Thoughts about my reading.

After an accident with the bookcase in the hall, this week, we spent several days walking round hastily stacked heaps (note to self: it’s about time you stopped living in a hazardous muddle!), and wondering if visitors would assume my hording was heading for the kind of proportions that appear on reality tv shows. On Sunday, what began as tidying my main TBR (aka overflow) area, became a stocktaking revelation.

For a start, the collections I had been making of Daphne du Maurier, Georgette Heyer, and Iris Murdoch novels, were much more extensive than I’d realised. Luckily, I’d only doubled up on one Heyer.

But hey, wasn’t this an ideal opportunity to make spaces for future bargains, or miraculous ‘finds’? After all, I’ve got at least six tatty old dictionaries.

Why so many?

Well, the first was an eighteenth birthday gift from a family friend, the second is the ‘Midget’ dictionary mum gave me when I started secondary school. It was designed to fit inside an average sized pencil case, alongside the pencils.

The third was dad’s old school dictionary, complete with ink stains and blots; the fourth was my aunt Judith’s school dictionary; the fifth was a 1932 Christmas present given by my Great Uncle Bill to my Great Aunty Jo, which means all of them are family heirlooms.

Damn it, I’m sentimental. How am I ever going to achieve minimalism?

As for dictionary number six, it’s a Collins Westminster Dictionary with illustrations. I couldn’t possibly ditch a resource that not only lists motor-cars, bi-planes and airships as if they’re the latest technological development, but also has this wonderful illustration for the Robot entry.

There’s no date, but it’s got to belong to the 1920s or 1930s. Imagine if it ended up pulped, or in landfill… I’ve put it back beside my 1901 copy of A History Of Police in England. These, I tell myself, will be invaluable writing resources, at some point.

Then, yippee, I’d forgotten about those two scandi detective novels I picked up. Ditto the Dorothy Whipple novel, Someone at a Distance. She’s been high up on my reading-radar for a while now. As has Gore Vidal, so I’m glad to find I’ve bought Messiah, at some point.

The surprises kept coming. I did distantly remember buying the two William Trevor novels, and Helen Dunmore’s short story collection Love of Fat Men. I’d regretted getting rid of my original copy almost as soon as I gave it away.

John Cowper Powys? Brilliant, and Marina Warner’s, Murderers I Have Known. I’m looking forward to trying her short stories. My copies of her books on myths, fairy-tales and legends have been useful for research as well as entertaining reads.

After such a reluctant start, I was finding the dusting and replacing not only rewarding, but uplifting. There was, it turned out, nothing on those shelves but promises of time-to-be-spent-profitably.

Will this comprise a reading list for this year? No.

Though it has encouraged me to face up to the two large dusty bookcases in my office.

It’s also made me think about some of the blogging discussions I’ve been reading on whether to plan, or not plan, a TBR list.

Sorting books has reminded me that part of the pleasure I get from reading, is picking out a title or author because it resonates with what I’m feeling. I might be influenced by the way sunlight is slanting on the cover, or the style and size of the font, it may be that I’m reminded of something else. The tactile elements are part of it too: the weight of the volume, the texture of the paper, and the smell of the pages, old or new.

The best simile I can come up with, is that it’s like walking past a restaurant where the wonderful aromas cause you to turn, and step back to gaze through the window, and read the menu, and check your purse, and then your watch, to see if this might be a good moment to treat yourself.

37 thoughts on “Thoughts about my reading.

