Shelf Life #6

Photo by LAUREN GRAY on Unsplash

Shelf Life is a personal project to help me in my ongoing attempt to declutter my bookshelves. However it’s more than a Marie Condo of my books. It’s aim is to reflect, honour and let go as many books as possible. Mr Books and I may be on the move in the near future. Any such move would be a down-sizing one. The thought of packing up everything we currently own again, gives me the horrors. Therefore as time permits, I will reassess the many, many READ books stacked on my bookshelves. (The unread TBR pile is another story all together!)

The aim of Shelf Life is to let go those books that I know I will never read again and to give them a proper send off. My assessment criteria includes asking myself a few questions such as:

  • How and why did this book come to be on my bookshelf anyway?
  • When and where did I read this book?
  • What are my memories of this book?
  • Is this book part of a series, a signed copy or a special edition?
  • Does this book spark joy?
  • Honestly, will I ever reread this book?
  • Do I want to pack and unpack this book for one more move?
  • If I were to let this book go, would I feel regret, remorse or relief?

The current contenders are:

True History of the Kelly Gang | Peter Carey

Purchased & read in February 2001, a year after it’s publication by University Queensland Press. Over the years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Carey, but this was one of the loves. In fact it is the only Carey book I still have in my possession.

I remember enjoying his take on the Kelly story & appreciated all the research that had gone into it’s creation. Around the same time, I also read Robert Drewe’s 1991, Our Sunshine. They complimented each other well. Carey for the comprehensiveness of his undertaking & Drewe for his larrikin, boys own adventure style.

I particularly liked Kate Barry’s cover lithograph featuring the township of Benalla, Victoria, 1880.

But will I ever reread this?

I don’t think so.

The Reef | Edith Wharton

Purchased from the second hand bookshop, The Book Lounge, in Port Douglas on the 23rd April 2014 during a post-Easter holiday break.

Sadly, it was one of the few Wharton’s that I failed to connect to. I loved the writing, but the characters left me cold. I didn’t care what happened to them. Maybe it was not a good choice for a holiday read?

The cover shows a detail of Jacques Joseph Tissot’s By the Window.

The Reef has survived one move, thanks to the sentimental feelings I have for Port Douglas and our many family holidays there.

I’m also a fan of the green spine Virago Modern Classics, which I discovered for the first time during my year of living in Highgate, London in 1991. There was a sweet little library just around the corner from where I was living & working as a nanny, that had an extensive range of the green spine VMC’s. In six months I made a sizeable dent on their collection!

However, sentiment will only get me so far.

It’s time to let The Reef go.

Everywhere I Look | Helen Garner

Read & thoroughly enjoyed in 2016, with every expectation that I would reread & dip in & out of this book periodically.

But I haven’t.

Not once, not even close.

Whenever I spotted it on the shelf, fond memories washed over me, but since then, I’ve tried to read Garner’s notebooks with little success. As time has gone by I’m less enamoured about the airing of private stories that involve other people.

So, no, I do not believe that I will dip into this collection again.

I’m simply happy to know that I enjoyed it the time. That is enough. This book has done it’s job.

Have you read any of these books? Should they stay or should they go?

22 thoughts on “Shelf Life #6

  1. My kids, who are 20 years older than yours, would have found downsizing confronting. They’ve been in and out of mine and Milly’s houses all their adult lives. Even now with Milly looking at over 50s accommodation we are concerned to have a central family home for grandchildren and (our) kids dropping in from intestate.
    And downsizing the bookcase – no way Jose! The books themselves are familiar even when the stories have long faded from memory.
    For all Carey’s “research”, True History contains exactly zero local Indigenous people, which is ridiculous, a wife for Ned, ditto, and dialect (ugh).


    1. After 3 yrs of helping to pack up their grandfather’s property (a man who REALLY struggled to declutter!), the boys are adamant that they want nothing we have and will throw it all out when the time comes. We know that in 30 yrs time (at least, we hope!) they will feel differently about the things we have that remind them of their childhood. A regular declutter is the only way to live in inner city Sydney. The houses are just not big enough and storage space is almost non-existent. And my bookshop job has turned a bad habit into a serious problem!


