It’s a burden that devoted book lovers know all too well; that is, the complete inability to walk past a book store, second hand book store, book sale, yard sale, random book bargain bin or thrift shop without poking your head in to check what hidden paperback gems might be tucked away somewhere. After all, you never know when you’re finally going to get that complete set of Trixie Beldon novels or some vintage hardcover Iris Murdoch’s. I don’t mind confessing that I’ve got a pretty shocking track record when it comes to such spur-of-the-moment literary adventures; in fact I’ve been banned from the local Rotary book sale three years running (thanks mum) and every time I move house, boxes of books mysteriously seem to find their way to good will rather than my new home (thanks again). In all honesty, my penchant for book buying is probably the biggest bone of contention between me and my loved ones: ‘Really Racheal, another book?’ I don’t know how many times I have heard it, but with each passing year it is said with a slightly more distinct tone of disgust. Ultimately, it’s a burden I’m willing to bear though, sorry family, sorry mum.
In addition to being a second hand book tragic, I’m also one of those obsessive cases that buys books as mementos, which makes excess baggage charges very expensive when returning from abroad. Last time I was in New Orleans I had to buy a whole new suitcase to get my new babies, excuse me, books, home. I maxed out my ’emergencies’ credit card on classic tales by George Washington Cable, tourist fodder like Robert Tallant and the cultural histories of Zora Neale Hurston. It was bliss. I’ve come to measure a successful holiday not by whether or not I make it home without being stranded on a train or loosing my luggage, but by how many excellent books I track down. Maybe it’s because I travel alone so frequently and it gets very old taking pictures of scenery or selfies, but I’ll always buy a book about a particular place rather than try and stage the perfect picture on the iPhone.
Anyway, at 32 I find that i have a treasure trove of books that although I love, I have never read. The ratio of read to non read it probably 1:4. As such, I have set myself a challenge to read all the books on my bookshelf. The ones I love I will keep while others I will give away once I am done (can’t love them all). I think the act of passing on a book can also be one that is filled with karmic benefits, both for you and the receiver. Rather than it being about passing on unwanted trash, sometimes a book that might not be for you is exactly what someone else needs. It’s all about matching the right person to the right story. Hopefully this journey will give me the opportunity to do that too.
I’ll be starting with The Scold’s Bridle, by Minette Walters, which is a book that I remember my year 12 English teacher (she was very important in my teen years) raving about when we were doing the HSC. I saw it many years later in a $3 book bin at a local newsagent and thought it might be time to finally give it a read. Of course time got away from me and I now find myself several years down the road from that moment and I am still ignorant of the novel. It seems that it has finally come for that to change. As this is the first book on the list, I am going to post some thoughts about it at the end and while I can’t promise that I will review every book I read on this journey, I am going to give it my all. If nothing else it should be an interesting trip into the past. The books you see, all have specific memories tied to them. As I said, I might not remember the specific date I bought this book but I remember why I bought it.
I’m also really looking forward to revisiting some of my best loved novels and series as much as I am excited about finally getting around to some of the classics that have been gathering dust on my bookshelf since my early 20’s… Les Miserable, I swear, one day I will read you from cover to cover! I’m also hopeful that all this reading might inspire me to do some writing of my own. It’s always been something I thought I should do, write a book I mean. My kitchen table and laptop are graveyards of partially finished manuscripts and hastily scrawled story ideas. It seems that the formulation is the easy part, it’s the patience required to play things out that’s the real challenge. Still, if I can do this, maybe it’s not too much to hope that one day I will get there.
I realise that my collection doesn’t seem like much in these pictures but these are just the books inside the house and they also don’t account for my hardbacks. I have a garage packed with paperback novels which are waiting to be sold in that garage sale that I really must get around to having. I’ve also been very proactive of late when it comes to moving on books that I know I will not read again and books that I never liked when I did read them and had forgotten why I was holding onto them so tightly.
With eyes as bad as mine it’s also fair to say that I can’t read all the time, so item two on my ‘to do’ list for 2016 is to revisit the discuss the albums of Prince. All of them. I’m still in mourning over his loss, but we’ll get to that a little later.
Wish me luck!