Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Oxford Book Shopping


I'm back from our half-term break in Oxford, and I had a great time.  I'm planning to share some photos of the things we saw in my regular Sunday post, but for now I can't resist showing off all of the lovely books that came home with me!  Like all university towns, Oxford was simply great for book shopping.  There's some big branches of the main chains (the Blackwell's is especially good), but there's also lots of second hand / charity shops and independent shops too.  I bought twelve books, which is actually quite restrained considering the temptation!  My husband, who used to be a complete non-reader, was excited by all the books too and ended up buying quite a few of his own.

Without further ado, the books:


  • Shirley by Charlotte Bronte - I consider Charlotte Bronte to be one of my favourite authors based on Villette being my favourite book, but I haven't actually read all of her novels.  I got this Penguin English Library edition second hand.
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James  - This is one of the few titles I still had to buy for my Classics Club list.  I loved Daisy Miller, so I'm hoping that this will be a longer exploration of similar themes.  Bought in a 'buy one, get one free' deal with the following:
  • The Italian by Ann Radcliffe - I've been meaning to read something by Radcliffe for the longest time.  I do enjoy a good sensation novel, and this one promises much in the way of melodrama.

  • Empire by Niall Ferguson - A non-fiction book on the history of the British Empire.  I've been reading more non-fiction lately, and this one just took my fancy.  Bought second hand.
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin - This is one of the first dystopian novels, and it supposedly inspired George Orwell when he was writing 1984.  Bought second hand.
  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton - I'm interested in reading more books that are classics in non-Western countries, and this is a classic of South African literature, set against the backdrop of apartheid.  Bought second hand.

  • The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham - Another book that's on my Classics Club list.  This will be my first Maugham, and I'm excited to try it.  Set in colonial Hong Kong, adulterous wife Kitty is forced to accompany her husband as he journeys into a cholera epidemic.  Bought second hand.
  • The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin - I'm not usually one for these 'cosier' types of classics, the sort published by Virago/Perspehone, but I couldn't pass up this beautiful edition, as it's so rare to find something like it in a second hand bookshop.  It's about four women on a month long retreat in an Italian villa.
  • The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna - I got this one in an amazing book shop, where everything was £2.  I've had my eye on it for a while, so finding it was a stroke of luck.  It's a triple narrative focussing on childbirth through the ages, from a doctor persecuted for suggesting that unwashed hands cause fever in childbirth, to a modern home-birth, to a futuristic breeding farm.  It sounds excellent.

  • A Little Book of Language by David Crystal - Bought in the Ashmolean museum.  I have A Little History of the World from the same series, which was excellent, so I know this one will be equally good.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston - I didn't actually buy this one in Oxford, but it was waiting for me when I returned home.  It's my classics club spin pick, so I'll be starting it soon.
  • Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill by Lara Marks - Also bought in the amazing £2 bookshop.  I've checked this out of the library before, but never got around to it.  It promises to include a lot on the social history of the pill and it's role in feminism, so it should be very interesting.
And a bonus picture.  My unborn son may not have a cot or a pram yet, but he does now have three Roald Dahl prints to go in his nursery, by his bookcase (when we buy one):


Have you read any of the titles above? 
If so, I'd love to know what you thought of them.

37 comments:

  1. Not read any yet but do want to read The Birth of Love and We. Glad you had a great time!

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  2. Those Dahl prints are amazing! Their Eyes Were Watching God is just one of the best books ever written. And I hope you like Shirley! It's my favorite Charlotte novel.

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    1. I love Dahl, and I'm determined my son will too! It's interesting that Shirley is your favourite, at the moment it's hard for me to imagine it beating Villette, but I'll keep an open mind :)

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  3. Lovely collection :) It's now my ambition to go book shopping in Oxford!

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  4. You realize you are throwing me into a WHIRLY FIT of book lust. I can hardly contain myself! Vintage! PEL! So gorgeous.

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    1. Go on, buy some, you know you want to! :P

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  5. Wonderful selection! The Dahl prints are gorgeous. Would love to know name/location of 2 pound bookstore. Sister-in-law is heading to Oxford next year, so expect to be making a few visits

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    1. Hmm...I think it was called 'The Last Bookshop' or 'The Last Stop Book-shop' and it was outside the undercover shopping area. You'll enjoy your visits to Oxford, it's a wonderful place :)

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  6. Aahhh, you're making me drool over all those wonderful books (and bargains, too!). Plus visit to Oxford? Double aahhh. Looking forward to your review of several of these (especially Zora Neale-Hurston's).

    I love how you say 'when' you put up a bookshelf in your son's room. The finality of it just made me smile. It's a good kind of finality, of course.

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    1. Bargains make the book shopping that bit more satisfying!

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  7. I've read Their Eyes Were Watching God, and loved it. The dialect might be a bit of a barrier to entry but you'll adjust quickly if so.

    Great haul! I think you were very restrained indeed!

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    1. Dialect used to really put me off a book, but now I'm more open minded, so hopefully it won't be an issue.

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  8. I love bookshops so much and they are oh so tempting! When I visited Scotland, there were a ton of secondhand and charity shops in Edinburgh, but I had to restrain myself because only so much could fit in my suitcase!

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    1. I'd love to visit Edinburgh one day. Luckily we only have a large suitcase which was half empty when we arrived in Oxford, lots of room for extra books!

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  9. That's excellent prioritising :-) benji had 2 shelves of books before he had a cot!:-p glad to hear Oxford is great,we're thinking of going in April because theres a thing on at the Storytelling Museum where Neil Gaiman is dressed up as badger from Wind in the willows.
    Their Eyes Were Watching God is fantastic,hope you enjoy it!

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    1. Yeah, the baby has some books already, including the complete Roald Dahl collection, which he is years & years off being able to read!
      Oxford is good, there's lots to do, and that Neil Gaiman event sounds like a lot of fun.

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  10. Amazing selection! I really want to read some Ann Radcliffe - I'll look forward to your thoughts when you read it. Those Roald Dahl prints would look brilliant in a nursery (next to a bookshelf, of course!).

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    1. I've wanted to read her for a while too, I love a good melodrama!

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  11. Great books! We have such a similar taste, Sam. I have the very same edition of Shirley and I can't wait to hear what you think about Portrait of a Lady. And your son is a lucky boy, love the prints.

    I hope you are well-rested and feeling great (and the cold is gone).

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    1. That's because we both have awesome taste :)

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  12. What a wonderful selection of books! I loved The Portrait of a Lady, The Painted Veil, and The Enchanted April (that edition is gorgeous) - Enjoy!

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    1. I'm really excited to try both Portrait of a Lady and Painted Veil, I don't think I'll be waiting long to read them.

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  13. The Italian is so fun. I took a class in college where we read that one and The Monk. I hope you enjoy it!

    Also, I'm very glad that you have your priorities straight. Literary decorations < diapers < crib. :)

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    1. Ooh, is The Monk good? I was debating picking that one up too.

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  14. Great haul! I am intrigued by The Birth of Love - never heard of it before, sounds like something I would really enjoy, will add it to my TBR. Thanks!

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    1. I heard about it through The Orange Prize a few years ago, and have wanted to read it ever since. I may wait until I am not pregnant though!

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  15. You got a lot of beautiful copies! I always love finding a second hand shop that has pretty copies. I know that's not the best way to choose a book, but if I know I want it, why not have it be pretty too! I really want to read Shirley. I added it to my classics challenge but have to yet to find a copy in a store. I look forward to reading your review.
    It sounds like you had a lovely time. Can't wait to see the pics!

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    1. Oh, I agree. I can't read classics that don't have a pretty cover, and I don't care if that makes me appear shallow!

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  16. Penguin English Library produce lovely editions of classics - I have a couple myself. Whilst I haven't read any of these books a few of the non fiction ones have caught my eye, which is unusual as I'm not particularly much of a non fiction kind of girl. Also, I love those Roald Dahl prints! Alexander probably owns more books than he does toys - get 'em started young eh!

    I hope you enjoyed your break, I look forward to the upcoming pictures.
    :-)

    Bits & Bobs

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    1. I used to be a complete non-fiction girl but then I started to read a lot more fiction when I started blogging. I'm trying to find the right balance now.

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  17. Another fan of Villette! We seem to be few and far between - it's nice to find another for whom this novel is a favorite.

    I've read The Italian and found it quite enjoyable as well.

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    1. It's a shame Villette doesn't get as much attention as Jane Eyre.

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  18. "We" has quickly become one of my favorite dystopian novels. I talked the guys at SFF Audio into doing a podcast readalong discussion about it if you feel like a listen after reading, just Google it!

    A friend was telling me how the movie of The Enchanted April is amazing, nothing dramatic happens but just a great story. I've neither seen the movie nor read the book but that's the third time it has come up this week, the first being in a non-fiction book called "The Novel Cure." Clearly the universe wants me reading it!

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  19. You got some great books! I haven't read any of those, but there are many that I want to read such as Birth of Love, We, and Portrait of a Lady. Are you planning to start with any of them soon? :-)

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  20. Wonderful collection. I had always wanted to read Their Eyes Were Watching God and Cry, the Beloved Country!

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