Sunday 8 March 2020

Shelf Life #3

Photo by LAUREN GRAY on Unsplash

Shelf Life is a new personal meme to help me in my ongoing attempt to declutter my bookshelves.
It's more than a Marie Condo of my books though.
It's aim is to reflect, honour and let go of as many books as possible.

Most likely, in the next 12 months or so, Mr Books and I will be on the move. The thought of packing up everything we own again, gives me the horrors.

Therefore as time permits, I will reassess the many, many READ books stacked on my bookshelves. (The unread TBR pile is another story all together!)

The aim of Shelf Life is to let go those books that I have loved, but know I will never read again and give them a proper send off.

My assessment criteria includes:
  • Does this book spark joy?
  • Honestly, will I ever reread this book?
  • How and why did this book come to be on my bookshelf anyway?
  • When and where did I read this book?
  • What are my memories of this book?
  • Is this book part of a series, a signed copy or a special edition?
  • Do I want to pack and unpack this book one more time? Or several more times, during what's left of my lifetime?
  • If I were to let this book go, would I feel regret, remorse or relief?

The Winter Vault | Anne Michaels
  • Inscribed 2nd Feb 2010.
  • I adored Fugitive Pieces, Michaels' 1997 award winning debut book, so I was curious to see what she could do as a follow up.
  • Fugitive Pieces flowed like poetry, but The Winter Vault was much harder. 
  • The research showed and I could see the writer at work.
  • Despite a number of connections - the name Avery, the setting of Aswan Dam, art, architecture and history - I never really fully engaged with the story.
  • Fugitive Pieces will be staying with me, but The Winter Vault can now find a new home.

The Beginner's Goodbye | Anne Tyler
  • An ARC from April 2012, not inscribed.
  • A heartbreakingly good story about learning to say goodbye to someone you love.
  • A ghost story of sorts, that reduced me to tears at my local swimming pool, as I lay on my towel in the sun, drying off after doing laps.
  • Trying not to imagine the pain I would feel if Mr Books should die first.
  • A memorable read, but not a keeper.

Crossing to Safety | Wallace Stegner
  • Inscribed Aug 2012.
  • Came into my life thanks to the First Book Tuesday Book Club episode for this book, where all the presenters RAVED about it.
  • I was impressed too, so much so, that I ordered in a copy of his Pulitzer prize winning book Angle of Repose to read too.
  • At the time, Crossing to Safety was my favourite and I planned to give my copy of Angle of Repose away.
  • Yet when it came time to let it go, I couldn't. I still can't. Mary Foote's story haunts me to this day.
  • However I am now ready for Crossing to Safety to go to a new home.
  • I feel no need to revisit the lives of these two couples.

The Magnificent Ambersons | Booth Tarkington
  • Inscribed 4th Nov 2011.
  • Read for the very first Classic Club spin in 2013.
  • A wonderful story, atmospheric, full of human drama.
  • I loved researching this book for my post.
  • I'm still waiting to read another book by Tarkington or to see a movie version of the book!
  • But I don't feel the need to ever reread it.

Possessing the Secret of Joy | Alice Walker
  • Inscribed 10th Oct 1997, Sydney
  • I had never heard of Alice Walker until I saw the movie of The Color Purple on TV in 1990.
  • It sucked me in and spat me out a blubbering mess.
  • Naturally I had to read the book not long afterwards.
  • I was a blubbering mess by the end of the book too!
  • Possessing the Secret of Joy didn't have the same impact.
  • It can go out into the world to find new readers.

The Reader | Bernhard Schlink
  • 24th Aug 1998.
  • Translated by Carol Brown Janeway.
  • I remember being disturbed and moved by this story about memory, truth and atonement.
  • It brings up grey, bleak, torturous feelings.
  • It was one of the first books I read about the effects of WWII on the next generation of Germans, as they came to terms with what their parents and grandparents did and knew during the war.
  • I couldn't make myself watch the movie though and I've never tried to read any of Schlink's other books.
  • Once was enough.

Did you read any of these books?
What memories do they bring up for you?

Shelf Life #1
Shelf Life #2
Shelf Life #3


  1. I've read the Reader, but didn't like it much, not a fan of the re writing of modern history. And I don't give away books, ever. And yes I've moved over and over.

    1. Same.It shocked me too but also not fan of modern takes on historical times.

    2. Never given away a book!! If I had done that, I would have had to get a separate house just for my books! When I moved to Sydney, I gave boxes of books to my preschool and even more boxes to the library and friends. Even then, I still struggled to fit all the leftover books into our much smaller Sydney house. The price I paid for love!
      I really should make better use of my local library.

    3. I don't remember the story well enough re the rewriting of history part. I do remember reading at the time that Schlink defended his book by saying that Germans who had lived through the war, felt he had accurately portrayed some of their issues/dilemmas. But I suspect there are all kinds of denial and guilt wrapped up in that statement.

  2. Ahhh, yes, I blubbed so hard with that particular book too (I won't repeat which one, in case it brushes against a spoiler for others who haven't read it yet), and it has remained a long-time favourite. I haven't read the other one of hers, but it's on my TBR because she's one of my MustReadEverything authors. That's one thing I used to struggle with a lot, when it came to being realistic/reasonable about the number of books I've kept hold of, the idea that I couldn't keep all the books by a favoured author, which is what I would love to be able to do. Instead, I've had to let some of them go on to find other willing and eager readers, just as you have here.


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