Ex Libris Kirkland

Ex Libris Kirkland is my entirely self-centered way to keep track of what I read, what I like, and what I want to remember.


Recently Quoted

  • Displayed on a small plinth in a university museum in the German city of Rostock is a famously gruesome exhibit: a stuffed white stork whose sinuous neck is pierced by an iron-tipped wooden spear from Central Africa. This unlucky bird survived the attack and flew back only to be shot by a hunter in Germany in the spring of 1822. Newspaper reports revealed the spear's distant origin, and the newly christened pfeilstorch, or arrow-stork, became celebrated for solving the puzzle of where German storks spent their winters.

    an excerpt from Vesper Flights, written by Helen McDonald in 2020

  • This, then, is the story of Maxwell Knight - the man called M - and a cuckoo called Goo. Knight was a tall, patrician British intelligence officer in charge of MIs departments dealing with counter-subversion on home ground. And yes, as 'M' he was the inspiration for James Bond's controller. From the 1930s to the end of the Second World War, Knight placed agents in organisations such as the British Union of Fascists and the Communist Party of Great Britain. He was an extraordinary character: secretly gay, a writer of appalling thrillers, a keen jazz trumpeter, a disciple of the dark magic of Aleister Crowley, and an inveterate keeper of animals: crows, parrots, foxes and finches all shared space with agents in Knight's safe house in the Home Counties. After the war ended, Knight began a second career as a BBC radio naturalist.

    an excerpt from Vesper Flights, written by Helen McDonald in 2020

  • While little physical evidence for the Scandinavian presence in Constantinople is evident today, some striking examples have survived in the Ayasofya, or Hagia Sophia, cathedral. Originally built as an Orthodox basilica in the sixth century, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453; today it serves as a museum. In the Viking Age, it was the main place of worship for the imperial family. Several runic inscriptions have been found there, scratched into column bases and the like, including many etched into the balustrades of the upper gallery. This is where the imperial family were seated when attending public ceremonies, and they would have been accompanied by the Varangians. One imagines guard members standing on watch-bored by yet another interminable service in a language they didn't understand using a palmed blade to surreptitiously carve their names for posterity.

    an excerpt from Children of Ash and Elm, written by Neil Price in 2020

Recently Noted

  • Delightful memoir of growing up in Oklahoma as a Persian immigrant. I first was introduced to Nayeri through a friend when he was a pastry chef writing short stories, which had a detail of a horrific caramel accident that I still think of to this day.

    an note about Everything Sad is Untrue, written by Daniel Nayeri in 2020

  • Piranesi. Delightful because it feels at first like it is a natural extension of JS MR but... it’s not. I found myself thinking many times: “how does a person THINK of something like this?”

    an note about Piranesi, written by Susanna Clarke in 2020

  • I really enjoyed a bunch of these, and it's filled with a mix of cool facts that make you want to read things out loud to your neighbor, and also some beautiful, eye-opening moments of transcendence.

    an note about Vesper Flights, written by Helen McDonald in 2020

Looking for more recent books? Check out the Personal Timeline.



Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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