Love my Library? Of course I do!

Books and reading

Bookish Beck is encouraging us to share why we Love our Libraries, and perhaps share some stories to show why. I’m a volunteer at our local library, though I dropped off for a while during the pandemic. This means that I have a constant supply of books which I end up bringing home to read rather than putting them back on the right shelf. And why not? I probably can’t plough through the number of books that I bring back – there aren’t enough hours in the day – but I can sample things I might not usually have considered. Some I win, some I lose, but it keeps the borrowing figures up, and that’s important when libraries battle with every council service for a share of the limited money-pot.

My post is just squeezed in for the October deadline.

Currently Reading

Melissa Harrison: The Stubborn Light of Things. I really have only just started this, but it’s promising. This is a selection of Harrison’s Nature Diaries for The Times from the last few years . She’s living in London in the section of the book I’m reading now, and discovering that Nature can thrive in the most unpromising of circumstances.

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What did I bring home this last month?

Alistair McIntosh: Poacher’s Pilgrimage – An Island Journey.⭐⭐⭐⭐ A powerful exploration of a sense of place. McIntosh returns to the Outer Hebrides of his youth, and undertakes a 12 day walk – a pilgrimage – from Harris to the Butt of Lewis. Not a place I know, but which I’d now like to explore, for its harshness, its Celtic roots, its community deeply rooted in its landscape and traditions. The book is part travelogue, part exploration of the island’s religious past, part exploration of ideas round war and pacifism. It’s a bit of a slow burn, but ultimately rewarding as an exploration both of a place, and one man’s mind.

The Decameron Project: 29 New Stories from the Pandemic.⭐⭐⭐⭐ In a world overwhelmed by a global pandemic, The New York Times approached authors to contribute a short story encompassing their take on this discomfiting period. It brings Lockdown galloping back into my mind, even though few stories tackle this directly. The strangeness of the world at that time is brought into focus by a visit to a Barcelona dog owner with John Wray, or Colm Toibin bicycling in Los Angeles. Not every story is a success. I wasn’t a fan of Margaret Atwood’s Impatient Griselda. But as a memorial to a moment in history, with fine writing as standard, this collection is unbeatable.

Nadifa Mohamed: The Fortune Men. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Mini review forthcoming in November’s Six Degrees of Separation

 Yrsa Sigurðardóttir: Gallows Rock. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Mini review forthcoming.

Francis Spufford: Light Perpetual.⭐⭐⭐⭐ Mini review forthcoming.

Alice Zeniter: The Art of Losing: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Mini review forthcoming.

Barbara Demick: Nothing to Envy. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐A readable and illuminating account of the famine years of the early 20th century in North Korea, as seen through the eyes of six escapees. Not all of these people had long been critical of the repressive, totalitarian regime under which they had been brought up. They accepted unquestioningly that there was nothing to envy beyond the country’s borders, despite the fact that education, career ambitions, love and home life were under constant surveillance and minor ‘offences’ could result in lifelong unpalatable consequences for themselves and their families. An eye opening look at a largely unknown world.

Peace Adzo Medie: His Only Wife. ⭐⭐⭐ Afi is a young seamstress from a not-at-all-well-off family. The chance of marriage to a wealthy man from Accra whose family disapprove of the woman who is the mother of his child changes all that. Her marriage takes place without the groom being present , and though he installs her in a luxury flat in Accra and makes sure she wants for nothing, it’s a while till she even meets him. When she does, she falls in love. But will that be enough to win him back from his other life with that other woman? I was only partly engaged in this tale. As someone who doesn’t know Africa at all, it seems to paint a believable picture of both bustling big city and small town life. But Afi seemed to me to achieve career success unbelievably easily, and I didn’t quite believe in her apparently deep love for Eli. I enjoyed the family relationships described, but on the whole, this was a book I was never fully committed to though I read it willingly enough.

Returned Unfinished

Ian Stephen: A Book of Death and Fish: I haven’t anything like finished this book. But I can tell that it celebrates language, and the telling of a good tale. I’m not in the market for a long immersive read at the moment, but I know I will come back to this book.

Janice Galloway: The Trick Is To Keep Breathing. Goodness knows, I’ve tried to finish this book. I can’t. It’s just too painful. Claustrophobic, disturbing, this is a story about a woman’s inner collapse on the death of her lover. As the ‘other woman’, she can neither be acknowledged nor supported. I’ve only once had depression, of the post-natal variety, and I was well supported, unlike isolated Joy. But the contact with this unwelcome world where everything is just too damn’ difficult and exhausting was more than I could bear. I don’t even know if there is any kind of happy ending to this suffocating tale.

Afia Atakora: Conjure Women. I didn’t finished this book, but abandoned it at about page 50. I found the narrative hard to follow, and wasn’t invested in it sufficiently to try. Reading the reviews, I’ve missed out. Note to self. Try again later.

Borrowed, and waiting their turn

Ann Morgan: Reading the World.

Lana del Rey: Violet Bent Backwards over the Grass.

Eavan Boland: The Historians.

Lucy Newlyn: The Craft of Poetry.

61 thoughts on “Love my Library? Of course I do!

  1. Oh!!!! What a delicious collection of books. How wonderful to be a volunteer at your local library and be surrounded by books. Even better – it must be fabulous to share your love of book with others!

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  2. You are amazing, and fair to authors with it. Emojis do stars….don’t they? Any chance you can click on their panoply? Gives ‘reach for the stars’ a new meaning!

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    1. Honestly, I spent hours on it. You can’t type an emoji star in characters as there is a star on the keyboard, but it is sorted now – see my reply to Becky above. But thanks!