  2. Your reasons for doing this may not leave you much wriggle room, but I would keep the ones that bring a warm glow even though you may never re-read them, and ditch the others.


    1. Yes, I have a number of beautiful Virago modern classic hardbacks, and a few books with deckled edges (oh how I love a deckled edge!) and some Folio Society classics, that will stay with me for the sheer sake of beauty and joy. I think the main reason the Carey (above) has stayed with me so long, was the cover!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m just thankful I don’t have to think about getting rid of books at the moment!–it’s enough to try to reduce the number of new ones that arrive… 😉


  4. I should dothis. I like to review what’s on my shelves from time to time, and it often reminds me of stuff I haven’t thought about in a while, or even prompts me to re- read. which of course makes my reading list LONGER… 🙂


    1. Most of my books are like this Greg – they’re the keepers! But there are a few that I have realised that I’m holding onto for no particular reason.


    1. That IS my problem Rose. Managing an independent bookshop makes it all too easy to access books and to hunt down special editions of favourites and pretty covers and books with deckled edges.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know whether to feel envious of you or grateful that I don’t have books to tempt me in my workplace!
        Maybe you could decide by asking yourself if you would run into a burning house to save each particular book…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Curiously, I do have an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it plan. If the sea levels rise and our place in Sydney goes under and we have to flee to our house in the mountains, which books would I grab? I keep them all together on the one bookshelf for easy access in emergencies 🙂
          Most of my book clutter is the TBR pile.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I will be in the same position very soon as my kids are changing bedrooms and our little study will be gone. I have nowhere to put any new books and piles are appearing all round the house!


    1. Mr Books knew I had little stacks of books under our bed…what he hasn’t yet realised is that the stacks are three deep!! The smaller the house, the less space, the more creative the stacks get 🙂


  6. May I add another couple of categories?

    Books used for study with handwritten notes in them – I still have my daughter’s copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

    Books given as presents with inscriptions in them – I sent a copy of Arabella Boxer’s First Slice your Cookbook to the charity shop when I was downsizing 3 years ago; recipes far too elaborate, never used it but it had an inscription from my lovely brother who gave it me as a 21st birthday present. My brother died suddenly in 2019. There are lots of books I repurposed in the move but the one I most want back is this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Christine, two very good reasons to keep a book.

      I have a lovely leather bound edition of the entire works of George Bernard Shaw that has one of my great-uncle’s inscriptions inside. I never knew the man, but he meant a lot to my dad (who lost his own father when he was just 7). I often felt like I was the odd one out in my family for my love of Literature with a capital L (as well as with a little l), having Uncle Fred’s book makes me feel less alone.


  7. Well, it has been a long few months but I feel it is time to start engaging again with the ‘reading world’!
    When you feel like you need a rest from blogging the best thing to do is take a break. It worked for me and I am ‘ready to rumble’ ! Your book choices….I’ve read P. Carey and H. Garner. I agree, Mr Carey does not charm me in any way. He’s earned accolades in the course of the years….but not my attention. Helen on the other hand does cause a spark in me. But as you said…read and that’s it. Dipping back does not work for me. There are so many more books to read. Never read The Reef and I probably never will. Ms Wharton set the gold standard with Age of Innocence (1920 Pulitzer Prize) and The House of Mirth. BTW these two book I’d never throw in the bin! I hope the move you plan…takes you back to the countryside!!


    1. How lovely to see your name in my feed again – welcome back! I hope you’re feeling refreshed after your blogging break.

      We had a council clean-up this weekend, which is what prompted the post, so the three books are already gone. I put them out Saturday afternoon and within an hour, someone walking by snaffled them all up. And yes, I still have my much adored copies of The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth.


  8. We moved into our retirement home two years ago and we had to declutter though I’m lucky enough to have been able to keep a lot of my books. Still, I know the feeling and I wouldn’t want to do it again. I know my sons won’t want to keep most of them but I hope they will find one or the other thing they want to hold onto.

    From your books I have read “The True History of the Kelly Gang”. While I liked the book at the time, I didn’t keep it because I know I wouldn’t read it again.

    Anyway, I wish you good luck with the decluttering, I know what a heavy chore that is.


  9. Pingback: Shelf Life #7

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