Friday, 22 January 2010


My good friend and blogging buddy Pondside  recently asked, apropos my post ‘Bored’….  if we had access to any good libraries here at Valley’s End, what with us being snow- and flood-bound far from civilisation and me being reduced to watching and writing about garden birds, for heaven’s sake. Pondside meant well and I am not in the least offended, my dear! Not only did she offer to send the Canadian Navy to dig us out of our icy misery but, I am sure, she would have charged them with delivering a large book bag, had there been any need.

Well, I have to admit that there are, in my study, at any time, about thirty unread books lying around, gathering dust. That’s not counting Beloved’s separate pile elsewhere in the house.

Most of these books are second-hand and come from various charitable book sales, absolute treasure chambers for rummaging and browsing. My current pile includes fiction and non-fiction, history, novels current and long out of print, thrillers ditto, biographies and poetry. There’s even some chick-lit – or maybe mid-life lit, hidden out of sight.

I’ve just finished reading a collection of H.E. Bates’ short stories, long out of date, which I found very enjoyable and nicely soporific late at night. Less soporific, bitingly funny, stylish and wise, is the book I am reading at the moment, Joyce Carol Oates  ‘Middle Age’ about an affluent community in present-day America.

Both books came second-hand and therefore neither is in pristine condition nor ranks among the current crop of three-for-two blockbusters on the bookshelves of the large stores. No matter.

As I usually have about three books on the go at any time  - not all of them are read right through  - buying books at a fraction of their original cost is a good idea. You can always return them to the charity shops or charitable bookstalls for others to discover. All you have lost is a bit of your reading time, and a few pounds; on the plus side, you have helped a charitable organization to stay afloat for a little while longer. 


  1. I have stacks of books also. Keep wanting more. I received 2 books in the mail that my daughter had ordered for me. I was so excited.She did not tell me what they were. Sadly, they are Sarah Palin's and Bill O'Reilly's books. Both I already have and have read. I will be able to return them to Amazon.Com and choose some new ones. Sometimes reading is my least favorite pastime, whereas it used to be my favorite. I have to get large print nowadays.

  2. I had completely forgotten about Joyce Carol Oats. I remember liking her style, but can't remember a thing she wrote. (That's not surprising as I can't remember much of anything now. ;-) .)

    I love mysteries and am now reading The First Family. I like David Balddachi and this is a good escape. I have read many of his books and they never disappoint. I also like P. D. James.

  3. I often buy books, new and used, with all the best intentions. Then they sit in a pile or on a shelf, constantly trying to remind me of my promise to read them. I must make more of an effort to keep my promises in 2010.

  4. I just love to have a pile of books waiting to be read - my family are really good at keeping me well stocked - hubby usually goes to charity shops and M. usually buys new- so I do get that wonderful pleasure of being the first to open a new book! I am reading about Barack Obama at the mo.

  5. I have always felt that dog-eared books do not detract from the enjoyment of the reading.

  6. I love reading too, although I must admit I've never got around to reading all of them. We buy a lot of ours from Charity shops - Oxfam in Shrewsbury have a wonderful selection. I am reading a William Barclay book at the moment which I love - I bought it off a charity stall in the market about 30 years ago and discovered it when I was having a turf out at the top of my wardrobe. I love the book called 'The Shack' by W P Young - have read that one twice. Do you read any of your books twice?

  7. I read recently about Joyce Carol Oates, so, thanks for the reminder, because it's one of those authors I'll be putting in my to-read list very soon.

    It's great to read about someone who values old, second-hand books. I honestly believe that that is one of the most precious treasures I've found in the UK, since I came: secondhand bookshops. Even if I don't buy anything (and finances are tight at the moment) I love browsing around. It's the snoopy in me. I like finding out about what people read.

    Great post. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  8. Wonderful advice. I also need to utilize the local library more often. It is so easy to go to Amazon, or a local bookstore, but your way is better.

  9. I do love my piles of unread used books! In both pictures, there's only one author with whom I'm familiar; I'll be keeping an eye out for several of the others.

