If I was to take part in a reading challenge, I would attempt this one. I made it because it pushes me to read way beyond my known borders. And while I thought I was a wide roaming reader of sorts, it turns out that I’m not. I have also not yet found titles for the whole list.
Reading across from the top right-hand corner:
- A manga title –
- History book by a woman writer – Islam: A Short History by Karen Armstrong
- Translated from Japanese –
- An Indian writer – The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- A Virago title – South Riding by Winifred Holtby
- Ancient Greek literature – The Birds by Aristophanes
- A New York Review Classic – The Invention of Morel by Aldopho Bioy Casares
- Beatrix Potter – The Tale of Jeremy Fisher
- Book 1 of a Science Fiction Series – Wool by Hugh Howey
- An Australian Indigenous writer – Carpentaria by Alexis Wright
- A children’s picture book -The Wonder Thing by Libby Hathorn
- Middle East Book Award –
- An epistolary novel –
- Short stories written by a woman – The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro
- A book written in the 1700s –
- A Science fiction classic – Dune by Frank Herbert
- A book that feature vampires – The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
- A book over 1000 pages – Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- A banned book – Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor (Banned in fourteen states in the US, and by Australia in 1945 as: a collection of bawdiness, amounting to sex obsession)
- An Australian play – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler
- A book of poetry, single poet – The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
- Any translated book into English – My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
- Any Shakespeare play – Othello
- A fantasy stand alone novel – The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- Fiction translated from Chinese – The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan
This couple came in, came in very together and walked around the shop together and nodded over the books together. They hardly said anything.
Sometimes I heard them murmuring and laughing about something but only briefly. They were in the shop for ages, spending time in all the sections, reading even the children’s books silently and smiling over them. They spent a long time with a book by Jorge Borges called The Book of Sand. They talked and talked about that one. When they got to the science fiction they did not handle any of the books. They stood and looked up and down the titles, sometimes they said something to each other but they did not pull out a single book from there.
They did not buy any books at all but when they left they thanked me for having a bookshop.
Sculpture ‘The Couple’ by Kieta Nuij
The boys at the window, on a cold afternoon, very recently, were headed to Woolworths to buy things to eat. They stopped at the window of the shop and stared together at Hilary Clinton’s book, Living History.
One of the boys said: her!
The other boy answered: I know!
Then they straightened back up and continued on their way. As they left, one boy said: my mum used to always read a lot, books like that. When I got home from school she was always reading. When I was little she would always yell out like: is that you?
His friend said: like it could have been an assassin or something…
And the first boy answered: yeah!
Painting ‘Alexandra’ by Filipp Malyavin
On Thursday morning, two old ladies came in from the council bus, and one of them, Phyllis, told me she must be a gypsy. She cannot go out without jewellery anywhere. When she said the word jewellery, she closed her eyes and smiled. Her friend, who is called Myra, called out from the back room that it’s true, Phyllis is a gypsy and has the jewellery in her blood.
Myra travels slowly, she has a walking frame, and when she came back to the counter, Phyllis held out her long necklace and they both of them looked at it admiringly. Myra bought a copy of My Brilliant Career which she promised to lend to Phyllis next.
They left, they were going to the bakery next, they traveled slowly past the windows in the admiring golden light, going for a cup of tea.
Artwork by Sarah Lloyd
Max and Noah, who can now pace steadily and productively across all floors, are together before dinner in the library corner and they have found two small horses with riders and lances.
One horse is on the windowsill and the other is caught between a stack of Robert Louis Stevenson and an armchair and this one has been captured. Noah and Max communicate through simple sounds of enthusiasm and query. They share the most significant messages through silence, using unblinking eye contact – a horn sounding out a wordless acknowledgment of awe. Once they have read each other’s faces, they turn to the next page, in this case, the horse itself.
Max can see that the lance and the hand of the knight go together. He puts the end of the lance in his mouth and tastes the problem. Noah holds both hands poised in front of him and feels the problem. They both stare at the radiance of the knight and the lance and the horse.
Noah does a small dance with his feet and they both stare down at Noah’s feet.
