Looking through my TBR shelves and, in fact, all the other bookshelves throughout our house, I decided that I could count on the fingers of one hand, the number of books that have actually been purchased by us, from new.
Almost without exception, our vast collection of some couple of thousand books (yes that is after our massive cull of earlier in the year!), have come to us either from friends and relatives who have read them and passd them on, or, in the majority of cases, from a vast and varied selection of charity shops in various locations throughout the country.
This does mean that we are not always reading the latest releases, however, I personally think that we have found some fantastic gems of books, at great prices and overall have a rich and varied selection of both fiction and non fiction material, that we would probably not otherwise have acquired.
I am probably the worst offender for ‘doing the charity shop run’, as it is like a homing beacon to me, wherever we may be visiting, to make a beeline for the charity shops. Strange, you may think, when you consider that I volunteer in a charity shop, all day, for at least three days a week, and often more frequently, yet these shops will always draw me inside, in search of a bargain.
Bookshelves are springing up all over the place these days, as a way of fundraising, usually for various local projects and charities. From hospitals to public houses, people are being encouraged to set up a bookshelf for their visitors and patrons, as a worthwhile way to redistribute the many books that sit languishing, once read, in houses all over the country.
Book shops will always have a hold over me for browsing of course, although I will generally resist the urge to spend, as I know that I wouldn’t be able to stop at just a couple of books, or even be able to narrow down my choice sufficiently to make a purchase. However, they are a great source of material for my ever growing reading list, which has a permanent home in my handbag, just in case I come across a bookshelf to check out! I just have to stop and think how many books I could buy second hand for the same money and that’s a great reality check for me.
Similarly, libraries will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was here that some of my happiest childhood times were spent browsing the shelves, longing for the time when I would be allowed to move over to the adult library, where the fantastic world of literature would be opened up to me! These days I try to keep libraries definitely out of bounds, in fact I don’t think I even have a valid library ticket any more. I know that I would just binge and greedily take out my full entitlement of books, with little or no hope of reading many of them by their renewal date, thus depriving someone else of the opportunity to enjoy. If we were ever forced to downsize and no longer had space for our many bookshelves, then the library would be my salvation, so I will actively support any measures to keep them open as a public service, but for now I cannot imagine our home without its compliment of books.
I came across these two quotes, which summed up my feelings almost perfectly.
“Second hand books are wild books, homeless boooks; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”
“Literature is no one’s private ground: literature is common ground. Let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves.”
Both of these quotes are attributed to Virginia Woolf, an English author and regarded by many as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the Twentieth Century.
Virginia Woolf’s only autobiographical writing is to be found in this collection of five unpublished pieces. Despite Quentin Bell’s comprehensive biography and numerous recent studies of her, the author’s own account of her early life holds new fascination – for its unexpected detail, the strength of its emotion, and its clear-sighted judgement of Victorian values. In ‘Reminiscences’ Virginia Woolf focuses on the death of her mother, ‘the greatest disaster that could happen’, and its effect on her father, the demanding patriarch who took a high toll of the women in his household. She surveys some of the same ground in ‘A Sketch of the Past’, the most important memoir in this collection, which she wrote with greater detachment and supreme command of her art shortly before her death. Readers will be struck by the extent to which she drew on these early experiences for her novels, as she tells how she exorcised the obsessive presence of her mother by writing To the Lighthouse. The last three papers were composed to be read to the Memoir Club, a postwar regrouping of Bloomsbury, which exacted absolute candour of its members. Virginia Woolf’s contributions were not only bold but also original and amusing. She describes George Duckworth’s passionate efforts to launch the Stephen girls; gives her own version of ‘Old Bloomsbury’; and, with wit and some malice, reflects on her connections with titled society.