I’m going to tell you a story about a book.

A few months ago I went to a reading at The Bookshelf, our local independent bookseller. I didn’t recognize the name of one reader (Daniel Coleman? Author of Yardwork?), but the other was my friend Shane Neilson, and I love to hear him read, so I went.

It was a solid event, though too sparsely attended. Daniel’s reading was quite interesting, and Shane’s was good as always. Afterwards, I was chatting with Daniel about some of the ideas he had raised in his reading, and Shane mentioned that those ideas had been raised much more deeply in Daniel’s earlier book, In Bed with the Word, which was about reading, spirituality, and cultural politics. I was intrigued, but The Bookshelf didn’t have a copy, so Shane promised to loan me his.

Then I forgot all about it.

Shane, however, did not. The next time we met for lunch, he dropped me off his copy, and this morning I sat down on my front porch with my coffee (escaping the unseasonable heat of my house), and read it front to back, out loud. I don’t read everything out loud (Poetry, yes. Philosophy, sometimes. Fiction, rarely), but this book seemed to ask for vocalization, so I obliged.

It didn’t take that long to read, even aloud – maybe two and a half hours – and it was worth every minute. It’s a little gem of a book that gets into all kinds of my favourite things – the posture of reading and reflection, the function of slowness in thinking, the difference between criticism and what Daniel calls discernment, the spiritual (not to say religious) significance of reading, the necessity of good reading to turn to moral action – and so forth. He also cites a whole range of authors who have been influential on me, from Simone Weil to Jacques Derrida. It was a provoking and affirming read.

What it is not (despite what the previous paragraph might seem to imply) is a work of philosophy, not in a rigorous sense. It’s far more the sort of book that I have come to call a meditation, something like Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, or (closer in time and space) Tim Lilburn’s Going Home. What I like about these kinds of books is how they take up their subject in much they way that Daniel’s book recommends – slowly, thoughtfully, leisurely. They take their time. They adopt a posture of humility or (as I’ve often argued from Heidegger) of thankfulness.

Before I was even quite finished In Bed with the Word, I knew it was the sort of book that needed to be on my shelf. I started walking down to The Bookshelf to get my own copy, reading as I went. They still didn’t have it in stock, but I ordered it. There aren’t enough books like it out there.

My children woke me early this morning. I found something to amuse them, then I roasted coffee on the front porch for the first time this spring. I sat on the porch steps to drink it while I read some poetry: Kate Cayley’s When this World Comes to an End (for the third time in the last week or two), Annie Dillard’s Mornings Like This (which seemed appropriate to the day and which has some truly profound bits in it), and Leonard Cohen’s The Spice-Box of Earth (which I have somehow managed to avoid reading until now).  It was both sunny and cool.  Birds were foraging in the garden.  The bloodroot flowers were up in clumps.

Let me quote Dillard: “This is not a thing that I have sought, / But it has come across my path, and I have seized it.”

Most of the manuscripts that come my way in the capacity of editor / jack of all trades at Vocamus Press do not make enjoyable reading.  Many of them have merit in their own way but aren’t of much interest to me personally.  Others are just not very good by any standard.

Today, however, was a good day.  I read two manuscripts of poetry, one each from a couple I’ve just recently met, and both books were wonderful.  I was pages into the first before I found a line that didn’t ring true.  The second did things with a poetic conversation that I have never seen before.

Days like this make all the other ones worthwhile.

The often made assertion that most people read and write less now with the advent of smartphones and tablets and other such teletechnologies is patently absurd.  It is only necessary to watch people interact with their devices a short time to see that they actually do little else but read and write for considerable portions of their day, churning out more words with their thumbs than writers of the past were able to accomplish with pens or typewriters or computers.  It is not the case that people read and write less.  Rather, it is the case that what they read and write, to a degree that no one could have expected, is the minutia of each other’s lives, the commonplaces of their immediate social relationships.  The culture of the device has made this fact seem obvious and natural, and yet, no previous generation could have imagined that reading and writing would come to serve this purpose, that the personal and the commonplace use of the written word would come to eclipse any artistic, political, economic, or practical use of the written word, at least in sheer volume, that the verbal chatter of our kitchen tables and office water coolers and gym locker rooms would become the dominant literary mode of our time, not in a form that tries to raise it to any artistic or practical significance, but in a form that revels precisely in its commonness, in its insignificance, in its detachment from any greater social or political meaning, because to our great relief, we have at last discovered a literature that will not disturb, by any means, the isolation of our own lives.

