Wednesday, 4 September 2013

My Bookshelf

You can probably imagine, given the fact that I've chosen a background of bookshelves for my blog, that I am a lover of books and the written word. I love what a book can do for me. It can make me feel. Much like theatre in a sense I suppose. In some ways reading a book is like having your own private live theatre session in your head! The actors play on the pages of your mind, dancing this way and that through their challenges and trials. In the same way as we observe the players on the stage, we observe the characters in stories. They come alive in us for a time. We feel their joy, their pain, their confusion or fear. I'm trying to think back to school days and really the only 'reading' I can bring to mind is the bored drone of the 'read aloud' times in high school. Most kids hated doing it I think. It's a bit like public speaking but you can't ad-lib. You have to read words that are not your own and that you have no conviction for. It's a tough call really. Do you read aloud in your house? I love to read aloud. I love to share things I've found that I think are funny or thought provoking...they are even better once shared and it's fun to know that someone else also finds them funny or interesting.

We spent some time living on a cruising yacht (a steel Roberts 36 for those in the know) and one of the most wonderful things about that time, apart from the closeness to the ocean and her inhabitants, was the amount of time I had to read. We hadn't a television and most of the time we were beyond the reach of radio signals, so we ourselves and to each other. In the cosy confines of the boat we went on adventures far beyond those we ourselves experienced as we read of intrepid sailors trapped in the great southern ocean bereft of their mast and with bilges awash in Once is Enough by Miles Smeeton. The incredible spirit of those people to survive in the conditions they did was awe-inspiring but also a rollicking good tale! We read about the Robertson family whose boat was sunk by killer whales and how they survived adrift in a life raft for 37 days in Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson. I went through a stage where I read dozens of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh books of crime and detection. I loved John Steinbeck's novels too, burgeoning with social and political comment. I devoured them all! Each time we sailed into a new harbour, I would bundle up the books we had finished reading and head to the local second-hand shop to donate those and look for a new stash for the next part of our journey. Sometimes when we met up with other yachties we would exchange books too. I miss those times so much. It's hard to recreate that way of living with the distraction of television and computer and 'other things to do'!

I recently joined a Book Group. I heard about Book Groups when I first returned to Tasmania after 15 years away and I thought that sounded like a great idea. It took me a while to find a group with room for me but now that I have I am so pleased. I have been introduced to a new way of looking at books and enjoy the round table discussions as the others in the group share their own particular insights and feelings about the different authors, characters, settings and plots. I have been introduced to some beautiful women who have travelled widely and have broad and fascinating life experience. I love to hear their stories and I enjoy gaining new perspectives as I hear their points of view. After all, we each tackle a book from our own personal place in the world, so for some of us a description of a place or time awakens old and rich memories whilst for others it might spark the imagination as we have to create it for ourselves from the words. I've also been introduced to some new authors (for me!) and have enjoyed exploring their ways of looking at the world. I've never been a great one for historical novels really, although I did stride through Shogun  by James Clavell and Roots by Alex Haley years ago, but I really enjoyed reading Jane Grenville's Secret River and Alice Hoffman's Blackbird House. I'm looking forward to new literary delights as the months unfold. 

I love that friends share favourite reads on Facebook so that I can chase those books up on their recommendation, and that takes me to new places as well. Thank you and keep it up ladies! 

As for my bookshelf...well if you've been reading my blog for a while you might know that I had a big clear-out recently and donated 5 large bags of books to the local charity bookseller in our little shopping centre. I looked at the shelves and realised that many of the books I had there were not that likely to be used...perhaps they could be more use to someone else. I don't have books just for the sake of looking at them on the shelf. I like to use books. It's nice to keep them for a while after I've read them because seeing their names printed neatly on their spines can bring me back to the pleasure I had in reading them. But then surely it is better to pass them on and let someone else have that pleasure too. The funniest thing is that the day I sent all that lot on its way, a neighbour turned up on my doorstep with a bag of books for me! Fine books...lovely books that I have enjoyed...If you don't want them she said, pass them on! 

