Many years ago, a woman visiting our home, on seeing our wall to wall book shelves, said to me, “Doesn’t your husband read a lot of books!”
OH (other half) and I are the kind of people who never throw books away – unless they are absolute rubbish. In other words, totally unreadable or falling apart. Now we’re using lockdown to finally have a sort out.
Over the years we have picked up books at boot sales, charity shops, street markets, jumble sales and second-hand book shops. And of course bought from book shops and Amazon. Often we never actually get round to reading the books and they languish on our bookshelves waiting to be picked up and loved.
In his study OH has shelves filled with science books. And there are even more at his place of work.
On my book shelves there are books related to childbirth and parenthood (from my National Childbirth Trust teaching days), poetry, art, education and advertising.
And both of us share a huge amount of fiction and non-fiction on all manner of subjects.
In the kitchen there are four shelves of recipe books. Do I really need 40 cook books? I rarely use recipes when I am cooking so why keep them? I guess every book holds a memory. For example, “Cooking in a Bedsitter (Katherine Whitehorn), was my bible when I lived for a short while in a cramped bedsit in Kinnerton Street behind Harrods. In the house there was a French guy who was a chef in one of the London restaurants. I used to hover on the landing to savour the aroma of steak and garlic emanating from his room. There was a large kitchen which everyone in the house shared but never at the same time. We also shared the kitchen with mice. I once opened the fridge door to find a mouse sitting on one of the shelves eating some delicacy someone had stored there. Not long after that I moved back home.
A number of years ago I parcelled up most of my advertising books, memorabilia and teaching notes. The History of Advertising Trust in Norwich were very pleased to take them off my hands. They even sent a courier down to pick up all my boxes and now HAT have an Andrea Neidle collection!
Not long before the internet really got going OH bought a set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Most of the books have never been opened. Because not long after that the Internet took off and our children discovered Google. Sadly no one wants encyclopaedias any more and now they sit taking up room on my bookshelves.
When I was working on my Master’s in Higher and Professional Education the internet did not exist. One actually had to visit the library and plough through all the books to find suitable quotes and references. Note I don’t say that I read the books. One just had to trawl through them and take notes. But it took forever. When Google first came in, our Watford advertising students were told not to use Google but seek out the books themselves. Few of them bothered. And who can blame them? I envy anyone studying today. They can just do a search and find whatever it is they need in seconds. When I wrote the first edition of How to Get into Advertising back in 1999 my research was all library based. By the time I produced the second edition in 2002 I was able to use Google to update address details and so on, which saved a huge amount of time and effort.
Now OH and I are sorting out our books into three piles. Definitely keep. Possibly sell. Give away. We use AbeBooks to check if any have any value. If you haven’t come across Abe I recommend it. Not just for getting some idea of the value of your own books but also for obtaining second-hand and out-of-print books that you want to read. It’s an eye opener to find that your twenty year old tatty jumble sale purchase is now worth upwards of fifty quid whereas that beautiful old leather bound copy of Dickens that you have held on to since you were a kid is not worth anything at all. Of course a book doesn’t have to be old to be valuable. We all know that the early editions of J K Rowling are worth a small fortune, as are many first editions of other 20th and 21st century writers, particularly if you have a signed copy. Dust jackets add to the value of a book too. I tried to tell that to OH back when we were first married and he was busy tearing off all the dust jackets and binning them. Vandal.
From an early age my father, the author R L Finn, taught me to value books. He only smacked me twice in my life. The first time was when I was about nine or ten years old and I accidentally tore the dust jacket of a book he owned. (The second time I will save for another day.) My dad also instilled in me to always use a book mark and to never ever turn down the corners of a book. Are you listening OH?
So what am I reading right now? On my bedside I have a large pile of books waiting to be read. I am currently reading “I am, I am, I am” (no typo – that’s the title) by Maggie O’Farrell. If you’ve not come across her books before, I highly recommend them. She writes beautifully, sparingly, evocatively, movingly. Another one of hers I really enjoyed was, “The Hand that First Held Mine.” Next on my list to read is Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman followed by The Red Notebook (Antoine Laurain), Normal People (Sally Rooney), Caging Skies by Christine Leunens (the book behind the film Jojo Rabbit) and Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng).
Trouble is, I am spending so much time sorting out books and writing this blog that I am not finding enough time to read!
Let me know what you’ve been reading. And I will add your recommendations to my pile.
The image below is from a book of children’s stories by Leo Tolstoy. No value whatsoever!
See you tomorrow.
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems