Back to books! Plus a little bookish eye-candy…😉


Well, you could be forgiven for thinking that I was about to rename the blog Kaggsy’s Iconoclastic Ramblings or Kaggsy’s Documentary Ramblings, given that I’ve been off on a bit of a tangent recently! I thoroughly enjoyed my time in “Viral” land, as well as running the interview with Richard Clay, and as this is my space in the InterWeb, I reserve the right to do whatever I want with it! But the focus on the Ramblings will always be on the written word and so it’s probably about time we had some more gratuitous pictures of books!

And I had thought that I was being good, until I looked back over my spreadsheet of arrivals and realised that actually quite a number had managed to sneak their way into the house. In mitigation, a *lot* of these are review copies (which I’m very happy about) – but nevertheless they are here, taking up space! =:o So I’ve divvied them up into categories, and here goes…

The Waterstones Wobble

Sounds like a dance, doesn’t it? I shared on Instagram, but not here I think, the fact that I got slightly carried away in Waterstones recently and bought some full-priced books in a bricks and mortar bookstore and it felt amazing! And these are they:

The lovely little Macfarlane book is one I’ve already read and reviewed on the blog and it was worth every penny. The Dawkins is because I wanted a Dawkins and I couldn’t decide which one and ended up buying this one and I want to read everything he’s written NOW except there are so many books competing for space. Arrrggghhh! As for the Brodsky, it caught my eye; I have a collection of his essays and also a poetry one, but this is an essay on Venice and I thought it would make an excellent companion piece to some other Venice books I have (and one which I’ve already covered). I’ve dipped and I want to read it straight away too.

Charity Shop Finds

The logical thing to do, really, would be to stop going into the charity shops, wouldn’t it? And I try to avoid most of them nowadays, but there are a couple I pop into regularly – the Samaritans Book Cave and the Oxfam, both of which are dedicated book areas. I’m trying to be really selective, particularly as the Oxfam’s prices are sneaking up again. But these ones slipped through the net and I think each purchase is justified.

The Saramagos were, of course, essential. I loved my first encounter with him so much that I want to collect and read everything, and I’ve amassed quite a little pile thanks to the charity shops and Simon (who kindly passed on a Saramago he’d read!)

As for the Larkin and Eliot poetry collections – yes, I have all of their poems in other big volumes but these were small and nice and cheap and I’m finding myself more likely to pick up slim volumes than chunky collected ones. We shall see – I need to read more of the poetry books I have already.

eliot larkin

Pretty, ain’t they? Next up was this:

Fleur Jaeggy is a name that’s cropped up on all manner of blogs I read and respect, and this one sounds great; I was always going to pick up anything by her that I came across in the charity shops really…

Finally Simone Weil – an oddity in that it’s a hardback Virago from back in the day, and I did hum and hah a bit about buying it because I have more books than I can ever read in my lifetime if I’m honest. However, in the end I decided to get it – because it *is* an unusual Virago and Patti Smith rates Weil and so I’m prepared to give the book a go!

Bits and Bobs

Just a couple of books here which have crept into the Ramblings from various sources.

First up, the lovely Marina Sofia at Finding Time to Write kindly passed on to me “The Death of the Perfect Sentence“, which she’d read herself. I love the sound of it and it’s from the Estonian, a language I think I haven’t read from before, so that’s a plus too. And secondly, an online purchase (I’ve been trying to resist those…) in the form of an intriguing-sounding book “The Trouble with Tom” which is all about Thomas Paine (which slightly ties in with the French Revolution Reading List thingy I came up with and haven’t forgotten about despite being deeply sunk in 19th century Russian nihilist circles). I read about this one recently and have forgotten instantly whose blog it was on – but thank you, whoever it was!

Review Books

There are certain publishers whose books I love to read and cover, and a little chunk of review copies have arrived recently (well – a big chunk, really…) – as you can see:

The British Library really have spoiled me, with more of their marvellous Crime Classics and another two Sci Fi Classics. I adore both of these ranges, so I can see some happy reading hours coming up over the Easter break!

Oneworld have also been very kind; I was really keen to read “Solovyov and Larionov” after loving Eugene Vodolazkin’s book “The Aviator” last year and can’t wait to get stuck in. Additionally, they offered an intriguing new work called “How We Disappeared” by Jing-Jing Lee; set in Singapore and spanning decades, it sounds fascinating.

Pushkin Press always have an amazing array of books, but it’s a little while since I read one of their Pushkin Vertigo titles. “Casanova and the Faceless Woman” is set just before the first French Revolution – so ideal for me, no? 😀

And last, but definitely not least, the wonderfully titled “The Office of Gardens and Ponds” from MacLehose Press – it looks just gorgeous and sounds wonderful.

Thank you *so* much, lovely publishers. And yes –  I’m definitely going to be abandoning sleep some time soon…

Current Reading

Needless to say, I’m still pacing myself through the marathon that is Dostoevsky’s “The Devils”… As you can see from the festoons of post-it notes, I’m getting on quite well.

