At the start of this year I decided my goal would be to read the books I already own and to rein back on new acquisitions. I’t’s not a book ban by any stretch of the imagination – I know that would be impossible for me since the minute I declared such a ban I’d be itching to get to the bookshop. It’s more of a restraint on buying/acquiring. And I’ve astonished myself by just how restrained I’ve been. Until this week that is. Four new books have mysteriously made their way into my home. I can’t imagine how they got there – perhaps the book fairies placed them there when I was asleep??
These are the four new acquisitions which are now in the pile I categorise as “waiting for a space in the shelves”.
Our nearest Tesco supermarket recently introduced a book donation shelf so of course I had to take a peek when I was in the store. Mostly the donated items were the usual crime fiction/romance/thriller titles but oh joy, there was a Virago Modern Classic in amongst them. I’d never heard of Maura Laverty but for the price of a donation to charity it was mine. I’ve since discovered she was an Irish author writing in in the early 1940s but whose first four novels (of which Never No More is the first) were banned in Ireland until the 1960s.
Flush with this success I called in at a second hand bookshop in Cardiff with a mind to buy some of the Virago Modern Classics I’d seen on my last visit. There wasn’t much of interest this time around though. But in browsing the shelves my eye was drawn to the familiar grey colour of one spine; sure enough this was a Persephone edition in excellent condition. I’ve never come across a Persephone in any second hand store before now so of course I had to have it, even more so because it was by Dorothy Whipple, an author who comes highly recommended by Ali at HeavenAli but whom I’ve never read. They Knew Mr Knight, Whipple’s second novel, is the story of a family who encounter and fall foul of a crooked financier.
After that moment of excitement I just had to celebrate with a visit to a coffee shop that just happens to be a bookcrossing zone.And they just happened to have Lewis Man by Peter May, an author I’ve heard about via Cleopatra at Cleopatralovesbooks. I took it home in the belief this was the first title in his crime fiction trilogy set on the remote Isle of Lewis in Scotland that features a former policeman who has returned to the island of his birth. Turns out I was wrong and The Lewis Man is book number 2. So now I have to hope the library can furnish me with book number 1 The Blackhouse.
And finally, a few years ago I read Alex by Pierre LeMaitre which was a fast-paced, superbly written novel about a girl’s abduction. The beginning was so horrifying that I didn’t think I could continue reading but I did and it turned out to be a riveting story about revenge. So taken was I with LeMaitre that I planned to read more from him so when his publishers ran a giveaway recently of course I could not resist. Which is how I come to be the new owner of his latest novel Three Days and Life which will be published in July. It begins in 1999, in a small provincial town of Beauval, France, where a twelve-year-old boy called Antoine Courtin accidentally kills a young neighbor girl in the woods near his home. He conceals the body and to his relief- is never suspected of any connection to her disappearance. More than a decade later Antoine, now a doctor, moves back to Beauval and discovers there was a witness to his crime, a person who has the power to destroy his life. Based on what I experienced with Alex, I’m sure this is going to be a dramatic psychological thriller.
And now I have to pull in those reins again otherwise all the progress I’ve made on reading through my personal library will be undone.
At the start of the year I pledged to cut down on buying new books because — like so many other avid readers — I already had far too many unread titles hanging around the house. According to my calculations I had 135 physical books yet to be read (I ran out of fingers and toes so there may have been a margin of error in that figure) plus an untallied number of e-books.
I’ve been good for most of the year with only one or two purchases of books needed for the local book club meeting. But all those good intentions have now gone by the wayside since August saw somewhat of an explosion in the purchasing department.
It was the perfect convergence of three factors…..
Reason Excuse #1: The Booker long list had been announced at the end of July and I wanted to read at least a few of the 13 titles before the winner is announced in October. I did try getting them from the library but had only marginal success so to make sure I had at least something to read until my requests came through, I ended up buying e-versions of Niall Williams’ History of the Rain and Karen Joy Fowler’s We are All Completely Beside Ourselves.
Reason #2: I had to hang around for a few hours in the city center one day and of course, gravitated to the bookshop and a number of books just leapt into my arms. I became the owner of:
- Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang (it’s rare for me to buy a non fiction book but I loved her Wild Swans)
- The Fortune of the Rougons which is the first in the Rougon-Macquart series by Emile Zola;
- Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, which is one of the books on my classics club list and
- Spell It Out, the Story of English Spelling by David Crystal, an author whose work on language in Shakespeare helped get me through some tough Open University coursework a few years ago.
Reason #3: Speaking of which, I am about to embark on an Open University module in early October and needed to buy a few of the set text books. I’m doing this purely as a way of keeping the brain cells ticking over but it still involves a lot of reading and some essay writing. It’s a multi disciplinary course in which we look at philosophy music of Shostakovitch and the art of Cezanne. Some of those hold more interest than others for me (I have very little ear for music and Shostakovitch is certainly not a composer I appreciate) but I’m looking forward to the art sections and the history. And of course there are some literature components which is why I’ve bought:
- Two plays: Christopher Marlowe’s Faustus and Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes
- a book of poetry (The Faber Book of Beasts by Paul Muldoon) and
- A World of Difference: an Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents edited by Lynda Prescott. This last one sounds a treat since it includes work by leading writers such as V S Naipul, Zadie Smith and Peter Carey. Their contributions are all on the theme of difference.
Even with all these purchases I’ve still got a TBR list of 134 which is smaller (fractionally) than when I started the year which is progress of a sort. Now I’ve got the book buying bug out of my system I should be able hold on for another three months without any more purchases.