Best birthday ever


I've been living on a reduced budget lately, and the hardest thing about my more frugal lifestyle has been the lack of book-buying. I hadn't even been to Powell's in months. So as my birthday approached, I did some shuffling of funds, sold some fancy yarn, and asked the people I knew if they had any books they no longer wanted, that they might donate to me to sell for trade. The result was the most leisurely, delightful, therapeutic, exactly-what-I-wanted birthday I think I've ever had.


A delicious dinner with David and my folks, followed by two blissful hours at Powell's and a sojourn at a stellar dessert joint was just what the doctor ordered. I left feeling refreshed, reinvigorated, and, of course, laden with months of mouth-watering reading material. Looking at these stacks this morning, it struck me how much my contact with the rest of the book-blogging community influenced my selections. Starting at the upper left, we have:

  • Inventing English, by Seth Lerer. I'm always fascinated by the history of the English language, and I've heard good things about Lerer's book. It's slated to be my 400-century selection for the Dewey Decimal Challenge.
  • Seeing, by José Saramago. I wrote a review of Saramago's Blindness a while ago, and Hedgie recommended its sequel. I found a used copy of this in near-mint condition for a very reasonable price, so I was psyched.
  • The Crow Road, by Iain Banks. I've been reading about this novel on the Powell's site and elsewhere, and I'm excited to give it a shot. I have a good dollop of Scottish ancestry, and I'm always curious to read Scottish authors. Plus, the opening paragraph of this book is quite intriguing.
  • The Ark Sakura, by Kobo Abe. Abe has been recommended to me (I forget by whom), and this novel sounds right up my absurdist/surreal alley.
  • Hopscotch, by Julio Cortázar. When Sarah reviewed this a few weeks ago, it reminded me that I've been meaning to read it ever since I first heard about its unconventional narrative structure back in high school. I'm always excited by experimental, modernist prose, so I think this will be a real treat.
  • Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. Am I the last person on Earth to read this novel? Probably. Still, I'm looking forward to it.
  • A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. This is a super-exciting addition to the mix, because it means my amazing partner and awesome in-laws signed me up for Powell's Indiespensable program! I've been coveting these shipments forEVER, and am so excited to be receiving another two in the mail over the next three months. Basically, they're deluxe, hand-numbered and signed limited editions of new fiction, sent to your doorstep and packaged with a selection of cool treats. Included with A Reliable Wife were these tempting goodies:


    That's a beautiful little zine excerpt from Jill McCorkle's upcoming book Going Away Shoes, and a Garden-in-a-bag that will grow basil for us! I mean, come on, how cool is that? Very cool. As far as Goolrick's book itself, I've heard it's lovely and gothic, so we'll see.

  • Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design, by Deborah Nadoolman Landis. I'm almost ready to do a full review on this freaking amazing book. David gave it to me, and it's just incredible.
  • Ravage, by René Barjavel, French language edition. This was recommended by my French friend Marie Christine when she read in my Blindness review that I like stories of quarantine and small groups of people reorganizing themselves in the face of catastrophe. I'm enjoying reading a novel in French right now, so I thought I'd supply myself for the future as well. I haven't exactly committed to the bilingual section of the Orbis Terrarum Challenge, but let's just say, I'm aware that it's out there.
  • Death and the Penguin, by Andrey Kurkov. I forget who reviewed this, but it's another one I heard about via my newfound connection with the world of book-blogging. Whoever you are, thank you! I bet I will really enjoy this.
  • Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton. I first heard of Winton through Michael Silverblatt's Bookworm podcast, and I've been on a casual lookout for his work ever since. This was another affordable, near-mint-condition used find.
  • Roman Fever and other stories, by Edith Wharton. Hermione Lee's biography of Wharton made me curious to read more of her work, and this was too good a deal to pass up: a new, sale copy for only $2.50! Score.
  • Delta Wedding, by Eudora Welty. Welty is one of my favorite authors of all time, and one I think is sorely underrated. I've read her complete short stories and one or two novels, but it's exciting to think that there are several more novels awaiting me. This was another good find, money-wise, as well.
  • Cancer Ward, by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Again, my fascination with quarantine asserts itself. I've been looking for a nice (unmarked, attractive, easy to read) edition of Cancer Ward for years, and finally lucked out.
  • 2666, by Roberto Bolaño. Claire over at kiss a cloud is co-hosting a read-along of this epic tome, and I'm really looking forward to joining in - especially after I was accosted by the waitress at the dessert cafe, who asked, in breathless tones, "Did you just get that book?" and, upon my answering yes, said " will make you feel...things." She had that particular look of a person who has had a life-changing experience and envies another person's ability to have the same experience for the first time. (I usually dispense this look upon recommending Mrs. Dalloway.) Needless to say, this is quite intriguing, and makes me want to take the novel to public places more often! Onward and Bolaño-ward!
  • And, finally, Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums, by Stephen T. Asma. This will be my 500-century book for the Dewey Decimal Challenge, and another one I've heard good things about through the blogging community. I'm casually fascinated by the idea of museums and how we interact with them, so I think this will be a good match for me.

Whew! What a birthday. It was truly glorious, and I'm now luxuriating in the possession of so many tempting volumes, all ready for me to dive in and experience new worlds and engaging journeys. I'm off to read!


  • Happy happy birthday, Emily! What a treat you had! I'm so happy you're Bolaño-reading along. I haven't started yet, but really excited to. I want to read the Cortazar, too, and A Reliable Life. The Indiespensible program sounds absolutely wonderful. Hope the rest of your day is happy, with lots of good reading! *xoxo*

  • Wow, what a great haul! Happy Birthday and happy reading. I'm looking forward to your reviews, especially your thoughts on Hopscotch.

  • Happy Birthday!

    I love Tim Winton. Check out my reviews for Cloudstreet and another works of his.

  • Amazing.

    I read Cloudstreet twice in the mid-90s. I also saw the play. It was recently distributed to read in my book club. 'Good,' I thought, 'I've read this, so I'll just flick through it for a refresher and still have time to read something else.' But my 'flick through' became 'reading it in its entirety', such is it's pull. So many times while I read I thought, 'I wonder if Emily knows Winton? I wonder how she'd receive Cloudstreet? What would Emily think?' I even thought of sending you a copy... and what do I find?? The planets are in alignment because it found its way to you without my even making a purchase :)

    There are two reviews on Cloudstreet that describe it for me: one uses the word 'masterpiece', and the other mentions 'getting under the skin of post-war Australia'. Of course it helps that it's set in the place I now live, so I can picture the streets, the coves, the suburbs, the parks, though I didn't live here when I first read it, and I loved it then too...


    Happy birthday from me and the universe via your purse and Powell's :) I hope you enjoy Cloudstreet.


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    link to Wolves 2011 reading list
    link to more disgust bibliography