What I Read in 2012

January 1st, 2013

Happy 2013! I hope yours is off to a good start: mine definitely is. Today has included, among other things: very good coffee, ice skating on newly-sharpened skates at a not-too-crowded rink, and a handstand on the beach. My day has not yet included any curling up with a book, but that’s coming next: I started The Casual Vacancy the other day and am enjoying it so far, and am planning to sit on the couch with it and some rooibos chai shortly. But first: what I read and liked in 2012.

I read 54 books in 2012—though that does include some picture books, which don’t exactly count, but I’m counting them anyhow.

The breakdown:
Picture books: 2
Other kids’/YA books: 9
Fiction (for grown-ups): 29
Non-fiction: 11
Poetry: 3

Works in translation: 7

Favorites: There but for the by Ali Smith. So smart and engaged and human. Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies, which I couldn’t shut up about for months because of how good it was: self-aware and introspective and interesting. NW by Zadie Smith, for its stylistic play and cleverness but also for how it’s as much about a corner of a city as it is about the people who inhabit it. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, because it’s a play off A Wrinkle in Time. Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere by André Aciman, for the way Aciman explores place and memory and nostalgia and being in the world as a certain kind of person.

2013 plans: the plan for 2013, reading-wise, is basically to have no plans, other than the 2013 edition of the TBR Double Dog Dare, which means I’ll be reading off my bookshelves between now and April 1. I’m looking forward to it.

I recently signed up for the 2013 edition of the TBR Double Dog Dare over at Ready When You Are, C.B.: I did this last year, and really liked it. It’s a simple and brilliant idea: starting on January 1, 2013 and going to April Fool’s Day, I’ll be reading only books I already own (or have already checked out/requested from the library, or have already borrowed from friends). It’s now halfway through December (when did that happen?) and I’m not planning on placing more holds at the library this year, so we’ll see how far I get during the rest of this month on what I’ve already checked out, as well as what comes in that I’ve already requested. (Right now I have holds on three books: The Wizard of Washington Square by Jane Yolen, which I fear may actually be lost because I’ve been waiting so long for a copy that’s supposedly checked in, The Casual Vacancy, and Black Swan Green. I currently only have three books checked out but not yet read, all of which are pretty short: The Duel by Heinrich von Kleist, The Thing about Thugs and Vicky Swanky Is A Beauty. I almost checked out a few more today, but realized I didn’t have my library card with me: drat, but hm, maybe that’s a good thing.)

Meanwhile, I’ve recently acquired rather a lot of new books, at least for me. When I’m at home, I don’t buy books that much: I live in a place with a good library system, and many books are ones I’m happy to get from the library. But when I’m traveling, I find it harder to resist: I like going to used bookstores, and used bookstores elsewhere have a way of feeling more exciting than used bookstores closer to home. Plus I feel like I’m traveling and already spending money, so might as well spend a bit more—or something like that. So right: here’s the stack of books I bought between November 4th and December 4th:

Books purchased: November/December 2012

In the order I purchased them, which doesn’t match the picture above:

I was in England in November for work, and went to London one Sunday for some good coffee + solo walking explorations. I stopped into the Oxfam bookshop on Highgate Hill on my way to Hampstead Heath, ostensibly just to see if they had postcards. I did buy postcards there, but also got Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey by James Attlee (because I’m a sucker for smart/literary travel writing, and because I read and really liked Attlee’s Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight back in November 2011) and Street Haunting by Virginia Woolf, which is a slim (55 pages) collection of six essays and stories: Street Haunting: A London Adventure, Kew Gardens, A Mark on the Wall, Solid Objects, Lappin and Lapinova, and The Death of the Moth (because, well, Virginia Woolf). A few days after that, in a WHSmith at Heathrow, I picked up The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, because it won the Orange Prize and I’d been curious about it and thought I might start it on the plane (though I didn’t).

