Getting killed by birds*

* didn’t really happen

After The Readers Retreat we headed north up so Simon could see some of the Northern California coast. And on the way we stopped in Bodega and Bodega Bay so Simon could pretend he was Tippi Hendren.

Several people at The Readers Retreat suggest we stop in Point Reyes for obvious reasons.
Simon bought two copies of this book. One for each eye.
I loved this wild yard in Bodega Bay.
The school from The Birds is now someone’s house.
The view from the school. I feel like Hitchcock and I saw the same thing.

The Readers conquer San Francisco

As most of you know I have been the co-host of The Readers podcast for about 107 episodes so far. Recently Simon and I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming about 18 of our listeners to San Francisco for a weekend of hanging out and book-based banter. It was a little challenging organizing three days of activities in one city siting in another about 3,000 miles away. But, happily, everything worked out really well. It was so much fun getting to know so many wonderful bookish people.  The only real problem is that I took almost no pictures of the proceedings or the participants.

We ate, we went book shopping, we got a bespoke tour of the rare book collection at the San Francisco Public Library, and we recorded three episodes with a live audience. Those recording sessions was my favorite part of the weekend. It was so much fun expanding our regular chatter to include others.  One of the episodes we recorded was the discussion of Hot Milk by Deborah Levy which was our summer read along pick. If you haven’t read it yet you still have time before the episode goes live. I think you will enjoy the discussion.

Anyhoo, here is a glimpse of the weekend.

The view from my hotel window. This is, no doubt, the same view that Lucy Honeychurch saw.
The hotel where I stayed and where we hosted a happy hour on Friday night was also home to a convention of 2,000 knitters. Talk about synergy. (The cat conference was next door.)
After dinner on Friday night we all headed off to City Lights to do some moonlight shopping. Thanks to Karen for this photo.
While we were at City Lights I asked everyone to choose a book that they would want to put in everyone’s hands and then I snapped a photo of each person with their choice. Unfortunately, I failed to ask if I could use the photos on my blog, so you only get to see my choice.
Our “tour” of the rare book room at the San Francisco Pubic Library was laid out with all kinds of goodies when we arrived. We got to look and touch.
I love this illustration. Even though it is French, I think of this as an homage to the Great British Bakeoff.
One of the Kelmscott Chaucers produced by William Morris. Such a beautiful book.
This fox reminds me of Lucy. And that’s how Lucy looks at rabbits as well.
An undated album on commercially available papers reminded many of us of Persephone.
Hand-painted plates.
On Saturday afternoon, after our picnic in Mission Dolores Park, some went book shopping and some went off to the Legion of Honor for a show on the Pre-Raphaelites. This painting wasn’t a part of that but was a stunner.
The date on this was the 1880s. It shows a Russian bride and her wedding party. I was fascinated by how exotic the Russians must have seemed to Western Europeans of the time.
Sunday afternoon after lunch at the Ferry Building, a few of us went off to hear an all Stravinsky program by the San Francisco Symphony.

Chunksters through the years

Some chunksters require a little remedial help. This was an attempt to map out the characters in War and Peace by the pool in 2010.


A comment recently on Twitter about War and Peace got me thinking about the longest book I have read this year. The stats page of Goodreads offers up a nifty tool that shows you the longest book you’ve read each year.  The results are kind of fun.

2018: So far this year the longest book I have read is The Philosopher’s Pupil by Iris MURDOCH at 560 pages, but I fully intend to read Anathem by Neal STEPHENSON which 937 pages.

2017: 69 read, longest was 866 pages – 4 3 2 1 by P. AUSTER
2016: 99 read, longest was 799 pages – Middlemarch by G. ELIOT
2015: 74 read, longest was 864 pages – The Prime Minister by A. TROLLOPE
2014: 60 read, longest was 850 pages – Can You Forgive Her? by A. TROLLOPE
2013: 109 read, longest was 1,474 pages – A Suitable Boy by V. SETH
2012: 62 read, longest was 536 pages – The Name of the Rose by U. ECO
2011: 88 read, longest was 1,276 pages – The Count of Monte Christo by A. DUMAS
2010: 62 read, longest was 1,358 pages – War and Peace by L. TOLSTOY
2009: 110 read, longest was 797 pages – The Portrait of a Lady by H. JAMES
2008: 58 read, longest was 880 pages – The Last Chronicle of Barset by A. TROLLOPE
2007: 69 read, longest was 738 pages – I am Charlotte Simmons by T. WOLFE
2006: 76 read, longest was 648 pages – The Three Clerks by A. TROLLOPE
2005: 57 read, longest was 659 pages – The Small House at Allington by A. TROLLOPE
2004: 51 read, longest was 629 pages – The Secret History by D. TARTT
2003: 39 read, longest was 850 pages – Can You Forgive Her? by A. TROLLOPE
2002: 31 read, longest was 859 pages – An American Tragedy by T. DREISER
2001: 34 read, longest was 495 pages – The Sea, the Sea by I. MURDOCH
2000: 33 read, longest was 654 pages – Sons and Lovers by D.H. LAWRENCE
1999: 27 read, longest was 704 pages – A Man in Full by T. WOLFE
1998: 25 read, longest was 897 pages – I Know This Much Is True by W. LAMB
1997: 31  read, longest was 960 pages – Anna Karenina by L. TOLSTOY
1996: 14 read, longest was 582 pages – Elmer Gantry by S. LEWIS
1995: 20 read, longest was 637 pages – A Prayer for Owen Meany by J. IRVING

One thing that is interesting about this list is that some big books like The Woman in White and The Three Musketeers didn’t make the cut because there were other bigger books those years.

