Tribute to the Shelf Sitters

My exams begin tomorrow, but there’s nothing healthier than a bit of procrastination, so here’s my Booking Through Thursday contribution for this week:

Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books – it’s the letting go that’s the difficult part. During the past 20 years in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I’ve certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others’ shares) in my library. Many wbere read and saved for posterity, other eventually, but still reluctantly, send back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I’ve clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I’ve yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I’m not sure, as I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works.

So the question is this: what tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?

This is such an easy prompt for me to answer. All year long I’ve been avoiding certain books, my excuse being that my reading patterns are much too sporadic this year for any sort of committed relationship. And yet I’ve been loaning countless books from the library, and re-reading other books on my shelf. Why is this? Maybe it is because I haven’t had the time to sit down for hours and truly allow myself to be immersed in a book. Maybe next year I’ll be able to happily peruse their pages. Nevertheless, today they remain dusty and neglected, so here’s my tribute to the books that have sat on my shelf for a long, long time

Henry James (see above)

Both these books were bought on a whim – the first, because I liked the title and the second, because I liked the cover. And then they went straight to my shelf. Portrait of a Lady I picked up a few times, but never got past the first few pages. As for the other, I haven’t even attempted it yet. I wish I could say “it’s me, not you”, but I have a feeling it is him. His writing is just so incredibly dense. This, I know, will blossom into something beautiful if I allow myself time to adjust.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

I’ve always wanted to love this book, and was disappointed to find that I didn’t. I think the problem here is that I tried to read it during winter, and it got a bit dreary. Maybe I should try reading it in summer; it might make a difference.

The Odyssey, Homer

I like to believe that my bookstore enjoys scamming me, but the truth is that I’m just a careless consumer. For instance, I once bought a ‘full set’ of Austen books, only to find that Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice were missing. Another time, I bought three books – two volumes of Les Miserables and Homer’s Odyssey – for $5 AUD. What a bargain, right? Well, when I arrived home, and flicked through them (my fatal mistake), I found that the Homer one was an outdated translation by Chapman. I’m sure it’s all very fine for academics and what not, but I don’t really understand pre-1700s English unless it has extensive footnotes. How come Shakespeare is annotated, but Chapman is not, hm? And secondly, I found that the print was ridiculously tiny. I ploughed through Les Miserables anyway, but I think I’ll be buying new copies of both. I heard the Penguin edition of Homer is the Fagles translation.

Edit: Recently read Chapman’s Odyssey alongside Fitzgerald’s, and absolutely adored it. Review can be found over here

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens seems to be another problem-author (I never really liked Great Expectations, either, although after last week’s Booking Through Thursday, I pledged to re-read it). I actually enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities – well, I liked the half that I read – but for some reason, I never got around to finishing it.


P.S. I can’t believe I forgot to mention the 2008 Booker Prize winner! Congratulations to Aravind Adiga! He looks like a nice bloke. Even so, I don’t think this book is a high priority on my to-read list. I’m more interested in Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole. I’ll even go so far as to say that if it wasn’t for the Booker, I wouldn’t give this book a second glance. And that’s the kind of stardom this prize brings. You can be a deadset cynic, but there’s no denying that $87000 and good publicity is a delicious thing.


20 thoughts on “Tribute to the Shelf Sitters

  1. I’m shelf-sitting on Middlemarch. It was such a pretty book that I picked up, but I can’t bring myself to get past the first 20-30 pages.

    I second the Tale of Two Cities thing. I really liked it. I also liked Anna Karennina, but it’s a different “like.” Take it in small doses. It lasts forever.

  2. I’m ashamed to say that I am completely unfamiliar with the work of Henry James. I’ve only read a couple of Dickens titles, too. Quite liked Anna Karenina although it’s many years since I read it.

  3. Chain Reader – I think it’s on my A – Z challenge list, so hopefully I’ll get around to finishing it next year!

    Rebecca – I forgot to mention Middlemarch! I also bought my edition because I loved the cover, but sadly enough, I never finished it… Which is why it’s first on my list for the 17th-18th Century Women Writers challenge. Thank God for those challenges. As for Anna Karenina – small doses, hahah! Good advice; I’ll keep that in mind if ever I pick it up again

    Nicola – oh well, we’re on equal footing then. It’s not like I’m any more familiar with James, seeing as I’ve never actually ‘read’ him properly. =]

  4. Interesting you have encouraged me to read Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre–two books on my list of sitters. You’ve got two of my favorites on yours as well. A Tale of Two Cities is my favorite Dickens. It’s cleverly written and every chapter is a cliffhanger. Anna Karenina is my favorite Tolstoy. I taught the book for the first time this summer. We had class discussion about how Anna hasn’t fully become aware of what love really is until she meets Vronsky. Maybe it helps to read the book during summer. :)

  5. I’ve read several of Henry James’ novels for various lit classes. I never learned to like his style–it puts me to sleep. The others on your list, I read and really enjoyed.

  6. I’ve never read Henry James.
    I’ve read parts of the Odyssey, and should have put that on my list.

    Good luck with exams!

  7. Matthew – that is quite interesting! Well, I’ll be trying the Dickens and Tolstoy again, so I hope you’ll give Austen and Bronte another chance =]

    The Social Frog – hahah, Dickens is just one of those authors I’ve been meaning to read. For. A. Long. Time.

    Cathy – I’ve always liked the idea of his novels much more than the novels themselves. But I’m willing to give him another go!

    elizabethwillse + Josette – thank you very much =]

  8. I have Tale of Two Cities and Anna Karenina both sitting unread on my shelf. I think I will probably get around to Tale of Two Cities before Anna K. Mostly cause my copy of Anna is hardcover and a bit of a bear to carry on the train to work with me. :)

  9. gautami tripathy – hahah! Well, I don’t really have anything against Homer himself – we’ve just got a small language barrier, that’s all. I think I’ll like him better with a different translator

    mangomissives – I’ve tried to motivate myself to read both next year by putting them down for the A to Z challenge; hopefully it’ll work =]

  10. Definitely go for Anna Karenina, it’s such a well-written book on nuances of marriage, society, and personal search for love. I would put War and Peace aside and read Anna Karenina first.

    I almost never buy hardbacks unless it’s a book to die for. Usually I’m patient enough to wait until the trade paperbacks to come out. Hardbacks are too heavy to lug around in my bag with a few other books and a laptop. They take up too much room as I’m in dire need for shelf space at home.

    I always read for two hours in the morning over coffee and breakfast, then a bit more after I get off work.

  11. Hi, Matthew – I think you meant to comment in the Sunday Salon post? =]

    Anyway, yes. Since you are so heartily recommending Anna Karenina, it’s been moved up in my TBR list. I’ll get around to it as soon as I’m done with Les Mis, and A Suitable Boy.

    And I agree that hardbacks are too heavy. Besides, paperbacks just feel nicer in your hands as well – they’re ‘touchable’.

    Thanks for dropping by~

  12. […] that Dickens. Not the case. In fact, it’s rather cringeworthy that three of my writers from Tribute to the Shelf Sitters have remained shelf sitters since the time I wrote that post. Henry James, I haven’t had time […]

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