Then I went to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, and spent a Saturday in Philadelphia mostly museum-ing. After a visit to The Barnes I suggested a visit to Book Corner, just across the street, where all books are $1, $2, or $3. The first book that caught my eye there was The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston: I hadn’t heard of it, but it’s apparently a classic of nature writing, which is a genre I want to explore more. I also got The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips, which I’m excited about because it’s a (partly) epistolary novel, and False Papers by André Aciman, since I enjoyed Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere so much when I read it in July.

On the last day of November, I flew to San Francisco for a long weekend: a dear friend from New Zealand was there, and so I went to see her, and so did another friend who lives in Vermont plus another friend who lives in Chicago. It was a great weekend, and not just because San Francisco has a lot of good bookshops, a few of which I visited. At Forest Books, I got a first edition of Incidents by Roland Barthes, which includes journal excerpts + three essays; I don’t think I’ve ever read Barthes and this seems like an approachable starting place. At Dog-Eared Books, I got Dime Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell by Charles Simic (I quite like Cornell, and like Simic, too), The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet (which the back cover describes as working within “the framework of the classic detective story” but also as “a story of fact and fantasy, hypothesis and reality, memory and imagination”), and King of A Hundred Horsemen by Marie Étienne, which is a dual-language (French/English) book of poems. Finally, on my last night in the city, I went shopping at Aardvark Books, where I got two books I’ve been curious about for a while, which both have pleasing covers: Oranges by John McPhee and Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau. Exciting, right?

Oranges/Exercises in Style

Library books!

April 6th, 2012

Library books!

Well, there goes my idea of maybe keeping the TBR Double Dare challenge going through to May. I went to the library today, and the shelves of new books were so very tempting, and so very full of things I want to read. I walked out with this delightful stack:

  • Schematics: A Love Story by Julian Hibbard: I hadn’t heard of this book, but the unusual format (it’s a board book! for grownups!) and size caught my eye. It’s apparently about “love and loss,” and the publisher’s site says this: “Every spread pairs a quietly unfolding, enigmatic narrative with a visually arresting schematic diagram. Whether they plot simplistic dance steps or chart chemical decomposition, the illustrations complicate and supplement the deceptively simple narrative.” Sounds neat, right?
  • Invitation to a Voyage by François Emmanuel is another new-to-me book, but from a publisher I’m fond of. Dalkey Archive Press publishes a whole lot of interesting works in translation, and this book of short stories apparently includes, among other things, an “artist who tries to paint fog and ends up by disappearing inside it,” as the back cover blurb puts it.
  • Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt: I haven’t really read much of the Canongate myths series—I think the only ones I’ve read were The Penelopiad and Weight—but I like Byatt and when I read about this one in a “new releases” email from goodreads, I figured I’d probably end up reading it eventually. And there it was, just waiting for me.
  • Barley Patch by Gerald Murnane is another Dalkey Archive book I hadn’t heard of before. The back cover says it’s “in the spirit of Italo Calvino and Georges Perec,” both of whom are authors I quite like.
  • Dani Torres mentioned Berlin Stories by Robert Walser a while back, and it sounded excellent. I like books about cities.
  • And last but not least is Ali Smith’s There but for the, which I think I first heard about last year via Litlove’s excellent post on it. More recently, Erin, who knows my taste in books, was reading it and mentioned she thought I’d really really like it. I expect I shall.

Happy April! It’s the end of C.B. James’s TBR Double Dare, and I’m pleased to report that all the books I read between January 1st and today were books that I either a) already had on hold/checked out at the library as of midnight on New Year’s Eve or b) already owned and hadn’t read yet. I suspect that I read more slowly when I don’t have a looming library due date, which can be a good thing, and I’ve enjoyed exploring my own shelves. I sort of feel like I should keep the challenge up until May, because all three books I read in January were my TBR Double Dare exceptions, those previously-mentioned already-checked-out library books. But we’ll see: I have a DVD to return at the library tomorrow, and the temptation of the shelves of new books may prove overwhelming. I also just put myself on the hold list for The Hunger Games, which I never did get around to reading and now am sort of curious about, but I’m hold number 559, so, uh, that might be a while, although my local library system has 271 copies of the book, so maybe it won’t actually take that long to get to my turn.

