Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 26, 2013

Belated Humbook greetings, to Stu and Emma and Guy

Well, dear readers, I am back on deck and things are getting back to normal.  Now I can retrieve my ‘sticky notes’* from my desktop and make good my Humbook intentions.

Ok, let’s start with my second choice for Stu at Winston’s Dad.  Choosing a book for Stu is not easy: it has to be in translation, something he hasn’t read, and (of course) something he will like.  And I wanted it to be from a country he’d never visited before, which made it an even harder challenge…

The HedgehogBut thanks to GoodReads Listopia, which has a list called ‘Arabic Literature in English Translation’, I was able to scout around and discover one from *drum roll* Tunisia!  It’s called The Hedgehog, Modern Arabic Stories, and it’s by by Zakaria Tamer,  translated by Denys Johnson-Davies and Brian O’Rourke.  It was published by The American University in Cairo Press in 2009, and this is the blurb:

“My mother went to visit our neighbor, Umm Bahaa, but refused to take me with her, on the pretext that women visit women and men visit men. So she left me alone, promising not to be gone more than a few minutes. I told my cat I was going to strangle her, but she paid no attention and continued grooming herself with her tongue.” Thus we meet the five-year-old narrator of The Hedgehog, who introduces us to his world: his house (with the djinn girl who lives in his bedroom), his garden (where he wishes to be a tree), and his best friend the black stone wall. This tightly told novella confirms that Zakaria Tamer remains at the height of his powers.The short stories that follow were first published in the collection Tigers on the Tenth Day. Economical and controlled, they deal with man’s inhumanity to man (and to woman) and showcase the author’s typical sharply satirical style”.

I think Stu will like this one, and I’m looking forward to seeing Tunisia among his list of countries visited on his blog:)

Now for Emma at Book Around the Corner, and Guy from His Futile Preoccupations.  They chose a great book for me last year, it was called The Murderess, and it was one of the best I read in 2013.  I want to return the favour:

The UnfortunatesGuy was easy: among his preoccupations is British Literature, and I am fairly sure that he has never read The Unfortunates by the great British experimental author B.S. Johnson.  The Unfortunates is a book which I learned about from Trevor at the Mookse and the Gripes, and you can read about my adventures with it here (first) and then here.  Reading it was a major event in my reading life, because I’d never read any experimental fiction before, but the biggest surprise was that it was not difficult to read at all.  Johnson died in 1973 but the book is still readily available.  For reasons that you will understand when you check those two links and see the photos, I am keen to see how someone else reads this brilliant book, and I know that Guy is adventurous in his reading and I think he’ll enjoy it.

For Emma, I have chosen a book for her to share with her daughter: you might remember that not so long ago Emma’s daughter enchanted us all with her first ‘billet’ on Emma’s blog?  It was a very impressive debut, and (I admit it) I wonder if she might repeat the feat when she reads this classic Australian children’s book: it’s called The Magic Pudding and it’s by Norman Lindsay.  The Magic PuddingpuddingIt’s not a children’s book for little children: it’s for older children and adults enjoy it too.  The story, so it goes, is that Lindsay, who was an established author and painter of ‘naughty’ pictures, was challenged to write a children’s book, and his reply was that he would write a book about food, because all children love food.  Well, The Magic Pudding is a pie, except that it can change itself into other kinds of food, like doughnuts or dessert, and as you can see from the picture, it has arms and legs and a cranky expression.   It’s a very funny book, and although it has some Australian idiom that might be a bit challenging, it’s been translated into French (and other languages).

So there you are: to all my readers, I apologise for my ‘absence’ from the blog, sometimes life just gets in the way of things, and with me, as my parents get older, sometimes I just have to abandon ship and head for Queensland to help out.  (I’ll be back up there in the middle of January, but that’s not an unscheduled trip, and the blog and I will be prepared!)

To everyone who reads this blog, I wish you all the very best of good wishes for the festive season.  I want to thank everyone for their humbling good wishes and kind thoughts, and I hope we’ll all be virtually together again throughout 2014 and beyond.

And an extra special Christmas wish goes to all our authors and publishers whose inspiration and hard work brings so much pleasure to readers around the world.  We salute you!

*For those who don’t run Windows, ‘sticky notes’ are just that, just like those yellow sticky notes that stick on, and peel off paper. With Windows, you can copy and paste URLs, snippets, ideas, anything, and ‘paste’ them on your desktop.  Brilliant, but not transferrable.  You can’t see them on any other computer.


  1. Looks like great choices Lisa … well done. I didn’t take part this year as I only read one of Stu’s two selections last year! And still have Guy’s great looking choose to read. Guy read mine so I feel very guilty. Oh dear.

    I must tell you though that Apple developed “stickies” (as they call it) for the Mac back in 1994 (I didn’t know that date until I looked it up, though!). I used mine for years, but recently have decided just to use the Notes application instead – I love the way it moves between my laptop and iPad. It’s not quite the same as having the sticky note slap on the desktop but it perhaps the main thing that I want which is just a quick place to store info. I have it in my dock on the laptop and I think it is comes with the iPad (i.e. you don’t have to get it from the app store. You’ve reminded me though that i should go back to using the stickie for those things I want to stick under my nose and not forget!

    I’m teaching myself to use Notes when I go to meetings, seminars etc instead of a paper notepad. Can’t lose it!

    Hope you’ve had a wonderful Boxing Day … :-)


  2. Thanks Lisa! What an excellent idea! I’ll look for The Magic Pudding in French either for my daughter or for my son. I was delighted to find them both reading instead of watching TV the other morning. That was a first. My son’s teacher lends her pupils books and apparently she’s better than me at promoting literature to children. It works.
    So we’ll see who’s going to write a billet!

