The oldies in my bookshelves
I don’t normally join in with Top Ten Tuesday but this week’s topic happened to coincide with one of my periodic reviews of my TBR. So I give you my list of 10 Books That Have Been On My Shelf (Or TBR) From Before I Started Blogging and Still Have Not Got Around to Reading.
In no particular order:
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Yes I’m ashamed to admit I have yet to read this classic in its entirety – just read bits and pieces as needed for essays. Oops.
- Armdale by Wilkie Collins. Exactly when this book came into my house I am not sure. It was at least 17 years ago since it was in the boxes when when we moved into our current house that long ago. Indeed it is a rather old looking paperback though not so old that the pages are yellow. I might even have read it but if I did then it left no impression on me. It is however not the oldest book on my shelves.
- Can Forgive Her by Anthony Trollope. I read the first two in the Barchester Chronicles (The Warden and Barchester Towers) and loved them. The plan was to read the whole series and then move onto the Palliser series of which Can You Forgive Her is the first title but I never got beyond Barchester Towers. My copy of Can You Forgive Her is dated 1996 so you can see how long ago I dreamed up that plan. I will get around to it sometime soon….possibly
- Even then the Trollope is not the oldest on the shelf. That dubious honour goes to The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. My copy was printed in 1986 – yep it’s been with me for 30 years and has never been opened since there isn’t any sign of a crease on the spine. I started reading an e version of this about two years ago but lost interest.
- George Eliot – The Last Victorian by Kathryn Hughes. I love Eliot’s work and bought this rather fat book as a way of getting to know Eliot the person. It’s been on the shelf now for longer than 5 years and I haven’t even opened it.
- A Parisian Affair and other stories by Guy du Maupassant: I made this a special request one Christmas having heard that Maupassant was a master of the short story format. I must have been in one of my “I need to read more short stories’ periods; none of which have proved successful.
- Virginia Woolf An Inner Life by Julia Briggs: There is a definite pattern emerging here with many of the books that are stuck at the back of the shelves falling into the category of literary biographies. Maybe I thought that I would seem very learned and intelligent by reading these…..
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. About 10 years ago some work colleagues recommended this breakthrough work on climate change and chemical pollution. I wasn’t looking forward to it, expecting it would be rather ‘worthy’ and stuffed full of facts which would make it less readable. But the introductory pages were a revelation because Carson was clearly someone who understood rhythm and meter and imagery. It was a very poetic form of prose that I loved. But clearly not enough to read any further because there the book sits on the shelf unread all these years later.
- The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe. This 1794 novel is satirised in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I’d never read it but thought it would be interesting to see exactly some of the form and conventions of the Gothic novel that she was ridiculing. It’s a fat novel where not a lot seems to happen for a very long time other than the heroine goes wandering around some mountainous region of France. I kept waiting for the ‘horror’ element to kick in. My copy still has my bookmark showing that I read about half of it. Will I ever go back to read the remaining section? Hm, not entirely sure about that.
- Pamela by Samuel Richardson. This one belongs to an era when I was trying to fill in some gaps from my reading of the early British novel. Pamela, published in 1740, was the best-seller of its time. The reading public obviously had more patience and tolerance than I did because I’ve not got much further than page 50. As with Radcliffe, will I feel its good for my soul to read this or that life it too short to spend on books I am not enjoying?
23 thoughts on “The oldies in my bookshelves”
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I have started The Mysteries of Udolpho so many times, had the Gutenberg edition on my ereader for years, but I’ve never got past the second page. It’s likely great, I know, but I just can’t do it. All the hype from Northanger Abbey and a general daunted feeling.
The beginning is a real slot or at least it was for me. Save yourself some time and move to a book yiu feel would be more your thing. I’m xo,ing to a conclusion that just because a book is a classic it doesn’t make it always a good read,
I adored the Woolf and the Carson (which is one worthy of a re-read, well, they both are, in this house) – but somehow I struggle a bit with Trollope. The one I can’t recommend is the Collins – I love his more famous ones, Armdale, bought on the Kindle because of the more famous ones, is one of the started, but never finished. Mind you, your poster recommending it does mind me to try again!