I didn’t bother with the winners from 1993 and 1994 because they didn’t even go above 400 pages.

From the 1,000+ category I think I enjoyed The Count of Monte Christo the most.

The one I am least likely to read again (meaning, you couldn’t pay me to read it again): Sons and Lovers

The one I think I may have enjoyed the most: 4 3 2 1

Maine is one of the best places on earth

If I wait until I have the energy to write a narrative I will never get around to posting these pictures. We did a quick four-day trip to Maine over Labor Day weekend that was just what the doctor ordered. The weather was perfect. The food was good. The books were plentiful. The water was blue, the trees were green, and the birds in the sky sang.

Blue Hill Books is a marvel

We stopped in Blue Hill, Maine just because we had some time before we needed to head to Bangor for our flight home and because it was a glorious late summer/early fall kind of day. We knew we were headed back to summery humidity in DC and were reveling in the sunshine and glorious breezes of Maine. We love Maine. Have I mentioned that?

We stopped in a couple of really fine galleries, and a few that weren’t so fine. We had clam strips at the Fish Net and followed it up with amazingly good ice cream at Black Dinah Chocolatiers. (The ice cream is actually made at Pugnuts Ice Cream Shop in nearby Surry.)

I noticed there was a bookshop in town which is usually all I need to know to want to take a peek. But I had travel day time-anxiety and wasn’t sure if I would take the time to check it out. But, it turned out that we had plenty of time so I decided to see what it was all about. I had no idea how good of a shop Blue Hill Books would turn out to be. Great variety and selection. No doubt they get tourist traffic, but they are open year round and exist in a county with only 55,000 residents. Every county should be so lucky.

I got a giant book on color theory, John got several garden writing books, I was impressed with how many Amblers they had on the shelf, if my luggage hadn’t been full I would have gotten more…

The end of an era in Northeast Harbor

Each time I have been to Mt. Desert Island I have enjoyed having a fossick in Wikhegan Old Books in Northeast Harbor. But I usually don’t buy anything because the books are a little too rare/fine for my tastes. I like a good reading copy of something I plan on reading. So, I go in, enjoy looking around and walk out empty handed. But now, after having been there since 1976, the store is closing so its owners can retire. And everything is 50% off through the end of the season (which is mid-October), except for the stuff in the glass cases which is 30% off.

This time I did not leave empty handed. Well, that’s not true, we did leave empty handed but that was because we had our book haul shipped. John got some lovely old gardening books, I got books on books, books on England, a little two-volume Mrs Oliphant novel…

And after that we went down the street and had the best Whoopie Pies in Maine. The best Whoopie Pies in Maine used to be found at the Novelty attached to the Monhegan House on Monhegan Island. But that was back when Sue was baking them. What makes a good Whoopie Pie? Fluffy, not dry chocolate cake and, more importantly, fluffy white filling. Many places get this way wrong by using buttercream or even worse, cream cheese frosting. But that is gross and wrong. The cake and the filling were both perfect at Colonel’s Bakery in Northeast Harbor. My only regret is we only got four of them.


The Big Chicken Book Barn

There might be nothing funnier than hearing your GPS say Big Chicken Barn.

I’ve been to the Big Chicken book barn in Ellsworth, Maine on at least two occasions but it was always with Lucy in tow which meant one of us (not me) had to stay outside with her. And that, of course, meant that my browsing time was limited. On our recent four-day trip to Maine we flew and Lucy stayed at home which meant I had all the time I needed to comb through the stock.  This was a good thing, but, the fact that we flew meant that I didn’t have a car trunk I could fill with books.

John said that I should set a number and just limit myself to that number. I told him that although I wasn’t going to go crazy buying lots of stuff, there are certain authors like Cecil Roberts who are really hard to find and that if I found them I would buy them and then…

Based on these covers Victoria Four-Thirty (which I love so much) was his most popular novel. I hope that doesn’t mean that these aren’t good.
The whole stack. If we had been driving back to DC I definitely would have found more to buy.
I’ve really liked the Louis Auchincloss that I have read. The one on the left has such a cool cover. I got that one at the Chicken Barn. The other one I got at Dooryard Books in Rockland which I think may be going out of business.
There are a few titles here that I don’t own but given my space restrictions I decided to only get the one that had the coolest cover. The other editions didn’t seem all that hard to find.
I own every Anita Brookner novel but I couldn’t help snapping a picture of so many of them in the wild. I noticed later that there was another stack along the wall as well.