Category Archives: BOOK STATISTICS



January 1st has no sooner  dawned than hordes of eager, hollow eyed bibliophiles a.k.a. book-nerds or read-a-holics, whatever you want to call us, are blearily tapping out their hopes, and dreams for 2017 onto their blogs. It’s infectious. I, too, am about to unleash my modest  To Do Reading Vow  List into the Blogosphere.

I’m fully aware that not all my followers are book addicts.  We’re a vast, myopic tribe , populating bookstore, Libraries and the dusty corners of the Web while other folk are  busy  working, playing, socialising, exercising (we’ve dimly heard of this strange activity), sleeping , etc, while the Book Tribe has its collective nose buried firmly in a book, or is adding to its TBR list (To be Read). Turns out many dedicated readers are keen list makers. We have to be, you see.  So many books, so little time, groaning shelves of our latest purchases – we need to try to establish some control over our addiction.

I’ve been surfing the many Bookish Blogs to which I subscribe (how do I ever find time to read real live books? It’s tough, but I make the effort) and I’m amazed at the plethora of tasks that readers set themselves . For example, during the coming year they promise to :

  • Read more than 100 books (last year they only managed 70 odd, and are mortified)
  • Enter a minimum of three Reading Challenges by 31 December
  • Join a Ulysses (James Joyce) Reading Group (no thanks: pass on this one)
  • Only read novels written by women
  • Read national literature for 365 days e.g. Australian, South African
  • Read translated novels and nothing else for a year
  • Restrict their reading to Award Winning Novels

And so it goes.  I’m alternately impressed and depressed by the tasks readers set themselves.

My own goals are much more modest.  Hesitantly I publish my own feeble promises:

#1        Read 12 books from my TBR pile by 15 December. It’s only one a month. Easy.

#2        Read 2 books a week. I’m aiming for that Gold Star 100.

#3        Not to buy any new books between now and 31 March. My credit card has smoke coming out of it. This should probably be in #1 slot.

#4        Watch less TV.

And that’s enough to be getting along with. Bye for now – back to my current book.

P.S. Don’t you love my Book Brick?  Painted by Steve, at the Milnerton Library, Cape Town.




 I haven’t ticked as many books off my TBR list as I’d hoped, only 9 out of 12. More effort required  in 2017. And my  cataract op slowed me down somewhat, but this said, here are  the highlights  of my 2016 reading year.  Looking forward to your comments.


The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra 


Recipes for Love & Murder – Sally Andrew 


Lost on Planet China – J. Maarten Troost 


Pale Fire – Vladimir Nabokov 


The Martian – Andy Weir 


The Invention of Nature – Andrea Wulf 


The Call of the  Litany Bird – Sue Gibbs

(Surviving the Rhodesian Bush War)



From the Mouth of the Whale  – Sjon


Station Eleven – Emily Mandel 


Brief Encounters with Che Guevarra – Ben Fountain


A  Match for Dr Koekentapp – Allan Kaye



The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon


The Undertaker’s Daughter – Kate Mayfield


South of Nirvana – Sue Randall



Between the Woods & the Water – Patrick Leigh Fermor  (beautiful prose)

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff  (modern life & marriage)

The Penguin Lessons – Tom Michell (fresh & quirky)

Unaccompanied Women – June Juska  (memoir)

The Shaman in Stilettoes – Anna Hunt (memoir)

The Mouseproof Kitchen –  Saira Shah  (contemporary novel)





















(Just a Paragraph: when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph; random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

Recently I found a till-slip doing duty as a bookmark inside a second-hand book. The slip was written in Portuguese and told me the book had been sold by the Sodiler Livraria on the 23rd June, 2003. Presumably in Brazil, because that’s where the website led me – to a Brazilian bookstore. How about that, for a well travelled book? I would love to know how this particular book landed up in a box of donated books, in Cape Town, South Africa. Seeing the book in which it was lodged was The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, I suppose I should not be unduly surprised – Mr Ripley being a man of surprises, mystery, illusion and delusions.


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2014 has not been a good Reading Year for me – I got off to a bad start with eyesight problems, which weren’t resolved until mid-May, so  I’ve not read as many books as usual. My list shows books which I read during 2014, and  is a mixture of Old & New. Some of them were published way, way before 2014; some of them in the late 1990s in fact, but I only had the pleasure of discovering them this year. One of my less obvious categories is ‘Books About Books’ : I’m hooked on books, and love reading  books about reading and books. We all have our quirks.

I hope  my list will introduce some new  suggestions for your own reading .

Best Book of 2014

The 40 Rules of Love – Elif Shafak

Not to be missed book : 2014

The Buddha in the Attic – Julie Otsuka

Most Original Book of 2014

We Are all Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Books About Books:2014

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair – Nina Sankovitch

Funniest Book: 2014

Nature Girl – Carl Hiaasen

Most Challenging Read of 2014

Living by Fiction – Annie Dillard

Best Gothic Novel : 2014

Marina – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Best Non-Fiction : 2014

12 Patients (Life & Death at Bellevue Hospital) – Dr E  Manheimer

Best Travel Book : 2014

The Way of Stars & Stones – Wilna Wilkinson

Best short stories: 2014

The Barnum Museum – Steven Millhauser

Best Crime 2014

Diamond Dove – Adrian Hyland

Great Reads (Novels): 2014

The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

Big Brother – Lionel Shriver

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simision

The World We Found – Thrirty Umnigar

Epic Fail/unreadable  2014

The Infatuation – Javier Marias

Swann’s Way – Marcel Proust





Years ago I read Lonesome Dove,  and loved it. Later I read The Desert Rose  and enjoyed both novels set in America’s South West. Over the years I’ve seen Hud, Cadillac Jack, Buffalo Girls, Dead Man’s Walk, at the movies, not realising they started out as books written by McMurtry. Furthermore, he wrote the screen play (together with Diana Ossana) of one of my favourite movies, Brokeback Mountain.

What a prodigious writer the man is: 29 novels, two collections of essays, three memoirs, more than 40 screenplays! He won the Pulitzer Prize for Lonesome Dove, and an Academy Award for Brokeback. All this I discovered, and more, when I read his account of a lifetime spent writing, buying, selling and reading books, in his memoir titled “Books – a memoir”. The chapters are short – sometimes only one page in length, but what a wealth of anecdotes and history of American book collecting, buying and selling they contain.

I loved the stores about eccentric booksellers, often hidden away in tiny dark shops, for instance the little old Jewish bookseller whose shelves extended up to the ceiling and who made his customers view his stock through binoculars! Nowadays things have changed, and often owners of bookstores or libraries who wish to sell their collections or stock, will simply make a video recording of the shelves, which McMurtry and his partner Marcia Carter will scan, and then decided whether to buy the books – or not.

I was intrigued to read about the enormous libraries amassed by the rich (and the super rich), the famous, and the movie moguls. A very few appear to have been genuine lovers of books and reading; the remainder displayed their collections as signs of their wealth and prestige. I was astonished to learn that big collections of books, numbering the thousands, change hands at auction or private sale, holus bolus, in their entirety, and McMurtry relates how he drove to auctions in his car, loading the vehicle to the hilt on the homeward run with his purchases. He says that the loading and unloading and unpacking of book cartons is the physical side of book collecting, and dealing. I’ll bet it is – a carton of books can be damn heavy, as I know!

I did a rough count of the books currently in my cupboards and shelves and came out at around 700. This number is miniscule when compared to the private libraries of the wealthy, some of whom specialise in collecting specific editions – of the classics, say – in their entirety. No wonder their libraries number in the thousands. And of course University and State Libraries also contain (and on occasion sell) complete collections of a particular author’s work. Interestingly, when official Libraries receive a bequest from an estate, sometimes a portion of the bequest will be sold off to the dealers and collectors, because it does not fall within the ambit of their collection.

McMurtry has tales of trawling through second-hand book shops in the States and in the UK, buying huge job lots of books, and occasionally discovering something really valuable  in amongst the dross, that sells of hundreds of dollars, and in one transaction pays for the entire job lot, with a handsome profit remaining. He also lists – depressingly – a long list of bookstores he has dealt with over the years,  many of which  have sold up and closed down. He reflects towards the end of his memoir on the usurping role of computers in libraries, sometimes – oh horror! – replacing the book stock entirely. He ruefully decides you can’t stem the tide, things will, and do, change.

