Over the last month I’ve been looking out for books which would make good Christmas gifts for readers. I’m covering one more item today and also listing the other four below this article. Today’s choice is a subscription to Slightly Foxed, a quarterly journal which calls itself “The Read Reader’s Quarterly”.
I have periods of subscribing to Slightly Foxed and at other times I catch up with back-numbers on ebay. Either way its a journal which reminds me what reading is all about. It’s not about the rush to read the latest new release or to spot something you must have in a in book-shop, so much as a slow meander through shelves old and new, remembering gems from the past and passing on your enthusiasm to others.
Each edition contains a number of articles by book enthusiasts in which they write about a book or an author who has inspired them. The articles are illustrated with drawings and wood-cuts and are printed on a beautiful creamy paper. The journal is meant to be kept – this is not a magazine which you will want to pass on to someone else because with the addition of the annual index it builds up into a wonderful resource on writers old and new.
The range of books covered is as wide as the avid reader would want. One article could cover Terry Pratchett or Lee Child, the next could go back to the delights of Laurence Sterne or John Cowper Powys. Whatever period the books come from, you can guarantee that the writer of the article will make you want to dip into the chosen volume and my experience is that of finding many beautiful books which I would otherwise never have encountered.
Of course, this would be no use if the books mentioned in Slightly Foxed were unavailable, and indeed, many of them will be out of print – but I usually find that they can be found so easily and often cheaply online on ebay or abebooks etc. I now have quite a few books on my shelves which I discovered by reading about them in Slightly Foxed and I am grateful to the publishers that my reading has been enriched in this way. One article by Jonny le Falbe on Gregor Rezzori led me to aquire all this mid-20th century writer’s books and I have written a set of articles about his work on A Common Reader. Another unlikely find was Elizabeth Von Armin, a Countess and also a friend of H G Wells who I have yet to write about but will do so next year – most of whose books can be downloaded for free in ebook format on Project Gutenburg.
The other items on my Christmas recommendations list can be seen below:
Tom All Alone’s – Lynn Shepherd
Why would this book make a Christmas Gift? Well, there seems to be a tradition that novels set in Victorian London should be read in the dark days around Christmas. There’s something about a Dickensian detective story which seem to suit this time, and in Tom All Alone’s there is enough general murkiness and gloom (with plenty of thrills along the way) to match what we in Britain see outside our windows at this time of year.
Poems on the Underground – Judith Chernaik (ed.)
This winter we have a completely new edition of Poems on the Underground: A New Edition (Penguin Hardback Classics) containing 230 poems, beautifully presented in a nice binding, the cover design being based on the moquette fabric used on the seats of tube trains. The book is timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the London Underground on 9th January 2013. A perfect Christmas gift for anyone who has travelled on the London Underground system.
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – Peter Boxall
Few readers could resist browsing this magnificent volume. As a book lover, I really value this book – with its high production values, it is a thing of beauty in itself and will not be a book to be placed on a shelf and forgotten about.
Since acquiring this book, I don’t think I’ll ever be stuck for something to read again and just turning its pages makes me want to go out and spend a small fortune on acquiring even more books for my shelves. Even if some of the books turned out to be not perhaps the greatest examples of literature, its pretty certain that they’re all worth reading for one reason or another.
The Horologicon – Mark Forsyth
The Horologicon is a witty and entertaining book about the meanings and origins of forgotten words which would be appreciated by anyone who likes to receive a book for Christmas. It is arranged as a “Book of Hours” in which obscure words are grouped according to different hours of the day.
The Horologicon makes no pretence at being a dictionary, for these words have generally been lost from everyday speech and can only be found in some very strange and obscure places (in which Mark seems to spend quite a lot of his time!).
Mark professes to have no academic qualifications in this area but nevertheless, his sheer enjoyment of words and deep study of them shines through every page of this attractively produced book.
My last selection isn’t a book as such, but rather a subscription to a quarterly journal which subtitles itself, The Read Reader’s Quarterly.