shelf by shelf : from Findley to Gale

shelf (2)I’ve been trying for a while to deaccession a stack of books that I weeded from my shelves before all of these shelf by shelf photos were taken. I don’t feel the need to make any money from them but I do feel the need to make sure they go to a good home. Often I take them to my local Friends of the Library for them to sell in their well-stocked, well-run sale room. But for some reason, sometimes I feel maybe there is a better place to donate them. So lately I have been placing handfuls of books in those little free library kiosks that people have been installing in their front yards across the USA (and UK? or Canada? or elsewhere?) Good plan, right? Maybe.

I’m about to say something that may be a little controversial. In my normal routine I pass between 8 and 12 of these little libraries on a daily basis. When I first saw them popping up I was so excited. Sometimes taking a book, other times leaving one or two. But now I kind of feel like they are everywhere and I think we may have reached a cupcake shop-level tipping point of ubiquity. Perhaps I wouldn’t mind so much if the quality of the contents of the kiosks were a little better. Now before you call me a book snob, you must realize I am not passing judgement on James Patterson titles or 50 Shades or anything like that. No, I am talking about the fact that either the library keepers or the people leaving books have decided to dump all the junk that charity shops won’t even take. Dated real estate guides, study guides for whatever, thinly veiled religious or political tracts, self published tomes, and perhaps worst of all, self-help books. Perhaps I am being a snob, but if I am, it is in the name and honor and glory of fiction. Don’t waste your time on that other stuff, people! Okay, now I’m starting to sound like a fanatic of another sort.

Maybe my problem is this: In my community we have plenty of access to “helpful” books from libraries, bookstores, and online. Seeking and/or acquiring these titles is more like a transaction than the kind of serendipitous discovery for which these little libraries seem much better suited.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m annoyed that they aren’t chock full of fiction!

This nation needs to read more fiction. In 2000 I worked a second job at a Barnes and Noble and every time someone came looking for a Chicken Soup for the Soul book or the latest self-help book they saw on Oprah I was always tempted to walk them over to fiction instead. (Nothing against Oprah, I gladly would have walked them over to one of her book club selections.) I’m tempted to remove everything from these little libraries that isn’t fiction and replace them with a curated stack of the novels I am looking to get rid of. Many of those I actually liked and many more are worthy books that I just didn’t care for.

Part of me wants to keep filling them with fiction (my donations do seem to disappear). Maybe rather than be annoyed by them I need to keep filling the neighborhood with fiction. Hmm, now I see myself buying books just for that purpose…

Like I said, I think I am tired of all those damn little libraries.

shelf 9
Don’t forget to click. Plenty of room to zoom.

SHELF NINE: 34 books, 12 unread, 22 read, 65% completed

Findley, Timothy – Spadework (completed)
Findley, Timothy – Headhunter
Findley, Timothy – The Piano Man’s Daughter (completed)

Findley, Timothy – The Wars (completed)
Findley, Timothy – You Went Away (completed)
Findley, Timothy – The Telling of Lies (completed)
Findley, Timothy – Dinner Along the Amazon (completed)
Findley, Timothy – The Last of the Crazy People (completed)
Findley, Timothy – The Butterfly Plague (completed)
Findley, Timothy – Not Wanted on the Voyage (completed)
Findley, Timothy – Famous Last Words (completed)
Based on the 10 Findley books listed here that I have read, plus Pilgrim from Shelf 8, and a memoir somewhere else in the library, you would think he was one of my favorite authors. And at one time I may indeed have said that, but I am not sure it has ever been true. Highly recommended by a dear friend, I plowed through most of his work in my late 20s/early 30s. At one point I even went to a reading he did when Pilgrim was published. In fact, it might be the only author event I ever made a point of going to in my entire life. If I am being totally honest my love of Findley’s work was more aspiration and pretense than actual love. I definitely think he writes good books and I enjoyed reading them, but love is not a word I should have used. However, since I was so much younger when I read all of them I think I need to do some re-reading before I make a final judgement. In particular I want to re-read Famous Last Words which, among other things, fictionalizes the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Bermuda in WWII. I’m also keen to re-read Pilgrim about a character who never dies. And The Wars has one of the most moving scenes of sending children off to fight wars that I have ever read.

Fisher, M.F.K. – Not Now but Now (completed)
Fisher, M.F.K. – The Boss Dog
This is what I wrote in 2013 when I read Not Now but Now: Food writer Fisher’s only novel is really four related novellas. Each one stars a woman named Jennie who one can’t help but root for despite her insanely selfish modus operandi in each story. Jennie is incarnated in England, Europe, and America and she shows up in 1928, 1947, 1927, and 1882. I didn’t expect this kind of mean, wanton hussy from Fisher’s pen. Fascinating stuff.

