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What excellent company you are!

I have been devoted to your podcast for over a year; it could be improved only by being more frequent. Every book I have ordered from you has been a delight; nothing disappoints. I receive your emails with pleasure, and that’s saying a lot. Slightly Foxed is a source of content . . . ’
K. Nichols, Washington, USA

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Walden-by-the-Sea

Walden-by-the-Sea

It is a typical winter night on California’s central coast: the rain has been drumming on the roof, the dogs, happy and dry, are curled up in their beds, and my wife and I are in our bed, propped up on a pile of pillows, books in hand. I’m attempting with mixed success not to shake the bed with repressed laughter brought on by P. G. Wodehouse. My wife, having put aside the ever-present New Yorker magazine, is giving her undivided attention to The Outermost House by Henry Beston.
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A Frank Look at History

I am a book annotator. Of course I never write in the margins of library books, and I wouldn’t dream of marking books lent by a well-meaning friend: I’m a book annotator, not a sociopath. But a pencilled note or punctuation mark in the margin of my own books is a form of ownership, a tiny graphite beacon for future browsing and (on occasion) an aid to concentration. Most of these notes are unobtrusive – a line here, an asterisk there – but there is one book that I own which is annotated to the point of deranged excess: the Penguin Classic by Gregory of Tours, entitled The History of the Franks and translated by Lewis Thorpe.
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‘It’s a joy, a delight, a quarterly treat . . .’ | New this Spring from Slightly Foxed

‘It’s a joy, a delight, a quarterly treat . . .’ | New this Spring from Slightly Foxed

We’re delighted to let you know that the Spring issue of Slightly Foxed (No. 65) left the printing press at Smith Settle yesterday and will start to arrive with readers in the UK from today and elsewhere over the next few weeks. It ranges far and wide in the usual eclectic manner. We hope it will provide plenty of recommendations for reading off the beaten track this spring. With it, as usual, you’ll find a copy of our latest Readers’ Catalogue, detailing new books, our backlist, books featured in the latest issue of the quarterly, recommended seasonal reading and other offers and bundles.
Dog’s-eye View

Dog’s-eye View

Inside of a Dog was in the New York Times bestseller list for over a year and completely passed me by because, like the baby books, you don’t need it until you’ve got your own. The author, Alexandra Horowitz, is uniquely qualified for the ambitious task of getting inside the bodies and minds of another species. Her CV includes a BA in philosophy and a PhD in cognitive science studying dogs, plus earlier stints as a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster and a fact-checker for the New Yorker. And, it perhaps goes without saying, she’s a dog person: in the Acknowledgements section at the end of the book, the dogs come first
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Choppy Waters

Dishonest or ‘crooked’ arguments are nothing new, but recently our fractious politics coupled with the invention of the Internet have lent them a fresh intensity, and a wider reach. Would that Straight and Crooked Thinking, written by Robert H. Thouless and first published in 1930, was now more widely read and taught in schools. This little book would not solve all our problems, of course, but it might help us see through partisan propaganda, take on unprincipled Internet warriors, persuade others honourably, defend our own beliefs effectively and (crucially) change our minds when necessary.
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A Hardy Perennial

A Hardy Perennial

The summer of 2018 was a glory – as long as you weren’t a gardener. For those of us who fret about plants, it was a season as much to be endured as enjoyed. After a cold, late spring, the weather had pulled a U-turn, swerving into an intense dry heat that lasted from June to the end of August. With 7 per cent less rain than even the summer of ’76 – still, after a whole series of climatic upheavals, the touchstone for freak British weather – it wasn’t so surprising that anything newly planted shrivelled in the furnace.
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Betrayals

Betrayals

I have a Russian wife. We work together – articles, talks, translations, books, to keep the wolf from the door. Sometimes, when a bigger than usual energy bill slides through the letterbox, or the car breaks down or the tax-man cometh, one of us will look at the other with a rueful grin and say: ‘The solution as I see it, Comrade, is to work harder.’ It’s a direct quotation from Animal Farm (1945) and the character we are quoting is the big carthorse Boxer, eighteen hands high, and the stalwart representative of the proletariat in George Orwell’s book.
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Gone Fishing

Gone Fishing

A few months before his death I gave my father a copy of the Collected Poems of Robert Service, a British-Canadian poet whose long ballads he had discovered in his younger, single days while working on building sites in Alaska and Canada. He spoke often of his favourite, ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’, about a gold miner in the Yukon who honours his dying fellow prospector’s request for cremation rather than interment in a frozen grave. Hauling Sam McGee’s body for days on a dog sled, the narrator eventually finds a wrecked boat along a lake shore and uses it as a makeshift crematorium.
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Portrait of the Artist in Middle Age

As The Ordeal opens, Gilbert Pinfold is a successful novelist in his late forties, but looking and feeling much older. He lives comfortably in the country with his wife and children. He does not consider himself rich but he can afford servants and good wine. Even so things are not going well. ‘He had become lazy . . . he spent most of the day in an armchair. He ate less, drank more and grew corpulent . . .’ Not surprisingly, indolence and indulgence mean that his health is not good and the lack of daily activity causes him to suffer from chronic insomnia.
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Fabulous Beasts

Fabulous Beasts

Christopher de Hamel’s Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts (2016) is a joy. The binding, the layout and the lavish illustration make it a pleasure to handle before you even turn to the content, which perfectly fulfils its promise. De Hamel’s writing is not academic but vivid and entertaining, while the coloured reproductions are almost as dazzling as the fabulous beasts which so often clamber around their margins. As he says in his introduction, ‘the chapters are not unlike a series of celebrity interviews’.
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How to Cook a Fox

How to Cook a Fox

During a time when I was unable to work I read a lot, and randomly, picking up whatever took my fancy in the local bookshop. I had recently moved to an old farmstead on Orkney with enough space to grow some vegetables and berry fruit – not exactly living off the land, but an exciting departure for someone who had always lived in a town. One day I chanced upon Patience Gray’s Honey from a Weed, took it home and soon found myself fantasizing about planting olive trees – although to tell the truth I always knew that olives would never thrive in a latitude so high that it is impossible to grow wheat here.
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Asking the Right Questions

Asking the Right Questions

Aspiring young writers of fiction wish to be stylish. For many of them style is more essential than content, perhaps more important than sincerity. They want their prose to be inimitable, like Conrad’s or Hemingway’s, so that readers might identify their authorship from a single paragraph. As a young man, I was certainly like that, even though fiction didn’t turn out to be my thing. And of course I preferred to read novels by writers who themselves had a pronounced style.
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