The books I bought in London

First trip to Foyle’s

The Ordinary Princess, M.M. Kaye
My review of this book is here.  I recently bought it in hardback at Bongs & Noodles, but I really hate the cover, and when I saw a paperback at Foyle’s with a proper cover, I couldn’t resist getting it.  I mean, how could I?  Compare them, and you will see how right I was.  I was going to offer the hardback to you lovely people, but then my sister asked for it, so I’m giving it to her when she gets back from law school.

Ordinary Princess


I know, right?  Sheesh.

White Boots, Noel Streatfeild
A present for my sister when she gets back from law schools.  This is actually Skating Shoes, immortalized in You’ve Got Mail by Meg Ryan breaking down while talking about it.  I believe she says “Although Skating Shoes is totally wonderful.  But it’s out of print.”  NOT ANYMORE.  FOYLE’S IS MY HERO.  Or Britain.  Britain is my hero.  HarperCollins and their English branch is my hero.

84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff

My aunt asked me to bring her a really great book from England, and this is what I settled on.  It has 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street both, and a friendly cover, and it is the friendliest Englandiest book ever.  I am so pleased I got it.  I also got some really nice Foyle’s bookplates, and I am going to put them inside my favorites of the books I got in England.

Borders on Charing Cross Road

Borders was having a sale whereby all of their kids’ books were three for two, and it’s like The Ordinary Princess – just doesn’t make any sense to refuse.  Why turn up your nose at such an offer?  The Borders check-out guy was displeased with me for getting so many discounts: two free books from the 3-for-2 deal, and then the discount on Beedle the Bard that made it only two quid.  He said, “I reckon you’re not paying enough,” and I said, “Huh.  Well.”

Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling

My thoughts here.  I love Dumbledore’s commentary.  Darling Dumbledore.  Hm, remember when Rowling first mentioned that the character was gay?  That was such a happy day for me.  I rang up my sister late at night to tell her, and she said, “I am so happy you called me late at night to tell me that news.”

Circus Shoes, Noel Streatfeild

Apart from Ballet Shoes, this is my favorite of Noel Streatfeild’s Shoes books.  Yes, I like it better than Skating Shoes (just).  The posh kids run away and join a circus and learn how to fit in there – who doesn’t want to read about that?  I love Noel Streatfeild and I always have done.

Tennis Shoes, Noel Streatfeild

Did you know this existed?  I didn’t.  Oh, Borders, you are such a love, putting Noel Streatfeild’s books back in print in and then having them three for two in this manner.  Speaking of which, I also got—

Party Shoes, Noel Streatfeild

Noel Streatfeild wrote it, as I recall, because she heard of a little girl who got a party dress and party shoes during the war, and had no party to attend in it, and by the time rationing was over and people were having parties again, the dress was too small.  In this book (evidently) a little girl in the war gets a party dress and shoes, and organizes a party!

The Reluctant Dragon, Kenneth Graham

This was the other book I got for my aunt from England – I just saw it and couldn’t resist, because I loved this story when I first read it.

The Dragonfly Pool, Eva Ibbotson

As I noted here, I loved this even more than I expected I would!  Although I’m not sure I agree with the title.  I think a better title for this book could have been possible.  Can’t think of anything right now, but I am sure there could have been something better.

Fairy Tales, Jane Ray (and Berlie Doherty)

I have put Berlie Doherty in parentheses because this book really belongs to Jane Ray.  There’s nothing wrong with the way the fairy tales are written, but they’re just not that exciting.  Jane Ray’s illustrations, on the other hand, are just stunning.  I absolutely love her, and I must acquire the book on which she and Jeannette Winterson collaborated, The King of Capri.  I wish I could find links to all of the illustrations in this book.  They’re gorgeous.  I love her.

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale, Russell T. Davies and Benjamin Cook

Russell T. Davies corresponds with Benjamin Cook on the process of writing the fourth series of Doctor Who.  This book is massive and heavy, and Mumsy said “You can’t get another heavy book if you get this one,” but see below from Foyle’s later on.  I saw there were shooting scripts, first drafts and revisions, and then I couldn’t resist.  Don’t judge me.

Oxfam Books on Portobello Road

The House at Riverton, Kate Morton

All the fault of book blogs.  I have seen this book and Kate Morton’s second one, The Forgotten Garden, on loads of blogs on my blogroll.  If I didn’t read book blogs I would not have got this.  And if I hadn’t got it in England, I wouldn’t have got it at all; and that would have been a shame, because I really do believe it will become a comfort book.

