bookish avoidance

I have lists of books to buy, kept in different places: books bookmarked, saved, noted, vaguely recalled, or simply listed. Recommendations from friends online, random stumblings, some p some e, a conversation there, an article, unrelated mentions elsewhere. Lists of books to buy, and some to read. Some are pretty, some are scary, some need to be read.

nicely bound books on a shelfSome years ago, I started blogging lists of books as a way to reduce the rate of purchase. I have a certain addiction to collecting books, their possession, ownership. Books have lined the corridors of my life, physical and mental; I can find it hard to distinguish between book as object and book as reading matter.

Upon seeing a book I liked, in a bookshop, or online, or other places, I forced myself to add it to a list on my phone. Then I would blog on new additions to the list every few weeks. Look upon my almost purchases ye mighty and despair for behold there was nothing as acquisition had been avoided.

The making of lists continues to be effective some of the time. I am buying much less these days though some of what I buy is nicer. I continue to seek nicer editions of my grotty paperbacks. I also look for new things and new authors.

a few things I have listed and managed not to buy include:

Looking at them again for this post, I am tempted by once more…

one book short

Many years ago, I used to read wine reviews in the SMH authored by Huon Hooke and liked his approach: a mixture of info and chatty. From there I ended up buying the Penguin Wine Guide which was co-authored by Hooke and Mark Shields at the time. I blogged some years ago…ok, nearly a decade back, about collecting the Guides. In that post, I commented on visiting Berkelouw’s Book Barn in Berrima and managing to pick up a guide or two. Alas my last trip wasn’t so lucky and it’s been many years since I last saw a Penguin Wine Guide I didn’t have.

Cover of 1993-94 Penguin Wine GuideThere are 22 editions in the series that I’m aware of with three published in the time since that initial post in 2010 bring my total collection to 20. I have used sites such as abebooks for tracking down other collectable titles, yet oddly never thought to search for the remaining wine guides. Popped them into the search box and found the 1993-94 edition in Germany of all places. I think postage was more than the book on that one and it arrived a couple of weeks later.

As far as I can tell I have but one remaining, the first in the series: 1990. I wasn’t sure if it existed and online searches didn’t bring up a great deal. Nor did I have the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) which would have narrowed it down. Following a few searches I discovered that the State Library of NSW had 14 of them, thankfully including the 1990 edition. I was able, as a member of the Library, to request the 1990 edition for viewing. I figured this would confirm that it actually existed and I could take a photo of the bibliographic data to improve my chances of finding my own copy.

Shortly before it arrived, I remembered another tool, that any member of the State Library has access to: Books in Print. Using that tool I was able to confirm that the ISBN was 0140146261 which made it easier to find as each edition has its own ISBN. This was confirmed when I got to view the actual book and take photos of the front cover and bibliographic data. No luck finding it so far though I did have a near miss recently. It popped up on amazon via a third party reseller but didn’t appear on the reseller’s own website. Plus the reseller’s amazon account wouldn’t deliver to Oz even though the reseller itself did. I asked a good friend in the UK to take delivery and I figured I had plenty of time as no one would want such an old edition. Unfortunately it has disappeared in the last day or so and I sorta suspect/hope that it may have been an erroneous entry.

Wine Guide Bibliographic data

I shall continue to look out for it in secondhand bookshops and perhaps set up some alerts online. On the other hand, I’m pretty happy that I’m only one short :-) I remain amused by the date expressions on each edition:

Cover of 1990 Penguin Wine Guide1991
1992-93
1993-94
1994-95
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
98|99
1999|2000
2000-2001
2001-2
2002/3
2003/2004
2004/2005
2005|2006
2007
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013

reading stuff

My reading is going gangbusters. I am constantly reading and finishing books at a decent rate. A chunk of this is a certain mindfulness – ensuring that I make time to read rather than reading incidentally. The latter method tended to result in less novels and a tendency to casual dipping: twitter, facebook, newspapers, and various tech and gaming feeds. These days I check feeds occasionally, a few not a lot, less newspaper reading but still up to date with facebook and twitter.

Reading books. Lots. This week there was a Readers’ Advisory Seminar for librarians with a focus on SF, how could I say no. Actually I did originally but it was suggested I should attend at least for the first paper on ebook lending. I managed to get in at the last minute and that talk was good though more related to public library models for ebooks.