  1. A wonderful post. I smiled at the doubling up of copies. When we moved here there was a spectacular argument with the Mr along the lines of do we seriously need six copies of Tom Sawyer..all the same.? NO. So let go of that book. NOW. Obviously you have wonderful gems there you cannot possibly part with. these are time capsules of the best kind. One of the best things re the downsizing the collection has been to know now where things are. as you say books suit moods. and it is wonderful to be able to say ..I want to reread or dip into that today and to find it too. Naturally we never put out any gems.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Your industry has caused me to look at my bookshelves and sigh. When we moved here I unpacked all my books ( none of which I’d dreamt of throwing out when packing up) and hurriedly stacked them on the shelves. I promised myself I’d sort them out when we’d settled in. 18 months later they’re still all higgledypiggledy but I know where they are, mostly. So I think I’ll just leave them like that. It makes for some serendipitous discoveries to find a book on the history of fonts next to Jane Eyre!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. What a beautiful post. So much chimed with me too about books that have meaning. Books handed down. Historical treasures like my volumes of The Arthur Mee Encyclopedia for Children, which tells you all you need to know about certain attitudes of the days of Empire and how these were passed on in the guise of education, as well as how to enjoy craft hobbies using things like sulphuric acid. And your book given away, regretted, bought again. For me that was Gorky’s ‘My Childhood’, which I sold at a car boot sale when downsizing because I was moving in with a boyfriend and had ‘too many books’. Instant regret!

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  4. Going through one’s collection of books is like visiting old friends and anticipating new ones. A good thing to do from time to time. I did have to get rid of a number of books when we moved to Spain, sigh.

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  5. Oh yes, yes, yes! Lovely books, all of them.

    I still have a little twinge when I think of all the books we gave away or sold when we were preparing to move out to South Africa, even if they were all paperbacks we’d read and (probably) wouldn’t read again. When I see one of them in a second-hand book shop I sigh, ‘I had that book’.
    Ah, but there are so, so many more. We brought all the rest of the books (a fair few) out here, and I’m pleased to say we’re building up our collection to almost match size and weight of the the previous one. And we still have room to build more shelves…

    I love the look of your Westminster dictionary. I’ve had my nose pressed up against the laptop screen reading the entries. I think I know a place that just might have something similar. It’s only a six hour round trip 😉

    Happy reading, Cath!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Chris. I’m really looking forward to making some time for a relaxing dip into the shelves. Funny thing, but I too am able to keep finding a little space for one more bookcase…
      The Westminster dictionary is a gem, despite the ripped spine.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a wonderful post, Cath. You must not throw anything. As you say, the books resonate at different times, and their value as research material cannot be overstated. When I went to Thailand, I gave all my books to a charity shop: dictionaries, thesauruses (?), fashion through the ages, Oscar winners, and so many on drama, writing and my degree topics. That’s not including plays, scripts and novels. Beautiful novels. I am now trying to build another collection. Enjoy your books. Happy reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lynda. I think I’d need a Thailand sized reason to discard books, too. What a wrench – but, now what fun trawling for replacements. I look forward to hearing about the gems you’ve discovered. Happy reading to you, too.


  7. When you mentioned the mishap with the bookcase in the hall my mind did go to Leonard Bast and “Howard’s End”. One must be so careful these days!

    I have that same Westminster dictionary and it is an absolute delight.

    There are always a dozen good reasons to keep any book. Been facing this dilemma all year as have done – by necessity – a radical downsizing of the “collection”. Most problematic.

    One of my problems is that I have a whole lot of books that probably no-one else would want but me and when they are gone would be very difficult to replace.

    Liked by 5 people

    • You’ve just promoted Howard’s End to the top of my TBR list! It’s been getting knocked off it’s spot regularly for a couple of years now.

      I dread the moment when I down-size. It’s possible I’ll choose books over furniture. I share your problem about books only I can love – I’m guessing you mean ancient paperbacks with grubby and tattered covers, and hardbacks by authors who’ve faded from notice…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m sentimental about books, too! I used to have my grandfather’s old Britannica books, but when I got married I had to come to terms with the fact I just couldn’t hold on to them. While I’m still bummed about this from time to time, I DO have my grandfather’s handmade music books. Considering how much the man loved to sit and play at the piano by year, then I think that’s the stronger choice. 🙂 And you’re so right about reading what you’re feeling! I have some books from the library I WANT to read, but the desire to read them…it just isn’t there yet, you know? I’ve got to read something I WANT to read. That’ll make all the difference! Hope you’re healthy and well!

    Liked by 2 people

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