A book that blew my mind #fridayreads #amreading

I have a copy of a book called 1001 books you must read before you die. There have been several editions of this book so at various times different books have been put on the list and taken off again (and in the case of Memoirs of a Geisha I believe returned to the most recent edition of the list).

I have the 2010 edition but I also have an app on my iPad and a spreadsheet both of which list every single book that have ever appeared on an edition of the 1001 books you must read before you die list. I believe the total number of books is 1300 some odd. I’ve read about 133 of those.

I have no intention of reading every single book on the list (although the app tells me I could with time to spare based on my age and the average UK lifespan for a female). I do use it for inspiration for reading material and a way of finding new things to read. Because of the list I’ve discovered some authors I love – Haruki Murakami is one of those and I think Muriel Spark is shaping up to be another but I probably need to read another of hers (I’ve read two) to be definite.

Earlier this week I requested a bunch of titles from the library. All ones that are on the list. One of the ones I requested was The Wonderful O by James Thurber. I knew very little about the book. Mostly just it was one of the shortest books on the list (it’s 80 pages). I’d looked it up in the library catalogue before but every time I did it said it was in the store. But on Monday I figured it was worth requesting.

Thursday it was at my local library for me to collect along with some of my other requests. I’d assumed it was in the store because it wasn’t popular or because it’d been released so long ago (1958).

I enjoyed the story. It’s the perfect length for sitting and reading in one go on a lazy Friday afternoon after a busy week. It’s a really sweet kids one with gorgeous illustrations. The basic premise is an evil man takes over a town and bans the letter O because he doesn’t like it.

What really blew me away was the book itself. Oxfordshire library service doesn’t stamp the date books are due back in books anymore. That’s a no-no in this age of Internet and self service. And I think in a way that’s a shame.

But this still had its ticket of date stamps in it. I could tell looking at it, it was an old book.

But I didn’t expect was to see the first time it was issued was in 1958. It’s not a first edition but it is from the year of publication.

It’s got the old book feel. It’s got the old book smell that’s so nice. New books smell good but not like this. And it’s got pages so thick and sturdy I kept stopping to check page numbers because turning them I thought I must have turned more than one by accident. They don’t make books like that any more.

Being that the reservations are kept right by the desk, I got them to check them out for me. I thought they would say there was a problem and I couldn’t take it. When I was all checked out and she was handing them to me I expected her to tell me to be careful with it. She didn’t.

Part of me wanted to go “this is so old and so nice. It’s practically a piece of history and a work of art. I’m clearly not to be trusted with something like that. It’s too precious, what are you doing letting me take it?!”

Because never mind the fact that books been part of the library service since before I was born. It was actually first issued the year before my Mum was born.

That really blows me mind.

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The cover and spine of the book. It’s an old fashioned, faded red hardback with a plain cover and no dust jacket
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The inside title page of the book
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The very first page inside with the ticket showing the stamped return by dates ranging between 1958, 1990 which appears to be the last time it was out and 1996 when it went to the store.
20131025-212203.jpgtwo inside pages with text and illustration (not every page has illustrations)

Dust If You Must

So as you can probably tell from my last few blog entries I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.

My sister commented on one of those entries that it made her think of a poem that’s doing the rounds on Facebook. I’d seen the one she meant bit not paid too much attention to it. Sometimes my newsfeed feels like a never ending stream of photos, poems, quotes and sentiments all designed to inspire or to make you think or feel good and they begin to blend into one. Which probably defeats the object but there you have it.

Anyway after reading that comment I did a little googling and tracked down a copy. I think it’s worth sharing here. It fits well with what I’ve been thinking and writing about and is probably worth remembering which I won’t do if it stays just a thing I saw on Facebook.

Wikipedia tells me it’s called Dust If You Must and is by Rose Milligan. It was originally published in 1998 in The Lady.

Dust if you must.
But wouldn’t it be better,
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed?
Ponder the difference between want and need.

Dust if you must.
But there is not much time
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb!
Music to hear, and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must.
But the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes,
the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come round again.

