Friday, December 16, 2011

Books worth adding a few pounds to your suitcase (and your credit card bill) (see what I did there)

You know what's a good way to fit books into your suitcase to bring home? Between the ribs of the rolly handle in the bottom. Once I managed to bring 12 books home with me without paying an excess weight fee. Here, in no particular order, are some books I brought from London to the US.

Pie, by Angela Boggiano. I love British dinner pies. Love, love, love. Oh sure, American pot pies are okay, but they tend to be more "creamy soup with biscuits on top". My mother is from the very small area of the US where pasties are common, but other than that, it's unusual to encounter a really good savory pie in the states. So I bought this book in the hopes of being able to produce the thing I love myself. I tried the cheese and onion recipe after much researching and specialty-ingredient shopping and it turned out delicious, even if the crust was a little wonky (my own fault).

The Great British Picnic Guide was actually a gift. It's a pretty sort of book, with recipes and ideas and so on: the sort of thing that makes you forget how unpleasant eating on the ground in the outdoors actually is.

Aubrey/Maturin books are a summer reading staple for me, and searching used bookstores for the next one in the series makes for a nice afternoon. But I'll be honest, I have mostly brought these home because I feel like I need to own one of each cover design.

Kristin Lavransdatter is a three-part novel about a woman in medieval Norway that I started reading because I was in the mood for some first-class historical fiction. Obviously it had to come home with me, it's going to help balance out all the un-classy Georgette Heyer.

It's unusual, really, to come across a book that you can't get in America. And, okay, you can buy The Spirit of Solesmes here, but it wasn't on Amazon when I got it. And it's an outstanding Christian-spirituality book, so I was very glad I shelled out the money when I did.

I can't remember the title or any other identifying information about this next one, and although I'm pretty sure it was exclusive to the British Library somehow it's not on their online shop. It was a small reprint/translation of a sort of domestic handbook from colonial Latin America. How to manage a household, that sort of thing. I know, at this point you're wondering why you even bother reading other blogs when this one is so informative and engaging.

Ok, so I actually bought The Secret Life of Buildings in Manchester but bear with me. Unlike all of the others on this list, this one was pretty disappointing; in fact I didn't make it past the first few chapters. The book claims to be architectural history told in an engaging way that takes into account the way the buildings were used and how they changed over time -- a social history of architecture?! Yes please!! But after reading the essays about the Parthenon, the Basilica of San Marco, and the Hagia Sophia, I was completely non-plussed. The author picks some little point or theme for each building and gives vignettes illustrating how these theme plays out in different phases of its history. But it plays fast and loose with the facts in name of cleverness a little too often for my taste. Furthermore, although these three buildings are religious buildings, the author makes it clear that he has no time or regard for religion. Fair enough, but it's hard to understand the religious design and use of religious buildings, much less how one religion might adapt another religion's buildings, without at least trying to wrap your head around religion beyond just "one superstition is the same as another." But oh! Look at that lovely cover! Even if I had read it and realized its disappointingness before having to wedge it into my suitcase, I probably still would have brought it home, just because of its stylish good looks.


  1. That IS a nice cover.

    Wait, so what're you bringing to London?

  2. Oho, you'll have to wait for me to milk another post out of that one.