My shelves are groaning. Something has to be done. Culling books is so hard. Each one feels like a friend, how to tell them they aren’t needed anymore, how to cast them into the outer darkness that is the charity shop (even though that’s where a fair few of them were before I brought them home)?
A friend is taking some volumes of French poetry I feel I can live without, as well as a copy of Louis Aragon’s Le Paysan de Paris, a book I used to love. I read the opening pages, and I still love it, I just don’t think I’ll read it again.
There are so many wonderful books I haven’t read, if I could just identify the ones on my shelves I shall reread and let the rest go it would be an immense help. As it is, I feel a responsibility to make sure they all end up in good homes.
In the past couple of weeks I have read Munich by Robert Harris, Ordinary People by Sally Rooney, Americanah by Amanda Ngozi Adichie, Happiness by Aminatta Fornatta. None of the books were mine, three were from the library, one lent by a friend. All great books. In the past, when libraries kept a wide variety of stock, I could have been fairly confident of finding the books again if i wanted to reread them. Now, libraries treat their stock in the same way a commercial bookshop does. Books are not allowed to sit quietly on a shelf for a couple of years until a curious reader reaches for them and discovers novels that are not in the booksellers’ Top Ten. They will have been discarded to make room for half a dozen of the latest E L James long before then.
I am buying my second copy of Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. I have my first to my friend Nadia in Wellington. We’re going to read Ghost Wall for Book Group in July, and so I decided to replace my copy.
Ghost Wall is a slim book, less than two hundred pages, but it packs a punch. For those of you who haven’t yet discovered the joys of Sarah Moss’ fiction, I urge you to rectify that situation.
Slim books aren’t necessarily easy. Fat books aren’t necessarily difficult. And books that are *difficult* are often easier to read than *easy* ones where your attention wanders, insufficiently engaged with or convinced by character or narrative. I shot through Purple Hibiscus a month or six weeks ago. The subject matter hurt, but it was so well written, so engaging, so shocking that I finished it very quickly. The same is true of Madeline Miller’s Circe, a Christmas gift from my friend Sue. At the moment I am holding onto Circe, but I think it’s a book I should probably let go, as is Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen by Sophie Hannah, a Quick Read that is taking me as long to complete as the twice as long and much more densely layered Happiness.
There’s a moral in there somewhere.

3 thoughts on “Booked

  1. Fingers crossed as I say this about books published by small, very small, presses: books will end up in the digital cloud forever. Owning the special few that mean so much will never change. I stare at my tall bookcase regularly and think about which should go. I have a colleague who has, in the ancient fashion, done her interior decoration with books.

  2. I made a rule a year or so back that for every book I bought two would have to go to the Oxfam bookshop that used to be in Southampton (business rate increases forced it out of its premises and it has now merged with the music shop in MUCH smaller premises).
    Have I adhered to this rule? good grief no! and every time I consider throwing a book out I have to reread it first to make sure I actually want to let it go – I have forgotten so many of the books I’ve read and am capable of getting as far as the final chapter before remembering what happens next…

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