I read Silent Spring as a text at uni. It was certainly a breakthrough text in terms of ecology but, as you discovered in the opening chapter, it is also extremely well written. BUT I can see it would go to the bottom of the pile if up against novels or punchier non-fiction!
If it helps to nudge it up the pile, I found the collection of letters between Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman to be one of my favourite reads of that year (and I’ve even reread it once, despite my heart belonging, first, to fiction). Their friendship is just so amazing and the letters themselves filled with such interesting details. (I’ve collected the rest of her books ever since, but ironically I haven’t read Silent Spring yet either!)
I deeply sympathise over ‘Pamela’. I struggled through it last year and it was so dull it nearly made me eyes bleed. The worst of it is that one of my reading challenges is to work my way through the Guardian’s 100 best novels, and that will entail reading ‘Clarissa’ *gulp*. Valium may be required!
Armadale is long, but oh so much fun!
It’s a luxury though to have books sitting on the shelf in case the mood hits.
Interesting pile of books! I have a copy of Silent Spring I keep meaning to read, but I just wonder whether it will upset me too much. I second the recommendation of A Room of One’s Own – fabulous book!
A serious list here, Karen! Do you have plans for reading them in the near future?
BTW I love Guy de Maupassant – and had (and still have) and cheap paperback copy of his short stories next to my bed when I was a university student. I found short stories great reading as a break from studies. And I still find them a wonderful form to slip between other reads.
i would like to say that yes I plan to read all of these soon, particularly the Trollope. But really I know deep down that’s not going to happen because I have a ton of Booker listed titles to get through. Trollope I have in mind to tackle next year. It will take me a lot to get me opening Pamela and Udolpho!
So, do yourself a favour and REMOVE them from your list. You don’t need them glaring accusingly at you. 😀
Well naturally I have to point out that A Room of One’s Own (which I loved) is perfect for phase 5 of #Woolfalong. I also loved reading Anthony Trollope many moons ago Can you Forgive Her was an excellent one – though big. I read Pamela once very many years ago – I remember nothing of it. I remember Clarissa rather better but life is too short to read Clarissa- I was only about 20 when I read it – I think I had more reading time in those days.
I remember you enjoyed Trollope… Woolfalong phase 5 starts when? Not sure I can do it because I just signed up today for an Open University course on children’s literature so my reading is going to be rather focused on that for a while
#Woolfalong phase 5 is whole of September and October.
I’ve found plenty of books I acquired with the best intentions but haven’t yet read when unpacking my library onto shelves in a new house this past week — including the complete Barchester Chronicles and Silent Spring! Also a few Woolf classics I need to get to.
I read Pamela as an undergraduate and actually rather enjoyed it. I do love an epistolary novel, though this one does go on a bit longer than is necessary; for that reason, I doubt I’d read the three-times-longer Clarissa!
I know I don’t have the stamina for Clarissa. I am just thankful it wasnt on my degree syllabus!
*chuckle* If you’re sure you’re not going to read the rest of it, you might enjoy my (a-hem) review of The Mysteries of Udolpho. See https://anzlitlovers.com/2010/11/09/the-mysteries-of-udolpho-by-ann-radcliffe/
I’ve just read your review and found it vastly entertaining! Wish i’d known all of this before embarking on Udolpho. That Emily is such a wash-out of a heroine – always weeping and wailing and getting into a panic. I was hoping the ‘horror’ part would kick it up a gear but even that was rather so-so. the original readers might have been terrified by something that today we would consider rather lame I suppose.
*chuckle* I enjoyed writing the review more than reading the book…
My wife raves about the Maupassant short stories, but I have never got round to them – one day!
I don’t think your wife is alone in loving Maupassant. I did listen to a couple of stories via a podcast and enjoyed them. but I can’t find that feed now which is a shame because they also featured Chekhov