The second talk was for an Australian author I’d never heard of by the name of Daniel O’Malley. Turns out he won the Aurealis Award for his first novel, The Rook in 2012, and he’d since written a sequel, Stiletto. I thought I should have a look and try to read the first prior to his talk, was completely sucked in and had read both by last week. The first book has been turned into a TV series and I gather will screen on Stan later this year. He’s almost finished the third book in the series and I’m hoping that comes out this year too. He was also an excellent speaker: witty, friendly, self-deprecating, and engaging. Rather than being a talk about himself and his books, it was as much about the genre and genre generally, a liberal sprinkling of other interesting books to read; ideas aplenty.

I am slowly learning that I don’t need to finish books. This is harder than it sounds. It is a struggle. A book may not click for me, or I may find it dull, or it’s not quite to my taste. I can have several books on the go at once but if I hit a roadblock on one, they all come to a grinding halt; stuck in limbo. I will be stuck in that space for weeks and months. Finally I will either finish the problematic book or give it up; suddenly I am reading ferociously once more. I am increasingly mindful of the need to give up quickly and move on. So far it is working and I am reading so much more and the flow from book to book has less obstructions.

Malazan. Oh Malazan. The initial series written by Steven Erikson was a 10 book series: challenging: riveting, fantastic. Some of the best stuff I’ve read. I have read that series twice. The world on which it was built was a joint creation between Erikson and his mate, Ian Cameron Esslemont. Erikson published first with Esslemont crafting stories later. I have been collecting them all in nice editions from Subterranean Press in the US and PS Publishing in the UK: fancy printings, signed by the authors. I have read all the Erikson stuff but never quite got round to trying the Esslemont stuff so I’ve been buying nice editions of books by an author I was yet to read. I am unsure whether it’s due to a new author or trepidation about returning to Malazan which requires a lot of attention and careful, precise reading.

Esslement’s first Malazan novel is Night of Knives and at 280 odd pages is almost a novella by Malazan standards. I started it a couple of days ago and now, I’m two thirds through. Love being back in the world again. I am already looking forward to reading the next book, though Esslemont’s later titles are more substantial and some have been printed in double volume slipcases. I am looking forward to being lost once again, in Malazan.

forgetting

I am old and I have forgotten how to blog. What do I even write on this thing? It’s like I’ve forgotten how to communicate. My photos have been like that for a long while too; I keep taking photos but not sending them on to flickr. I have a paid account on flickr that I barely seem to use of late. This is not flickr’s fault.

Maybe if I keep typing rubbish, I’ll say something useful.

I remember long, long ago that I wanted to write more so I tried a few writing things, though I think the blog predates that. In olden days, it was mostly annotated links. Some years later, there was the PreSurfer though he died a week after his last post in 2017.

This is probably not my most creative time, December/January is always tricky; also hot and muggy.

2 books and a picture.I am however doing lots of reading for a change. I read chunks leading up to Christmas and have managed to continue. I’ve recently finished Wyntertide by Andrew Caldecott, which is a sequel to Rotherweird. I have loved both though did struggle a little to keep track of characters, but that didn’t reduce my delight. I think the third in the trilogy is due later this year; hopefully I can get a matching edition to the first two.

I have recently started The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova having enjoyed some years ago, another of her works: The Historian. I have started reading concurrently, The Land Before Avocado by Richard Glover. I bought this as a present from one of my family and I think my sister snaffled it and read it first. I usually enjoy Glover’s column in the weekend SMH where he has quoted bits of it, though I gather he may have a radio show too. I have since bought my own copy and enjoying it so far.

time passes

Been a wee bit longer than anticipated. Holiday was good. My reading continues to be mixed though I seem to be chunking through stuff at the moment. I read Matthew Reilly’s new one, The Three Secret Cities, rather quickly. I seem to be devouring everything that the Australian arm of PS Publishing is putting out, though still no sign of their special editions of Dowling’s Rynosseros cycle.

