It’s not a large collection, but it is select. Moving abroad, without a vast NGO ‘ship everything and the kitchen sink’ shipping allowance, necessarily means you must trim. Over the summer I went through five or six boxes of books. I put them on shelves and slowly browsed their spines over the next two months. I took a few off the shelf and snuck them away in a suitcase to bring south to Dakar. These are they. The select few.
Why these books?
Vietnam on a plate – don’t know how I came to possess this. Don’t think I’ve ever read it. The pictures look nice, it’s about Vietnam. It’s from 1996, around about when I first moved to Vietnam. I’ll take a look.
Catfish & Mandala – the best book on Vietnam I’ve ever read. Not browsed it since I lived in Hanoi, I want to re-read this. Plus, the author has offered to review my book. Eeek…
The Outsider – a book I read when I was 18 years old. Something I think I’ll understand better now that I’m older.
Heart of Darkness – Another book I read when I was 18 and didn’t really like. Having lived in that part of the world for the past four years, it’s time to read it again.
The Quiet American – Greene is a master with words. I bought this counterfeit, photocopied copy on Trang Tien street, near the Opera House in Hanoi in 1997. It cost me a dollar or two. I was surprised to find it still intact. I’m amazed it has survived.
Paris Review Interviews vol. 1 – Fantastic interviews. I prefer reading them in a book to online. Plus, I can make notes in the margin. This volume was edited by a friend. The Paris Review has since launched an excellent app with the interviews on, but I still prefer print. I read half of these interviews over the summer.
Scoop – It’s light, it’s funny, it’s about journalism, it’s set in an imaginary African country. It’s incredibly well-written. I want to re-read it. Plus, it sparks ideas.
Down and out in Paris and London – Have never read this Orwell book, so I need to. He is just about the greatest writer of the last century, after all. I borrowed this from my Dad.
Birds of Senegal and Gambia – Live in Africa for any length of time and you will become a bird watcher. This is an essential text.
Kitchen Confidential – I was given this by a friend in Saigon. I read a bit, liked it, but mislaid it. I was surprised to re-discover it in one of the boxes in France this summer. Bourdain is my editor, I feel I should know him a little better. My brother-in-law, a chef, had his nose in it throughout the summer. I saw him nodding and I heard him sniggering. A lot.
Interestingly, the friend who gave this copy to me picked it up in Zanzibar (see above).
World Food Vietnam – A good little reference book I thought would be useful to have on my desk. This was also purchased in Vietnam. I think I found this in Saigon. It’s photocopied, faded and barely holds together.