Sunday, December 13, 2009

the sidebar does not lie

Just look at that sidebar and its soundless indictment of my life: shopping (25), books (7).

Had anyone asked, I'd have said that I was a reader rather than a shopper. Online shopping disturbs me: I keep googling obsessively for the perfect duvet cover because the one I've found has stripes that are a quarter of a millimeter too close together. An hour later, I'm checking whether it's possible to import one from Australia and I give up the whole thing with a sigh. Non-virtual shops are no better. Impatient with age, I'm disinclined to queue so I end up in the sort of tranquil establishment where they tell you that this neckline really becomes you, Madam, but take All Your Money.

(By the way, has anyone noticed that if you buy anything from Monsoon, they tell you as you pay that it's lovely and that you've made a great choice? I'm all for this. They'd have a good sideline as blog commentators.)

So shopping shouldn't be permitted to define me. But reading: that I've always done. Perhaps less so since the children were born, as they grab my book to cut up the dénouement for artificial snow, but I still get through a novel and last month's newspapers when I set my mind to it. What's to read, though? My strict rule in a bookshop is never to buy anything that's confiding, hilarious or contains raw emotion. Raw emotion is what youngsters get up to on creative writing courses, and I like mine lightly cooked. Perhaps not always as boiled as Wodehouse, but edging in that direction. That doesn't leave much. Please tell me your recommendations for what to read this Christmas holiday. Meantime, this post will bump the books category up to 8. A good day's work.


  1. Well I have some tips. The first is you should specifically TAILOR your tags to make yourself look good. A post about shopping can be tagged Self Improvement OR Retail Exploration. A post about some superficial curtain fabric issue can be tagged Signficant Textiles. And so on. If you are the only person on the planet not to have read Stiegg Larssen's trilogy then you must. Also what about some Malcolm Gladwell - the ome which talks about how if you are born in a certain month you are more likely to be good at baseball. And personally I rather like a bit of scary mystery like Donna Leon or some such because it makes me feel safer, perversely. And finally, every year I read without fail The Snowman and Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs. Yes I know they are childrens books but they make me feel happy.

  2. I love how you manipulate your stats. Presently on my bedside table I have the Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Maisy's Bedtime by Lucy Cousins (for the youngest member of the family). But for sheer enjoyment Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell (James Bond in stilettos, chignon and deadly under wire bra) if you can find a copy.

  3. hi mise
    i think its ok to be defined by shopping.... if the shoe fits...
    i couldnt read much until after my kids left home! i just finished Brida by paulo coelho
    " a young irish girl who struggles to find balance between her relationships and her desire to become a witch. a tale of love, passion, mystery and spirituality "
    sweet book

  4. HI Mise
    I'd love to say I've been reading many interesting and page turning books but in fact I have read none for years now.. Used to be an avid reader, with bookshelves overflowing but now they are all in the garage and have no time for any new reads. Maybe when I take a break I'll rectify this so if you hear of anything interesting you can let me know.

    If my brain hadn't been removed by this year's project I could list some great books I have read in the past. I vaguely remember I read the Book Thief [Brismod] and also have read and own many Paulo Coelho' books [Pooch]. Anything else will take a memory transplant!

    Have fun... might need to balance the stats on my category listing too. Have fun xx Julie

  5. The Help; Assassin's Apprentice (a wild shot but my brother thinks its great); and--if you would like to jump on the crazy bandwagon of teenagers and mum's about Twilight?

    In terms of Internet shopping, may I please inquire as to what's up with Australia? They have fantastic design websites, blogs and shopping. And none of them ship anywhere. I'm starting to think about either a protest or a fan club. I'm not sure where I'm landing.

  6. Hi Devon funny you should say that because my personal paranoid Why Don't They Ship To My Country complaint is with many many US sites esp Anthropologie so much so that I set up one of those PO Box addresses in Miami (not used because I am scared the NCA will get on to me). I know that postage is expensive in Australia so maybe that is why. Email them and complain they may change !!

