Collection Book of the Week – The Mystery of Banshee Towers

Last week I had to apologise for the lateness of my collection book of the week post and yet here we are a week later and I find myself in the exact same position. Rather than apologise, I think I am just going to move the expected publication day of this post to be a vague sometime during the weekend, rather than on a Thursday. History has indicated that I will never achieve that. I have no qualms shifting goalposts as you will no doubt be aware. I hope that those of you that wait on tenterhooks every for each new post in this series will be able to accommodate these changes into your schedules.

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The book for this week is another Enid Blyton book, but this time part of the so called ‘Mystery series’, thus called because the title of each book in the series  begins ‘The Mystery of…’ This series follows the adventures of the ‘Five Find Outers and Dog’. This is yet another example of Enid Blyton’s formulaic approach to her children’s adventure stories. I have often considered how these stories generally consist of the same elements – some children and a clever pet, some stupid villains that are always outfoxed by the children, a stupid policeman that never believes them, a clever, high up policeman who thinks they are just dandy, and a healthy smattering of prejudice and bigotry that would nowadays be considered very politically incorrect.

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I acquired this book at the Birmingham book fair, held at the British Motorcycle Museum in 2012. It is a first edition published by Methuen in 1961. The dust cover is in fairly good condition, as is the book itself.

I know that I have mentioned it before, but I really enjoy the feel of these books and the dust cover designs are always interesting and descriptive of the contents of the book. In fact, I know of many collectors that purely collect Enid Blyton first editions for the dust cover designs.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s book, although I expect by now many of you are becoming understandably bored of hearing about my book collection, and that I am just speaking to myself. Still, I enjoy the sound of my own voice such a lot that I will continue with this series for the foreseeable future. Don’t forget, the next post in this compelling series will be available for your reading pleasure next weekend.

Blog Christening

As many of you know I have been taking suggestions for a new tag line for my blog. Well, when I say new, I mean actually replacing the default one with something more meaningful. It has not been long since I started my blog, a mere five years, but I think that it is time to change it. My blog has taken a number of different directions over the years, each one usually consisting of a couple of posts before boredom struck and no more updates for months, sometimes even years. I feel that I finally enjoy talking about my love of books on the blog, and even other topics, as and when they pique my interest.

So, hopefully, now that I have sufficiently whet your appetites, I can reveal my new tag line. Firstly though, I would like to thank everyone for their suggestions and opinions on the different suggestions. In particular Green Ember’s suggestion ‘Through the Reading Glass of a Mad Englishman’ was well received, as were ideas linking my nationality with different degrees of insanity, accompanied by a healthy smattering of expletives.

Being contrary though, I have decided upon the following:

Life, Literature and Lewd Comments

I feel that this covers a bit of everything that I may want to write about, and more importantly adds a subtle warning as to the sort of language that may be encountered.

Any comments and opinions are always appreciated, and I am as yet undecided whether to extend this tag line with further embellishments, such as my country of origin and mental state. Thank you all for your input into the decision making process and for making me get off my arse and make this change.

Collection Book of the Week – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Well this post is a little late this week and you have my apologies for that. I have been carefully considering my words this week in order to not have to relive the horrors and fallout of last week’s crime against blog posts. I have in fact received an award for the world’s most boring post, from Ionia, and will be posting my humble acceptance shortly. I haven’t done so yet as I have been seriously considering my ability to fulfil the  requirements of the award, which are to post five things about myself that are not boring.

The book for this week is one that I am sure many of you are familiar with, Douglas Adam’s, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. I don’t really know too much about this book, but I believe that it was originally issued as a paperback. The copy that I have is the UK first hardback edition. I appears that there were actually two different dust covers used, the first featuring an advertisement for Capricorn one on by Bernard L Ross, the second with a plain blue back. The edition I have has the plain back.

The story was originally presented as a radio play before being turned into a book, with the UK first edition being published in 1979. Interestingly, Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, England, my local city, not that I ever saw him strolling around. The dust cover on my version is in pretty good nick and I like this relatively simple cover. I think that it is a positive, encouraging sign when there is a giant, gloved hand with a raised thumb in the corner of the cover.