But he loves books. Always has and always will, and he turned his home town Archer City, Texas, into a booktown (being inspired by the English town devoted to books, Hay-on-Wye). He owns and operates a vast bookstore comprised of nearly 400,000 used, rare and collectible books.

Now THAT’S A BOOKSTORE!  I’d love to visit it.




Another year marching towards 31 December. A trail of interesting books behind me. I’m not adding comments or explanations – I think the category headings speak for themselves. I’m sure many people will disagree with my choices, so please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.  Here are my nominations for:


The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schalbe

TEN of my  BEST READS – 2013  (in no particular order)

The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and disappeared  – Jonas Jonasson

Flashback Hotel – Ivan Vladislavic

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery

Ex Libris – Anne Fadiman

Angelmaker – Nick Harkaway

Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour Book Store – Robin Sloan

The Hero’s Walk – Anita Rau Badami

A Widow’s Story – Joyce Carol Oates

My Name is Asher Lev – Chaim Potok

BEST FOREIGN READ OF 2013:  Lost Luggage by Jordi Punti – translated from Spanish


The Golem & the Djinni – Helene Wecker


We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo

Ancient Light – John Banville

Invisible Furies – Michiel Heyns

In the Beginning – Chaim Potok


Wool – Hugh Howey

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Books (Photo credit: henry…)

Yesterday I enlisted the help of my char to tackle an annual task – moving the bookcase in my bedroom and vacuuming the carpet. We do a chain-relay routine where she gets down to the bottom shelf, which I cannot do, grabs a handful of books, passes them up to me, and I stack them in wobbly piles on the bed, until the shelves are empty. We then move the bookcase away from the wall, cluck over the thick layer of dust, and she wields the vacuum. I was relieved not to find any tiny mouse skeletons because that’s where Chocolat’s mice find shelter when they escape momentarily. The tiny spaces a mouse can squeeze into always amazes me.
When I’ve cleaned the shelves, and dusted the books, we then restack the shelves. I take the opportunity to weed out unwanted books (yes, there are such items, but not many) and this year I hesitated over The Mottled Lizard by Elspeth Huxley; it’s a charming account of a childhood spent in Kenya, but oh dear! The spine is torn, the pages have browned to a deep caramel colour, the cover is limp, and creased. The two giraffe have faded to a greenish-blue, it’s a sorry sight. There’s a price on the cover: 5/-. Five shillings! Can you imagine that? Inside the cover on the facing page is rubber-stamped: Rhod Price 6/-. I suppose the import charges to Rhodesia from Britain warranted the surcharge. Underneath that is another rubber stamp image, in pale red, barely legible: Carlton Exchange, Bulawayo. I have no memory of the Carlton Book Exchange, but I must have know about it, and probably used it. My eldest daughter, who remembers everything Bulawayo related, will be able to fill in the gaps for me.
The book was published by the Four Square publishing company in 1965. Although the book looks like a relic from the Boer War, it’s not actually that old.
Perhaps another contender for the title in this bookcase is one of my favourite books The Sunshine Settlers by Crosbie Garstin. The first page informs us that this edition is a Facsimile Reprint, issued by Books of Rhodesia, Bulawayo 1971, of the 1935 edition. It has been slightly amended by addition of black and white line drawings by Daphne James. I remember my Dad owning a copy of the original 1935 version, which I read as a child, and loved. The book was burnt when my Mum’s house burnt down in the early 1960’s – house fires ravage family memorabilia; you can buy a new stove, you can replace your clothes, but books, letters, photos are irreplaceable. Ditto the handsome brass box, with a tortoise shell pattern engraved on the lid, and ditto the two brass urns, with elegant tall necks, decorated with an engraved pattern of curlicues and flowers, all the way from Persia, a gift from Uncle Bill who worked in the oil industry, a million years ago when the country was called Persia. Oh well …
So when the Books of Rhodesia copy came out, I pounced on it with glee, and have read, and re-read it happily over the years. It describes pioneering life in Rhodesia in the early years, just prior to the First World War. My Dad came out to Rhodesia in the late 1920’s, and life on the farms hadn’t changed that much in the intervening twenty years. Life was just as hot, dry, dusty and challenging as it had ever been, but viewed through Crosbie Garstin’s twinkling Irish eyes it was all a splendid adventure. Try and read it if you can find a copy; sorry, but I’m not lending you mine!




The urgent hangman

The urgent hangman (Photo credit: Christian von Schack)

I’ve recently come across a couple of articles talking about the author’s Reading Targets for 2013: to read more books, to read less books, to read a specific number of books – oh, the categories are endless. It’s clear that some New Year’s Resolutions are being put into action. Unlike most NY’s resolutions, which usually die around January 3rd

Must say I’m intrigued – piqued – puzzled –  by the concept. I’ve never set myself a reading target, and probably never will. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. To me reading is as natural as breathing, or blinking. It’s something I automatically do. If anything, I suppose my target should be to read less and pay more attention to outstanding chores and repairs. But, as I’ve said before on this blog, I’d rather read than just about any other activity – see July 2012.

As a child I was starved of playmates and entertainment – so I read, and I read anything that was printed on paper and within my voracious grasp.  I read magazines, newspapers, books, and the back of cereal boxes. I read the label on HP sauce bottles, I read children’s books, adult’s books, I read cookery books (my Mother owned an antique copy of the famous Mrs Beeton’s guide to  Household Management; while it wasn’t a first edition it was old and tattered when I found in during the late 1940s). I read anything I could lay my hands on.

Over the years I passed through a host of reading phases: Peter Cheyney and Agatha Christie (thanks, Dad!), Science Fiction novels and stories, during Ray Bradbury ‘s heyday. I read ALL Georgette Heyer’s historical Regency romances, and all Zane Grey’s Westerns. Yes, I kid you not, all of them.  My taste was – and still is – splendidly catholic. Nowadays I read across a wide spectrum. I love my two Book Clubs, which expose me to a wide range of books, some of which I wouldn’t otherwise have tried, and nearly always receive a delightful surprise on my adventures through uncharted territory.

About two years ago I joined Goodreads and found a vast universe of fellow book-aholics. Oh joy! Fresh info and inspiration. It’s an on-line web-site, and not to be missed, if you’re as besotted with books as I am.

I have read in bed, in the bath, at the stove while cooking supper, on the kitchen back step – wickedly ignoring my screaming baby in her pram – War & Peace took a lot of effort for a young, sleep-deprived mother, let me tell you. I’ve read on trains, aeroplanes, ocean liners but not in cars – the motion  jiggles the print too much and gives me headaches. I’ve read whilst standing in queues, in dentist’s waiting rooms, inside cinemas, at work during my lunch-break, in bus queues, in hotels, hospitals, retreat centres, in chalets in game reserves. And I’m sure I’ve left out some locations, some occasions. But I’ve never read to order, apart from the hefty classical novels demanded by the school syllabus.

I did some rough calculations and calculated that if I had read 2 books per week, on average, that gave me approximately 100 books per year. Taking the age of ten as my baseline (and I learnt to read when I was five years old) and doing some multiplication, it seems probable that I’ve read at least 6000 books to date. Not to brag or anything, just saying.

Over the last ten years I’ve kept a Reading Diary, in which I write reviews, or short comments about my reading, and these have been invaluable in shaping this blog. But: Reading Targets? Whatever can they mean?

(POSTSCRIPT: I tidied my cupboards today & have to confess I found 48 books in my To-Be-Read Pile. I suppose I should declare an official target to work my way through the pile by the end of 2013. Only problem is, I keep acquiring more books. Hmmm …..)




Did you know:  the most stolen book in Exclusive Books stores is the Bible?  EB have revealed that the most popular genres for light-fingered customers are religion, mind & body, business & self help.( Thanks to the Mercury Newspaper for this snippet). Bookworm comment –  surprise, surprise; I suppose lavish photographic books in coffee table format filled with exciting nudes are too big to cram into one’s backpack. Or is it a sign of the age ? we’re all earnestly trying to improve ourselves?

