February proved to be goodish on the book-buying front. I bought two books. So I'm now a bit ahead of where I should be with my book-buying, but I hope I can be more restrained somewhere later in the year to compensate.
As with my clothes buying challenge last year, limiting my book-buying has revealed previously unacknowledged habits and attitudes. One of the things I've discovered about myself is that I find it almost impossible, if I'm by myself, to have a coffee or lunch out without a book to read. It must be the kind of deep association that cigarette smokers have with drinking tea or coffee. It's not that I'm at all embarrassed or uncomfortable about eating alone in public - in fact, I quite enjoy it. I don't feel the need to retreat behind a book. Maybe it's just because I was never allowed to read at the table as a child that I find reading while eating so pleasurable.
I blame my first book purchase for the month on that habit. I was in the city and needed to have lunch and I didn't have a book with me. I felt a deep need to have a book to read and so I bought Anne Enright's 2007 Booker prize-winning novel 'The Gathering'. I'm deeply concerned about the viability of publishers and publishing in the transition from real books to e-books. I don't disapprove of e-books. I think anything that makes reading easier, more accessible and pleasurable for people is to be lauded. But I am concerned that publishers find ways to continue to make book production profitable so that good writing gets published. One of the outcomes of this rethinking of publishing practices seems to me to be an outbreak of schemes to market cheap books. In Australia, where inscrutable world-wide book distributing agreements have meant very expensive books for many years, this is an unexpected pleasure. This book of Anne Enright's was only $9.95 as it was part of a celebration of Vintage's first 21 years as a publisher. They republished 21 of their most successful books. A present for their readers.
Buying Charles Dickens 'Our Mutual Friend' was a mistake; but not a mistake I will regret. My book group had decided we should read or reread some 'classics' and decided on 'Dombey and Son'. For some reason I thought the book we'd selected was 'Our Mutual Friend' and bought a copy. I've now discovered my mistake. But I suspect reading one Dickens will make me want to read another, so this can happily join my growing pile of books to read in 2012. And it also cost only $9.95. For whatever reason (copyright?) 'classics' are sold more cheaply. Dickens is very good value reading - you get lots of words for your dollar!
My 2012 reading has been slowed down over the last few weeks by reading Frank Moorhouse's doorstop of a book - 'Cold Light', which I hasten to add was a Christmas gift - I didn't buy it. Such a wonderful read. It's the third book in a trilogy about Edith Campbell Berry, who, as a young woman leaves Australia to work for the League of Nations in the cause of world disarmament. By this final book in the trilogy Edith returns to Australia in 1950 after the second world war doomed the ideals of the League of Nations and she finds herself out of a job. Edith settles in Canberra in the vain hope of gaining a diplomatic position, but finds herself caught up in the planning of Canberra and the movement to resist the banning of Communism. The book is a most wonderful combination of a personal story and political and diplomatic settings and events. Thoroughly recommended for whenever you need a BIG book to read.