Dust if you must.
But bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go, and go you must,
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Party Memories (part one)

Small bullet point memories of my 30th birthday party.  I’ve been putting off writing this until I feel less depressed.  I do feel like things are moving forward from that point of view but they’re still bad.  It occurred to me however that I might feel better for thinking and writing about something very cheerful so here goes…

  • It was really, really good fun. I danced so much that my back hurt most of the next day.  That was totally worth it.
  • I’d really agonised over the venue because the party room and bar are on one floor and the two disabled loos are on another (right next to each other which I’m sure made sense to someone…).  There is a lift but I’d worried with the number of wheelchair users we might end up with there could be a big hassles with that. But unfortunately we couldn’t find another venue.  I think I invited seven other wheelchair users but actually the only other wheelie there was <a href=”http://stickmancommunications.blogspot.com”>Hannah</a>. So it worked really great from that point of view.
  • My birthday is actually Christmas Day so this was a very late party (due to Christmas being a rubbish time for any other form of party).  I never expected presents and if anyone asked me what I wanted I told them they didn’t need to bring me presents.  I got loads and loads of presents actually which I didn’t expect.  Some really great stuff too.
  • In terms of who was there I’ve been using the term weird to describe it.  Which probably isn’t the right one. Unexpected, probably is. Basically when I did the invites there were people I thought probably wouldn’t be able to come and others I thought for sure would come. There were also people who I thought wouldn’t stay long and others who I thought would be there until the bitter end.  But it felt like I was wrong on all of those. It was almost like if you were one of the ones I’d suspected (or in some cases they had said)  were coming for an hour or so only you stayed for way longer and one or two I’d figured would be first in last out were anything but.
  • Of my three cousins on my Mum’s side I’d been told two (plus partners) were coming but one couldn’t make it. What actually happened was the two I was expected both didn’t due to illness but the one I wasn’t expecting and his partner turned up and surprised me. Fun stuff and a very nice surprise!
  • Several other people who had said they were coming then didn’t come.  Some let me know not to expect them in advance and others didn’t. In one particular case I found out from another friend that they’d decided not to come which I was absolutely livid about (this was a few days before the party).
  • One of my besties wasn’t well and didn’t come but then popped round the following morning bringing (yet another) unexpected birthday present and an “unbirthday” card. Apparently her husband was very confused by the unbirthday bit as he didn’t know you could buy those. Somehow he missed that fact that card making is her hobby and she’d made it! She then stayed for a while to hear all about the party which was fun. I must admit when she rang however I was all “you can come so long as I don’t have to get dressed.” and I just threw some jama bottoms on while I waited for her.
  • My mum and sister made a massive chocolate marble cake in the shape of a 30.  They made two big roasting tins full of cake and cut it out freehand (using a template). 75 eggs went into the making of said cake bits of which I believe are still in my parents freezer.
  • Everyone gathered round in a big circle with me in the middle to sing happy birthday and for me to blow out the candles.  I think my brother had difficulty holding the cake for that… he certainly said it was heavy at the time.
  • They then did three cheers for me which was embarrassing but sort of fun and everyone danced to Chesney Hawkes One and Only which is my absolute favourite song.  Brilliant and the only time we had absolutely everyone dancing.

Wow actually I’ve gone into way more detail and said much more than I planned about the party. I’m really tired and I think I’ll save the rest of this for tomorrow to save writing a total dissertation in one blog entry.  Writing this has cheered me up and made me smile though… 😉

>”Yay!”

>

A couple of hours ago I spoke to a good friend on the phone.  I mentioned that I came last in the regatta (27/27 – last in bronze and last over all).  Each time I mentioned another of those little bits she said “yay!” and made me laugh loads.  She suggests that I should get a prize for managing to be so spectacularly last.

I really could care less about the regatta but I’m grouchy today for other reasons and that put the smile back on my face.  But it also made me realise just why it is some people think the two of us are weird and don’t understand us.

I do agree with her though – I was in the regatta! Yay!  I came last! Yay! (followed very much by a SO WHAT?!)