What Are You Reading?

Today sounded like Claire Maguire and Elbow, tasted like apple and ginger tea, and smelt like Tesco Cleaning Spray. Day off meant cleaning a house in dire need of cleaning.

I opened the windows, and embraced the freezing cold that came with the fresh air. The pavements outside were wet, even though it did not rain. People across the street were exhaling hot clouds of breaths and smoke, getting on and off buses, talking on phones, talking to others.

I planned my resolutions for the year. I wrote them on my new skywriting journal; every page is a picture of the sky, and my words are spreading over clouds and sunsets. On the next page, I wrote what 2011 taught me, and it only took one page. Looking at who I was and who I am now only makes me wonder who I will be by 2013. People change constantly, the changes are just too small to perceive. You just hope that you change in parallel ways to the people in your life, because if you don’t, then what?

I decided to give away 74 books from my library. Now, I know that this gasp-inducing fact might seem strange. I love my books; I love walking in and seeing a full bookcase, a testament to the fact that my eyes have travelled the vertical lines of letters that decorate their pages. But is that what my bookcase should represent?

As I was taking the books out, I was surprised to see a lot that I did not enjoy reading (If I begin a book, I have to finish it). Books that were piled behind the good ones; those I could not put down, and had to read in bed with a flashlight, getting impatient grunts from my partner.
Why was I keeping these books? Was it to remind myself that I read them? Or to satisfy my hoarding genetic tendency? Or even worse, to get the admiring look of a friend coming over for tea? I stared at the softback spines, and tilted my head. It was time.

I do not want a book case filled with books; I want one filled with books I love. And I don’t want a life filled with plans and events; I want one filled with cherished memories and people that enrich it.

So, I took the books out (followed by what can only be remembered as the 2012 DVD massacre), and decided to make a book resolution. Books that I want to read this year, and I would love to share it with you:

(From January to March)

Two books from one of my favourite authors, Ali Smith:
Hotel World
There but for the

Then another two from Michael Cunningham:
By Nightfall
The Hours

Followed by a trip into dystopic futures:
The Handmaid’s Tail by Margaret Atwood
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Crystal World by JG Ballard

Listening to stories of the human loneliness:
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolf
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

As well as art from the artist’s mouth:
On Photography by Susan Sontag
My life in a Column by Tracey Emin

Last but not least, I am planning to start April with the remaining 4 books in the True Blood series (my unashamed guilty pleasure!).

Rather excited. Better start reading!





48 thoughts on “What Are You Reading?

  1. I don’t really believe that people actually change. I think that they just express theirselves in different way and revealing the aspects of their characters. Thank you for visiting my blog!

    1. you are welcome! I spent a lot of time convinced that people do not change; but then I noticed that things are never the same, even seconds after looking at them. Maybe aspects of people’s characters evolve, and learn, and even adapt to their environment. Become more or less humane. Thought-provoking stuff Ms Penny! πŸ™‚

  2. Love this: “I do not want a book case filled with books; I want one filled with books I love. And I don’t want a life filled with plans and events; I want one filled with cherished memories and people that enrich it.”

  3. About books. I feel you. A bookcase must be filled with books we love, not mere books for the sake of filling a bookcase up! And I must say your gravatar photo is great! Love the technicolor. Your blog just reminded me of the 4.5 years I just got through in England. Great blog stuff there πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much for all your kind words, making me blush here πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ It will be 5 years for me in September, and I can not think of another city I love as much as I do London!
      Loved your blog, thank you for commenting!!! πŸ™‚

      1. London and its glamour, the dainty shops and smell of rain, busy feet.. ahh how I miss it already. It’s been 5 months and I cannot miss it enough! If I may ask, where did you migrate from? (if that’s not too personal). Loved your blog too! It’s magnificent in so many ways πŸ™‚ And thank you for stopping by mine too πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks for the visit to my blog!

    This is a really interesting post, and one any bibliophile can relate to. I’m a book hoarder myself, and I do slightly fear for anyone who lives with me when I get my own place. My childhood room (and my parents’ attic) is full of my books. Happily, I do love the majority of them. However, I have recently bought a Kindle to begin saving room, with the promise to myself that I can go out and buy physical copies of books I truly love.

    On your books for this year, if you enjoy that Ishiguro title, I seriously recommend An Artist of the Floating World πŸ™‚ I’ll keep up with your blog so I can read your impressions of your reading this year.

    The skywriting journal is a lovely idea, I really like it! Good luck with your year ahead!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment – I will let you know how the Ishiguro one goes, but will try the title you suggested anyway (trust your judgment! :))

      Good luck to you too, looking forward to more book reviews!! πŸ™‚

  5. “I do not want a book case filled with books; I want one filled with books I love. And I don’t want a life filled with plans and events; I want one filled with cherished memories and people that enrich it.” Love this statement. Cool blog and journal, and I like scones, too (to reference back to the Jan. 1 post).

  6. Your post contains some valuable food for thought. In my school libraries, I endeavor to keep the shelves populated with quality, readable, and enjoyable books. That means having to weed out titles that are dated, unattractive, worn beyond reasonable repair,uninteresting, and/or simply of no value in collections like ours. There are those who are surprised that I will not add a book to the libraries simply because they liked it, someone donated it, or because they think I am maintaining a space to store books. Thank you for your inspiring comments.

    1. It is a very noble goal, and I am sure that a lot of people will appreciate this in the future. Libraries have this magical power (maybe it is the smell of the books, or the fact that you can pick a random book and escape the everyday for a few pages – or in the case of your new Nook, a few clicks :)).

      Thank you so much for commenting! πŸ™‚

  7. Saw that you visited my blog so I figured I would return the favor. I enjoyed your writing. You have an ease about you that makes you very interesting. I will be back for more. I just may go and purge my book cases as well….very good point there.

  8. I absolutely love the skywriting journal, and I love the idea of only filling the shelves with books you truly love. I, too, can’t leave a book until it’s finished, and I have more than my fair share of icky ones. You’ve got a good list there. Can’t wait to hear what you thought of them! πŸ™‚

  9. This is the year to walk old paths, redream those once lost mares of the night, and to rethink everything. Tis a bit scary at 63.

  10. Thanks for stopping by my new blog. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of yours so far and will check in again. I love your skywriting journal. As simple as it is to write online or on my laptop, there’s something about paper and journals that makes writing in them much more interesting and enjoyable! After seeing yours, I want to go on the hunt for just the right book in which to journal.

    I see you’re in London. Our younger daughter is applying at Camberwell for their foundation year of art studies so if she’s accepted, we have the perfect excuse to visit again, something I’ve always enjoyed. And I love scones, too, and make my own. Yum!

  11. This is a great post. I have to admit, I might have a slightly hoarding tendency when it comes to my books. I admire your resolve in getting rid of so many! Where did you get the skywriting journal from? I journal all the time and my current journal will soon be filled… Enjoy your reading list, especially Mrs. Dalloway and Remains of the Day… those are two of my favorites! One more thing. I’m insanely jealous that you live in London. Tell Hyde Park hello for me. God bless.

  12. I have to admit that I shuddered at the thought of removing books from my bookshelf. Your reasons make sense to me logically, and I should probably consider doing the same, but I just can’t bring myself to part with them. Maybe after another few years to further disconnect myself…

    I probably need some help. “Hi, my name is Thea, and I’m a book hoarder.”

    p.s. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  13. Like you, I have already donated a fair amount of books, mainly to our local library, Funny thing is, I also buy books from the library ! They do sell overstocks.

    Cheers from California !

  14. I enjoyed this post. I love books and buy too many according to my daughter. She has a Kindle. I need the book in my hands to truly enjoy it. “The Handmaids Tale” is on my list of books to read as I am an avid SciFi fan. I read “The Remains of the Day” and loved it. I’ll be checking back to see how you enjoy the books on your list. My greatest wish is to visit England some day.

