Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions

My best friend bought me Alberto Manguel’s reflections on a life in books, because she knows me very well. Packing My Library is subtitled An Elegy and Ten Digressions. It opens with Manguel’s reminiscence about the last location in which he had set up his library of 35,000 books. His reflections on the serious matter of what libraries are and what they mean to us are punctuated with digressions that often stem from a throwaway thought but also season the whole.

Early on, Manguel warns us that he can’t think in straight lines, that he goes where his thoughts lead him, something reflected in his idiosyncratic approach to arranging the books in his library. Manguel groups things by the first language of the author, then by author surname. I’ve come across people who arrange their books by the spectrum of colours on their spines. I’m pretty much an author surname and publication date arranger, although with non-fiction the size of the book also comes into play, and I don’t necessarily arrange non-fiction by author or chronology.

I, too, love a digression.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From The Naked Chef to Like Water for Chocolate

We have an unusual starting book for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. Our host Kathy at Books Are My Favourite And Best has chosen Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef as our chain inspiration. I haven’t read anyone else’s chains yet, as is my wont, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we all fare. If you’re unfamiliar with this literary meme, you can find the rules here.

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The Communist Manifesto

I’ve had a copy of The Communist Manifesto on my e-reader for years. In the first year of my Economics and Economic & Social History degree, I did a module on political philosophy. I work at a museum that documents the times that Marx and Engels were writing in/against/for/about. Somehow I have lived for more than half a century without reading this prime text for anyone who claims to be socialist.

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The Good Journal Issue One

June 2018 seems such a long time ago. So much has changed, so much hasn’t. The Good Journal launched in June 2018, to build on the success of The Good Immigrant and provide British writers of colour with a showcase for their work. Unlike The Good Immigrant, issue one of The Good Journal has a mix of fiction and nonfiction. The writers are a mix, as well, of established and never published before.

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Bollocks to Alton Towers

Bollocks to Alton Towers is a guide to visitor attractions in the UK that are a parallel world to the identikit theme parks and desperate-to-entertain you museums that top the visitor attraction lists and vie for awards.

This small book of “Uncommonly British Days Out” is a friend lend. I’ve only had it for three years. We’re off to stay with the friends who lent it soon, so I thought I’d make it the first book in my new personal reading challenge.

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Notes from Childhood

Notes from Childhood is Norah Lange’s memoir of her childhood, published in Charlotte Whittle’s English translation by And Other Stories in 2021. I chose to substitute it for one of my original 10 Books of Summer as I wanted to read it for Women in Translation Month.

I don’t know much about Norah Lange, other than she was part of the same Buenos Aires writing circle as Jorge Luis Borges. And Other Stories published a translation of her novel People in the Room, also with Charlotte Whittle, in 2018.

Lange’s memoir begins in 1910, when she was around five years old and the family left Buenos Aires for their estate in Mendoza. It documents her observations of the world and her family, with some fictionalisation here and there.

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Six Degrees of Separation: From Wintering to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Here we are again and already at the first Saturday in the month. July this time, and a new round of Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

I’ve read this month’s starting book, Katherine May’s Wintering. It’s a bold choice with which to start our chains, and it took some thought for me to find a thread. I forged my chain late on Saturday night, but chose sleep over wrangling it into a post. Only a day late with that.

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Where We Find Ourselves: Poems and Stories of Maps and Mapping from UK Writers of the Global Majority

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Read 29/04/2022-30/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

My friend Dipika has a story in this anthology, which gathers together poems and stories of maps and mapping from UK writers of global majority communities.

These are tales of place, covering diaspora, exile, identity, childhood and family. The writers are all based in the UK and are from a wide range of communities. After finishing The Good Immigrant, I wanted to sink my teeth into more writing from communities that are underrepresented in the literary world, and this offering from Arachne Press gave me the opportunity to do just that. Continue reading