As we are keen readers as well as book­sellers, we thought we would share with you what we’ve been reading. And we’ll indicate where the books are going into stock at the shop in case you want to read one of them too!  And there’s a shelf of textiles books here: this is me sharing with you some of the books I have and enjoy reading or refer­ring to for inspir­a­tion.

May/June 2014

Still not keeping entirely up to date with my reading but I’ve just read Peter Ackroyd’s London Under (2011 Chatto & Windus ISBN 978 0701 169916). I’m a huge Peter Ackroyd fan and London is the essen­tial land­scape and main char­ac­ter of his writing, but this one slightly dis­ap­poin­ted me. I liked the way it was organ­ised them­at­ic­ally rather than chro­no­lo­gic­ally, but it ended up feeling more like he was using up research material left over from his other books.  Having said that, there were plenty of really inter­est­ing snippets in it. Going to shop.

I recently read Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: the Biography (Vintage 2006 ISBN 978–0749386559) and thor­oughly enjoyed it.  It’s a long time since I read a bio­graphy of Shakespeare and there has been so much research done in the last 20 years or so, but I had no idea of how close his links were with Catholic recusant com­munit­ies in and around Stratford. Well worth reading. Gone to shop, and sold.

This probably should be on the textiles book­shelf but I’ve just finished Denise and Magdalena Rosenzweig’s Self portrait in a Velvet Dress – Frida’s Wardrobe: Fashion from the Museo Frida Kahlo (Chronicle Books 2008 ISBN 9780 8118 63445). This was a Christmas present to me and I’d dipped into it but not settled down to really read the text and it is fas­cin­at­ing both on Kahlo as artist and on Mexican ethnic textiles. Adopting ethnic clothing was both a polit­ical state­ment for Kahlo and a way of dressing that made her physical dis­ab­il­it­ies less obvious and the results were both some stunning self por­traits and pho­to­graphic por­traits of her by others and a great col­lec­tion of Mexican huipiles and skirts, locked away in her bathroom for 50 years on the order of Diego Rivera.  Opened in 2004, it’s become an amazing insight into how Kahlo turned herself into an art work.  Borrow a copy from your library! A painted silk top I’m just making is influ­enced by the shape of the huipiles in her wardrobe.…

Not having read any fantasy other than Terry Pratchett for a while, I picked up Chris Evans’ A Darkness Forged in Fire: The Iron Elves Book One (2009 Pocket Books ISBN 978–1847393814). Disappointing, deriv­at­ive, and I found it hard to engage with the char­ac­ters so won’t be both­er­ing with later books but that’s only a personal view. Gone to shop.

March/April 2014

Whoops – falling behind again despite my best inten­tions. I’ve been reading Alain de Botton How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997 Picador ISBN 9780330347624) and enjoying the wit and insight.

I’m cur­rently reading Daniel Kalder’s Lost Cosmonaut (2007 Faber ISBN 0571227813) which is a travel book written by a pro­fessed anti-tourist, visiting parts of the former Soviet Union that will never make it into even a Lonely Planet guide. Great fun.

February 2014

I’ve been sent as the most amazing present the fol­low­ing two books and am already devour­ing them:

Karolyn Kiisel: Draping – The Complete Course (2013 Laurence King ISBN 978 1 78067 2861).  This looks as if it is going to be the perfect com­ple­ment to my recent Draping Womenswear course at Central St Martins.

Draping - A Complete Course

Draping – A Complete Course

So much so that last night I stripped the padding off my man­nequin that I’d had standing in for a large gen­tle­man and at 1am could have been seen with pins and a piece of rust coloured material thinking about a new jacket.

By coin­cid­ence, yes­ter­day I found a review of this book on my new favour­ite blog, Peter Lappin’s bril­liant and wittily named Male Pattern Boldness:

I haven’t worked out how to tell the family there’s a new man in my life! I stumbled across the blog by accident a couple of weeks ago and now keep going back to it.

I’ve been an admirer of the work of the film­maker and artist Derek Jarman for years – his film Caravaggio is one of my favour­ites, so to be sent Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks edited by Stephen Farthing and Ed Webb-Ingall (2013 Thames & Hudson ISBN 978 0 500 516942) was another unex­pec­ted delight.  Although they were def­in­itely working doc­u­ments, record­ing work in progress, ideas and inspir­a­tions, what is reveal­ing is also how in a tactile and physical way, Jarman honoured his work and the journey.

Derek Jarman's Sketchbooks

Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks

Again, there’s a link back to how it was sug­ges­ted  that we use sketch­books to record and develop ideas on my course, but here Jarman’s are works of art and artful works in their own right.


