Shelf Life

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

I am cleaning up my bookshelf and getting rid of books I have no intention of rereading, and books that I haven’t read and don’t want to read. A lot belong to the last category. The reason is that I got them on sale. Yes, it is true. I bought them not because I thought I wanted to read them, but rather I thought missing the discount was not my style. And looking around, I feel that I am sitting in a little discount store since everything was obtained on a bargain price.

The first book I want to get rid of is “Based on a True Story: Fact and Fantasy in 100 Favorite Movies” by Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen, which has decorated my bathroom for years. Due to the limited toilet time I have every day, the progress of the reading has been really slow. Gradually the dampness of the bathroom curls up the book edges, and some pages have even changed their strict rectangular shape and got stuck together. Still, one can’t judge a book by its appearance. It’s a nice readable book despite its moiture-damaged exterior. I read less than half of it, but what I have read are wonderful stories. There’s a reason why I can’t read more–I haven’t watched most of the movies. Before throwing it away, I leaf through the pages and this quote comes into view: “There’s almost as much fiction in films that are based on fact as there is in movies that are completely made-up.”

I’ve had “Dear Life” By Alice Munro for years. Now I have completely forgotten the stories in it. However I remember that I really like it and this is why I read several more books by Munro and love “The Beggar Maid” and “Runaway” especially. The story of “The Beggar Maid” is so real that I feel that I know a woman like that even if I don’t know a woman like that. Munro’s opinion of love and marriage is ambivalent and ambiguous–this is a true depiction of most of women and men I met. Only one in ten has a wonderful marriage and enjoy it fully, and the rest are all ambivalent and ambiguous. I also admire Munro’s refusal to adopt dramatic plot or to embellish her language. She really believes that she can survive as a writer like this, as if an actress refusing to wear makeup for the camera.

“The New New Rules” by Bill Maher. I’ve listened to the YouTube audiobook of this book online and there’s no need to keep this book.

“Vile Body” by Evelyn Waugh. I only read a small portion of the book and couldn’t continue. The reason is that it is not as good as his short story collection or “Brideshead Revisited” or “Decline and Fall” or “Loved One”, or “The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold”, which is really good, but it’s too sad without any respite in between all the sadness.

“Watching The English” by Kate Fox is a wonderful book. It describes the class system, the table manner, and the politeness in daily life. It’s fun to read, but it will be a headache if one wants to fit in. I can imagine myself failing all the “not to be earnest rule”, “humor rule”, “how to use forks and spoons rule”. As an Asian, I am happy to know that these rules only serve as an exotic entertainment for an idle hour now since “the empire on which the sun never sets” belongs to the past.

“The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow & Other Macabre Tales” by Washington Irving. Among the twelve short stories collected in it, I like “The Devil And Tom Walker” most. Actually his stories about Christmas are my favorite, but they don’t usually show up in the discount books from Barnes & Noble. I leafed through and read again the story of Tom Walker and his wife–the description is very vivid and I think I know a couple or two who are like that.

“Travels With My Aunt” by Graham Greene. I bought this book during the time when I was feverishly admiring Greene, but that period passed swiftly. And when I was still reading half way through this book, I suddenly felt that I didn’t want to read it anymore. His books about the end of an affair, a Cuban spy, a swindler are much more interesting than this one. So I stopped. That was many years ago and I haven’t read him since.

24 thoughts on “Shelf Life

  1. I collect too many book as well. I can build up a personal library in less than a month for less than $100. Why do I hoard so many? Because I love reading and I don’t give them away until I read the book first . . . which is a hard task in itself.

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  2. The only book I’ve read from the ones you have mentioned is the Bill Maher one and it isn’t one I would keep either. I am going through my books too and trying to sell some and give away the rest. We need to get rid of some books sometimes or our house will turn into libraries lol. Actually that’s not necessarily a bad thing I guess.

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    1. Hahaha. I sometimes listen to “Secular Talk”, “young turks” and they have scathing comments on Maher. These young people consider him a relic. So true. I can’t cure myself the illness of buying discount items and I end up with many books I don’t read. I have specific interest in books–my whimsical mind decides that–and I just can’t read it when my mind says “no”.

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        1. In the Secular Voice, people say that he hasn’t said anything funny for the past ten years. That’s stretching the fact of course, but I can understand the sentiment. He is the older generation…

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  3. I love how you describe the pages of the book curling up from the dampness. I can actually experience the scent of these damp pages … thick mustiness with a bit of sharpness. Great post!

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  4. A couple of years ago I decided to give my study a proper cleanout! I removed about 500 books in the process and since no one would buy them (I didn’t ask) I gave them to a charity that has a used book shop! For weeks and weeks afterwards, I felt like I was grieving and I realised that, for me, a good book is like a good friend! (Not all 500 were good books but nevertheless, I was melancholy for some time afterwards). Of course, I had picked through my books beforehand, and of course, I still have another 500+ books that I consider to be the best of friends! πŸ˜ŠπŸ™‹β€β™‚οΈ

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    1. Wow, don’t throw them away, unless you really have to. I know. It is hard to store so many books. I can imagine how much you must have grieved over them. A book seems so much a part of us that we can’t part with it. You are so right that it’s like a friend even. It speaks to us and almost understands us better than our relatives.


  5. I admire your passion for reading. It’s a wonderful habit and so important for writers. I’m guilty of not reading so much myself. Can’t manage to squeeze in the time. I hope you read the books that really appeal to you. They must excite the mind or touch the heart. πŸ™‚

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    1. it is so true. Me too. No time. And it is hard. I often have to rely on audible since I can listen to them while doing chores. And choosing a book that can “excite the mind or touch the heart” is soooooo important. So important.

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