April, meanwhile, is National Poetry Month, and I always try to read and write some poems during April (while also always thinking that it would be nice to have a poem-reading and poem-writing practice that lasted longer than a month, but somehow, for me, that’s easier said than done). I’m subscribed to two different April poem-a-day email lists, one from Knopf and the other from someone who likes a whole lot of interesting poems. I also am thinking that the next book I start reading will probably be poetry: probably A Wave by John Ashbery, though I guess that also depends on what temptations I see at the library tomorrow.

And you? Anyone else who did the TBR Double Dare, how did it go for you? Did you notice any change in your reading habits? (I think in addition to reading more slowly, I also read more nonfiction than usual.) Do you have any April reading plans, poetry-related or otherwise?

2011 Wrap-Up Post

December 30th, 2011

New Books!

Here it is, almost the end of the year. I may just read another book before the year’s out, but I doubt it, so here goes: I read 59 books this year—a number that includes a few picture books and also several kids’ books—which is less than I read last year, but I’m OK with that.

The breakdown:
Picture books: 3
Other kids’/YA books: 11
Fiction (for grown-ups): 33
Non-fiction: 6
Poetry: 6

Works in translation: 10

Favorites: The Cows by Lydia Davis. Seriously. So charming and smart. Nocturne by James Attlee, which was smart and blended the historical/cultural with the personal really nicely. Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier, who’s really funny and wonderfully enthusiastic. The whole “Melendy Quartet” by Elizabeth Enright—wonderful classic kids’ books that I somehow missed as a kid. White Teeth by Zadie Smith, which I’d been meaning to read for years and quite exceeded my expectations; really smart and more engaging than I’d thought it would be.

Re-reads: Just The Magicians by Lev Grossman, because I wanted to re-immerse myself in the book’s world before reading the sequel.

Books I expected to like way more than I actually did: The Lost Art of Walking, which was snarkier than I wanted it to be/full of lists that weren’t really that interesting/just not quite the book I wanted. Shopgirl, which I didn’t like nearly as much as I liked the movie.

In general: I had a whole bunch of single-author stretches this year, and I also read rather a lot of mysteries. In January I read Charles Finch’s first book featuring detective Charles Lenox, and in December I read the next three in that series. I read two of Alan Bradley’s mysteries featuring Flavia de Luce (though they were spaced out, one in April and the other in November). In June and July I read four consecutive Elizabeth Enright books. In August I didn’t read a single book that wasn’t either by Philip Pullman or by Lev Grossman. I’m not sure whether I was particularly in the mood for comfort reads this year or whether I just found myself picking up a lot of series and finishing them either because they were totally excellent (e.g. Enright) or because they were pretty good and I’m a completist (e.g. Finch)—probably a bit of both.

Coming up in 2012: As previously mentioned, I’m taking the TBR Double Dare Challenge. Between January 1 and April 1, I’m going to try to read books exclusively from my own shelves, with the exception of three already-checked-out library books I have waiting for me (a picture book by Emily Gravett called The Rabbit Problem, A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch, which is another of the Charles Lenox mysteries, and Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch, which was on the Booker shortlist). I don’t have super-specific reading plans or goals, but I think it’ll be a good thing.

