Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (80)

… and he glanced at the backs of the books, with an awakened curiosity that went below the binding. No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot.

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (1865)

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Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (68)

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When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it – or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don’t suppose many people try to do it.

Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)

Image source: Abhi Sharma from India [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D

#Review: The Book Hunters of Katpadi by Pradeep Sebastian #Books #Booklove

The Book Hunters of Katpadi is a story that takes one into the world of antiquarian books and collecting. Set around a fictional bookstore Biblio in Chennai, supposed to be the country’s first full-fledged antiquarian book store. Run by two bibliophiles, Neela and Kayal, the store specialises in modern Indian first editions, and is in the process of preparing its first catalogue. There are two story threads that we essentially follow in the book, both connected with Biblio. One a librarian from a college has been helping himself to valuable antiquarian editions from the college and replacing them with better looking editions of far lesser value—and doing so not secretly as such, but taking advantage of the fact that no one else knows the true worth of the older books and think the ‘fancier’ editions better. Some of these treasures have found their way to Biblio, and it falls to Neela and Kayal to help restore the college library’s collection. Then we have the second thread which focuses on the adventurer–explorer–translator (among other things) Richard Francis Burton, and a set of book collectors obsessed with material associated with him or that came from his pen. Some exciting pieces of Burtonia have surfaced in the small hill station of Ooty, and Burton collector, Nallathambi Whitehead, one of Biblio’s regular patrons, who can’t travel for health reasons asks Kayal (who is travelling to Ooty to look at some other old books at a school) to look into it. The Burton material she comes across there has the potential to shake up the world of bibliophiles, and especially of Burton collectors completely.

Richard Francis Burton (1864) byRischgitz
via wikimedia commons
Illustration from Burton’s Translation of Vikram and the Vampyre (1870)

This was a really lovely read for me. The book is labelled a Bibliomystery, and while there isn’t much of a mystery, there is a surprise twist at the end which makes the ‘mystery’ part of it good fun. And it is the Burton thread that essentially has this component, the other being focused on how our two bookwomen deal with the little ‘problem’ at the college library.

For the most part, it is really all about the world of books—more so the printed book, printing culture, bibliophiles, collectors, and first or otherwise important editions. The book takes us specifically into the world of book collectors in India, where the pursuit is not as prominent or sizeable as in the West with their being few collectors, and fewer antiquarian booksellers. We also get some background into collecting in the West, major auctions that changed the collecting world, great collectors and such. And we also get a look into specific books, writers, and collectors (largely from India’s colonial past) that were associated in some way or other with the country—either they lived and travelled here for a while or wrote their works here. As a bibliophile (just a hoarder of books though, not a collector), I truly enjoyed reading these segments in which the author’s love for books and enthusiasm are infectious. [Lots of my favourite children’s books/series are also mentioned, Anne of Green Gables, William, and The Three Investigators among them.] Anyone who loves books or collecting would enjoy them equally, I think. The author also goes into aspects of printing, hand presses, paper which make physical books special, in addition to the material that’s in them, which again was something I enjoyed reading.

Another plus of the book for me was that it has illustrations (by Sonali Zohra)!!! Always love those. Plus, the publishers have taken trouble with how the book looks—not only the cover but the little motifs like a little golden key on the cover (under the jacket) and the locked trunk that it opens (unlocking the bibliomystery) on the inner cover page.  

I have seen reviews of the book critiquing it for being more non-fiction than fiction, which is true in a sense as these parts were more prominent than the story/stories, and while the two are related certainly, perhaps it does not read as a work of fiction as a whole—but despite this being the case, I did enjoy reading this very much, and will look out for more by the author. This is incidentally his first novel—earlier works are non-fiction bookish essays.

#Murderous Mondays: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson #BookReview #Mystery

It’s been a while since I did a #MurderousMondays post, but that’s as it’s been a while since I read a murder mystery, surprisingly for me. #MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many kinds of murder mysteries, and if you’re reading any, you can share them with this feature too!

