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Archive for November, 2010

I was off work last week with an ear infection and as I lay on the sofa feeling sorry for myself and unable to hear the TV, I read a few books. And as I automatically reached for a PG Wodehouse I started thinking about what I read when I’m ill! There are certain books on my shelves that I would classify as ‘illness favourites’. These include; Harry Potter, Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse. They’re all excellent books for any time but I particularly like them when I’m ill as they’re so easy to read and don’t take a lot of thinking about. It doesn’t matter if I fall asleep mid-sentence or can only read a page at a time, you don’t need to keep track of intricate details or decipher long-winded descriptive paragraphs or try and work out the sub-text, it’s all there on the page.

I love books that make you think and question things but when you’re ill all you want to do is curl up with something comforting, the literary equivalent of hot chocolate! That’s what Agatha Christie etc are to me – my comfort read. They’re familiar old friends that I can dip into without thinking, I don’t have to concentrate too much, I can just relax and enjoy them.

I’ve been reading Ulysses over the past month or so and I’m getting through it, I’ve got less than 150 pages to go, but when I realised I was ill I felt quite relieved that I could ignore Ulysses for a while and pick up something a lot less taxing. The last thing I want to read when I’m ill is something heavy, depressing or intellectually challenging!

So I say thank goodness for all those writers who’ve created proper comfort reads! Illness would be horrible without them.

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This looks so cool!

This looks fabulous, I just wish it looked more comfortable!  But a great idea none the less.  It’s available from a website called Timorous Beasties.

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One of the blogs I enjoy reading is called Bookish NYC and every week she writes a post called ‘seen on the subway’, where she comments on a few people she’s spotted, what they look like, what they’re wearing and what they’re reading.  It’s interesting to see how often a person’s age or appearance really is not indicative of what they’re likely to read.

I did think about writing a similar post describing people I’ve spotted on the London underground, but that idea fell apart rather quickly when I realised that I spend too much time with my nose in a book to pay attention to the people around me!  However, the other day I spotted a woman, mid-thirties, smart clothes, subtle make-up, she looked like she was on her way to work and she was sitting reading a book.  But, and here’s the thing, I couldn’t tell what she was reading because she was holding a letter from an electricity company around the cover of the book!

The letter was out of the envelope, unfolded and held sideways to cover the front and back of the book, it was definitely positioned purposely to hide the book cover!  How odd is that?  I’ve read quite a bit of trash in my time, but I’ve never felt the need to hide it.  Of course this started me wondering about what she was reading.  Could it be porn, erotica, or a children’s book?  Perhaps it was a terrorist manual on bomb making!

From what I could see it looked like a small hardback book with text, not pictures.  What would be so embarrassing that you would want to hide it?  And if you felt the need to hide what you were reading why would you bring it on the underground anyway?

The whole thing seems a bit strange to me.  I think that if you’ve chosen to read a book, no matter what genre, you should be free to read it without embarrassment; it’s your choice, no one else has to read it and certainly no one else should care what you’re reading.  So I really can’t get my head round why this woman would hide her book.  It’s got me stumped – any thoughts?

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A friend told me about a bookshop in Argentina that she’d heard about, it was in an old theatre.  It sounded interesting so I thought I’d look it up online.  OMG!  It’s amazing.  It’s called El Ateneo Grand Splendid and is located in Buenos Aires at Santa Fe Avenue, Bario Norte.  According to Wikipedia the building was designed by the architects Peró and Torres Armengol for the empresario Max Glucksman (1875-1946), and opened as a theatre named Teatro Gran Splendid in May 1919.  In the late twenties it was converted into a cinema and then in 2000 became a bookshop.  But rather than knock it down and build from scratch or keep the exterior of the building and turn the interior into a standard bookshop they retained all the original features.  So the stage is still there, along with the red velvet curtains, the boxes are still intact, the ceiling still has all its ornate carvings and you can sit, relax and read books in the cafe at the back of the stage.  It’s just stunning.

I love the fact that so much of the interior has been kept in its original condition and it goes to prove that bookshops don’t need to be dull, square, clinical spaces but rather this celebrates the flexibility of the bookshop and the book purchaser; books can be a connection with previous eras and atmospheres so I think this is the perfect use of the grand old theatre.  The perfect relaxed setting, full of character but not oppressive, in which to while away time perusing books.

It was also named as one of the world’s top 10 bookshops by the Guardian in 2008.

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