Posted by: Sally Ingraham | November 21, 2010

NYRB Books + friends

Since I don’t feel like talking about two books I read recently and didn’t particularly care for (The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman and Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal)…instead I’m going to share my recent additions to my (nonexistent at the moment) bookshelves! My book buying has been somewhat limited this year. I bought books from Jesup’s annual library book sale in August, and picked up some of the shared reads The Wolves have delved into over the year (The Wolves were formerly referred to as the “non-structured reading group”, more on that later!). I haven’t bought books with such utter glee as I did recently though, since my Open Letter book buying binge in May.

All the buzz at the beginning of November over NYRB Reading Week really got me itching to collect some NYRB titles, even though I was too busy to participate in that specific reading project. The pile of reviews of fantastic sounding books that cropped up during that week only made me crave them more, so with Sasha’s year long NYRB reading project in mind, and having realized that The Wolves’ December read was a NYRB title, I finally caved in – shoving thoughts of house projects and bathroom supplies far from my mind – and bought a tantalizing trio.


Clandestine in Chile is The Wolves’ December read, and A Month in the Country sounded great based on Frances’ excellent review. Since reading A Void by Georges Perec I’ve been concocting a reading list from the published works of other members of the Oulipo group. I was delighted to see Witch Grass by Raymond Queneau, one of the co-founders of the group, among NYRB’s offerings.

The other two books, which are too pretty to be excluded from this post, were picked up at a local bookstore during the annual Pajama Sale yesterday. The concept is this: Go shopping between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. in your PJs to get great deals at most of the stores in town. It’s always pretty fun. I got the Italo Calvino title because it’s on my Oulipo list, and I couldn’t pass up the particularly striking edition of my favorite Shakespeare play, published by Modern Library in collaboration with The Royal Shakespeare Company. I kind of want to get the rest of the plays in this edition – they’re just lovely.

I really am psyched about the NYRB Books. I love the weird artwork on the front, but even more so I love the solid color on the spine and the different but complimentary solid color of the end papers. Hopefully the words inside will measure up to the packaging!

I have a new…not restriction, just an idea I guess…about my book buying and my pile of unread books. I think I’ll try to refrain from ordering new NYBR titles, or Open Letter titles, or Persephone titles, etc., until I have read the ones I own. While the idea of having all these gorgeous looking books on my shelves is sometimes half the fun of buying them, I was supposed to be more excited about reading them! Fortunately I don’t have a lot – three NYBR books, two unread Open Letter books, and maybe two or three unread Persephone books. Manageable. And these are more like guidelines then actual rules.

Anyway. Yay new books! 🙂


  1. I’ll be joining in the “Clandestine in Chile” read too!

    Also my bank account likesvery much the idea of not buying more from favourite publishers until the books in hand have been read. Let’s see: NYRB, Melville House Press (Art of the Novella and Contemporary Art of the Novella Series), Pushkin Press, Raven’s Press, Folio Society, Persephone … Yes, my bank account likes that idea very much indeed!

    • *groan* You temptress! Of course I had to check out the publishers among your list that were unfamiliar to me – The Folio Society will be my bank account’s utter downfall! How fantastically beautiful is their entire catalog?! I want them all… 🙂

  2. I noticed last night after work that Harvard Bookstore suddenly has about 20 NYRB titles marked down to less than half price in their remaindered department downstairs. So, so tempting! Your restriction plan/idea sounds like a good one in theory, but “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” as you might have heard. Anyway, looks like a sweet haul–am partic. interested in hearing what you have to say about the Calvino and the Queneau titles. Enjoy!

    • The flesh is very, very weak! And if I was faced with a temptation such as the one you mentioned…oh dear me. 🙂

      I’m really excited about the Queneau and Calvino titles. I have been curious about Calvino for awhile but just haven’t gotten to him before. Queneau is a new name for me. I’m eager to explore this whole literary thread – I’d really like to track down some poetry by Oskar Pastior too, and something by Jacques Rouband.

  3. I really need to read more Shakespeare, and that copy of Twelfth Night is GORGEOUS. I actually have his collected works, each in individual volumes, so I have no idea what is holding me back from actually tackling his plays that I haven’t read. Just another way in which I have failed!

    • Certainly not a failure! Perhaps you’re waiting until the exact right time to savor – after all, it’s not as though the works of Shakespeare are infinite. 🙂 I still haven’t read all the plays – although I’ve read a couple of different illustrated abridged versions of them all. I saw Macbeth on stage, but I’ve never read it. I definitely have I’ve read all the comedies…I’m scared of the historical plays for some reason…!

  4. Love that edition of Twelfth Night!

    I read somebody’s review of Witch Grass during NYRB Week, and it sounded GREAT. It’s on my list of books to look for when I’m in France, although I’m a little nervous about my ability to grok the kind of experimental/modernist stuff I love in English, in another language. But at the very least I can work up to it, right?

    Have been meaning to get to that Calvino for ages. Lovely new books!

    • I think I stumbled across a review of Witch Grass recently too…but I can’t remember where.

      I’m going to try to learn some Spanish this winter, as I would really, really like to read something in its original language sooner rather than later in my life! I’m jealous/inspired by your ability to even contemplate reading Queneau in French. 🙂

  5. yay new books! is right! great collection… and nice to see Calvino, one of my all time faves in the post!–though I’ve yet to read all of Invisible Cities (which is odd as it is one of his more popular).

    awesome idea working from an Oulipo list..


    • What’s your favorite Calvino, if you can pick one? All of his books sound fantastic, but Invisible Cities grabbed my interest the most – and it was the only one at the book shop. 🙂

  6. You chose some wonderful books. If only we had more time to read….

  7. […] is the third author on my Oulipo reading list, a project that I am rather haphazardly pursuing. It is the richness of the details that I am seeing as a […]

  8. […] was just thinking fondly of the sweet times in the past when I’ve succumbed to buying NYRB’s, because they ALL sound fascinating or funny…which led to a sick, sad feeling as it occurred […]

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