. I’m pretty good at scheduling my posts a few days (and sometimes weeks) out so I’m not sure that my ‘daily’ posts accurately reflect my attention to my blog.

I tell myself that other bloggers also experience blog fatigue to make myself feel better! But all joking aside, I do experience lots of periods of self doubt. Often times, I feel like my reviews aren’t as fresh and original as I’d like them to be. And there are days when I definitely wonder what business I have writing book reviews. However, I’ve learned that my negative feelings almost always pass within a day or so!

2) You like to participate in challenges (as do I). Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Any particular challenges you would like to recommend?

Well…I used to get overwhelmed from my failure to complete challenges — not the challenges themselves. But then one day, I realized that all of the pressure is self-imposed. I mean….what’s the worst thing that is going to happen if I don’t complete a challenge? I finally decided that I will join challenges to have fun and I will do my best, but no worries if I totally fail!

As far as challenges go, I’m a little biased towards the ones that I host! I just finished the 2010 Entertainment Weekly Summer Books Challenge and I’m hoping to make this one an annual event. Another challenge that I host with Bermuda Onion is the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge. I also really enjoyed participating in the Debutante Ball Challenge. And within the next month or so, I will be bringing back the Shelf Discovery Challenge based on the book by Lizzie Skurnick.

3) Blogging with integrity. Like many bloggers, I struggle to write negative reviews if I don’t like a book as I know how much work has gone into its creation. How do you cope with writing negative reviews (if you do come across a book that you didn’t like)?

I love this question! One thing I’ve found through the years is that I’ve gotten better at picking books that I think I’m going to enjoy. When I decided to read more literary books, rather than just best-sellers, I found that I ended up not only more satisfied with my reading experiences, but that I also wrote more positive reviews. I also truly believe that every book has something of value or someone who would appreciate it. I might admit that I wasn’t the ideal audience for this book, but I always try to include in my review someone who might enjoy it.

4) What are your top 3 books you’ve read this year?

Ugh! I’m so not good at questions like this. I don’t know if I can list just three because I’ll be leaving out some good ones, but here goes nothing:

RUSSIAN WINTER by Daphne Kalotay

A FIERCE RADIANCE by Lauren Belfer

DIAMOND RUBY by Joe Wallace

While I definitely loved these books, I’m sure I could come up with an entirely different list depending on the day.

5) What are your reading plans for next year?

I don’t know that I have any specific plans. I have quite a few ARCs that I picked up at BEA that I’m looking forward to reading. I also tell myself that I’m going to read more for pleasure (and less because I agreed to specific review dates), but we’ll see how that goes. I always seem to start the year with that ‘resolution’ and it hasn’t worked yet!

Thanks so much for having me at Chasing Bawa! I had a great time answering your questions!

Thank you Julie for some great answers. I especially appreciate her thoughtful answer regarding negative reviews which I’m sure many of us bloggers struggle with. And if you’d like to see what questions she put to me, click here. So what are you doing? Go and check out her blog pronto!

Picture Perfect

4 June, 2010

Simon of Stuck in a Book has posted a meme asking us booklover’s to choose a picture or painting that encapsulates our reading taste (you can find a list of what other bloggers chose here). I spent a whole week thinking hard about this and was on the verge of posting an image of the Vitruvian Man but stumbled upon this picture I’d taken last year. Can you guess what it is?

If you have been to the British Museum lately, you will realise that it is part of the roof of the Great Court surrounding the Reading Room where Karl Marx once did his research for Das Kapital. The vast space was used to store all the books until the British Library moved to its new, modern location at St. Pancras. I was lucky enough to do some research at the library as a student just before the big move and loved everything about it, from the worn leather seats to the wooden desks, the deep hush that you can only experience in a library and the antiquated book ordering system.

I love this picture because the British Museum and Library symbolises the arts, the sciences, books and a love of reading and learning. My taste is varied and is a little like an alchemical lab: I like to mix genres and historical periods, the arts and the sciences. Everything is a mystery and I want to know it all. I like that the picture is slightly shady because I’m also drawn to the dark side of life: murder, secrets, the supernatural and the fantastic.

And to clinch it, it is located in the heart of Bloomsbury and as you probably know, I have a weakness for all things literary.

One of my favourite blogs Su[shu] has tagged me for the Honest Scrap Meme: 10 things you don’t know about me.

OK, here we go:

1) I no longer spend hours reading books but tend to watch more TV and DVDs (I blame you, Supernatural and Battlestar Galactica!) The shame of it. This is one of the things I’m going to change this year!
2) I’m allergic to self-help books.
3) I once interviewed Sir Arthur C. Clarke for my dissertation research. I couldn’t use it, but I got to spend an interesting hour with the great man and his pet chihuahua.
4) I improved my Japanese considerably through reading manga and Japanese magazines and watching Japanese TV.
5) I read everything I could find about the Templars, the Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene 10 years before The Da Vinci Code was published so it didn’t surprise me at all. I preferred Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco and The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Richard Leigh, Michael Baigent, and Henry Lincoln.
6) The only film I thought was better or comparable to the book is The English Patient.
7) I’m too scared to read horror except for vampire and werewolf books (which I don’t really class as horror).
8 ) I like reading Asterix comics in the bathroom.
9) I sometimes choose books because of their cover.
10) I prefer going to bookshops and libraries alone.

