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

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