The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey

Because I can’t find my copy!  And because I like this cover.  My mum suggested The Daughter of Time to me, years ago, and that was how I developed much love for Richard III.  The portrait of him mentioned in this book currently hangs in my room.  (Anne Boleyn too.  And the sexy John Donne, if I can ever find a frame for it.)

The Gum Thief, Douglas Coupland

My used book buying on this trip had a heavy Douglas Coupland bias, as you will see from my purchases at the Book and Comic Exchange.  I have no idea what The Gum Thief is about, but I have a vague feeling that I will enjoy it.  Why steal gum?  One time when I was younger, I stole an Andes Mint from this neighborhood lunch and dinner place, and I was so filled with guilt that later on I went back and left fifty cents on the counter.  In retrospect I would have set a more shining moral example if I had confessed to my crime, but never mind.

Second trip to Foyle’s on Charing Cross Road

Doctor Who: The Inside Story

Please continue not to judge me.  I like knowing how films and TV shows and books are made!  If there were a book all about the making of, I don’t know, Greensleeves, I would read that too.  And I love David Tennant, and I love Billie Piper!  And I am a grownup, I can buy whatever books I want!  Still, when I bought this at Foyle’s on our second trip there, I did my best to conceal it from my mother under a pile of really necessary books.  It was not as big and heavy as the first Doctor Who book, but it was rather big and heavy.

De Profundis and Other Writings, Oscar Wilde

I only got this because it was two quid.  I have a complete works of Oscar Wilde (it’s pink!), but it’s very fat and not good for carrying around on public transportation, for instance.  Here is De Profundis and “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” and several of Oscar Wilde’s essays.  And it was only two quid!  Now I can get rid of that crappy copy of De Profundis I bought at the book fair.  I never liked that stupid copy anyway.

Plays One, Christopher Fry

I’ve been wanting to read The Lady’s Not for Burning ever since – well, ever since I saw the title, actually, that’s a fantastic title – but ever since I read Tam Lin, which featured the play prominently.  Christopher Fry is a modern author who sometimes writes in iambic pentameter.  Love it.  You can’t tell from the picture of the cover, but this book has a nice sturdy binding and made it back home completely unscathed – actually most of my books did!

Can Any Mother Help Me?, Jenna Bailey

I read about this on Tara’s blog, and didn’t realize it was nonfiction until I got it at Foyle’s.  A group of lonely British mums started up a magazine where they would each write something and then pass it along and add comments – support group by correspondence in the 1930s.  My library doesn’t have it.  I had to buy it.

England’s Lost Eden, Philip Hoare

All about crazy British cults!  I love a crazy cult!  I nearly bought England’s Lost Eden in hardback when I was in London over New Year’s in 2007, and this is the first time I’ve seen it in paperback.  Philip Hoare wrote Oscar Wilde’s Last Stand, which I loved, and I am thrilled to shreds to have another book by Philip Hoare.  I began reading it at Gail’s while eating seriously the most delicious scone ever, and can’t wait to finish.  (Do you pronounce scone to rhyme with loan or lawn?)

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior, Kate Fox

Oh, the English.  I love them so much.  I realized when I was at Foyle’s that I had to get at least one book about British people, and brought three to my mother for her assistance in making a decision.  I’m glad she voted for, and I finally chose, this one; I was leaning towards a book about brands of British eccentrics, but this is better really.

Henry Pordes on Charing Cross

Oscar Wilde’s Last Stand, Philip Hoare

Oh I will have a thing or two to say about this book when I get around to rereading it.  I have Michael Kettle’s account of this ridiculous-ass libel trial in 1918 (Salome’s Last Veil), but Philip Hoare’s book, while it doesn’t have a lot more material than Michael Kettle’s, covers the trial in a way that really brings out all the silliness.  It’s the silliest trial you ever heard of.  Every possible silly thing that could have happened, happened.  Wait until I tell you about Bosie going crazy on the witness stand.  Oh, dude, wait until I tell you about the Christian Scientists.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

It’s my mum’s fault, really.  I was just going to buy Oscar Wilde’s Last Stand and move on, but then my mum sat around reading about Robert Browning, and it gave me time to look around the shop and see what else was there.  Henry Pordes is my favorite one of all the Charing Cross Road book shops.

Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History, Diane Purkiss

Continues to be my mother’s fault.  She just sat there reading and reading.  It’s not like I could have left without her; we were going to meet a friend in front of the Tate Modern!  So what could I do, really?  What could I do but look around?  I really intended not to buy anything else after I had got Oscar Wilde’s Last Stand, but MY GOD I AM ONLY HUMAN.