Recent acquisitions: That picture at the top of this post shows the new books/book-ish things I acquired over my Christmas vacation in Georgia. I’ve wanted the Postcards from Penguin box set (one hundred postcards, each one a Penguin cover) since it came out, but wouldn’t have bought it for myself. My mom and I were on the checkout line at Anthropologie and I spotted it and excitedly pointed out; she asked if I wanted it, and she very nicely bought it for me. The rest of the books here are all thrift store/Goodwill finds: I hadn’t heard of Living Dolls (subtitle: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life) but it caught my eye: I’m always looking for interesting/smart non-fiction. Then there’s Netherland, which I’ve heard about in various places, I think most recently when Elizabeth gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. Next is Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, which may be too full of God and Catholicism for me, but we shall see: it’s a first edition hardcover and it was too cheap to pass up. Merton went to Columbia and was part of the same literary society I joined (though it was a frat back in his day, rather than being co-ed), and I’ve been mildly curious about this book since my freshman year in college. Last is Craig Thompson’s Carnet de Voyage, a travelogue in graphic novel format that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. The four books I bought cost less than $10: there is something to be said for thrift-store shopping in suburbia!

2012: The TBR Double Dare

December 1st, 2011

Two years ago I posted this list of 21 books I owned but hadn’t yet read and wanted to read. Since that post, I’ve read eight of those books: just over a third of them. Which makes me think that perhaps list-based reading doesn’t work so well for me. I’ve read a fair amount of books this year, but not a lot of them have been books I own: I have what you might call a library habit. And I think, overall, my library habit is a good thing: it’s a pleasant 15 minute walk from where I live to the library I go to, and I like browsing the shelves and discovering new-to-me books and authors, and I like letting one book lead me to another, and I like putting holds on books I have a sudden interest in, and I like being reminded of other books I’ve forgotten about (like, recently, seeing the newest book by Charles Finch reminded me that I wanted to read more of his earlier books).

But at the same time, why do I own all these lovely books that I really do want to read if I’m not actually reading them?

So: this is where C.B. James’s TBR Double Dare comes in. It’s nice and simple: no lists or planning are required. From January 1st to April 1st (or however long they want, or however long their willpower lasts) participants read only books from their “To Be Read” piles/shelves. That’s it. Exceptions are allowed as needed, and library books that you’ve already checked out or placed holds on before 2012 begins are fine.

I’m taking the challenge, but I’m taking the “TBR” part of it somewhat loosely: I’m going to try (!), from January 1 to April 1, only to read books I already own. I’m going to focus on books I haven’t read yet, but if the urge to re-read something strikes me, I will. And I’m not making a list, though I do have a couple of books in mind (Cloud Atlas, for example, is sitting very appealingly on the shelf. Also Nox, which I am sort of appalled that I haven’t read yet, and ditto At Home and The Hare with Amber Eyes.)

In the meantime I have a small stack of library books checked out: I’m currently in the midst of Renaud Camus’s Tricks, which I’m needing to pace myself with (if I read too fast it becomes sort of a blur of cocks, but more on that once I finish it). I also have two of Charles Finch’s mysteries checked out (The September Society and The Fleet Street Murders), and one of those really attractive Melville House novellas (The Duel by Giacomo Casanova) and also Kristen Kaschock’s novel, Sleight, which the blurb describes as being about two sisters trained in “an interdisciplinary art form that combines elements of dance, architecture, acrobatics, and spoken word,” and which I’m hoping is as awesome as it sounds. I also have holds on a YA book (The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, which also has a totally great premise: it’s 1996 and two teenagers log on to AOL and somehow end up Facebook, looking at themselves, 15 years in the future) and a picture book (Snow by Uri Shulevitz). I might feel compelled to place holds on a few more books before the year is out (like more by Charles Finch, if I have fun with the two I have, and also one of Emily Gravett’s picture books that I don’t want to wait to April to read). But once 2012 hits, I’ll plan to turn to my own shelves. We’ll see how it goes.

Library Books/What Next?

May 15th, 2011

I went to the library the other night intending just to return The Quickening Maze and to pick up just one book I had on hold, but you know how that goes, right? I left with not one but five books, and now I get to pick which to read next.

Library Books

From top to bottom, here’s what I got:
The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz: I read and really liked The Other City by Ajvaz last June, and I hope I like this one just as much. The back cover calls it “a fantastical travelogue by a modern-day Gulliver about a civilization he once encountered on a tiny island in the Atlantic,” but then gets even more interesting-sounding: the civilization is centered around “the Book, a handwritten, collective novel filled with feuding royal families, murderous sorcerers, and narrow escapes.”

