Dec 16, 2012

The Sunday Salon – Discovered While Shelving

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Lately at work I’ve been doing a lot of shelving, mostly because it’s an easy and practical way for me to get to know the stock and find out where everything is in this particular library. But it turns out that shelving is a bit of a hazardous task, because in the process I keep coming across books I want to read right now. When I was telling Kelly and Iris how the new job was going, they both suggested I turn “discovered while shelving” into a post or even a regular feature – so this is my attempt of doing just that.

Before I share the books I discovered, I wanted to say that working in a library and coming across so many wonderful-sounding titles that weren’t even on my radar before reminded me of Aarti’s excellent post The Forgotten Pleasures of Browsing. I love the fact that blogging exposes me to so many great books, but it’s useful to keep the fact that these are only a very small fraction of everything that exists out there firmly in mind. Every group has the tendency to develop areas of expertise, and along with these come potential biases and blind spots. I also suspect that blogging often causes us to remember the titles we see reviewed again and again when we reach for the next book to read, while everything else kind of falls by the wayside.

The point I’m trying to make here goes both ways, of course – if I was only getting ideas for my reading from library browsing, there would be a ton I’d be missing out on as well. But I find that getting my book-related information from a variety of sources is valuable, especially after closely following a data project focused on what does and doesn’t get covered by blogs. I really want to avoid coming to believe that the little corner of the bookish world I know well is the total sum of what exists.

Without further ado, here are my discoveries:

Noel Streatfeild: A Biography by Angela Bull
  • Noel Streatfeild by Angela Bull: If a Noel Streatfeild biography exists, of course I’m going to read it. I have no idea why I hadn’t thought to look for one before.

    Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild
  • Thursday’s Child by Noel Streatfeild: And the same goes for, you know, actually reading more of her novels. I was swayed by the lovely old-fashioned cover of this edition, and the synopsis sounds great as well. The story is about Margaret Thursday, a foundling growing up in the early 20th century, and at first glance if seems to have echoes of A Little Princess.

    A Small Pinch of Weather by Joan Aiken
  • A Small Pinch of Weather by Joan Aiken: The deadly combination of author I already know I like and lovely cover strikes again. I’ve been hearing wonders about Joan Aiken’s fantasy stories for years, and now is as good a time as any to try them.

    Minnow on the Say by Philipa Pearce
  • Minnow on the Say by Philipa Pearce: More children’s classics for me! I adored Tom’s Midnight Garden and Philipa Pearce has more novels, so it should logically follow that I would have read them by now. This one is about David and Adam, two boys making their way down a river in a wooden canoe one summer, and it seems to involve secrets and magic and history.

    The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton
  • The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton: My long miserable months of unemployment changed my relationship with work, though not in an uncomplicated way. I deeply resent the social pressures that make anyone who does not or cannot work for whatever reason feel worthless and small and ashamed, but I’m trying to gauge why work matters to me personally in a way that’s separate from the immense relief of being free of that crushing feeling at last. I realise it’s pretty much impossible to ever go, “I feel this for reasons that have nothing to do with what society expects me to feel”, at least with complete confidence, but I’m hoping Alain de Botton’s book will help me sort through my thoughts and feelings on the role work plays in our lives.

    Memory: An Anthology edited by A.S. Byatt and Harriet Harvey Wood
  • Memory: An Anthology edited by A.S. Byatt and Harriet Harvey Wood: I can’t believe I didn’t know this existed! As the title indicates, it’s an anthology of essays on memory by contributors from a variety of backgrounds. I want it now!

    Everything and More by David Foster Wallace
  • Everything and More by David Foster Wallace: I’ve yet to read anything by David Foster Wallace, and a book on the mathematical concept of infinity might not seem like the most obvious place to start. However, not only does this sound super interesting, but there was a blurb on the cover saying something along the lines of “if Terry Pratchett had written a book on mathematics, this is what it would be like”. How can I possibly be expected to resist that?

    Music at the Limits by Edward Said
  • Music at the Limits by Edward Said: I’ve been thinking a lot about Said lately because M is translating one of his books, an endeavour that has cost me any semblance of a social life for the past month or so (time to deadline: 1 day!). I still haven’t read his Orientalism, which again is a more obvious starting place, but… essays on music! I’ve been saying for years that I want to read more music criticism so I can become better at it myself (and by “better” I mean “able to do it at all”), and it’s about time I stop merely talking about it and actually do it.

    Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood by Jan Marsh
  • Finally, Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood by Jan Marsh: A book about the overlooked women artists of the Pre-Raphaelist movement. Need I say more?

    So, have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? Which ones do you think I should I pick up first?

    The Sunday

    1. We had this issue come up in a big way when we were packing our books to move. I'm sure the process was drawn out three times as long as it could have been because both of us kept getting distracted by discoveries and re-discoveries! But what a wonderful way to get distracted!

