Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

Today is World Book Day and I just learned that in Lausanne they have a 1932 trolleybus rolling around the city all day with book readings – how fun! I am heading into the library this afternoon so hopefully will come across some of the events they’ve planned all over Switzerland to celebrate.


Check out Unesco’s site to see if your country/city has planned anything to celebrate.


Like this:


In the city of Romans, in France, La Boucherie Chevaline (a cultural center) has organized a 24-hour non-stop reading session this weekend of Les Misérables including light food, drinks and surprises. I mapquested it and was delighted to find I could get there in about three hours as its just south of Grenoble but the Swiss man and I are running in a race on Saturday so no game. What a bummer! Sounds like a lot of fun.


But I’m promising myself to celebrate today by finishing up my translating work early and heading into town for a visit to the library, a quick stop at my favorite secondhand book shop and some quality reading time this evening after we’ve finished our training run. I reserved five books online the other night and can’t wait to pick them up:


  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville
  • Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates
  • Excusez les fautes du copiste – Grégoire Polet
  • A ton image – Louise Lambrichs
  • Flaubert’s Parrot – Julian Barnes


Otherwise, I’m almost finished with Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. Last night while I was reading it occurred to me that despite the stylistic similarities between The Hours and Mrs. Dalloway, one thing Cunningham isn’t really able to mimic is the heady breathlessness of Woolf’s book. And I’m glad. Where Mrs. Dalloway charges forward with this incredible velocity, The Hours is a slower take on the same thematic. This seems fitting for an homage, a kind of respectful self-consciousness so we don’t ever forget who’s the master and who’s doing the admiring.


As silly as this next statement may sound, I kind of miss reading The Iliad. But I don’t want to jump right into The Odyssey without a small break so luckily I’ve got Herodotus to tackle this month. From Stefanie’s posts (like this one) I think I will thoroughly enjoy my encounter with the father of history and hopefully he’ll fill the Homer void I’m experiencing.


Finally, I’m on the lookout for some truly amazing contemporary fiction by a writer I’ve never read. I want to be wowed the way I was wowed with Robinson’s Gilead, Powers’s The Echo Maker, McCarthy’s The Road, Gordimer’s The House Gun or Amis’s House of Meetings. I realize I’ve just cited five vastly different books. Still, anyone have any suggestions? What’s the best contemporary novel you’ve read recently and what was it that struck you?


22 Responses to “world book day”

  1. Ted

    Happy World Book Day to you!
    I can’t remember, have you read either Pat Barker’s Renegenration Trilogy or Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose?

  2. Stefanie

    Happy World Book Day! I think your celebration plans sound just fine, though a marathon reading of Les Miserable would really be something. I hope you enjoy Herodotus. He even mentions Homer 🙂

  3. Logophile

    What a lovely way to celebrate WBD!! I’m still annoyed that Britain celebrates it early (and aims it almost exclusively at children!). You also have some great books to pick up – The Secret River is quite stunning and you know how much I love Revolutionary Road!

    You’ve set a high standard with those contemporary books, but how about Anita Amirrezvani’s The Blood of Flowers (a debut that was a highlight of my reading last year) or Pat McCabe (The Butcher Boy)?

  4. TJ

    Hello! And happy World Book Day and happy Shakespeare’s Birthday to you too! My friend at Exuberant Reader highly recommended your blog and so I am here today to my own very deep enjoyment. Thank you! I too recommend Pat Barker’s Regenerations Trilogy. I am myself struggling through Marguerite Duras at present and (looking over some of your other posts) it seems like you might enjoy her. I say struggling, not because it is boring or off-putting, but very dense, very intense, minimal but thick (sorry I am not finding better words). I am currently in a small volume called The Malady of Death, but her most famous (I believe) is The Lover. I will most definitely be back to incurablelogophilia. Thank you.

  5. Ann Darnton

    I’ll happily second ‘Middlesex’ as a recommendation. But, my best read for ages has been Richard Russo’s ‘Bridge of Sighs’, absolutely stunning.

  6. verbivore

    Ted – neither and they are duly noted, thank you! I’ve heard such good things about Pat Barker’s trilogy, I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet.

    Care – I have read Middlesex, what a fascinating book. Strangely, it wasn’t one of my favorites but I did really enjoy it.

    Stefanie – well, if he mentions Homer I’m sold. I really can’t wait to start!

    Logophile – I haven’t heard of either of your suggestions, so this is a treat! I will check them both out soon. How strange that England celebrates a week early (a bit like the time difference isn’t it?)

    ToujoursJacques (what a great name!) – thank you for stopping by, I look forward to visiting your site too. From the small selection of her work that I’ve read I really like Marguerite Duras, her favorite of mine is either The Lover or The North China Lover. And I’ve always wanted to read Hiroshima, mon amour. I think Duras would be a great candidate for something similar to my Gordimer project – read her from start to finish.

    Ann – There’s one I knew I needed to read, the Russo. I’ve had it on my list for quite some time but now will find a copy!

  7. Logophile

    I have to second the sentiment about wanting to read Bridge of Sighs – I love Russo and actually have a beautiful hard copy of this just waiting to be read once I find the time!

  8. Carrie Ray

    Hi, old friend! I do read your blog regularly (between chasing an almost 3 year old around and taking care of her 2 month old brother)! I don’t read a ton right now, but L-O-V-E-D The Lovely Bones by Ann Siebold. My girlfriends and I formed a book club, and we pretty much only read contemporary stuff–haven’t convinced them to try Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters yet. The Lovely Bones is very different, but all of us fell in love with it–one of the best we’ve read.

  9. verbivore

    Logophile – I’ve read Empire Falls of Russo’s and really enjoyed it. Have you read that one? Have been wanting to try Bridge of Sighs since it came out. And I have another of his – MOhawk – waiting on the shelf.

    Carrie! – Hi there, how great to hear from you. And congratulations on your new little one, I saw the news a while back 🙂 Yes, you must be kept on your toes these days, I imagine finding an hour or so for reading must be quite the challenge! Thank you for the Sebold recommendation – I’ve added her to the list.

  10. Litlove

    Sounds like a lovely way to celebrate World Book Day. Perhaps I’ll instigate a second one for me in an unofficial way today! As for contemporary fiction, how about Ali Smith’s The Accidental or Justin Cartwright’s The Promise of Happiness? Or Marianne Wiggin’s The Shadow Catcher? (I want to read that one myself!)

  11. adevotedreader

    What an enjoyable way to spend your day!

    Here in Sydney, they do a similar all day reading of a book every year for the Sydney Writer’s Festival- last year it was Don Quixote, this year it’s 1984. It’s always fun.

    One of the best contemporary novels I’ve read irecently is The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard- it took her twenty years and you can tell.

  12. Dorothy W.

    Those library books look great! Enjoy Flaubert’s Parrot; I loved it. As for contemporary books, in my reading funk, none are coming to mind — sorry! Well, I’m always happy to recommend Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine, if that sounds at all interesting.

  13. Ted

    Actually, I meant Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, although Angle of Repose is good too.

  14. Logophile

    I loved Empire Falls and Mohawk! And I’m enjoying reading people’s suggestions on here. The Lovely Bones is one of those books that I kind of avoided, due to its popularity, and then was totally taken with it when I finally read it.

    Another contemporary writer I’d rate is Joseph O’Connor – Star of the Sea and, particularly, its follow up Redemption Falls (which was harder for me to read but ultimately more powerful). Though these books are set in the 19th century so perhaps don’t count…Nicola Barker – Darkmans is in my TBR pile and she looks like an interesting writer.

  15. bookfraud

    best contemporary novel? though “middlesex” gets some votes, i’d have to go with david mitchell’s “cloud atlas.” one of the most brilliant books i’ve read in a long time. the guy can do anything.

    it’s the kind of book that you demand your friends read.

  16. TJ

    I just finished The Malady of Death (the Duras novel I mentioned above). It was beautiful but exhausting. I will have to reconsider reading along with you if you do a start to finish Duras project…what an ordeal that would be. I think the most I would sign up for is two a year …. Would you consider a ten year plan? I see you are fond of those. 🙂 TJ

  17. H Streets

    Keri Hulme’s The Bone People is wonderful. I like Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire very much, recommended above, but its style grates on some people. I recently read John Crowley’s Little, Big, and thought it was terrific.

  18. LK

    What an excellent idea! I wish to heaven and earth I could attend the one in Bilbao.

  19. verbivore

    Litlove – you’ve mentioned three books I would like to get my hands on. I have The Accidental waiting on the shelf, so will try that one first. Thanks! And hope you enjoyed your informal book day 🙂

    Adevotedreader – I have the Hazzard on my shelf and have been meaning to get to it, I think I’ll push it further up in the TBR pile.

    Dorothy – I’ve been wanting to read Flaubert’s Parrot for ages, so am very glad I finally got it out from the library. And your reminder about Nicholson Baker is perfect, I remember reading an excerpt on your site and loving it.

    Ted – good, because bookmooch has that one and not the other!

    Logophile – I’m willing to give Sebold a try but I’ve been hesitant like you. Definitely adding O’Connor to the list and Nicola Barker!

  20. verbivore

    Bookfraud – I couldn’t agree more with you about Cloud Atlas, I read it earlier this year and was so impressed. How he manages to write something quite literary with all those fantastic and futuristic elements, and how he manages the different voices. It was the second Mitchell I had read and confirmed for me that I’d like to read everything by him now. Did you read Black Swan Green? Completely different, but very good.

    TJ – I think stretching it out over 10 years is a great idea 🙂 I look forward to seeing your thougths on The Malady of Death. Who was the translator by the way?

    H-streets – I had an interesting experience with The Bone People, such a complicated and frustrating book. But its a great suggestion, exactly the type of thing I’m looking for.

    LK – Bilbao! Absolutely. They had so many cool things going on all around the world. World Book Day is a wonderful idea.

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