#bookaday 11 a second hand bookshop gem

This is a second hand gem I found not at a bookshop but a weekly flea market in chesterfield a chap bring some books usually they are either obscure farming ,strange biographies or such like but I always rummage through and last summer this gem turned up. First edition of Mani by Patrick Leigh Fermor ,ok it isn’t a time of gifts but to me it’s a gem I’ve taken inside as cover is cloth and plain and these title pages are just stunning I think .I ve many other gems Du Maurier first editions a couple out of print books .A nice Viking us edition of finnegans wake is latest find ,what about you ,what are your gems ?

#bookaday 7 a book you forgot you had

Well I decide for today just go to my shelves and have a good look around and the first I saw and went oh yeah I brought that and haven’t read it yet .It was this Herman Hesse short story collection which I picked up a few years ago with German lit month in mind ,but also to remind folks Hesse had written other things apart from Steppenwolf ,Siddhartha and Glass bead game .I remember I stuck it to back of the shelves as the cover as you see is rather surreal ,but finding it this morning I think I will keep it now in mind for this years German lit month
What book had you forgotten ?

#bookaday day 6 the one you always give as a gift

Stones in a landslide I reviewed here was the second book by Peirene and still after all this time is one I like to give to people and also gift people when I have chance , a story of a simple girl Conxa who’s life in the Pyrenees is change when she goes to work for her aunt in another village .Village life so different yet in distance she travelled so little .what is you favourite book to give to people ?

#Bookaday 5 book(S) that don’t belong to me


These are a collection of Charles Dickens novels I had seen since my early teens when my parents both remarried ,these were owned by first my step grandfather whom carried one of these in his pocket every day of his working life ,then my dad and my step mum and latterly I borrowed these ,the date from the 1930’s and you can tell how much my step grandfather loved them and Dickens words there is a feeling these are books that have been read but also cared for .They also mean one day I will be doing a huge reading of Dickens ,as i have read most of these in my teens on my holidays to my dad and stepmum  in Belfast and then Dromore ,or when we went to Donegal

What is your book that dosen’t belong to you ?

#bookaday 3 one with a blue cover


Well two Blue cover these exquisite hardbacks are both from Twisted spoon a small Czech press that translates Mittel European fiction   into english .I’ve reviewed a number of there books on the blog .These are both due on the blog laater this year A bouet by Karel Jaromir Erben is a collection of Czech fairy tales ,and the legs of Izolda Morgan by Bruno Jasienski a Polish futurist writer .What is your favourite Blue cover ?

Shadow IFFP WINNER 2012

A quick word from me Stu the Chair of this years Shadow IFFP .I want thank all my fellow Judges for making this such a successful first year for the shadow IFFP .







We all undertook the Journey of judging the 2012 shadow IFFP eight weeks ago .This journey first took us to Asia , 1980’s Tokyo or is it ? ,a mother disappears in Seoul and then a book highlighting the Aids crisis in China were are three stops there .Then we read two Hebrew novel the first set in the present an old man and a village the other a young jewish man on the run in world war two hiding in a most unexpected place .The to Germany and two books dealing with death the first a husband shocked at is wife’s view of him after she is dead ,the other a women called Alice has friends and lovers die around her .We the journey north firstly we meet a professor stuck in a mid-life crisis and having witnessed a murder ,then to meet Chaim the head of a jewish community in a second world war ghetto .We then met a villain of the top order in 18th century europe and a shipwreck man who may or may not be finish in our two stops in Italy .A skip to 1980’s paris a group of friend facing the ,the AIDS crisis face on .lastly a Basque writer takes us to Colonial Africa and a man heading into an army camp gone rogue .This journey hasn’t been the easiest for us as judges most of the books dealt with the dark side of human life and death .But they show the wealth of talent around the world and the wonderful job of modern translators .We as judges have discovered a lot about each other digesting and discussing the books and slowly trimming or list down to our winner and it is with great pleasure we announce our winner .

From the mouth of the whale by Sjon
Translator – Victoria Cribb
Publisher in the uk telegram books
We all liked and some of us loved this book no one really had a bad word about it ,I think from when ever any one of us judges read it we feel for it as a book and Sjon’s voice  .We felt Sjon had captured through Jonas eyes the 17th century Iceland so well ,this was helped by Victoria translation that through its usage of older languages and grammar gave it a feel of a book that had just been unearthed not a modern book .A worthy winner for the fist  shadow IFFP winner 2012

Londoners by craig Taylor

I won this just before Christmas on twitter  and was intrigued by it and london in general as a northern and proud of it , who has only visited London on half a dozen occasions I wanted to see if this book by Craig Taylor, who is also  the editor of seven dials magazine would give me an insight into what it is to be a Londoner and is there any peace in the madness as it seems to the outsider .Craig spent over seven years interviewing people from all walks of life on what effect London has had on them and what they do every day  .The book is loosely organised in sections following an arc of arriving in london too what happens every day the people how entertain, feed and look after us whilst there and ultimately the people who see us into then next life .these range from pilot that bookends the book arriving at the airport and leaving as he puts it moving away from all that life in the city .