On my bookshelf I have a number of books that I will lend but I like to think they will come back to me. They are the ones that have been part of my journey in the last few years as I've worked out some of the bumpy bits of life...of my own history...and ironed out some my thinking. These books have become friends and companions. They remind me of where I've been and that I'm in a better place now in so many ways. There are a few that are gifts and they will be read in due turn and enjoyed and loved because someone has thought that I might like what they contain. Some remain because I have sought them for their memories value. One of those is Use Your Loaf by Ursul Norman. It is a fantastic book of bread recipes and I borrowed it from the library years ago when my children were small and I used to make many of the beautiful breads therein. I bought myself a copy recently online for only a few dollars. I think about baking bread again. I like to see it there. Taste of Life by Julie Stafford is there. It reminds me of a years long journey with Bill and his cancer. It reminds me of all the reading and learning we did over the years as we tried to understand and live with this menace flashing on the dashboard of life. Other books that helped during that time were Ross Horne's The Health Revolution (and The New Health Revolution by the same author) and many of Ian Gawler's books including  You Can Conquer Cancer. Most of the time those kinds of books have been passed on to others who have shown interest in alternative modes of viewing cancer management. 

I still have many of the reference books from doing my degree because they cost a lot of money and I keep telling myself that I'll get back and read them again...more carefully and more thoroughly than I ever made time for when I was studying. That will make sense to some of you out there! One of those is The Short Story: An Introduction, purchased for a Literary and Cultural Studies semester while I decided whether to continue my teaching degree or head in some other direction. I am so grateful for that time as it gave my brain time to flex some different muscle as I began to learn about the wonders of writing and the role of text and images in our society. I wouldn't have missed that for anything. I might never have read the story Patriotism by Yukio Mishima or Gogol's Wife by Tommaso Landolfi...I would not wish to rob myself of those experiences by sailing a straight path. Meandering gave me riches I may never have found otherwise. 

My bookshelf holds a couple of the Chicken Soup series by Jack Canfield and friends for those times when a short story is more the thing; a little something to encourage or delight that doesn't require much thought!.  I have books that invite me to think and some that invite me to remember. Some will stay and stay. Some will eventually go their way. 

Reading aloud...a few weeks ago I borrowed a copy of Grimm's Fairytales from the library. A friend and I read some stories to each other from that book. We are both in our fifties and we both enjoyed the roles of reader and listener. It brings a new way of sharing a book...and of sharing time together. I know sometimes in the city there are readings in secret little cafes buried deep in back alleys and there enthusiasts share the magic of sharing the written word out loud. If you haven't tried it for a while I hope you will. Someone questioned recently "Why don't we read to kids when they get older? Why do we stop reading to them? Just because they can read themselves doesn't mean they don't enjoy being read to." I hope you might think about that too. What do you think?

I can't share all the treasures my bookshelf holds, nor imagine those it will entertain in the future...I only wish I had more time to read. I am so happy to be a reader; a bookworm I was called at school. I know I will go on exploring new horizons in my mind for as long as my eyes can see. I know you're a reader too or you wouldn't be reading this I hope you might find a title to tempt you among those I've is my gift to you. I hope too that you might share one of your gems with me and other readers in the comments. Thank you!! 

PS One treasure I lost when we lived on the boat and the main hatch leaked ruining all my cookbooks was Curries From the Burra Bazaar by Doris Ady. If you have a copy you would like to re-home...or that I could borrow to copy from, please let me know!

1 comment:

  1. Oh I love my books and since moving into the big house and having 3 nice big bookshelves (which I've already filled so might have to build another one soon!) it has been such a joy for me as I peruse and ponder and stroke and smell those glorious books.
    And I wholeheartedly agree about reading aloud. Last summer solstice when all the family came down for our shindig, I had them all sit down, kids, boyfriends, girlfriends, grandkids and said I was going to read them a story before we opened up our pressies. The grandkids groaned...'we have to wait longer?'...and I relished the looks on their faces. Then I pulled out Dr Seuss's Oh The Places You Will Go and read in my animated fashion. It's a wonderful book and applies to adults and children I reckon. I gave our grown up kids a copy each to keep as well and wrote inside the cover 'you're never too old for Dr Seuss'. As I read and occasionally looked up at everyone listening, their faces alight with wonder, I felt my heart swell with gratitude and immense joy. So read aloud everyone, it's wonderful.