    2. Some interesting finds there! I've also had my eye on Alain de Botton's book about working for a while. The idea of working is certainly a complex one and I don't think I've resolved my feelings about it.

    3. Ooooooh, I love this post, and I love the idea that you might (pretty please do!) make it a regular feature! I've not heard of, let alone read, any of them...but they do all sound right up your alley(s)! (Btw, I love that you have so. many. alleys! :P ) The two that most struck me as I want I want I want are Memory and Everything and More. Oh my, if you do turn this into a regular feature it is going to be hell on the wish list. Ha! Like you're not already hell on my wish list! :D

    4. This is a great idea for a feature! I added "Music at the Limits" to my list. I think another hazard to getting most of your recommendations from other bloggers is that you get so many new releases - which is great, but there's so much out there that isn't quite new anymore but I would love! Great post!

    5. "Discovered while Shelving" is a great idea for a feature! When I volunteer at my local library, my main job is shelving, so I usually toss one or two books under my cart that catch my eye.

      And yeah, browsing is important. I find nothing more refreshing than wandering into a used bookstore and just picking my way through the entire stock. Mmm.

    6. Shelving can be so much fun! That was my favorite part of my former page job. You should definitely make book discoveries a feature. I had one on my blog called "Hidden in the Shelves" (which you're welcome to use if you'd like!).

      I'm glad you're enjoying your job, Ana! :)

    7. I love this post. I hope you do turn it into a regular feature. :)

      Have you read any de Botton? We have one, and my husband the picky 5-books-a-year-max man, read it and quite liked it. So, someday, for sure.

      I also love that you have all these children's classics that I've never even heard of. :D

    8. My worst fear for the future is that I won't have opportunities to browse anymore. The internet is great for finding what you're looking for, but it's not much help if you want to just see what's there.

      There's just so much that I 'don't know I don't know' as someone once said.

      And I say go for the Pre-Raphaelite book. Even though I think pre-raphaelites are overlooked for a very good reason, I think it would be an interesting book and it goes with your discovery/rediscovery theme here.

    9. Minnow on the Say was one of my favourite books as a child. I bought my own hardback edition (illustrated by Edward Ardizone) a few years ago and read it again to see if I still loved it as much. I did. :-)

    10. I haven't read any of these books, but the anthology on memory sounds really interesting.

    11. The memory one and the infinity one both are intriguing to me! And I've never heard of any of them, but what do I know? I love browsing but I never give myself the time to do it, and if I did, what would I remember? If I don't write it down, I'll forget it in 10 minutes (hence my interest in the memory book - ha!).

    12. Yes! Yes! Noel Streatfeild! Thursday's Child is wonderful because I had it when I was a little girl. Spoiler alert: There are orphans. And maybe, like, a production of Little Lord Fauntleroy? It's been a while since I read it.

    13. I haven't read any of these books, but I do like to browse through my library's shelves sometimes. Because of hold options I usually just pick up the books I want, but browsing can be fun! I discovered some of my most favorite books that way.

    14. I love this post (& possible new feature!). I work in a used bookstore, so not only am I constantly being bombarded by interesting-looking books, I see new books on a daily basis. Naturally I've come across really fantastic books through blogs, but some of my favorite discoveries have been while shelving books at work.

    15. I absolutely LOVE the idea of this as a regular feature!!!! Though my wallet does not :p Of course, if I would just go out and find where the hell my local library is now that I've moved that would solve that problem :p You know what made me happiest of all about this post? THAT YOU ARE WORKING AS A LIBRARIAN NOW :D :D :D I'm just so happy that everything has paid off for you finally Ana and that you ARE browsing those shelves while you're doing your profession as well :)

    16. Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood is a superb book. Highly recommended.

    17. This is a great idea for a feature, Ana. I used to work in the Talking Book Center at our library. I discovered many new titles and authors that way.

    18. Jill: I bet the same will happen to me when I regain access to the books I currently have in storage.

      Sakura: It'll probably always be a work in progress, don't you think? But I'm hoping the book might help.

      Debi: Don't worry, I probably will. Today I was shelving in the science section and that means I already have entries for the next post :D

      Kate: Yes, very true. Some of the bloggers I follow review back titles pretty often, but it's easy for all of us to egg one another on to read the new and the shiny.

      Clare: Yep, used bookshops are awesome too. Though if you ask me, not quite as awesome as libraries :P

      thecheapreader: Oooh, I love the name you came up with! Thanks for offering to share :D

      Hannah: No, I haven't, but I always meant to try him. I know Eva is a fan, and we tend to have pretty similar taste in non-fiction.

