Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas and the Bibliophile

I spend a lot of time thinking about books.  The written word, and the binding thereof, has been one of my life-long passions and has served as the nearest thing I have to a profession in my adult working life.  But even now that I am away from work, celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, books are playing a huge role.

Yesterday, my wife, my teenage sister-in-law, and I travelled on the fast train to London. The girls were off to Camden Market for a little alt-culture shopping.  I was after books.  I began my day at the British Library which I’ve never before visited. They have a free exhibition room, which shows off many of their treasures, including the fascinating St. Cuthbert Bible, which they are currently attempting to raise £9 million to purchase.  However, perhaps the coolest site for the bibliophile is the King’s Collection.  This is a four-sided glass tower, stretching up for some score feet and containing thousands of leather bound tomes and incunabula on dark bookshelves, all facing outward. The effect is incredibly dramatic, and the library has wisely placed its cafe in its shadow, so that visitors can have their coffee bathed in the glow of the books.
Later in the day, I also visited Forbidden Planet, arguably the best Science-Fiction/Fantasy store in the world; Stamfords, the famous travel shop; and made my first visit to Daunts, the Edwardian-style bookseller, that arranges all of its volumes by country.  The day finished with a nice meal with the girls, and a quick train-ride out of town.

Speaking of books, here’s a list of titles that I’ve acquired over the Christmas period, none of which have I yet has the chance to really get into:
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens: Part of the new beautifully hardbound Penguin Classic series.

Four Cause and Country by Jacobson Rupp: A critically-acclaimed and family-history-relevant account of a Civil War campaign.

The  House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz: a new Sherlock Holmes Novel by a respected writer of television mysteries and children’s fiction.

The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage: a new translation of an old poem.

The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeil: the latest instalment of the Black Library’s The Horus Heresy series, which I picked up for half-price in a sale at Waterstones.

The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern: the short story upon which It’s a Wondeful Life is based, published in small book form.

All Hell Broke Loose by Max Hastings: a new single-volume history of World War II that everyone is talking about.

The Boston Braves by Richard A Johnson: a photographic history of the early days of my favourite baseball team.

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