    Thanks again and I hope everything is fine for you and your family.


    • I hope you can find it ok…as you probably know the Amazon site has different stock in different countries, even in English there are books we can/can’t get in Australia that Americans can/can’t get, and it’s different again in the UK. Something to do with copyright, I suppose.
      Thanks for your good wishes, and I hope all’s well with your family too:)


      • I have a US account on Amazon, it helps.
        I can’t find The Magic Pudding in French. I guess I’ll read it alone. My daughter’s English isn’t good enough to read a whole book in English.


        • That’s a pity … and I’m having trouble finding yours too, Kindle won’t let me have it in French and I would have to have a French address to register a French Kindle account.
          I can buy a paper copy, which would be better, but quelle horreur, le Amazon postage!!
          But it’s early days, I have asked Fishpond to see what they can do. They are much better than Amazon, they don’t charge postage, they make it easy to contact them and they actually respond to email queries.
          And in the meantime, the delay gives me time to brush up my French a bit before starting, I must get my book of irregular French verbs back from the friend I lent it to…


  3. Merry Christmas Lisa. Hope you get some reading time in now.


    • *chuckle* That’s the plan!
      Best wishes to you too, I hope Santa brought you something nice to read:)


      • Yes, I received Magda by Meike Ziergovel, Our Daily Bread by Lauren B Davis and a Patrick Flanery. I gave my husband The Orenda by Joseph Boyden and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. All very exciting! Did you receive some nice books?


        • Only my Humbooks, and a great big doorstopper called The Hand of Fatima by Indefonso Falcones. I don’t know the three you received, very intriguing… I shall have to check them out on GoodReads!


  4. A belated merry Christmas to you, Lisa. Hope all is OK with your dad. Life does get in the way of blogging — so no need to apologise for that. I’m about 10 reviews behind on mine (I’m still playing catch-up from my 5-week break in August/September) and will probably not bother in order to start with a fresh slate in the new year. I’m currently in a holiday cottage in Whitby and have spent the day on the sofa nursing a minor chest cold while reading — bliss. I really don’t want to go back to London on Saturday.

    Anyway, interesting choices you have selected… Sounds like you had to do a lot of detective work to find something suitable for Stu! :-)

    I’ve not read B.S. Johnson’s ‘The Unfortunates’ but I have read his first novel,
    ‘Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry’, which is set in Hammersmith. It was quirky and experimental too and very very edgy — I quite liked it.

    And I hope Emma’s daughter likes ‘The Magic Pudding’ — it’s the one book that terrified me as a child. I was scared of the pictures!!! :-(


    • LOL I bet you were scared of the Big Bad Banksia Men and the Hobyahs too! You should see how they’ve ‘modernised’ the Hobyahs so that they’re not so scary for little kids, what would the Brothers Grimm think, I wonder, if they did the same to their scary tales?
      I plan on reading all of B S Johnson’s books, there’s not so many after all, but was disappointed by the last one I got which was a reprint. It’s supposed to have a hole in the middle of every page but that was too hard for modern printing, so it hasn’t got it. Pshaw! So now I’m on the lookout for original editions in the Op Shops and 2nd-hand shops…am looking forward to browsing time this hols in my local favourites.
      I hope the weather’s not too foul this winter, over here we heard about power cuts because of a major storm, that sounds as if it would be really, really hard to take… no heating, and darkness after 4pm, oh dear, what a misery that would be.


      • All the south coast of UK and London have been hit by storms — we were lucky and made a fluke decision to forgo our usual holiday let on the beach in West Sussex and headed north last Saturday. It seemed a crazy decision at the time — who goes North for winter? — but it has proved a wonderful choice. We’re in the North Yorkshire Moors and apart from one day of rain, we’ve had glorious sunshine and blue skies.


        • No snow?


          • No snow. Thank god. I absolutely detest snow. Temps very mild for this time of year, actually, although I did have to go buy gloves after my hands nearly fell off while wandering around Whitby Abbey the other day.


            • Oh yes, must take care of the fingers so that you can turn the pages of your books!


  5. This was a post that I was really looking forward to, Lisa. It was so wonderful to read it finally. I loved all your book presents. I want to read ‘The Unfortunates’ by B.S.Johnson and ‘The Magic Pudding’ by Norman Lindsay. It is wonderful that you choose a Tunisian book for Stu. Denys Johnson-Davies is a legendary translator and his Arab literature anthologies are so wonderful. So glad to know that he has translated this book. I didn’t know that Emma’s daughter wrote a billet. I don’t know how I missed that. I want to read that now.

    Hope everything is okay at home, Lisa, and your dad is doing well. Happy New Year 2014! Hope you have a wonderful year of reading in 2014!


    • Hi Vishy, thanks for your good wishes: I spoke to my mother today and he’s on the mend, though neither of them have yet shaken off the cough. Pneumonia is hard to shift at their age, but hopefully all will eventually be well and I will be back up there before long to make sure they go back to the doctor if need be.
      I must confess that I would like to read all the Humbook choices, but then I still have that lovely long list of Indian recommendations from your blog to work through. I have some important new Australian books to read this holidays, and also The Luminaries which won the Booker, but after that … I just have to decide which one to get next!


      • So glad to know that your dad is better, Lisa.

        Looking forward to reading your thoughts on the new Australian books that you are planning to read. I want to read ‘The Luminaries’ too – it is waiting on my shelf. Maybe in January :)

        Happy reading!


  6. […] chose The Magic Pudding as my Humbook gift for Christmas and receiving a book starring a pudding is kind of spot on for Christmas, isn’t it? […]


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: