Monday, July 16, 2012

A comfort of books

I don't remember the first book I ever owned. But I do remember my favourites from kinder:
- Harry the Dirty Dog & Ping. 

That was only 44 years ago!

My cousin Connie read to me from Pinocchio - the very same, battered copy I still have.

In primary school, I remember being told very firmly (and not at all gently!) by the librarian that I was not ALLOWED to touch the chapter books, I could ONLY borrow the picture books. But the yearning to move into those secret worlds of text-only was so strong.

I think it was my Grade Five teacher Mr Webster who introduced me to Ivan Southall's books - which I never see or hear of these days - Ash Road and Hills End were my favourites. They are still on my shelf. Australian stories, so different from my beloved Enid Blytons ... they sit nearby. The Chronicles of Narnia - my gorgeous, well-thumbed The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: torn apart by my first-born, replaced and her firmly addicted.

Op shops provided an abundance of vintage stories for girls - school stories, horse stories ... I would pounce upon the rows of faded blue or green covers - often suffering the disappointment of finding only BOYS stories! I still have all those girls books - stripped, by the innocent me, of their annoying dust jackets, much to the angst of the adult me as they multiply the books worth: ironically as I now collect those I never owned, at much more than op shop prices.

My first adult novel - loaned to me by the boy who shared my desk and my last-name in Grade Six. Jaws. My local beach never felt quite as safe after that. Nor my vocabulary! It sits on my shelves. Lying awake into the wee hours, too frightened to sleep, finishing The Exorcist as a teenager. My entire, battered collection of horror stories have their own shelf - Damien of The Omen, Rosemary's baby, Amityville Horror.

Historical romances, mostly from the local library, took me to another world and fed my craving for British history - and local as well. The Australian series, by William Stuart Long AKA Vivan Stuart, sit on my shelf - along with the disappointment that the author died before completing the saga from the arrival of the First Fleet to modern day.

The 80s - Lace! Harold Robbins. Danielle Steel.Barbara Taylor Bradford. Wonderful, trashy and grist for my insatiable appetite for books. I haunted the second-hand bookstore for paperbacks and consumed them - first in the long days of unemployment and later in the spare moments between caring for my small children (probably when I should have been doing housework!) I still have many of them - they make me smile to see them sitting on the shelf.

I always loved a good murder and the 90s brought so many! My shelves filled with the black jackets - Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly, The Kellermans (Jonothan and wife Faye: I am yet to read any of their son Jesse's works!). Inspector Morse (as big as a horse in my mind, as my brain had been infiltrated by all my children's own books!).Elizabeth George. Robin Cook (a conspiracy behind every door) most of these are still on my shelves.

Into the new century and into more cosy works. Rosamunde Pilcher. Maeve Binchy. Marian Keyes. Suddenly, the Irish were everywhere! Edward Rutherford's epic historical sagas. "Chick Lit" - followed by "Hen Lit" as I was getting older and the genre aged with me. They are all on the shelves. 

I began Bookcrossing, which led to random reading. I loved the idea of releasing books into the wild for others to find, but loved my collection too much to make much of a dint in the process: I sought unwanted books in bulk through Freecycle and other sources and I bought discounted, second-hand copies of favourites specifically to give away!

Village tales and cosy murders are my current fad, stacking up nicely on the shelves. Or not. Ebooks and audio books are downloaded into my tablet. Amazon, Book Depository, Audible, Kobo - new ways to buy books in all formats.

Alongside the fiction, my collection of non-fiction grew. Biographies and memoirs are favourites. When my health restricted my lifestyle, I would take off to Provence or Tuscany, cycle around the world or hitch a ride with Michael Palin on his travels. I would choose a country for the winter and read as much as I could based there. The shelves grew.

My journey through parenthood is marked by books - and augmneted by my work in supporting parents and my fascination for the old. A collection began with my own reference books, grew to include vintage and retro and even included the "bad books" which I shelve upside down to mark my disrespect. Now my daughter is planning a family and I need to make sure she reads the most current, not the oldest! I shall sort into year of publication.

Hobbies and interests, popular culture, history, health, women's issues ... all represented, shelf after shelf.

So, you see, it was no spur of the moment decision, but a long-held dream, finally realised this weekend which led me along a pathway I have traversed for almost 50 years, which led to .....

Seven matching (Ikea Billy) book cases spanning the long wall of our lounge room. Replacing mis-matched options begged, borrowed and made-do for all the many years since I left home 30 years ago and filled with my treasures. Will I buy more books? Of course! And will I cull to make space for them - yes. I have always culled my collection, although it might seem otherwise. But some books will be with me when they cart me off in the future - and my kids have strict instructions to keep only what they want but to find good homes for those they don't.


Kebeni said...

can I come live with you? I will bring my books too.
When I was in grade four I had read ALL the kids books and was allowed an adult library card and introduced to Agatha Christie. They couldn't keep up the books I was such a voracious reader. Still am and I think my kids will be too.
I have been collecting Ivan Southall for my kids. Plenty at op shops

Naomi Tree said...

I remember Harry. Was Ping the one about the "ducks" that the boy put on his boat? (I always thought they looked like shags)

Ms Fifikns said...

Just lovely! Ping was one of my favourites too! And Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel!

Anonymous said...

A marvellous collection of books and displayed well. Over 75 years books have contributed so much. As children our mother read to us from a story about an African hunter. oOher books I enjoyed were Black Beauty and Anne of Green Gables. Old books, new books even writers such as Shakespeare and Henry Lawson.

Anonymous said...

ABE books is another source of second hand books. While trying to research an uncle's service in France in the Great War I found books by C.E.W.Bean give excellent information. After a visit to Perth some years I read A Fortunate Life by Bert Facey. Pears Cyclopaedia was my favourite while on my grandfather'farm. Spike Milligan for humour. In london you can view one of the very oldest books.

Anonymous said...

Recipe books are great to read even if you do not want to cook anything. My favourites are the C.W.A. books from the 1940s to recent ones. Old Miranda recipe books and those by small school parents to raise funds are relaxing to browse. We must not forget that men gather books about cars and sports like fishing and sailing.Travel books make you feel like seeing many places here and overseas. This topic is endless.Don't forget magazines. On the net you can read copies of very old books about exploration.

Anonymous said...

Recipe books are good to read. CWA boooks contain contributed recipe. Those from the 1940s show how cooking has changed. Microwave cooking has meant more books. Famous chefs like to write their own books.Margaret Fulton, a wonderful cook has has some very good books. Also books about WW2 provide not only history of wars but also the bravery of those involved and famous battles.

Anonymous said...

Recipe books cover a wide variety of books with illustrations to encourage the reader. My best one is by Magaret Fulton but my favourites are from the C.W.A. dating back to the 1930s.