I have had to read extensively through my notebooks as I work on my new novel, and I made searchable master list to assist me in finding things.  The result interested me so much that I decided to share it, though it will probably interest you much less.  The list is a chronological record, not of the books I have read in the ten or so years that I have been keeping these notebooks, but of the books that prompted me to make notes for some reason or another.  There are some books, particularly some novels, even ones that I very much enjoyed, that went without any sort of notes at all and are therefore not on the list.  There are others that did find their way into the notebooks and onto the list despite the fact that I genuinely disliked them.  Also, in a number of cases, the book ended up in my notes on the second or third reading, because I first read it before I became addicted to reading in the way I now read.  The rest of the list should be self-explanatory.  It is also very probably too long to read, and you need not feel obligated even to try, but here it is in any case.

Erasmus Praise of Folly
Kierkegaard, Soren Fear and Trembling
Kierkegaard, Soren The Sickness Unto Death
Kierkegaard, Soren Concluding Unscientific Postscript
Rushdie, Salman Midnight’s Children
Smith, Anna Deavere Twilight: Los Angeles 1992
Zitkala-Sa American Indian Stories
Hodgins, Jack The Invention of the World
Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man
Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
Hulme, Keri The Bone People
Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury
Stein, Gertrude Three Lives
Ondaatje, Michael Running in the Family
Mitscherling, Jeff Roman Ingarden’s Ontology and Aesthetics
Ingarden, Roman Selected Papers in Aesthetics
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Ethics
Lewis, C. S. The Abolition of Man
Ingarden, Roman The Literary Work of Art
Derrida, Jacques Writing and Difference
Derrida, Jacques A Derrida Reader
Derrida, Jacques Of Grammatology
Derrida, Jacques Difference
Husserl, Edmund Logical Investigations
De Saussure, Ferdinand Course in General Linguistics
Miller, J. Hillis Narrative
Radcliffe, Anne The Mysteries of Udalpho
Lewis, Matthew The Monk
Dickens, Charles Hard Times
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Woolf, Virginia Mrs. Dalloway
Lessing, Doris The Golden Notebook
Gosse, Edmund Father and Son
Augustine, Saint The Enchiridon
Norwich, Julian of Revelations of Divine Love
Doctorow, E. L. Ragtime
Barnes, Julian Flaubert’s Parrot
Winterson, Jeanette Sexing the Cherry
Benjamin, Walter These on the Philosophy of History
Stoker, Bram Dracula
Kant, Immanuel The Contest of Faculties
Kant, Immanuel An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment
Arnold, Matthew Culture and Anarchy
Readings, Bill The University in Ruins
Graff, Gerald Professing Literature
Appadurai, Arjun Patriotism and its Futures
Ahmad, Aijaz Culture, Nationalism, and the Intellectual
Murray, Heather Working in English
Grant, George Technology and Empire
Chesterton, G. K. The Napoleon of Notting Hill
Adorno, Theodor W. Subject and Object
Critchley, Simon Ethics, Politics, Subjectivity
Jasper, David Rhetoric, Power, and Community
Blodgett, E. D. Silence, the Word, and the Sacred
Caputo, John God, the Gift, and Postmodernism
Shakespeare, William King Lear
Derrida, Jacques Aporias
Hood, Hugh The Swing in the Garden
Marion, Jean-Luc God Without Being
Osborne, John Look Back in Anger
Kipling, Rudyard Kim
Anonymous The Cloud of Unknowing
Eliot, George Adam Bede
Parker, William Riley Milton: A Biography
Hooker, Richard Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
Nouwen, Henri The Return of the Prodigal Son
Kahn, Paul W. Law and Love: The Trials of King Lear
Booth, Stephen King Lear, MacBeth, Indefinition, and Tragedy
Danby, John Shakespeare’s Doctrine of Nature
Elton, William King Lear and the Gods
Kronenfeld, Judy King Lear and the Naked Truth
Cornell, Drucilla Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice
Sterne, Laurence Tristram Shandy
Booth, Mark What I Believe
Marlowe, Christopher Marlowe: The Plays
Sawday, Jonathan The Body Emblazoned
Swift, Jonathan The Complete Poems
Rushdie, Salman East, West
Drakakis, John Shakespearean Tragedy
Girard, Rene Violence and the Sacred
Wilde, Oscar Comedies
Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
MacDonald, George Lilith
Girard, Rene I See Satan Fall Like Lightning
Carlyle, Thomas Selections from Carlyle
Litz, A. Walton Major American Short Stories
de Beavoir, Simone The Blood of Others
Derrida, Jacques The Gift of Death
MacDonald, George At the Back of the North Wind
Derrida, Jacques Archive Fever
Tutu, Desmond No Future Without Forgiveness
Derrida, Jacques Acts of Literature
Dostoevsky, Fydor The Idiot
Derrida, Jacques Acts of Religion
Dumas, Alexandre The Count of Monte Cristo
Vanier, Jean Made for Happiness
James, Henry The Portrait of a Lady
Vanier, Jean Finding Peace
James, Henry The Ambassadors
Yancey, Phillip Soul Survivor
Ranciere, Jacques The Names of History
La Capra, Dominick History and Criticism
Le Goff, Jacques History and Memory
de Certeau, Michel The Writing of History
Buechner, Frederick The Storm
Defoe, Daniel Moll Flanders
Foucault, Michel The Foucault Reader