  7. I think we should all try these stats for ourselves...actually on second thoughts's too scarty for me.

  8. Not just raw, but bloody. That's the emotion of writing students. Every semester I teach workshops to 20-year-old poetry students who bleed raw emotion and "self expression" in every line. One of my many evil jobs is to be the one who turns on the heat. I can only take so much "black darkness of the soul" a semester.

    I'm still reading A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book, which is good, but I'm insanely busy and it is long. Most of my other reading is prep reading for next semester's classes, including a reread of Treasure Island (I teach creative writing and children's lit). I'm always reading a few poetry books. If you like poetry, I recommend Kay Ryan's Say Uncle or anything by Mark Halliday or Billy Collins. All three are sharp, thought provoking, and funny, but not hilarious.

    I've only shopped at Monsoon when I've been in England, as we don't have them here, but I've been to them enough to agree that the sales clerks would, indeed, be fabulous blog commentators. I don't, in fact, look good in pink sparkly earrings shaped like daisies.

    Speaking of pink and regarding your sidebar numbers: to be fair to you, you have 17 posts about art and only one about pink. I know that there are a lot of pink lovers out in blogland who would think you should have at least 17 posts about pink by now, but I think this current ratio is just right.

    On my sidebar I finally eliminated the numbers just so I wouldn't have to face them every day. I think shopping and books are neck and neck right now, but only because most of the books I read (and write about) these days were written for five year olds.

  9. Mise - your pink stats are seriously in trouble. You need to tag a few posts as pink even if they're not. I have no stats on my side bar for the opposite reason - perhaps I'd have too many pink posts!
    On the reading front, I've just finished The Help, and am now into another Alexander McCall Smith 'Sunday Philosophy Club' number - brilliant pre-Christmas easy reading! As for those Australian websites - maybe you should try one of our New Zealand ones! We shipped to Ireland this week! hee hee

  10. Hi Mise, in lieu of exercise, I love nothing more than a good brisk sit. Then, I figure, if I'm sitting, I may as well be reading. The more I read, the fatter I get. But I've enjoyed several books so much lately, that it's almost been worth the ever expanding love handles. Almost.

    If you get a chance to read anything by Alice Steinbach, I'd recommend it. I believe Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is also very good, but it's so huge, I've been too afraid to read it. Agree with Jane about the Stieg Larssen trilogy...unputdownable. Also loved Book Thief and Suite Francaise. Hope you and your lovely ones are having a great day. Meredy xo.
    p.s. get yourself a label'll just feel better about yourself.

  11. Once upon a time, in a far off distant land there was a time when I did read books....
    I do still try and my bedroom floor is littered with books I've started to read.....
    but I've found , in the main that , once I've put them down , I simply cannot pick them up again...

  12. Hey Mise
    I'll be over in a flash. Hope it's snowing.. it will be my first White Christmas [in fact first cold Christmas] x Julie

  13. I'm with Amanda....I don't have stats on my sidebar then, I don't need to worry about them !! I don't actually worry about stuff like that. I do what I do, end of story.
    I won't wax lyrical on all of the great books that I've read (and I've read a few in my time !!)
    Over the last couple of weeks, I've been watching 'Small Islands' and, it was so good that I am going to read the book. It is written by Andrea Levy.It's a brilliant story and, the book will be even better than the depiction on the B.B.C. Although they did it really well, it's never as good as the book, is it ? XXXX

  14. More support for the Book Thief (but you may need hankies by the end) and the Millenium trilogy, if you like 'gripping' and have several clear hours.

    I'm on a bit of an Irish crime buzz at the minute- Declan Burke, Stuart Neville, Adrain McKinty. For crime and humour try Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.

    However, it's possible that we're not coinciding with the crime notion... pondering what else I've read recently... The Secret Scripture, the American Wife, America America or anything/everything by Colum McCann

  15. Jane, how blindly conventional I've been; all my posts will be tagged 'Philanthropy' from now on.

    I'm actually on that Larssen trilogy now - nearly finished the first. Very well-written in the sense that you can relax, knowing that the intricate plot isn't going to hit a clanging note.

