Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend of the Bookworms

Been a while since the firstborn and I spent time together, him being busy with work, as always. The still single (aduhai!) news editor shares my reading habit and can be counted upon to recommend good reads.

Naj's a quiet, laidback homebody who has comics (Calvin & Hobbes is a staple) for breakfast and fiction & fantasy for lunch. He also keeps giant-sized Transformer toys and makes mean pasta dishes.

So when he called to ask if I would like to go shopping for cut-price books at this particular outlet called BookXcess in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya, over the weekend, I jumped at the idea.   

Since my forays into book shopping had not, thus far, extended beyond One Utama's MPH and The Curve's Borders where book prices were standard and steep, I was excited at the idea of finding decently-priced, brand new books. 

Claustrophobic me usually stay away from high traffic shopping areas, and Amcorp Mall is definitely one such place come weekends. This is especially so because of its extensive, multi-floor flea market which, I must admit, is a treasure trove worthy of return visits.

Sunday at Amcorp Mall has often been described as 'geek's fantasy', with lots of great deals on comics, toys and other random collectibles.

Here one can find LPs, old china and brassware, krises and other weaponry, pictures, posters and photographs, gadgets of yesteryears (turntables come to mind), an assortment of numismatic and philatelic items, and many more.

I spotted a couple of absolutely charming miniature Wedgewood plates depicting the rustic English countryside, which somehow reminds me of Constable, and cute cookie tins with 'windmill' and 'red rooster' themes, but they just have to wait till the next visit.

Much to my relief and delight, shopping was a breeze since the Chinese New Year balik kampung exodus had already begun, thus the crowd wasn't big enough to intimidate.

In all, we bought eight books totalling slightly over RM150 from BookXcess. Averaging less than RM20 per book, that's very decent indeed. Here's my personal haul of four, which should last the month: 

Corduroy Mansions (Alexander McCall Smith), Woe Is I - The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English In Plain English (Patricia T. O'Connor), Friendly Fire (Alaa Al Aswany) and Every Living Thing (James Herriot).

I have not been able to say 'no' to Alexander McCall Smith since his irresistible The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, with Precious Ramotswe, touted Botswana's only (and finest) female private detective, hit the scene over a decade ago. 

Corduroy Mansions has been described by Daily Express as 'quirky and original' and I can't wait to plunge into it. Choice morsels:

Welcome to Corduroy Mansions in Pimlico; comfortable and genteelly weathered, it is home to a delightfully eccentric cast of Londoners.

At the top lives William, with a faithful ex-vegetarian dog named Freddie de la Hay, and an indolent son who he hopes will soon fly the nest. Four young women share the first-floor flat, including twinset-and-pearls Caroline, and Dee, vitamin addict and avid subscriber to Anti-Oxidant News.

And round the corner resides Oedipus Snark MP, possibly the world's only loathsome Lib Dem, who has succeeded in offending everyone he knows, and many others besides. But what dark revenge is being plotted by his mother, Berthea Snark, and his girlfriend, Barbara Ragg....?

Woe Is I is a book only pedants will love, I think, and I'm saying this in a positive way. The book has been described as a humour-lightened guide to better English and I can't agree more.

With contents like Comma Sutra: The Joy of Punctuation, Death Sentence: Do Cliches Deserve to Die? Yours Truly: The Possessives and the Possessed, and The Compleat Dangler: A Fish out of Water, how can I not agree, ever? 

Friendly Fire is a collection of short stories by Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswany, the internationally bestselling author of The Yacoubian Building and Chicago.

I discovered Yacoubian Building two years ago and was immediately smitten by Aswany's moving portrayals of ordinary folks living in the rundown tenement building, and has been a fan ever since.

His background too intrigued me; medically-trained Aswany is a journalist who writes a controversial opposition column, but makes his living as a dentist in Cairo.

But it was the last book in yesterday's pile, Every Living Thing by James Herriot, that truly, truly made my day, all because I had been looking for this title for quite a while to complete my Herriot collection.

James Herriot, pseudonym for English veterinary surgeon and writer, James Alfred Wight (1916-1995), brought to life the world of country vet practice with his humorous, often amusing accounts of his experiences with the taciturn, gruff farmers of Yorkshire.  

Holding a Herriot in my hand brings me back to my teen years when I was first introduced to his work through All Creatures Great And Small.

Over the years, I had immersed myself in All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful and The Lord God Made Them All (besides his other works, that is). And now, finally, the fifth and final instalment to the series!

Boy, it takes so little to make me happy. This must be one of the cheapest I had ever paid for thrill and contentment, all RM19.90 of it...


Cat-from-Sydney said...

Wonderful Mom and son weekend activity. What did we cleaning, bbq some prawns n octopus....What if we exchange some books? purrr...meow!

Kama At-Tarawis said...

cat - deal! bring 'em over.. :-)

Frau J said...

I've heard great things about BookXcess but never got the chance to shop there! Hubby is not a reader, I even have to tell him about what I read in papers because he doesn't read at all. Can't afford to shop for books at usual bookstores so I download most of my reading materials from the net =(

I did splurge on books during the Big Bad Wolf sale though, sampai berminggu minggu senyum sampai telinga!

ninotaziz said...

Oh dear...I need to go to Amcorp Mall.

Here one can find LPs, old china and brassware, krises and other weaponry, pictures, posters and photographs, gadgets of yesteryears (turntables come to mind), an assortment of numismatic and philatelic items, and many more.

and books!

Sounds like a heavenly place....

Brown-eyed Girl said...

