01 January 2013

The first day of the rest of my life (and a Whipple giveaway)

Happy New Year.

We spent most of our NYE day organizing the library and doing a book cull. As we contemplate a house renovation--which is being delayed by about six months from the original start date in June--we have been staring at piles of books that don't have any room on our shelves. And even though we stand to gain about thirty linear feet of new shelf space as part of the renovation, we realized that without a bit of discipline we would have those shelves filled before they are even built.

The sort and cull in progress.
What to keep?
As usual, I have an ongoing internal struggle with trying to develop an acquistion and rentention policy that will satisfy my bookmania while recognizing a finite amount of shelf space. (Although I should note that John indicated for the first time that shelves of books might be tolerated in other parts of the house...) My biggest problem is trying to determine which books I want to keep. As far as fiction goes my tendency is to want to keep harder to find novels even if they aren't a favorite. I hate the thought of less than popular novels being lost in the mists of time. Sometimes I feel like I am running a one-person seed bank, except instead of heirloom seeds I am banking obscure, unloved books otherwise destined to be pulped. The problem with this approach is that one's library can become clogged with books that don't necessarily represent one's reading tastes and many of the covers look pretty ratty on the shelves. And then there are those books that I keep around just to prove that I have diverse reading tastes. If I didn't keep these one offs I would have a library filled only with prolific favorites like Atwood, Anita Brookner, Sinclair Lewis, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, etc. Those collected works can take up a lot of shelf space and crowd out any possibility for variety. 

Getting rid of a few gems
I did finally realize that I do not need four copies of Oryx and Crake. I decided to jettison the two signed British first editions and the signed Canadian first edition. In the first place, the pages of the British first editions are already starting to discolor like some seventy-year old paperback, and in the second place, I reasoned that even signed first editions of the late work of a very popular and proflific author like Atwood are unlikely to be worth much during my natural life.

I also decided I didn't need two copies of Dorothy Whipple's Because of the Lockwoods. For so long my desire to find non-Persephone novels by Persephone-published authors went unrequited that when I stumbled across a second copy of this one I bought it just because I could. Although to give me a little credit, I also bought it because of the aforementioned worry about books by obscure authors disappearing just because their fans haven't found them yet. I decided that I could also get rid of the old hardback copy of The Priory that I found. I love the Persephone edition, I don't need another.

The pile that is being donated to the Chevy Chase Friends of the Library
So...I have two Whipples to give away
The Priory will go to anyone living in the United States who really wants to read Whipple but is thus far, a Whipple virgin.  (My review is here.)

My extra copy of Because of the Lockwoods will go to the Whipple fan in the U.S. who would love to find a non-Persephone Whipple in a haystack but just hasn't found the right haystack. (My review is here.)

If you are interested, leave a comment and let me know which one you qualify for. (Remember U.S. addresses only, gotta use the media mail rate which only works in the U.S. Plus, I want to keep these on this side of the Atlantic where they are really hard to find.) I won't draw winners until January 31, 2013.

The book with the wistful lady on the cover the copy of Becuase of the Lockwoods
that I am keeping. The one with no dust jacket below it, is the one I am giving away.

My five-point book plan for 2013
I am forever making book plans for myself and then never keeping them or failing or, you know the drill, you are the same way. (Although I can think of a few bloggers who do seem to finish every plan/challenge/dare they start.)

1. Read only books from my TBR pile from now until April 1st as part of CB James' TBR Double Dog Dare. This one should be fairly easy for me. I have tons and tons of books in my library to choose from. I really like this dare because I always find some really great, long ignored, books on my shelves.

2. Finish A Century of Books challenge. Of course Simon finished all hundred of his with a day or two to spare while I sit here with forty-some to go. I would really like to finish by April 1st, but that may just be setting myself up for failure again. I do know that I will finish it by the end of the year, for sure. (Here is my latest list.)

3. Read at least 100 books this year. I think I have only cracked the 100 books mark once in my life. And 2012 was a really slow reading year for me. But the big research/writing work project is in its final throes so I should have a much easier time reading more this year. Plus, in an effort to encourage my friend Roz to reach her goal of 100 books for the year, I challenged her to a race: which one of us can get to 100 first (or who comes closest by December 31st). I've seen her play air hockey so I knew she was competitive. But now that the gaunlet has been thrown down, I realize that she isn't the only one.