      C.B. James: I like the Pre-Raphaelites, though I can see why they'd not be anyone's cup of tea. The thing is, there's been a huge renwal of interest in their work lately (there's a huge exhibition on at Tate Britain at the moment), and it's still mostly the men who are talked about. I actually know nothing about women painters in their circle, so it'll be great to have the chance to learn about them.

      Cath: That sounds like a lovely edition!

      Amy and Sandy: Doesn't it? I might start with that one.

      Jenny: I thought it was a very Jenny-sounding book :D

      Tasha: Yep, I mostly use holds as well. I'm glad the job is forcing me to really look at what's on the shelves.

      Leah: It's good to have recommendations from a variety of sources, isn't it? PS: I love the name of your blog :D

      Chris: I'm not a librarian, I'm a library assistant, which is very, very different. I wouldn't quite say that everything has paid off, because I could have gotten this job with a high school diploma. Don't get me wrong, I'm really glad I went to college and to grad school from a personal development perspective, but not so much from a being-in-debt-for-the-next-who-knows-how-many-years-and-for-what-again one :P But I do enjoy the work, and at the end of the day that's what matters.

      Ali Mal: It's excellent to hear from someone who's read it!

      Quirky BookandFilmBuff: It's interesting to think of how many things never seem to make it onto bloggers' radars, isn't it?

    19. Aaaah hahahahaha! Welcome to the best/worst thing about working at a library! It is *hell* on the TBR. I had forgotten how bad it was until I went back to work and came home with ALL THE BOOKS.

      You have reminded me that I really need to be reading some Noel Streatfeild.

      I don't know how it works there, btw, but on this side of the pond if you've got your masters of library science, you get to call yourself a professional librarian no matter your job title. I'm also "underemployed" for my degree, but I have no trouble calling myself a librarian, because I did the time, belong to the professional association, and pieces of my job are certainly using my professional skills.

    20. I love this idea! DO IT.

      It's interesting because Teresa pointed out in her comment on my post that many of the books that we may term as finding via browsing are books that we're actually aware of because of knowing the author, or reading about the books on a blog or it coming up in conversation, anyway. For example, I picked up Jo Walton's Among Others on a whim, but was it REALLY a whim or was it because I had read so many reviews of the book online before? I don't know, and I don't think it's something I NEED to figure out, but in a way it makes me feel like perhaps we are more influential as bloggers than we give ourselves credit for - that we raise the awareness factor and that has an impact months down the line.

      That said, it does make it seem like browsing MAY be lost completely to us, though I hope not. I think it's just something that needs to become a habit - taking those 20 extra minutes to browse the shelves and come across something you may not otherwise have, and adding that risk factor/spontaneity back into your reading life.

    21. Kiirstin: I'd been kind of wondering about whether I was "allowed" to do that, but I think I'll follow your lead. I really do love the work itself, and I think it's important to have people with our training be the face of the library service and not just do behind the scenes work. And even in this short period, I've already noticed little ways in which my academic background makes me better at my job and contributes to the quality of the service I deliver. Which isn't to say my colleagues without library degrees aren't great at their jobs, of course. It just makes me sad that these days there's so little incentive for people to go for further professional development, since a master's is a huge investment that is really not likely to result in better pay or in any other tangible improvements in their professional situation.

      Aarti: That's a good point - for example, when I saw the Noel Streatfeld books, I couldn't help but think "this is a Jenny book", even though I couldn't remember her mentioning it specifically. I love the fact that knowing people who like so many different types of books makes me more confident around these books by proxy, if that makes sense. But yes, the completely accidental discovery is something I also want to make room for in my life.

    22. Love this post! I get the urge to check out all kinds of bookish treasures whenever I'm shelving. We've been managing an inventory project at work and it's all I can do to stop myself from borrowing more books than I can read at a time. We have so many old, out of print editions on our shelves, I constantly come across things I wish I could take home.

      The De Botton book sounds fascinating. I too feel a sort of guilt related to work. There's this pressure to be productive and part of this mill of work that can be really destructive to your sense of self. There's something to be said about the current state of work in the world and the feeling of worthlessness that too many young people are feeling when unable to find work. I still have trouble understanding my own place in all this and rationalizing my feelings towards work and never feeling quite sure of my place in the workforce. Ugh... I hate thinking about it.

    23. Thanks for the reminder, Ana. I get so focused on the books I have on hold that I often forget to browse the stacks. I've added Memory: An Anthology to my TBR list and the Streatfeild books reminder me I have Saplings on my list.

    24. I absolutely love when I actually have the time to browse the shelves at the library. Especially because I always find a couple of books that I've never heard of but sound amazing. I loved this post and am looking forward to hearing more about what you find while browsing the shelves :)

    25. I am glad you are doing this! It is going to be mad for me, though... I just added most of them to my wish list...


    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.