Holiday Book Haul

Under normal circumstances, I would have gone to Barnes and Noble for the 50% off All Hardbacks sale having already opened my Christmas gifts and knowing which books I’d received. 2022’s Christmas season did not provide normal circumstances, however. Between a couple of family illnesses (everyone is recovering nicely, thank you) and the awful weather (not a lot of snow, but the -39°F windchills were intense) we decided to postpone the family Christmas until New Year’s. And because the one gift that my friends ordered that arrived late was mine, I ended up with nothing to open on Christmas Day. It was a bit disappointing, but certainly was not the end of the world, as I got to hang out at my sister’s house and spend time with that part of my family on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning before they headed out for my brother-in-law’s family get-together.

So I ended up at Barnes and Noble for their big hardback book sale on December 26th and then popped back in on the 27th to see what was left after two days’ worth of rush.

After those two trips, I came home with the following:

  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  • Learning to Talk: Stories by Hilary Mantel
  • The Sillmarillion (illustrated by the author) by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stepenson

Thanks to the substacks I subscribed to last year (and more for this year), my appreciation for classics has never been higher. The selection of hardback classics was quite picked over by the time I got there, but this nice clothbound edition of Around the World in Eighty Days was there, so I grabbed it.

I found Learning to Talk on the second and final day of the sale, and I certainly couldn’t resist a new-to-me collection of Mantel’s writing, even though I don’t normally enjoy short stories. It hit me again that, after Mantel’s death last autumn, there will be no new titles of hers to look forward to, so getting to the novels of hers I haven’t already read will be a bittersweet affair.

The Silmarillion, illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Need I say more?

This gorgeous edition of Snow Crash came out last fall, and even though I didn’t finish the book the first time I tried it, I couldn’t resist. At fifty percent off, I’m perfectly willing to try it again, as I remember that I was enjoying what I was reading when I tried it years ago, but I don’t remember why I stopped. Perhaps I will keep going this time.

So that’s what I got at Barnes and Noble’s big hardback sale. There were several titles I would have picked up, but they were also on my Christmas list and I didn’t know if my family had gotten them for me or not. Sure, I could have returned the titles I would have doubled up on, but that’s a hassle I didn’t want to deal with. Besides, one of my goals for 2023 is to read most of my owned-and-unread titles, so I exercised restraint and didn’t get everything that caught my eye.

Then New Year’s Eve came around, and I found myself back up at my sister’s house, hanging out with her husband, her kids, and their dogs– and this time with my parents, too! We had a great Christmas/New Year’s Eve dinner and watched some football while waiting for one of the kids to get home from work (alas, the rather last-minute nature of our family get-together meant that he wasn’t able to swap shifts with any of his coworkers). Then we had our family gift exchange, and as usual, I felt like I’d made out like a bandit thanks to the books I got:

  • The Giant, O’Brien by Hilary Mantel
  • Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel
  • The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin #1) by Melissa Caruso
  • The Throne of the Five Winds (Hostage of Empire #1) by S.C. Emmett
  • The Fall of Numenor by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Brian Sibley and illustrated by Alan Lee
  • Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig
  • The Medieval Kitchen by Hannele Klemettilä

The Giant, O’Brien and Beyond Black because Hilary Mantel. I’m going to savor these two. I’ve already started on Beyond Black. I’m about forty pages in, and it’s weird and dark and wonderful.

The Obsidian Tower and The Throne of the Five Winds are both the first books in series that I’ve been curious about, but my library doesn’t have them. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy both of them enough to want to continue with the rest of them.

The Fall of Numenor because of course. It’s J.R.R. Tolkien’s work.

My friend Simon from Bookstagram has long gone on about the brilliance of Rose Nicolson, and because I’ve enjoyed all the books he’s recommended to me, I wanted to get my hands on this one, too.

The Medieval Kitchen was the belated book my friends bought for me. It’s such a beautiful book, thanks to full-color prints of medieval paintings and tapestries and Hannele Klemettilä’s excellent writing on the topic of food in northern Europe during the medieval ages. It was not porridge, rotting meat, and overcooked stews. It was an array of flavorful dishes made with a variety of spices from across Europe, Asia, and Africa. There are more than sixty recipes included, so I’ll be trying many of them throughout the year (as will S, who is the foodie who ordered it for me).

Mina was pretty happy with her Christmas haul, too. I got her a big bag of her favorite treats, and Grandma and Grandpa got her a catnip-filled cricket toy that chirps when she bats it around. I have no doubts that one of these nights, I’ll be awakened by the shrill chirping of a toy cricket…

9 thoughts on “Holiday Book Haul

  1. That’s a great haul you got considering you got 3 Hilary Mantel books in it.
    I tried my best to stay away from B&N during that sale, but it didn’t work. What saved me from getting books were the long lines.

  2. The lines weren’t too bad when I got there a little later in the day, and they got through things pretty quickly. I’m definitely excited about the Mantel books, but I’m going to savor them and not down them all in one go.

  3. A couple years back I did a reread of Around the World in 80 Days and really enjoyed it once again. And I enjoyed Snow Crash not that many years ago. It’s a classic but I was very late getting to it. In some ways it’s age showed but in others it was still very enjoyable.

    I was surprised to see The Throne of the Five Winds in the 2nd stack. I don’t see many folks with that one, but I absolutely loved it. It sometimes felt closer to historical fantasy set in an alternate world with similar cultures, than it did a classic epic fantasy, very heavy on the court politics which I typically don’t enjoy, but somehow this one covered all the bases for me. I also loved the 2nd book, which follows a very similar structure to this one, and I have the 3rd book waiting on my shelf. I’m hoping to get to it after I get through a small stack of other physical books.

    I’m glad you were able to have those get togethers despite all the issues. And I hope you enjoy all these books, lots of great looking ones to look forward to.

  4. I haven’t read any of Jules Verne’s books, so I’m looking forward to 80 Days– especially since I watched the PBS show based on it early in 2022. It starred David Tennant, and it was a lot of fun.

    I haven’t seen many people talk about The Throne of the Five Winds either, but I’m looking forward to it. The premise in intriguing, and the fact that you enjoyed it so much makes me want to get to it even sooner.

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