Saturday, 29 March 2014

My Week In Books III

So, here we are again, and yet again I'm feeling guilty for not having read enough. There really is absolutely no chance of me getting to read all the books I buy in my lifetime (unless they come up with some sort of elixir of eternal life at a reasonable price, some time soon), but that's ok, it enables me to justify my book buying as a 'collection'....

I've read some more of The Poisoned Island
by Seth Hunter, my go-to ibook in case of no-book emergencies, and I'm still enjoying it. Apologies for the long time it will take for a full review, but it's my fill-in. It will get a full review, in the fullness of time.

I've also started to read my first (I know!!!) Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Mr Quin. Years of loving TV adaptations have made me lazy when it comes Agatha Christie books, but since the recent televisual demise of Hercule Poirot with the airing of the TV version of Curtain, I thought it was time I did the decent thing and actually read some of the books! So far, so good.

Another first this week, as reported earlier on Book Lovers Melbourne are the first off the production line of our new bookmarks! Yes these are a simplistic marketing tool, designed to get more people looking at what we do here, but we make no apology for that, I for one love a bookmark giveaway, I have a box full of them from various sources over the years and they are, after all, part and parcel of book loving ephemera. We'll be giving them out at Clunes Booktown in May, and handing them round our favourite bookshops in Melbourne before then, so keep your eyes open if you want one! If they are a success, who knows what will be next, mugs, t-shirts, pens, tattoos, the possibilities are endless;-)

We've also been doing a  little bit of experimental small-scale, in-expensive advertising via our Facebook page this week to spread the word about our little community, which has been quite successful. So if you're one of our new readers from this particular medium, welcome! Tell us what you think, we're really keen to get feedback, and, of course, we'd love you to tell your friends about us too!

Finally here's a pic of this week's acquisitions for my personal library, most of which came from Already Read an awesome little bookshop in North Fitzroy with a great selection of second-hand books which holds the title of quite possibly the nicest smelling bookshop I've ever been into in my life!! They're the latest addition to our Listings page (or will be when I add them right after writing this blog) so please go along and buy some books, (don't forget to say where you heard about them!).

Until next time, Happy Reading!!

Stevie at B.L.M.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Review: Laurie Lee, After Cider With Rosie....

Laurie Lee has been labelled by some as an author who peaked too soon. His Autobiographical work "Cider With Rosie" a tale of boyhood in his Gloucestershire village home, has sold six million copies worldwide and has been school curriculum material for many students in the UK for generations.
I have to say at this point I have somehow managed to accidentally avoid the best efforts of educators, and the rest of the literary world, and have never read it, which may or may not help me to have clear a run at reviewing the following two books.

My interest in Lee's work came about by recommendation, when Rallou at Fully Booked in Thornbury was helping me extend my knowledge of Spanish Civil War authors. (I read in ever increasing circles... or perhaps tangents, one book or story leads to another and another. It's not an officially sanctioned system of knowledge acquisition, but it works for me...)

The consequence of this is my coming across Lee's work in the form of the second part of the autobiographical trilogy "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning", which I immediately followed with the final part, "A Moment Of War". I'm borderline Attention deficit disorder, I think, unless a subject really grabs hold of me, so short books are wonderful things for me, inspiring, but not too demanding. Running to only 186 and 178 pages, each, they certainly fill this requirement, but I can't help thinking Laurie Lee is one of the authors I could commit to in a much bigger way. His work is florid, poetic, purple. Not adjectives I'd usually apply to the sort of book I'm inclined to read based on passed experience, but the beautiful lyricism that Lee brings to each phrase, each narrative paragraph, each moment of his story, lays new colours to the canvas, builds the picture in your mind. When we join Lee's story he is fresh-faced and fancy-free, trudging his way like a latter day jongleur, violin in hand, across England to his then lowly target destination, London. The amount of time he apparently lingers in England's capital, far out-weighs the amount of time he dedicates to it in the book. One gets the impression that his stint as a building labourer might actually be as much about establishing his working-class credentials, in the decade when polemic political opinions were the bread and butter(or dripping) of the masses. 

