Thursday 21 May 2020

Shelf Life #4

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 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 know I will never read again and to 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?

My latest Shelf Life choices look a little like this:

1. The End of the Affair | Graham Greene
  • Entered my life on the 23rd March 2002 after watching the 1999 movie of The End of the Affair starring Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore.
  • Epitaph: Leon Bloy | Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering that they may have existence.
  • I was fascinated by Greene for a short period of time for his Catholicism. 
  • I grew up in a non-practising Protestant family. 
  • Catholicism was somehow frowned upon by the older members of my family. It was viewed as mysterious, foreign and somehow over the top and showy in practice.
  • A number of the friends I made during my twenties grew up in the Catholic faith. They had abandoned it as adults, yet it was obvious to me that there were certain hangovers (guilt) that they found hard to shake.
  • I was curious.
  • Greene did not become a Catholic until he was 22 yrs of age, so he could marry Vivien Dayrell-Browning.
  • He attempted suicide a number of times and had bi-polar disorder.
  • I finished the book still bemused by the ritual and ceremony of Catholicism. 
  • It seemed that Catholicism was an intellectual pursuit for Greene rather than a belief.
2. The Quiet American | Graham Greene
  • Entered my library on the 22 March 2003 after seeing the movie with Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser.
  • I studied the Vietnam war in high school.
  • Reread it in 2015 when Mr Books and I spent two weeks travelling around Vietnam, where, of course, they call that period of history the American war.
  • The Quiet American was not as Catholic as his earlier book, but still full of moral ambiguity, idealism and intrigue.
  • I do not need to reread this again. Twice was more than enough for me and a book about a war.
  • A 2018 Christmas read at the beach which I found hard to engage with completely as the cold, snowy French setting was too far removed from the sunny, 30 plus degrees outside.
  • A rather melancholy read; filled in some Maigret gaps but not worth repeating.
  • Discovered in Gertrude and Alice, a second hand bookshop & cafe in Bondi on the 24th May 2014, back when I used to host a Wharton Reading Month on my blog.
  • If you're wondering why I stopped (besides running out of steam), it was these short stories.
  • When I finished this book, I had basically read everything that Wharton had written.
  • I particularly enjoyed Xingu.
  • But I also realised that I preferred Wharton's novels to her short stories (and her non-fiction).
5. Convenience Store Woman | Sayaka Murata
  • A book group read from last year.
  • Thoroughly entertaining, especially after visiting Japan in 2018, but I will not be rereading this.
  • I will, however return to Japan one day to spend more time in their convenience stores!
6. A Tale of Two Cities | Charles Dickens
  • I'm not sure how I ended up with two copies of this book, but I'm going to keep the Random Vintage paperback copy I also have as it matches my other Dickens' novels.
  • This edition is a plastic covered hardcover, which makes me think I picked it up second hand in a library sale or bookshop.
  • First read during my uni years, 30 yrs ago. 
  • It sparked off the first of my French Revolution reading jags and my love of Dickens.
  • I'd LOVE to reread this one day. 
  • I just hope I live long enough to fit in all the books I want to read, plus the rereads!
I don't feel compelled to keep any of these books for future references, unless you can convince me otherwise. The shelf space is more important than the meagre reading memories tied up with these six books.

Shelf Life #1
Shelf Life #2


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, this particular pile was easy to let go.

  2. I have been wanting to read Greene, specially The End of ... forever. I think I will this summer!
    I enjoyed your reviews and like you, I will get rid of those I don’t intend to reread. I like Wharton but I still need to keep reading her novels.

    1. I did enjoy the Greene’s at the time. A bit like Greene though, they were an intellectual exercise rather than a grand passion ­čśŐ

  3. I feel your pain -- we're renting a house right now and we'll have to extend our lease due to Corona, and I'm frankly relieved. I have SO many books to sort through. I have a hard time letting go but I have far too many. My lockdown challenge is to just read books from my own shelves so that when this is over I can donate them. Might start putting a few in the Little Free Libraries in my neighborhood until the libraries are accepting them for the book sales.


    1. Covid-19 has slowed down our plans to move too, although the winter months are the worst in our current place. Very poor natural light makes this a dark dull place to be for several months. I dread the end of day light savings as I know it means a dark house and dark days.

  4. I've moved so many times but my books have always gone with me. In 1970 my hippy van leaned to the right because my books were under the bed on that side. Now I have 30 boxes of dad's books too - alright, the 15 boxes of war books might not make it to my next house - but I imagine retirement as a time to re-read all my old friends who in any case keep me company just by being there.

    1. I'd be too scared to consider how many boxes my books might make up Bill, but don't worry I have plenty of keepers that go with me every move I've made and will continue to make until I retire I can read them all again.

      After I finish #ShelfLife, I will have to create a recurring post the features all the books I kepp on packing and unpacking. Instead of JobKeeper #BookKeeper :-D

  5. I'd have a hard time giving up my Greene, but I'm also not moving...I could imagine rereading both of those. (The Quiet American would be a third read.)

    I haven't read The Tale of Two Cities since high school. My first Dickens & I've come to like him much better than I did then. That's one I plan on rereading in the near future.

    Oh, I have such a hard time giving up books! ;-)

    1. The Greene's are slim volumes I grant you, but I still feel traumatised from my last move (5 yrs ago) & I simply have to downsize before the next one. I cannot do that again.
      The vintage paperback editions of Dickens will all be coming with me though :-)

  6. Oooh culling books, tough, but some great questions you've set yourself. A few years back after reading Marie Kondo I eventually got to our home library and culled 800 books. I've only regretted a few of them, embarrassingly though I've also replaced the shelf space with more plus.

    1. I did a big book cull back in 2007 when I moved to Sydney. I've only regretted letting go about 3 or 4 books from that purge, so I feel that I have a pretty good handle on which ones I should let go and which ones are keepers :-)
      And yes, the new additions are a constant and ongoing issue!


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