Other people’s bookshelves


I am on holiday, staying in a house with very extensive bookshelves full of books that are very battered and faded due to the sea breezes and hot sun. Looking through other people’s bookshelves is always fun and occasionally enlightening, this bookcase clearly see’s a lot of transient readers dumping their holiday books after finishing them, so it’s a pretty eclectic mix. I love selecting the odd book to read that I might never have come across otherwise.

As far as new books go, Life by Keith Richards has been the hit of the holidays with both teens and adults, (out in paperback 26th May) but some new discoveries from these bookshelves include a couple of gorgeous coffee table volumes by Slim Aarons, A Place in the Sun and Once Upon a Time. Both are less than ten years old but have the feel of much earlier books, celebrating as they do the privilliged lives of good looking people from the 50s 60s 70 and 80s (excellent high summer research for designers, can we PLEASE bring back those lovely big pant bikinis in such nice colours?). The stand out pictures for me come from the Beverly Hills of the 1950s, where they were seemingly dedicated to colour coordinated pool side living (don’t you love those colourful button-back cushions?)

DSC00449Slim Hayward, Diane Vreeland and her husband (right hand page)


DSC0044650s and 60s West Coast living, when they had martinis every lunchtime, presumably.

I know no one needs another cook book but…..seeing A Visual Feast, by Arabella Boxer and Tessa Traeger, and discovering it’s available quite cheaply from Amazon (there’s a copy going for 39p as I write), it is difficult to resist. I remember when this book was published (1991) the beautiful photos by Traeger were everywhere, particularly the chillies, it’s really worth buying for the pictures alone, but the recipes and essays on food are also inspiring.


DSC00444Shots from A Visual Feast by Arabella Boxer and Tessa Traeger

Other little gems discovered include a whole assortment of Martha Gellhorn, an American writer I’ve shamefully never read, she’s hilarious in Travels with Myself and Another, a gung-ho account of the worst of her adventures as a female traveller around the world and I loved it enough to want to read some more when I get home (anyone recommend where to start?)

Edith Wharton Abroad is a cracking read for any Wharton fans, her descriptions of discovering Morocco in 1917, when foreigners (and even fewer women) were scarcely allowed, is spellbinding. She also has a few words to say on the New French Women (post First World War) in comparison to American women and concludes decisively that the French woman is simply ‘More Grown-Up.’ Marvellous stuff.

Finally, a funny little book which made me laugh is The Smoking Diaries, by Simon Gray, about an old bloke suffering daily life, might be good for other older blokes suffering their age.

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