These were times when heroic working class warriors with clenched-fist salutes were positively pouring onto the streets, eager for a fight with anyone not of their own opinion, (as well as, with a good number of people with very similar ones). After introducing us to some suitably colourful London characters and scenery, designed to demonstrate the beauty that lies beneath the film of filth and poverty that accompanies city living, Lee wends his happy way toward Spain. 

Strangely, for a man who loves to wax lyrical about his surroundings, he spares no time for describing his sea journey, jumping right into the soulful changes that flood over his young, impressionable mind. (Though we best not forget here, Lee actually wrote these memories of youth from the perspective of a man thirty years older, and, one cannot help thinking, under that equally influential decade of the twentieth century, the sixties).For me, there is a lot of sixties influence in the style of this thirties journey. 

The rest of Midsummer Morning describes Lee's growing love affair with Spain as he treks across the
country for a year, his position as a violin player giving him numerous inroads into local communities. 

The story comes to a temporary end when the fermenting violence of Spain's emerging rebellion physically impacts on the small coastal town that has become Lee's temporary home. Plucked from the heart of a workers war against fascism, before he has found it in himself to become a part of it, Lee returns to England, his mind overflowing with the rebelliousness of youth. 

Even if he wasn't planning a follow-up book at that point in his life, he was clearly coming back.

A Moment Of War follows on directly from the previous book, literally moving into what is effectively the next chapter of the same story. The big difference is obvious from the start, however, as this immediately becomes much darker, a harsher reality, a level of threat hanging heavily over every moment. Lee's involvement in the tragic events of the Spanish Civil War are almost an analogy for the dis-organised, chaotic and ultimately futile path the war took. An entirely untrained, politically naive, ill-equipped, well-intentioned socialist is pushed from pointless pillar to irrelevant post, mistrusted, ill-used, threatened, underfed.To the rolling background of grey, cold, hardship. The only defence against all this, was the belief of the young men and women that they fought against something they knew to be the greatest evil of their time, fascism. 

Just like the defence of socialism, Lee's time in Spain ended in a dark, dirty, sordid, sad, anti-climax. It must have been forever in the minds of the men and women from so many corners of the world who went to Spain and lived to escape the fascist victory, only to watch, or, once again participate, as the spectre of fascism spread it's black shadow across much of Europe in the following years.

Laurie Lee died in 1997, in the village of Slad, where he had spent his early life. A poet who accidentally became a prose author, it is impossible to read his work without seeing his poetic urges rise to the surface. I'm not a fan of poetry personally, I know, for some that fact will forever condemn me as a Luddite and ne'er-do-well, oh well, never mind. But reading these books by Laurie Lee has opened up my tiny poetic appreciator. Of course my bloated inner cynic will smother it immediately with thoughts of his personal 'dressing up' of the story, and, possibly even a handful of untruths, for the sake of poetic license. 
No matter.  As I Walked Out One Midsummer's Morning and A Moment Of War are wonderfully entertaining books and are worthy of any readers time.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Book Review: Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer

I am an avid Jeffrey Archer reader. Kane & Abel, Prodigal Daughter, Prisoner of Birth, Path to Glory - I have loved them all over the years. When I first heard the concept of the "Clifton Chronicles", I could not be more excited. A 5 novel saga over a 100 years, 20 years at a time - sweeping through the 20th century and World Wars into the 21st, what more could I want from the Master Story teller.

I have to say though, having finished "Best Kept Secret" - the 3rd of 5 (potentially 7 books now!),this is not upto the standards I am used to with Jeffrey Archer. The book is still mostly entertaining, but seems to be more and more dragged out as you go along. Like an annoying TV series, there is always a cliffhanger at the end meant to be a "hook" for the reader to want the next installment. The story itself becomes dull in places, making me almost want to skip over some chapters altogether. Characters are never grey with Jeffrey Archer, they are either good or evil, but in this 3rd book I struggle to understand why certain characters are even introduced if not just to pad the story, fill pages and sell more books! For e.g., why would a complete hero like Giles marry the totally shallow and evil Virginia? If there was at least some sort of explanation!

Irrespective of the actual storyline, what I do enjoy about novels set in historic periods is picking out the social  or political and even literary events of the time. Here too, it was fun to see - through everyday talks between ordinary people - Winston Churchill's return to power in 1951, a brief mention of Agatha Christie who is already famous in the 1940s and 1950s, the place of women in society... However, do not read it to know about history of the time. All of this is mentioned only in passing and the 1952 coronation of the Queen is left out altogether!

So - would I now go get the next one in the series (Be Careful What You Wish For, published in March 2014) ? Possibly. I still am loyal to "Brand Jeffrey Archer" and his marketing ploy of ending each book with a cliffhanger hook to the next is wearing thin but works. And oh - while on the topic of marketing, "Be Careful What You Wish For" has a trailer, similar to what you'd see for a new movie. Book marketing is changing fast and I could write an entire post on that - but I digress!

For now though I am going to my bookshelf to get one of Archer's older novels or short stories to remember why I enjoy him so much in the first place!

Today's In Book News...

There are dumb ideas, then there are really dumb ideas.....

Yes, there really is a bureaucrat somewhere (very close to Melbourne) who thinks this would be a good idea, follow the link for the full, slightly gobsmackingly silly story... 

Pro-Russian demonstrators burn books whilst storming buildings in eastern Ukraine. 
Can anyone who has read history ever believe that  is it ever not a warning sign of trouble to come?
Our thoughts for peace are with everyone affected by the events in the region.

Friday, 21 March 2014

My Week In Books II

So, Friday has come around again, and yet again I'm working tomorrow so please forgive me if I am unable to sustain this particular series of blogs quite as regularly as I would like, a busy life is a happy life...apparently...

So, this week I've squeezed in a limited amount of reading, but I'm into the follow up to Laurie Lee's "As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning",... "A Moment of War". following on directly from the last autobiographical piece, the book has a much darker feel immediately, it being the story of Lee's time in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. His purple prose style still hits the right notes, however, with his graphic ability to define the visual moment is not diminished by that moment having less welcoming images and fearful consequences. This work was written some three decades after the events described, and hindsight is a wonderful but sometimes flawed mistress. Lee describes his experiences with style and clarity that may not have been available to him at the time, but it is, so far, a very enjoyable book. 

I have a habit of keeping a book on the go on iBooks, that I can read when cut off from real books and only have my iPhone to fall back on in times of an emergency reading requirement.. (I defy you to travel on public transport without one occurring...) And currently my "emergency" read is "The Poisoned Island" by Lloyd Shepherd.
The last novel by Shepherd, "The English Monster" featured in my blog earlier in the week of Top Ten Historical Fiction Books  and so far "The Poisoned Island" is living up to it's predecessor. Worth a look if you've read the previous story, in my opinion.

A few new acquisitions have ended up in my personal library this week, as always, (I know I'm never going to get through the entire library before I die at the rate I add to it, but I will make a valiant effort...)...

As you can see, I'm having a bit of a Penguin phase to my collecting habits, regardless of some of them being a little tatty by now, there's nothing more sexy than a bunch of Penguins on your bookshelf in my opinion. The majority of these came from Brown & Bunting  in Northcote where the very charming assistant today made me feel very welcome, (the best ones always do). And nothing cost more than $8. You really have no excuse, at those prices to not have an interesting and attractive collection in your home!!

Finally this week, my co-book-lover Baju and I are working on designing bookmarks to give away both in bookshops and at Clunes Booktown in May. Watch this space for how they're going to look:-) We'd love to meet up with some of you there, so if you are thinking of going, or like what we're doing here, share our site with your friends, spread the word about us and enjoy your reading this week:-)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Top Ten Historical Fiction Books Of All Time...For This Week At Least...

I love book lists, top tens, top hundreds, top worst, top whatever... So I thought it's time for my own inaugural Top Ten Listing for Book Lovers Melbourne, and, what better place to start for an aficionado of both history and reading, than Historical Fiction!

Now, other than the top three, I have to be honest and say these are not in any particular order of personal favour. One of the wonderful things about these pointless but fun lists is that they are only your personal favourites at the very moment in time you wrote the list. You could be only one new book (or re-read) away from a hasty reshuffle after all!

Obviously these are all books I've read, no "ought-to-reads" in here, no classics added for the purpose of demonstrating false erudition. I really love these books. I think you should give them a go, but totally respect your right to disagree, even if I know you to be wrong :-)

So, without further ceremony or unnecessary ado, here it is...

10: Winter, Len Deighton.

I've been a fan of Len Deighton's work for over twenty years, I don't tend to read a great deal of spy fiction these days but the Bernard Samson series of nine books, started in the early eighties with the trilogy, Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match are absolutely top class in the field. Winter is a prequel to the whole series, introducing the characters that form the background for the earlier novels. Set between 1900 and 1945, it tells the story of a German family and their lives against the backdrop of the turbulent years of the early 20th century in Germany. The central characters are brothers Peter and Paul whose lives take very different paths, in some part directed by the fact their parents are of mixed nationalities, one German, one American.

9: The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas.

Written in 1844, this is a novel truly deserving of the overused title 'classic', which has enchanted and excited readers since it was first serialized in the pages of the newspaper  Le Siècle in that year. For me the greatest of Dumas' works, this novel introduces the character D'Artagnan and his new found companions Athos, Porthos and Aramis, members of the elite fighting body that is the Musketeers. Swashbuckling adventure abounds as the heroes make much better use of their swords than the eponymous muskets, fighting for the honour of France and it's Queen. The fore-runner to numerous spin-off movies, cartoons and media appearances in the intervening one hundred and sixty years, The Three Musketeers is perhaps one of the best known tales of the modern world but it's original version is absolutely worth making the effort to enjoy. 

8: The Pillars of The Earth, Ken Follett.

Another much used title in the world of Historical Fiction is 'Epic' but it certainly applies to Ken Follett's tale of the inhabitants of the fictional town of Kingsbridge in the time of The Anarchy (1123-1174) in England. Spanning fifty years and a massive cast of characters, it runs to over 1000 pages in the paperback version so not for those of a physically weak disposition! Focusing on Tom Builder and his extended family, this novel gives the reader a wonderful sense of the hardships of the time period, as well as the social structure that existed in the world of the tenth century. Covering a period of massive change and long-term significance to English history, this is, for me Follett's best work. The sequel, World Without End, is less engrossing,  but is a nice companion piece to the earlier work. 

7: The Last English King, Julian Rathbone.

Perhaps less well known than the previous entries, this novel is a relatively new discovery for me. I read it only last year (2013) though it was written in 1997, sadly, (as seems to happen to me a lot) I discovered it after the author's death! Rathbone's skill lies in his ability to define people, their character and their personalities, regardless of time period. One cannot help but become absorbed with Walt Edwison, the story's main character, with all his pain, physical and mental, his anguish at his self-loathing, at his feelings of failure, but also with his feelings of love and desire. Giving an entirely plausible viewpoint of events of extraordinary historical import (to Britons at least) this novel manages to take you over a thousand years back in time and still see human feelings and relationships with the clarity of today.

6: Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Dafoe.

The oldest novel in my top ten, (first published in 1719) Robinson Crusoe, like The Three Musketeers, inhabits such a wide area of intellectual awareness that it is sometimes hard to put across just how important it is to read the original literature. Originally published under the false pretense of being a truthful account of a shipwreck victim, the Crusoe story has passed into legend and spawned many an imitator. Simplistic in it's narrative style, the book can be mistakenly thought to be aimed at a less mature audience, but this was a major turning point for realistic fiction in it's time and still holds it's head up high among the greatest pieces of fiction ever written. I'm the proud owner of a ninety year old copy of this wonderful book, but somewhere, out there, someone perhaps has a copy over 300 years old!

5: Sharpe's Eagle, Bernard Cornwell.

This was the toughest decision of the list so far, deciding which of the Sharpe series to include. These were the books that first inspired my interest in historical fiction and over the 24 book series, it has consistently given me pleasure. Eagle was the first in the series, (and indeed the first novel written by Cornwell as a way to pay his way when he moved to the US to be with his partner but lacked a work visa in 1981).

It introduces us to Richard Sharpe, an officer in the Rifles, the much vaunted elite troops of Wellington's Peninsula war campaign. Set in 1809, thanks to the time-travelling wonder of historical fiction writing, the novel is the 8th in chronological order, as Cornwell has filled out Sharpe's back-story over the years, as well as moving the story forwards to 1821. I've re-read this book perhaps a dozen times over the years, a sure-fire indicator of quality for me, and not once considered it inferior to the later stories.

4: The Time Of Terror, Seth Hunter.

