The 1977 Book Event

Kaggsy of kaggsysbookishramblings and Simon of stuckinabook host a regular event where a year is chosen and those who participate read a book published in that year. This time around the year is 1977.  I enjoy reading what people post up on their blogs but I have not participated before. No idea why. Other things just seemed to get in the way.

In my last post I stated I was fed up with all of the unread books on my shelves and I have decided to do something about it.  You can read about my plan here (if you are so inclined).  I have to say I am beginning this project with quite a bit of enthusiasm.  I went to random.org and entered the number of books I have on my shelf (1250) and let the wheels begin to turn.  Up popped an old paperback book on my shelf written by Helene Hanff.   Most book lovers will have read her lovely book 84 Charing Cross Road. However my chosen book is one of her lesser known books called Apple of My Eye.

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I started it yesterday and am on the last few pages now.  I have loved this story. And guess what??!! It was published in 1977.  What a coincidence.  So I am featuring this book as my entry into the event of books published in 1977. It also appears to be the only book on my shelves published in 1977.

Helene Hanff is a long time New Yorker. In 1976 she was asked by a publisher to write a tourist guide book detailing what a tourist would want to do when visiting New York City.  Well, like a lot of us, who never visit the attractions in our home city, instead opting to travel to see the sights in other parts of the world, Helene is no different.

She is telling her friend Patsy about this project and what on earth is she going to feature in this book.  Patsy also was born and raised in New York and they both start by stating they’d not visited the Statue of Liberty in all their years there.  That is the beginning of many outings they begin in exploring New York. This book is that story.

The book is so much fun to read. They visit all of the well known places, walking to most places or taking buses. They took a taxi once and would only take the underground to get home as one can’t see New York if they are underground.

They visit all of the neighbourhoods on the east and west side of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and talk about the differences of the people who live on each side. They talk about the restaurants they eat in, the people they meet, the history of the places they visit. They talk about the newly built World Trade Centre and dare each other to visit the viewing platform at the top. Remember this is 1977 and things in New York were very different then to what they are now.

They talk about the attitudes towards redevelopment, what they think about the decaying parts of the city and some of the older decrepit buildings.  Their conversations are so amusing. I chuckled out loud a few times as they bantered back and forth with their varying views on this most diverse city.

They took a bus tour into Harlem and when Patsy’s apartment complex next to Central Park was featured as part of the tour with the guide telling visitors incorrectly who lives in it they make it their mission to correct him.

The two of them often had conversations with each other that were totally separate. Helene would chatter away filling Patsy in on the history of certain places and Patsy, not listening would be talking about something completely different at the same time.

If you enjoy books that take place in New York then this one is so much fun.  I also learned a lot about the New York of 40 years ago.  I also have a confession to make. I have travelled extensively in this world of ours but I have never been to New York City. Though it is one of my favourite settings to read about. I have such a romantic notion of what this city is like. I’m sure that bubble would burst if I actually visited the place.

I only wish Helene Hanff had written many books because her writing is wonderful, astute and informative.  I guarantee these two women will brighten your day. Snip20160609_6

A Couple of Books & a New Project

I finished a couple of books I enjoyed very much and did not finish another after 100 pages because I found it frustrating.

The book I loved was The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. A true story.  She and her husband lived in England. They owned a farm they ran as a B & B. An investment her husband made  with a good friend of his went belly up and they lost the lot. They became homeless in their fifties. They bought a couple of cheap sleeping bags and a tent and decided to walk the trail from Devon down through Cornwall ending at Land’s End and then back up the outer side heading towards Lyme Regis.  She had a guidebook by a man she had read and though he hiked much faster than them they achieved their goal.

Snip20180415_1The journey was arduous to say the least. They had no idea what they would do when they finished this project. They had little money, accessing about 30.00 pounds per week. The weather was often terrible, they went without food and lived on two minute noodles. The sleeping bags didn’t keep them warm and they couldn’t afford to stay in campgrounds that had hot showers. They camped wild. Raynor is an excellent writer and I won’t tell you what happened to them but I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book. Their attitude, friendship and love was heartening. Did I mention the day after they were forced off their property he was diagnosed with a terminal disease? I know! How do people stay sane and cope when life throws all it has at you?

Snip20180415_2The second book I listened to on Audible was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I almost gave up on this book about one third through it. For some reason I persevered and ended up getting sucked into it and really enjoyed it. The ending is a real cracker. I never saw it coming.  Her personality is often debated on the Good Reads debut as being  on the Autism spectrum and whether the author meant for this or not she had the quirkiest personality.  A bright woman with very inappropriate social skills. Though at times I found I quite related to her. She didn’t suffer fools gladly and I liked that about her.  A really fun read if you give yourself time to get into it.

Snip20180415_3Then, once again I fell for the hype and got The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn from the library. I read exactly 101 pages before I thought, “For God’s sake, this is a load of nonsense and she is really starting to bore me.” I gave it the flick and it will return to the library on Tuesday.  A psychologist with agoraphobia who spies on her neighbours all day and drinks way too much.  From reading the blurb on the back of the book, I know someone is supposed to scream and then sinister goings on begin to happen but by page 101 the woman still hadn’t screamed and I was sick of hearing about her lifestyle confined to her house. 101 pages? Really? I didn’t need that level of detail to learn about agoraphobia.

While contemplating whether to finish this book or not I decided to look up my library on LibraryThing.com. Search for TravellinPenguin if you want to visit my library.

What a mess my lists of books were in. More than 1000 Penguin books still looked at me from the website. As I have sold them all and quite a few of the other books on the list I decided to delete the whole library and begin again. I still have close to 1000 books on the shelves. Actually a bit over that number. Library Thing has a new app where one can scan the isbn codes with a smart phone and magically they end up listed on librarything’s page. I loved it. So shelf by shelf, I pulled the books off and scanned all of them into the phone.  I still have a few shelves to do today when I will be finished with it all. I have a few Penguin series that all have isbn codes on the back and it is lovely to have a written list of all of the book titles available.

The advantage of pulling all the books off the shelves is for one, the shelves were dusted and cleaned and secondly I found books I forgot I had. Lovely, interesting books.  I had a good talk with myself. Why on earth do I continue to get books from the library when I have all of these beautiful stories awaiting on my own shelves? I think the acronym is TBR. To Be Read!!  Why am I succumbing to books like The Woman in the Window when I have far better written stories here at home. So I have decided that from now on I am:

  1. Going to read my own books for the remainder of the year. No buying books, no library.
  2. I will then remove those books from the house. Move them into new homes. (Unless they are sentimental favourites like Little Women or Black Beauty from my childhood. I do not need 1000 plus books in my house. I am getting old. Downsize is the word of the day.

Then I thought-How will I ever choose what to read first? They all look so good. So I hatched a plan:

3. I will enter the numbers of books I own into Random.org and random.org will     choose the book from the list on Librarything.  If I choose a book I find out I really don’t want to read and I can’t bear the thought then I will sell it on eBay or the second hand bookshop in town or give it away. The rule is once it leaves the shelf it is never to return. (Unless it is part of a set I want to keep, like the Penguin sets.)

That is the plan. I am feeling quite enthused about it so stay tuned. I have some very oddball books on my shelf. Books that are very old I rescued from the tip shop. Some recent ones that the marketing techniques of the publishers talked me into buying. Some that have gorgeous covers I couldn’t leave behind.  It will be an interesting challenge.

I also need to get back to the Deal Me In short story challenge as well as I do enjoy picking those stories with a deck of cards.

Stay tuned. This might be a wild ride. bluejumper