Monday, 6 December 2010

Book of the week(end)

Or rather, books.

This weekend I visited my parents and Saturday found me in the local library returning a book. The perennial book sale trolley was by the door and at a glance appeared to contain all the usual suspects - 6-year-old travel guides and computer manuals, large print mystery novels and - I had to laugh - a mint copy of Katie Price's autobiography. Ah, schadenfreude! Still, I had a closer look; there was a pile of books toward the back that looked promising and it always pays to have a delve about, even if nothing automatically catches your eye. It turned out to be one of those funny yet welcome occasions where the first couple of books were nothing of interest, then - oh! that's a good one, and the next one too, ah! and the third... I ended up uncovering four books in a row from this little pile that I cradled in my arms and took to the desk.

The first was a clean copy of Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, the final Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie. I've a few Poirot stories in my collection (not to mention the David Suchet DVD box set!) but I haven't read this one since I left college almost 10 years ago. I look forward to reacquainting myself with this final story.

Then came Philip Reeve's award-winning 2001 novel Mortal Engines (left). I'd heard good things about this story from the Steampunk community as apparently it is set in some far-off alternate future where cities have become giant floating airships(!). Although ostensibly a children's book, many are written in such a style that they can be enjoyed by adults; certainly I have read several supposedly "children's" books - most notably the Biggles stories - and found them engrossing and not at all unsophisticated. Mortal Engines is the first of a series of 4 books, so I will be interested to see if I enjoy this with a view to reading the others.

The first of the big-money books (by which I mean "jackpot!" rather than expensive - at 50p each they certainly weren't!) - Fashion Sourcebooks: The 1940s. This little gem contains 329 duotone illustrations charting the year-on year progress of men's and women's fashions from 1940 to 1949 in wonderful detail. Split into Day Wear, Evening Wear, Sports and Leisure Wear, Accessories, Underwear and Wedding Wear, each picture has detailed descriptions and summaries of colours, cut, necklines, lapels, sleeves, pockets, fastenings, buttons - you name it! I shall certainly be drawing some sartorial inspiration from this book, let me tell you! There is also a 1930s edition (and ones for every decade up to the 1970s), which I shall be keeping a lookout for.

By far the greatest find, though, was this mint (well, the library's plastic jacket was torn, but the book itself was fine) hardback The Orient Express: The History of the Orient Express Service from 1883 - 1950. A veritable treasure-trove of facts, figures, enthralling stories and over 100 rare photographs. One that particularly caught my eye as I leafed through it was this photo from 1929 (below), rather apt considering the recent weather conditions I thought! The Orient Express has always held a fascination for me and it would be my dream to travel on its spiritual successor - the Venice-Simplon Orient Express - one day. Until then I can now lose myself in this wonderful book.

It never ceases to amaze me how the library service can come to part with such recent, fresh copies of books like this but a glance at the infrequent loan history on the inside page gives a clue as to why. In many ways it's a pity but then, their loss is my gain! The whole lot came to less than £1.50 (the Orient Express book alone was £16.99 new!) and I came away a very happy chappy.


  1. Ooooh, good finds! I do love the library book sales but I think you hit a jackpot there.

  2. I have the 1920s and 1930s sourcebooks and they're very enjoyable. The Orient Express book looks brilliant.


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