books · bookshelves · bookshops


Two weeks ago, while running some errands, I stopped by the bookshop. I thought it would be a short visit since my only intention was to return a collection of Turgenev’s stories that I borrowed more than two months ago. Last time I was there, their used book stock was disappointingly thin. The category ”used books” no longer existed on their web page so I feared that they were planning to cut them out completely.

What a pleasant surprise it was to see the shelves full! Naturally, I had to stay and check what was on offer. I found quite a number of wonderful titles, among them Durrell’s

I found quite a number of wonderful titles, among them Durrell’s Menagerie Manor (for a ridiculously low price) and The Shipping News.

  • Look at Me. Anita Brookner

When books are cheap, I tend to grab any available title by an author of interest. Particularly when a twentieth-century British woman writer (that I am yet to discover) is in question.

  • The Bell. Iris Murdoch
  • The Philosopher’s Pupil. Iris Murdoch

I have only read (and loved) the first couple of pages of The Sea, the Sea, but I have read a lot about her writings during my final year at the university. It’s the philosophy of morality that attracted me to her. Looking forward to exploring!

  • Menagerie Manor. Gerald Durrell

The best kind of comfort read – British humor and animals!

  • A Peppered Moth. Margaret Drabble

After reading four of her books I can say I have mixed feelings towards Drabble. If I’m honest, the feelings are slightly leaning on the negative side… Still, my hand automatically reached for this book and I concurred with it.

  • The Shipping News. Annie Proulx

I have read it some time ago, but certain images of the sea come back to me fairly often. I always knew I would like to reread it so here it is…

And at last!!… My first Virago Modern Classic! I felt such a rush of excitement upon spotting the green spine that it did not matter which author or which title it was. I am content with it being Stead’s The Salzburg Tales mainly because she is Australian – having it near will be a reason more to build up my laughable knowledge of the literature of that country.

When books are cheap, I tend to grab any available title by a publisher of interest… Well, in any case, this is certainly true of Virago. I found a collection of stories, Close Company: Stories of Mothers and Daughters, and decided it’s coming with me.

The next day, my sister invited me to a birthday shopping spree and, after purchasing a dress and some flowers for the balcony, we ended up at the Here I lost all my restraint and bought all the books I saw (and put on hold) the previous day.

  • Her People: Memories of an Edwardian Childhood. Kathleen Dayus

Another Virago… The subtitle offers all the explanation needed.

  • Eminent Victorians. Lytton Strachey
  • Orlando. Virginia Woolf
  • The Life of Samuel Johnson. James Boswell

These three books share a connection. I wrote my master thesis on Orlando following my interest in Woolf’s understanding of the art of biography. The Life of Samuel Johnson was the book which she praised and held in high regard, so it was essential to read it as part of the research. Eminent Victorians I haven’t read but always wanted to since it occupies a significant place in the history of biography as well.

  • Master Georgie. Beryl Bainbridge

This one came as a surprise since I did not notice it the day before. Bainbridge belongs to a group of writers I am looking forward to getting acquainted with. I read Master Georgie is brilliant.

  • Lorna Doone. R.D. Blackmore

It’s a classic I knew nothing about. The name was faintly familiar, but nothing else. The time will come to change that.

  • The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien

I haven’t read it in the original language. Soon, I hope…

  • The Angel’s Game. Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The second book of the serial I am eager to dig into. Now I only have to get the other three!

Last but not least, A Gardener’s Guide to Herbs. I dwelled for a long time whether to buy this one or not since information on any possible herb is readily available on the internet at any given hour. However, I prefer having them in a form of a book and so the preference sealed the deal. Great photos, short instructions on sowing, caring for and harvesting 60 herbs; the book also states some culinary, medicinal, cosmetical and fragrance use of these herbs. There are some craft ideas as well. Wonderful!

And that was it…

book fairs · books · bookshelves

A Book Fair and Presents from Far Away

April’s Sarajevo Book Fair was as uninspiring as the previous one. Usually, I visit it on the first day, with Joanna – it’s been our tradition for the past eleven years. This year, however, she had better things to do, and I went, feeling no excitement, two days before closing day with another friend of mine.