4. Buy no books in 2013. I am not sure if I am really committed to this. I am not even sure I philosophically agree with it (I live to keep booksellers in business), but I am going to try. With renovation work in the offing I don't need to spend the money, nor do I need to add more books that will have to be boxed up and moved while the house is under construction.

5. Have a Pymtastic year. The centenary of Barbara Pym's birth is being celebrated this year and Amanda and I will be hosting a reading week in June. I also plan to go to Boston to the Pym Society's annual Pym conference in March. Cauliflower cheese is on the first night's menu (see Some Tame Gazelle). How could I not go?

Before and after the cull
I guess this is more during the cull than before, but it does show how untidy the library had become.

 All tidy and ready for a new year.


  1. What a beautiful library! It is my fantasy to someday have built-in bookshelves. I envy you. Of course I'm sure I'd outgrow them too. . .

    And how kind of you to offer the Whipple giveaway! I don't qualify as I've read both, but I think that's wonderful. I just read They Knew Mr. Knight on my vacation and I'm slowly making may way through her list. I'm trying to space them out, but when I finish them all I know I'll be sad.

    I've read two Barbara Pyms since your post about the year of Barbara (sorry, couldn't wait) and as soon as I get around to posting about them, I'll sign up for your Pym Week! I look forward to hearing about the Cauliflower Cheese.

  2. Oh my word, your library is *pretty*. I'm definitely hoping to read more from my own shelves next year too. I think I'm comfortable right now with four bookcases worth of a collection but I do dream of a library some day. :)

  3. I was in Kramers earlier today and mused on whether to buy Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy which I have been contemplating reading for a while. Then I realized that this would give you a five book headstart on me... 2013 may end up being a year of strategic reading!

  4. I love these glimpses into your world, Thomas! Well, I suppose the whole blog is a series of such glimpses, but seeing the shelves and hearing your rationale is great fun. Well done on the ruthlessness! I did a similar thing in the summer, and got rid of about 100 - and haven't noticed that they'd gone since. (And who knows why it took several smaller culls before I realised I didn't need two identical copies of Our Spoons Came From Woolworths?)

    Looking at my enormous tbr pile and minuscule bank balance, I have been thinking that perhaps I should have done Project 24 again... your policy of buying no books (and your hilarious immediate self-doubt) is perhaps an even better model for me to follow...

  5. Your shelves are amazing. It's always at least a half-day project when I try to decide what to donate, in fact that is what I did this am.

    Here's to a Happy 2013 Tom!

  6. Happy New Year! I feel like I've stumbled into your library by accident - but I like it. Well done on the big cull. It looks amazing now. I'm also impressed by your 2013 goals - 100!! wow. Ijust confessed to not finishing one book last year, so your goal is stand out for me. 'm also challenged by the idea of not purchasing books this year... borrowing and reading over someone's shoulder would be a fun challenge. Anyway - good luck with your goals in 2013. ps. what is a whiple? (Im not in the US so I dont count for the give away).

  7. I read my first Barbara Pym this month (Some Tame Gazelle). I liked it, but I wish I had been able to recognize more of the literary references in it.

    I wish you luck on all your goals...but I think too you might be tempted to purchase the odd book this year. A noble plan, but 12 months is long time to go without acquiring any new (or new to you) books!

  8. Great time of the year for a clean out. I'd be interested in reading the priory -count me in there!

  9. I just finished "The Priory" and really enjoyed it. I'd love to be considered for the copy of "Because of the Lockwoods." I'm at amy.hustad@gmail.com. Eager to read the rest of your blog!

  10. Having seen the "before" in person (and hearing the beginning of your thought process), I'm impressed that you finally did it. Good for you! Do you know how many books you ended up getting rid of?

    It's too bad there aren't more bloggers in the DC area for you to invite over to carry books away with them!

