March 22, 2013

A Cross Section

I have quite a few books.  Not as many as some people, and not as many as I would like, but I've got books.  Most of them line a six-shelf white bookcase just inside my room and to the right, either standing on end like they're meant to or lying across the tops of books-that-are-roughly-the-same-height.  A number occupy a brown entertainment unit, sitting two layers deep and being, all around, rather difficult to access.  Whenever I'm feeling blue or idle, I drift through my room, look over the covers on each shelf and occasionally pull one off just to flip through.  They are friends, and they make me feel at home.

I was just thinking about this fondness, not just for books, but for my books, the other day as I pulled Kidnapped off the shelf and ran my thumb through the pages.  I think most readers can understand this feeling of love for their own books, and special love for particular works; and as I was trying to get my sluggish mind to determine what I would write about today, I thought, "Why not these books?"  I wrote a post on some of my favorites back in 2011, and though naturally the list has changed since then as I read more, I didn't feel like redoing it.  Instead I decided to pick one book (semi-randomly) from some of the shelves and give it attention.

Kidnapped (R.L. Stevenson): This is not at all random and is actually cheating a little, since the book is off the shelf being reread, but one can't help that.  In the grand scheme of things Kidnapped is a very new favorite: I finished reading it for the first time exactly a year ago, in March 2012.  It is a story of adventure - adventure on the sea, adventure through the highlands of Scotland - as most of Stevenson's works are.  The main character, a hard-headed Lowlander named David Balfour, sets out to gain his rightful inheritance and becomes embroiled in the political tensions of the Highlands - and particularly in the affairs of the outlaw Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart.  My love for the story was not at all slow in coming: I fell in love with Stevenson's ironic humor and sparkling characters at first sight. David is a stalwart, upright chap with a dry, biting kind of wit.  Alan Breck is wholly lovable, an absolute gem, and a swift favorite.  And I don't have many favorites.

My edition of Kidnapped is a paperback Modern Library Classic - nothing magnificent, but it is one of those that seems tied to the story itself.  I am extremely fond, not just of the tale, but of the book.  I take it down frequently to flip through (and sniff: I'm an incorrigible book sniffer).

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte): I haven't read this book in quite a while, except one time fairly recently when I took it down to reread the part where you Find Out Who Is Locked Up.  When I did read it for the first time, several years ago, I didn't know anything about it.  I didn't even know about the plot point for which it is famous.  I was right there with Jane as she learned Mr. Rochester's secret; I recall I read that section in the evening, and it gave me such a shock I dove out of bed in search of someone to tell.  I'm pretty sure everyone else knew it, so it was probably just me babbling incoherently while they nodded in vague sympathy and thought, "Wow, she's ignorant!"

My copy of Jane Eyre is a hardback Courage Classics edition; originally it had a dust jacket, but I took it off in an effort to render the book slightly less hideous.  Seriously, Jane and Mr. Rochester looked like apes.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Orczy): I think most of you Scribbles readers are Scarlet Pimpernel fans, so this one needs little explanation.  This book was another that I read years ago and had no knowledge of at the time - I somehow managed to be extremely ignorant when it came to classics.  The back of the edition I have gave it away, as synopses often do, and in revenge I whipped out a black Sharpie and blotted out that paragraph forever.  Now whoever gets the copy (an Aerie paperback with a huge orange "2 for $1 WAL-MART!" mark on the front, detracting a great deal from the picture of the two men dueling) will not have it given away.  Just in case they're as blissfully unaware of the Scarlet Pimpernel's identity as I was.

The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien): Jenny was the first one to read these to me - before or after we watched the films, I don't remember.  I think it was before.  We got through the first two books and about halfway through the third, but I seem to remember finishing it on my own; I also recall she skipped the Council of Elrond, and when I went back to it a few years later, I was shocked to find how much I had missed.  I haven't gone back to them in some time; after the movies came out I was a huge fan, but that wore off and while I still appreciate the books, the series isn't my absolute favorite.

I am pretty fond of the copies I own, however, since I scored a deal on a set of unread Del Rey paperbacks at a secondhand bookstore.  They're so perfect and fit on the shelf so well, it actually seems a shame to take them off and read them.

The Tall Ships (John Jennings): This book has an interesting story behind it.  I forget why it came up in conversation, but my father remembered that there was a novel he had read years before dealing with the Jeffersonian Embargo, and could not for the life of him remember its author or the whole of its title.  He only knew it had something to do with "tall ship."  We had a deal to do finding it, but we did manage to track it down and to get a nice Doubleday hardback.  While there are some elements of the story that I took issue with, it was interesting to discover a novel set in the Age of Sail that focused more on the characters and their growth than on any individual event (coughHornblowercough).  Jennings' style is much closer to that of The White Sail's Shaking and The Running Tide than either Forester's or O'Brian's.

Alchemy (E.J. Holmyard): I picked up this book for research and though I have only read the first chapter so far, that first chapter was enough to pique my interest.  I don't know that I will necessarily read it straight through - that depends on how engaging it is - but it is a fascinating topic.  (And it actually makes some amount of sense under Aristotelian philosophy!)  Being a writer is such fun: you have an excuse to research the most outlandish things.  This copy is, alas, merely a bright red Dover paperback with several USED stickers on the back and spine.  To have an old hardback would be lovely, but ho hum!

so there's a cross section of my shelves.  what about yours?


  1. One of my first thoughts when I began to read this was, "You too?" But it wasn't merely one of those absentminded You Too?s, but one that came with a warm, fuzzy feeling, for I daresay that stroking my books and skimming through them when idle--or else procrastinating--is one of my favorite pastimes (because you *can* call it a pastime). Doesn't it give you such a pleasure to see your friends sitting cozily on the shelf with their pretty (or not-so-pretty) binds smiling at you?

    1. I think that is one reason why I can't see myself ever turning to e-books: I would miss the attachment to a physical book. I know some people become fond of their Kindle or Nook, but it's hard to feel any friendship with a PDF! I love a good, bound book in paper and ink.

  2. I do this all the time, but I never thought to do a post on it before :) Mind if I steal your idea and do a post like this in the future? :)

    1. Go right ahead, Hayden! I'm one of those nosy people who love to see what others have on their shelves.

  3. What Emily said.

    I am fiercely fond of The Lord of the Rings movies, just as much though in a different way like I am fond of the books themselves.

    But then again, you know that already.

    1. I thought of you as I wrote my little blurb on these books! Unfortunately, I wore out my enthusiasm over perhaps a dozen viewings, obsessive research into Middle Earth, and, yes, fan-girling. My lack of fierceness now is due entirely to that, and not to the quality of the movies themselves.

  4. Of course the first thing I had to do after I read this was go and poke through my own books. :) I know that feeling you describe—sometimes it's as much fun just to look at your old favorites as it is to read a new book. Mine are (unfortunately!) currently stored in a plastic bin under my sisters' bed, owing to the lack of space for a bookshelf in our room. Now I want to re-read Mrs. Miniver...and one thing I wasn't expecting was to get choked up when I flipped open a random page of Mama's Bank Account, one of my very favorites.

    Funny the memories that stick in your head...I can remember the day I bought our copy of Jane Eyre (a Barnes & Noble Classics paperback). Going to the bookstore and coming back with an armful was always a red-letter day. One of the others was Captains Courageous, another real favorite of mine, and I think I got Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby that day too...

    1. There are passages in some of my favorite books that, though read multiple times, still make me smile, and others that give me a knot in my throat. Books are darlings. As far as Barnes & Noble goes, I bought my copy of The Four Loves there; I'm pretty sure it was way too expensive for such a slim paperback, but I was young and naive. Since then I've balanced myself out a little better: I am pretty cheap, but I try to pay more attention to the (physical) quality and style of the books I buy. Squat little Bantam Classics paperbacks are difficult to read!

      I have a B&N paperback of Nicholas Nickleby waiting on my top shelf, and I was just thinking this morning that I might read it next. Captains Courageous is a good book - one of Jenny's favorites; she really enjoys Kipling.

  5. What a dear, homey post! Reading your words made me feel as if I stood by your bookshelf, stroking cracked bindings and age-worn pages flecked with small black letters that one wordcrafter saw fit to lace together until they flowed less like words and more like music. I think many of us have such trailing to-read lists that we forget to turn our attention back to the old stories that first set us down on this path. I have a slim, green volume of Little Women that found an eternal home in my purse for nearly three years, as I was always pulling it out and rereading the familiar words when I needed something to pass the time. The print is hopelessly small, but I still find myself passing the hours with that well-loved copy, defying the books I'm currently reading to produce a tale so memorable. Don't misunderstand my words — I love reading new books with plots that remain unknown to me — but there's something of a charm in the dear old books that, as Samwise Gamgee said, "were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand."

    P.S. I finished The Last of the Mohicans and wrote up a review for it on my blog, which I thought you might be interested in reading, seeing as you were the one who first piqued my interest in Cooper's novel. Here is the link:

    1. P.P.S. I wrote and published this comment, then visited my Blogger dashboard and realized you had commented on my review. *blushes* Kindly disregard that former postscript. :)

  6. Hello,

    I love read too and my favourite place to read a book is in bed because I can get all warm and cosy. I often read late into the night because I am enjoying my book too much which is not always a good idea as I am tired the next day. He He. I also love to read when I am upset or need a bit of comfort so when I feel like this, I happily go into a drawing room, meet Mr. Rochester upon Hay Lane or go to Hogwarts and learn a few spells. I am a fan of classic children's literature especially The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Ballet Shoes, Charlotte's Web, Harry Potter, Little Women and The Railway Children.

    I love Jane Eyre. Lovely post. xx


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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