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As you know, my interest in books doesn’t extend to purely financial considerations, however I did manage to purchase this book at a hospital book stall for the princely sum of 50p, that is half of 1GBP for those not overly familiar with pence. A quick check on the internet found the same book in similar condition for sale for about a thousand times what I paid for it. No doubt I have made some terrible error and my copy is worthless, but you win some, you lose some.

Well I realise that this post did not reach the heights of humour experienced in my Déjà vu – Surely Not post, but hopefully it has exceeded that, totally invisible, possibly even non-existent, line between butt numbingly boring, and acceptable. I shall await with bated breath the verdict on this post. Just crossing my fingers too!

Comments are, as always, received with pleasure, assuming they are pleasant ones. Please don’t forget to comment on my Another Complaint post if you have any ideas for a new tag line. I am hoping to potentially christen my blog on Tuesday.

Another Complaint

I received another complaint about my blog yesterday from Ionia. This has begun to become rather a common place occurrence. Sadly it is another legitimate comment, as usual. This one was regarding the tagline associated with my blog. Essentially I have been far too lazy to have ever bothered to change it from the default of ‘JUST ANOTHER WORDPRESS.COM WEBLOG’.

This led me to thinking about what I could change it to that would be more descriptive of either the content of my blog or of me in general. I had a few ideas, but I am really quite undecided about what to change it to. I thought that I would get the opinion of you guys to help me out. I have put a few suggestions below and would like to get your comments on which you think would be the best line to use. Feel free to suggest alternatives in the comments also.

So a few crap suggestions from me, I do hope you can come up with something better:

 

My Reading Experiences

This, that and the other

The F!*?ing Englishman

The Ravings of a Madman

 

Please help me!

Multitasking whilst Reading

Those of you that have been following my reading progress, and I am sure there must be at least one person out there, hang on, no, I forgot my mother doesn’t blog anymore, so it is possible that I truly am talking to myself, will be pleased to know that I have finally finished Zola’s ‘The Fortune of the Rougons’. Not before time, I hear you say, and rightly so. This book has taken me an inordinate amount of time to get through, given its limited length. There are twenty books in this series, ‘The Rougon-Macquart Cycle’, and given the speed of progress thus far, I am looking forward to a finish sometime in early 2015. I may even throw a small celebratory shindig, to which you shall all be cordially invited.

I have been pondering the reason for my slow progress and I think that it comes down to my current limited ability to multitask, when one of those tasks is reading. When I was younger this never seemed a problem. I could do almost anything and read at the same time. I could read in the car, whilst watching television, whilst eating, whilst playing the guitar, whilst walking, like I say, pretty much anything. And I did.

Now though, it seems like a much larger chunk of my limited brain capacity is required to carry out individual tasks. I need to concentrate on things more directly. I guess the reading in a car as a child was easier. Reading whilst driving is apparently considered a pretty dangerous pastime, and not one I can comfortably consider, although I have been known to read in a traffic jam. I always find that the sound of irate drivers sounding their horns lets me know that the traffic has begun to move again. Pretty handy really, as it is shit boring looking at the arse of the car in front, just to see when it starts moving.

I am working on restoring my ‘reading multitasking skills’, but I am interested in other people’s views. Does it get harder to multitask as you get older, particularly when one of those tasks is reading? Is it just a temporary blip that can be overcome? I believe that it is. Finally, what weird and wonderful things can you do whilst reading? Can you read whilst riding a unicycle or taking a shower, for example? Let me know.

Deja-Vu, Surely Not!

This may seem like deja-vu, but really it is my attempt at righting a terrible wrong that I have committed. My girlfriend, Ionia Martin of Readfulthingsblog.com, pointed out to me, in her own inimitable fashion, that the original post yesterday was an extremely strong candidate for the most boring blog post ever award. Upon re-reading it I would actually go as far as to say that it would be a runaway winner of that particular award, were there one. I have to confess that I have no recollection of having written it at all. That being said, there is still no excuse for the pain that I must have inflicted on those of you that actually managed to reach the end, and for that I apologise.