PS Publishing Australia have released 5 titles so far of which I have and have mostly read, 4:

  • Dreaming in the Dark – Ed. Jack Dann – short story anthology of Oz genre fiction. I’ve read about 2/3 of the stories and it’s a strong collection
  • Odin’s Girl by Kim Watson – reading it at the moment and the writing is fab and I flow along with the story
  • The Book Club by Alan Baxter – a novella of about 100 pages. Well written and easily pulled me in
  • The Dragon’s Child by Janeen Webb – a novella of about 100 words too. Didn’t mind it but not blown either

There is one title remaining, Phantom Limbs by Margo Lanagan, an anthology of shorter pieces. I may have to get it if only to be complete though not sure it’ll be my cup of tea. While reading those at night, I read Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve during my lunch breaks at work. I spotted this title in NZ a couple of months ago, then heard about the film and thought I’d better hurry up and read it prior to seeing the film. Didn’t really blow my socks off but was a fun enough read. The movie isn’t getting fab reviews but I’d still like to watch it sometime.

a few bits but mostly books

It’s still a week or so before I am finally on holidays. Something I should have added to my list of things to do was stop.

Stop.

Return to a state of rest. Exist in that moment.

Then re-engage.

That’s a bit of luxury to be honest but it does me the world of good.

ereader, a glass of wine. By the river. Perth.I was worried that my reading had died off but I seem to be steadying. I have recently read, and loved, Rotherweird, and will get its sequel soon. I have ordered nice editions of both but they haven’t arrived yet. I may buy the ebook version of the second as I can’t wait much longer to read it. I am currently reading Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Early stages but enjoyable. Shaping up in a sort of military SF sort of direction though basic so far. This is my first stab at Scalzi though I’ve occasionally read his blog and tweets. Scalzi keeps popping up with Subterranean Press releases too, all of which I’ve missed out on as I hadn’t read him. Following on from Scalzi, I have queued Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan as I really enjoyed the first season on Netflix and liked the ideas at play.

Speaking of Subterranean Press, a few years ago, they published a nice edition of Altered Carbon but it’s really hard to find…so hard that the only copy I have found is over USD$3,ooo! It originally sold for US$75. They’ve recently published the next book, Broken Angels, and I have chosen not to collect. On one hand, there is money to be made, on the other, I’m not interested in buying books to make money. But I like a complete set and that won’t be possible with these. I am however collecting complete sets of Subterranean’s editions of Malazan and The Expanse. So far so good.

I am collecting all of Subterranean’s releases by Greg Egan. Egan is an Australian writer from Perth who does fantastic, ideas driven, hard-SF. I haven’t read everything by him but I dip in occasionally with fascinating works like his early material: Permutation City, Quarantine, and Distress, + other bits and pieces.

There’s a new book, Time’s Convert, due out soon from Deborah Harkness. I have read multiple times, her All Souls trilogy and have even bought her guide to the World of All Souls… Funnily enough I have also read her non-fiction as she initially wrote in my own field of the history and philosophy of science. Somewhat ashamedly, many years ago, I bought a copy of her book, The Jewel House, fully intending to read it…and I haven’t quite got round to it. I must add that to the priority pile of books to be read.

Admittedly, the priority pile of books to be read is rather large.

on collections

A friend forwarded me details of a home gallery they visited, the Elliot Eyes Collection (tEEC), and I loved their taste and may visit one day myself. Looking through their site, I saw so many things I liked. I would love a colourful sculpture by John Nicholson, in fact I want that block of rainbows :-) I’d never heard of Euan Macleod, now I would love one of his pictures.

I am not in their league; they occupy spaces, a mental landscape far removed from my own; other worlds beyond my existence.

I liked this reference they made to collecting:

Allen Weiss in “The Grain of the Clay” (Reaction Books,2016) has described collecting, or a collection, as an autobiographical statement. Unencumbered by the boundaries, rules and bureaucracy of public galleries, the housemusem displays the passion of the collector – individualistic, subjective, imaginative and zany.

It resonates. The collection conveys a sense of the person, their past, perhaps an image of themselves that they want to present. A curated appearance.

books on shelves in a warehouseThe objects you have in your house tell a story about you.

Objects. Books.

I collect books. I used to collect books to read, to accumulate, to expand. I used to read more in the past: a voracious appetite. I read less now but still buy but I no longer buy as much. I hope.

Books can be objects
Books can be read
Books can be memory

I buy books now as objects, to have nice things. Objects that can be opened and read; the intent is that all should and will be read. I buy nice books, pretty books, well bound books.

On occasion, I browse my books, pulling out this or that, memories triggered, a life passed. My books are a map to my past: of place, of mind, of heart. I need to know where my books are. They are part of the story of who I am.