How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu: I actually had this one checked out of the library at the start of this month, and got about forty pages into it but then had to return it because someone else had it on hold. This will probably be the one I end up starting first, because I’m excited to get back to it. It’s about a man whose parents immigrated to the US from Ethiopia and about that man’s retracing of his parents’ sort-of-honeymoon trip from Peoria to Nashville, but also about his family history more generally.

That This by Susan Howe: I don’t think I’ve ever read a whole book of Howe’s poems, and this one isn’t entirely poetry: the first part is an essay about Howe’s husband’s (unexpected) death, which the back cover says includes references to “paintings by Poussin, an autopsy, Sarah Edwards and her sister-in-law Hannah, phantoms, and elusive remnants.” Then comes a section of collages of Hannah Edwards Wetmore’s diary entries, then a final section of poems by Howe.

The Ada Poems by Cynthia Zarin: my boyfriend spotted this on the shelf and asked if I’d heard of it. Yes, and I’ve been meaning to read it. I think I first read about it in this post over at the NYPL blog, and then the April poem-a-day email list from Knopf included one of the poems.

In Office Hours by Lucy Kellaway: I read about this one over at litlove’s blog and it sounded like a satifying read.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Happy almost 2011! I’m pleased to be back from my annual Christmas trip to Georgia (Atlanta-ish), and glad to have been re-united with my suitcase, which made it back to NYC two days earlier than I did. I’m planning a very low-key night here in slushy Brooklyn: I’d hoped to go see the steam whistles on the Pratt campus (my favorite New Year’s Eve event, seriously—go watch someone else’s daytime warm-up video of it here, and then imagine all that steam and even more of it on a dark and chilly night, and imagine the noise of it, the biggest whistles so deep you can feel them thrum in your chest). But my boyfriend and I are both sick, so leaving the apartment is looking unlikely, and while he bought us some pear cider with which to celebrate, I’m not sure either of us will even be awake at midnight. Honestly, I’m ready for 2010 to be over. There have been good things, including a really fun solo vacation to San Francisco (featuring tons of bookshops, tons of walking, and tons of good coffee) but there’s also been a lot of feeling grumpy and frazzled. I am aiming for a 2011 that will contain less grumpiness and frazzledness, and more of the good stuff (static trapeze! long walks! bike riding! cooking!).

As for books, though, 2010 has been a good reading year for me: when I was feeling too hot to cook/too grumpy to do anything, I usually managed to find something I wanted to read. My book list for this year contains 63 books, which is significantly more than the amount I read last year, though note that I’m counting three picture books, and I read a whole lot of kids’/YA chapter books this year, too.

The breakdown:

  • Picture books: 3
  • Other kids’/YA books: 17
  • Fiction (for grown-ups): 26
  • Non-fiction: 11
  • Poetry: 6
  • Works in translation: 10
  • Books by women: 27
  • Books by men: 36

Favorites: Bluets by Maggie Nelson: I think this was my favorite thing I read all year. Delicious delicious delicious poetry. Everything I read by Connie Willis: though I see the flaws in her writing (some stylistic tics, characters who aren’t that fleshed out), it’s great for what it is: exciting/plot-driven historical fiction, with time travel. Fire and Hemlock and The Homeward Bounders and Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones: she’s just so good! The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton: stylistically exciting, unexpected, an all-around delight.

Re-reads: I think just The House with a Clock in its Walls, though I might have read the other Bellairs books when I was a kid too, I don’t know: this one’s the only one I remember having read for sure.

Books I expected to like way more than I actually did: Montmorency and the Assassins, which wasn’t quite as smart as I wanted it to be. Psychogeography, which was snarkier than I wanted it to be.

The TBR pile: I read just six books from my list for Emily’s TBR challenge, but the first one was a long one!

