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New Year: New Challenge

No more themes.
No more book buying!
Yes, in an attempt to halt the flow of books cascading through our house, I have vowed not to buy any more books for the whole of 2014. I intend to ‘watch less, read more’.

I'm trying to avoid too much of this...

I’m trying to avoid too much of this…

The ‘no book buying rules’ in full:
1) I shall not buy books for myself for the whole year;
2) I can (if necessary) buy books for others or my children (they cannot have birthdays or Christmas without new books!);
3) I can swap books;
4) There is no limit to the number of books I give away;
5) I can exchange books at Barter Books in Alnwick, as long as I do not pay for them with cash;
6) I cannot download titles I have to pay for;
7) I could download free classics if I don’t already have a paper copy (up for debate);
8) I can receive books as gifts;
9) I can order or reserve books from my local library;
10) There is no limit to the number of books I borrow from my local library.

By the way, as you’ll probably have gathered from the monthly photos of my home library, there is no concern that I will run out of reading material. My bookcases are overflowing, there are books in every room of the house; my Kindle(s) are packed with over 900 books and our local library is excellent.

I anticipate the first few weeks, even months to be difficult. Even the past few days have been tricky. I have been challenged when shopping or late-night browsing. I have disabled my Amazon account and have not gone into my local charity shops in the hope of keeping away from temptation.

However, I hope our finances are improved, my addiction is lessened, and some of those toppling towers of books are out of the house over the coming months.
I am also hoping that by ‘going public’ with my addiction, I will be supported in my resolution.

Do you ‘suffer’ with book-buying-compulsions? Do you seek the thrill of a new (second hand) book? Do you listen to/watch book-related programmes with pen in hand to jot down titles to then order online? Do you love the anticipation of a fresh book joining others on your shelves?
Do you feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of unread paper on your shelves? Do you just not know how to start reducing the number you buy? Do you not know where to start reading?
Do all your efforts at reducing the number you have end up in a half-hearted ‘prune’ of a few tens but with the discovery of more great reads you’d forgotten you had?
Do you have unintentional duplicate copies of novels you’ve not even read?
Welcome to Book-Addicts Anonymous!

The only difficulty now is just what to read?!

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Posted by on 05/01/2014 in Book-ish things, Life, Reading space

 

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My 2012 Olympic Reading Challenge

 This article appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of NewBooks Magazine; see newbooksmag.com for more…

In this year of sporting achievement, I set myself a typically sedentary challenge: to read a different theme or genre each month. Although voracious, I usually vary styles and subjects, avoiding repetition. This year, I wanted to challenge myself to read more widely, to pull more books off my groaning shelves, to see what gems I’ve been ignoring. I sketched out twelve themes to explore with a rough idea of which books to include, allowing reading group commitments and impulsive choices to slip in; permitting certain books to ‘hangover’ into other months.

 

I had an easy start to the year, reading female romantic fiction in January: from Marian Keyes’ This Charming Man to More Than Love Letters and Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (amongst others), I was surprised at the quality and variety of writing but was ready for ‘meatier’ stuff in February:

‘male adventure and historical fiction’. Bernard Cornwall’s The Winter King and Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth were both rollicking adventure romps with a definite male flavour; nubile women in diaphanous robes; strong and resolute male heroes. Before I Go To Sleep snuck in, as did Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, a great alternative pair for half-term holidays.

 

March’s non-fiction was a non-starter, despite my enthusiastic pile to read: If Walls Could Talk, She-Wolves, The Diamond Queen, and Watching the English were all dipped into. It whetted my thirst to vary my ‘diet’ with a few more factual reads.

 

April is a cruel month so I enjoyed ‘murder in my library’ with classic British crime. By side-stepping Christie, I discovered the delights of Josephine Tey, Patricia Wentworth, Margery Allingham and Gladys Mitchell with some MC Beaton slipping in. (My notes also say I read Fifty Shades of Grey this month; less said the better!)

 

May was ‘merrie’ with historical fiction, moving from Tey’s Richard III’s ‘mystery’, The Daughter of Time to Phillipa Gregory’s The White and Red Queens. H.Rider Haggard’s She was finally finished by Kindle and A Gathering Storm by Rachel Hoare was a quick weekend-away treat.

