1.) Go to your bookshelves...
2.) Close your eyes. If you're feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or... basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself - where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc. etc.....
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn't matter if you've read them or not - be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to...
Most of my books are in a shed in the garden and I have no desire to go out in the cold and snow for a rummage there. There’s quite a few book cases in the house, though, so I decided to have a go at this meme. Blindfold yourself? It’s like living inside a cloud here today; just leave the light off and it’s way too dark to see your books. Cheat a bit? Tempted, because I seemed to pick books without pretty covers, but I decided to stick with the challenge. What the book says about you? I don’t do that sort of meme. You just have to guess.
All links are to my own journal entries. Terrible photos: it’s so dark!
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. This one of my current reads, so was lying around. I wanted to re-read it after watching the film again and I wish it were longer. I first read it when I was a teenager, which is of course the right time for such a rite of passage book but although I liked it a lot I didn’t love it the way I do now. It’s a masterpiece. I can’t remember where this copy came from but there’s an old pencilled price of 15p inside so I’m guessing a charity shop in the days when you could still find such things.
Shoal Water by Dornford Yates. The bookcase this one came from contains only books by Dornford Yates, Angela Thirkell and Georgette Heyer. I have a complete set of Dornford Yates’ books and had read most of them by the time I was about twelve. As you might guess, family members were keen on them and most of my copies belonged to my mother or aunt. Shoal Water comes under ‘Other Volumes’ in the list of titles; it’s not a Chandos or a Berry book. To be honest, I can’t remember what it’s about and I’m far more likely to re-read one of the series books.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. This is a Folio Society edition out of the ‘mostly classics’ book case. I have at least two other copies around somewhere, including an old Penguin paperback kept handy in the bedroom. What can I say about this book? It’s so beautifully written you can read it for that pleasure alone, even if the characters annoy you.
The Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham.
Very appropriate that this was the one to come from the ‘old green Penguin’ collection in the spare bedroom. I love Dorothy L Sayers but think of her more as a novelist than as a detective writer, brilliant though she was at it. When it comes to classic crime Margery Allingham beats Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and the rest hands down, as far as I’m concerned. I love Mr Campion and his sidekick Lugg and their little office by the nick in Bottle Street. I love how atmospherically Margery Allingham could write about both the Suffolk countryside and London. My favourites are probably Sweet Danger and More Work for the Undertaker. The Tiger in the Smoke is in a class of its own I think. The Beckoning Lady was first published in 1955 and is not as good; but they’re all good.
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay. This came from a book case full of the type of book which Virago and Persephone have reprinted. Thanks to first line book quizzes, I bet more people know the first line of this novel, "Take my camel, dear," said my aunt Dot, than have read it. I’ve always found it funny and was delighted to pick up this first edition recently for next to nothing. I also like The World my Wilderness.
Great Northern? by Arthur Ransome. In the ‘children’s favourites’ book case with Monica Edwards, Pamela Brown, Jane Shaw et al. Great Northern? is not my favourite Ransome; those are Swallowdale, Pigeon Post and The Picts & the Martyrs. I will just put on record that I consider Arthur Ransome the greatest of all writers of fiction for children. The restrained style, the complexities of character, make these books to be enjoyed even more as an adult than as an eager child reader. There’s a reason I remembered all my life the simple line, ’He was father.’ If you also love the books, you’ll know what I mean.
The School on the Cliff by Angela Brazil.
This is from a dedicated Angela Brazil book case. Angela Brazil gets a bad press even amongst people who like school stories but I like her far more than most people do and I don’t laugh at her as Arthur Marshall used to. I like the varied nature of the books, the mix of home and school and the feeling of life for certain types of middle class families at the time she was writing. The early books make me think of Lutyens and Elgar. The School on the Cliff is a late one (1938) but still enjoyable. She wrote through two world wars and her books were still being reprinted in paperback in the 1970s so she must have done something right. If I have a favourite it’s probably At School with Rachel.
What was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn.
This came off the 'TBR and modern books which haven’t found a permanent home' shelves. It’s a stunning debut and one of the best new novels I’ve read in recent years.
Queen Lucia by E F Benson.
Luckily, I bought all the Lucia books, including the Tom Holt continuations, as they were reprinted by Black Swan. I’ve tried a lot of E F Benson’s books and found some (Dodo, for example), unreadable but I never tire of Lucia.
Swan Feather by Lorna Hill.
From a shelf containing a complete set of the Wells books. Swan Feather is the one I most vividly remember reading as a child, probably because of the melodramatic death which starts the heroine’s career. It also contains the nicest of all Lorna Hill’s heroes. This book is part of the luckiest book haul I ever had in my life. I went into my fave charity shop, which supports our local hospital, and spotted two pristine Wells books in the ‘old books’ section (all praise to the shop for having one). I bought them, of course, then thought, ‘Might there be more?’ I went back to ask and they dragged out for me, oh glory, a box full of the kind of book one dreams of finding: Abbeys, hardback Drina first editions, Susan and, still out the back, all but one of the Wells books and all in dustwrappers. I insisted on paying more than they were asking for the books. Then I went over to Safeway for a trolley and wheeled away my booty. I’ve never forgotten it and nor have the people in the shop!
There you are; a completely random selection, no cheating. All but one of these books was bought or acquired second hand. Apart from What was Lost, the most recent publication date is 1956. Make of it what you will.