A bit of a gallimauphry of catching up with bits and bobs today. And when I went to dig out this photo from when I acquired the book I’m reviewing, I was cheered to note that I have actually read all the books on this pile (these are books that Cari gave me when she came to visit in August 2018 and two that I bought on my trip round Stratford with her (I can’t remember how many I ‘encouraged’ her to buy …)). So a quick review of the first of the #20BooksOfSummer I’ve read, recaps of two wonderful reads for Shiny New Books, one incoming from a lovely publisher and a note about what I’m reading now as I accidentally left it a bit late after the publisher kindly sent it to me …

George T. Eggleston – “Tahiti”

(23 August 2018, Blue Cross charity shop, Stratford-Upon-Avon)

For a book published in 1956 this is not toooooo colonialist or patronising, although it does need to be read through a careful and modern-day lens. We tour the Society Islands of French Polynesia (still part of France even now) with an enterprising couple who think nothing of popping over to Tahiti to find a yacht to crew / take them island-hopping. They note that French has not really taken hold as the language of the country (and do attempt to learn the local language and even include a vocab list in the back of the book) and also point out the “ravages of ‘civilization'” – and I hadn’t realised that Tahitians and others participated in World War I and II and that many lost their lives in France in those wars. However, George’s wife Hazel does have to do all the supplying and cooking and is only allowed to get a  bit comically cross when she’s castigated for having a rest while he and their captain do the washing up, even though she is marked out as a highly competent sailor elsewhere in the book.

There are nice little maps at the start of each chapter, and cheerful and respectful descriptions of the islands and the islanders, as well as some good sailing narratives. A sweetly outdated guide to how to repeat the journey is included in the back of the book. He’s no Harold Nicolson but this was a pleasant read. I also loved the list of authors on the back flap of the book. The Travel Book Club reprinted this book, but the list of authors is so lost to me now – Freya Stark and J. B. Priestley yes, and a vague memory of a Tschiffely horse book, but what about all the others? My social media friends were similarly baffled!

This was Book 1 in my #20BooksOfSummer

Other booky loveliness …

I read two fantastic books from Thames & Hudson in June to review for Shiny New Books. I’m so fortunate that they give me the run of their catalogues twice a year. I read one other which hasn’t been published yet and am in the middle of my fourth at the moment!

“Tracks: Walking the Ancient Landscapes of Britain” by Philip Hughes is the ideal art book for the nature, archaeology, history, geology and/or map enthusiast. I said, in part,

Being a Thames & Hudson book (the paperback edition of an initial hardback, and lacking the endpapers of the former edition), the quality is high, the reproductions lovely, and all the details there, author biographies, lists of his exhibitions and a decent index.

This is a fairly short review as it’s an easy book to read quickly, not much text, lots of images. However, it’s a book you will want to return to again and again. The spare images, with no fussy detail, are calming to view and the notes charming. Highly recommended.

Read the full review here.

Then I read the first of the two Grayson Perry books in the set (hooray Grayson), “Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years”, edited by Catrin Jones and Chris Stephens, which was a great introduction to the artist’s early life, inspirations and themes. I said,

I loved reading Perry’s dialogue with his earlier self and his earlier work. He admits in his essay that he hasn’t seen many of the works since they were sold decades ago, and had often not kept records of them – “it has been wonderful to be reacquainted with the outpourings of a different me”, and he notices that he is more forgiving of them and compassionate about himself than he was at the time … What a treat to read the artist’s reactions to his own former self, seeming now so distant.

Read the full review (and see some images from the book) here.

Then I was fortunate enough to receive Lev Parikian’s “Into the Tangled Bank” from the super publisher Elliott & Thompson. They published the wonderful “Seafarers” by Stephen Rutt, which I reviewed for Shiny last year and came out in paperback this week and were kind enough to offer me a couple of new reads to say thank you for me writing that and sharing about the paperback. This is about the relationship the British have with nature and looks fab, and I’ll be sending in my review to Shiny soon (it’s out in early July). What a clever cover, with the inevitable crisp packet woven into the image of nature at its finest.

And finally, although I’m still reading the big monograph on Grayson Perry, having just finished Book 2 of my 20Books as well and having seen the announcement about their new books coming soon (in August), I realised with horror that I’d never got to the third book that Dean Street Press kindly sent me in January from their selection they were publishing then (I reviewed and Miss Read’s “Fresh From the Country” and D.E. Stevenson’ “Vittoria Cottage” from that batch earlier in the year, the Miss Read having arrived in physical paperback form for my birthday from my best friend!). So I pulled Doris Langley Moore’s “Not At Home” (the cover is so super and I will need to be buying a paper copy!) up on the Kindle and have enjoyed starting this just-post-WWII novel of household battles.

So, art, more art, mid-century women and travel – not a bad representation of my usual reading. And while we all try to get to grips with how we can approach Black Lives Matter awareness-raising and support in a meaningful way, I am thrilled to say that I’m chatting with a couple of friends about having them guest-post on here about the books by and about People of Colour that they’ve been getting hold of and reading. This is particularly useful when I can’t add to my collection due to the popular books going out of stock all over the place (which is a Good Thing).