Vacation + Book Haul!

I think I only mentioned once on my blog that I had a vacation coming up this month, so in case you missed that, I spent last week in New York City!

It was my first time there, I’ve wanted to go for ages, and when I agreed to it (with a friend) there were no COVID-19 cases in the city yet. Ultimately it was probably not the best time to be there, and it was so bizarre seeing Broadway announce it was closing shows two days after I’d seen one, and The Met announce it was closing the day after I’d been there, etc. The employees at the One World Trade Center were talking (loudly) amongst themselves about whether the observatory would close, while they were putting me in the elevator. I’d spent enough on tickets and housing and flights ahead of time that I really didn’t want to back out of my plans, but there’s no way to separate what has been happening with coronavirus from my NYC experience; my friend and I were doing everything we could to stay clean and healthy, to stay outdoors in open air and away from enclosed crowds as much as possible. I had to buy a second pair of shoes in NY because we were walking so much to avoid using public transit when we could. And now that I’ve returned I am isolating myself because I normally have frequent (direct and indirect) contact with my family, which includes three grandparents over 70, at least two of whom would probably not respond well to a bad virus. I’m lucky in that I live rurally and can quarantine myself without it affecting my life much, which was the main reason I was okay with going on this vacation even as things started to look more alarming right beforehand.

Anyway, all that was just to reassure you that I’m being as responsible as possible about taking a vacation in this fraught time; now on to the good stuff! I managed to see everything I wanted to on this trip, and some of the big ticket items for me were popular bookstores, so I’m going to share some photos and my book haul! The plus side of the isolation situation is that I’ll have plenty of time to dig into the eight Women’s Prize longlisters that arrived home in my absence, which I intend to start reading later today. I’ll also be catching up on comments, blog hopping, and posting throughout the week; I have a few non-Women’s Prize reviews to catch up on and then I’ll be dedicating myself to the longlist for the next month or so.

But first, New York! I was a massive tourist and mainly took the most expected photographs, so I’m not going to caption all of these. Feel free to ask for more info if you want it!

The pizza was a massive highlight- we ate at Julianna’s the first night and loved it so much that we tried two other pizza places throughout the week which were also excellent but didn’t top Julianna’s. I had somewhat low expectations for The Vessel (a honeycomb stair construction), compounded by the fact that my feet and knees and legs in general hurt a lot by the time we got to it, but it turned out to be one of the top hits of the entire trip. The view from the One World Trade Center was incredible, even on an overcast day (it’s ALWAYS an overcast day when I’m going up to ab observatory, this has also happened to me in Chicago, Washington D.C., and St. Louis). There aren’t really any museums around me so it was fantastic seeing some famous artworks in person. I’m not a huge fan of performing arts (I got dragged to a lot of my cousins’ elementary school plays as a kid and never quite recovered) but LOVED seeing my first Broadway show- Wicked! I was already a fan of some of the songs (I know I’m coming late to this game) but was only loosely knowledgeable about the storyline, which turned out to be a great starting point. Otherwise, the best part of the trip was simply wandering around, seeing the sights and getting a feel for different parts of the city (we were mainly in Brooklyn and Manhattan, there just wasn’t enough time to branch farther out). Ironically, the night I took the picture of a (crowded) Times Square was also the night I read a fresh article about Times Square looking like a “ghost town” thanks to coronavirus, so… don’t believe everything you hear! (But seriously, take care of yourself and those around you.)

Aaaand I’m an idiot who got too excited about the books to take any pictures of the bookstores (except for the ceiling mural in Albertine, which is in the top row of photos) but I did buy plenty! More than I was planning to really, but there aren’t many bookstores where I live and I discovered that it was impossible to walk out of any indie bookstore without making a purchase (especially since Barnes and Noble is by necessity my local go-to at home).

Here’s what I picked up!

  • Real Life by Brandon Taylor – I picked up a signed copy at Books Are Magic; this book was already on my TBR (I wanted to focus on buying things I was sure to read) and has a nice pink sticker on the cover that says “signed at Books Are Magic” so I have a little reminder of my trip as well. This is LGBTQ+ lit fic about an Alabama man figuring out life in a Midwest university town.
  • The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City by William B. Helmreich – Also from Books are Magic. I heard of this one in college but it was barely on my radar- I wanted to pick up something about the city while I was there, and since I was having such a great time walking around this seemed like a good fit. It’s a nonfiction account from a man who walked through every neighborhood in the five boroughs and recorded impressions of them.
  • Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina A. Kover – I picked this book up at Albertine, a French and English bookstore. To be honest we went for the ceiling mural, but I really ended up loving the translation table and had such a hard time leaving with only one book. This one features a young girl whose family fled Iran for France.
  • Writers & Lovers by Lily King – From Strand Books. To be honest my feet hurt a lot and I was exhausted by the time we arrived here (they’re open until 10:30, which we took advantage of) so my selection here wasn’t quite as thoughtful. I had seen one positive review of this book and put it tentatively on my TBR, and then went and bought a copy mainly because it had that “Signed at Strand Books” sticker. But it’s about a grown woman trying to write and novel and figure life out, which could be a great fit for me, so hopefully I’ll love it.
  • Mother Daughter Widow Wife by Robin Wasserman – My friend and I stayed one night at The Library Hotel and I cannot recommend it highly enough to any bookish people staying in Manhattan. There are so many perks, the staff is incredibly nice, and there are so very many books. This one’s an ARC I found in our room, a mystery that was already on my TBR. It features a woman who gets off a bus in Philadelphia with no idea who she is.
  • Ordinary Hazards by Anna Bruno – When we checked out of the Library Hotel, we were offered more ARCs. I hadn’t heard of any of the choices on the desk but I was drawn to the title of this one, and chose it on the strength of the phrase “grappling with grief and loss” from the blurb. I don’t know any more about it and I’d like to go in blind.
  • Pierce Brown’s Sons of Ares Vol II: Wrath by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell – I don’t read a lot of comics or graphic novels but maybe I would if I could frequent places like Forbidden Planet. This is the second volume in a Red Rising prequel series; I read the first last year and have been meaning to pick this one up, so was happy to find it!
  • Aries by Stella Andromeda – This was a total whim, found at Kinokuniya Books, a Japanese and English bookstore that hadn’t been on my radar but looked too good from the window to pass up when we walked by. There were so many great new literary hardcovers on display in this store that it was starting to feel a little torturous; I was already worrying about how I was going to fit everything in my carry on for the flight home. So I saw this cute little volume, remembered it’s almost Aries season and that I wanted to learn more about astrology and tarot this year, and I picked it up partially for its small size.
  • Titanic: First Accounts edited by Tim Maltin – I found this at Posman Books. I have a mild Titanic obsession, which began in the third grade when I learned that Titanic sank on an April 15, which is my birthday. (Obviously not the same year.) The obsession has cooled in recent years so I was not aware that this nonfiction collection of firsthand accounts existed but as soon as I saw it I had to have it.
  • The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff – I bought this at the 9/11 memorial museum. I have been wanting to pick this nonfiction account of 9/11 up for so long, and I couldn’t not buy it in New York once I knew I was going, and then I couldn’t not buy it at this museum. It’s on my “20 in ’20” list and it means a lot to me that I’ll be able to remember this trip and the memorial and museum when I read it.



All in all, a great trip for books! I was proud of myself for limiting my purchases to one book per store, mostly. It’s a nice stack of things I genuinely want to read, which also double as location-specific mementos.

While I was gone, I also read most of Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House which I have since finished and it was fantastic, and started Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies (do not ask why I brought multiple books on a short trip in which I expected to be buying more books, I don’t have the answer) which is also fantastic so far. I expect to finish the latter today and then start reading the Women’s Prize list while I catch up on writing reviews!

Thus ends this episode of where I’ve been, what I’ve been up to, and what’s coming up on my blog. Spot any favorite books or stores in my list, or any favorite locations in my photos?


The Literary Elephant

22 thoughts on “Vacation + Book Haul!”

    1. Thank you! 🙂 It was a weird experience for sure, but turned out surprisingly well despite the timing.
      And I am LOVING The Mercies, as long as the end is as strong as the rest I’m anticipating a 5-star!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, exactly! Having that experience to look back on right now is honestly such a help for getting through the present changes. We were very lucky none of our plans fell through, it was so weird checking the news in the morning and seeing somewhere we’d just been was suddenly closed. Could not have timed it better if we’d tried, and it really did turn out as well as we could’ve hoped for!

        Ooh, that’s high praise! It was definitely a top read for me as well, I finished it last night and really loved it. It will stay with me a long time, I’m sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I have been wondering if you were able to go on your trip to NYC! I’m glad to hear you were able to go. I have a coworker who was scheduled to leave for Japan on Wednesday, March 11. The folks in Japan called and said he couldn’t come, so I have no idea what happened with his flight and accommodations. I think everyone is super confused about how to refund money, if exceptions should be made, etc.

    Are you self-quarantining, or is your work place closed? The library where I work just closed today and will be closed for three days while they figure out what to do next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we made it there and back just in time! Places were closing literally HOURS after we’d been to them, which was crazy, but the timing worked out just perfectly. There were of course already precautions being taken, and we did what we could to limit contact and potential spread, but yeah, in the end I could hardly have hoped for a better trip, everything went surprisingly smoothly.

      I’m currently working on my family’s farm for cash flow while I’m writing a novel on the side, and it’s an off season so they’re able to spare me. It was very easy for me isolate myself right now, which was why I decided to stick with the trip even though things were already looking ominous when I left. I’m very lucky in that I doubt the virus will impact the farm or my family’s habits very much; I sincerely hope that your work situation turns out well, that you and your family will be able to stay healthy and financially afloat. It’s such a strange and trying time. Sending best wishes your way!


      1. OMG, what kind of farm!? Please tell me it’s all sheep. I love sheep. They’re are just so dang delightful!

        My husband is the manager of classroom technology for the business college at Notre Dame, and he’s been planning for a scenario like this for YEARS, so now that his scheming is working to the university’s advantage, other colleges within Notre Dame are coming to him. While I’m so proud of him, that makes everything triply stressful for him. My library closed for a few days, but because library budgets are not contingent on us making money like a restaurant, we’re still getting paid.

        I kept thinking about what you said, about the news claiming NYC was a ghost town but you took that photo with all the people. I was at the doctor’s today for a regular check up, and she asked how I’m doing with all the scary news. I told her how I had wanted to cancel my appointment because I keep reading that medical personnel are overrun. I learned from her that what’s happening is everyone with a sniffle is running to the ER, so they created these triage spots and created a phone line dedicated for virus questions to keep people away from hospitals and pestering the staff. I had originally thought that these triage places were there because there was no more room in the hospital, or something like that. The whole conversation made me feel better.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just crops on this farm, sadly! There were sheep, pigs, and chickens before my time, and I think cows even farther back, but now it’s just a lot of corn and soybeans. And cats. 🙂

        I hope everything goes smoothly with the college technology! Good on him for being so prepared, and best of luck to you both for making it through this stressful time!

        And that is really good to hear. I’ve also been worried seeing advice in my home state for people with covid symptoms NOT to try getting tested or go to the hospital- I was afraid that meant we were already running out of tests and room for patients, but based on what you’ve said I bet they’re just trying to limit unnecessary contact for staff here as well.
        That makes me feel better also! Today I saw some satellite images of New York in the news, of Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, from a day or two after I’d been to each. The crowds there look much fuller in my photos too. Which isn’t to say the news pictures are a lie, but they’re definitely not the whole story. Little details like that really drive home for me how hard it is to get the full picture from just one image or source. Hopefully things will start looking up again before long, and more info will become available.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! We were a bit nervous as things were progressing but it really was an excellent week. I completely agree though, it already seems a lifetime ago to have made such easy plans to go to a restaurant or use the subway or anything like that. Even now in isolation I keep reading scenes where people shake hands or hug or go out in public and wanting to warn them to keep their distance! It’ll be an adjustment going back to normal when this is all over.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, it was definitely a relief not to lose out on all of the tickets and accommodations we’d already paid for! I know there are so many people in worse situations than having to cancel a vacation but it was so nice to have one last great week before the lock downs.

      I hope you’ll enjoy Disoriental, I’ve only heard good things and am looking forward to reading it! I’d be very interested in your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m excited to read it! The translator actually lives in Durham (I’m in Newcastle) and was planning to attend our book group. I don’t think that will be possible now but maybe we can get her involved online.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you were still able to enjoy your vacation! I must admit, of all your pictures, the most enticing one to me was the pizza 🤪 It looks absolutely delicious! And that’s quite a decent book haul—I’m particularly keen to read Writers & Lovers, Real Life, and Mother Daughter Widow Wife myself. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on those books, plus Machado’s memoir and The Mercies. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The pizza was absolutely fantastic, it will probably be what I miss the most from NY, to be honest! 🙂
      I’m so excited to dive into some of these new books as soon as I’m through with the Women’s Prize, and I should be catching up on my reviews over the next couple of days. I’d love to see what you think of any of these titles you might pick up as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It looks like you had a great trip! I was in NYC for the first time in November 2018 and your photos and points of interests in the city look similar to mine 🙂 – My highlights were also the New York Public Library and I found the celestial ceiling in the Grand Central just beautiful 🙂 I did not have time to visit the MoMA or see Pollock paintings, but hopefully next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the link, it does look like we focused on almost exactly the same sights in NYC! 🙂 I adored the public library and all of the gorgeous ceiling artwork to be found in the city- there’s not much of that where I live! The Grand Central ceiling was such a beautiful color, and a simple, stunning style.
      My friend and I had originally opted for the Met over the MoMA, but were lucky to find time for both (though of course there wasn’t time to see all of the art in either place)! My university had a Pollock painting while I was a student, so I knew I wanted to see more of his work. They’re very interesting pieces, I hope you will have a chance to see them next time! (And I will have to add the Rizzoli Bookstore to my list!)


  4. NYC is one of my favorite cities ever, and you hit up so many of my favorite spots! I’m so glad you got to see Albertine, isn’t that ceiling unreal?! Omg that’s so funny that you bought Disoriental there because I NEARLY DID, I was carrying it around for a while and everything, but then I realized I was going to be walking for the rest of the day and didn’t want to carry a book with me. (I have since acquired it!) I’m so glad you had a good time but yes I can imagine how odd and surreal it must have been with everything going on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved the city so much! It would be great to go again sometime when things have settled down, but it really was an excellent week even with the chaos. If it had been scheduled for even a week later we probably would have missed out on a lot of our plans, so I can hardly complain!

      That is very funny about Disoriental! I almost opted against it because I did end up having to carry it through all of Central Park afterward. But since we were only at Albertine once (and who knows when I’ll actually get back to NY) I decided to accept the challenge, lol. I have never seen so many stunning ceilings in my life!

      Liked by 1 person

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