This is a recent read for me, the first of a short series of novel about a British Navy officer during the Napoleonic Wars, a genre that has been done to death, but that is still extremely entertaining. The big difference for me with this novel is the believably of the main character Nathaniel Peake. Combined with the author's habit of having historical figures in walk on parts, (a pet-hate for some but I think very enjoyable if done well). The research level is very high, blended with exciting action story lines and lots of plot twists and turns. I've read a lot of this genre over the years and  I think this novel rates up there with the best.

3: Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel.

Read the BLM review of Wolf Hall.

I actually gave the sequel to Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies more stars on my Goodreads review but Wolf Hall has made it into the top ten because I personally see the sequel as an extension of the original. Reviews of this Booker winner have been polemic to be sure, but for me the personalizing of an historical figure for fiction purposes does no harm at all. I'm a grown-up, I get that this is not necessarily what Thomas Cromwell was like, but supposing for a brief time that it might be helps the reader to have an understanding of the Tudor period, full of real people with real drives and ambitions not a dusty old lesson from a text book. The use of present-tense narrative is worth the effort to get used to in my opinion, and gives an entirely different feel to the genre. Ignore the naysayers, read it.

2: The English Monster, Lloyd Shepherd. 

If you like your historical fiction fully laden with accuracy, with characters that ooze realism, mixed in with a very large portion of, frankly, very dark violence and trauma, Lloyd Shepherd's first novel, "The English Monster", is definitely for you. This is not always an easy book to read, though the fictional horrors within pale into insignificance when compared with the actual real life murders in 1811 that the story has as it's backbone. I recently read "The Maul and the Pear Tree", PD James's historical account of the Ratcliffe Highway murders, and was gratified to find Shepherd had used that book as a research source.The ending is not, sadly, the best bit of the book. It's good enough, but not, in my opinion as stunningly well constructed as the rest of this tale, but for all that, this is my favourite piece of new fiction so far this year.

And, Number 1 in the list is....

London, Edward Rutherfurd.

I first discovered this book in 1997, soon after it was published and immediately fell in love with it. I re-read it so many times over the years that I went through two paperback copies (at nearly 1400 pages, any paperback has a limited amount of spine-breaking re-usability) before finally picking up a hard-back first edition for my collection. Covering over two thousand years of the history of my favourite city, through the eyes of a series of characters linked by family ties and events, it is truly epic in scale. With his other novels focusing on other locations in the same style, Rutherfurd has essentially created his own genre, the historical city biography. It's a formula that works, I've gone back over some of his earlier works, Sarum and The Forest, and enjoyed more recent ones, New York, Paris, and love the style. Historical fiction for history buffs, that gives a continuity of narrative that is wonderfully evocative of the passing of time. If I could get someone to read only one book in their lifetime, this would be it.

I hope you enjoy reading this list as much as I've enjoyed compiling it, it has been like meeting old friends again after many years. Your comments are, as always welcome.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Better Read Than Dead.....

Well this afternoon was dedicated to a trip into the city to attend March In March but of course, I just could not resist a little bit of impromptu book shopping, quickly nipping into Book Grocer's Russell Street branch and coming out with these little gems....

With everything costing $10 or less, I think these guys are awesome, always a good selection, always friendly staff, at lots of places across the city. Give them a look.

Friday, 14 March 2014

My Week In Books....

So, here we are, it's Friday night!

The working week is over, well sort of.
There's bottle of Rioja lurking next to me, I've eaten a hearty toast and Vegemite supper, the cats have been fed and are leaving me alone momentarily and my wife is out for the evening. So what better time for me to ramble aimlessly through my 'Week In Books' and update the blog?!

The best place to start, I think, is with my reading habits this week. I tend to sneak in reading whenever I can, breaks at work, a stolen hour between my getting in from work and my long-suffering book-widow- wife getting home, a train journey, basically whenever I can squeeze it in.

Like most readers the modern world makes deep inroads into my reading time, TV, the old enemy of course, steals a little reading time every day, Facebook is another time-thief and the triumvirate enemies of work,sleep and human relationships of course do their best as they have since the beginning of time, to reduce the time I have for book-love. But I try to fight the good fight whenever I can.