This is a more contemporary murder mystery compared to ones I usually read, but with a dual time line, one current and one in the 1930s, it was something that I was very interested in picking up. Truly Devious is the first in a trilogy of the same name. In the 1930s, a tycoon named Albert Ellingham sets up the Ellingham Academy in Vermont for gifted students who are free to study subjects/fields that interest them. One day, Ellingham’s wife and three-year-old daughter are kidnapped and never recovered. Alongside, a particularly gifted student has also gone missing. Days before this event, a mysterious riddle/poem arrived, threatening murder, signed by someone called Truly Devious. Eighty years later, in the present day, a young girl called Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Bell arrives at Ellingham, her particular interest—true crime. And part of her aim in coming there is to solve the Ellingham case, which she feels was never really solved. As she gets settled in to life at Ellingham, meeting other students each with their peculiar interests, she also starts to look into the Ellingham case, in which pursuit the faculty and staff are ready to help and encourage. But as she is doing this, there seem to be indications that Truly Devious might strike again—only Stevie isn’t sure whether what she saw real or something she imagined. But the threats become real very soon when death does strike again. But could really it be Truly Devious back from the past?

Wow, I enjoyed this so much for a book which I knew would not have the solution to the mystery—either mystery in fact—that will only happen in book 3. But despite this, the book was so well paced and gripping, it kept me reading throughout. Each of the characters, students or teachers is well drawn out, they each have their quirks and individual personalities all of which stand out in some way or other, and because of which one doesn’t ever end up confusing them even though there are quite a few. This isn’t a book where there are ‘hold-your-breath’ moments throughout as there can be in some stories, yet it holds one’s interest all the time. The story goes back and forth between the events of the 1930s when the Ellingham kidnapping took place, and the investigation that was conducted there (interview transcripts and such) and the present as Stevie is looking into that case, and also of the murderer who strikes in the present.

The book also explores this concept (which I have come across before in the context of learning and problem solving) of that period/mental state between sleep and wakefulness/ between consciousness and unconsciousness when the best/unusual ideas strike one. For Stevie too, certain connections turn up in this state and yet one is never entirely sure whether they are ‘real’ or what her mind has processed when at that point. This part was really interesting for me.   

As far as the mystery itself is concerned, being the first book, it does of course give one the background of what happened but also, Stevie manages to pick up some clues towards the solution of both mysteries, interesting little and not-so-little points which you can see are significant and why so but not perhaps where they will lead or how these will shape up the whole picture. But still one has enough to want to continue on, to see what she will pick up on next, even though the mysteries won’t be solved in that one either. One ‘revelation’ at the end of this one had me thinking of a totally different book, The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery, because it is very like one secret in that book. And speaking of books, this one talks about mystery stories, especially Agatha Christie, also Holmes, as well as poetry so those who enjoy literary references would love that aspect too.

This was an exciting read for me and I really can’t wait to get to the next one. It becomes available in my part of the world around the end of this month, and then it is a wait till next January for the final instalment. But I think it will be worth it!

Stationary Travellers #poetry #Longfellow #books

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We travel–to explore the world, experience new places, sounds, smells, cultures, to see the wonders this world has to offer. We travel for adventure, for excitement, for fun, even relaxation. Travel means all this and more. It means to get up and get going, but for us as readers, we can ‘travel’ even without that. Through the books on our shelves, we can have almost all the same experiences, see new sights through the authors’ eyes (and in our minds), learn about new cultures (perhaps even more closely and in more detail than in person), visit magical and fantastical places (Narnia or the lands up in the Faraway Tree) that we never can in real life, and have exciting adventures with the characters we are travelling with!

Travelling!
Image source: Pexels

So each time we open a book, we too travel, enter new worlds, real or imaginary. And this we can do from our comfortable reading nooks. This is just the kind of travel that H.W. Longfellow writes about in ‘Travels by the Fireside’.

Image source: Pexels

In it, he writes of rainy days, of ‘ceaseless rain…falling fast‘ which ‘drives [him] in upon himself’–away from the grey, dreary, and wet atmosphere outside to the cosy comfort of ‘fireside gleams‘, and more importantly, to the ‘pleasant books that crowd [his] shelf; And still more pleasant dreams.’

