Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Books We Found Under the Tree

In any situation, where presents are given or received, the Book Foxes usually see it as an opportunity to involve books and this past holiday season was no exception. The Foxes gathered in The Den and shared what Santa had brought them.
book lovers anth Hilary assured us, “Santa was very good to me this year, although I had to give him a bit of a helping hand. Here’s what I found under the tree.
Traces and Remains. Essays and explorations, by Charles Nicholl. This was a marvellous surprise, as I had no idea Charles Nicholl had a recent publication. He is the wonderfully erudite author of The Reckoning, the remarkable reconstruction of the death of Marlowe, and The Lodger, his brilliant discovery of an episode in the life of Shakespeare in London. These essays revisit Marlowe and Shakespeare, and on a sweeping journey through time Leonardo, Thomas Coryate, John Aubrey, Byron and much more. I can hardly wait to dive in!
Gone with the Gin. Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist, by Tim Federle. The very welcome sequel to Tequila Mockingbird . More and better mixed drinks – what more need I say?
The Book Lovers’ Anthology, a miscellany first published in 1911, and reprinted by The Bodleian Library. The perfect anthology for anyone addicted to books and reading to dip into, raising a smile and nod of recognition on any random page. I particularly relate to the section on bibliomania, with its sly hints that for the true bibliomaniac, actually reading the books comes a distant second to acquiring them.
My present to myself, wrapped in holly paper and all, was Ruth Scurr’s innovative John Aubrey: My Own Life, a biography of the antiquarian and writer of Brief Lives fashioned from his own words. I’m looking forward to a wonderful New Year spent in the 17th century.
I helped Santa along too – I made him the excuse to press on friends and family The White Road, by Edmund de Waal, his account of a journey to discover the origins of the white porcelain that is his chosen medium, and also Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, one of the most remarkable books I read in 2015.
soup book Kate chimed in, “I too helped Santa: for the second year running I asked for Boel Westin’s biography of Tove Jansson – Life, Art, Words – and my brother kindly heard my plea and sent it across the pond for me. Thanks Jamie! He and I and our sister grew up on the Moomins, and I’ve been increasingly curious about Jansson’s life and influences as more of her adult fiction is translated into English.
I also asked for Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, and my in-laws’ Secret Santa kindly gave it to me, so that was me very happy. I came late to Ishiguro, falling headlong into his dystopic fantasy Never Let Me Go a year ago, and I am keen to read him writing real fantasy mixed with historical fiction.
I also got book tokens and vouchers to spend, so my parents gave me by proxy Martin Edwards’ The Golden Age of Murder
(as reviewed by BookFox Simon: The Golden Age of Murder ). I’m halfway through this book, and have already written three pages of comment in my notebook, so I’ll be blogging about it in a week or two, so much is there to say about this extraordinary ramshackle mess of valuable information for detective fiction fans.
My sister kindly gave me the means to splurge on new cookbooks, so I bought The Soup Book edited by Sophie Grigson, for The Soil Association. Soup is my cooking passion, more so than cake, and I need all the vegetarian soup recipes I can get. I also think Sophie Grigson a great food writer, rather over-shadowed by the fashionable crop of the current generation, so it’s good to have a new book by her.
My last new book for Christmas is a throwback to my student days. My lovely flatmate Sheina was the first vegetarian I’d met, in our flat at Hillhead Halls at Aberdeen University in 1986, and she had a Rose Elliott cookbook that I used to dip into and use, but never got around to buying myself. Now (thank you Hilly) I have the Rose Elliott New Complete Vegetarian, and I am already reading it with gusto.”
goldmanKirstyD told us “I always have a long wishlist of books on the go, updated regularly thanks to reviews on blogs and in the traditional media, radio programmes, podcasts, and word of mouth recommendations. This means that those who know where my online wishlists are can be easily helped if they’re stuck for present ideas! My husband came up trumps by getting me the book-above-all-others that I was really hoping to receive: Public Library and Other Stories by the divine Ali Smith. I have long been a huge fan of hers, and I am excited to see what she comes up with in this collection of writings on the importance of libraries, and about books and their powers more generally. I’ve just started reading it and, less than 50 pages in, I’ve already found much to admire. I’ll no doubt be writing about it for Vulpes Libris in due course.