TBH it probably wasn’t the most sensible choice of book for what is probably my busiest time of the year (budgeting and financial year-end against a very tight deadline, anyone?) One of those lovely BL books might have been slightly more wise, but I’m loving the Russian chunkster so I shall keep going – though it’s entirely possible I might try to slip in something slim as light relief when the dark action of Dostoevsky gets too much!

So – what from the above takes *your* fancy????? 😁

Sneaking in the odd tome…


It’s been a little while since I posted about new arrivals, mainly because I’ve been trying to de-book the house a bit – and I *have* been very good about taking as many as I can carry to the charity shop each week. However, a flying visit to Leicester over half term inevitably meant trips to the charity shops there – in particular the Loros and Age Concern bookshops – although I’m pleased to report I was surprisingly restrained!

ch shop leics

These were my finds – the lovely early green Virago of Surfacing came from the Age Concern and replaced my modern copy (which I’ve donated to Middle Child!); and the Galsworthy short story collection was from the Loros. Yes, I know I fell off the wagon with the Forsyte challenge, but I *do* want to return to the books when the time is right.

The other two discoveries came from a new source to me – Clarendon Books, just round the corner from the charity shops. Despite numerous visits to Leicester, I’ve somehow never made to this one, which is surprising as it’s kind of perfect. A tiny little shop crammed to the gills with the sort of books I love, I was lucky to get out with just two – a lovely paperback of an obscure Colette I haven’t read, and a book I once owned, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. So some lovely Leicester finds!

We also popped into the Waterstones – a nicely stocked one, but I have to say that I think my local Ipswich branch has the edge. The latter stock a wider range of publishers and I think use their shop and window space more creatively. However, as the only bookselling chain which seems to have a national high street presence, I certainly think they need support and so I purchased this:


The fact that I already own a battered old Penguin of this is irrelevant… Because if I’m honest I’m actually finding it harder to read smaller, older books with small type, a fact that’s become clear with my recent reading of a particular Hermann Hesse book. This looks to have bigger, cleaner, better set out pages and I think I’ll be more inclined to pick it up sooner because of the relative physical ease of reading it’ll bring. Hope so, anyway!

And there have been some other arrivals – some purchases and some review books – here are a few:

rev and recent

An intriguing little pile, no? So, what to read next!

A few sneaky arrivals…


Just in case you were thinking that the book buying had calmed down a little on the Ramblings, there *have* been a few arrivals recently… I’ve been doing my best not to buy, particularly bearing in mind that the festive season is approaching, but I confess to getting a little carried away after reading “The Mournful Demeanour of Lieutenant Boruvka”!


“Sins for Father Knox” apparently has a couple of stories Boruvka appears in; the three books to the right are the other Boruvkas (including the one I read); and “Miss Silver’s Past” is another intriguing-sounding Skvorecky title. They were all preposterously cheap online, so I feel no guilt!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some review prizes and a giveaway win arrived too:

review books

“Sea of Ink” is a lovely Peirene book which I was lucky enough to snag from a Twitter giveaway; and the Wilde, Schnitzler and Goncharov are all review copies, write-ups of which will appear in due course.

I’ve been trying to limit the charity shop browsing a little too, but the Samaritans came up trumps the Saturday before last with three lovely Viragos I don’t have:

viragos nov 15

They’re all in great condition, and not titles I have, so I was rather pleased.

And finally, this week in the Samaritans I came across this:


I’ve wanted to read “The Towers of Trebizond” for a long time and despite having a somewhat uninteresting paperback version on the shelves, I couldn’t resist this beautiful reprint society hardback. The cover is in amazing condition, which is unusual as they’re so often frayed, faded or tatty. Can’t wait to read it!

So – some nice arrivals, and I’m trying to correspondingly remove some titles before Christmas. I may do a small giveaway in December – watch this space!

Shuffling the immediate TBR


Actually, calling it a TBR is a bit of a misnomer – I have no *physical* TBR in that all of my books are muddled together, read or unread. This is not always helpful when trying to decide what to read, or indeed find a specific book… A case in point being “Point Counter Point” by Aldous Huxley which I knew I had and couldn’t find till yesterday when I realised I had moved my Japanese books to the front of a double stacked shelf and some unread books (including the Huxley) to the back of the same shelf, out of sight….

This set me looking at the shelves downstairs where I keep kind of current books and I had a bit of a revamp. I’m *supposedly* in the middle of two self-imposed reading challenges (Proust and The Forsyte Saga) but I’ve come to a grinding halt, so I brought them downstairs. I took a lot of books away to stash in a spare room and now the current shelves look like this:

revised tbr

Note the Galsworthys and the Prousts displayed prominently! Next to the Galsworthys on the top right hand side is a little pile of poetry books. I need to read more poetry but I’m failing, basically. I’m considering setting myself another little challenge with verse (will I never learn?) If I go ahead, an explanatory post will follow…. Meanwhile, I shall try to decide which one of these books I’ll read next!