January 2014

Sounds like I’ve not being doing enough reading, but I did gobble up at one sitting Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun (2000 Vintage ISBN 978–0679767398). I think in some ways it was more  heart­felt and less cerebral than some of his fiction.

My first read of the year was Midori Kitamura’s Issey Miyake Pleats Please (2012 Taschen 978 3 836525756). Beautifully illus­trated and a fant­astic guide to this range of Miyake’s designs. Aren’t I a lucky girl (Christmas present!).

December 2013

Perhaps because of being so busy, I have read less in December than I would like to, but I am once again reading Proust. This is partly the result of a chal­lenge from a friend. I’m reading it in the Terence Kilmartin Penguin edition though I have the Scott Moncreiff version on my iPad as backup – on days when I dip into this, it now seems very purple prose and not that readable. I have been con­sid­er­ing buying the new Penguin trans­la­tion – may indulge in that. I do remember attempt­ing to read Du Cote du chez Swann in French many years ago and having to give up – by the time I’d read to the end of a sentence, I’d for­got­ten what the begin­ning meant. I always feel a little self-con­scious saying that I enjoy Proust, but I do. I’ve read the whole of In Search of Lost Time twice, and been back to Swann’s Way a couple more times, and I’m enjoying it once again. I’ll keep you updated as to progress.

I’ve also been reading James Joyce’s Ulysses on my iPad. I started a few months ago. What I decided that I had to do was simply to entirely disable any attempt at critical appar­atus or under­stand­ing (the mir­ror­ing of Homer etc). I read a few pages whenever I want, I don’t try and relate it to anything outside the book, or any part of it I’ve read before, I just revel in the play­ful­ness and vitality of Joyce’s language and invent­ive­ness. I live in the moment of what is hap­pen­ing then in the book. The net result is I am really, genu­inely enjoying it. I’m about a third of the way through and it’s been a delight not a chore. This is one of the delights of an ebook reader – it will never lose your page, and you’re not lugging a heavy book around in your handbag against the chance that you might get a minute or two to read it.

I’ve been dipping into E K Chambers – The Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse with great pleasure. I do wonder who the anonym­ous writers were, as some of the poems are superb but there’s a great selec­tion from the well known and lesser poets of the period.

Steve has been reading a lot in the last couple of months and I’m hoping to get him to share it with you soon – it includes a lot of Zen books.

October/November 2013

  • Madeline Miller – The Song of Achilles (2012 ISBN 978 1408821985). I don’t read as much fiction as I should do at present, and I came across this winner of the Orange Prize for 2012 almost by accident. It’s on offer at 99p in the Apple ibooks store at present so I read this as an ebook and all I can say is it was a damn good 99p’s worth! Miller is a clas­si­cist and academic and here she demon­strates that the old tales can be etern­ally rein­ven­ted as she retells the Iliad through the eyes of Patroclus. Good his­tor­ical fiction and I read it almost in one go.
  • Charlie Connelly – Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast (2004 ISBN 0316 72474 2). Not going to enter the lists of classic travel lit­er­at­ure but an amusing and inter­est­ing read: ideal for reading in bed on a stormy night, when you’re glad you’re not at sea. Going to shop
  • Virginia Woolf – A Room of One’s Own (1928 ISBN 978 0 14 1018980). We’ve both just read this elegant, enter­tain­ing and still relevant essay. Not just for fem­in­ists!
  • Grayson Perry & Wendy Jones – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl (2007 ISBN 978 0099485162). As indic­ated on the blog, we’re fans of Grayson Perry and this sharp and witty auto­bi­o­graphy contains a number of insights into his artistic devel­op­ment. Gone to shop SOLD
  • Bill Bryson – At Home: A Short History of Private Life (2011 978 055277 2556). A good way of present­ing the con­sid­er­able amount of inform­a­tion he’s amassed, as Bryson takes you on a room by room tour of the old rectory that is his family home. We both thought his Short History of Nearly Everything was a delight, and I’ve enjoyed this one too. Gone to shop
  • Judith Clark et al – Hussein Chalayan (2011 978 08478 3386 3). Breathtaking work at the inter­sec­tion of art and fashion. It’s an expens­ive but enthralling book: worth a trip to the library?
  • Malcolm Haslam – Arts and Crafts Book Covers (2012 ISBN 978 0 9553741 80). Exhibition cata­logue – won­der­ful illus­trated guide to this perhaps neg­lected aspect of the Arts & Crafts movement.