I had a faint hope of finding some of the Aitmatov’s novels, and I actually did found one, The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years, but it was so ridiculously expensive that even dwelling on whether or not to buy it was out of the question. Here’s what I ended up buying/getting:

  • Satantango. Laszlo Krasznahorkai
  • The Ice Palace. Tarjei Vesaas
  • Dani u Valhali. (The Days in Valhalla) Refik Ličina
  • The Puppet Master. Jostein Gaarder
  • The Golovlyov Family. Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin
  • Tužne šansone. (The Sad Chansons) Dušan Gojkov

Last year I bought Vesaas’ The Birds and was thrilled to learn that Dereta was planning to publish The Ice Palace as well. I’ve been searching for this book for ages! It finally came out and of course, I had to have it. Satantango was another book of theirs that drew my attention. Kraszahorkai’s has been on my reading list for years, so this was an easy choice. (I love Dereta’s covers – very simple, minimalistic, still very beautiful and effective.)

Digging through a bunch of red ”Reč i misao” (A Word and a Thought) books, I stumbled upon The Golovlyov Family. Karen opened my eyes to Saltykov-Shchedrin’s work when she wrote about The History of a Town. I looked up the existing translations to Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian and learned that there are seven books in existence (which is not a wonder at all). I made a note to myself to pay closer attention when browsing old, used book boxes and shelves. It paid off. I am happily looking forward to reading it.

Gaarder’s latest novel was an early birthday gift from a friend and another book I know I will enjoy reading. (Even though I have a hunch it will not be in the league of his earlier novels.)

Not sure why I bought Dani u Valhalli. It’s a kind of a fictionalized memoir about the author’s life in exile (in Sweden)… While I was checking a box with used books in English, at the same stall, the vendor asked if he could give me a gift, picked Tužne šansone and gave it to me for ”being pretty”. He also had Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Maugham’s stories (very cheap, forgot the title), but I had no cash left, and when I came back the next day both titles were gone. Just my luck. I still can’t get over them, especially Aristophanes…

So, in the end, it should be said that I am relatively satisfied with what I managed to get out of the Fair.

Next, I need to record the books sent by a dear friend in Malaysia. They have given (and continue to give) me so much pleasure. Just the sight of them is spirit-lifting.

A Nature Journal. Richard Mabey (Pure joy! Gorgeously illustrated by Clare Roberts. After reading it, I felt even more inspired to continue observing life in my small corner of the Earth.)

A Buzz in the Meadow. Dave Goulson (Another delightful title! I’m still reading it. Goulson knows how to tell a story.)

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly. Sun-mi Hwang (A short and sweet novel about a hen who took things in her own.. wings.)

Pennine Way Companion. Alfred Wainwright (I love the visual aspect of this book – lots of beautiful illustrations and the font resembles handwriting. If I ever set my foot on the England’s first continuous long-distance path for walkers, it will come very handy.)

So, that was April. On to write about the May book haul…

books · bookshelves

New Kids On the Block

I find it difficult to come back to the blog every time a harsh break in writing happens. It’s even harder this time because I haven’t read a single book for almost five weeks now. I feel completely disconnected. Indifferent. The thought of abandoning this space doesn’t disturb me at all.

Current feelings aside (for they shouldn’t be acted upon), in order to make the comeback easier, I am just going to note this year’s purchases. All of the books were bought at, the delightful, recently found bookshop, and all of them were written by the authors I’ve never read before.

A bunch of joy that awaits me:


  • The Light Years. Elizabeth Jane Howard
  • Prodigal Summer. Barbara Kingsolver
  • Lucia in London. E.F. Benson
  • Playing Sardines. Michèle Roberts
  • Juggling. Barbara Trapido





  • The Awakening. Kate Chopin
  • Undue Influence. Anita Brookner
  • Time and Tide. Edna O’Brien
  • The Conversations at Curlow Creek. David Malouf
  • Singular Rebellion. Saiichi Maruya




bookshelves · bookshops!

A new bookstore opened last year in April… I just found out about it two weeks ago! How I managed to stay ignorant for a year and a half is astonishing.

Needless to say, I had to pay a visit to the store as soon as was possible. (The minute I got back home I started writing to my sisters and friends, spreading the word of the thrilling discovery, singing praises at the top of my lungs. It turned out one of them knew about the shop all along. Somewhat disheartening.)

img_20161123_133550Anyway, as it happened, I did not go alone but with a friend (who knew nothing of the new bookstore). We stayed there for more than an hour and left excited and tremendously happy.

