My Lockdown Books

by Norma Aubertin-Potter

S itting in the garden recently social distancing with a friend I jokingly said that I had been keeping the local bookshops afloat with my book buying since the lockdown.

After the friend had left I thought I would just check what I have actually bought since March. Turns out I was not far wrong — 15 books have arrived via my wonderful postman, who did ask could I order lighter books than the huge, heavy Riverside Chaucer which he delivered one day. Excellent book for wedging a door open or flower pressing. Many of these books are not yet read, some have been dipped into — but all are balancing on a wobbly pile in the corner of my sitting room.

On looking through my rather efficient list of books ordered I see one of the first was the Penguin edition of Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year — half fact, half fiction — but what he describes is so close, despite no Zoom or Teams, as to what is happening today it seems spooky. [SEE ALSO this excellent description of Defoe's Journal by John Batchelor.]

My second purchase was two books by Tim Harford Fifty things that made the modern economy and The next fifty things that made the modern economy — these two books are for dipping into and describe how we have today: the postage stamp; GPS; recycling; batteries; the barcode among many other things we take for granted in today's world.

As I enjoy art next came How Turner painted: materials and techniques by Joyce H. Townsend. One of the fascinating chapters is on the loss of colour from Turner’s original paintings — what his contemporaries would have seen and what we see today. This acquisition fits in neatly with Turner: A life by Kidlington author James Hamilton which I purchased some months ago. Poetry is another interest so I purchased Stephen Fry’s The ode less travelled: unlocking the poet within and A poetry handbook: a prose guide to understanding and writing poetry by Mary Oliver. Having dipped into both I think I may understand Mary Oliver’s book better. To go with the Riverside Chaucer I purchased Chaucer: a European life by Marion Turner — a heavyweight in many ways — heavy to hold, not one to read in bed but also so full of facts one wonders whether anything can be written about Geoffrey Chaucer again!

As light relief from Marion Turner’s book I next purchased Kilvert’s Diary — the diary of clergyman Francis Kilvert in the nineteenth century — a paperback, this one can be read in bed! Lara Maiklem’s Mudlarking: lost and found on the River Thames describes her experiences over many years of mudlarking along the Thames and the perils of not watching the tide creeping along behind you! I had never realized that you needed a licence to do this but the finds can be interesting: clay pipes, buttons, coins, pottery, jewellery lurk in the mud — dating from Roman to modern times. She is scornful of those that dig holes to find items, Lara just relies on her eyes to pick out items on the surface.

H.G.Wells' The war of the worlds has joined the pile. And out of curiosity more than anything I have lately purchased John Bolton’s The room where it happened: a White House memoir. I have not read it yet, just dipped into it; but my gardener borrowed it and returned it unread!

And in case you all think this is heavy going I am addicted to the Kindle editions of the British Library Crime Classics mainly written during the 1930’s to 1950’s — no sex, no violence (except for a body) no swear words. Wonderful. And a friend has also introduced me to the Angela Thirkell books.

All these plus the ones I have not mentioned will keep me going for some while and I have made a pact not to buy any more books until I have read these. How long I will keep to that is uncertain as I am a compulsive book buyer! Having just written the above, Amazon has emailed to say that the Repair Shop by Jay Blades will be delivered today — I had forgotten about that one!

SEE ALSO by Norma Aubertin-Potter:
My Father and the Merchant Navy
Honoured at Oxford
My Lockdown Books
To Zoom or to Teams
Future Historians and the Pandemic of 2020

Norma Aubertin-Potter is a resident of Kidlington Village and a member of the Kidlington and District Historical Society.

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