  10. Second hand books made me who I am...

    Aloha, Friend!

    Comfort Spiral

  11. Very interesting that I posted a comment here earlier today, but it has disappeared.
    I wanted to say that a book blog is always welcome, and that it's nice to see a number of Canadian books on your shelf, including one of the Jalna series. I used to live near the setting of these books - such a beautiful part of Ontario that one understands the author's attraction to it.

  12. I always think the best thing I ever mastered as a young child was the ability to read - read and the world becomes even larger - as big as a writer's imagination.

    Great pile of books to dip into I see - does it ever get any smaller?

  13. I am a much happier person when I have a book or two on the go. Here in France, second-hand books in English are a bit tricky to come by, although in March an international women's group is holding a big book sale so I'll be there with a big bag in my hand!

  14. friko - my house is littered (well they're carefully stacked and organized as per the partner's request) with heaps of unread books. i try and work through them at a rreasonable clip but it's hard to keep up with the new ones arriving . . . . uh oh!!! i donate them (after i have read them) to the local library who eithe catalogue them or sell them at their own fundraiser. it's good for everyone!! steven

  15. QMM - it's sad when bad eyesight doesn't allow you to read with ease anymore. My husband is the same, he finds reading for a long time quite a strain now. Have you tried specialist lights? He finds them very helpful.

    Darlene - I don't know David Baldachi; as I also love thrillers and allow myself one for every two 'proper' books, I shall have to try him.

    Pondside - I haven't read many of that series; they are way out of date now. But, as I read and always have, more or less anything, I don't care what historical period my novel finds itself in.

    Mountainear - smaller? not really; it just changes over time. Sometimes there are a lot more waiting to be read.

    Deborah - that must be quite difficult, to have two homes on two continents. You can't take your favourites with you and you can't have two entire libraries in different places. How do you cope? And what about reference books? As a writer you need them always available.

    mollygolver - I must try the Shrewsbury Oxfam shop, the Craven Arms Severn Hospice is my nearest Charity Bookshop. Of course I read books twice, sometimes more than that. Particular favourites get an outing every two years or so.

    Martin H - As long as you read, it doesn't matter so much what or in what order. Books are patient, the time will come when you feel like a particular author or genre. And then they'll be available.

    Twiglet - I have both the B Obamas too, given as gifts, so also new. They are on Beloved's pile.

    Tabor - Absolutely not, a book is a book is a book.

    Cuban - Try Church coffee mornings or the bookstalls at other charitable events; there must be some even in London. Most books cost no more than a pound, and often less. Otherwise come to Shropshire, I guarantee you find a book sale at least once a week somewhere.

    Nancy - Cheaper too! You are doing something good both for your pocket and a worthy cause.

    June - Good, another bookworm. I find books important and a pleasure to have around, even if I don't get through them instantly.

    Cloudia - ....and who or what is that? A book dealer? A bookworm? A writer? A nicer person all round? Aloha!

    steven - sounds nice, a man after my own heart. I think we'd all get so much more reading done if it weren't for this dratted blogging!

  16. I do not live in the area in Quebec where one might find a used book store - so I have to admit I tend to browse on Amazon and have bought so many books I should own part of the company. I just love the arrival of a package of books, and like you I always have about three that I am reading (the book needs to fit the mood n'est ce pas?).

    I have given many books away to charities, but I often find myself clinging to them like a cherished old friend. I also will go back and give the best reads a second go. Many new discoveries are made on the second read. I tend to read too quickly (voraciously) at first and must not realize I am speed reading. I only realize on the second read that there were details I missed.

    I have a couple of old Wallace Stegner and Patricia Highsmith books on my bedside table among others. I see you have a Sebald on your shelf!

  17. Me again: To clarify there are loads of used books stores in Quebec, I forgot to say that I do not have access to English ones where I live.

  18. I love book buying and am trying and failing to keep to a resolution I made when we came here and halved our bookshelf space that when one comes in another should go out, to the charity shop or to a friend. Still have miles of shelves but just not enough. I am hopeless at keeping to the resolution but it does make me make a sweep every now and then and move things out. You are right about blogging, it definitely eats into reading time, and watching TV time which I hardly do at all now, and knitting time and sleeping time. Eating and drinking time remain largely unaffected.

