Long live libraries

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Towns and cities all over the world are closing libraries – too expensive to maintain and anyway, with the internet, do we need libraries any more? Here in the little Northland town of Puhoi the library is alive and kicking. It is open for between two and four hours five days a week and has a collection of over 4000 books (http://www.puhoilibrary.org.nz/). At its peak this town had a population of only 500 and yet it keeps its library doors open. Good on them!

A pile of books

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“I hate the thought of no printed books, magazines or newspapers and the way of life they evoke. Books on the bedside table …” wrote Janet Weir in The Listener (13 August 2016). How I agree with her! The pile of books on my bedside table has been one of the very few constants in my life – in every country I’ve lived in, in every house, in every bedroom. I came away from our last trip to KL with the pile you can see in the photo above from the excellent Kinokuniya bookshop in the Suria Mall at KLCC. I have already read the Kiran Desai and have just finished Max Perkins – Editor of Genius. This morning before my walk I began the Gabrielle Zevin and really enjoyed the first 18 pages. I know I could have got copies of all these books for my e-reader but somehow it’s not nearly as exciting as having the pile of actual books, which creates a delicious sense of anticipation.

International coffee day

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Apparently that’s today. Who decides these things? But I have to say that sipping a coffee while reading a couple of chapters of my book is one of the greatest treats I can think of. My favourite coffee mug is the one in the pic above. It is exactly the right size, the thickness of the rim is perfect and it celebrates one of my favourite authors. What more could you want? The book in the pic is My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I have mixed feelings about this novel and have not yet read the others in the series. I wrote a “review” of it which you can find in the ‘Reading’ section of this website. I’d be interested to know what others think about the work of this generally well-reviewed and mysterious writer. Happy international coffee day everyone!

In praise of bookshops

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As a life-long user of libraries, I used to view bookshops as an optional extra. Why buy a book that you are probably only going to read once when you can borrow it from the library? The only books I bought were those I’d already read and knew I would read again. But there are no libraries that cater for the likes of me in Ipoh. I have an e-reader and I can and do buy e-books. However, I still prefer an actual book. So it is with great delight that I anticipate my visit to the Kinokuniya bookshop in KLCC. We are in KL for a few days and a morning in this wonderful store is the first thing on my to-do list. I sometimes feel a pang of guilt when I spend hundreds of ringgit on books that probably will not fulfill the “read more than once” criterion. But books are the staff of life and, as my daughter wisely reminded me, writers need to be supported.

The Listener

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First a disclaimer – I am not employed by Listener or the Bauer Media Group (though I wish I was!). When we decided to move to Malaysia, I bought a subscription to the Listener and decided to get it delivered to us in Ipoh, rather than opting to read the online version. How glad I am! It is wonderful to get the latest copy every week (some weeks two magazines, the next none, due to the vagaries of PosMalaysia!) and settle down to read it from cover to cover. We enjoy the Quips&Quotes, the crossword and the quizword, Jane Clifton’s column and the indepth articles. It ensures that we feel connected to life in New Zealand. More than all that though I love the Books & Culture section. To get 10+ pages of book, music and movie reviews is such a gift in this digital age.

Size matters

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I have never thought of myself as petite, neither do I think of myself as huge, but in Malaysia I am extra-large. All my New Zealand “summer” clothes are unsuitable for Malaysia’s climate. Denim, though 100% cotton, is just too heavy. I have, therefore, been looking for light cotton or linen clothes. At the beginning of this quest, I would go into the changing room with medium or large items, only to scurry out and tell the usually tiny shop assistant that they were too small. I now only look for XL on labels and there are not too many of those available. After such a salutary experience, I am surprised, on catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror, to see that I am my usual size. In my head, I feel that, like Alice, I have grown to an abnormal size! I guess I’ll just forget the whole thing and carry on reading my book.

Reading

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Anyone who knows me knows that I spend a lot of time reading. Jim took this pic of me in our hotel room in Kuala Lumpur a couple of weeks ago. He had meetings over two days so we stayed the night in the Gardens Hotel. There is a spectacular shopping centre adjoining the hotel – miles of shops, including all the designer outlets – Gucci, Armani, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, etc, etc – and an amazing food hall. While Jim was catching up on emails, I ventured out in search of coffee. I eventually found the San Francisco kiosk, where they were amazed that I wanted no sugar in my coffee, and scuttled back to the room feeling very much the country bumpkin. I also had the prospect of a day on my own in KL, ending with finding a cab to take me to the company’s offices to meet Jim. It doesn’t sound onerous but the size of the city, the number of people and cars and the maze of roads and highways (called expressways here) was daunting. So a coffee and a bit of a read was what I needed before my big adventure. I was reading The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal. I’ve been tardy getting to this book, which was published in 2010 when it won the Costa Biography Award. It has been on my reading list since then, so when I saw a copy in Browsers in Hamilton, I pounced. I can highly recommend it.