    Devon, I'll join that protest/fan club but shan't ship club stickers or placards to the USA. Sorry, but that's the way.

    Gigi, thank you for your epic comment! I like Billy Collins so will have a go at Ryan and Halliday. I reckon children's literature is good fun. Did Francis Spufford's 'The Child that Books Built' make it as far as the US?

    Amanda, I think half my posts are pink, but I eventually hope to sell my blog to Manchester United Football Club so I'm down-playing pink in the tags.

    Meredith, 'a good brisk sit': you share my strenuous keep-fit regime.

    And thanks to all of you for your suggestions. The Book Thief seems to have many votes: I'll check out its back cover straight away. (Speccy, I'm a blogger, I have hand-embroidered hankies (no I don't really)). And then I'll try everything else that I haven't read from your lists. What a busy Christmas.

  16. I have far too many books (not something I once thought was possible) but I can highly recommend Anita Shreve (for slow cooked emotion) Kathleen Tessaro (for intelligent chick lit) and Philip Pullman (for exquisite story-telling.)

    You might also enjoy some of Roald Dahl's short stories for adults.

  17. Yep, stat tweaking is the only way to go. And be selective about which tags you display in the sidebar, obviously. I'm off to rejig mine so they all read things like 'publications', 'awards', 'honorary degrees', 'charity work', and such like. (I'm keeping the one that says 'chocolate' though. It's not yet winning. I clearly need to blog about it as much as I eat it.)

  18. I recently read East of the Sun by Julia Gregson and I'd say it's in my top five Best Evers.

  19. PS. I seem to be the only person who didn't really love The Book Thief...

  20. Sorry I'm late, Mise, but it looks like you've already received plenty of thoughtful suggestions to spike your book stats alarmingly. Increased chocolate intake is recommended to counterbalance the development of new neural pathways caused by so much reading in a short period of time.

  21. No that was meant to say -Remains of the day -by Kazuo Ishiguro, sorry.

  22. I tend to lean toward books that contain one, two , or all of the criteria you DON'T like so I got nothing for ya. :)

  23. Ah... I'm afraid raw emotion is what I'm after in a book. And angst. Lots of angst. Maybe I never did grow up... So not sure I could recommend much to you.
    I have been a voracious reader since teaching myself to read at the tender age of 5.
    V o r a c i o u s.
    And then blogging came along... And my friends don't believe me that I haven't read anything in six months. It's quite shocking.

    Love your tags! Funny how we don't see what's right there under our noses, eh?

    Now, off to check out my own and see what moment of self-clarity I might find!
    And then I'm off out to my bookclub... (I actually AM lol!)

  24. I'm glad I don't have any kind of stats on my sidebar - I couldn't take the judgment! In the last few years, I've developed an awful habit of starting books and not finishing them. I was happy when the movers packed up all the unfinished books that were lying around so I wouldn't have to look at them for a while!

  25. Haha, love this. I wouldn't worry about it - you're writing, which is the important thing!

  26. I'm actually going to reach for Canterbury Tales this Christmas, following a most random Facebook "conversation" of just this evening. I know. The latter's not a real social life, but at least the book's a real book! And I might finally get my hands on Gilead author's latest. Their names escape me now; not found on the CBeebies website...

  27. Your too funny...and if you find a good read...please, do share.

  28. Oh goodness Mise I've never looked at my label stats until now. I'm delighted to report that Moi is tops with 104, followed by MOTH at 83. What worries me though is that Work at 43 is double that of Sons at 25! They always complained about this as little boys, which I always refuted - oops!
    Can't recommend any books which is woeful of me. I prop up in bed with a backlog of scientific journals, which I actually quite enjoy. Geez I'm boring!
    Millie ^_^

  29. I wanted to wish you and your family a very happy holiday season. Take care.


You're looking particularly well.

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