Monday, November 20, 2006

I have had a really nasty cold. The I-need-sympathy part of myself wants to claim it was pneumonia, but no, it was/is just a cold. One of those versions where your head is all bunged up and you can't sleep properly at night because you can't breathe, and then spend the daylight hours moping around feeling watery and get the picture.

The Albion Bookshop has started its closing down sale - 50% off everything in the shop. I am sad they are closing - where will I go for my book buying habit? I need a place with both knowledgeable staff and character. As I pointed out on dovegreyreader's blog a little while ago, that leaves Canterbury with two Waterstone's and a WH Smith, and me wanting to scream! There's one specialist Christian bookshop (it IS Canterbury after all, seat of the Anglican archbishop), and several secondhand and charity bookshops which are great, but every town needs a really good independent. I am a rudderless boat...

Ok, enough of the melodrama! None of this has turned me off taking advantage of the Albion sale. My first foray into the burgeoning shelves has produced a lovely bagfull, most of which are heading straight out the door as Christmas presents for all the nieces and nephews:

An Angel Just Like Me - Mary Hoffman
Better known for her Amazing Grace series, Hoffman has created here a lovely story of a young black boy puzzled by all the Christmas tree angels being white and female. He goes in search of an angel in which he can see himself, starting with a visit to Santa (turns out it is family friend and art student, Carl) and a wish...

Daddy-Long-Legs - Jean Webster
For the young teenage girl in your life. A funny and touching account of an orphan girl whose education is paid for by a mysterious benefactor. It was only on re-reading it myself last year that I realized just how much of a feminist and social conscience young Judy develops. When I read it as a teenager, however, I only noticed the romance and related to the boarding school experience. Recommended for the teenager/tween in your life who has already read and loved Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did, Little Women, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.

The Diddakoi - Rumer Godden
Kizzy is a diddakoi - gypsy - and so different from the rest of the children in her village. She lives in a wagon in an orchard with her grandmother and smells of woodsmoke from the evening fire. A wonderful story about pride in being different, and learning to accept difference in others.

Goodnight Mister Tom - Michelle Magorian
One of my favourite children's books of all time - I give this to every child I know. Be careful about the right age: at least aged ten I would recommend, as the themes are serious and quite traumatic. Every child we have given it to has come back to us saying they loved it and wanting to talk about it. Willie Beech is evacuated to a country village during the Second World War and billetted with a crotchety but kind Mister Tom. This turns out to be his saving grace after years of deprivation and abuse in the city. Very sensitively handled and a compelling story of genuine friendship and love.

The Silver Sword - Ian Serraillier
Children make their way across Second World War Europe, trying to find their parents. The bravery and self-sufficiency of these children is what appeals to young readers.

The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity - Amartya Sen
Sen is a genius, and one of my favourite make-you-think intellects. We were in India when he won the Nobel Prize for Economics and it was great to see the festivities as a result. I remember being stuck in traffic and looking up at a giant billboard proclaiming "SEN-SIBLE ECONOMICS" which I thought was very clever (really wished I'd had my camera with me at the time). The cover blurb here from Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, is accurate at summarizing his approach:
The world's poor and dispossessed could have no more articulate and insightful a champion among economists than Amartya Sen. By showing that the quality of our lives should be measured not by our wealth, but by our freedom, his writings have revolutionized the theory and practice of development.
If you haven't read him and are interested, I'd suggest you start with the excellent Development as Freedom, which is written in an accessible fashion for the general reader, rather than as an economics text.

Interesting Times: A Twentieth Century Life - Eric Hobsbawm
I've been wanting to read this since it came out and my excuse for buying it is that the Kent library system does not own a copy so my arm has been twisted! Who can resist (those of you that like history books) the cover blurb:
Hitler came to power when Eric Hobsbawm was on his way home from school in Berlin, and the Soviet Union fell while he was giving a seminar in New York. He translated for Che Guevara in Havana, had Christmas dinner with a Soviet spy master in Budapest and an evening at home with Mahalia Jackson in Chicago. He saw the body of Stalin, started the modern history of banditry and is (presumably) the only Marxist asked to collaborate with the inventor of Mars bar.
This all sounds a little sauced up of course. I read some of his history texts in coursework (Nations and Nationalism since 1780 and The Invention of Traditon) and rather admired them, so I'd like to read this too.

I did hope to resist the urge to buy more books this year, and I have clearly failed, but my excuse is that it is a one-off opportunity with the sale, and that most of them are not for me...

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Blogger emasl said...

I simply love Goodnight Mr Tom. Both my daughters read it over and over again and I had to replace their copies as they literally fell apart. I think it is one of the best children's stories ever written, to rank alongside Tom's Midnight Garden, Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden etc etc Never fails to make me cry and the tv adapation with John Thaw is very true to the book. I picked it up in a sale recently for a fiver which is a steal, quite frankly. A lovely poignant book. Elaine

7:39 pm  
Blogger The Traveller said...

Wow! The Diddakoi! I remember reading that when I was a kid - I was so faschinated by gypsies and gypsy life, and the fact that all gypsy groups had ponies didn't hurt, of course.

10:38 pm  
Blogger Debi said...

The comments are responding to the books - but I suspect what you're really after is sympathy for that nasty cold.

There there. Poor you. Must be horrid.

Better now?

PS I swear by echinacea.

10:47 am  
Blogger equiano said...

emasl - so glad you like this too, and can't agree more that it is one of the best children's books ever written: anyone out there who hasn't read it yet, please get yourselves a copy!

traveller - and what a lovely horse present in The Diddakoi too! I love reading other blogs and being reminded of books I read as a child and hadn't thought of in a while. This one definitely survives adult re-reading with flying colours.

debi - we may not have met in person, but you know me too well! Sympathy is everything: my poor head! Actually I like echinacea too, but usually works best if you start taking it before the cold takes hold - this nasty varmint is a little too far gone now, so I'm just sweating it out. More sympathy please...?!

11:06 am  
Anonymous Maxine said...

I enjoyed Daddy Long Legs and the Silver Sword when I was young.
Sorry you have been ill-- even if it was "only a cold" it is miserable. I only just came to your blog tonight as I've been a bit busy this week, so hope you are better now.

10:31 pm  
Blogger equiano said...

Just fine now, thanks Maxine - amazing how one tiny little cold will lay you low.

5:27 pm  

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