Did you know: The largest bookshop in the world is Barnes & Noble, NYC.  It has 20.71 km of shelving and covers an area 14 330  sq metres. (Thanks to the Mercury Newspaper for this snippet). Bookworm comment – I’m quite surprised; I would have thought Kinokunia, in Sydney, (my favourite bookstore in the whole world) might have claim to this title. I have lustful dreams about Kinokunia, Sydney. 

Waiting for the book Harry Potter and the Deat...

Waiting for the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a californian bookshop (Borders, Sunnyvale), 5 minutes before the book’s official publication (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know: The fastest selling book of fiction in 24 hours is Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows  by JK Rowling with 8.3 million copies or 345 833 an hour (July 21, 2007). (Thanks to the Mercury Newspaper for this snippet). Bookworm comment – how I wish HP were my creation ; apart from the fame there’s all that lovely  money …. I’m not too sure who’s currently on the Richest Women in the World List (apart from HM, the Queen) but JK Rowling must be on that list somewhere.

Did you know: A new book is published every 15 minutes in America. (Thanks to the Mercury Newspaper for this snippet). Bookworm comment – somehow this  statistic depresses me dreadfully.

English: Detail from photographic portrait of ...

English: Detail from photographic portrait of Charles Dickens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know: The first novel ever written on a typewriter was Tom Sawyer. (Thanks to the Mercury Newspaper for this snippet). Bookworm comment – Who would have thought that good ole’ Mark Twain, he of the luxuriant hair & mustachios, was a technological ground-breaker in 1876? One hundred and fifteen years ago at time of writing.  I wonder which book will have the sad fame of being the last book ever to appear in printed form on paper, in years to come?

Did you know: Charles Dickens had to face north before he wrote anything. Thanks to the Mercury Newspaper for this snippet). Bookworm comment – ag shame! But still, he wrote reams, and we all have our own little foibles, don’t we?

"Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana", 19...

“Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana”, 1908, the first color photo portrait in Russia Français : « Léon Tolstoï à Iasnaïa Poliana », 1908, le premier portrait photographique en couleur en Russie. Suomi: “Leo Tolstoi Jasnaja Poljanassa”, 1908. Ensimmäinen Venäjällä otettu värimuotokuva. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know:  It took Leo Tolstoy six years to write War & Peace. His wife had to copy the manuscript seven times, by hand . (Thanks to the Mercury Newspaper for this snippet). Bookworm comment – Mrs Tolstoy deserves a medal, at the very least, but who gets the fame & acclaim? No prize for the answer.




There I was in the Milnerton Library, queuing in the Books Out line,  mind peacefully in neutral.  And then I saw Mighty Woman being served by the librarian, who was partially hidden behind a rampart of books on the counter. They were in animated discussion, while Mighty Woman fiddled with an empty cherry- red backpack,  which  morphed into a mini-suitcase. The librarian was methodically whanging the books with her date stamp, and MW began packing them into her mini-suitcase. She plonked, piled and pushed.  Methodically.  The suitcase  bulged and strained to accommodate her methodical packing. I gaped in awe.  What the woman needed was a wheelie-case, at least the size of an airline cabin bag.  She forced the zip closed, hefted it onto her hip and strode out.

I continued to gape.  When I arrived at the counter I made a comment about the vast number of books she had taken out.  For her extended family, I supposed?  No, replied the librarian she reads them all herself. I know she does.  Fifteen of them today . I was so awestruck by this revelation that I merely nodded, and trotted out with my humble pile of three books.

Now I’m a keen reader.  A lifelong consumer of books. But this young lady – I would put her in the early 30s – has clearly got me beat. And its driving me crazy – who is she ? what does she read? When does she read  (all night long? all day? in queues? in the bath? on the bus? on the beach?  at work?)  Is she devouring whodunits?  Chicklit novels?  Romances? Horror novels? Vampire sagas? Airport blockbusters?

Yoo-hoo! Where are you? I’m dying to talk to you and swop reading obsessions. And to hand your satin sash that says  BOOKWORM CHAMP 2011.