Tag Archives: books

Train Reading

28 Nov

Today I spent 5 hours on trains and a lot of that time was devoted to Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Reading on train journeys in such a treat. As I’ve been travelling all over the place lately, I’ve worked my way through a tonne of the books I’ve been meaning to read, but there are always more waiting. I have ‘to-read’ lists and post-its all over the place! Here’s a selection from the list that I’d like to read by the end of the year (and a handy *hint, hint* Christmas list for anyone wondering what to get me). There are classics and New York Times bestsellers, recommendations from friends and Man Booker winners….

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

NW – Zadie Smith

Dust – Hugh Howey

The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

All Quiet on The Orient Express – Magnus Mills

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp – Eva Rice

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

Wish me luck!

X Loulou


Bookshelf Porn

6 Sep

Inspired by the incredible images on Bookshelf Porn, Grace rearranged some of Pick Me Up’s books.  A couple of us work in the industry and are very fortunate to have access to a stream of new free reading material.  The turnover in books is pretty high, as we all like passing on a good read or sending on to charity shops the titles that don’t quite make it in to the permanent collection.  What I find interesting is how much we all appreciate books as physical objects: not only do they give a room a comforting homely feel (and hours can be spent rainbowing them) but they bear physical traces of our lives – one very faded and slightly battered copy of One Day by David Nicholls has made it round a friendship group, has grains of sand from various beach holidays embedded in the spine and slightly crinkly patches toward the end where someone spilt a drink (definitely not tearstains).

I’ve spotted the book I’ll be reading next in this photo (if I can resist the overpowering urge to bathe in the nostalgia of rereading Harry Potter, that is)


The Novel Cure

23 Jul

Pick Me Up Blog - Novel Cure

I loved this idea at Latitude Festival this weekend – a bibliotherapy ambulance administering literary remedies for common ailments; the novel cure. Sign up for a consultation, share your ailment – stuck in a rut, heartbroken, stressed – and a book is suggested to help you on the road to recovery.

It got me thinking about which books have acted as a cure for me in the past. There are those which struck me in a particular way at a particular time, some so devastatingly sad that they trigger a ‘life’s not so bad after all’ reality check and then those so unashamedly uplifting that I turn to them again and again as pure escapism, a comfort blanket, a distraction.

The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
A psychological thriller to get wrapped up in. Tom Ripley is cold and calculating, yet endearing, and you end up willing him to succeed as he ends up in predicament after predicament, swapping comically between identities in a bid to survive at all costs. The description of 1950’s Italy is delicious.

Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding
A huge cliche, but I don’t think there are many women of my generation for whom Bridget isn’t some kind of icon (dare I say role model?). Returning to read this book is like catching up with an old friend for a good, ridiculous gossip.

The Secret History, Donna Tartt
I think the first time I read this was just before I went off to university. I really enjoyed it. Not sure what that says about my expectations of uni, but I’ve loved this book ever since.

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
Magically nostalgic, this is an epic story of dysfunction and demise. I wish I’d had a teddy bear called Aloysius.

One Day, David Nicholls
Whatever you do, don’t watch the film. Anne Hathaway very nearly spoiled my reading of this book forever. Oh, Dex and Em, Em and Dex. My faded copy has been read and re-read, passed around to a dozen or more people and somehow made it back to me. Best consumed in one sitting, in one day.

x Loulou

I Capture the Castle

12 Sep

Some books provide the same reassuring comfortable feeling as curling up in your childhood bed or putting on a favourite snuggly jumper. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is one such book for me. First encountered in my impressionable years I’d say it had a profound effect on my character but its legacy was also some romantic affectations (to this day I harbour aspirations to live in a tumble-down castle). Cassandra is one of the most charming narrators I’ve ever encountered and the lightness of touch with which Dodie Smith handles her coming of age belies the wisdom of many of her observations. The line about noble deeds and hot baths being the best cures for depression has lingered with me as has the idea of the importance of satisfying creative urges. I hold the eclectic yet entirely convincing cast of characters in great affection.

The film version is pretty good (with Bill Nighy, a Pick Me Up favourite, on incredible form as Mortmain) although nothing beats reading and re-reading it.


Books in the Park

23 Jun

Today Ellie and I were intending to while away some hours chatting and reading in a cafe (just the thing for a lazy Saturday) but a mysterious absence of rain meant we ended up in the park instead.

A sunny bench served as the perfect spot for…

Bright Young People is non-fiction that reads like a novel. The romps and jaunts of the glittering cast of Guinesses, Mitfords & Posonbys feel familiar as many have been immortalised in the fiction of the Jazz Age, albeit under different guises. D J Taylor’s fascinating chronicle of the 1920s pleasure-seekers looks beyond the baths & bottles parties and treasure hunts across London to the broken social bonds and spectre of war behind the gloss. I’d like to think that the Bright Young People with their partiality for theatricality and dressing up would approve that their exploits are inspiring a whole new generation of hipsters to don flapper finery, down cocktails and dance the night away in the rash of 1920s nights springing up across London – but probably they are far too busy carrying on the party to care…


Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winning novel Wolf Hall provoked some differences of opinion in the Pick Me Up household; we either loved it, hated it or couldn’t quite muster the enthusiasm to take it on. Being the one who loved it, and a fan of minutely (perhaps overly) detailed historical novels in general, I’m exploring some of Mantel’s other works. I’m finding A Place of Greater Safety engrossing but quite a mental challenge, probably because (despite having studied it) I’m a little shaky on the ins and outs of the French Revolution, which the novel describes. I was rather startled to discover that there were several key characters I’m sure I’d never heard of before. But if you’re a fan of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies you’ll probably like it as the technique is similar – a study of, and elaboration upon, the figures at the centre of a whirlwind of political history.

Grace x


18 Mar

Brideshead Revisited is one of those books that fills me with joy at the mere thought of reading it. The story – of Englishman Charles Ryder and his affectionate, entangled attachment to Sebastian Flyte and his aristocratic family – is a story of dysfunction and demise, imbued with strong feelings of sadness. Written by Evelyn Waugh in 1943, the novel tackles issues from the decline of the landed gentry in the 1920s to the family’s ongoing fractures and religious torments. Despite this, the themes and images that always stick with me the longest when I place my copy back on the shelf, are the gems of pure happiness nestled amongst the dysfunctional rubble: the heady Oxford days when Sebastian and Charles first meet, the wonderfully flamboyant Anthony Blanche, picnics and painting at Brideshead, peaceful Venice, bubbling little Claudia, mysterious Julia, and Aloysius the faithful bear. Brideshead Revisited is magically nostalgic, revisiting and romanticising an age of opulent nobility that Waugh surely longed for in the grim, war-torn days in which he was writing.

For anyone that loves the book and is considering watching the 2008 film adaptation with Ben Wishaw, Matthew Goode et al. by all means do, it’s cinematically beautiful. If  you’re after a more faithful adaptation however, be sure to set aside 11 hours of your life for the 1981 television adaptation starring Anthony Andrews, Jeremy Irons and Diana Quick. You won’t regret it, I promise. The sunbathing-on-the-roof scene alone will guarantee that.

x Loulou

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