Alas, no donations to the charity shop this weekend (life got in the way of more weeding out) – but I did find two little treasures in the Samaritans Book Cave:

zweig x 2

Two lovely Pushkin Press collections of Stefan Zweig short stories – *who* would want to give these away?? Nevertheless, they did and so they came home with me. I’ve read one story from each so far, and they’re utterly brilliant.  Zweig’s a deceptive author – what seems simple ends up packing such a punch. I’m going to ration them so as to appreciate them better by reading one when the mood takes me. But in the meantime – off to rummage in the TBR! 🙂

Nine out, one in – plus a library book


Without wishing to become a bore on the subject, I lugged nine more volumes to donate at the Samaritans Book Cave today (and was pleased to see some of my old volumes nestling in the shelves!)

And this week I only came home with one new book myself, in the form of this:

ask a policeman

I have at least one Detection Club from ages ago, but this is a recent release, with an introduction by Martin Edwards – so kind of essential, I think!

And this is the library book (which I’ve had on order for a while).


It’s basically (I think!) a book about a man’s obsession with the Tarkovsky film “Stalker”. I stumbled across it while looking up Strugatsky books online (as you do) and thought it might be intriguing.

We shall see! 🙂

Seven out, two in (well, two and half really….)


… which is quite apt, given one of the titles of the book!

Yes, the gradual weeding out of unwanted volumes continues and today I took another seven off to donate. I’m actually finding it relatively unpainful so far, although I haven’t yet got onto the books which it will be an emotional wrench to part with. But I figured if I keep taking in a few at a time they will gradually thin out to the ones I *must* keep, and seven fairly large book is all I could carry.

I think bringing back two and a half in return is a reasonable ratio, and these are they:

two and a half

I *had* planned to buy the half a book – the Cavafy Little Black Classic – as his name keeps cropping up and then I read this excellent post about his poetry, and figured I could commit 80p to discovering his work! But the other two were charity shop finds.

“The President’s Hat” is by an author I’d never heard of, but it’s from what appears to be a small press (that’s good),  is in a nice edition with French flaps (even better) and sounds funny and intriguing (so just right for me!)

As for the Nigel Williams – again, he’s an author I keep circling, thinking I really should read “The Wimbledon Poisoner”. This, however, is non fiction – an attempt in the 1990s to recreate “Three Men in a Boat” (for which I’m a sucker) and the first page was funny enough to get me snatching the book up (and being quite surprised that it was only 99p).

I feel happy enough buying these as I’m sure they’re books I’ll actually read (in fact, I’ve already finished the Williams one though I have such a backlog it’ll be weeks till I review it…). And the ratio of in to out is still good, no?? 🙂

The Parlous State of the TBR….


Which might seem to be something of an alarmist heading – but to be honest, the TBR does worry me a lot, particularly as I keep reading of other bloggers’ triumphs with attacking theirs! I have been clearing books out madly, being as ruthless as I can with volumes I’ve carted around for over 30 years without reading, and four large boxes went to a charity collection recently.

However, this hasn’t stopped books continuing to arrive at the Ramblings – this week has seen the following make their way through the door:

nabokov x 2

These two lovelies arrived to replace two books in a large Nabokov omnibus I donated because it was so unwieldy I was just never going to read it. Plus they’re much prettier….


Only the right-hand John Berger volume arrived this week – I’ve had “Ways of Seeing” knocking around for ages – and the novel was because Verso were having a wonderful sale…


And this is one of the few Dostoevskys I don’t have, so I succumbed for no other reason than I wanted it.

To try to alleviate things, I dragged several books into the Samaritans Book Cave to donate today – and came out with these:

book cave finds

A lovely Folio Society Russian classic and an original Green Virago of Rebecca West’s “The Fountain Overflows” – is there no hope for me? Have I no willpower??

Well, no I haven’t. The thing is, if I read only the books I own that I’ve never read, I wouldn’t need to buy a book for, oh, at least a couple of years. The TBR has spilled onto another shelf or two and there are now these (the most recent layer) as well as literally hundreds upstairs:

some of the tbr

Frankly, the only way I don’t get into a screaming panic about it is just by not thinking about it. And buying more books.

Help! 🙂

Unexpected Bookish Joy!


Not far from where I work there’s a little parade of shops, and I always pop there once a week during my lunch hour just to pick up some bits and pieces. One of the shops is a charity one, and I make the habit of always sticking my head round the door to look at the books – just in case…

It’s very rare I find anything of interest, but yesterday my eye was caught by these two lovelies:


“The Transylvanian Trilogy” (as it’s known) is something I’ve been wanting to read for a long time and in fact I have the first volume “The Were Counted” sitting at home so to find the second and third volume for the grand total of £1 (yes, 50p each!!!!) was a treat.

Now I just need to make time to start this epic series…. And I’ll definitely need to keep checking out that charity shop!

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