Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Bookish Bits and Bobs: On My Wishlist

With the rise and rise not only of online bookshops, but of Amazon in particular, it seems like everyone has an Amazon wishlist - but certainly not everyone uses them in the same way. My younger sister, for instance, makes a great effort to keep hers short so that she feels the goal of getting everything on the list remains realistic. My list, though, goes back years, and currently numbers 271 books. Sometimes I'll add a title and then remove it later - perhaps because I've lost interest, or I've managed to read it by borrowing a copy, thus removing the need to own it.

But even though I'm trying to be more minimalist - mainly by getting a Kindle and being a member of a library - the number of books on my Amazon wishlist never seems to shrink. I try to tell myself that I don't need to own something just because I admire it, and yet every time I step inside a physical bookshop and get to feel the covers and smell the new paper, I am reminded what beautiful things books are and fall in love all over again.

Some of the books on my wishlist are mainstays, not joining the fleeting titles that come and go from my list according to my whim. One of these was Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, which was out of print for years and going for insane prices - but thanks to a reprint by Vintage I was finally able to purchase it last week. May hope never die! So I thought I'd take this chance to take you through my top 10 wishlist mainstays, tell you why they're there, and hopefully inspire you to check them out too.

In no particular order:
1. Dreams: Pathways to Wholeness (Lisa Cornwell) I'll level with you. This lady was one of my favourite teachers when I was 13, but raging teenage hormones led to an inappropriate crush on her which probably only served to embarrass and alienate her from me. As well as being interested in the subject matter of her book, I am also interested now, as an adult, to know her more as an adult and to be able to get an insight into her thought processes.

2. A Desolation of Learning: Is This The Education Our Children Deserve? (Chris Woodhead) Chris Woodhead is not a popular man in the world of education. But while I'm often inclined to support the underdog, this is not the reason why I respect his opinions and tend to agree with what he says. He feels, and I do too, that education in Britain is lamentably not all that it once was and that it is not currently preparing young people adequately for their future. Being really incredibly interested in his take on the matter, this book landed on my wishlist.

3. Lost Laysen (Margaret Mitchell) Reading Gone With The Wind at the age of twelve was one of the biggest experiences not only of my reading life but possibly my whole life - so to find that there was another work by Margaret Mitchell out there was definitely a pleasure. I can't wait to read it - and hope I won't be disappointed after the experience of Gone With The Wind.

4. The Gospel According To The Simpsons (Mark Pinsky) I am, to put it lightly, a HUGE fan of The Simpsons: I own almost every series on DVD and never seem to get tired of watching it. I also already own The Simpsons And Philosophy, which I read during my third year of university and actually used as part of my degree to help me with a presentation about Plato. As well as making Plato fun, the reaction I got to the book was amusing and amazing in equal measure, with most being along the lines of "Is that serious?!" (to which I replied, usually, "Yes...and no..."). It's something fun to dip into that everyone can enjoy, and I'm sure that The Gospel According To The Simpsons will be the same too (not to mention What's Science Ever Done For Us?: What The Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, which is also on my wishlist).

5. Clarissa (Samuel Richardson) Apparently you're not a proper English student until you've read this one (which I guess makes the degree in English that I received four and a half years ago void...). I did attempt it, I swear. But I gave up. But that was before I read Proust (I finished In Search Of Lost Time TODAY, people!), so I'm understandably feeling braver/cockier now, and am determined to slay this mythical beast of English literature.

6. Dictionary of Gastronomic Terms (Bernard Luce) My husband and I are both food lovers, but with him being French and me being English, sometimes very specific food terms, such as the names of different types of potato, can leave us foxed as to what the equivalent is in the other language. This book looks like it could solve all kinds of arguments - it's a dictionary of gastronomic words and phrases, converting them between French and English to settle our culinary disagreements once and for all. At nearly £37 for a paperback on Amazon, though, it's not coming cheap...

7. Night (Elie Wiesel) As well as indulging my interest in German history, this novel appeals because it was recommended to me by an ex-student of mine named Steve: an intelligent young man whose opinions I greatly trust and respect. Plus, it's won a few prizes and shizz. Not that I'm shallow or anything. *cough*

8. Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl (Donald Sturrock) The life and works of Roald Dahl have moved me more than possibly any other. He is probably the only writer who has kept me consistently entertained from childhood through to adulthood with such wonderful stories as The BFG and The Landlady. Luckily I'm not the only one in my family to be slightly obsessed with his work: a documentary about Roald Dahl's life a few years ago left my sister and I in tears, and we also both enjoy our occasional visits to the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden. So naturally a biography of the man, even if it contains information we already both know, is of great interest.

9. King of Shadows (Susan Cooper) Drawn to all things Ariel thanks to my research into the character from The Tempest, I was naturally intrigued by Susan Cooper's book about a young boy player acting in Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The actor playing Ariel was also quite likely a boy player thanks to the character's androgynous if not female nature and high singing voice, so I'm all over this offering and am hoping it will lead me to discover even more of Susan Cooper's work - this is a new encounter with her books for me.

10. Dorothy Rowe's Guide To Life Looking at Amazon quickly plunged me into despair at the apparent lack of British self-help books on the market - too many of the books in this category are written by schmaltzy Americans whose hearts hurt and want us all to trust in God. I wanted a more stoic and stiff-upper-lip look at self-help, and it would appear that the best-known British self-help tome is in the form of Dorothy Rowe's Guide To Life (although perhaps it's cheating as Dorothy Rowe is technically Australian). I'll be interested to see if reading her work will restore my faith in the self-help market (and stop me from feeling the urge to fly towards certain people at work whilst holding a machete).

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