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Unwanted Books…

Unwanted books…

Somehow, reading, blogging, and life in general, seems to have got out of routine in recent months while I’ve been backwards and forwards to see my mother. I did manage to get the Internet up and running last time I was there, but the connection in her part of Herefordshire is dire. And in any case, when I am there I would much rather sit and chat to her, and get her to tell me about her childhood, or discuss books or something. What would be the point of going to see my lovely mum, then ignoring her, and spending all my time on the computer? But I can’t back into the swing of things when I’m back home either!
Anyway, I returned from a visit earlier this month with a box of old books she no longer needs  – volumes of poetry, cookery, history and needlework dating back to the 1930s and earlier, as well as some fabulous 19thcentury books about flowers, with the  most incredible illustrations. Some of them belonged to her mother, and I can remember many of them from my childhood, so obviously, I want to keep them all, but finding shelf space was a problem, because we seem to have reached overload, and there is no more room.
More unwanted books…
 So I forced myself to have a cull, and I’ve weeded out two carrier bags of novels I know I will never read again. I hate getting rid of books, even those I don’t like, but sometimes it has to be done, and I’ve freed up space for the new arrivals, which is good. It’s so difficult clearing things out, but a couple of duplicates have gone on the ‘reject’ stack – do I really need two different Penguin editions of ‘The Great Gatsby’, I ask myself, and the answer, of course, is no, I do not.
And out went some titles that I enjoyed reading, but don’t feel I would want to read again. Geraldine Brooks ‘Year of Wonders’ was a moving account of what happens when the plague of 1666 reaches a small village, and to prevent the deadly disease from spreading, people isolate themselves from the rest of the world. Based on the true story of Eyam, in Derbshire, it shows how fear and superstition dictate the villagers’ actions, as the death toll mounts, hidden secrets come to light, and the world they know falls apart. The book follows the tale of Anna Frith, a maid, who emerges from the ordeal with new-found knowledge that enables her to find her own way in life. It’s beautifully written, and well researched, but so harrowing in places that I don’t think I could re-read it, despite the upbeat ending.
‘Quentins’, by Maeve Binchy, was another book I enjoyed, but wouldn’t necessarily want to read again. I can always immerse myself in Binchy’s work – she’s a warm, compassionate writer, who spins a good ‘feel-good’ yarn, and creates sympathetic characters, but her first novel, ‘Light a Penny Candle’, is the only one I have read, and read, and read over the years.
 I’m quite sad to part with this because even though
I don’t like it, I love the cover, which shows a detail from’
Springtime in Eskdale’, by J McIntosh Patrick.
 Then there were the books I hated, or which disappointed (I’ve reviewed some of them in past posts). Rose Macaulay’s ‘The Towers of Trebizond’ and Winifred Holtby’s ‘South Riding’ are two of my favourite books, so I had high hopes of ‘Told by an Idiot’ and ‘Anderby Wold’, but neither lived up to expectations, and both are destined for the charity shop, despite the fact that they are Virago Modern Classics, with lovely paintings on their fronts.   And I think it must have been the VMC cover that seduced me into buying ‘This Real Night’, by Rebecca West. I can think of no other reason for purchasing it, because it’s a follow-up to ‘The Fountain Overflows’, which I didn’t like, and I don’t like this one either.
I’m finally jettisoning ‘The Mandelbaum Gate’ by Muriel Spark which languished on shelf for years and years, until I managed to finish it during Muriel Spark Reading Week (and I only did that because it was the only unread novel, and I felt Simon and Harrietshould have a full set!).
I have happy memories of reading my way through Susan Howatch back in the ’seventies (does anyone else remember ‘Cashelmara’ and ‘Penmarric’?) but I’m wary of revisiting them because ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ was terrible. And I couldn’t find anything nice to say about ‘The Irish RM’, by E Somerville & Martin Ross, which had me glued to the TV screen when it was televised in the 1980s.
Am I the only person who didn’t finish
Jasper Fforde’s ‘The Eyre Affair’?
 Finally, out go various volumes recommended by friends, which I bought, tried to read, and failed miserably. So the time has come to get rid of them. I got ‘The Bourne Identity’, by Robert Ludlum, because a friend was reading it with her book group, but I never made it beyond the first couple of chapters. I hated everything about it – the style, the story, the subject matter, the characters. I know that’s a sweeping statement, based on little more than a glimpse of the book, but it not my thing at all, so why keep it?
And I’ve tried, and tried, and tried to read Jasper Fforde’s ‘The Eyre Affair’, and cannot get along with it at all, though it seems to be very highly acclaimed by everyone else. And the same could be said of ‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’, by Kim Edwards, which other people seem to really rate, but I just kept reading the same few pages over and over again, so I gave up and shoved it back on a shelf. Only now it’s with the other unwanted books and is in the boot of the car awaiting delivery to a charity shop where, I hope, it will meet with the approval of some other reader.
Does anyone else keep books they don’t like, or hang to novels they couldn’t finish because they feel that one day they might change their mind and enjoy that particular title? And do you ever cull books – and if so, how do you decide what should go and what should stay?
And more unwanted books….
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Author:

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

11 thoughts on “Unwanted Books…

  1. I find it difficult to cull books, because I think I might want to re-read them one day – when that day would be I have no idea. I have a few books from my childhood that I will always keep, but there are plenty more I could weed out. But each time I try I only find a few that can go and I have to be quite stern with myself to do that 🙂

    I've read some of your unwanted books – and have still got some of them! I loved Susan Howatch's books and still have her Starbridge series and, I think, Cashelmara, but I've not read Wheel of Fortune – it sounds as though I've not missed anything!

    As for Jasper Fforde , I borrowed One of Our Thursday's Is Missing from the library because people were praising his books, but I just couldn't see the attraction and returned it mainly unread, so I've not tried any more of his.

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  2. Margaret,I think you are the only person I've come across (other than me!) who didn't get along with Jasper Fforde.

    I've still got many of my childhood favourites – battered Puffins that are falling to pieces and yellow with age, but ~I love them so much, and I still read them.

    But I hate getting rid of books. Like you, I always have it in my mind that I will re-read them one day, but when I think about logically I know there are books I will never pick up again, so once in a while I force myself to get rid of some. The danger is I have a tendency to rescue things before I offload them!

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  3. I find it very hard to get rid of books. Can I be sure I won't want to read that one again? I had a massive cull when I downsized but somehow more have crept in, in spite of the Kindle. Like you, I have a charity shop bag in the car right now and I do add to it. I should be more realistic. For instance, I don't like the later Chalet School books yet it seems silly to break up a complete set when there's always the chance I might re-read the lot; at least, it's nice to think I could!

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  4. I had a huge cull a couple of years ago and probably over did it a bit, I passed on books I'd love to still have now. However I am fairly ruthless when I struggle with the style of a book – I find that character perception might change, tastes in genre might shift but whether I think *that* is a good sentence or not probably won't. 🙂

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  5. Absolutely! I certainly agree regarding style, and I do find my perception of character can change with the years, but I find myself more likely to disliked something I once enjoyed than to like something I hated first time around.

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  6. You are definitely not alone in wondering what the fuss is about Jasper Fforde. I persevered all the way past the half-way point of The Eyre Affair when I just got fed up with the whole thing. I tend to be very selective of the books I acquire so it's difficult to cull. But I buy most of my books from charity shops so if something frustrates me I have no problem ditching it. You will make lots of people happy with your piles!

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  7. When I first read your title “Unwanted Books” I felt aghast. How could such a thing be true?

    Yet as I think about it, I realize that I have weeded multiple times. The last time is when I decided to focus on writing and reviewing for young people. Out of sales went all my adult classics that in over twenty years I have never read.

    Sadly, all the space that I freed up at the time has long since been used up. I love the idea of elastic walls! Yes, how I could use them.

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  8. When I first read your title “Unwanted Books” I felt aghast. How could such a thing be true?

    Yet as I think about it, I realize that I have weeded multiple times. The last time is when I decided to focus on writing and reviewing for young people. Out of sales went all my adult classics that in over twenty years I have never read.

    Sadly, all the space that I freed up at the time has long since been used up. I love the idea of elastic walls! Yes, how I could use them.

    Like

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