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That is certainly where a cold rainy day or dreary winter evening drives us readers, with a favourite book, sipping some hot coffee/tea, losing ourselves in the worlds that they open up for us! Longfellow reads too of tales sung by bards, ‘of lands beyond the sea‘, and these songs, as he is writing in his later years, bring back to him memories of his youth, when perhaps he went on adventures of his own, the tales he reads of making him relive his own memories. [The songs of the bards and journeys on ‘sea and land’ that he refers to incidentally made me think very much of Odysseus’ adventures, though Longfellow wasn’t really speaking of any specific stories.]

Roman Mossaic depicting Odysseus
Source: Giorcesderivative work: Habib M’henni [Public domain]

His travels through ‘others eyes’ are far more comfortable than real-life adventures for he no longer fears ‘the dust and the heat‘, or ‘feel[s] fatigue‘, nor does he need to ‘toil through various climes‘. He ‘journey[s] with another’s feet‘, and ‘turn[s] the world around in [his] hand‘, through these songs of the bards as he travels over ‘many a lengthening league‘ and ‘learn[s] whatever lies; Beneath each changing zone‘. In fact, he sees ‘when looking with their eyes; better than with [his] own.’

Do you like travelling? Actual travels or do you prefer to like Longfellow (and me 😛 ) travel comfortably in your armchairs? Have you read this poem before? How did you like it?

Find the full poem here.

#MarieKondo #30BooksChallenge

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Last year, Paula at Bookjotter put up a challenge of putting together a list of 100 books that you would choose to own, if you ousted every other book you owned. (Find her post here). I had planned to try this out as well but still hadn’t gotten down to it, and initially at least kept wondering whether I’d be able to to it at all–cut down to so few that is. But anyway, lately amidst all the talk about Marie Kondo’s comment about her having only thirty books or recommending that one have only thirty books (Still don’t know which is the correct statement), a smaller number popped up. Booktuber Hailey (Hailey in Bookland) made a video about the thirty books she would keep (hypothetical of course, no actual chucking of books involved) if she took the Marie Kondo challenge (find that video here). Sparked off by that into thinking on that track again, I have come up with a list of thirty books from where I will work up to the hundred (separate post in the next few weeks).

So here are my thirty. I have to say though that in making this list, I didn’t actually go and look at or through my bookshelves but compiled it off the top of my head (giving it some thought, of course), so there may be things I missed which I will correct in the 100 list. Also, while I’ve included both fiction and non-fiction, I haven’t included the other books (like my birdwatchers books which I’d never give up or Utterly Loveable Dogs (dog pictures and quotes) which I wouldn’t either–and such others). Also, this list is in no particular order.

  1. The Complete Short Stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  2. Emma by Jane Austen
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  4. Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
  5. The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
  6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
  7. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
  8. 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
  9. The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
  10. Daughters-in-Law by Henry Cecil
  11. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery
  12. Alex in Numberland by Alex Bellos
  13. The Luck of the Bodkins by P.G. Wodehouse
  14. Spring Fever by P.G. Wodehouse
  15. A Pelican at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse
  16. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  17. All-of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  18. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (Jim Kay, illus)
  19. William the Bad by Richmal Crompton
  20. The Mystery of Holly Lane by Enid Blyton
  21. Emil and the Detectives by Eric Kastner
  22. A Twist in the Tale by Jeffrey Archer
  23. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  24. Picture Imperfect and Other Byomkesh Bakshi Mysteries by Sardindu Bandyopadhyay
  25. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  26. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  27. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  28. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  29. Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens
  30. A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

So those are my thirty–a start at least to the 100-book list! If you’re doing a list too, thirty or a hundred, do share your links in the comments.

Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (28)

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“There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.”

–P.G. Wodehouse

 

(p.s.: I don’t think this one is from any book, but it is by Wodehouse after all. I found it on a bookmark that I was sent when I did some book shopping earlier in the month)

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#Wodehouse #Books