Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Reading matters

There comes a point when you have to stop buying books. All right, maybe that's too rash a statement, too radical an idea. But when your house is getting to the full-up point with books, and bookcases and book shelves, not to mention piles of books here and there (but never on windowsills), then you know it's time to reassess your book-buying habits.
Of the books shown here, part of my January reading, all bar one were impulse buys. I have to stop impulse buying... although having said that, none of these impulse buys was a disappointment, far from it. But that's not always the case. I fall for a cover, the blurb, and the book just has to come home with me. Often the inside fails to live up to either the expectations of the cover/blurb or my own imaginings. It turns out not to be a book to snuggle down with under a blanket on a cold winters' day, getting lost in the story contained within the covers, but instead a frustrating book I simply can't get into at all. I have now decided that I am going to concentrate on my favourite authors only, buying their latest books as and when they are issued. Trouble is, there are about twenty four of them!
So now I am going to the library again. I stopped going regularly a couple of years ago, only visiting when I had a book on order for researching an article, or of particular interest. I somehow lost the pleasure of going.. looking back I think I was going through some sort of a juvenile phrase of not wanting to give things back, like the books I had read and enjoyed. Now I am more sensible it seems, for a time at least, and happy to go and borrow, have a good read (or not, as the case may be, but at least it won't have cost me anything if it's a dud!) and then return the book for someone else to enjoy.
As for the books... 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society' by Mary Ann Shaffer, was the one non-impulse buy. So many friends had told me how enjoyable a book it was, and I had read several reviews, all praising it highly, and so it was on my 'to buy' list. And it didn't disappoint at all, and for those who love books written in the form of letters, this is a must. It has been written about so much, I won't go into the story here, suffice to say it was every bit as good as I'd been led to believe.
'The Butterfly House' by Marcia Preston is a book I read when it first came out three years ago, and was as good the second time around, so good it was read in a day.. one of those snuggle down wintry days, with snow falling outside. It begins with a stranger knocking on the door of Roberta Dutreau's house.. at least she thinks he's a stranger until recognition hits and she discovers he is the believed-dead father of her closest friend from schooldays, Cynthia. So we go back through her life, to those childhood days when she felt an outcast and Cynthia recognised a kindred spirit in her, two girls, both fatherless. Cynthia's mother is a lepidopterist, Roberta's mother an alcoholic, so hardly surprising that she gravitates towards the butterfly house and spends less time at her own. But one night a tragedy strikes, a blazing inferno destroys the butterfly house and kills Roberta's mother. Only the truth about who set the fire comes out at the end of the book.
'Salt' by Jeremy Page is one of those books where I was attracted to the cover, and then the setting, which happened to be the area I live in, and the fact that it had been described by Margaret Forster, one of my favourite writers, as 'striking, funny, terrifying... I admired and loved it'. It begins with a man being discovered buried up to his neck in mud on the salt marshes by a woman gathering samphire. She takes him into her hovel of a home, where they live until the end of the Second World War when he disappears in a makeshift boat. He leaves behind Lil, his newborn daughter. Four decades later, and her son, Pip, sets out to learn about his family's history and wonders if history is going to repeat itself with the madness that seemed to run in his family.
'American Wife' by Curtis Sittenfeld is supposedly based, loosely, on the wife of an American President of recent times. You get ideas of who it might be, think it has to be her... but who that is you would need to read it for yourself. As the blurb says, 'her husband, his parents, and certain prominent members of the administration are recognizable', maybe more so if you are American, but it did seem pretty obvious who it was by the end. A big read, about 'race, class, wealth and fate', not very political for all that it is about a First Lady and how she got there.
'Selective Memory' the autobiography of Katherine Whitehorn was an impulse buy, one of those occasions when going into an actual bookshop wins out over looking through lists at Amazon, as I might not have found this book doing that. And I am so glad I did, for it was as entertaining a read as she is to listen to.
Maybe I won't give up the impulse buys just yet then!


Arosebyanyothername said...

No, PFG, don't make rules for book-buying. You might miss something unexpected. I agree one is often taken in by the cover - that is the Publisher's intention!
I always read the first paragraph to see if it is likely to appeal to me. Usually the style may be the first thing to put me off - even the size of print.
I am lucky enough to live almost opposite a bookshop and round the corner are two charity shops with a good second hand book collections. And a library up the road.

pinkfairygran said...

Almost opposite a bookshop? I cannot imagine the temptation to spend my days in there, to the point where they would either have a small seat set up in one corner for me to hide away in, or offer me a job part time... either would be most acceptable!

Edward said...

I take Warren Zevon's line about buying books: "We buy books because we believe we're buying the time to read them." So carry on, I say!

Pondside said...

There's no reasoning behind my book purchases. It's true that I'm a faithful library uses, but sometimes a book calls out to me.
I'm currently reading The American Wife and have The GIPPPS on the bedside table waiting to be read. I got it, by mistake, from the library in talking book form - kept putting me to sleep, so I'll try the usual, printed word!

Suffolkmum said...

How great to read your blog for the first time. So much I can empathise with! I'm a bookshop junkie too and buy on impulse or instinct or the look of the cover or - well pretty much anything really. I've picked up some good recommendations here!

Calico Kate said...

Books are the one thing I think that shouldn't ever be limited! New, used, gifts or borrows, wallow in them and enjoy.
They aren't fattening after all!
I love Katherine Whitehorn and have a book that belonged to my mum called 'Cooking in a Bedsit' part cookery and part tales it's a nice read and has a very jolly yellow cover.
Lovely post as always.

Cait O'Connor said...

I'm so pleased yuo are going to the library again. I was going to suggest it!

We hope libraries will be even more popular now because of the economic situation.

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