Because I like to have a book for every reading mood under way, at any given time, my stack is an unwieldy creature.
But even with an unreasonable number of books in my stack, only one or two of those books would be exceptionally long.
Lighter-weighted volumes outnumber the bulky tomes, as if I’m afraid that, in an instant, I might be required to pack up and move.
Now, under #StayHome directives, there’s an opportunity to stack the deck in favour of heft.
This year will be remembered for many things. Perhaps also as a record-breaking year for reading bigger books.
From each of these stacks, I’ve begun to read one volume. What would your choices be? (Pictured, or otherwise.)
In the first image, a stack of well-read (but not by me) pocketbooks of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
James Michener’s The Source (1965) is the only one I’ve read much of. Once I read half of it, and stopped when Jesus was born. (Coincidental: it happened to be the halfway mark and, after all, the volume’s spine cracked hard there, it became awkward to hold.)
Although I intended to read Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds after falling in love with Richard Chamberlain in the 1983 mini-series based on this 1977 novel, I only liked a few parts about Meggie.
One of my grandmother’s favourite novels, Belva Plain’s 1978 novel Evergreen is now part of a five-book-long series (the most recent volume was published in 2010).
Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers (1987) is one of the first books that I bought when I was working in a bookstore, one of many recommendations from surprising sources (one of many still unread, too).
This edition in its thirty-first printing. Ann Fairbairn’s 1966 “monumental novel of forbidden love” lacks the maps and charts of Michener’s novel, but had it included some, might have out-paged it in the end.
Stephen King’s books were among the first real adult books that I read; if I hadn’t already been a kid who was afraid of the dark, that would have sealed my fate.
The original 1987 paperback edition of It (1986) thrilled me to bits. I literally remember petting the cover, tracing the lines of the illustrated sewer grate.
But I never read it. It was enough to just carry it around, to look as though I was reading it.
When I saw the trailer for the new version of the film, I decided that I simply had to read it. Then, my bookmark lodged where it had gotten stuck all those years ago.
I was expecting something more straightforward (like Pet Sematary or Thinner) but this is a more complex story (like The Shining or Under the Dome).
Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch (1966) in a 1987 translation by Gregory Rabassa has been on my TBR list since I was a student; the idea of reading it has become more intimidating with every year that has passed.
Surely my reading of Rachel Field’s All This and Heaven Too (1938) won’t be spoiled by reading it after having seen Bette Davis and Charles Boyer in the film. (When I watched it, I wasn’t aware that it was based on a book.)
Julie Orringer’s The Flight Portfolio (2019) is blurbed as “exquisitely written” and “an indelible tour de force”. Also, Mel and Rebecca and Susan, too, I think, all wholeheartedly recommend it.
Finally, I have waited long enough to have forgotten some of the spoilery things I’ve heard about Hanya Yanagihara’s 2015 novel A Little Life. Nothing little about it, obviously.
Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) is another blurbed as a “tour de force”. Maybe critics need to find another term for an ambitious and generously paged volume.
I know that I’ve read the short stories in The Magic of Shirley Jackson (1966). That collection was one of the first that I borrowed from the public library when I got my first full-time job and was taking public transit back and forth each morning and night.
Even though I do remember the ending of her most famous story, I wonder if the others will feel familiar once I revisit them. In addition, The Bird’s Nest and Life among the Savages and Raising Demons are included.
There’s a chance that reading these will lead to wanting to reread her other fiction. Oh, nevermind, I already want to do that.
Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber (1944) has been on my TBR since before I had such a lovely copy of it. Danielle and I started to read it together one summer, but it didn’t fit either of our reading moods at the time.
Diana Athill’s Life Class is a volume of her Selected Memoirs. Some of these will be rereads (I can never quite remember which I’ve read, other than Stet, which was my first, and read out of order).
Somewhere, along the way, Charlotte Smith (1749-1806) and Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901) became a single writer in my mind. To the point where I no longer remember which of them I’ve read (Smith, I think, not Yonge) and which I’ve collected and not read (Yonge, not Smith).
This, the largest on my shelves of Virago Modern Classics, Daisy Chain (1856), is 667 pages long, with an alternate title of Aspirations. It’s billed as a Family Chronicle, so perhaps it would be better housed with the books in the first photograph.
Deerbrook was Harriet Martineau’s only novel (she was known for her historical and biographical writing, as well as works on economics and sociology, with a memoir). Published in 1839, this is also a family story, considering the arrival of cousins Hester and Margaret to the Grey family home “in a neat white house in the tranquil English village of Deerbrook”.
Sarah Grand’s The Beth Book (1897) has its roots in autobiography. “Its heroine experiences all the frustrations and restrictions imposed on middle-class Victorian girls.” But Beth escapes. To a room of her own!
Winifred Holtby’s South Riding (1936) would technically be a reread. Ten years later. But although I do remember that I loved the story, it was a lot to take in. I was reading, once again, on my daily commutes, and perhaps because of the age and condition of my copy, I didn’t flag passages (take notes).
Holtby is the writer I’m most familiar with in this group (I’ve also read 1931’s Poor Caroline and some letters) and it’s possible that rereading South Riding could take me into a Holtby-detour. That wouldn’t be terrible.