I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Books In My Life (5)


We have books in nearly every room of the house. These are some shelves in our bedroom. I often read in bed before falling asleep. It's one of life's greatest pleasures, isn't it? There are lots of novels on these shelves. At one time I used to read novels almost to the exclusion of everything else. Now I still read fiction, but less so, and mixed in with biography, travel, history, natural history, religion, spirituality, philosophy and popular science. And of course poetry I've always read a great deal of.

Here you will find books by some of my favourite novelists: Balzac, Dostoyevsky, George Eliot, Scott Fitzgerald, Flaubert, Hardy, DH Lawrence, Thomas Mann, John Cowper Powys, Steinbeck, Stendhal, Tolstoy and Patrick White. There's a novel about Welsh hill farmers called On The Black Hill by the exquisitely gifted travel writer Bruce Chatwin. There are two books, Vertigo and Austerlitz, by the joyously uncategorisable WG Sebald, genre-busting works which are part fiction, part memoir, part history, part autobiography, part travelogue. There's a collection of short stories called Under The Dam by David Constantine, who is also a wonderful poet and was one of my old German lecturers at university. There's a selection of short stories by that master of the form, Guy de Maupassant. There's Philip Pullman's terrific children's trilogy His Dark Materials - these are definitely books for adults too! And there's Thomas Mann's classic novella Death In Venice, a book I reread time and again.


This is the final post in my series The Books In My Life.

8 comments:

Ruth said...

A fine couple of shelves. Reading in bed is a short lived prospect for me, so I read in my chair, and that, too, lasts only about an hour. I see some friends on your shelves. I loved Balzac's Le Cousins Pons but have read no other by him. I also loved "The Piece of String" by Maupassant. I have not been much of a novel reader since finishing my English degree, much preferring non-fiction, spirituality, and travel books.

George said...

Getting in bed and reading for an hour or so before turning out the lights is one of the supreme pleasures in life. It always allows me to retire with a strong sense that I have finished the day with something beautiful or spiritually enlightening. Like you, I find myself reading fewer novels and more non-fiction these days. I'm curious to know whether this is a pattern for most readers.

am said...

Books are good company, aren't they? They travel through life with us. What a pleasure it is to look at shelves of books! With my current reduced income, I am finding myself re-reading some of the books I have and picking up free books from the mailroom where I live. There is a bookshelf there where my neighbors often leave good used books. Most recently, Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, turned up on that bookshelf. From grade school on, I read mostly novels, and biographies, until the late 1980s when I began reading books from various spiritual traditions, beginning with Thomas Merton,The Tales of the Hasidim, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

vibration doctor said...

When the old LP record went the way of the CD and now digital files, I lamented the old cardboard gatefold sleeves and elaborate artwork and the object itself, being the old luddite I am, and now my two children and the wife have their kindle book readers the bookshelves probably won't get any bigger ... a friend once said that the internet would never replace the public library... Ha ha ... it's replaced EVERYTHING ... and now 60 percent of US Amazon book sales are digital ... the old book will die and so farewell dusty old thing that sits on shelves ... one must not be too nostalgic, we oldies have to accept the world as it is to remain sane ... but we will never forget the aroma of dusty pages !!!

Goat said...

Yes, like the reader above, I have mixed feelings about books (the objects, I mean). I just bought a Kindle too. I'm not sold on it yet and don't know if I'll ever love it the way some people I know "love" theirs. But it's certainly light and portable and small, great for travelling and requiring no special maintenance.

I used to think I would hold onto my books forever, and some are definitely here to stay - undoubtedly many of my favourites will never make it to e-form -but wonderful as they are, they collect dust and mould and insects and consume space. And you can only display so many.

I haven't been in a library for years, sorry to say...

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, everyone, for entering into the spirit of these bookshelf posts!

Ruth, Balzac's 'Le Curé de Tours' is absolutely fab!

George, I seem to read more and more widely the older I get.

Am, I re-read stuff myself, more and more. As you know, I'm very interested too in Merton and many other spiritual writers, saints and visionaries.

Vibration Doctor and Goat, yes, it's true that times are changing fast technologically. I have no problem particularly with the form of physical container - it's the holy knowledge within that's important. However, I do love books as beautiful objects in their own right - though I'm not precious about them, and regularly give mine away, treat them roughly, lend them out, write in the margins etc. And I can't see the Kindle being yet able to rival a gorgeous illustrated work of non-fiction. Also, I like flicking through, and back and forth in a book, stuffing it in the back of my jeans, smelling its individual, strangely erotic smell, and making use of my rather impressive collection of arty bookmarks - all rather difficult with an e-reader.

Dominic Rivron said...

Final post? I've been looking out for Ditton Rachey's 'Reasonably Eminent Victorians' but haven't spotted it yet ;)

Dominic Rivron said...

Terrific, His Dark Materials, isn't it? His sometimes lightly namby-pamby prose style is more than made up for by Pullman's fantastic imagination. Just picked up vols 1 and 2 for a quid this morning. I keep lending it out and never getting it back, so I thought a spare was in order.

Might read it again when I've finished Biggles...