Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me why being a booklover is so much fun. I took the train to a nearby city to have lunch with another translator/writer friend of mine. When we’d finished with lunch, we both had a little time to kill before heading back to our respective trains and she, by chance, knew of a little out of the way second-hand book shop. It was snowing, the streets were a gray, sloppy mess and I was loaded down with a backpack filled with several issues of The Paris Review she no longer wanted (now that is an excellent gift!) as well as her most recent manuscript (which I cannot wait to read). I was also carrying Zeppi, my 4 month-old puppy, who was extremely happy to be snuggled into a sling bag over my shoulder and not shoulder high in all that mucky snow. Despite these extra encumbrances, we trudged over to the bookshop.

And what a treat it was to discover this little basement bookshop. From the outside it looked like just one tiny book-filled room, but it stretched like a long, narrow cave beneath the building above. It had an extensive collection of books in both French and German, and, to my delight, an entire wall of English books. Finding second-hand English books is not easy in Switzerland and I’m so happy to add this little shop to my list of treasure-hunting spots.

Of all things, one of the first books I saw was Barbara Comyns’s The Juniper Tree. It seems that the universe is conspiring for me to begin a start-to-finish Barbara Comyns read sooner than later. I also took home Nathan Englander’s collection of short stories, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and a book of Emerson’s essays. And I’m sure I would have loaded my backpack up even further but I had to race back to catch my train.

Interestingly, this week has been an extraordinary one for adding books to my to-be-read lists. Most weeks bring one or two new or new-to-me books to my attention, all duly noted and eventually put into the spreadsheet (total nerd that I am) that I keep for tracking books I’d like to read. But something about this week has brought before me a great number of books I’ve never read, all books I want to have read yesterday. This is unusual enough I thought I should mention them all, just to pass on the love and panic of my overwhelming to-be-read book pile.

Yesterday, I read an interview at 3:AM Magazine of a philosopher named Hilde Lindemann. Lindemann works in feminist bioethics and the article is called, “No Ethics Without Feminism.” It’s a very interesting read and I’ve added Lindemann’s books (and books she’s edited) to my list: Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair and Feminism and Families.

I discovered a new web journal for women’s writing called Literary Mama and one of the first fiction pieces I read on that site was by a writer named Stephanie Freele. I loved her story, “Keeping Track of Insects” so much that I’d really like to read her short story collection, Feeding Strays.

A friend of mine read my most recent novel manuscript a few months ago and he very kindly gave me a list of three books that he felt my book echoed. One of those was Thea Astley’s Coda, which I also saw mentioned earlier this week at Whispering Gums, reminding me that I should hop to it and read this one. (The other two were Lars Gustafsson’s Death of a Beekeeper and Norman Lock’s A Long Rowing Until Morning.)

A recent Twitter exchange reminded me that I’d really like to read David Shields’s Reality Hunger.

I’ve now read a handful of reviews for a book called Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s about introverts and the power of solitude on thinking. How can I resist?

I can’t find it anymore, but at some point this week I saw an image of four Time magazine covers for the same week. The international versions all had a cover related to the crisis in the Euro Zone. The United States cover was about pets. The image was linked to a book called The Information Diet by Clay Johnson. I have to admit I am a little put off by the cover of the book, and by much of the marketing around it, but I’m very interested in discussions on media and information consumption.

Somewhere, someone (I’m sorry for not remembering who or where) posted a long excerpt from Orham Pamuk’s The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist and I was hooked.

And, finally, the last thing I wrote down on a little notepad by my computer was Jean Stafford. This is from Zhiv who recently wrote about her book, The Mountain Lion. I’d never heard of Stafford. I love this about being a reader – there is always someone new to read, someone who’s apparently written beautiful things that I would like to read.

And now I really miss (certainly not for the first time and certainly not for the last time) having easy access to an English-language library…


13 Responses to “So many books”

  1. Anthony

    I look forward to your thoughts on Shields’s book; I enjoyed it very much while disagreeing with so much including the approach.

    • Michelle

      When it first came out and everyone was talking about it, I had written it down to read, but never got to it. I think I probably shouldn’t wait much longer because it is a book that will come up in discussion… and I’m very curious to see what I think.

  2. londonchoirgirl

    I agree – half the pleasure in being a book lover is the discoveries you make along the way, particularly when people recommend things. From the books I know on your 2012 list, it certainyl sounds as thought you have great taste.

    This year I’m doing a project to read a book from every country in the world (http://ayearofreadingtheworld.com/) and I’ve been delighted with the recommendations and even books that have been sent to me by people all over the world so far. A real voyage of discovery.

  3. whisperinggums

    You’ve got me intrigued. Someone – an Aussie? – said your manuscript reminded him of Coda. You’ll have to read it now and tell me what it is that minded him – style, subject matter, character …

    Oh, and thanks for the link.

      • Michelle

        No, not an Aussie, an American who reads widely. It was Steve Himmer, who I have mentioned on this blog. He’s the author of The Bee-Loud Glade and he reads a lot of “nature-inspired” literature as well as searches out writers from other countries. But I had no idea that Thea Astley was Australian until I saw the mention on your blog. I’m doubly curious to read her now.

  4. litlove

    I’m right behind you with Jean Stafford. I picked up her earlier novel, Boston Adventure, in the secondhand bookstore where I work. And I know what you mean about stumbling across a cornucopia of book recommendations. I seem to have been sent a whole load of books for review lately that all look incredible. I very rarely get sent books at all, so this is doubly treatalicious. Plus, I had no idea you’d been writing a novel! You slipped that in subtly. I do hope you will let us know when it gets published – as I am sure it will! I am already most curious!

  5. Lilian Nattel

    If I did nothing but read for the rest of my life I don’t think I’d ever get through my to-read list. I add to it faster than I can read! Second hand bookstores are wonderful.

  6. Stefanie

    Thanks for the link to the Hilde Lindemann interview. I have never heard of her before and that was really interesting. My library has Damaged Identities so I will add that to me TBR list. I’m reading science by women this year, maybe next year I will undertake philosophy by women 🙂 I will be interested on what you think of Reality Hunger. I liked it even though I frequently disagreed. And Zeppi, please post a picture sometime 🙂

  7. Michelle

    Litlove – I envy your time in a second-hand bookshop. Although that might be a particularly dangerous place to spend too much time 🙂 Looking forward to seeing your new books as well. (And yes, if any of the novels I’ve written ever get published, I’ll be sure to mention it here. You’ll probably hear my shout across the Channel as well – I’ll be that happy.)

    Lilian – I get a little stressed thinking about all the books I know I’ll never have time to read, but I suppose the only way to handle an addiction is “one day at a time.” 🙂

    Stefanie – I’m really looking forward to Reality Hunger, so will try to get to that sooner than later. I’d never heard of Lindemann either and am really eager to read her work.

    Helen – Yes! I promise to write about Zeppi soon.

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