Article published on July 14, 2016.
It is wonderful news that book sales are rising again after a lull of a few years. E readers are great for travelling but I miss that special feeling when you first hold a new book in your hands.
Using my kindle on a flight, the passenger opposite unwrapped an obviously new book. I was consumed with envy as he turned it over in his hands, examined the cover, flicked the pages and that unique scent wafted towards me. My kindle was so mundane in comparison. It is such an exciting moment when you begin a book. What is this book going to mean to you? Will you enjoy it and learn from it and feel the better for reading it? Will it consume you or open new doors in your mind? Will it live up to your expectations and perhaps transport you to another place? Have you discovered an author hitherto unknown to you? Like Narnia you take yourself into another world.
I am slightly ashamed to say that I no longer use the local library, preferring to ‘own’ my books. For years I ran “Books on Wheels “ from our local library, a fortnightly service delivering books to the housebound. Sadly the numbers of users diminished and the service folded due to lack of use. perhaps we did not match people with the books of their choice? I know I like to browse and choose for myself.
Reading an ebook does not have the same intimacy or connect with the reader as strongly. I find it less easy to recall the title and author of a book read on a gadget – since there is not a book lying around you are not seeing the cover in the way you do when you lift a hard copy. ‘Real’ books are so much more memorable to me than electronic books and the experience of reading them somehow appears to be a more intimate experience.
Recently due to family circumstances I have been more tied to the house. Not a great television fan, (unless during Wimbledon) reading has been my greatest joy. My tastes are varied; thrillers, mystery, modern novels, classics, non-fiction, even the newspapers, all have been read far more regularly and avidly than for quite some time. The added bonus of receiving books from newbooks/nudge to review has given my reading that extra fillip and stretched my imagination and my knowledge of authors.
Occasionally I still download books to my e-reader for bus journeys or hanging around in waiting rooms.
I love attending book festivals and fortunately the Boswell Festival takes place a short drive from home. I cannot resist buying signed books which I never discard. I have a separate bookshelf full of autographed books with best wishes just for me! There is a certain kudos when you show such books to friends as if the author was a long standing friend. They vary in enjoyment and readability and my children have been told that there is a slim (very) chance they might be valuable one day! But we all know that few books have sale value unless they are rare or ancient. So my biographies of Margaret Thatcher, Kate Adie, George Alagiah, Terry Waite and Joanna Lumley may have to pass through several generations before anyone benefits from my hoarding.
When I was in my teens and studying literature I could not find a copy of a Siegfried Sassoon poem that I needed. Thanks to Who’s Who I acquired his home address and wrote to him requesting (I hope politely) for a copy. He sent me a rather tattered and coverless edition of one of his books of poetry. Deciding that some books just had to be discarded I came upon it recently in a box of my teenage books and realised it was a proof copy with his hand written annotations in the margin. I sent it to auction and it sold for over £300!
Unfortunately none of the other stuff in the box had any value including a four volume leather bound illustrated Shakespeare. No doubt some charity shop sold if for a couple of pounds. But at least it made me clear out some of the old Enid Blytons and Elinor M Brent Dyers that were my taste all these years ago.
We have a rather pretentious relative who converted his garage into a library. The shelves are lined with 100 books all with matching binding and it does look impressive. “Ask him how many he has read’ another cousin whispered at a recent party. It was immediately obvious the answer was none and the books were just for show.
I am an avid book buyer often making rash purchases which I believed might improve my mind. One can dream. I look at my groaning bookshelves and wonder if I will live long enough to read them all? Will I ever get round to The Iliad, The Three Musketeers or Don Quixote or have another attempt at The Seven Pillars of Wisdom (yawn) and the many others purchased on a whim of intellectual improvement.
At this moment in time it is unlikely when Guy and his team recommend and introduce subscribers to so many tempting goodies. In all the years I have been a subscriber to newbooks I believe there has only been one occasion when I rejected a book and one time when I thought a book was rubbish. [Ed: Come on, Sheila, don’t be shy, what was it???] I am not sure what classes a book as literature but reading books as recommended by the magazine has been a journey with lots of twists and turns but always with great enjoyment.
Sheila A Grant
SECOND OPINION: How to Measure a Cow by Margaret Forster