As I’m writing this it’s exactly one month since my birthday and although it ended up a little different from what I had planned it was a pretty good day. I originally wanted to spend the day in London going to the British Museum and my favourite bookshops but when I woke up that morning the now infamous Beast from the East was still hitting all over England and they were sending out warnings telling people to avoid using trains.
So instead we ended up spending a few cold hours in Canterbury that day but the next day we did manage to get to London for the bookshops, so in the end, I did not only get the day in London I had wished for but I practically had two birthdays! And like Daniel said to me when we stood in a freezingly cold street in Canterbury during a snowstorm, at least I’ll always remember this one.
I ended up with quite a big stack of books afterwards, so I thought I’d do a “little” birthday book haul.
A Pale View of Hills
When We Were Orphans
My Twentieth Century Evening and Other Small Breakthroughs – Kauzo Ishiguro
It’s a tradition in Denmark to be woken on the morning of your birthday and be given your presents while you’re still in bed and these 3 were the first I woke up to. Since I loved An Artist of the Floating World so much after Daniel gave it to me for Christmas, he decided to give me these as well. I think I will space out reading them because if they are anything like Ishiguro’s other novels, I know I will be sad once I’ve finished them and don’t find myself in the world of his words anymore.
Hiroshige – Adele Schlombs (ed.)
I have had a bit of an interest in all things Japanese since I read An Artist… back in January, so when I spotted this in the art-filled basement of my favourite Waterstones (the one on Gower Street opposite UCL where I used to study), I thought I’d treat myself to it. I have had such a longing wanderlust to go to Japan lately and since it’s not really possible for me to go there anytime soon, I thought I’d bring Japan into my life in this way instead. I can’t wait to make myself a cup of tea and spend an afternoon slowly looking through the woodcuts in this book and pretend I’m sort of, kind of there.
Josef Sudek: The Legacy of a Deeper Vision – Maia-Mari Sutnik
A few years ago I was researching for a photography tour I was doing at the V&A when I spotted some photographs by the Czech photographer Josef Sudek hanging on one of the walls. There was just 4 tiny, easy-to-miss photographs and because they were hanging mounted in pretty large frames it made the photographs look like magical, miniscule windows showing streets in Prague at night. They were so captivating that I decided to include them in the tour and when I started reading about Sudek’s life, I discovered that he had taken up photography after he was injured and lost an arm in WW1. It’s such an incredible story and I am moved and inspired everytime I think about it, because without this horrible injury he never would have become the photographer he became and to me that is a sad thought. Sometimes when bad things happen, they are bad, yes but good things, even beautiful things can come of them.
I have wanted a book with his photographs ever since, so I can’t even begin to tell you how much it meant to me and how excited I was when my parents gave this to me.
Lost, Stolen or Shredded: Stories of Missing works of Art and Literature – Rick Gekoski
Victorian and Edwardian Railway Travel – David Turner
I think it’s pretty safe to say that I have developed some pretty niche interests over the years thanks to my time at university. These include but are not limited to: art and literary history, 19th Century cultural history and anything to do with the Victorian period, including railway history and architecture. Daniel bought these for me in a bookshop in Canterbury and I’m looking forward to reading them both but the one I really can’t wait to dip into soon, is the one about all the artworks and books that have disappeared or been lost throughout history and what it means to our relationship with them when we lose them.
The House I Loved – Tatiana de Rosnay
It has become a bit of a tradition that Daniel takes me to Skoob on my birthday and lets me choose a few second-hand books I’d like and when I spotted this on the shelf and turned around to read what it was about, I immediately knew it was the one I wanted to leave with. The book follows the story of a woman in 19th Century Paris, who is about to lose her house in the modernisation of the city and as I studied the Hausmannisation of Paris as part of MA degree dissertation, it will be interesting to read a fictional account of living through that time when so many things were drastically changing.
Art that Changed the World
Ladies of Letter Press
I was completely taken by surprise when these arrived in the post from my sister and her family. Neither of them were books I knew exised, so they weren’t on my wishlist but they are just so me. The art history book is filled with big, beautiful reproductions and although my sister didn’t know this, I had actually been wondering if I should get a book on art history from the beginning till now. The letterpress book is amazing and filled with 86 posters by female letterpress artists you can take out and I have already bought a frame and put one of them up. It’s really nice that I now have a whole collection I can choose from when I get tired of looking at the same old art in my flat.
The Shadow Land – Elizabeth Kostova
The Improbability of Love – Hannah Rotschild
And last but not least, I bought these for myself after having had them on my wishlist for a good six months or so. I absolutely loved Kostova’s Gothic retelling of the Dracula myth in The Historian and I have wanted to read more of her books ever since. She knows a lot about the places and histories she writes about it, so like The Historian I hope reading this book will feel like going on an adventure. The other novel is about the discovery of a mysterious painting and sounds like it was written just for me, along with all other artlovers who like to read fictional stories about them, too.
Phew! That was a lot of books and I hope you are still here. I am half-ashamed to admit I have even bought another book since then but for the next month or 2 I will try really hard to not buy anymore and slowly make my way through all the fantastic ones I already have.