The bookstore is very pretty in its simplicity and the staff is particularly friendly and welcoming. Stepping in we found ourselves amongst the books written in/translated to Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian – fiction, poetry, essays, reference books… img_20161123_122735

I admit I moved on to the next room very quickly because I knew they had books in English. At the center of the room stood a large table with dozens of Wordsworths , then I caught the gaze of small black Penguins. Wonderful!

I was trying to decide whether to immediately purchase Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and some of Conrad’s sea stories or novels when I saw something I could not ignore (which left this second section quite underexplored).

Used books, in English! The most pleasant surprise. I don’t think any of the bookstores in Sarajevo has them. What a marvelous idea! img_20161123_122553

The area is pretty large, with taburets and tables in the middle, as well as a tiny cafe corner right beside the window. There’s a coffee machine, and one is welcome to have a cup, take a book and read for as long as one wishes to. One can even borrow a book! It’s here we stayed the longest.

img_20161123_122608One of the shelves contains a delightful variety of non-fiction. From Sheep for Beginners to The Poser’s Guide, Attracting and Feeding Garden Birds to Tea Rooms of Britain, The GI Plan: Lose Weight Forever to The Loo Companion – Are You Sitting Comfortably; we had such a fun browsing through these titles.

Other shelves hold mostly romance and detective novels, but one can find some great things there as well. I came across my first Virago – The Virago Book of Women Gardeners! Then two more appeared – Angela Thirkell and Michele Roberts. By this point, I was ecstatic – not just because I found Viragos in Sarajevo, but because this allows me to hope, on a solid enough ground, that there could be more of these in time to come…

I brought home six new books:

  • img_20161124_090610A Year in Provance. Peter Mayle – I’m not usually drawn to places that bask in the sun but Provance and Tuscany are enchanting.
  • Making The World Legible. Edited by Julian Evans, it contains extracts from 36 books that Writers in Translation Programme has supported since its inception.
  • High Rising. Angela Thirkell. Not my favorite of her works, still I couldn’t resist having it.
  • Fair Exchange. Michèle Roberts. Never heard of her, I’m afraid, but since the novel tells about Mary Wollstonecraft and William Wordsworth I decided to take it with me.
  • The Virago Book of Women Gardeners. edited by Deborah Kellaway. This one is self-explanatory.
book fairs · bookshelves

Shelf News. September and October Arrivals

img_20161122_124959aLate September saw the end of one of my favorite places in town when it comes to books – the second-hand market near Konzum Family Center.

It’s not completely gone but moved to a different location… It could be argued that the new location is just 600 meters away from the old one, but the damage is considerable nevertheless. Of the four book stalls that existed only one is left standing. Yes, it is the one I used to visit most frequently, but it is not even close to what it used to be.

The stall is now significantly smaller and, consequently, holds fewer books. Over a thousand of dusty old volumes (that were my main interest), as well as several dozen books in English, have been put away in a storehouse somewhere. There’s just no room for them…

img_20161122_130605It was pure luck that I paid a visit to the market just weeks before the said disaster happened, that I managed to finally get my hands on much praised Colette. There were only two Claudine novels,

  • Claudine at School and
  • Claudine is Leaving (Claudine and Annie)

which means I still have to hunt down the other two titles. Fingers crossed.


  • I also bought her The Vagabond,
  • Francoise Sagan’s A Certain Smile,
  • Karel Čapek’s short story collection The Blue Chrysanthemum,
  • Practicalities by Marguerite Duras,
  • Shaw’s Man and Superman, and
  • Sharks and Little Fish by Wolfgang Ott.




Finding Aeschylus’ tragedies – all of the surviving plays in one old volume – was a sheer delight. The book is almost a century old (published in Zagreb, in 1918) and still uncut. Nobody has ever read it! Unbelievable! Sad, too.

The backbone is nonexistent, the pages are starting to fall apart, which means I will have to rebind it.


Ever since I first heard about Belgrade’s book fair I’ve been wanting to visit it. Somehow the opportunity never arose; bad timing, poor funds, no one willing or able to accompany me were the reasons that kept me away all these years (more than a decade, come to think of it!). This October however, the stars lined up just right. All the pieces of the puzzle came perfectly together.

img_20161122_130225I traveled with Johanna and her colleagues from the library and we spent the whole day browsing. Oh, the scope of it! It’s ten times larger than Sarajevo’s fair, with a much better offer and much more variety. We didn’t even manage to see everything. Still, it was a wonderful day.

I stumbled upon two of the Proust’s books at a flea market sometime in mid-September. Buying parts of a series separately is a risky business, but I decided to purchase them, hoping to eventually get my hands on the rest of it. Luck served me, and I found other nine titles at the Belgrade’s fair! Now there’s only the first one missing.

img_20161127_093535One of the most thrilling moments was spotting a wide stall that held Wordsworth Classics. I have a soft spot for these editions. It took me a good half an hour to decide which of them to bring back to Sarajevo. In the end, I opted for a number of Woolf’s novels and Ulysses.


I also found:

  • The Origin of Species, for a very nice price,
  • Queneau’s Exercises in Style, and
  • Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table.

Belgrade, I will be back.

books · bookshelves

A slight growth of my library

Finally I have time enough to properly note down the books I acquired the previous month. On two occasions, while working on a particularly long and exhausting project, I took a refuge in a quiet walk and a book-browse. Twenty one new friend is the outcome.


  • Spotted Dog Running On Seashore/Cranes Fly Early. Chinghiz Aitmatov
  • The House of Insects. Ottó Tolnai
  • Season of Migration to the North. Tayeb Salih
  • Reeds and Mud. Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
  • The Ant Heap. Margit Kaffka
  • War with the Newts. Karel Čapek



Aitmatov is a recently discovered treasure trove. After it has been sitting on a shelf for who knows how long, I read Jamilia and was awe-stricken. Mesmerized by his writing, by Kyrgyzstan he describes, I proceeded to read the other two novellas in the collection I own (The First Teacher and The Red Scarf). Then I found an English translation of Spotted Dog Running On Seashore which just cemented my decision to seek out every book he ever wrote. My happiness was even greater when I learned that almost all of them were translated to Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian. Stumbling on Spotted Dog Running On Seashore and Cranes Fly Early was a bliss!

Tolnai I knew as a poet. Leafing through The House of Insects one could not fail to notice that it is an experimental novel, which got me interested. Seeing it contains an afterword titled A Novel as a Spiderweb I had no choice but to take it home.

Salih and Ibáñez I have never read. The afterwords (these books were published back in the days when there were no blurbs on the back covers) sounded interesting, so I put them in a bag. Back home I discovered I actually had Season of Migration to the North on my reading list. Great!

The Ant Heap was a pleasant surprise. I have read somewhere (on a blog, probably) about Margit Kaffka, but never read anything she wrote. Now that I have it near, I will not wait long to pick it up.

Čapek. I have been eyeing War with the Newts for nearly six months, and this time I decided to take it. Knowing his wit and humor, it can hardly be anything but wonderful.


14030861_1791709467755394_1099207303_n (1)

  • The Elements of Style. William Strunk Jr. and E.B White
  • Bambi. Felix Salten
  • The Voices of Marrakesh. Elias Canetti
  • Barabbas/The Sibyl/The Death of Ahasuerus. Pär Lagerkvist
  • The Loss of El Dorado. V.S. Naipaul



The Elements of Style and Bambi were found on a yard sale, hilariously cheap. Again, I haven’t read anything by E.B. White, but I knew something about his books which is why I was interested in finding out what he had to say about style. Bambi I bought mainly because it’s a classic. Maybe I shouldn’t have – I don’t know if I will ever read it again.

A trip to Marrakesh sounded particularly inviting, even more so when the one in charge was Elias Canetti. Looking forward to this one!

Pär Lagerkvist.. I cannot remember how long it has been since I read his novels, but I remember I read them eagerly – each and every single one that city library had.. Good to have my own copies – I will definitely be getting back to them at a certain point.

Spotted and immediately grabbed Naipaul. Another interesting trip to take!



  • Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen
  • The Lost Shore. Anna Langfus
  • Tears of the Giraffe. Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Carson McCullers



I do own it in translation, but since I can understand the original perfectly well and since it’s one of my favorite novels I had to have Sense and Sensibility in English!

Again, one of the books I found intriguing upon reading the blurb – The Lost Shore by Anna Langfus. Never heard of her before. Very interested to see what’s between the covers.

I am not sure why I bought Tears of the Giraffe. I suppose I intended it for those stressful, working days that call for an urgent escape in the form of ”light reading”. Another one from a yard sale, very cheap. As well as The Wind in the Willows – beloved children’s classic that I haven’t read yet. Time to do so.

Ever since I read it couple of years ago, I’ve been looking for a copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – amazing piece of literature that I have been telling about to anyone who was willing to listen. It’s translation, and the decision was to stop buying books translated from English, but…



  • Collected Short Stories. E.M. Forster
  • The Grandmother. Božena Němcová
  • Villette. Charlotte Brontë
  • Patterns of Childhood. Christa Wolf




The blurb seemed interesting, so I took Forster’s Collected Short Stories home. I am not sure why I’ve never read anything by Forster. I suspect something that Virginia Woolf wrote in one of her essays kept me away.

Božena Němcová I know only by name. Time to find out more, I think.

It’s funny with Villette – every time I am on a fair or at the book market or in a bookshop I can never remember whether I have it or not, so I never buy it. Couple of weeks ago I stood in front of my British literature shelf, internalizing the fact that there was no Villette on it. It worked. I knew I would find it at the market and here it is now, all mine.

Funny thing with Wolf as well – even though I read only Medea (of which I don’t remember a thing) I feel a strange compulsion to accumulate her books. Patterns of Childhood now gets to join its sisters Medea, Cassandra, No Place on Earth and Divided Heaven on a German shelf.

books · bookshelves

Check In

Summer is difficult. The heat is unbearable, it melts my body and numbs my mind. I rarely go out during the day. If there are some errands or some work to be done outside the house I strive to get it all finished by ten or eleven in the morning, to get back inside before the sun is at its height.

Some weeks ago, however, encouraged by gathering clouds, I set myself on a way to a used book market.

I came home with three books and immediately started reading one of them because it was thin, had a cat and a tree on the cover and an interesting title – it was Naipaul’s Mr Stone and the Knights Companion. A couple of days later I was back at the marketsecuring all the other Naipaul titles I’ve seen at a particular stall for my own shelves.

13624830_1771661396426868_1329191919_nHere are four of them, being very pretty.

  • A Bend In the River
  • In a Free State
  • Guerrillas
  • Mr Stone and the Knights Companion



13595967_1771661339760207_1716577471_nAlso here’s one that’s not as pretty:

  • The Mystic Masseur

I am eager to read them all and would also like to get my hands on some of his travel books.

Which just reminded me of Christoph Ransmayr’s Atlas of an Anxious Man and its promotion that happened last June. Stories he read that evening were mesmerizing, lyrical – it was travel writing such as I’ve never read before. A must have!


Back to my new books… I also got:

  • 13599476_1771683539757987_711023497_nThe Tale of Genji. Murasaki Shikibu
  • Breathing Lessons. Anne Tyler
  • The Gentlemen of Verona/The Merry Wives of Windsor/Measure For Measure. William Shakespeare
  • Put Out More Flags. Evelyn Waugh
  • Virgin Soil Upturned. Mikhail Sholokhov
  • Konji pa jahači. (Horses Than Horsemen) Nenad Ešpek
  • Correspondence (1948-1957). Ariadna Efron, Boris Pasternak
  • The Case of Sargeant Grischa. Arnold Zweig


The Tale of Genji was a delightful find. It’s truly amazing to think how diverse and magnificent the publishing was in late Yugoslavia. Amazing.

Anne Tyler I bought because of many good things I’ve read about her writing.

Shakespeare, naturally…

Waugh I haven’t read yet, but I’ve seen Brideshead Revisited (1981) and I feel certain that he is one of the authors whose style and wit I will appreciate. (One could discuss the author’s persona vs. his literature – just as Naipaul’s, really – but one won’t.)

Sholokhov I haven’t read either but I thought I shouldn’t miss getting these tomes so cheap (the price of each of these thirteen books was 1BAM, which equals 55 cents/45p); besides, I know he is great.

Next, another short story collection by Nenad Ešpek – I thought his Sea of Silence pretty good, so taking this one home with me was a proper thing to do.

13618143_1771661399760201_1799471366_n13625352_1771661406426867_1607123607_nBy far the favorite book of this haul is a collection of letters that Ariadna Efron and Boris Pasternak wrote to each other. Wonderful. I will have to write about it soon.

And the last one, The Case of Sargeant Grischa – First and Second World War themed literature is something that I am getting more interested in as years go by. And the cover was too beautiful to be left lying in that dusty box.