Last ten books: a tag

Spotted on Laura‘s blog. I won’t tag anyone, but if you fancy taking part, please do!

Last Book I Gave Up On:

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, about a month ago. Not the book’s fault; it wasn’t the right choice for the time. I’m not sure when it will be, though.

Last Book I Re-Read:

Beowulf, I guess, back in December. Though I read a new translation, by Maria Dahvana Headley, which suggests a feminist and racialized reading of the poem, in which Grendel is a mixed-race boy and his mother a bereaved warrior, not a swamp monster. Before that, it was Ballet Shoes.

Last Book I Bought:

Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica, a what-if about human meat farming that my colleague Freddie is obsessed with (and that’s in translation, and released by a small press!) However, I ordered it direct from the wholesaler (a privilege afforded booksellers) on Wednesday and it’s not here yet, which is a bit disappointing; they can normally swing two-day delivery.

Last Book I Said I Read But Didn’t:

Hmmmmm. I tend not to lie about this, but I’m sure I said I’d read The Portrait of Dorian Gray when I hadn’t yet. (I have now. It’s all right. Not sure why it’s so many people’s favourite book, though.)

Last Book I Wrote In The Margins Of:

The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox, a 1752 satire on French romances but also on societal behaviour of Lennox’s day. I’ll be writing more about it very soon so I won’t elaborate, except to say that it’s both funnier (to my mind) and shorter than the original Quixote, and fascinating in its portrayal of how women claim power.

Last Book That I Had Signed:

Nothing for the past twelve months, at least… The last one must have been a copy of Graham Swift’s Here We Are, because I went to the celebratory dinner with his publishers. It’s a perfectly nice book, though not his best.

Last Book I Lost:

Signs For Lost Children, apparently. I had cause to look for it the other day, and I couldn’t find it in any of the bookshelves in the sitting room, under the stairs, or in my bedroom. I suppose there’s an outside chance it’s in my housemate’s bedroom bookshelf, but I don’t remember lending it to him. I don’t know where it can have gone.

Last Book I Had To Replace:

I could say any number of things here, because I left a number of books at home in Virginia (including all my Woolf, all my Joyce, Larkin, etc.) and I’m pretty sure my parents got rid of them all when they repurposed my room last year. So I’ll be buying replacement copies forever at this rate. Most recently, a damaged copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell became available at work on Friday, and I laid claim to it. My dad and I read the hardback out loud over the course of a winter, years and years ago.

Last Book I Argued Over:

Wouldn’t call it an argument exactly, but my housemate Joe finished A Little Life recently and we had a good, spirited conversation about whether it constitutes exploitation and where it sits generically.

Last Book You Couldn’t Find:

I have been trying to get hold of this edition of Barnaby Rudge, entirely because I want to read it and particularly like this cover, for YEARS, and it is out of print—the Penguin English Library clearly having decided, after their first year, that it wasn’t selling as well as some of the other Dickens novels—and there are no secondhand copies currently available online. It’s just vanished into thin air, it would seem.

16 thoughts on “Last ten books: a tag

      1. Well, quite. If it’s not guilt about not writing at all, it’s guilt about writing frivolous memes when I *should* be writing the book…

  1. I have finished Cat’s Eye and did not get on with it (but I’m not an Atwood fan in general, bar The Handmaid’s Tale).

    The last book I re-read is now Ballet Shoes! I love it.

    I’d have been really intrigued to hear your and your housemate’s conversation about A Little Life! I thought it justified itself, but it must be five years now since I read it.

      1. Oh, it’s lovely. My mum introduced me to Noel Streatfeild when I was quite small because she’d also read her books as a child, and Ballet Shoes is just magical. (There’s also Theatre Shoes and Dancing Shoes, and she wrote another book called The Circus Is Coming which has been reprinted here as Circus Shoes, where two children literally run off and join their uncle in a circus. Fantastic.)

      2. I can’t imagine what Ballet Shoes would be like to read for the first time as an adult, but historically, it is quite interesting on the practicalities of children working on the stage in inter-war Britain. My absolute favourite Noel Streatfeild is probably The Painted Garden which is set in California!

      3. Yes, it’s so detailed! There’s even a reproduction illustration of the stage licenses children needed to work, from the age of eleven/twelve or so.

    1. I’ve always thought it would be interesting but something about its density depressed and defeated me within a few pages. That was pre-Christmas, though; I might have better luck now.

      It’s been five years at least since I read it, too, so our conversation was based on my distant memories and his very immediate impressions. I have always thought of it as pretty exploitative but he suggested that if you take it seriously as a work in a tragic mode, the melodrama is more reasonable. I still think the succession of horrific events feels contrived, but he may be right. It’s rather too long a book for me to be keen to reread and find out any time soon, though.

      1. Interesting! I think what your housemate is saying is pretty much where I was with A Little Life. I thought there was something emotionally honest about refusing to pull back from the brink. But I might feel differently if I re-read it.

  2. So many things I could comment on here … the irony of losing Signs for Lost Children! The tragedy of your parents getting rid of your books! Are they really that heartless!? (My sister stores my ~6 boxes of books remaining in the USA in her basement.) Cat’s Eye was not a standout Atwood for me, but I have definitely had the experience of having no interest in a book and then a couple months later devouring it when the time was right.

    1. Yes, I think they may be that heartless. They did put all my childhood/teenage journals in the attic for me, though. (Our basement is a dirt storm cellar, and not really a book-friendly environment; the attic isn’t much better but the journals are likely to be safer up there!)

      Can’t believe I can’t find Signs, of all books. It’s such a ridiculous omen.

      I’ll keep Cat’s Eye for now, since I acquired it free, but I’ll have to give its time of reading some thought. Maybe the right time will just present itself to me. That happened with The Interestings and it was well worth the wait.

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