Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Books and Reading.

Books are another of my obsessions.  And I am sure the house is groaning with the weight of them.  I have been biting the bullet and doing a waaaay overdue cull.  I currently have seven and a half small boxes ready to go.  And six more bookcases to cull.  One of the remaining bookcases is stacked three deep, and most of the others are stacked two deep.  And there are perhaps a hundred unread books waiting on a table in the dining room.  Can you tell we don't do formal dinners?

I have made a promise to myself that I will not buy any more books until both the cull is complete, and the unread books have changed their status.  Time will tell whether I can keep the promise.  I have my doubts.

While gardening, and pretty much everything else has been super painful I have been reading more than ever.  And last night I noticed that my choice of reading material is decidedly dark at the moment.

This last week I have read 'in my skin' by Kate Holden.  This memoir tells the story of her descent into heroin addiction and her work first as a street prostitute and later in two brothels in Melbourne.  Interesting, but I suspect highly sanitised.  In normalising both of her lifestyle choices she skims over the downsides, which I am sure exist.  Similarly she makes light work of her eventual withdrawal from heroin after using it for five years in steadily escalating doses.

Then I dived into a book lent to me by a friend:  'when it rains' a memoir by Maggie Mackellar.  Another cheery read.  In a two year period Maggie's husband completed suicide, three months before their second child was born.  Then her much loved mother developed and died from an aggressive cancer.  Maggie's grief, anger and confusion are almost palpable.  After a year she gave up the battle of juggling single parenthood and her academic career and moved back to the family farm in central west NSW, seeking and at least partly finding some healing.  I lived for a time in the area, so in addition to pushing many of my emotive buttons the book triggered memories for me.

I finished that one yesterday afternoon, and started going through the piles of unread books to see what I wanted to read next.  This was my choice, and I retired to bed with it last night.

I have not got very far, but it is beautifully written and I will continue.  It is the story of how the author (and her father) coped as he developed Alzheimer's disease.  She took over his care doing her best to retain his dignity while simultaneously protecting him.

So....this week I have delved into books about heroin and prostitution, suicide, cancer and grief and am moving into one on families and mental illness.  I did find myself wondering as I drifted off to sleep what my choice of reading matter says about me.


  1. I have culled many a book over recent years and now just keep my favourite authors, but I still keep buying new ones to fill the spaces the old ones used to occupy. I seem to need to have books in my life, just reading ones from the library doesn't seem the same. And dinner parties are way over rated when there is a good book to keep and cherish. I often look at your reading list and think I should get that book - lol

  2. Usually i buy books of my favourite authors and try to stick to 'em but it dosen't always work out that way, i've about 80+ books to read but the pile seems to be getting bigger everytime i look at it :-).

  3. Hmmm.... such cheery bedtime stories....!

    I need to cull my books, and should, but at the moment I found a small gap between two bookcases where I've been adding stacking plastic crates for more book space. I figure as far as addictions and compulsions go, it could be worse, no?

  4. Kakka: Let me know if you would like a synopsis of any of the books on my list.

    Windsmoke: I have been full of good intentions about the piles for quite some time but ...

    Paper Chipmunk: It could be a worse addiction it is true - but it is a very expensive one. And we have a six foot bookcase in almost every room, and two bookcases in many rooms. All of which are packed. And the smaller portion barely reads. (poor soul).

  5. The eternal problem of books versus places to put books.I have several places in the house, including most of one wall floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the loungeroom. My aim is to keep the book collection confined to these places. Regular purges help, which is fairly easy with fiction. Problems occur with reference books, particularly the slowly growing collection of art books which are used regularly. I'm eyeing off a small section of wall for built-in shelves to accommodate these books! Books vs space. Arrrgh!

  6. I've culled so much from my shelves all I have left are much loved, much read favourites and about a dozen unread new ones. I've promised myself I won't buy any more until the unread are read, just like you, but I'm not sure I can keep the promise either.

  7. LOL, you sound just like my blogger friend "rift," who is also an avid reader with piles and piles of unread books filling her tiny apartment, and yearly resolutions not to buy any more till she's read and culled a bunch (FAIL! lol). And she reads ebooks too, and if I recall she's also got a Kindle!

    I too am an avid reader and we also have a lot of books, but have sold and donated an awful lot of them over the past few years in anticipation of moving to a smaller place. (And I've become a great patron of our local library!) Oddly, though books have always been one of the best selling items at our yard sales, I only sold three at this year's! I donated a few to the library, but most I'll have to try to sell because they're just too new and expensive to give away.

    Your subconscious has an interesting appetite for gloom and squalor lately! I wonder why? (We watched a terribly, claustrophobically depressing movie last night, "Biutiful," but that wasn't what we'd been expecting from it!) Maybe it's one way to get perspective when our own life is hurling challenges and difficulties at us. A "There but for the grace of God go I" sort of thing? Anyway, for your next read may I suggest something more uplifting from the Cheerful Section, madam? :-)

  8. I tend to get into a habit of reading certain books, too. I must agree that your recent reads do look a bit on the depressing side, but maybe that works for you, for now. I am reading Jodi Picoult books at the moment, and they are all over the place: good reads, though.

