Category Archives: a book a day

Reading three books at a time

Lately I have been trying a new kind of reading. I take three books and read them regularly at different times of each day, planting thought seeds for the coming hours and encouraging synaptic serendipity.

For the past week I have started my day with the exchange of letters between John Berger and John Christie published as Lapwing and Fox. In the afternoons I have been reading The Living Stones by Ithell Colquhoun and at night it’s Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich.

In my head today I have the image of deer appearing from the woods to listen to a flute playing; I imagine encounters with buccas in St Keverne; and I travel with Anna M. back to the site of her exile in Karaganda. The thoughts play off each other as I experiment with reading in this way.

It’s an interesting exercise; the interplay between the three books sparks many a creative thought and adds up to more than the sum of the pages turned.

Ernest and El Mazuco

In Asturias we visit El Mazuco where a famous battle took place in September 1937. Republican forces were vastly outnumbered and eventually defeated by forces that included the German Condor Legion. Soon after this defeat the Nationalists were able to control all of Northern Spain.

Back at the hotel there is a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls in a Mexican edition. How did it come to be here, and who brought it with them to this haven beneath the Sierra de Cuera? Now the only sound of bells comes from those around the necks of peaceful cattle.

El Mazuco

Hoteles. Mil aventuras

In the hotel bedroom in northern Spain we find copies of Eñe: Revista para leer.  This issue – entitled Hotels. Mil aventuras – might be of great interest to the traveller, who cannot remember finding such a library of literary magazines in any British hotel room.


Magic Mountain

The hotel in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park is on the site of the first Portuguese tuberculosis treatment unit at altitude, dating from the late nineteenth century. The architect of this modern day Magic Mountain location was Pedro Brígida and there is, as might be expected, a book about it.

Pedro Brígida

Hotel reading

At a certain sort of hotel you will always find books about a certain sort of hotel.

Ecological Hotels

What was Michael Gove doing in 1995?

Still travelling but unavoidably drawn back to the potential horrors of a post-brexit Britain governed by the bullying bonkers end of the Tory party. I would not give a penny for any of Michael Gove’s thoughts, but searching around I see that he appears to have written this panegyric on Michael Portillo in 1995 – now available for no more than a shiny new penny.

It’s hard to find a good picture of the cover, just this expanded thumbnail.  Perhaps no one wants to be reminded of this publishing venture.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 19.04.21


A for ‘awk

Encountered at the bookshop at the Centro de Arte Moderna da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, this title looks familiar but has moved forward in the alphabet.

A de Açor

Books among the news media

The News Museum in Sintra is brand new and bills itself as “the greatest Media and Communication experience in Europe”.  It provides a fantastic overview of news media in Portugal and worldwide, and it doesn’t avoid the political dimension. There’s lots of technology and history, and a look into the future of virtual reality news.


In amonst the spectacular array of press, radio, TV, multimedia and VR there is a full-size digital bookshelf where some of the books (like this one on censorship in Portugal) open up to be read.

Granta Portugal

The window display at Lisbon’s venerable Livraria Ferin contains a number of translated titles and inside there is the new edition of Granta Portugal, the contents of which can be seen here. This is one of the many different editions of Granta produced in Brazil, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, Switzerland and elsewhere.

Granta Portugal

Un cazador de libros

Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s El Club Dumas/The Club Dumas (1993) tells the story of Lucas Corso, a kind of book detective or bounty hunter, who tracks down rare books and manuscripts. In this book he gets tangled up with a bunch of Alexandre Dumas fanatics, and one of the places he visits in the course of his investigations is Sintra.

We are told that ‘Corso era un mercenario de la bibliofilia; un cazador de libros por cuenta ajena’. In Sintra these days you might need such an investigator to find a bookshop of any kind.

club dumas