Back home, in my parents’ house, I have a large Billy bookcase that bears the weight of over a decade’s reading: everything from an assortment of Roald Dahls handed down from my sisters to three years’ worth of university required reading that I couldn’t bear to part with. Hidden amongst those double-stacked shelves, I have no doubt that there will be a fair few books that I have never gotten around to reading. One of these days I’ll need to sort through them properly, and send whatever I have no intention of reading to the charity shop. I’m sure my mother would be pleased to see the collection significantly “curated”, shall we say.
Down in London, I have my shelves under far better control. Almost all the books I have here have been bought since I moved, and since (as I mentioned in my July haul post) I try not to buy more than I can read, few remain unread for more than a month or two. Nevertheless, the odd book does slip through the cracks.
The following books have sat on my shelf for at least six months. I thought I’d share a little as to how and why I initially picked them up, and why I have since neglected to read them. Hopefully, it will encourage me to read one or two at last.
Persephone Books is an independent publisher and bookshop in Bloomsbury, central London. I had wanted to visit them for years, ever since my A Level teacher loaned me her copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Persephone generally publish early 20th century fiction by female authors, binding them in uniform grey covers with bright endpaper designs. When I finally found the opportunity to visit, I was spoilt for choice over what to get, and so settled on a short story anthology published to celebrate the company’s 100th title. Since this doesn’t feel like a Tube-commute sort of read, I want to sit down on a quiet Sunday afternoon and start leafing through the book a few stories at a time, but I haven’t yet found the right opportunity.
Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements* by Hugh Aldersley-Williams
I received this book from for free through my job. I think the reason I haven’t read it is the same reason why I picked it up in the first place: it’s not the sort of book I usually read. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, and what I do read tends to be more historical, or else somewhat plot-driven – books like The Lonely City and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. As much as the subject matter sounds interesting, I’m not sure if the book will have enough interest to sustain me without an overarching narrative.
Little Deaths* by Emma Flint
Another free find from work, I picked up this book in mid-March, after it was longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize. Having read a few of the other titles, I briefly entertained the notion of reading the entire longlist before the winner was announced. I’ve since heard mixed reviews about Little Deaths, which I think explains why it keeps slipping down my TBR. Do let me know if you would recommend it.
Charlotte Brontë: A Life* by Claire Harman
I have a soft spot for Charlotte and her sisters; Jane Eyre was the first ‘classic’ I ever read. Perhaps that’s why I keep on picking up Brontë biographies. I have a few on my bookshelf at home and, while I’m fascinated by the Brontës’ life, the only one I’ve ever come close to finishing is Elizabeth Gaskill’s 1857 The Life of Charlotte Brontë. I fear Harman’s biography may end up being similarly forgotten.
Slaves of New York by Tama Janowitz
This is the oldest book in my London TBR. I received it for my 18th birthday from my best friend, who knew I loved the musical Rent and thought I would enjoy this book as a result. If you read the blurb, you can see where she was coming from:
A coterie of artists, prostitutes, saints, and seers are all aspiring towards fame and hoping for love and acceptance. Instead they find high rents, faithless partners, and dead-end careers.
I think I put off reading this until I had finished my A Levels, only for me to leave it behind when I moved to university. I have now brought it down to London with me with the goal of finally, finally reading it, but alas, I still haven’t been found the inclination to pick it up.
All That Man Is* by David Szalay
I bought this book at a deep discount in December 2016, simply because I had heard it was on the Man Booker shortlist. Given its explicit focus on masculinity, in retrospect it seems like an odd title to pick up during a year in which I only read female authors; perhaps I was looking for a change when I picked it up. I haven’t looked at it since; in fact, it lived on my desk at work until I took it home to write this post.