  • The Captive & The Fugitive by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin: I finished this one in late February, and thought it was a bit of a slog at times, it was also really excellent.
  • Eating for England by Nigel Slater: I read this one in late March: it was indeed light and fun, though sometimes repetitive.
  • The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, which I read in mid-March: it was sweet, and I liked the historical details, but the lack of girl characters was a bit off-putting.
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which I read in August and found pretty unputdownable, though the end annoyed me.
  • Waiting for the Weekend by Witold Rybczynski, which I also read in August, and really liked: yay smart nonfiction, indeed.
  • Witch Grass by Raymond Queneau, which I read in November for the NYRB Reading Week challenge, and which was funnier and more satisfying than I initially thought it might be.

Plans for 2011: I’m going to carry over the rest of my TBR challenge list, because they all are still books I would like to read. I’d also like to finish up my ongoing Proust project—Time Regained is sitting on my shelf just waiting for me. I want to re-read Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” sequence. Cloud Atlas feels like it’s calling my name. And that’s about as much planning as I’ve done so far.

I read the rest of English Hours very slowly, interspersed with a few issues of the New Yorker, and am not sure I have much intelligent to say about it, especially since I seem to have lost a piece of paper on which I’d written some notes while reading. But I know I wanted to share this wonderful sentence, from the essay called “North Devon”: “On huge embankments of moss and turf, smothered in wild flowers and embroidered with the finest lace-work of trailing ground-ivy, rise solid walls of flowering thorn and glistening holly and golden broom, and more strong, homely shrubs than I can name, and toss their blooming tangle to a sky which seems to look down between them, in places, from but a dozen inches of blue.” (53)

I also know that English Hours made delicious reading, especially delicious vacation-reading: I spent a little over a week off work, first at Megan’s cousin’s wedding in Annapolis, then in Williamsburg, VA, where Megan grew up. It was a wonderfully relaxing vacation: the weather in Annapolis was beautiful and everything was in walking distance from our hotel, and then in Williamsburg it rained and rained and rained; there was lots of time for reading and laughing, and lots of time for other quiet cozy things, too: doing crossword puzzles at the kitchen table or on the screened-in porch, having giggling fits while playing on the Wii Fit (which was about a billion times more fun than I expected it would be), having grilled ham and cheese for lunch, or frying up onions and mushrooms to have with scrambled eggs for breakfast. It seemed especially apt to read about England while watching the rain fall outside, though Henry James talks about glorious blue-skied days as much as he does about rainy ones.

Now I’m back in Brooklyn, and it’s chilly and autumnal and I’m pleased to be home, mountain of emails at work to wade through and messy apartment and all (the mess is entirely my own clutter—my boyfriend cleaned the kitchen and changed the sheets while I was gone!). Saturday was full of being-home-again goodness: a walk to the farmers market, where I dropped some old clothes off at textile recycling and bought a quart of organic local skim milk; the chill in the apartment with the windows open; a perfect McIntosh apple from our CSA share; a macchiato at Café Grumpy and more walking around the neighborhood with my boyfriend. One of the best things about walks in this neighborhood is that there’s a big culture of a) stoop sales (yard sales but on the sidewalk/front steps) and b) free books—sometimes stoop-sale remnants, sometimes just set out in boxes. Saturday, in a box of otherwise unremarkable-to-me books, I saw something that made me very glad I’d stopped to look: a hardcover copy, in very good shape, of the UK edition of Sissinghurst by Adam Nicolson, which has been on my to-read list since Frances at Nonsuch Book mentioned it back in June. I’m sure it’ll be a little while before I get around to reading it—I’ve got a few library books checked out now, and my neglected TBR-pile-challenge—but yay, I’m excited.