Thanks for the recommendation, kak. I'll definitely check out Amcorp Mall the next time I'm in KL.
Agree with you on Alaa al Aswany. Yacoubian Building is a must-read to bookworms out there. They made a movie out of it, recently aired on ART channel, Adel Imam was Zaki Pasha.
Do check out Ahdaf Soueif & Naguib Mahfouz's work, kak..

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Frau J - that makes two of us; my husband isn't much of a reader either. he only reads at bedtime, a couple of pages at a time, to help lull him to sleep. i missed out on the BBW sale, and am regretting it. hopefully, they'll organise another this year.

Ninot - go, girl go! you won't regret it... books as cheap as RM10 and all those fancy hardcover ones at around RM50 (twice as much elsewhere). and the flea market... you'll go crazy!

BeG - is the movie any good? the book is simply superb. and thanks for the recommendation; i'm definitely going to check out these two authors' work..

naniasda said...

Kak Puteri,
My daughter who's office is just opposite Amcorp Mall never mentioned BookXcess to me knowing i'm a bookworm! It will of course be on my agenda the next time I'm in KL :)

Al-Manar said...

I must get one of my kids to buy me that 'Woe Is I'. It sounds very fascinating to me, living in this backwater wondering 'who am I' or 'I am who'.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Nani - hantaq dia mai sini, i nak cubit sikit pasai tak peka kat her mom's interest.. hehehehe

Dia tak naik sampai 2nd (ker 3rd? lupa dah) floor kot, dok melilai kat ground jer. that bookstore besar, i think two shoplots combined. give me a tinkle la when you're in town, we'll go togeder2..

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Pakcik Al-Manar... hehehehe, you can be funny at times... :-))

naniasda said...

That's a good proposition kak puteri going togeder2 with u shopping for books, will keep tht in mind :))

Iskandar aka DR Bubbles said...

Saya pun peminat James Herriot. Habis belajar di UK dahulu, saya bawa balik kitab tebal collection of JH stories and a small book of JH's on cats alone. Kalau Kak Puteri nak buku tu, saya mahu jual 1000 pound. Hehehe!

Kama At-Tarawis said...

LOL Is... pandainya you berniaga...:-) Seriously though, kalaulah i ni masa sekolah dulu pandai the sciences, entah2 dah jadi vet. malangnya my strength cuma di biology, bab chemistry & physics tertonggeng..

Anonymous said...


You should have known it sooner. That's where I buy my books. Never bought at MPH, Borders, Times or Kinokuniya despite having their cards.Only go when there's warehouse sale.
I go to their Big Bad Wolf sale every year. It's to-die for. The recent sale I bought RM250 worth of books at RM5.
Looks like the whole year I will be burying my nose in the books.
They have all the latest fictions at a very afffordable price.
That's where the family go every other week-end. We like the bazaar too where we can buy old records and knick-knacks.
There's great cheese-cakes at the deli (I forgot the name now) there. Try it.
P.S. Your son is so handsome. And an Editor at a very young age. I am impressed.

Another P.S. I wonder whether you know there was a Big Book shop at Atria which holds sales often. But they have since closed down. I missed it so much.


Kama At-Tarawis said...

HS - cant wait for the next BBW sale.. :-)) as for my boy, he's already in his 30s lor, thus the 'aduhai'..

ninotaziz said...

Dear Helter Skelter,
I miss that Big Book Shop at Atria as well. I took my daughters and their friends there and browsed for hours!

Kak Puteri
I enjoyed The Glass Palace and My Father's Notebook over CNY holidays. How satisfying eventhough they were really old books. Never got to reading them when I first bought them years ago!

edelweiss said...

Kak Puteri...

I suka Book Xcess cheap cheap...and dah jadik member pun hehehh.

Kama At-Tarawis said...

Ninot - i hv not read the glass palace.. sat lagi nak google tengok if it is of any good.. :-)

Edel - my son has been going there regularly tapi baru that day (masa shopping dengan his mom) dia register jadi member.. saya sendiri belum.. maybe the next trip i shall.. seronok juga kalau makcik2 bloggers yg suka beli buku tu get together kat amcorp mall one day, pi makan2 and then beransur ke bookxcess.. hehehe

Anonymous said...

Your son is cute and not taken... hmm is he looking? Does he fancy surgeons?

Kama At-Tarawis said...

anon - he's not taken and i've been pestering him to start looking.. dah 36 dah, adik dia pun dah kawin.. bab what kind of m'selle dia fancy saya tak tau..hehehe .. tu kena tanya dia sendiri.. :-))

edelweiss said...

kak puteri...SETUJU 100%.

next makcik blogger aktiviti - books books books then makan-2 di amcorp ehehheheh

Anonymous said...

Salam Kama
I am an almost avid reader of your blog ('almost' because most times I plunk into bed right after work that leaves me with no time to 'prowl' the webspace) and often it makes me laugh - I'm training to be a surgeon and searching for my soulmate seems impossible in any medium .And I doubt this is the way forward for the Malays - it doesn't help that Im far away in England too... I do not want to imply that my biological clock is ticking loud and clear, but like my late mom used to say, "..jodoh takkan ke mana' but she misjudged the fact that " jodoh takkan ke mana " if its already in your hands - what if it never appears? How can it go away when it wasn't there in the first place...sigh.
Do continue to provide me with this welcomed respite of wonderful thoughts and words, I simply adore your stylish ways of putting words into pictures - without even knowing it...believe me you, when you are alone in gloom and cold every word becomes imaginary pictures and yours take my mood swings away!

Kama At-Tarawis said...

anon - dont you worry yr pretty head over trivial matters, biological clock notwithstanding. if it's meant to be, it will be.. i think you're doing fine.. :-).. and tq for the kind words, for they'll serve as an inspiration to write more..