Physical size in a book is a relevant consideration during some parts of my reading week. Work-break reading requires a small physical presence. Packed in among all the work related paraphernalia in my daily backpack, little Penguin editions, short novels that punch above their literary weight, writings from before the days of the super-1000-plus-page-masterpiece fill this segment of my book world.

This week I finished off George Orwell's  - Burmese Days a beautifully written piece of loosely-veiled semi-autobiographical fiction from my current favourite author. I read some Orwell at school, far too young to appreciate his importance, and have recently, thanks to an interest in Spanish Civil War stories, trekked through a few of his works anew.

You will come away from this book feeling the prickly heat, seeing the moisture drip from the steaming native flora, oozing the bitterness of colonial oppression mixed with acidic self-loathing that the characters ought to or actually feel.
Loved it. Of Course.
This was replaced by the equally physically diminutive Penguin 1971 print of Laurie Lee's -  As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning. 

If Orwell gives me the bloated, bloodied reality of human inhumanity, Lee gives me the rose-tinted beauty of existence. Worlds apart yet equally stunning in their representations of the world around them, it makes me wonder if there was something in the water in the 1930s that forced people to be so incredibly enchanting in their writing.

On the down side, I've been reading Simon Scarrow's Young Bloods. When I can force myself, if I'm honest.

I have a great love of history books and an almost equal passion for well written historical fiction. I don't judge an historical fiction novel too much on it's historical inaccuracies, the clue is in the name after all, but I think this does not excuse lazy or -non-entertaining writing. Let's be honest here, readers read because they like it, for the most part. Writing is an entertainment industry, for the most part.

For me, the greatest failure in a book is to not be interesting. It's a simplistic definition admittedly, but it is my own personal yard-stick. My Blog, My Rules... 
I've been aware of Simon Scarrow's work for some time and thought it was worth a go, and I've been a student of Napoleonic era historically for much of my adult life, and I love it, generally. I've been reading this book for a couple of months and only got through 207 pages of 600 odd... this speaks volumes to me. I'm going to keep trying with this one, but watch this space....

I mentioned earlier TV's negative influence on my reading habits but, in fairness, it also sometimes directs my reading into new fields, or reminds me of what I should be reading.

This week, a case in point is Agatha Christie's Poirot. I've been  massive fan of this on TV for the full length of it's existence, but it took the airing of Poirot's final case, and the main character's death, to actually get me to start buying the books! I've got a couple of old Penguin green covers on the way...

Finally, my week in books can't go without a mention for Tadhg (a male, Irish name) and Rallou (a female name of which I have no knowledge whatever) husband and wife team who own and run Fully Booked in Thornbury. I met them both together for the first time this week, being lucky enough to be working reasonably close to their shop. Their's is an awesome bookshop, exactly what second-hand bookshops should be like. They are a lovely couple, incredibly well-read and knowledgeable of their own stock and of books in general. Look them up in our Listings section and pay them a visit.

Is there really anything else you need from a book shop?

The Rioja is running low, it's time to go. Keep reading, start commenting.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

So, How Many Have You Read? And Do You Think It Matters?....

BBC 6 Book Challenge...

So the BBC, Great British institution that it is, think you should have read these books, bothered? Not bothered? Interested?.....

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Resources For Book Lovers....

There are a few excellent resources out there in www-world for bibliophiles these days, offering book clubs, reading list applications, cataloging software etc etc so I thought I'd take a moment to recommend two of my favourites based on personal use.

The first, from the perspective of a book reader who loves to share reading experiences and get recommendations from the like-minded, as well as have a handy way to keep a record of progress whilst reading multiple books, is Goodreads 

Goodreads is like a great big book club that allows you to organise your reading habits, link up with your reading orientated friends, join reading clubs based on your tastes, write reviews and a whole host of other bookie-type bits and bobs. It's free and fun!

Next is a website that is perfect for the anally retentive among us who simple must have all our books catalogued, numbered, described, detailed, right down to the cover, ISBN number edition, date purchased, store of purchase, etc etc etc. I love it. I cant wait to scan in any new book I buy when I get home (works beautifully from your ipad or iphone) or type the details in the old-fashioned way for books pre-barcode.  does all this and more and, whilst it's not free, it's very reasonably priced.