 

June welcomed Stephen King. He’s written so much; I’ve read so little. I read parts one and two of The Dark Tower; they were sufficient. Under The Dome was quickly aborted for August’s ‘Another Country’ theme.

Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows was a beautifully lyrical family and national saga; The Song of Achillies an ancient but fast-paced love story; The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency an amusing, light start to a series, counteracted by Winter in Madrid with tales of spying, love and nationalism. The much anticipated The Far Pavilions remained far off…

 

With a deep breath, I launched into September’s sci-fi/fantasy month. I started on familiar ground with H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (Edwardian visionary thrills) and Alan Garner (Welsh/Cheshire myths and adventures). I found gems in Julie Myerson’s beautifully disturbing Then, Adam Roberts’ bleak Snow, Erin Morgenstern’s magical The Night Circus, but was deadened by (and gave up on) Iain M Banks’ Culture novels. I’ll save the Game of Thrones for another time.

 

October felt academic with ‘unread classics’: dipping into Shirley, Lady Audley’s Secret, Anna Karenina, The Scarlet Letter, and Persuasion.

November (at the time of writing) will be a combination of ghost stories with vampires: MR James, Sheridan le Fanu, Edgar Allan Poe, Let the Right One In, The Passage.

I’ll round the year off, appropriately, with Dickens.

 

I’ve relished following up recommendations and discovering books I’ve always wanted to read. I’ve been more disciplined in my reading choices and reflected on why I like what I usually choose. Each month, I’ve run out of time; my children, husband, and life make loud demands! Having only skimmed the surface of genres and authors this year, I look forward to continuing the experiment into 2013.

What would you suggest I try next: Nordic Noir? Regency? Iris Murdoch? Hilary Mantel? Both Trollopes? Do let me know!

 

Amabel Craig (@bookworm78) will continue to blog about her experiment at https://bookwormmum.wordpress.com.

 
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Posted by on 31/12/2012 in End of month review

 

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On giving away books

Every few months we enjoy a day out to Barter Books in Alnwick; a beautiful market town on the North East coast with amazing gardens, castle and one of the best second hand bookshops -ever. It’s a family favourite: husband sees books leaving the house ( they run a barter system), children watch trains running above the bookshelves (it’s in the old railway station), they ‘drive’ the book bus while browsing for their own books, we get to rummage through shelves and shelves of books of all descriptions; to top it all off, we can warm ourselves by the fire and rejuvenate in the restored cafe.
As I handed over my bag a few weeks’ ago, bulging with about 30 books to offer for barter, I found myself wondering (again) why I find it so hard to give books away. Why am I so attached to them? Why do I always hesitate before handing them over?

I don’t see myself as a particularly materialistic person. But I find it difficult to resist buying another book to add to my ‘must read’ shelves. Books represent an indulgence; I don’t buy lots of shoes, jewellery, clothes, go on expensive holidays, etc. so buying a book, whether from a charity shop, at a reduced price, or throwing the latest bestseller into the basket with the shopping, is only a minor, insignificant indulgence. Isn’t it?

Buying a book represents so much. Having a book indicates the intention to read it. I have promised myself the time to enjoy reading this book; it represents ‘me time’; a moment to be selfish, to sit down, enjoy an escape from daily demands and responsibilities, to listen to and experience another person’s stories, experiences or knowledge.

I know I can achieve all this by borrowing from my local library (which I do, very regularly), but owning my own copy makes the contents more personal. I can read it in my own time, without a renewal deadline. I can lend it, enjoy receiving it back, chat about it, return it to my shelves. I also become attached to certain editions, remembering where I was when I read it, occasionally leaving a memento of a particular time in the books’ leaves.

So often though, a book on my shelves represents a desire to read it. I often fill my shelves with books I either want to read or feel I should read. My bookcases are aspirational!

But, of course, there comes a moment when I realise I can pass on a book.

I can give it a new life, save it from languishing, un read on our shelves. I might have read it before but not fallen so in love with it that I cannot see it go; in fact, I might not have read it at all (yet). It is my responsibility as a bibliophile to pass books on, to share their physicality and their contents.

And so, farewell (some) beloved books. Live again…

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Posted by on 17/11/2012 in Uncategorized

 

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