White Cargo, Felicity Kendal

I only got this because I knew that Felicity Kendal had been in loads of Tom Stoppard’s plays, and I was feeling sad because I knew I wasn’t going to get to see Arcadia like I wanted.  However, it appears to be extremely interesting anyway!  Her father ran a traveling acting troupe in India at the end of the Raj, and that’s what this is about.  A traveling acting troupe is already awesome, but a traveling acting troupe in India?  Come on.

Book and Comic Exchange in Notting Hill

I was really hoping to find “A Parliament of Rooks” amongst the single Sandman issues at the Book and Comic Exchange.  When I lived in London for a month, I was right close to this bookshop, and I went there just about every day for Sandman issues.  I never actually looked at their books!  Until last week.  I was hoping they (or ANYONE) would have one of Martin Millar’s books that I haven’t read, or something by Joan Wyndham, but no such luck.  However:

Black Narcissus, Rumer Godden

I haven’t read Black Narcissus.  My mother recalls not liking it very much.   However, Rumer Godden’s books are not always easy to find, and if it turns out I love this book, it would be a real shame to have left it on the shelf at the Book and Comic Exchange in Notting Hill.

Miss Wyoming, Douglas Coupland

I like this book because they track someone down using a system of following their typos, because apparently typos are madly individual.  Genius.  Douglas Coupland’s books were spread out over several shelves, and I nearly bought Hey Nostradamus, which I actually want the most of the Douglas Coupland books I saw, and it was hardcover.  But it was grubby and five pounds, and I was trying to be restrained because of luggage weight and other such concerns.  Ditto for All Families Are Psychotic.  I did get—

Girlfriend in a Coma, Douglas Coupland

I started this at Bongs & Noodles and I want to read the whole thing!  Now I can!  Hurrah!

Foyle’s on the South Bank

The Dangerous Alphabet, Neil Gaiman

Even lovelier than Nymeth’s review led me to believe!  What a good little book!  Neil Gaiman is so great.  Plus, after I had got it, I went outside and sat in the comfortable lawn chairs Foyle’s had put out in front of their store.  What a good idea, Foyle’s!  Lawn chairs out front!  Props to whoever came up with that.

The Clouded Mirror, L.T.C. Rolt

Just because I went and saw canal boats and wanted to read more about the British canals and people going round on canal boats.  Again, for the record, I resisted manfully the temptations of buying several of these wee little books, even though they were three for two.

Whew.  That was a lot of books that I bought.  At customs, the guy asked us what we spent our money on, and I said, “Books.  A whole lot of books.”  I got home last night and put them all on my new bookshelf, thereby pretty much using up all the space on my new bookshelf.  This is a perfect state to be in: exactly enough books for the bookshelf space that I have.  Let’s see how long that lasts.

And finally, I leave you with this picture of the art installation that was out in front of Salisbury Cathedral when we went (Architects of Air’s Amococo).  This picture charms me.  It is probably my most favorite picture of all the pictures I took in England.

London Trip 141

The art installations in Salisbury Cathedral, for the International Arts Festival, are wicked bloody amazing, by the way.  There was the above bouncy castle/StarLab hybrid out on the lawn, which I could have gone inside if I had come a day later, and then in the cloisters there were slabs of poetry down on the ground, and all around the quad they were piping in these hissing, mysterious, eerie readings of poetry.  There is just nothing as unearthly as an eerie poetry reading in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.  Really.  Nothing.

21 thoughts on “The books I bought in London

  1. lol, the friendliest Englandiest book ever 😀 I can’t believe I still haven’t read it!

    I pronounce scone to rhyme with lawn, but I’m not someone who should be listened to when it comes to English pronunciation 😛

    I’m still heartbroken that I didn’t like Girlfriend in a Coma, which I finished a few days ago 😦 And I’m not even completely sure why. I must keep thinking about it so that I can write a post explaining. But hopefully you will like it, and well as the other Coupland books you got.

  2. I pronounce it to rhyme with lawn as well – but I feel like most Americans rhyme it with loan.

    Oh, no, did you not? I haven’t finished it, I hope I don’t find it unsatisfying when I get all through. In retrospect I really wish I had bought Hey Nostradamus…oh well.

  3. There’s a song i’ve heard that’s got a line “girlfriend in a coma I know, I know, it’s serious…” it’s hilarious! Any relation to the book?

