It's been a busy old week work wise, partly because our buyers threw us a big tasting session on Friday. This involves a trip to London and as it's a day out of the shop it has a real holiday feel to it, it's also a chance to bitch with colleagues about all the things that frustrate us (currently this mostly seems to be a lack of Chablis), and try some excellent wines. The last is important, it might sound like pure self indulgence to spend an afternoon getting re-acquainted with Krug, Taittinger Comte de Champagne, Veuve's Grande Dame, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Winston Churchill (my personal favourite against some stiff competition, I could have reported on the current vintage age of Dom Perignon too, but some rotter finished it before I got a look in) but you have to spit, and this is the stuff that customers want to know is worth the money. Somebody has to do the research.
It would have been even more fun (it's the highlight of my working year) if I hadn't been coming down with a cold - a blocked nose makes tasting very hard, but I did my best. Happily I got to recuperate whilst dog sitting for my mother. It was a perfect combination of fresh air whilst I was walking her, and napping on the sofa when I wasn't, and now I'm back home with the Oxford University Press trade catalogue for the first half of 2018, and a cup of the best hot chocolate I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. It's Kate Young's Chocolatl recipe (inspired by Philip Pullman's Northen Lights) and is the perfect combination of thick creamy chocolate, aromatic spice, salt, and a couple of things you'll need to check the book for. It's just wonderful.
Also wonderful is the OUP trade list. It's a toss up between this and the British Library list as to which is my favourite (both have a particularly high ratio of the kind of books I get particularly excited about). So wonderful I'm here to share my personal highlights.
I'm intrigued by 'Prohibition a concise history', by W. J. Rorabaugh. I'm interested in the cultural history of alcohol generally, the idea of the Prohibition era is evocative, but I really don't know enough about it.
Patricia Fara's 'A Lab of One's Own' is being published to help mark the centenary of women gaining the vote in this country, and it sounds timely. It looks at the women who stepped into the labs during the First World War, women who carried out pioneering research, and were then unceremoniously pushed back out of the lab again when the men returned. Stories like this need to be told, both to inspire, and to challenge the prejudices that still limit women in science.
Jane Stevenson's 'Baroque Between the Wars' promises to take a fresh look on the arts between 1918-1939 and explore how baroque offered a completely different way of being modern. I think this one sounds fascinating.
There are also more of the beautiful cloth bound hardback Oxford editions coming out. These books are gorgeous so I'll be very tempted at the prospect of replacing my tatty old paperback copy of 'The Mabinogion' (which I think I really need to read again), and it will clearly be the year to finally discover the weird fiction of Arthur Machen (The Great God Pan and Other Horror Stories).
It's the bicentenary of Emily Brontë's birth next year too, so there's an updated reissue of 'The Oxford Companion to The Brontë's'. I'm not the biggest Brontë fan, but even so this sounds desirable.
I'm still battling with Zola's 'The Sin of Abbé Mouret' (I will get there, but his take on rural life is both disturbing and heavy going. If ever there was a case of something nasty in the woodshed, and a man prepared to describe it in hysterical detail...) but that's not putting me off a sense of excitement about 'His Excellency Eugène Rougon'. I'm hoping Zola on court and political circles will be as good as Zola in 'Money'.
And finally, the book I'm really excited about. 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' is getting the World's Classics treatment. I have mentioned before how obsessed with this book I was aged about 11. I read it time after time, and whilst my enthusiasm for it has abated somewhat I'm still fond of it, I have never looked forward to reading the introduction of a book more.