Yesterday I spent time clearing out the mountain of books that were littering a spare room. I’d a new bookcase in my bedroom, sitting empty, just waiting.
I began by creating two piles. One for those I’d either never read (my daughters or husbands books) or had read but disliked, and one for those I’d enjoyed. There were possibly a couple of hundred books but even so it should have taken a relatively short period of time but it didn’t.
As I picked up those books I disliked they rested in my hand for a moment before being chucked on the ever increasing pile, judgement passed without a second thought. As I continued other books caught my eye, one’s I’d not seen for years, or I’d forgotten I’d ever read. Time stopped. Standing there I’d read the back blurb, re acquainting myself with the characters and story. Turning them over I’d look at the cover, remembering my first reading, as many of them I’d read more than once. Each of those favoured books I felt so passionate about. My love for them was personal.
I was reminded of a post I read on the fabulous Tara Sparling’s blog. Tara is a great writer and prolific reader. She spoke in this post (‘Please don’t ask me to recommend a book for you, it will only hurt us both’) about how she is sometimes asked to recommend a book, but no longer agrees to as what one might love another person seriously dislikes. (If you’re not acquainted with Tara’s blog, do yourself a favour, it’s a laugh out loud read, with the comments providing a secondary source of entertainment). As I looked at my favourite books I mourned the fact no member of my family would ever read them, or even pretend to read them. In fact, given half a chance they would chuck them on their dislike pile without a thought.
Working my way through my books I was greatly surprised with the variety I uncovered. There were the classics, Wuthering heights, Pride and Prejudice, Tale of Two cities, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and the less classics, Tuesdays with Morrie, Noughts and Crosses, The Day of the Jackal, The Secret Scripture, to name but a few. I’d also a surprisingly large number of poetry books.
As I looked at them did I have my favourites?
Well don’t tell them but yes I did. Like Tara I wondered when writing this, would I share those favourites with you, but I think if I were reading this I’d wish to know. Among them were…
An Irish book called ‘The Tailor and Ansty’. This was written by Eric Cross in 1942 about the Tailor and storyteller Timothy Buckley. It was banned by the Irish Censorship Board because of “its depiction of premarital cohabitation, and its sexual frankness”. The local clergy arrived at Timothy Buckley’s home and forced him to burn his copy of the book.
Two books written by men from the now uninhabited Blasket Islands, “Twenty years agrowing”, by Maurice O Sullivan and “The Islandman” by Tomás O Crohan.
“Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier.
There were many others but these were my most loved. As I looked at them in their new home a thought struck me. When my children were young and life was very busy I read a lot of books, a lot more than I do now. Why? Because the distraction of the internet was not there. I’ve begun to address this in the past few months and I’m determined to succeed, because I have no desire to look at my next bookcase in ten years time and see empty shelves.
I’m curious to know what books you have on your bookshelves that you love or loved above all others? Perhaps not necessarily the best known ones?