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  3. An enviable task, Margaret. Trick or treaters just about disposed of and still sweets left. Probably responsible for some missing fillings tonight.

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    1. Oh, it’s become a thing in Portugal too? It was just beginning in France as we left. At the very edge of our village, we only ever get the neighbour’s children,and they’ve gone to a Hallowe’en party, so the sweets remain unbroached. Oh well, next year ….

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      1. A lovely little tot just launched himself at me, obviously instructed he has to give hugs in exchange for sweeties. Very cute! We didn’t know what to expect after last year, but there are quite a few youngsters on our estate. It’s a bit of excitement for them, and it’s just about keeping me awake. Stupidly early this morning.

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  4. I LOVE my library. It’s there that I sat when my career in mortgage banking was wearing me out. I was trying to figure out what I’d rather be doing. And it came to me, I’d rather be working in a library. Who knew that to become a librarian you had to have a masters degree. So I went back to school at age 50 and got my degree. Graduated and found a job in a library in 2008, but the crash in 2009 got me laid off and in 2010 I had to go back to mortgage banking. Library work was fun. Someday maybe I’ll volunteer in a library.

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  5. I think you’d enjoy the Outer Hebrides and it’s easy to see why the book may be a bit of a slow burn. That’s life in the isles, where most things will happen “in a wee while”! I rather fancy Lana Del Rey’s poems.

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    1. I do have the Outer Hebrides On The List. I haven’t broached the del Rey yet, but I’m also looking forward to The Craft of Poetry. where Newlyn ‘teaches’ all the different poetic forms by writing in each one in turn.

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  6. What a fascinating selection of books! I’m afraid the only one I know of is Melissa Harrison’s ‘The Stubborn Light of Things’ which is waiting in a heap of other books for me to read. I have read another of her’s – ‘Rain – Four Walks in English Weather’ which I enjoyed. I have also read one book by Francis Spufford about fifteen years ago.

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      1. I read Unapologetic which was very well argued. I bought my husband Back Room Boys hoping to read it after him but he gave it away unread. Hmmm…. I have read so many good reviews of Spufford’s fiction, I really must try it. These days I read more non-fiction.

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  7. My library is about to close for a couple of weeks before it reopens in a brand new purpose built building a little closer to where I live. I can’t wait to visit it when the doors reopen!

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  8. I’m spurred on by your example and going to ask our library system of they take volunteers. Some of our branches are run entirely by volunteers and get no finding from the local authority so on principle I won’t offer my services there. But the main branches might be interested. I see you enjoyed The Fortune Men – I was to at an event with the author last week. She is so delightful and had some fascinating insights about the research done for her book.

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    1. I feel quite conflicted about volunteering. This is a core service that the council should provide. But given how cash-strapped they are, I’lm happy to support the core professional staff, knowing that so far, the book-buying budget has been protected, and good new stock – so far – keeps arriving.

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  9. I love, love my library too as many people don’t realise that there’s also eBooks and audiobooks available at no charge to library members. I just checked and Suffolk Libraries have over 3000 audiobooks available to listen to right now! Thanks for your reviews and I will be checking to see if they’re available here hopefully as audiobooks.

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    1. Oh, of course! Audio books are useful to you as you work. I don’t make use of them or eBooks, but it’s good that libraries stock them. Ours do magazines on line too. Lots of goodies to investigate!

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  10. What a fantastic reading month! Thanks so much for joining in with my new Love Your Library challenge. I love volunteering at my local library twice a week. Through most of the pandemic apart from lockdowns, it’s been a good excuse to get out of the house and see the canal and the town as the seasons change, and I do feel my help is genuinely needed and valued. You’ve convinced me to return His Only Wife unread. I’ve had it out twice and it’s never made it into an actual reading stack.

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  11. Lovely bookish post. I love my library and it kept going throughout the lockdowns, thanks to one amazing volunteer.
    Melissa Harrison is a favourite of mine. Stubborn Light is a quick and easy read. Not my favourite from her but I’m glad to have read it. Plenty of highly rated reads here which is a little alarming. *glances nervously at my tbr* Looking forward to reading your mini reviews in due course 😊

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  12. It’s really unusual for me to rate a book as 5 star, so to have several at once is exceptional. You’ll know more after Six Degrees. I’ll be rating the Harrison quite highly too. Four, maybe?

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    1. I’m struggling with six degrees this month. The starter book threw me for a loop – not the right subject matter for this moment. Hopefully I’ll come up with something!

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  13. Looks like we have something in common, I absolutely love the libraries as well. So important to keep supporting them and I thankful we still have them with all this technology so close at hand. There’s nothing better than to feel the pages flip through your finger, lol. Great post my friend, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Another library lover! Yes, the pleasure of the serendipitous find is quite different from the more planned purchases we tend to make in bookshops. And even the ones we turn out not to like serve their purpose too.

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  14. I thought I had read a book by Melissa Harrison but when I checked out her titles, I saw that I didn’t. What I DID find was her podcast series from her Suffolk home…. Thanks for that!

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  15. I’ve gone into a second week of not being able to open a book. And I have so much on my toberead list …

    I picked up “Nothing to Envy” on our trip to South Korea. I’d never thought beyond headlines about North Korea before that, so I could really call it an eye-opener.

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  16. I’m a fan of libraries too as you know and I always enjoy your book posts. I’ve not read any of these, but I do know the poem One Art by Elizabeth Bishop and suppose that in some way relates to The Art of Losing book. I’ll look forward to your five star mini reviews.

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    1. I’ve just looked up this poem, and discovered I do indeed know it. I am a past mistress at this – two pairs of gloves already this season? No, the book is about more consequential and less tangible loses. Saturday will reveal all!

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