New books!

By Caitlin Kelly


It’s hardly as though we need any more books. We have hundreds already, many of them (ugh) still unread, even years after buying them, whether reference, history or fiction.

But who can resist a brand new book?

(I’ve just bought three more books: Transit by Rachel Cusk, The Hustle Economy [a bit too basic for me, 12 years into full-time freelance] and Hillbilly Elegy, a New York Times best-seller that I’m enjoying but not bowled over by.)

The top three books in this stack were requests, given to me by my husband Jose for Christmas 2016.

I love the names of wine: gewurtztraminer, gruner veltliner, Vouvray, Muscadet, grenache, Montepulciano. (Dream second career? Sommelier, except for all that memorizing!) Jancis Robinson is someone whose work we read every week in the Financial Times. (My other favorite wine writer, a friend, is another woman, Lettie Teague, who writes for The Wall Street Journal.)

The next two books are a holdover from my childhood years growing up in Canada, where most of my reading material was published by Penguin; I’d read rapturous reviews of MacFarlane in the FT and am fascinated by landscapes and how we experience them.

The bottom four books were the happy result of browsing an indie bookstore, Logos Books, in Manhattan while recently waiting to meet a friend.

I so rarely spend time in bookstores — I would easily spend hunreds of dollars each year! — so I really enjoyed a good long browse.

The collection on offer was deliciously eclectic.

If you don’t know her or her work, Martha Gellhorn was a legendary war correspondent, ferocious and admired — and, incidentally, the third of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives. She was the only woman to land in Normandy on D-Day and covered every war, determined to be there to record every detail, no matter what the obstacles.

I long ago read a biography of Antoinette May, another war correspondent — a birthday gift from a friend and Globe & Mail colleague. Smart, tough determined fellow female  journalists give me role models!

I’ve never read anything by John O’Hara and, frankly, I just loved the cover. The story is set in 1930. I love reading about earlier eras.

A Little Life has received rave reviews, although some say it’s a very sad book. I very rarely read fiction — as you can see, with five of these seven being non-fiction — so I hope it’s good. (I was given The Goldfinch as a birthday gift two years ago and put off opening it for a year, having heard it was far too long. But I absolutely loved it, even though it is too long.)

The bottom book is my main man, Ray Bradbury, one of the best writers of the 20th century. While his genre is technically science fiction, his voice is calm, quiet, compelling and unforgettable.


I recently started re-reading The Illustrated Man, which I first read when I was 12. I was so impressed with it that I wrote Bradbury a fan letter, from my summer camp in northern Ontario, and sent it to his New York City publisher, Ballantine.

Within two weeks, I had a hand-signed reply, with his home address in California, a postcard I treasure to this day.

He was real!

He wrote back!

To a little girl in Ontario!

What I could not have known then was that he — also age 12 — was magically transformed by a chance meeting. This, from his official website:

Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, Live forever! Bradbury later said, I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped.

Books can do this to us.

They connect us to the past, to an imagined future, to ideas and questions and challenges and gorgeous images.

They transport us, without a need for tickets or passports or jet lag.


The words of Charlotte Bronte…

What are you reading these days?





21 thoughts on “New books!

  1. Vouvray is one of my favorite words :-). Just the way it rolls off your tongue. And A Little Life is not just sad. It’s extremely difficult to read in some parts. Goes beyond sad in those parts. Yet, it is very well written. Will be interested in your thoughts.

  2. I just bought a ton of books last month, which I’ve already started diving into. Two were volumes I found at the thrift store, “The Damnation Game by Clive Barker and a thriller by Robin Carroll called Deliver Us From Evil. The others were novels bought at a local bookstore called Gramercy that opened up recently. I bought a Stephen King novel I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and–this was cool–a book by one of my former professors, Lee Martin, and four books by RL Stine, two of which are aimed at adults. And not too long after I bought those books, I got to attend readings with both my professor and RL Stine himself! God, that was a fun weekend.

  3. i love your stack and the reasons why they each found their way there. i also have a stack going, and i love having it around me to look at and think about all of the moments i’ll have when i pick them up and read them. it is a pile of wonder waiting to happen.

    p.s. i also loved bradbury as a child and read ‘something wicked this way comes’, one of his short stories over and over. i was fascinated and terrified at the same time.

    1. What’s in your stack??! 🙂

      I’m halfway through the Hustle book (it’s OK, better for beginners) and halfway through Hillbilly Elegy. It’s well written and readable but hasn’t offered me any stunning insights. Had Trump not won (and prompted shocked Dems to wonder where all their voters went) I doubt this book would have become a best-seller.

      1. my stack has ‘crossing the horizon’ (laurie notaro) – a book about the early female aviators, ‘a low country heart’ (pat conroy) – his final essays and musings, ‘tinker lab’ (rachel doorle) – a hands-on guide for encouraging and inviting children into tinkering, creative thinking and experimenting and ‘the tale of kitty in boots,’ – (beatrix potter) a found book never published and wonderful….

  4. Love that you wrote to Ray Bradbury and he responded! All I want to do these long, dark days is read! And thanks for asking 🙂 Not too long ago I finished the Diaries of Dawn Powell, and just this weekend finished I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, by Crystal Zevon about her former husband Warren. Coincidentally, both women struggled with alcohol—within their husbands and themselves—during socially wild times. If I reread one of my teen favorites it would be Lost Horizon, which I still have. The irony is that I now write for a yoga journal and often cover exhibits at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC (Tibetan art and artifacts). I am in between books right now, so thanks for your stimulus!

    1. I know, right? It was still one of my favorite experiences, ever. I was so touched by that.

      Interesting reading list you’ve got!

      The Rubin is a great place. Glad you’re enjoying it and sharing it with others. My husband is a Buddhist, so I’m familiar with much of that.

  5. There is an indie bookshop in central Wellington that is umpossuble to visit without buying something. I’m currently reading a biography of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity by John Gribbin. It’s as much about the man as science – and I bought it by accident when visiting that bookshop for quite another reason. As an author whose books they stock I get a small regular discount on purchases. And I sign my books. It’s a fair swap!

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