There are, I'm sure, lots of other websites and Apps especially for biblios out there, and, as I start to use them, I'll happily review them, but these two are great, in my opinion, so give them a go!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

P P P Pick Up A Penguin....

It’s entirely possible that if you have no British background or connection, the cultural reference in the title will go completely over your head. Nonetheless, one British cultural icon you would be hard pressed to not recognize, regardless of your origin in the world, is the Penguin paperback.
That little orange, (or blue, red, green, pink etc) book that can’t help but look cool and iconic nearly eighty years after its introduction in the 1930’s.

There is something very socially levelling about a Penguin. Sir Allen Lane, founder of Penguin books wanted to bring good quality writing to the reading masses at affordable prices. His success is clear when one considers that relative to most of the publishing world Penguin prices have remained low and availability of content has been consistently high.

The first Penguin paperbacks went on sale at sixpence in 1935 and now in 2014 one can still pick up most Penguins be it a crisp new copy or a tatty old one for around the $10 spot.
Then there are, of course the Penguin ‘Classics’ the black spined releases also usually available at very reasonable prices both new and secondhand. Throw mugs, notepads, keyrings tea-towels et al into the merchandise mix and you have quite the obsessive compulsive collector’s dream.

So why is the Penguin paperback so popular? In 1973 in Richmond, Surrey, The Penguin Collectors Society was formed and has grown to worldwide membership of over 500, but with availability in just about every bookshop you ever venture into, new or old, chain or independent, there is clearly a much bigger market out there than just society members. The combination of styling, content, availability and price make Penguin paperbacks an excellent source for a formative home library. 

Ebay is full of collectible titles in varying conditions and quantities and if you want to start a core collection it’s not a bad place to start but for the budding book collector on a budget, there are hours of fun to be had fossicking through the many second-hand bookstores around Melbourne.

So next time you’re rummaging around in your favourite bookstore with a limited budget but in need of a good read, you could do much worse than to P P P pick up a Penguin....

Thursday, 6 March 2014

World Book Day!

Today, March 6th, is world book day, and any idea that encourages young people to read is a good thing in our book! 

So go along to the website and spend some of today's allocated social responsibly time to think guessed it... books! 

Buy a book for your kids, your relative's kids, anyone's kids (probably best to seek parents permission first, they're funny about that sort of thing)...

Or just buy yourself a book for World Book Day!

Book Porn...Saviour of the Published Word?...

An interesting article on Book Porn. Love the phrase or hate it, it seems to be helping boost interest in books....

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

What Kind Are You?

I’m easy to categorize when it come to books, I’m pretty much a bit of everything, reader, collector, obsessive hoarder... I buy stuff for books, things that look likes books, pictures of books. Everything.

My  co-BLM producer Baju, I’d categorize as a reader. She gets most of her books from libraries.
I have to own a copy. Simply must. Have to have it on the shelf. Have to read it too, even if my lifetime fails to live up to that expectation. (I worked it out once, if I live to about 120, I should be able to read all the books I’ve bought. Problem is I’m still buying three or four a week!). Don’t get me wrong, I never bought a book I didn’t intend reading. I really do want to work my way through every single last one of them. And if they figure out how to extend life indefinitely, I might.
So how do you read? One of the wonderful things about my obsession is I’m intensely interested in other peoples reading habits. I don’t care if you read books on subjects I’m never going to have the slightest interest in, the fact that you love to read somehow bonds me to you on an undefinable level.
For me this also extends to writers. Now it may be a cliché, but I can’t help believing that almost every avid bibliophile thinks they have a book (or two, or three) in them. I think this has something to do with this same bond that crosses the collector/reader/obsessive types. After all, writers are perhaps the ultimate reader right? They read so much that the ideas either coagulate into a new one or just overflow their reading brains to the point that a new book has to come out? Maybe?
We might not all actually have a book in us. But I don’t think it’s unhealthy to think we might. I’ve tried my hand at writing for pleasure and it does exercise the same brain muscle that reading does for me. I think my appreciation of the written word is enhanced by my attempts to write, so I’d recommend giving it a go.

It’s another facet to your reading hobby/habit/obsession which is worth exploring, but even if you don’t, sit back once in a while and think about how you read or appreciate the written word in your life. If nothing else it might just focus your mind on where you want to dedicate your limited lifetime’s worth of reading time to....