Book Shelves #4

Biblioklept has posted the fourth of his bookshelves. For my fourth post on places where books gather in my home we exit the study and drift around the corner to the principle bathroom.


Books tend to linger here, for years in some cases. I can discern no overarching logic to the collection. Several of these belong to S., so I shall offer no commentary on those.

Schultz’s 1000 Places to See Before You Die speaks to the gypsy in me, who would happily roam the cities and mountain tracks of the world in perpetuity. Cathcart and Klein offer second-rate philosophy but curate some wonderful philosophical jokes. Kate Fox’s Watching the English is the definitive guide to this strange island race. I am always rereading The Art of Eating, which collects all the best writing of M. F. K. Fisher. Edgar Allan Poe and I have had a troubled relationship; I can never quite decide if I enjoy or despise his stories.

Chefs Pick Food Books

Asked to name their favourite non-cookbook food books, leading chefs nominated:

  1. Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure – Joseph Wechsberg
  2. The Art of Eating – M. F. K. Fisher
  3. Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris – A. J. Liebling
  4. The Horse of Pride: Life in a Breton Village – Pierre-Jakez Helias
  5. The Food of Italy and The Food of France – Waverley Root
  6. Giving Good Weight – John McPhee
  7. The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine – Rudolph Chelminski
  8. The Gumbo Tales – Sara Roahen

The first two would appear high on my list but I would also add:

  1. Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
  2. The Perfect Egg – Aldo Buzzi
  3. On Food And Cooking – Harold McGee
  4. The Man Who Ate Everything – Jeffrey Steingarten
  5. Comfort Me With Apples – Ruth Reichl
  6. Where shall we go for dinner? – Tamasin Day-Lewis
  7. Sushi and Beyond – Michael Booth

Categories That Amuse

Voracious readers have regular dilemmas about what book to read next. At Of Books and Bicycles, the perplexity is of genre or category. Always the question of whether to read deeply to explore a category or individual writer thoroughly, or widely to embrace a wide selection of genres. The categories that provide amusement at the moment are:

  • Philosophy to deepen my reading of Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard; also to explore Kant to whatever extent I am capable.
  • Literary criticism of the novel: contemporary texts like James Wood, Harold Bloom, Susan Sontag, Geoffrey Hill and Denis Donoghue; also earlier writing by Guy Davenport, Maurice Blanchot, Cyril Connolly and William Empson.
  • Fiction and non-fiction classics of all periods, with less emphasis on contemporary, and guided loosely by Bloom’s Western Canon.
  • Books about books, with the work of Alberto Manguel and Michael Dirda top of my list.
  • Natural history, inspired by my deep enjoyment of Roger Deakin.
  • A sprinkling of science, certainly all the output of cosmologist Paul Davies.
  • Psychology, working my way slowly through Freud’s essays and lectures.
  • Travel classics like Wilfred Thesiger, William Dalyrymple, Patrick Leigh Fermor.
  • Culinary-lit, particularly M. F. K. Fisher and Ruth Reichl

This is hardly comprehensive and is subject to whimsy.