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?