But london has cross winds .Nothing’s stable .Nothing’s set it can be tough work too. if it is rough you might duck into grey cloud pilot

Kevin Pover on landing in london but this nugget seems to sum up London a bit as well .

I loved Taylor’s style of interviewing letting people chat and obviously editing it into little nuggets and gems and getting rid of waffle whilst still keeping the feel of every person via the grammar and use of language .I felt like I spent seven years on a tube train every day talking to a different person or in a pub for seven years .Craig has done for modern London what the mass observation project did in the second world war ,captured it like a fly in amber  for all time .Some of my favourite people in the book where the Pakistan currency guy that had marfan syndrome just because he had that as a tall thin man this syndrome was often mentioned to me as something I may have due to my build and shape , till my mum took me for tests and I hadn’t it but his story remind me of that time .

I also has some problems with my health .Some eye problems .I had retinal detachment -I have a genetic reason for that ,Marfan Syndrome ,which makes me tall and causes eye problems . karman Sheikh currency trader talks about his health problems a syndrome I was suspected of having but didn’t .

The funeral director that show the cosmopolitan nature of London has led to him working with people in Poland and Nigeria on a regular basis even opening a branch in Nigeria as he was shocked at the facilities .

I went into one mortuary and there were bodies lying on the floor at various stages of decomposition when they’d not kept up the payments .

The ambulance man talking of delivering babies here there and every where also the fact he delivered babies of all races and every one is the same when it come to child-birth .this book is the best non fiction book I ve read all year and one everyone should read I think .

Down the rabbit hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos or (dad I want a pygmy hippo)

Down the rabbit hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Source – review copy from &other stories

Translator – Rosalind Harvey

Juan Pablo Villalobos is a Mexican writer ,the studied marketing and spanish literature ,he has an interested in the avant grade having written about Cesar Aira ,he currently lives in Barcelona in Spain  .This is his Debut novel and has already been translated into 8 languages  since it came out last year ,including this English Translation ,that marks the start of a new Press in translation” and other stories ” .They’ll be so happy this was also the first book named on Guardians first book 2011 long list .

So what is this book about well ,dear me I gave a bit away in the title this about Tochtli a child ,well may I say this child is in some ways a normal child wanting thing he can’t have and telling us about his family ,cute you ‘re thing ,well er no cause Tochtli (this means rabbit in mexico main native language ) is the son of a notorious Mexican drugs baron and is well how do I put a little different to normal kids his age  he has the real swords and a real guillotine his house is full of the underworld characters hit men ,prostitutes and dodgy politicians  so when he turns round one day and says he wants a Liberian Pygmy hippopotamus for his collection of animals ,the people round his father’s luruxy hideout start finding a way to do this ,do they succeed well the best way to find out is to rush to the book shop and buy this thrilling ride of a book .

Today Paul Smith ,who hasn’t been to our place for a really long time ,about three months,came round .I found out I actually know fifteen people and not fourteen or fifteen .The thing is I wasn’t sure if Paul smith was still a person or if by now he was a corpse .I had my doubts because of one of Yolcaut’s enigmatic phrases,which he had said when asked once why Paul Smith didn’t come round any more .

“if he’s smart he’ll come back ,if he’s an asshole he won’t ”

You have to give a dark laugh as this is how Tochtli sees the world .

So this book is short seventy pages but hell it packs a punch in those seventy pages .We enter Villalobos dark comic world ,this is black comedy at it’s best Tochtli is a perfect glimpse into the surreal world of the Mexican drug barons as we see his day-to-day life we catch a little glimpse of what is happening in his fathers world and maybe why there at the hideaway at this time as he father tries to step up in his world .Tochtli rabbit hole is a place you wouldn’t want a kid to be but it is his rabbit hole and if he wants something no matter how odd it seems because of his rabbit hole being what it is he may just get it in the end .So I commend And other stories on a great first choice for the press ,these books were chosen as a result of reading groups with people reading books in the original spanish .I first came across via  a e-mail to me fro Stefan from and other ,so have mention them before for their reading groups here  .the translation is crisp and also a nice glossary of some words used in the text at the end which is handy .&other stories allow you to subscribe and via this you can have your name in the future  book s

Have you a book you heard of that you think should be translated ?

