Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas shopping (well, sort of)

I know that the expression "Christmas shopping" generally refers to shopping one does for other people. But this year, I seem to have gone a bit berserk in my shopping for myself. 

Therefore, consider this post to be a sort of case study on what happens when Scott gets an unexpected bonus from his employer at the very time of year when Awesome Books is offering ridiculous sales on their already low prices.  I share my completely excessive, over-the-top holiday shopping in the hopes that my experience may be a lesson to others...

At the top of this post is only about a third of the damage I've done to my already-limited bookshelf space.  But honestly.  How could I pass up cheap Stella Gibbons, D. E. Stevenson, and Miss Read?  And I've always meant to read Frank Baker's Miss Hargreaves, which practically everyone I've ever met (it seems) has recommended to me. I've been curious about Willa Muir's fiction for a while, and it would take a stronger man than I to resist a cheap Persephone. It turns out, too, that another Persephone title, Isobel English's Every Eye, was reprinted by Black Sparrow Press a few years ago, and a lovely little copy of that edition practically just fell into my lap.

I always feel bad when I pick up books from my favorite publishers for cheap, so I hope I've made up for not ordering the latter two direct from Persephone. No holiday season would be complete without an order of Persephones fresh from the source, and this year was no exception.

A few months ago, I wrote about reading my first Dorothy Whipple novel, Someone at a Distance, and absolutely loving it. I've been yearning for her other titles ever since, and so this Persephone order will help me catch up on my long overdue Whipple reading.  (As it happens, the books arrived a few days ago, and I've already finished High Wages.  I'm bursting to talk about it, but a review will follow, eventually, when all the holiday hoopla and travel is over.)

I have to say, too, I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of book fetishist, but oh my, the smell of brand new Persephones.  I mean, new books in general, of course (and sometimes even old books), but Persephones seem to me to be in a class by themselves, aromatically.  Am I wrong?

And another touch of Persephone fetishizing: I know I'm behind the times, since the book came out a while back, but the endpapers and bookmark for They Knew Mr. Knight, from a Reco Capey fabric from 1934, are my favorite yet.

Happily, Awesome Books also came through with some Greyladies.  I seem to be wagering that I'll like Josephine Elder quite a lot when I finally get around to reading her, as I now have three of her books, including two that are out of print.  I felt bad about ordering the in-print Return to the West by Mabel Esther Allan from Awesome Books instead of Greyladies, but then I read Allan's novel (another review to come) and was compelled to immediately order her other two novels, along with Susan Pleydell's A Young Man's Fancy, direct from Greyladies, so hopefully I made up for that bad karma as well. (No photos yet of the three brand new books, which are currently winding their gradual way here on burro-back, or however it is that surface mail from the U.K. ends up in San Francisco for those like me who are too cheap to spring for airmail.  But the anticipation will only make their arrival that much more exciting.)

Of course, one of the best things about Awesome Books, as I've mentioned here before, is their wide selection of the old green Viragos, so I used their 20% sale a couple of weeks ago to stock up on some titles I'm really embarrassed never to have read:

I know, I know, I've read all the Provincial Lady novels, but none of Delafield's wide array of other novels. It's completely unacceptable and I will rectify the situation as soon as possible.  And although everyone says Beatrix Lehmann can't hold a candle to her sister, Rumour of Heaven sounds like my cup of tea. (At any rate, you know how I love advocating for the underdog, so I shall probably prefer Beatrix to Rosamond on principle!) I've never read one of Nancy Spain's mystery novels and always meant to read Antonia White's sequel to Frost in May, so I snatched those up too.

Finally, it's time I catch up on some popular and/or acclaimed children's books (or, in the case of National Velvet, novels intended for adults but marketed to children in recent decades).  NV is the only Enid Bagnold novel I've yet to read, so despite my resistance to "horse stories," I am going to dive in.

And while I was taking the plunge into the Chalet School novels, I grabbed Mary Cadogan's classic history of the girls' story for some useful background.

Whew! I have my work cut out for me in the coming months (not the least of which will involve rearranging overcrowded bookshelves...)

Hopefully this glimpse of my orgy of book shopping will add a tiny bit to your own festivities, or perhaps tempt you to some purchases of your own. You deserve it, you've worked hard, and anyway it's good for the economy. (If you need more excuses, let me know, I specialize in rationalizing book spending!) 

And let me take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful holiday week and a very happy book-filled New Year!

A short practical note: I will (hopefully) have one more post going up before the end of the year, but it will be my first experiment with scheduling a post to appear automatically. Wish me luck!  Andy and I will be in Seattle and Victoria (including high tea at the Empress hotel, the closest I can get to England this year), so if anything goes wrong, bear with me and I'll fix it when we get back. Please note that that also means new comments likely won't appear until we're back at home, but please don't let that stop you from adding your two-cents' worth, which is always worth much more than two cents to me!


  1. Merry Christmas from a lurker! What a wonderful collection of books - your New Year reading is going to be amazing!

    1. Thanks for reading, Vicki, and for coming out of lurkerdom. And merry Christmas to you too!

  2. Amazing selection! Hostages to Fortune is my very favourite Persephone book and I think The English Air is one of D.E.S.'s best.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. "I don't want anyone to think I'm some kind of book fetishist..."

    Too late for that, Scott. But then, aren't we all?

    Merry merry Christmas to you and Andy. And happy reading.

  4. Fantastic collection of books. I've read quite a few of them & I'm sure you'll love them. Dorothy Whipple is a particular favourite. I also have several Josephine Elders from Greyladies but haven't read them yet. How do we know that we'll love them? I'm sure we will, though.I hope you enjoyed your Christmas Day & I'll look forward to reading your posts in 2014.

  5. Such a bounty of treasure! Thanks to Mrs Miniver's Daughter (Mary), I found They Knew Mr Knight on youtube. You can't beat a good black and white movie on a Sunday afternoon...and a Whipple to boot!

    Merry Christmas!

  6. Thanks so much (belatedly) for all the Christmas wishes. I hope all of your holidays were lovely and filled with books and other good cheer! And (in a more timely manner) happy new year!


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