The horse falls to the floor. The knight falls behind the books. Only the lance remains. Noah moves his hand toward the lance. Max moves the lance away in alarm and they gaze at each other for a long moment. Once lance, two infants.
They both stare again into the problem of the lance, which has now, in their budding world, become two problems.
But now, suddenly, they are being called to eat, and the lance is abruptly cast aside. The babies launch into a vigorous rocking trot toward the dining table where they arrive within seconds and they breathe loudly to show the vast distance they have just traveled.
Cold and quiet and nobody coming in – except one lady who was delighted to visit and walked around and around admiring everything except the books and who finally asked me if I might sell either the peacock out the front or the cat by the doorway or the stained glass Winnie the Pooh in the window.
I had to say that these things were not for sale and that most of them were gifts and that here, I only sold books. She leaned back in an attitude of devastation and said surely, not really…
Then she said she thought (sadly) that I probably don’t sell very much then…and then she left again (cheerfully) without Winnie the Pooh. He is still here. 😊
Yvonne has a granddaughter who reads and reads like nothing you can believe. She is 11 years old and especially loves books about dragons and monsters of the deep. Yvonne came to to the shop and asked me: what books have I got then, about these things…
Well, it is hard to present books for a child who is not present. Possibly I don’t have anything that she would like. Yvonne said that she reads Pippi Longstocking, Roald Dahl, Harry Potter, Enid Blyton and the Septimus Heaps and the Skulduggery books. Also she liked 101 Dalmatians of course. And Heidi. And Charlotte Sometimes.
She has read all of the Series of Unfortunate Events and the Dragon Moon books and the Dragon Fire series by Chris D’Lacey. Yvonne thought her granddaughter had read Across The Nightingale Floor and all of the Narnias and the Diaries of the Wimpy Kid and the Treehouses and The Secret Garden. She has also read all of the Inkhearts. And she loved Garland from Maddigan’s Fantasia. And she loved September from The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making.
I said: but what is there left…
…and Yvonne said that her granddaughter, whose name is Erica would like to read Treasure Island and also was wondering what is Fifty Shades of Grey….
They were waiting at the door of the shop for me when I came back from the bakery.
The son, a child of about 12, came inside and began counting the Eragons, counting to make sure they were all there, which they were not. His mother wondered if it mattered. He said that it did, and he did not choose the Eragons.
They swung around, moved around, browsed gently and talked to themselves. He examined Flyte, book two of the Septimus Heap series. He said: this one. His mother asked him why he wanted that one and the boy put his hands into his pockets and leaned back and looked up through the depths of his reading and closed his eyes.
He said: it’s really good, mum.
She looked at the book kindly and nodded, ok then.
Miguel arrived this afternoon tangled in the weather and a certain amount of anxiety which was extinguished when he learned that his book, The Pea Pickers had arrived. He showed me where, in his library copy of the same book, the bookmark was seated.
Outside, the weather would not be extinguished, Miguel looked through it and said: it’s coming in.
Then he told me about his grandson. He leaned forwards and backwards to tell me about this grandson. He could not stop telling me about his grandson, a curious and fabulous young man who read books and listened to music and lived interstate and was hilarious and divine. And when Miguel visited Sydney they will all eat Korean food and then Italian and then Lebanese and then Indian and then Greek and then Spanish and then African, such is the richness of the hours with the grandson.
When Miguel swung round to tell me of his grandson, his glasses were lamps of joy. When he leaned back to make room in front of the counter for the words that described only his grandson, his glasses were lamps of hilarity. And when he left, out into the rain and the rest of the day, he swung round to say goodbye and his glasses were lamps of everything.
Jacqui is 83 and she visited the shop this morning looking for books about the history of Adelaide. She told me that when she was young, she read in the dark for most of the night because there was no other times that she was allowed to read. I asked her how she saw the page in the dark and she said she could find little bits of light anywhere, by the window, through the crack of another door – she would stand by that door to angle the light on her page. She just wouldn’t give up until she had finished the book. I have no books on the history of Adelaide, but she said never mind, she would not give up, then she said goodbye and went back to her bus.