Would you read a book in another language to decide if its right for english translation ?

Desert island disc -take two the reload

Late last year I did a desert island disc post but since then the choices have puzzled me and a recent chat with an old friend on Facebook has made me re think the list and also in the time in between I ve really found my personnel voice and find writing posts flows easier for me so want to redo list now and flesh out choice with reasons .I love desert island disc and since the archive has come online spent a lot time looking at choices of past guests have made in the show .so for take two here are my choices and the reasons for them .

1.Better together – Jack Johnson – I choose this last time I know ,it is a mellow tune but is the first song we had at our wedding and is Amanda and I song .Because we are better together I feel like I ve lost an arm when we re apart ,we get on so well together every minute together is precious to me .so it will always be here in a desert island disc list .


2.Blue ridge mountains by Fleet foxes – I fell in love with the voices of the fleet foxes when I first heard them ,it was one of those moments you hear a song and know the band will be in your collection for ever ,this track from the debut album make me think of the wild places I ve been in my life ,a windswept beach in Donegal ,the moor in Northumberland or driving through the highlands on a summer day .

3.When I ‘m dead and gone – fury in the slaughterhouse ,the german rem or u2 they’ve been called this from the bluesy album mono ,a dark album about death mainly this song  about how your remembered is my favourite by them .This to me is a secret band not well-known here ,I found out about them in the time I lived in Germany and it reminds me of that year there .


4.Drowners – suede – this was huge when it came out the new smiths was the take ,gritty lyrics and clashing guitars made it a teenage anthem ,I remember buying it in Kirkcaldy in a small indie record shop there and listening to it at my aunties ,it reminds me of summers in Fife with family strange for a dark song but I always make connections between time and places with what I listen to so if this is dark it makes me think of happy times .

5. Fake empire – the national – this was used as part of Obama campaign ,I got into national via a track on a magazine CD .This is an album that is always on my I-pod nano so it makes me thing of Winston for some reason this album boxer and this track in particular is great dog walking music ,especially on a dark night .

6.I wanna go to marz – John Grant – this is a soulful song about a childhood sweet shop but much more than that ,from an album that I ve played to death since I ve got it ,John grant was the lead singer of the czars and I got their album via my best friend Steve so in some ways this albums reminds me of the great night s of my twenties when Steve, Leon ,my brother Duncan and I went out every friday and saturday drinking round town .I remember the characters we meet the bars and route we took week after week .

7.Late night ,Maudlin street by Morrissey – Well anyone that knows me knows I couldn’t go to a desert island without Morrissey or the smiths I have had a love /hate relationship with him and his music I was a smiths fan and love his debut solo album which this is from this is one of his longest songs and I think one he revealed some of his own life on a song set in the seventies about urban life .I m reminded of the day I brought the album at beat route records in Congleton and the fact for a long time after they had an australian copy with a title misprint on of “education in reverse ” the run out groove message on the vinyl album ,not “viva hate” the actual title .

8.Mfwany by Sir John Betjeman – This is one of his poems set to music ,he record these in the seventies but it took twitter to get to me ,although Morrissey had used a different track as a show opener on his tour .I just love his voice the tone of it and this song in particular .

Book – essays by Ben Okri – a change I choose Proust but I feel this would keep my mind alive Okri essays in his two collections the first of which I ve read m\ke you question books myths ,utopias and the Arcadian myth to name some .

Luxury – same as last time a digital photo frame with my wedding the best day of my life   and a couple of pictures of Winston so I’ll  have all I love and hold dear to look at .

There I feel this is a better post than the first ,my friend on Facebook said I live on   memories and I do but also live for today because as some one said you have to see where you’ve been to see where your going ,that is very true I think .

What would you choose and why ?


book food a spanish meal -want join in ? for the Don

As you all know I m doing a Don Quixote readalong ,well when I was starting the read along one of my good friends from twitter Rachel who lived in Spain for nearly 20 years said she want to join in with readalong ,when I ask about the food of the time in spain ,she kindly said she do some research and provide a recipe for us to do well she has and now is doing a cook along via twitter making the traditional spanish dish escabeche (escabetx in Catalan) a chicken dish , which would have been round in Cervantes time so I ll include a link to here to Rachel’s page ,where you can find out about her and maybe want join one of her catalan cooking class .so even if your not doing the readalong you may enjoy cooking and following how everyone gets along via twitter full details of Rachel’s twitter account and a # hashtag for the night .hope some of you choose to join in or follow us for the night .

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March 2023


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