Barnes, Julian A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
Russell, Peter Constitutional Odyssey
Saul, John Ralston Voltaire’s Bastards
Haselkorn, Anne Prostitution in Elizabethan Drama
Mudge, Bradford The Whore’s Story
Zimmerman, Susan Desire on the Renaissance Stage
Kant, Immanuel Kant: On History
Hegel, G. W. F. Reason in History
Dollimore, Jonathan Sexual Dissidence
Foucault, Michel The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction
Foucault, Michel The History of Sexuality, Volume II: The Use of Pleasure
Foucault, Michel The History of Sexuality, Volume III: The Care of the Self
Cary, Elizabeth The Tragedy of Miriam
Foucault, Michel Madness and Civilization
Stackhouse. John J. Humble Apologetics
Foucault, Michel Discipline and Punish
Coetzee, J. M. Foe
Barthes, Roland Mythologies
Barthes, Roland S/Z: An Essay
Heidegger, Martin On the way to Language
Baudrillard, Jean Simulacra and Simulation
Dillard, Annie Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Heidegger, Martin Poetry, Language, Thought
Barnes, Julian Something to Declare
Milbank, John Radical Orthodoxy
Raeper, William George MacDonald
Gonzalez, Margarita Behind the Veil of Familiarity: C. S. Lewis (1898-1998)
Schakel, Peter Reason and Imagination in C. S. Lewis
Tolkien, J. R. R Tree and Leaf
Lewis, C. S. Of This and Other Worlds
Wangerin Jr., Walter The Book of the Dun Cow
MacDonald, George The Light Princess
MacDonald, George Phantastes
MacDonald, George The Lost Princess
MacDonald, George The Gifts of the Child Christ
MacDonald, George A Dish of Orts
Peters, Thomas The Christian Imagination
Montgomery, John Myth, Allegory, Gospel
Conlon, D. J. G. K. Chesterton: A Half Century of Views
Anonymous The Song of Roland
Milbank, John Being Reconciled
Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy
Barth, Karl Dogmatics in Outline
Dillard, Annie Living by Fiction
Algren, Nelson Nonconformity
Derrida, Jacques Positions
Amis, Kingsley The Biographer’s Moustache
Rajan, Tilottama Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology
Dillard, Annie For the Time Being
Cohen Leonard Beautiful Losers
de Chardin, Teilhard The Divine Milieu
Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying
Kesey, Ken One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Joyce, James Dubliners
Brown, Robert McAfee Saying Yes and Saying No
Brown, Robert McAfee Religion and Violence
Brown, Robert McAfee Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with the Third World
Longacre, Doris Living More with Less
Aichele, George Violence, Utopia, and the Kingdom of God
Barthes, Roland On Racine
Blanchot, Maurice The Step Not Beyond
Derrida, Jacques Religion and Violence
Foster, Hal The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture
Godwin, William Caleb Williams
Kavanagh, Thomas The Limits of Theory
Behn, Aphra The Rover
Kierkegaard, Soren The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard, Soren Works of Love
Ibsen, Henrik Ghosts and Other Plays
Rushdie, Salman The Satanic Verses
Woolf, Virginia To The Lighthouse
Graves, Robert Poems Selected by Himself
Chesterton, G. K. Saint Francis of Assisi
More, Thomas Utopia
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich The Cost of Discipleship
Kierkegaard, Soren Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing
Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Was Thursday
Webb, William Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals
Fokkelman, J. P. Reading Biblical Narrative
Lukacs, Georg Realism in Our Time
Huxley, Aldous The Doors of Perception
Bronte, Anne Agnes Grey
Levi-Strauss, Claude Totemism
Nietzsche, Friedrich Thus Spake Zarathustra
Thomas, Edward The Works of Edward Thomas
Forster, E. M. A Passage to India
Chekhov, Anton Ivanov and Other Plays
cummings, e. e. 100 Selected Poems
Becket, Samuel Endgame
Ward, Graham Barth, Derrida, and the Language of Theology
Smith, James K. A. Speech and Theology
Oliver, Mary Why I Wake Early
Rooke, Leon The Happiness of Others
Rushdie, Salman Shame
Steiner, George Real Presences
Camus, Albert The Plague
Kafka, Franz The Trial
Drefus, Hubert L. Being in the World
Rich, Adrienne Adrienne Rich’s Poetry
Illich, Ivan Energy and Equity
Illich, Ivan Tools for Conviviality
Nin, Anais A Spy in the House of Love
Adams, Richard Shardik
Gorky, Maxim Fragments from My Diary
Zola, Emile Germinal
Barnes, Julian Love, Etc.
Grant, George Philosophy in the Mass Age
Barthes, Roland Empire of Signs
Newman, Jay Religion and Technology
Boethius The Consolation of Philosophy
Tilloch, Paul A History of Christian Thought
Hesse, Herman Steppenwolf
Derrida, Jacques Of Spirit
Hesse, Herman Magister Ludi
Derrida, Jacques Rogues
Camus, Albert The Fall
Whitman, Walt Leaves of Grass
Illich, Ivan Rivers North of the Future
Brueggemann, Walter Deep Memory, Exuberant Hope
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Life Together
McLaren, Brian D. A New Kind of Christian
Wangerin Jr., Walter The Book of Sorrows
Derrida, Jacques Adieu to Emmanuel Levinas
Huxley, Aldous Collected Short Stories
Illich, Ivan Deschooling Society
Cixous, Helen Coming to Writing
Eco, Unberto Foucault’s Pendulum
Levinas, Emmanuel God, Death, and Time
Honore, Carl In Praise of Slow
