Tossing Old Books And Looking For Something New To Read

Love 'em --- who can ever have enough? Image via Wikipedia

It feels good to cull the herd once in a while.

Last weekend I managed to fill three cardboard boxes with outgoing books — soft covers, coffee table books, (we don’t even have a coffee table), books by friends and acquaintances and review copies Jose and I have snagged, free, over the years from the Niagara of copies that pours into every newsroom.

I’ll take them into Manhattan to The Strand, a legendary store that I hope will buy them. If get $100 for them all, I’ll be happy.

Then I can buy some new ones!

I sorted the remaining books into sections: Canadian history and politics, American history and politics, French history and politics, art, music, antiques, auction catalogs, photography, business, design, dictionaries, (of economics, foreign terms, French, Spanish), cookbooks, travel, and a dozen essentials — books on how to sell and promote my own books.

I lined up, on one shelf, the 20 or so books that aren’t reference (or just too heavy to delve into for fun) as a reminder to actually, you know, read them. I tend to return to non-fiction, memoir, essays and history. I rarely find fiction I enjoy. 

I don’t read sci-fi, romance, chick lit or anything about vampires or werewolves. Some of my favorite writers include Grahame Greene, Thomas Hardy, Gerald Durrell, Amy Bloom, Alexandra Fuller, Peter Godwin, Balzac, Jan Morris. Yes, they’re almost all British men. Not sure why.

One of my recent favorites was this delightful, quirky tale by a woman from St. John’s Newfoundland, “Come, Thou Tortoise” which I found — of course! — in the bus station bookshop in Vancouver, B.C.

My second-favorite of recent years was The Ten Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet, by David Mitchell. Oh, what a beautiful, moody book! As a huge fan of ukiyo e Japanese woodcuts, reading this book, set in 18th century Japan, was like sliding into a delicious fever dream.

And this, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a French book I adored; it’s also now out as a film, “The Hedgehog.” It tells the story of the secret life of a Paris concierge.

I liked Cat’s Eye, by fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood; she became my first celebrity interview when I was editor of my high school newspaper. Since she also attended my high school, she agreed to the interview. I liked Cat’s Eye a lot because it reminded me so powerfully of my hometown, Toronto.

In The Skin of A Lion, by Michael Ondaatje, is a gorgeous little thing, also set in Toronto. I recently read Divisadero, also by him. I love his poetic style.

So my favorite authors seem to be Canadian, a New Zealander, British and French. I need to find a few American writers! (I do like Richard Ford and Richard Russo and lovelovelove John Cheever.)

I’d love to hear some of your recommendations!

What are the best three books you’ve read, and why?

14 thoughts on “Tossing Old Books And Looking For Something New To Read

  1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle — (or anything else by Barbara Kingsolver)Great memoir about food – largely responsible for the local foods movement.

    Lolita — Vladimir Nabobkov — beautiful and skillful writing; a vile character

    Daughter of Fortune — Isabel Allende — beautiful writing and fabulous story.

    1. Marlo Heresco

      Oh you must! Anything by Isabel Allende is a good read. Note to self, bring kleenex. Read Paula. It’s a true-based story of Isabel’s about her daughter.

      I wanted to thank you for posting this blog. I’m from Canada and live in Mexico. I’ve been here 3 years and admit one thing I miss more than anything are books written in English. I’ve discovered two used bookstores in my surrounding area and am always seeking fundraisers, which more times than not, do so with used books…in English.

      Your titles are great suggestions because they’re old and my chances of finding them are pretty good!

  2. I know how great it is to do a clean out. Sorry my reading fav would not be in your categories. Sadly my own book wouldn’t be in your category either 🙂 But, if I think of any I have read which you might like I’ll let you know.

  3. I am trying to read 50 books out of Time’s top 100 books for the 20th century. I’m not having much luck. They just aren’t captivating the books I want to read do. My top 3 books I’ve read this summer are: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin the rich character development had me missing the characters weeks after I ended the book.
    Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart I loved her memoir of New York during the WWII. Her descriptions were colourful and vivid. It made me want to be a page for Tiffany!
    Evening Class by Maeve Binchy was a series of short stories that intertwined with eachother meeting half way through the book to become a novel. Facinating!
    Last summer my choices were different and next summer they will be as well. I tend to go through phases of book genres. Currently I’m in a New York phase, last year it was Italy. 🙂

    1. I do the same with reading…it’s fun to start in one place and keep digging, as it were.

      I read “Brooklyn”; liked it, didn’t love it. The Hart book sounds like fun, and Binchy is always entertaining. Thanks!

  4. Ah, John Cheever, one of my favorite writers. I recently read Just Kids by Patti Smith and really enjoyed it. Her description of life at the Chelsea and her love affair and bohemian life with Robert Mapplethorpe was captivating. Try reading Jonathan Franzen, like Cheever his description of American life is very well done and keeps the reader interested. Since you like French writers have you ever read Madame Bovary?

    1. Thanks for the recommendation. I think I read one of Franzen’s books, but it didn’t do a lot for me. I did read Madame Bovary, many years ago.

      One of my favorite French books is Lost Illusions, written between 1837 and 1843, describing the life and hopes of a French writer who comes to Paris and hopes to make his name. It perfectly describes what I’ve seen in 21st century NYC…

  5. I believe you commented on my review of the “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” . . . I loved it as well. It was so rich and multi-layered. Sharing this opinion about makes me want to look into your other suggestions. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Caitlin Kelly

      Thanks…It was such a beautiful book. The film is worth seeing.

      I LOVE Alexandra Fuller’s book as well, Don’t Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight. Fantastic memoir.

  6. When I’m not writing, lately I’m reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and American Gods.

    You should also read The Lacuna, if you haven’t. Or were you the one who recommended it to me? Ha!

    Also I want to read Water for Elephants, just from reading this thread!


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