Fitzgerald, Penelope – The Means of Escape
Fitzgerald, Penelope – The Beginning of Spring
Fitzgerald, Penelope – The Blue Flower
Fitzgerald, Penelope – Innocence
Fitzgerald, Penelope – The Golden Child (completed)
Fitzgerald, Penelope – Human Voices (completed)
Fitzgerald, Penelope – The Bookshop (completed)
Fitzgerald, Penelope – The Gate of Angels 
Fitzgerald, Penelope – Offshore (completed)
Fitzgerald, Penelope – At Freddie’s 
Alphabetically speaking, the first of the two great Penleopes. I know that there are those of you out that that would say there are more than two, but for me they are Fitzgerald and Lively. I also know that some of you have a hard time keeping them separate, but I find them very different and easy to keep straight once you have read one of each. Until I wrote out this list, I thought I had read more of Fitzgerald’s work than I have. Maybe it is because I have read The Bookshop twice. Fitzgerald didn’t start getting published until she was in her 60s. Her work is so good I can only imagine what she might have been capable of if she had started earlier.

Fitzhugh, Louise – Harriet the Spy (completed)
Thanks to my 6th grade teacher Julie Mosman who read it aloud to us, this is perhaps my favorite childhood book. Re-read about a million times then and since, I must admit that my most recent re-read a few years ago left me wondering what the moral of the story is. And thanks to Frances for buying me this wonderful reprint of the first edition with the author’s wonderful illustrations.

Flanagan, Richard – The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Flint, Margaret – Enduring Riches

Ford, Robert – The Student Conductor (completed)
Always a fan of novels that deal intelligently with classical music, this is one of my favorite books of all time. It is about a young conductor set against the crumbling of the Iron Curtain.

Forrester, Andrew – The Female Detective
I love these British Library Crime Classic editions for these covers. I have yet to read any.

Forster, E.M. – The Life to Come (completed)
Forster, E.M. – Maurice (completed)
Forster, E.M. – A Room with a View (completed)
I’ve read all of Forster’s fiction. In fact, I think I have read all of it at least twice each, if not more. I think I have a few more of his titles in a stack of mass market editions that will show up here later.

Freud, Esther, – The Sea House

Frost, Frances – Innocent Summer

Gale, Patrick – A Place Called Winter (completed)
I had never heard of Gale until Simon Savidge gave me this book when we went to Booktopia last year. Not a perfect book but really, really enjoyable and kind of touching. Kind of a Canadian Brokeback Mountain of sorts.

NEXT TIME: Galgut to Gordon


24 thoughts on “shelf by shelf : from Findley to Gale

  1. Susan in TX May 20, 2016 / 5:12 pm

    That’s a fairly high completion rate for this shelf. I had never heard of Timothy Findley until your last shelf post. It always amazes me how many authors are still “out there” that I’ve never heard of after 40+ years of avid reading. But, that’s a good thing! I have fared a little better with this Penelope – have read and enjoyed The Bookshop and The Blue Flower — she really has a way with her writing that is just beautiful. I’m going to have to add The Student Conductor to my TBR. I feel the same way about books that deal with classical music.
    I’m slowly getting accustomed to your mixing read/unread together. It would probably drive you insane that my TBR shelves are ordered by date of acquisition and stay in my bedroom…far away from the books that have been read and are alphabetized by last name downstairs. :)
    Have a great weekend, and as always, happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter May 20, 2016 / 6:29 pm

      Whoo – weird – are you actually me? My TBR is in order of acquisition, too – and do you read them in that order, too? Sorry, it’s so exciting to find someone else who does that. Do carry on. As you were.


      • Teresa May 21, 2016 / 7:42 am

        I used to keep my TBR in order of acquisition, and I read them roughly in that order, too! Also on a separate bookcase in my bedroom. A couple of years ago, I alphabetized it because I wanted it to be easier to see at a glance if I had a book by a particular author. I still try to read in acquisition order, but I’m also trying to read new books as I get them.


      • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:21 am

        I kind of like the date of acquisition idea, but I could see myself deciding to dump a bunch of stuff that gets too old and I don’t think I would like that.


      • Susan in TX May 26, 2016 / 11:11 am

        Alas, no, I don’t read them in acquisition order. Maybe I should, but I don’t have that kind of self-discipline. Plus, when I pick up series books I rarely can find them in the right sequential order and order of date written always trumps order of acquisition for me. The last few years I’ve been trying to read a little more evenly across the shelves, so that I don’t ignore the oldest ones forever. There were several years that the first one on the shelf had been there about 20 years (hanging head in shame). Currently, my oldest one was a 2009 acquisition so I feel like I’m improving in that respect.

        And, yes, it is nice to hear that someone else shelves their TBR this way. May our tribe increase! :)


    • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:20 am

      Findley was Canadian which might explain why no one in the U.S, knows him.