The only novel I received was Slade House by David Mitchell. I loved his first three novels, was less keen on Black Swan Green, and haven’t got around to reading his next two. Given that Slade House is a ghost story, and I love ghost stories, I’m fervently hoping to have my love of Mitchell’s work renewed. Who knows, it might even inspire me to go back and read his novels that I’ve missed.
In a completely different vein, I’m looking forward to reading another book I received this Christmas: Living My Life, an abridged Penguin Classics edition of Emma Goldman’s autobiography. Goldman was an anarchist, journalist, drama critic, and advocate of both birth control and free love who lived between 1869 and 1940. Born in present-day Lithuania, she moved to the USA in 1885 and became (in)famous for her political speeches and activism. I’m particularly interested in the late 19th century, and I’ve seen Goldman’s name creep up in various things I’ve read over the years. I’m looking forward to reading about her life in her own words.
I also have some book tokens burning a hole in my pocket. What will I spend them on? As yet, I haven’t decided, so if anyone has any recommendations…”
Rutherford bookJackie is happy about the presents she received, but grumbles “One of my gift books cannot be perused at this point, in fact, I’m trying to avoid it altogether. Downton Abbey-A Celebration by Jessica Fellowes is subtitled “An Official Companion to All Six Seasons” and therein lies the problem, in the U.S., season six only began last night. So if I don’t want to know how the series ends, I can’t read the episode guide towards the back of the book. I have skipped around a bit, seeing some of the photos and making mental notes of parts I want to read first, but I am trying to restrain myself from a thorough inspection.
But I’m already halfway through The Living Years by Mike Rutherford, the bass player for Genesis and Mike + The Mechanics. It’s not the usual scandal ridden memoir, but rather a tribute to how supportive his parents were and the relationship with his Naval Captain father. It’s refreshing to read about a pleasant family life and how that stood him in good stead as he has navigated the life as a world famous musician. 2016 marks 40 years that I’ve been a fan of Genesis, so it’s a highly appropriate gift.
Lest you think I only read about pop culture, there was also the Field Guide to Warblers of North America by Donald and Lillian Stokes, a small, but very thorough handbook packed with photos, maps and details about a confusing group of birds. There is so much information that I feel a bit overwhelmed, but I’m definitely learning a lot so far. The Stokes field guides are a bit different from most, and delve into the subject more intricately, so they are perfect for in-depth study.”
There you have it, the new volumes that some Foxes have happily added to their library thanks to the generosity of their loved ones and that jolly old elf. And now, dear readers, why not tell us about some of the new books you got over the holidays?

2 comments on “Books We Found Under the Tree

  1. Anne6fy
    January 4, 2016

    My wish list has been pretty well cleared.

    I’m reading the first, and the easiest read, Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling: more notes from a small island. It’s a rant from an increasingly grumpy old man, but still just funny enough to keep me hanging in, and a new book by him is a Christmas tradition for me.

    Waiting in the wings are
    Winterland: writers and artists under English skies by Alexandra Harris, because Romantic Moderns really impressed me
    Spain: the centre of the world 1519-1682 by Robert Goodwin, because I want to know more about the Spanish Golden Age (and I will by the time I get through this)
    and Devon Cox’s The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde and Sargent in Tite Street, an impulse choice that promises well.

    I treated myself to Coralie Bickford- Smith’s The Fox and the Star, a delight to my eye, and I’ve preordered Laura Cumming’s The Vanishing Man: in pursuit of Velázquez

  2. Jackie
    January 11, 2016

    You’ve got an impressive list. I’m especially interested in the latest Bill Bryson, I had no idea he had a new one out. Yay!

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