To most book lovers, it’s an old, well-understood song and dance. When in company with one another, one hears the hum of agreement when mentioning the quiet joy of walking through a bookshop. There’s a collective knowledge of the slow pace, the rocking motion of slowly leaning back and tilting forward to see the entire shelf. A recognition of the spark held by a known author or title, or a captivating new title that makes the person perusing to slide the book from the shelf to leave through the pages. For all the convenience of amazon (if one ignores the taxes issues), a free afternoon calls for a mosey through a good bookshop.
But this past winter I bought and read a book that I noticed on a shelf in my boyfriend’s aunt’s house, Susan Hill’s Howard’s End is on the Landing. I think I’ve mentioned this book before, here, but the essence of the plot is that she goes through her house to read all of the books she owns but has not read. This survey of her books and their location within her home leads to a rumination on the books in her life and the memories they call forward. The book’s premise has inspired me to take stock of the books in my flat for new reading material, temporarily abandoning the bookshop.
My boyfriend and I moved in together a year ago, which combined our book collections–his collection provides Graham Greene’s The Quiet American and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. One of my English professors loved Graham Greene. In our modern english literature course we read The End of the Affair, a novel that was difficult for me to process at the time. It was thought-provoking, but I think I wasn’t perhaps ready to read the book at that stage of my life. The writing was excellent, however, so I’m very much looking forward to reading The Quiet American.
I’ve been a bit absent from fiction for a while. There hasn’t been much time to read. But that hasn’t stopped me from taking a spin through a bookshop when I’ve had a few minutes to spare. There used to be a chain bookshop on the way from the library to my boyfriend’s office. If I seemed a bit early to meet him after work, I’d stop in to visit my friends. Which, of course, led to purchasing new potential friends: the often recommended Poisonwood Bible and Oryx and Crake and the potentially baffling Proust and Pessoa. I’ve enough books to get me through the summer at the very least, so this is what I’ll do. Except when Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life comes out, because a) I’ve already pre-ordered it and b) her books (both fiction and academic) are AMAZING and I’m not going to miss anything for a single second.