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Sample Sunday: From Virago Classic to Booker Contender

Sample Sunday is an opportunity to check all the books on my shelves and decide what to keep

It’s on to the letter P in my trawl through my shelves of unread books. I do seem to have a lot of titles by authors whose name begins with that letter, including Orhan Pamuk, LouIse Penny, Barbara Pym and Ann Patchett. I’ve picked out three this week, deciding whether these are books I want to keep or move along to a more receptive home.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

It was hard to miss this book with all the buzz that surrounded the Booker Prize longlisting for Kiley Reid’s debut novel. It was described as a book for our times, raising issues of racism, class privilege and gender stereotyping. The plot concerns a young black woman seen at a supermarket with a white child. The store security officer accuses her of kidnapping the toddler. A crowd gathers, someone films the incident, the girl feels humiliated. Her white employer resolves to make things right. But the incident has far reaching consequences for both women.

Everything I’ve read about this novel is signalling that it’s just not one for me. While it deals with serious issues, the book has been described as overwritten, full of cliches and ghastly characters.

The Verdict: Let go — I have too many books waiting for my attention that I know I’ll enjoy more

Gulp: Adventures On The Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Roach was described by the Washington Post as “America’s funniest science writer”. In Gulp she puts her humour in service of an explanation of a part of the body that used to get mentioned only in the doctor’s surgery but now is part of the increased interest in “gut health”. It’s a topic I became interested in after a discussion with a physio about the idea that the gut acts like a second brain.

Roach’s book is meant to de-mystify the topic for lay people, answering questions like whether you get more nutritional benefit from chewing food slowly ; whether a human can die from constipation and why our digestive systems prefer crunchy food.

The Verdict: Give Away. I’ve dipped into sections of the book and it seemed interesting. But I’m wondering whether, the more I read, the more irritated I will become by the humour. I think I’ll stick to Dr Michael Mosely on this topic, it’s not serious but he doesn’t feel the need to make everything a joke.

Cullum by E Arnot. Robertson

I’d never heard of Robertson when I saw Cullum in the second hand bookshop of a National Trust property. But it WAS a green-cover Virago Modern Classics edition and they are few and far between in my neck of the woods. I’ve since learned it was the debut novel of this English author, published in 1928 when she was just 24 years old. It concerns a young woman’s sexual awakening and first doomed love affair. Esther Sieveking is a poet but lives among people who care more about fox hunting than books. She falls in love with an author but he turns out to be a cad.

In his recent review, Simon @stuckinabook described it as “moving, engaging, and – most importantly – witty

The Verdict: Sounds good to me. It’s going to stay.

So that’s two to give away, one to keep.

Sample Sunday is when I take a look at all the unread books on my shelves and decide which to keep and which to let free. The goal isn’t to shrink the TBR as such, but rather it’s about making sure my shelves have only books I do want to read.What do you think of the decisions I’ve reached? If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear from you.

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