Yesterday we spent the afternoon with friends who are as busy with family as we are on the actual 'holiday' days of Christmas. We had lunch, exchanged gifts and then played a couple of very silly board games that were in fact great fun, partly as we played in teams. Before lunch, we chatted over drinks, as you do.
"Surprisingly," I said, "I only received four books for Christmas." This is a surprise as for most of my family members, my Amazon wishlist is their first port of call, and it has a substantial number of books on it. My friend looked what I thought at the time was slightly aghast (more of that later). "It doesn't matter, they were all excellent."
I proceeded to tell her what I had received and why.
1. The third volume in Neil Astley's poetry anthology trilogy 'Being Human', which means I now have all three. An excellent set for dipping into at any time or to suit any emotion, it's a phenomenal collection.
2. Blake Morrison's 'The Last Weekend'. On the Oxford Diploma course, I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Skinner, lecturer at Goldsmith's, London and Director of the Faber Academy creative writing courses. He strongly recommended Morrison's work and I am a little ashamed to say that this is the first one I have acquired. So thank you, Richard, for the recommendation (and thank you, David, for the gift!).
3. Richard Ford's 'Canada'. Possibly a bandwagon choice, but it made several lists by other people as one of their favourite books of the year (such as this one) and the opening, very reminiscent of Robertson Davies' 'Murther and Walking Spirits' was the clincher: 'First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then the murders, which happened later.' For those not familiar with the Robertson Davies, it begins: 'I was never so amazed in my life as when the Sniffer drew his
concealed weapon from its case and struck me to the ground, stone dead.' Although the narrator in 'Canada' does not necessarily appear to be dead by the beginning of the book, I'm sure you can see the startling similarity. And I loved the Robertson Davies, so putting 'Canada' on my wishlist was a no brainer.
4. Modernist Cuisine at Home. This is the 'simplified' version of 'Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking' although it is still a hefty tome. Having my elder son at home at present has led to numerous conversations about food and cooking techniques (and more time on the treadmill, though that's another story). I also bought it for him. He won't be living at home for ever and I will need my own copy!
My friend listened to my explanations with interest and then the conversation moved on. It will come as no surprise to you to learn that my present from her was... some books off my wishlist, by Edward Marston, from the Christopher Redmayne series. Historical crime fiction for some light relief while I'm waiting for the vacuum seal on my fennel fritters to develop, perhaps.
What was your favourite present for reading?