I suppose everybody has their weekend routine. Mine is to go for a run in the morning, do my laundry, and then head into central London for lunch. Apres-lunch almost always consists of a pub-crawl among the bookstores in a corridor between Tottenham Court Road and Green Park. And, being something of a geek, more often than not one of my stops is at the Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue.


The trouble is that books cost money and take up space. So I've (unfortunately) become more of a browser in recent years. Not only am I short on shelf space for them (or closet space, or floor space, or desk space, or...), but I'm actually looking at moving back to the US in the near future. So the more books I buy, the more "stuff" I have to deal with, whether it's taking it all home or donating it to charity (luckily I'm well-served for charity shop options, whether I'm at home or work, so that's not so much of a problem).


But sometimes something comes along that makes you break your own rules. My grandmother passed away on Friday, which is an event I'm still coming to terms with. I don't think it's overstating things to say she raised me - my parents both worked full-time when I was growing up (and still do, as a matter of fact), so when she was in town, she was a natural babysitter for me, and later on for my sisters. More to the point, she loved the job, given how delightful and cute we all were. I'm maybe exaggerating on the "delightful and cute" business, but she couldn't get enough of us. And she remained a constant throughout our lives, including when I went off to college just a few miles from where she was living at the time, in Southern California. And even when I decamped for Europe, she was always there, just a phone call away, eager to hear what I was up to.


So her passing, even though she'd been ill for months, has been a big shock. It's a cliche to say that you're never prepared for it, but the truth of it is undiminished. So I dealt with it the way I know how - by going and buying a book that'll make me happy, in the short-term and hopefully the long-term.


Here's what I selected:

 That's my foot in the lower right corner, by the way. No, photography isn't one of my main skills.

So why these two books? I'll start with the one on the right - Tad Williams is kind of a hero of mine, and has been since even before I ever read one of his books. He grew up in the same town as me, and went to my high school (albeit a few years before I did). One of my personal high points was reading a copy of Pierre Boulle's Planet of the Apes, in the original French, inscribed with Tad Williams's name in the inside front cover. Then, when I eventually did read one of his own books, I fell in love with it at once - for me, the high point of his writing is still Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, his epic fantasy trilogy attempting to update The Lord of the Rings for the 80s. The Dirty Streets of Heaven is his latest to be published, and shifts genres slightly to urban fantasy, in which magic and the modern world co-exist more or less uncomfortably. A better-known example would be True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels.

When I got to the store, I went straight for the "W" shelf, and was pleased to see that Dirty Streets had now come out in paperback, so I snapped it up at once. And then, as usually happens to me in bookstores or music stores, the book looked lonely. I needed to get another book.

I've been fortunate to receive a great number of Amazon gift vouchers in recent months, and I've used them wisely, predominantly on science fiction and fantasy novels. Among these was Control Point, the first volume in Myke Cole's trilogy marrying urban fantasy with military fiction. Control Point was a barrel of fun - humor mixed with action mixed with questioning the rules and structures of the fictitious US military service that the hero, Oscar Britton, finds himself drafted into when he manifests magical abilities (Myke Cole is an army reservist, so he knows his stuff).

Now, having read the first novel, I'd made up my mind to pick up the sequel, although I wanted to get through my mountain of Kindle books first. And yet, yesterday, it seemed like the right time to get Fortress Frontier. So into the basket it went. I hung around the bookshelves of the Forbidden Planet, wondering if I should pick up a third book (after all, what if the first two didn't get along?), but decided against it in the end.

So I've got two more books on my shelf now, by authors I know and like (and Myke Cole was kind enough to offer his own condolences yesterday when I tweeted that sad news had impelled me to pick up his book). I've got high hopes for them, not just for helping me deal with my grandma's passing, but the general anticipation one has for new books.

The thing I can't help smiling about is how, when I was growing up, my grandma would always scold me for the piles of books, comics and notebooks I always kept in my room. She always said the musty pages would give me tuberculosis. But when it came down to it, she loved the idea that I enjoyed books and writing, and never failed to encourage me in the pursuit. So I hope she'd appreciate that, as part of my grieving process, I've gone and acquired even more musty news print.

I promise I'll clean up my room, too, grandma. Just as soon as I've read a couple more pages.

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Comment by Speedy P on July 28, 2013 at 21:29

Hey Franco, thanks for sharing, sorry to hear about your bad news. Glad you had a literature pick-me-up yesterday and hopefully that tasty burger you said you were going to get! Once you have read your books or any on the Kindle don't forget to give us a full review on the Artist Box Book Club http://artistbox.ning.com/forum/topics/the-artist-box-book-club

Let me know when your next visit to 5 Guys is taking place so I can prepare myself to hit that 1000 different flavour of Coca Cola manufactured drinks.


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