I happened to stumble across one of my old blog posts the other day, while searching for something else, and I thought it would be fun to resurrect a meme I made up in 2010. I love the idea of getting to know people by looking at their bookshelves – and this meme was a microcosm of that, picking 10 books to tell about a reader.
Here are the rules I set out last time…
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…
I decided to do it a bit differently this time – in order to include all the books I have in Somerset, I used my LibraryThing catalogue and a random number generator to come up with ten of my books – here they are, in the order they came out.
Please do have a go at this meme! I won’t tag anybody this time – but I’d love to see which ten books other people come up with. You can write much less or much more than I have – basically, make this meme fit whatever you’d like to do.
1. Good Wives? by Margaret Forster
I haven’t read this, or anything by Forster, but this book is testament to my willingness to stock my shelves with recommendations that I hear about from dovegreybooks, the Yahoo Group I’ve been in since I was 18, and which has helped shape my literary taste so much.
2. The Aloe by Katherine Mansfield
This is working out roughly chronologically so far, as I first discovered Mansfield while attending lecture days run by Oxford University, when I was about 17 or 18. Most of the people there were retired or heading that way; I was an eager young man who knew very little about literature, had never heard of Mansfield, and was struck by the astonishing writing I’d stumbled upon. I have read this one, though rather later.
3. Lettice Delmer by Susan Miles
Oh, Persephone Books! How you have also shaped me as a reader. I found out about them through their reprint of Richmal Crompton – and they led me to dovegreybooks. I can’t imagine a time when I shan’t have my Persephone books on proud display – and I have read this verse novel, which I really liked.
4. About Alice by Calvin Trillin
I’m trying to use these selections to tell you a bit about myself, where relevant, and About Alice is testament to my outsider’s fascination with grief. It is such a fundamental human emotion but, having never lost anybody close to me, it is one I don’t really understand. I found Trillin’s beautiful book about his late wife remarkable.
5. A Genius for Living by Janet Byrne
This is a biography of Frieda Lawrence (D.H. Lawrence’s wife) that turned up in my LibraryThing, though I have an inkling that I’ve actually sent it, unread, to a charity shop… which (super tangentially!) can be the link to my first sort-of job, which was volunteering for Oxfam. I sorted and priced clothes, and was grateful not to have to do anything with books – because throwing them away was too horrible a thought.
6. The Country Housewife’s Book by Lucy H Yates
I haven’t read this Persephone Book yet – indeed, it’s more of a dip-in then I read-all-the-way-through. So I’m going to use this pick to tell you about my irrational loathing of authors who use their middle initial. Actually, it’s not quite irrational. It’s because every American literary critic seems to do it, and I did NOT have that sort of wordcount to spare in my doctoral thesis. Scarred, that’s what I am.
7. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
I’m delighted this one came up! A.A. Milne was my first love, in developing my own taste for obscure and out of print literature, and an abiding one. Winnie the Pooh isn’t obscure, of course, so this can also stand for my love of woodland, which I’ve had all my life. And in about 2003 I was lucky enough to go to the Hundred Acre Wood (which, psst, is not really 100 acres).
8. When I Was Otherwise by Stephen Benatar
I don’t recall where I bought many of the books on this list – but this one I do (I think!). It was one of the books I picked up at Barter Books in Alnwick, in 2012, though I haven’t read it yet. That trip was a weird time. I was giving a conference paper at Newcastle University, and then travelling down to Worcester to go to my best friend’s wedding. It was also a time that I was terrified, waiting for an examination to rule out cancer (which was very much ruled out!) that was taking ages to arrive. So the little haul of books comes with a real medley of memories.
9. Making Love by Jean Toussaint
I haven’t read this, and I can’t remember quite where I bought it, but it is part of my usually-failing attempt to find books I like translated from French. I’ve enjoyed a handful (including, yes Peter, Colette) but there’s still something of a barrier there. Maybe one to take when I go to France this summer? As for a fact about myself associated with this book – France is my most-visited country by far, outside of the UK: I’ve been there five times. My French is still beyond abysmal.
10. One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens
Lovely to finish with a hilarious memoir, on my list of 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About. I don’t remember where I picked this up, but it was one of the few recreational books I managed to read during my (intense!) undergraduate English Literature degree. And, well, I love baking – but this book reinforces that I tend towards the tried-and-tested when it comes to cooking. Read this and you’ll want to do the same…
Over to you! Put a link in the comments if you do (a version of) this meme yourself.