    I don't quite fit either of your categories. I haven't read any Whipple, so I'm not yet a fan but I already own The Priory (and Someone at a Distance). But if you're willing to accept that I'm a certain future fan, you can add me to the drawing for Because of the Lockwoods.

  11. Of course I want to win one!! Thanks, Thomas. And of course you have a beautiful library! D

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  13. I would love to win Because of the Lockwoods. As of this week I am no longer a Whipple virgin. I read Someone at a Distance during the past week after reading about Whipple on someone else's blog. I absolutely fell in love with her writing and am desperate to read more, but I'm finding that her books are a bit hard to track down and the brand new paperbacks on amazon are spendy-- about $30 each!

  14. I can't believe you will buy no books this year... but perhaps some used book shop will give you store credit for the titles you are disposing of, so that a few books will still find their way home with you in 2013? I spent time culling this fall, and ended up moving out about 500 books from my home library. I am left with around 2500 (and my husband has about 600 or so). Sigh. I love them so. (Husband, and books.)

    I have read no Whipple, not a one, so yes, please add my name to the hat for whichever one you think would be best for a beginner.

    Happy New Year to you and your lovely household, Thomas.

  15. I would love to read The Priory. It's been on my list since I first discovered Persephone Books. I have received their catalog and want to read everything but with shipping to the U.S. that's going to be impossible. I, too, am cleaning out my library but bring my extras to Housingworks, a charity in NYC that takes care of homeless people with AIDS. I'm so happy to have found your blog.

  16. I loved the Priory so I'll go with Because of the Lockwoods.

    Your shelves look delicious!

    And why on earth would I want to tell more people about the giveaway and decrease my chances of winning (evil laugh...mwhahahahaha). Just kidding. I'll tweet this!

  17. How very kind of you to give your extra copies away! I too love picking up spare copies of hard-to-find or relatively unknown favorites in the hope of passing them along to friends or family. Shockingly, I've never read anything by Dorothy Whipple, but I have tons of her books on my to-read wish list because I've read so many blog reviews extolling her praises. I guess, as a Whipple virgin, I best qualify for The Priory, which I've been dying to read for some time but haven't gotten around to it largely because of my Virago finds at used bookstores.

  18. I am a Whipple V. and would love to win one.

    I feel the same way you do about having a seed bank! My husband finally built some shelves in the back hallway of our house and until then all of my books had been boxed up from a move 10 years before. I am even a librarian!
    Your shelves definitely say who you are. I love it that you are so careful!

  19. Love the bookshelves. We had a framed New Yorker cartoon when I was young - it showed a middle aged New York couple looking at an apartment filled with bookshelves and the caption read "what kind of people lived here?"

    I am a Whipple Virgin - have been haunting all used bookstores in two towns in two different states with no luck what so ever so I am please you are offering the giveaway.

    PB (pattyweiser@comcast.net)

  20. I'm sure you know of The Cemetary of Forgotten Books. I've had many collections like that, but I've put most of them back into circulation. At this point in life I only keep books I know I'll use, reference and picture books, and books I suspect I'll oneday want to read again. And a few lines of books that I still collect like The Art of the Novella series.

    One of the many great things about books, is that they are someone one can collect even on a budget.

    I don't for a minute believe you'll go a whole year without buying a book, by the way. ;-)

  21. #sigh


    We adore persephone authors.

    Proof? http://teamgloria.com/?s=persephone+&submit=Search

    Please. Choose. Us. For #2 category.


    Despite having a British email address (for we are originallythus) we are moving to LA on Saturday (from Manhattan) so qualify for media mail.

    Where do we sign?

  22. I am a Whipple virgin and The Priory sounds like a great winter read-- Please enter me in your drawing. I am a book-aholic (with n not nearly enough time to read now that I am a novice farmer) and just yesterday purged four boxes of books from our overflowing bookshelves to make room for new treasures.

  23. Another Whipple virgin here, and another one envious of your gorgeous library! Also impressed with your book plan, though I would find your "buy no books" point impossible. (I haven't even gotten through January without buying a book, even though it was only a paperback off the library sale shelf.) I will keep my eye out for Whipple in any case, but I'd love to be in the drawing for The Priory.


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