Borges, Jorge Luis Selected Poems
Abelard, Peter Ethical Writings
Borges, Jorge Luis Other Inquisitions
Norris, Kathleen The Cloister Walk
Woolf, Virginia The Common Reader
Levinas, Emmanuel Ethics and Infinity
Levinas, Emmanuel Outside the Subject
Rushdie, Salman Grimus
Dillard, Annie Holy the Firm
Levinas, Emmanuel Proper Names
Golding, William The Pyramid
Levinas, Emmanuel Of God Who Comes to MInd
Naipaul, V. S. The Enigma of Arrival
Shields, Carol The Box Garden
Wiesel, Elie The Night Trilogy
Golding, William Rites of Passage
Buechner, Frederick The Son of Laughter
Marion, Jean-Luc The Crossing of the Visible
Williams, Charles Many Dimensions
Williams, Charles All Hallows’ Eve
Barnes, Julian Metroland
Marion, Jean-Luc Being Given
Ackroyd, Peter The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde
Derrida, Jacques Learning to Live Finally
Mossman, Dow The Stones of Summer
Styron, William Sophie’s Choice
Koestler, Arthur Darkness at Noon
Lowry, Malcolm Under the Volcano
Wright, Richard Native Son
Saramago, Jose Seeing
Heller, Joseph Catch-22
Pynchon, Thomas The Crying of Lot 49
Fowles, John The Magus
Lessing, Doris Briefing for a Descent into Hell
Blanchot, Maurice The Instant of My Death
Lewis, C. S. The Pilgrim’s Regress
Blanchot, Maurice A Voice from Elsewhere
Nabokov, Vladimir Pnin
Illich, Ivan Ivan Illich in Conversation
Maugham, Somerset Of Human Bondage
Barthes, Roland A Lover’s Discourse
Friere, Paulo Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Nabokov, Vladimir Lolita
Barzun, Jacques The House of Intellect
Chesterton, G. K. The Man Who Knew Too Much
Rushdie, Salman The Moor’s Last Sigh
Vanier, Jean Be Not Afraid
Dillard, Annie The Writing Life
Moorhouse, Geoffrey The Fearful Void
Genet, Jean Funeral Rites
Melville, Herman Moby Dick
Mailer, Norman An American Dream
Marion, Jean-Luc Prolegomena to Charity
Orwell, George Homage to Catalonia
Golding, William Pincher Martin
Graves, Robert Watch the North Wind Rise
Lyotard, Jean-Francois Postmodern Fables
Derrida, Jacques Echographies of Television
Ford, Ford Madox The Good Soldier
Cohen Leonard The Favourite Game
Chomsky, Noam Miseducation
Butler, Samuel Erewhon
Williams, Charles In the Place of the Lion
Chesterton, G. K. The Flying Inn
Wiesel, Elie The Forgotten
Debord, Guy The Society of the Spectacle
Mann, Thomas Doctor Faustus
Orwell, George Down and Out in Paris and London
Huxley, Aldous Island
de Certeau, Michel The Practise of Everyday Life
Winterson, Jeanette The Passion
Lilburn, Tim Going Home
Buber, Martin I and Thou
Kenner, Hugh The Elsewhere Community
Winterson, Jeanette Tanglewreck
Perec, Georges Species of Spaces
Orwell, George Books v. Cigarettes
Proust, Marcel Days of Reading
de Montaigne, Michel On Friendship
Bachelard, Gaston The Poetics of Space
Calvino, Italo Invisible Cities
Golding, William The Scorpion God
Kearney, Richard The God Who May Be
Gibson, William Pattern Recognition
Bolano, Roberto The Savage Detectives
Bolano, Roberto 2666
Bourdieu, Pierre On Television
Illich, Ivan In the Vineyard of the Text
Buechner, Frederick The Sacred Journey
Gibson, William All Tomorrow’s Parties
Dick, Philip K. A Scanner Darkly
Winterson, Jeanette The Battle of the Sun
Williams, Charles Descent into Hell
Ward, Graham The Politics of Discipleship
Williams, Charles The Shadows of Ecstasy
Calvino, Italo If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
Maugham, Somerset The Razor’s Edge
Layton, Irving A Red Carpet for the Sun
Gardner, John On Moral Fiction
Canetti, Elias Auto-da-Fe
Hoban, Russell The Lion of Boaz-Jachin
Ellison, Ralph Juneteenth
Bellow, Saul Herzog
Calvino, Italo The Road to San Giovanni
Davies, Robertson The Debtford Trilogy
Perez-Reverte, Arturo The Club Dumas
Hemingway, Ernest True at First Light
Heidegger, Martin What is Called Thinking?
Derrida, Jacques Of Hospitality
Saramago, Jose All the Names
Green, Graham The Power and the Glory
Dick, Philip K. Blade Runner
Dick, Philip K. Flow My Tears the Policeman Said
Miller, Henry Tropic of Cancer
Roth, Phillip The Human Stain
Ricoeur, Paul Living Up to Death
Gardner, John October Light
Saramago, Jose Small Memories
Saramago, Jose Blindness
Postman, Neil Amusing Ourselves to Death
Golding, William The Paper Men
Illich, Ivan Toward a History of Needs
Weil, Simone Waiting for God
Haggard, H. Rider She
Perez-Reverte, Arturo The Fencing Master
Nancy, Jean-Luc The Muses
Eco, Unberto Baudolino
Bolano, Roberto Antwerp
Bolano, Roberto Monsieur Pain
Kundera, Milan The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Bolano, Roberto By Night in Chile
Llosa, Mario Vargas The Storyteller
Postman, Neil The End of Education
Baudrillard, Jean The Transparency of Evil
Rilke, Rainer Maria Letters to a Young Poet
Lowry, Malcolm Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place
Weil, Simone Waiting for God
Postman, Neil Teaching as a Subversive Activity
O’Brien, Geoffrey The Browser’s Ecstasy
Borges, Jorge Luis Collected Fictions
Agamben, Giorgio Potentialities
Baricco, Alessandro Emmaus
Rulfo, Juan Pedro Paramo
Chesterton, G. K. Autobiography
Grass, Gunter The Tin Drum
Salinger, J. D. Franny and Zooey
Illich, Ivan Gender
Malabou, Catherine What Should We Do with Our Brain
Winterson, Jeanette The Stone Gods
Fuentes, Carlos The Years with Laura Diaz

I have often found myself at odds with some of my fellow readers, even those who are otherwise very similar to me, over the the proper treatment of the books we read.  There are some who treat their books with absolute disregard, scribbling in them aimlessly, breaking their spines, turning down their page corners, dirtying them unnecessarily, and I have always felt that there was something wrong about this, ever since I was reading C. S. Lewis’ autobiography, at the age of nine or ten, as he described his tutor thumbing through his books with hands still dirty from the garden, an image that still causes me distress even now.  There are others, however, who approach their books almost as sacred objects, buying only the best editions, ensuring that they not be worn or marked in any way, almost to the point of leaving them unread, and I find this treatment distressing as well, since books need to be read and to be read well in order to do what they are meant to do.

Between these two extremes, I have always thought that books need to be treated in the same way as craftspeople treat their tools, as good woodworkers and cooks and doctors treat the implements of their trade, not leaving them untouched and untouchable, as if they were sacred objects, but neither leaving them to grow dirty and disrepaired.  A craftperson’s tools, when used properly, will come to look worn, because they are performing their function, but they will also be clean and in good repair and put in their place.  In the same way, when properly used, a reader’s books will look worn, because they have been read closely and with attention, at length and at leisure, but they will also be well kept and in their place.  There may be notes in the margins, and the pages may look thumbed, but they will not have been broken and defaced, because this prevents them from performing their function.

