The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘British books’

Brick and Mortar

October 27, 2015 | by

Gwydir Castle. Photo: Patrick Gruban


The British call it Brick Lit: that genre of travel literature in which a sophisticatedly jaded man, woman, or couple falls in love with a crumbling farmhouse in some exotic, rural locale and in the comic struggle to restore said farmhouse, and via encounters with the native populace, gleans profound lessons about life, love, and local color. —Jonathan Miles, Garden and Gun

By any standard, Judy Corbett’s 2005 memoir, Castles in the Air, falls under the Brick Lit rubric. And its subtitle—“The Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion”—may not inspire confidence in its novelty. And yet, I recommend it without reservation.

I came across the book in a British catalog when I was an editorial assistant and put in an order for this title and several others. I’ve never cared much about renovation stories—This Old House always left me cross-eyed with boredom—but it looked fun. It was, but it was much more than that. Read More »

To Whinny, Perchance to Dream

January 14, 2014 | by

discontented pony

It’s Nice That, the art and design site, directed our attention to this assortment of vintage Ladybird Books, a British children’s imprint known in its heyday for pocket-size hardbacks on an exhaustive array of topics. Your average Ladybird is accessible, vividly and impeccably illustrated, and almost heartbreakingly earnest. See, for example, 1951’s The Discontented Pony, which traffics in a kind of postwar ennui and Weltzschmerz unknown to the youth of today.

This pony story tells of a very discontented pony named Merrylegs. Even though having everything a little pony needs—a field to run about in, a kindly farmer owner, and farmyard friends Daisy and Squeaker—Merrylegs still begins to feel discontented with his lot in life.

We know the feeling, Merrylegs. We know the feeling.

Ladybirds, also the subject of a recent BBC documentary, tend to bring out the collector’s impulse—they’re legion, they’re handsomely made, and they speak to the tastes of a bygone era, so of course you’ll want to own them all. It’s worth perusing the whole Ladybird corpus, actually. Some gems, in no particular order: