Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Got Books?

I participate in two book groups with my women’s club, one meets monthly in the daytime and one meets monthly in the evenings. Can you tell I like to read? We select our books at the first meeting of the year and then meet once a month to discuss and share our opinions. Once a year the daytime book group ventures out on a field trip of sorts and today was such a day.

We met at Marylebone train station in central London and then took a bus just a few blocks to the British Library. The British Library is the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th century. It is massive and modern.

The library receives a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland and their collection includes over 150 million items in most known languages. Approximately 3 million new items are added every year and they say if you saw 5 items each day it would take you over 80,000 years to see their entire collection. Some of their special items include the Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels (an illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, approximately 310,000 manuscripts ranging from Jane Austen to James Joyce, from Handel to The Beatles, roughly 60 million patents, and over 4 million maps.

We wandered around at our leisure spending most of our time in the Ritblat Gallery which is a permanent display of some of the library’s greatest treasures, arranged by theme. There is an entire room dedicated to the history and significance of the Magna Carte. We also viewed many Shakespeare manuscripts and even Lewis Carroll’s original Alice manuscript. (btw- his real name was Charles Dodgson and he was an Oxford boy like Lewis and Tolkien).

Around noon we walked next door to the St. Pancras train station. This station has been recently renovated and it is absolutely beautiful. (The weather, not so much...forgive the color but the sky was it's favorite shade of gray today)

If you travel to France or Belgium via the Eurostar train this is your point of departure. For a minute we contemplated hopping on a train to Paris…after all, we did read a book set in France this month…but instead we walked through the station and then headed to my friend Peg’s flat just a few blocks away.

Our book this month was Fire in the Blood, by Irene Nemirovsky. Nemirovsky is a novelist who was killed at Auschwitz during the war and she wrote mostly about French village life during the world war years. Some of her stories were found only fairly recently and have been published to great acclaim, particularly Suite Francaise which we read last year.

We wrapped up our outing today with a wonderful lunch prepared for us by Peg which was finished off with an incredibly delicious creamy lemon pie. Friends, books and lemon pie…that’s my kind of day!

Cheers, Joyce


  1. I am really enjoying your blog - You should write travel books! Or at least be a museum docent!

  2. Friends, books and lemon pie sound wonderful to me! But book clubs.. . I guess I'm not that kind of a reader. I enjoy reading relaxing books. I tried reading something from Oprah's book club once and thought I was going to die. It was so complex it wasn't fun!
    I think I have created monsters out of everyone! I have had more emails about the Cricut! Too funny! I love it. I still haven't discovered everything it can do, but I'm working on it.
    Wow. I love taking your travels with you. I am so glad you introduced me to your blog. Very,very fun. I have a day off today, and am going to shop on-line for some of the books you recommended on History. Yay!
    How long do you think you'll be over there? Do you even know?
    Thanks for a great post! HAGD! Karen

  3. That library sounds amazing and I know you love your book club. Isn't it so much fun to do things with our gal friends? I have so many books and there are never enough hours in the day to read them all. Someday!!!!!
    Love & blessings from NC!