An Arcadian Idyll by Georges Auguste Elie Laverne (1863-1942). An arcadian idyll with Pan playing pipes and nymphs reclining. The triptych was found on wooden panelling in an apartment in Paris built in 1895.

Ancient words of the day: Arcadian Idyll

Arcadian Idyll: an idealised vision about rural life, a country paradise. Arcadia was and still is, a mountainous region in Greece. It was populated mainly by shepherds and the sleepy and fluffy flocks of sheep. In reality, rural life in Arcadia was harsh, poor and beholden to the ravages of unpredictable weather.    Arcadian Idyll…

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Book Review: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan

Book Review: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan

Book Review: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan There have been a swathe of books lately on how to overcome shyness. This one is my favourite. This memoir recounts the adventures of Quiet American, Jessica Pan as she undertakes a year of living as an extrovert in London. It’s a…

Book Review: The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson

Book Review: The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings takes its cue from medieval bestiaries. Author and playful intellectual Caspar Henderson sets out to write a modern compendium of beasts, and show, in the process, that truth is a lot weirder than fiction. Forget about dragons, cyclops and faeries, the world of extant species such as the thorny devil, nautilus and puffer fish are enough to inspire wonder.

Book Review: Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

The author of the award-winning historical mystery novel The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Kate Summerscale is back with another novel,this time based on a real life infamous divorce court case of 1858. The first registered divorce in English history. Back in the era when divorce was well and truly a dirty word. The chief exhibit…

Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness by Mark Rowlands

Book Review: The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness by Mark Rowlands

Every person who loves animals will enjoy this book. Humans are drawn to the silence of animals, the way they physically express their personality through movement and body language, rather than words. The way that they intuit us so deeply and feel what we feel so keenly. The mystical and invisible velvet rope that connects us to animals is sacred to many people.

Book Review: The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven

Book Review: The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven

This is the ultimate Arctic voyage novel, based on real events. The 1913 Canadian voyage on the Karluk was the worst planned arctic mission in history. The captain declared the boat unsuitable on seeing it and the crew consisted of a rag-tag bunch of wannabes with no experience in Arctic weather. The scientists on the voyage had never stepped out of a classroom.

Book Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Japan Observations and Provocations by Pico Iyer

Book Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Japan Observations and Provocations by Pico Iyer

Time magazine journalist and author Pico Iyer has lived in Nara (land of the rabid deer) in Japan for the past 30 years. In this book, Iyer follows his instincts to uncover the depths of the Japanese psyche, Japanese soul and character. This is fascinating to me because I am (in case you didn’t know)…

Got enough books? What a stupid question!

Ancient word of the day: Tsundoku

The Japanese word, “Tsundoku", which literally means "reading pile", dates back all the way to the Meiji era (1868-1912). It's a unique word for which there is no English equivalent. If you're an avid reader though, you will well understand that feeling...it's pure happiness, the feeling of knowing that you have many more books ready…

Ryoan-Ji zen garden in Arashiyama, Kyoto. Content Catnip 2018 www.contentcatnip.com

Jisei: Haunting Japanese death poems from history

Japan has a long history of jisei, or death poems. Jisei is the “farewell poem to life.” These poems were written by literate people, often monks, royalty or courtiers just before their death.  A Jisei from Prince Otsu in 686 BC is one of the earliest recorded death poems. Not all death poems are written…

Every picture tells a story: The library made of gigantic books

The book blogger confessions tag

I saw this tag at the wonderful book blog by Diana Ideas on Papyrus.  I simply had to do this book tagging exercise, even though this apparently happened AGES ago. Still, it's a very cool and fun idea. So here are some books that have imprinted themselves onto my soul. Please share the love and do…

Ancient Word of the Day: Whelm

Ancient Word of the Day: Whelm

Whelm originates from Old English and it means to overturn or capsize a hollow vessel (a boat, a heart); to bury by wave, flood, storm, avalanche. The etymology is from the Old English hwelfan, to 'upheave'. This explains the modern use of "overwhelmed" and "underwhelmed". No voice divine the storm allay'd, No light propitious shone;…

Book Review – Word to the Wise by Mark Broatch

Book Review – Word to the Wise by Mark Broatch

Although I am an experienced writer, sometimes I get it wrong, either through laziness, tiredness or ignorance. The first two are under my control which is why I tend to circle back the day after I write, to re-edit professional work before I send it out. I’m the first to admit that I make mistakes.…

Book Review – Men without women by Haruki Murakami

Book Review – Men without women by Haruki Murakami

* Contains no plot spoilers Short fiction can be a fickle thing and sometimes difficult to love with some not so polished or ridiculous moments. Yet Murakami’s short fiction is an exception.  He can weave magic better than anyone about the intricacies of human relationships, the vagaries and oddities of the human heart and dark…

Historic Jukebox: Henry David Thoreau & Fleet Foxes http://wp.me/p41CQf-9V

Thirty great medieval epithets for people and beasts

Why do we say a gaggle of geese, a flock of sheep, a pride of lions or a swarm of bees? Well it harks back to medieval times when sportsmen grouped together collectives of beasties to refer to them in movement or attributing a quality to them - presumably while the poor creatures ran away…

Travel: Walks along the Water of Leith, Edinburgh

Ambient Album Review: Place Language by Various Artists @RobGMacfarlane

Sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy this one. It's a compilation album inspired by the themes and evocative words in celebrated nature writer Robert MacFarlane's book Landmarks. The book focuses on showcasing poetic landscape words, gathered from the dialects of Britain and Ireland. Ambient Album Review: Place Language by Various Artists The…

Adventures on the Isle of Skye

Franz Kafka on reading books

A book must be the axe to crack open the frozen sea within us. We need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves. We need books like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. Five Creepy Islands in…