The original idea of these posts regarding my book collection, was to attempt to instill in readers the profound joy that can be experienced collecting first editions, even on a limited budget. I guess that in order to do that, the post must not put those readers instantly to sleep. I will try again.

Naked lunch cover

So without further babbling, onto this week’s book, ‘The Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs. This beat generation novel was originally intended to be called ‘Naked Lunch’, a title that was later used prominently in the US, although ‘The Naked Lunch’ remained common in Europe. The copy that I have is a first UK edition and has a pretty cool cover, as you can see. Since I haven’t read it yet, and I will not be reading this copy, I have to say that I hope you can judge a book by its cover. If so it will be a great read.

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The boring details of this book, that I kind of like to know are, in short, that it was published in 1964 by John Calder (publishers) Ltd. Both the book and the dust cover are in pretty good condition. It is not price clipped and was originally available for 42s (shillings), I only wish that it had cost me so little, when I found it at the Cambridge book fair last year.

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This old, yellowed, newspaper clipping (above) slating William Burrough’s book ‘Nova Express’, from what looks to be the Guardian Newspaper was tucked away inside. I doubt it affects things in any material way, but is interesting.

So hopefully a few more of you actually survived until the end of this post and I do hope you will comment, even if only to say, ‘thank fuck it wasn’t as boring as last time’.

Collection Book of the Week – The Naked Lunch

Naked lunch cover

So here is part two in my series looking at the meagre contents of my collection of first edition books. For more general information please see my previous post here. So, in addition to the Enid Blyton books that we discussed, I enjoy Beat Generation authors, although I do not have many examples in my collection. I do however have a copy of the first UK edition of ‘The Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs. Since it is only a first UK edition it is not worth anything like the original Olympia Press edition, the true first edition. It is, however, the book that I have spent the most on in my collection. This is one of my favourite collection books having a really interesting cover, although I confess I have never actually read the book itself. I do have a paperback copy that I am trying to get to.

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So the UK first edition was published in 1964 by John Calder (publishers) Ltd. This copy is in pretty good condition with solid boards and no evidence of rolling of the spine. The dust cover is in pretty good condition too, although I have just noticed a small tear at the bottom, on the back, rather annoyingly. It is not price clipped and was originally available for 42s (shillings). I purchased this at the Cambridge Book Fair in 2012, an annual event that seems to exist purely to empty my wallet, every time I go. Oh, and there are lots of very cool books there too.

Another interesting thing about this book was that when examining it I found inserted between two pages an old, yellowed, newspaper clipping about William Burroughs from what looks to be the Guardian Newspaper. I am not sure of the date of that, but it was nice to find this extra little piece of history, despite it being an article slating Burrough’s book , ‘Nova Express’.

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Hopefully this has been of some interest. Another exciting instalment next week. I am sure you can hardly contain your excitement. What shall I pick next, I wonder. Comments are always welcomed, as usual.

Collection Book of the Week – Five go to Mystery Moor

As most of you know, I enjoy books, not in any creepy or immoral way, naturally, but I do enjoy real books. The smell, the feel and the look of them on my shelf. A couple of years ago I decided to start trying to build a small collection of first editions. I have always been interested in Enid Blyton’s children’s adventure stories and decided that I would see if I could start acquiring some of these. I now have a very small collection of first editions, built around Enid Blyton books, along with a few other random books that I have picked up here and there.

I thought that I would like to feature one book from my meagre collection each week and include some pictures and some brief information about where I acquired it and any relevant information about it. Hopefully this will interest some people and if anyone has any ideas about further information that they would like to see included please let me know in the comments. I will call this series of posts ‘Collection Book of the Week’, I think. The order will be totally at random.

Since I make no claims of being in any way an expert, if anyone notices any false or incorrect information please let me know. Sometimes identifying true first editions can be very tricky and most of my information has come from internet searches and from talking to dealers at book fairs. Obviously I would prefer it that you told me something I thought was only worth a few pounds was actually worth thousands, rather than the more likely reverse situation, but either way I would like to know.