  19. I went to dinner with a friend and she showed me her cellar which had boxes and boxes of books in it. She packed a bag for me of some I hadn't read. These are going to keep me going for a while. Next on the list is 'Gigi' and 'The Cat' by Colette.

  20. I still have great memories of being read to as a child, usual reader was my dad.

    What a miracle to discover that I could also read! From the age of five, to my current 64, I have absolutely loved books. I love looking at them, collecting them, reading them, re-reading them. Meeting authors, wishing that I could be an author. Hardback, paperbacks. Long books, short books, serious books, non-fiction, fiction, trivial books, books with pictures, all of them.

    I am so very fortunate to be a member of The New York Society Library ( and to have access to the riches that reside in that building. No need to ever purchase another book, I can have any book I want in my home for as long as I wish, promising to return it to the library.

    Right now, I've borrowed Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet, Andrew Motion's Keats, and Keats' Complete Poems and Selected Letters (1935 edition.)

    Wish I could stay at home tomorrow and read, read, and read. Cups of tea available as required. Instead, will be working in the shop.


  21. Friko, I have to leave my #1 book - my synonym finder - behind in France 'cause it's just too heavy to cart around, but the internet is a reasonable substitute for that and almost anything else. I keep my favourite books in France since that's where I am most of the time but always have some unread books waiting for me in Calgary. It gets a bit frustrating sometimes when I realize that the book I want is an ocean away, but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter at all.

  22. Bonnie - I NEVER give cherished friends away, only those books I can't get on with.

    Do we also share a love of Sebald as well as Rilke?

    Ekizabethm - we too tried to reduce shelf space when we came here.It only worked for a little while, we have have as many if not more books again as before. Ah well, somebody will have to get rid of them some time in the future.

    Fran Hill - Colette, now there's a blast from the past. I now only have the two Cheri titles.

    Frances - Your library sounds a marvellous place. Keeping books for as long as you like? Most unusual. As for the rest of your comment, isn't it wonderful to discover the world of books and all the worlds the books open up. May you soon be able to read to your eart's content.

    Deborah - I haven't got to the great library in cyberspace yet. Living in one place only I still love the get the book of the moment off the shelf
    and explore.

  23. How nice to learn, that books do find a good home at your place. Also nice to learn, that there are other people, who read more than one book at a time.
    Please allow me to pick this idea up on Friday. A wonderful Tuesday for you all.

  24. robert - yes, of course. Enjoy the rest of the week.

  25. My husband and I are bookworms and have way too many books in the house. We have made extra bookshelves with bricks and long pieces of wood for the halls. The computer room has books on 4 walls, floor to ceilings, the den has books and the parlor has all the antiquarian books. In all we must have a few thousand books because we can’t part with them, most of them (the majority of these books were purchased second-hand.) For a few years I bought books from a gentleman in London who had a catalog of second-hand books on Africa – I think I bought 300 or so from him until he retired. I have an extensive collection of travel narratives because when I am not traveling I read about travels. Right now I am reading Maturin M. Ballou’s “Due West or Around the World in Ten Months” this is an old book, my edition says 1884. I am also reading Signs in the Blood by Vicki Lane, The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter, Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger, Ecrits de Guerre 1939-1944 by Antoine de St Exupery and The Poems of Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I have traveled to towns just to go to a bookstore – like to Portland, Oregon to go to Powell’s Books and like to go to book fairs. I cannot go to bed without a book, even if it is 2:00 am – impossible.

  26. Vagabonde - wow, you and me both. Going to bed without a book is impossible, never mind how late it is.
    You definitely are a woman after my own heart, I love everything you do.
    I am not as adventurous as you, I don't anybody could be.
    I shall do another blog some time about 'me and my books' throughout my life. I can't imagine a house without books.

    You really must come to the UK and I'll take you to Hay-on-Wye, which is a town which exists mainly for its bookshops.


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