I’m adding a bonus as I feel a bit of a party pooper but
♥) I don’t do chain e-mails and am pretty crap at tagging people, but for any of you who like this meme and want to try it, please consider yourselves tagged! I would love to read 10 secrets about you!

I’m happy that Su[shu] has tagged me with this meme as I was having a bit of a reader’s block throughout the holidays and spent most evenings when I should have been reading curled up in front of the telly watching Poirot and Marple. But I started off the year with Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals and what better way to kick off 2010? And I’ve also finished my first non-fiction book this year, We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars by Martin Pugh, so I’m happy.

Currently I’m in the middle of Mosquito by Roma Tearne in preparation for my impending trip to Sri Lanka and the Galle Literary Festival. It’s making me ponder upon the troubled history of the country, especially with the forthcoming elections this month. But it’s a sublime read and I’m quietly impressed with Tearne’s way with words.

Women Unbound

I must be a glutton for punishment, but here’s another challenge I first read about on Books of Mee. As I seem to gravitate towards books about women, for women and by women (comes with existential procrastination when I should be deep in the throes of literary creation) and have a collection of books which are appropriate, I thought, why not, bring it on!

So Women Unbound: A Book Challenge, here I come.

We are offered three categories to choose from:
* Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
* Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
* Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

I think I’m going to opt for the Bluestocking challenge. As the Women Unbound challenge runs from November 2009 – Nov 2010, I have plenty of time, and might even qualify as a Suffragette if I push the number of books to 8.

Fizzy Thoughts and Paperback Reader have interesting lists if you want to join in and need some ideas for titles.

I’ll finally get to read A Room of One’s Own, and Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf which has been on my bedside table for a year now… the shame. I’ll also be reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Klein, To Live and to Write: Japanese Women Writers 1913-1938 edited by Yukiko Tanaka and my collection of Persephone books. For anyone looking for something Japanese and non-fiction, I highly recommend Modern Girls, Shining Stars, the Skies of Tokyo by Phyllis Birnbaum, a collection of vignettes featuring the lives of 5 writers, artists and actors in the early 20th century.

Anyhoo, here’s the Women Unbound Start of Challenge Meme:

1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?

Feminism means choice. As long as you think hard about your choices and make them yourself, you’re a splendid feminist. In order to do this, you need to be exposed to different cultures, ways of thought, education and people. If you want to be a housewife, go for it. If you want to go for a manicure and have matching shoes and bags, do so. As long as it’s your decision, that’s good enough for me. It doesn’t make you a less serious person.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Yes I do. I think if you are a woman, you are a feminist. Whether you are fighting against the glass ceiling/chauvinism in the workplace, home or society, a fight is a fight. Besides, we can’t seem to get away from it.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

I think one of the biggest obstacles is our sense of worth. Why do we feel that we aren’t as valuable or entitled as men? That our opinions, thoughts and the work we do don’t have the same gravitas? If we can’t take ourselves seriously, then men certainly won’t. Germaine Greer once said that we cannot have true equality unless we tear down the society we live in and reconstruct a totally new one, that our society is fundamentally geared towards and created for men, and I’m inclined to agree.

Meme: My Life in Books

23 September, 2009

I’ve seen this meme going around several blogs including A Work in Progress, Stuck in a Book, Other Stories and Dovegreyreader Scribbles and thought I’d give it a go. And it was pretty hard. I had to go through my list of library books just to see if I’ve read enough books!

Using only books you have read this year, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

How do you feel: Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson

Describe where you currently live: Tokyo Year Zero by David Pearce

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: The Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Your favourite form of transportation: The Boat by Nam Le

Your best friend is: All The Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen

You and your friends are: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

What’s the weather like: Black Out by John Lawton

You fear: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

What is the best advice you have to give: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Thought for the day: Revelation by C.J. Sansom

How I would like to die: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

My soul’s present condition: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam


I love questions about reading habits because reading is a solitary pursuit and I like to know what happens behind closed doors. This is a meme I saw on The Reading Life which is just the kind of questionnaire I like.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? Sometimes. Either chocolate or Japanese rice crackers.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? Horrible, horrible thought. I don’t mind other people writing in books, my sister often did, but I can’t physically force myself to do it.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Dog-ears…I know there are lots of people shuddering now as I confess. Recently I have started using the beautiful bookmarks that accompany the Persephone books.

Laying the book flat open? Frequently.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both? Both, although I veer more towards fiction.

Hard copy or audiobooks? Hard copy. I have a couple of audio books, but haven’t gotten round to listening to them, even though one of them is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History read by the lady herself.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? I can stop reading at any point. I’ve been trained on the bus and tube.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? Never. I always hazard a guess. Sometimes I get it wrong.

What are you currently reading? We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain During the Wars by Martin Pugh (non-fiction) and A Vein of Deceit by Susanna Gregory (a historical mystery).

What is the last book you bought? Ornament and Silence: Essays on Women’s Lives from Edith Wharton to Germaine Greer by Kennedy Fraser, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner and Murder in the Holy City by Simon Beaufort.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? I normally have two or three on the go at any one time.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? Sunday mornings in bed, the very last thing at night and on the tube/bus.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? I like both, although I have a weakness for series.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? Recently it’s been Jasper Fforde and Scott Lynch. If I can, I also try and sneak in Donna Tartt.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) By genre or series. Otherwise, it’s an organised mess.