    1. I am sure you will come one day, (home of some of the greatest literary minds in history!).

      I first heard of Margaret Atwood in the British Library Exhibition on SciFi literature, and made a note to explore her work (especialy the Handmaid’s Tale). Let me know what you think after you read it as well!

      I will let you know how I found “The Remains of the Day”.

      Thank you for stopping by! πŸ™‚

  15. I love this post. And I love the fact that you still read real paper books. That’s something I can never give up for any kind of Kindle or any amazing reading device. See when I enjoy a book, it becomes so much more than a book. It becomes an experience. An adventure I once had. In my bookcase I glance at these treasures and smile at the memories of each one of them. Like old friends that I can always rely on πŸ™‚

    Lurve the skywriting journal…very inspiring. And thank you for visiting my blog!

    Cheers πŸ˜‰

    1. I’m with you in the process of reading a book. It does become an experience, something that stays you. And if it is a good one, it leaves you a bit different after you finish it.

      Thank ou for the visit and the comment! πŸ™‚

  16. I loved reading what you wrote. What a phenomenal way to mark time: by the books you read. Yes! I love everything about your blog, from the writing style, to the sensory detail you include. I know what your life smells like today, for heaven’s sake. I feel like I’ve been on a lovely visit to your house. Then, the visuals are fantastic. When I saw you had photographed the books you were saying goodbye to, I thought, “Wow, this is so cool–and this Magnificentsomething has spent a long time on her entry!” I can’t wait to see what you write next.

  17. I very much enjoyed your perspective on your library. Having the same issues myself, I felt the need to comment on the shared experience. I’m in the process of moving which always forces me to re-evaluate if my bookcases are being filled optimally. There’s always a couple I still haven’t gotten around to reading which makes me disappointed in myself πŸ˜‰ …

    In all, I find your perspective refreshing in all the pages I’ve perused in this Magnificent Something… and much thanks for stopping by my own pages! Hope to see you back!

  18. “People change constantly, the changes are just too small to perceive. You just hope that you change in parallel ways to the people in your life, because if you don’t, then what?”

    Yes, people do change… otherwise we would all still have our elementary school friends and be perfectly happy…we outgrow people, they outgrow us…or we change and they don’t…or we really weren’t the same to begin with, but aligned ourselves with them because we felt alone and out of place…and now we are much stronger, because of their loyalty…

    love your blog! We have written some parallel things- i also cleaned my bookshelf out last summer πŸ™‚ http://wp.me/p1x7pV-5A

    Have a brilliant day!!

    1. I absolutely agree. it is a shock to the system seeing childhood friends, in the weird way of expecting them to be the same as you remember them, with the same purity and clarity of childhood friendship.

      Loved your post as well, great minds think alike! πŸ™‚

      1. Yes, and those childhood friends, depending on the bumps and bruises they have endured in life since the last time we saw them, often don’t even resemble the children we remember, heartwise…even if their eyes are still blue or they still talk fast and pat us on the arm when they say something they think we probably agree with. Life ages us all…some on the inside, some on the outside.

        Thanks for the visit to my blog!
        take care,

  19. This reminds me of a line from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events: “Klaus loved books. Or rather, the things he learned from books.”
    I love your poetic view over London. I miss it there; we lived near Bury St Edmunds for 3 years. Truly lovely memories. Thank you!

  20. I’ve read only one from your list — and it’s The Remains of the Day. It’s one of the saddest books… one that talks about regret, loneliness, and how far are we willing to hold on to what we believe in. A very simple novel, yet very powerful.

  21. I’ve read a lot of these books and I think you have such a great list here. Of the ones I have read, these seem absolutely wonderful and sometimes interconnected (The Hours & Mrs. Dalloway). Good luck with it all!

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