  9. I've ended up forcing myself to only get books from the library now as we have no space for new ones. I'll only buy for friends or if it's an antiquarian tome, as I collect them. Cheery subjects they are not, but that doesn't make for a bad read, though if I know in advance I admit I avoid anything too obviously grim. I've just finished a set of short stories (I'll post a review soon) and they were all so bleak and horrible, but very well written indeed. I don't think I'd recommend them to anyone but the most hardy and I won't be reading them again, but hey, variety is the spice of life eh?

  10. I have an obsession with borrowing books from the library, so there are many unreads on my shelf. I aim to rectify that, if I can ever get myself to stop borrowing books! On Friday I added Chocky and The Maltese Falcon to my library pile as I am going to attempt the 1001 books to read before you die list.

    Souns like an emotionally heavy list, but, better to live it vicariously through books than to actually go through it, I think.

  11. When mum went into the nursing home I gave most of her books to the op shop but kept the Barbara Cartland's so I could read them to her. Who knew she was going to bloom at the home and start reading again, all the Cartland's, my Georgette Heyer's, starting on Lovejoy and I'm going through ebay looking for Regency romances.
    I found enough from one lady to last this year but the postage is murder. $10 for 9 books from NSW but also $10 for 3 from Dingley which is a stone's throw from me.

  12. EC, you are a glutton for punishment! Although reading about strength in adversity can be inspiring, I like rollicking yarns myself. Better add some Michael Chabon novels to your pile. Library books are also great because they want returning from whence they came.

  13. fiveandtwo: You are right - there is never enough space.

    River: I will keep my promise if you do.

    Laloofah: I do go to the library. In fact to three libraries. But if I love the book I want it. And more by the same author. I am hoping that when I finish the book I am reading at the moment that cheer will be the next step.

    DJan: I can only assume that it works for me at the moment as a not subtle reminder that things could be worse.

    All Consuming: The last two books of the trio are in fact good reading, albeit a tad depressing. And as you say - variety is the spice ...

    amandab: I do both - libraries and purchases I mean. And you are so right about better to read it than live it.

    JahTeh: Yup, postage is iniquitious. And nice to hear that someone else hangs on to their Georgette Heyers.

    Mitzi: Tell me about Michael Chabon. Though he will have to be a library book. Or books.

  14. Sometimes reading depressing books can make one thankful that one's own life isn't really that bad. But if you feel like making a change, for literary candy you can't beat Alexander McCall Smith.

  15. Thanks Anne: It is quite possible that you were right about at least part of my reason for reading these books. I have now finished 'My Father's Life' and it was beautifully written and heartrending both. And as a traditionally sized woman I have a lot of time for Alexander McCall Smith.

  16. Perhaps your choice of books is a way of realizing that other people are also suffering?

    I do like reading books with a lot of emotion in them though.

  17. Bliss for me is the annual Book Fair: heaps of them so cheap that it feels like looting.
    And, the number of books one owns is always slightly larger than the available shelf space, isn't it?

  18. Here I am, late to the party again and all has already been said so well! I certainly can sympathize with the need to cull the personal book collection, and have utmost respect for anyone who can actually do it! About the gloomy trend of your reading...I'd worry more if you were assiduously AVOIDING books with troubling content. These painful stories are after all part of life, and maybe if we all accepted them as such we'd be more sympathetic when the people around us falter or eff up in some way. Allowing ourselves to feel the bad - yes, even wallowing in it a bit - can only deepen our appreciation for the good. All the best to you, my fellow avid reader friend!

  19. haha, i have the same "problems" with books, probably even more so when i lost my reading mojo almost a year ago (but then again i haven't bought many new ones to build on the already existing read/unread heaps of books from then on either). that really is more than a tad bit soul-crushing, but i just can't seem to concentrate on the one thing i love, reading. yarn is easier to concentrate on these days. i finished a book during the summer though, a tiny delightful read called "the tiny wife".

    i have to be in the right mood for a certain book, right now (if i could read) i couldn't bear reading about the things you've read recently. i want a good thriller, something to smile about or just fall a little bit in read-love with. something that would ease the pain of other matters in life.

    also, if i read something "too much" before i sleep, i take that feeling with me into dreams, so i've promised myself i will only read lighthearted things before bedtime.

    you have to tell me what you thought of the tove jansson-book! maybe your next read?

  20. ladyfi; I am an eclectic reader. I want reality and honesty, but am also partial to escapism.

    Frances: The bookfairs are a selfindulgent joy. And I would be happy if my books only slightly exceeded the shelf space.

    TwoTigers: Thank you. And suicide slithered into the last book I was reading as well. All part of life's tapestry.

    Pia K: You are right about the mood for certain books. I often have two or three on the go at once for just that reason.
    And the tove jansson book was, as Ampersand Duck said, WONDERFUL, though I like her Summer Book best of all the books she wrote for adults. A sense of melancholy and of beauty combined. The softness of early morning light. Joy.