  2. Liz Dexter May 20, 2016 / 6:30 pm

    You could always engage in a little Bookcrossing, although stuff like the random books you mention does turn up on our bookshelves, too.


  3. sharkell May 20, 2016 / 7:20 pm

    Oh, you must read Richard Flanagan’s book – it is very very good.


    • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:23 am

      I started it the other night. Haven’t gotten far enough yet to say I am into it yet.


  4. james b chester May 20, 2016 / 7:51 pm

    Moral? I don’t know about that, but I do know that after I first read Harriet the Spy I immediately got my hands on a spiral notebook and started watching the neighbors.


    • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:23 am

      Surprisingly, I never tried to be her. I was probably too lazy.


  5. BookerTalk May 20, 2016 / 11:31 pm

    You most definitely need to get that guerilla tactic underway with the little libraries. I’ve been envious of people who have them in their communities but if they’re just full of tat then I’m not so keen.


    • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:25 am

      I also feel like I should leave little recommendation notes inside each book.


  6. Teresa May 21, 2016 / 8:06 am

    I’ve been told that a good Little Free Library requires active curation, and I suspect a lot of people who put them up don’t realize that. If you just leave it be, it’ll get filled up with junk no one wants. I also suspect that there’s a limit to how many of these a single neighborhood can support. I kind of wish there were one of those in my neighborhood because it would be fun to look in on my walk home from work, but a lot of the houses on my route don’t have yards. And if would get boring and annoying if there stock weren’t updated with interesting books. The nearby Del Ray neighborhood has several but they’re too far to walk to, so I’ve never bothered to check them out.


    • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:28 am

      I think they also need to be in places with decent foot traffic. Some of those I see don’t see much of that. One of them is on a road that come to a T and doesn’t even get much auto traffic. It doesn’t have a sidewalk either.


  7. Karen K. May 21, 2016 / 11:24 am

    I have most of my unread books segregated on a separate bookshelf, and it sometimes overwhelms me. (Except for the Persephones, Viragos, and NYRB Classics). Maybe I should integrate them with the read books.

    And Harriet the Spy was my favorite childhood book also! I thought The Long Secret was okay but I read HtS over and over. I desperately wanted to live in New York as a child, all my favorite books were set there.


    • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:30 am

      The NYC angle was like a foreign country to a kid in central Minnesota. I loved it, but I didn’t entirely understand it.


  8. Sarah C May 21, 2016 / 12:54 pm

    As Teresa said, these LFLs need to be curated, and I suspect that the kind people who have put them up sometimes feel squicky about doing what needs to be done (taking things out and throwing them in the recycling bin). At least, that certainly seems to be the case in several of them in my neighborhood. I get that some people think they can just dump whatever junk into these things and maybe *somebody* will want that stuff, but the fact is that most of even the mass market paperbacks just sit and sit and sit there (not to mention the dated self help, magazines, and old textbooks that litter at least one of the LFLs in my neighborhood). The literary fiction that gets placed in them (by me or others) disappears overnight. So I think it’s an observable truth that people DO want nice things and they don’t want junk, but some owners of these LFLs don’t seem to pick up on that, so I feel like clandestine neighborly curating is the answer: like, I don’t just march over and take everything out, but I slip bad junk out every once in a while and put in some effort to stock them with good stuff (I tend to buy books from the $1 Friends of the Library shelf just to put into the LFLs). It’s a nice thing to have these in our neighborhoods (I can walk easily to at least four and know of a handful of others in town), but if we don’t keep them up then it’ll have been a wasted effort.


    • Thomas May 22, 2016 / 9:32 am

      Maybe I could adopt one of them. Trying to do more than that might get a little obsessive.


  9. Anthony May 23, 2016 / 12:58 am

    I’m curious as to why you didn’t comment on Richard Flanagan’s book.


    • Thomas May 23, 2016 / 9:04 am

      Sometimes there is no reason for not commenting on every book on my shelves, but in this case it was because I have just started reading it, and I wanted to reserve my thoughts until after I finished it. But I will say, 35 pages in, so far so good.


      • Anthony Catanzariti May 23, 2016 / 6:38 pm

        Ah, that makes sense. The reason I ask is that after I read it last year I couldn’t stop thinking about it and wondered how you could remain so unaffected!


  10. biggardenblog June 2, 2016 / 4:10 pm

    [J] I cut my literary teeth – 40 odd years ago – on EM Forster. His writing had a profound effect on my developing tastes and direction of thought for many years. I still have a very high and fond regard for his writing, though these days find his dramatic constructs a bit exhausting. My favourite – D’s too – is A Room with a View. The outcome is so entirely satisfactory. I am a romantic, in every sense, not least the triumph of truth and simplicity over worldliness.


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