So unsurprisingly we will start with an Enid Blyton book, one of the Famous Five series. The book is ‘Five go to Mystery Moor’ and was one of my earliest purchases. It is the thirteenth book in the original series of twenty one books. Here are a few photographs, sorry about the quality, I am most certainly not a photographer.

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So this book was published in 1954 by Hodder & Stoughton. It is in reasonable condition, and was available for a very reasonable price, being one of the later books in the series and thus less rare than the earlier ones. This book basically started my collection and was purchased at a small (eighteen dealers) Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association (PBFA) book fair held at Hylands house in Chelmsford. This was purchased in late 2011 and only cost £35.

Many factors affect the price of first editions, but condition is one of the most important. One important point to remember is that without the dust jacket most of these books would be considered pretty much worthless. It is generally recognised that having a dust jacket (wrapper) is responsible for in excess of 80% of the value of the book. Anyway, this one has one, and while not in perfect condition, is far from terrible. Many of the first editions I have seen have had large chunks of the dust jacket missing and are really just separate pieces held together by a protective plastic cover.

So there is the first book featured in the ‘Collection Book of the Week’ series. I would be interested to hear any comments that you have regarding anything related to the format and content of this post or the book itself. I will be back with another exciting book for you next week.

Reading Goals

So, I have been generally absent from posting here recently, other than the odd reblog. I have been pretty distracted of late, rather euphoric, and have been ignoring the blog almost entirely. My reading has also been rather slow, but I thought that I would return to the way of the blog, with a general update as to my current progress and goals.

I am still stuck on the three books I have been reading for a while, but intend to make some progress today, if possible. So currently trying to finish Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’, Zola’s ‘The Fortune of the Rougons’ and Stephen King’s ‘Joyland’. With  a bit of luck I will actually finish Homer this weekend and then be able to concentrate on the others during the week.

So what is next, you may ask? Probably you won’t, but I shall tell you anyway. I want to start on the next book in  Zola’s ‘Rougon-Macquart’ cycle, which in order of publishing, which is kind of the order that I am going to read these in is ‘The Kill’. As to other books, I am intending to take a look at the sonnets of Edna St Vincent Millay that have been recommended to me, and I am looking forward to experiencing.

So there it is. My altogether inadequate reading goals for the next few weeks.

Reading Habits

Following my post updating my reading progress a few days ago I received a very interesting comment from Charles, regarding the fact that I always seem to have a number of different books on the go at the same time.

This got me to wondering how others organise their reading.

Do you read one book at a time or multiple ones and if so is there any structure to it or just what you fancy at any given moment.

Reading more than one book at a time is just something that I seem to have always done, especially if one or more of the books is quite complicated, as in the case of one of my current reads, Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’.

I can often have five or six books that I am part way through. Sometimes I read a chapter of one, then a chapter of another and just flit back and forth. Strangely I don’t usually lose track of where I am and what is happening, although sometime I do find that it is easier to read a reasonable chunk of a particular book if the language is difficult. for example old English, or the style unusual, as it takes a little while to get to grips with.

Sometimes I find a particular book is more suitable for reading in the commercial breaks whilst watching television, the sort of book with lots of breaks in it, lots of small paragraphs, rather than pages and pages that are not broken up in anyway. For example ‘Joyland’ by Stephen King as opposed to Zola’s, ‘The Fortune of the Rougons’, another two of my current reads.

I also find that I like the variety and I can read whichever book suits my mood at the time. Usually I have different types of books going. One could be a classic, one fantasy, one modern literature, one thriller etc. Sometimes I do however have just a single book that I am reading. A lot depends on how complex it is and also my desire to get to the end of the book and find out what has happened.

So question time. How do you organise your reading matter? Do you tend to have more than one book on the go at the same time or do you start a book and read it to completion before starting the next.

Please comment and let me know what your reading habits. As always, I am eager to hear your views.