In my last post, I talked about Book Bay Fort Mason and what I bought there. Here are the rest of the bookstores I found noteworthy on my San Francisco trip. But first, a photo. I didn’t take any bookish pictures, but here’s one from my favorite long walk (Day 2, see the end of this post for more on my walks through the city):

Baker Beach

Now, onto the bookish stuff:

Needles & Pens is “an emporium of zines, d.i.y. goods, and an art gallery,” to quote their description of themselves from their website, and I went there because I like zines and I was walking around in the Mission anyhow. Unfortunately, the kind of zines I like did not seem to have much overlap with the kind of zines they stock, which is not really a negative comment about them: I’m really picky. I like zines that are text-heavy and personal rather than political; I like poetry zines if they’re good poetry (Katie Haegele’s poetry zines come to mind); I don’t like punk zines; I don’t like comics; above all, the writing has to be good, and by “good” I mean “readable, but ideally also graceful” and “smart.” Speaking of which: do any of you read zines, and do you have any recommendations? None of the zines I picked up at Needles & Pens excited me, but I am still glad I went there: I did like their cards and postcards, and bought one of Anandi Worden’s Future History of San Francisco postcards and one of Riley Noehren’s turret greeting cards (the green one).

I stopped into Forest Books after having walked 11.5 miles, so I wasn’t really in the best browsing mood, but it seems like a good used book store. I was tempted by a first edition of Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson and impressed by their poetry section. I also stopped into Dog Eared Books (new/used) in a bit of pre-dinner bleariness, and don’t remember too much of what I looked at there, though I remember it being a big and well-stocked shop.

The Green Arcade is another shop I went into after a long walk (are we sensing a pattern here?) but it was so good that I ignored my weariness and browsed for a while. They sell new books, with a focus on the environment/sustainability/urban planning; I like books about cities/places/spaces that are aimed at a general audience, and there was lots to see here.

I also visited Get Lost Books, a travel bookstore that is on the small side but seems to have a decent selection of travel writing + guidebooks. Another store I really liked was Modern Times, where I spotted Wendy-o Matik’s book on the shelves and realized I’ve been meaning to read it ever since, um, my summer internship in 2003, almost bought Donald Tetto’s small book/zine of poems, Shine in 09, which looked really satisfying. But I didn’t buy it, for some unaccountable reason—so I’m extra-pleased to see that I can read it on his website, yay!

One day I was in the Inner Richmond and browsed the outside bins at Green Apple Books, which I’ve heard described as the Strand of San Francisco, and I would believe it. Later that day, I walked past Thidwick Books, but it was already closed for the day, which is too bad, because they supposedly have a great selection of kids’ books. And the last bookshop I visited was Book Passage, in the Ferry Building, where I found TWO Diana Wynne Jones used paperbacks on an outside shelf (but didn’t buy them: I think both were second books in different series), and which seems to have lots of exciting author events. They have a good selection and a cozy kids’ books area, but I was feeling overburdened by my backpack + carry-on (I stopped here before taking the train to the airport), so I didn’t buy anything.

I kept track of where I was walking, so I could see how far I went: this is what I mean when I said that traveling alone = walking as much as I want to:

  • Day 1: 15.72 miles, though that may not really be right: I had to guess a lot at the Mount Sutro section and the Twin Peaks section, because I was on pedestrian-only paths rather than roads for some of that.
  • Day 2: 17 miles, though again, that is a guess because I spent a lot of time on trails rather than roads. This was a gorgeous walk, and also the day I went to Book Bay Fort Mason, which I mentioned in the last post.
  • Day 3: spent most of the day at SFMOMA, walked about 2.7 miles, felt like the previous two days might’ve been overdoing it a bit: I’m used to long walks, but not used to hilly long walks!
  • Day 4: farmers market, Cable Car Museum: walked about 2.7 miles in the morning, then took a streetcar to the Mission and walked back, about 4.6 miles, so about 7.3 miles for the whole day.
  • Day 5: Contemporary Jewish Museum, ice cream at Humphry Slocombe, 9.37 miles.
  • Day 6: 9.5 miles.
  • Day 7: about 9 miles.