    And I know exactly how you feel about the Ordinary Princess cover- that second one is so bleh.

  4. I started looking through the list of your book buys. And looking. And scrolling. Still scrolling. haha. You must have a huge collection, far surpassing my own petty finds. Oh, and I’ve got to get my hands on more Neil Gaiman. He’s simply singular .

  5. Jeane – I feel like there has to be a connection, the Smiths are fairly well-known, aren’t they? I haven’t read far enough in the book to be sure. And I appreciate your support on the Ordinary Princess cover. The second one makes Amy look about twelve, and she’s meant to be getting married!

    Sharry – I never, EVER buy this many books, honestly. (Apart from at my university’s annual book fair.) There are bloggers on my blogroll that seem to be acquiring several books a week, and I never do that. These were just my treat to myself, because I was on holiday.

    Yes, do read more Neil Gaiman. The more I read of him, the more I like him, and I hope you’ll find the same thing!

  6. I had no idea that scone didn’t rhyme with loan. huh. This was a fun post. I’ve never read any SHOES books but it reminds me of the You’ve Got Mail movie. (which in turn, always reminds me that I’ve never read any SHOES books!)

  7. Ella – The sound installation in the Salisbury cloisters was just stunning. And I wish we had scheduled our trip for just one day later, so we could have gone inside the big poofy one. Apparently it’s quite a big deal, this festival. Oh well, live and learn, eh?

    Care – Oh, you have to read the Shoes books. Really. I like them because Noel Streatfeild is unsparing of children’s faults, even when they’re the protagonists.

    Jackie – That’ll teach me to try and be clever – I was trying to think of two words that began with the same letter, and plumped on “lawn” and “loan” without thinking about the fact that “lawn” and “gone” rhyme in America but not in Britain. What you’re saying is exactly what I thought, actually – that posh people rhyme it with “loan”, but most people rhyme it with “gone”. Thanks for the help. 🙂

  8. Jenny – Do lawn and gone really rhyme?! I learn something new every day! f they do then I don’t think scone ever rhymes with either. How about just ‘on’ and ‘loan’? This pronounciation thing is hard!

  9. Well, they don’t officially – “gone” theoretically has a cleaner vowel than “lawn” does. But it’s like “carry” and “Mary”, there’s a vowel difference but most people here don’t pronounce it. When I lived in England, it seemed like most everyone pronounced “scone” to rhyme with the clean-voweled “gone”. Or “on”, yes.

    Mmm, separated by a common language. 😛

  10. Hahaha, yeah, I was at uni in Essex, and the only posh girl living in our flat left in the middle of the term. I picked up some rhyming slang and the unposh pronunciation of scone…

  11. Funny! I am reading Can Any Mother Help Me? right now and it is teriffic. So glad you picked up a copy. Lucky girl, with your trip and all these wonderful books!

  12. moonrat – Yay! I feel like not enough people these days have read the Shoes books, and unless The Ordinary Princess were as popular as Harry Potter, I would never feel like enough people read that either. I’m always happy to find people who read the same books as a kid that I did!

    Tara – I’m glad it’s good – it’s probably the one of my new books that I want to read the very most, so I’m delaying gratification. I think it’s such a cool premise, especially since it’s true!

  13. You’ve opened up THE can of worms with bringing up “carry” and “Mary” !!!

    Since I’m from the plains/Midwest (boring accent if any at all) and now live in New England – I have always pronounced my name “Carrie” exactly like KERRY (or used to – I am starting to hear the difference but have trouble saying it) which gets me into HEAPS of trouble.

    sorry – I got distracted. I’ll look for the SHOES books – they sound fun. What age are they geared to? I’m sure I have some N&Ns about ready for them.

  14. Care – Heaps of trouble? You’re allowed to pronounce your name however you want! Huh. Though my mother (she’s from New England too!) was always a big stickler for making sure we pronounced the difference between “marry” and “Mary” and “merry”.

    I’d say the Shoes books are geared to kids in the middle elementary grades… I read them when I was about eight, so second grade for me, and that was just about perfect.

    Diane – Thanks! I have your blog on my blogroll and always enjoy your reviews. I’ll have to delurk and say hi more often. 🙂

  15. I discover 84 Charing Cross Road after I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, both the novel and the audio book. I don’t know how I have bypassed this wonder book.

  16. Oh, I know, it’s so wonderful! I was delighted when I first found it, and I can’t wait to see what my aunt thinks of it. I wanted to read it before I gave it to her, but I restrained myself.

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