Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 22, 2009

A Book Meme…

I don’t usually capitulate to memes, but A Book Meme, via Dove Grey Reader is irresistible.

The book that’s been on your shelves the longest.

childrens-books-small1I have no idea what this could be!  It might be one of the books from my childhood, but because they were shared with my sisters, they lived on shelves at my parents’ house until I was in my twenties – and a good thing too or I might have mislaid them in the years before settling down in Cheltenham.

After wandering around the house and considering our numerous bookshelves, I’ve concluded that the book that’s graced my shelves the longest is probably my much-loved Mastering the Art of French Cookery. mastering-the-art It’s actually two volumes – as you can see in the picture – but I learned to cook from Volume 1.  My sister, who defied family tradition to become a great cook, gave them to me after I produced a truly regrettable meat pie at one of my first attempts at a dinner party.   It was from these books that I learned that any fool can cook well, if she takes the time and trouble to learn.   I still follow my sister’s advice: learn the proper method first, and then you can decide if you want to take shortcuts.

It was from Mastering the Art that I learned that

  • most kitchen appliances are a waste of time and money, and they make extra washing up;
  • a sharp knife is a cook’s best friend;
  • home made ratatouille is sublime;
  • it is not true that you can skip salting the aubergines; and
  • children will love vegetables if they are cooked and presented properly.

A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time).

indonesiaThis is Indonesia, my first book, which still makes me feel inordinately proud even though it’s only a little children’s book, mainly used by teachers of Indonesian to introduce something of the country’s history and culture.  It was commissioned by Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich on the strength of an article I wrote in a professional magazine, and I was thrilled to see my name on the front cover when it finally hit the shops.  I was even more thrilled when it sold out and a reprint was done by Pascal Press who took over from HBJ.

But that’s not why I chose it for this meme.  The deadline for this book was the very day before my wedding, and that the book was finished at all was in no small part due to the support of The Beloved.  I would never have got it done without him.

A book you acquired in some interesting way.for-whom-the-bell-tolls

This has to be my First Edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. I found it in the Avant Garden Bookshop in Daylesford when we were on our way to the Woodend Winter Arts Festival in 2008. If ever there was a case of synchronicity, it was this, for I had brought with us the audiobook of this magnificent tale, narrated by Campbell Scott, and had played it in the car en route. I would never have expected to find a first edition of this, one of my favourite books, in a country town in Victoria, at a price I could (recklessly) afford.  I didn’t hesitate.

travel-diaries1The book that’s been with you to the most places.

My travel diary.  I’ve kept them for most of my journeys, but these days I use the famous plain black lined Moleskines.  They fit nicely into a handbag, and they have a little pocket to keep miscellania as well.  They’re discreet – it’s easy to whip them out & scribble a few lines in a restaurant, cafe, plane or train; they don’t need internet access; and most importantly, they’re private.  After all, sometimes when we travel, and things go wrong as they must, the pen may perhaps record vitriol or disappointment best not shared with the world on my travel blog!

The most recent addition to your shelves.  life-you-can-savechristina-steadmorevirtuoso

They all came at once,  in a nice big box, from the latest Readings catalogue: More by Austin Clarke, The Virtuoso by Sonia Orchard, The Life You Can Save, Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer; and Christina Stead, A Biography by Hazel Rowley.  These bring the number of books on my TBR to 396…

Your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next.

war-and-peace the-good-soldierAt weekends I’m reading the new translation of War and Peace, by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, and at bedtime I’m reading The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.  After that? Song for Night by Chris Abani, I think, because it’s due back at the library soon, and I want to finish Flavours of Melbourne, by Charmaine O’Brien. It’s my last book to read before voting in the SLV Summer Reading Challenge, and it’s full of interesting snippets to add to our Marvellous Melbourne unit for Years 5 & 6 at school. .

And then the next book on the ANZLL schedule!


  1. Lisa,

    You are just amazing. I loved reading your responses. The cookbooks are sensational, and I never knew that you were in print. Congratulations.

    And I think your home would be my idea of heaven!

    Well done and another great entry.


  2. Thank you, Rebecca, but what about you? What would your answers be?


  3. Thanks Lisa,

    I was thinking about this earlier tonight:

    1. The book that I have had on my shelf the longest:
    A book that I bought from book club when I was in first grade – A special trade by Sally Wittman (

    I still say ‘Don’t be saddish’!

    2. A book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time): Poems by Michael Leunig. My friend Christine read the poem ‘The other you’ at my wedding.

    3. A book you acquired in some interesting way.
    Yoshimoto Nara+graf. It is the book produced for the exhibition of Japanese artist Yoshimoto Nara. We were holidaying in Japan, when I saw a flyer in Osaka for a Nara exhibition. It was all in Japanese, and I adore this artist, so I grabbed the flyer and dashed to the nearest place I could think of that would translate it for me: Kinokunyia bookshop. It turned out that I missed the exhibition by a day, but the staff at the bookshop were so kind to find this programme for me.

    4. The book that’s been with you to the most places:
    The Hobbitt by J.R.R. Tolkien. My copy was a gift from my year 6 teacher, and in the front cover, in my mother’s handwriting is my name and my then contact details. I took that book with me on an international girl guide camp, and backpacking when I was older. It’s been contacted, but is still mud splattered and musty smelling.

    5. The most recent addition to your shelves.
    – The radiant way by Margaret Drabble
    – The blood doctor by Barbara Vine
    – Holidays in Hell by P.J. O’Rourke
    They arrived in the post today via

    6. Your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next.
    Current read: Northern clemency by Philip Henser (sp?), The time we have taken by Steve Carroll
    Last read: S.: a novel about the Balkans by Slavenka Drakulic
    Next read: The crying of lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon and The bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald.

    Thanks Lisa, that was fun.


  4. I don’t know that poem by Leunig – I have ‘A Bunch of Poesy’ which has some lovely poems but not that one.
    BTW You’ll love Holidays in Hell – it’s very funny.


  5. This post was suggested as one of those “possibly related posts” at the end of your Mr Chips post. What the? Anyhow, without looking at my bookshelves, I have a feeling that the book I’ve had on my shelf the longest is an very old, poor quality, edition of Heidi from when I was around 8. From about the age of 12/13 I have my Pocket Oxford Dictionary, and a Bible Concordance that I won as a Religious Ed prize when I was, well, religious!


  6. Yes, I have a daggy edition of Heidi too. It’s so interesting that people of a similar generation have a similar recollection of books, isn’t it? It shows you how a shared experience of literature gives a shared sense of values and ideas which stay with you all your life.


  7. Absolutely true. Goes for music, etc, too, doesn’t it. The other book I have from perhaps a year or so before Heidi is AA Milne’s Now we are six. Love that, and his When we were very young.


  8. Yes, so true of music. I find that today’s children have very little experience of classical music, whereas it was part of my generation’s everyday life through radio, and if we were lucky, school concerts as well.


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