There is a new used bookstore in Guelph, Janus Books, at 10 Paisley Street, in the plaza at the corner of Paisley and Norfolk.   I have not yet been able to have a real look through the store, which is to say that I have only been in with my children in tow, so I cannot say anything about the stock, but any used bookstore is a good used bookstore, and a city the size of Guelph should not be making do with only two of them, as it has been for too long.  So welcome Janus Books.   May your stay in Guelph be a long one.

While in Toronto for the Hot Docs Festival, I have taken the opportunity to explore every used bookstore within reasonable walking distance both of the apartment where I am staying and the festival’s industry center. Here are the books that I will be taking home with me. May my wife forgive my addiction.

Roberto Bolano, 2666 – hardcover

Roberto Bolano, Nazi Literature in the Americas

Roberto Bolano, The Skating Rink

Elias Canetti, The Play of the Eyes – hardcover

Colette, Flowers and Fruit – hardcover

Colette, The Ripening Seed – clothbound

Gilles Deleuz, Nietzsche and Philosophy

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Notebooks for The Brothers Karamazov – clothbound

Ralph Ellison, Flying Home and Other Stories – hardcover

Carlos Fuentes, The Years with Laura Diaz – hardcover

John Gardner, Michelson’s Ghosts – clothbound, first edition

William Godwin, Fleetwood

Graham Greene, Doctor Fischer of Geneva – clothbound

Graham Greene, The Human Factor – hardcover

Martin Heidegger, Off the Beaten Path

Ernest Hemingway, Under Kilimanjaro – clothbound, first edition

Arthur Koestler, The Call Girls – hardcover

Milan Kundera, Ignorance – hardcover

Milan Kundera, Immortality – hardcover

Doris Lessing – The Marriage Between Zones Three, Four, and Five – clothbound, first edition

Mario Vargas Llossa, The Bad Girl – hardcover

Mario Vargas Llossa, Captain Pantoja and the Special Service

Mario Vargas Llossa, The Cubs and Other Stories – hardcover

Mario Vargas Llossa, Death in the Andes

Mario Vargas Llossa, The Green House

Mario Vargas Llossa, The Language of Passion

Mario Vargas Llossa, Making Waves

Mario Vargas Llossa, The War of the End of the World

Mario Vargas Llossa, The Way to Paradise

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera – hardcover

Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing – hardcover

V. S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival – hardcover

Jean-Luc Nancy, Being Singular Plural

Ben Okri, Infinite Riches – hardcover

Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel – a gorgeous, clothbound, illustrated edition

Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands – hardcover

Salman Rushdie, Luka and the Fire of Life – hardcover

Jose Saramago, All the Names

Jose Saramago, The Elephant’s Journey – hardcover

Mark C. Taylor, Nots

Paul Theroux, Patagonia Revisited – clothbound

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring – clothbound, illustrated

Some of these may seem like odd choices for me, but I was often choosing on the basis of price and edition, and I am well pleased with the additions to my library.

I have just purged by library fairly heavily.  This is not at all a common occurrence for me.  In fact, I cannot recall ever having discarded so many books at once, perhaps not even if I was to total all of my previous purges together.  I removed from my catalogue something more than a hundred books all told.

The decision to make this purge came on me very suddenly as I was looking over my shelves the other day, an epiphany of sorts, on an admittedly minor scale.  I realized that my criteria for reading has changed so much over the decade since I completed by formal education that I no longer have any interest in the kinds of books that I once valued highly enough to collect.  However long a life I might live, I reflected, I would never read these anthologies of critical writing on Shakespearean tragedy or these collections of essays on the discontents of postmodernism, so I started to pull from the shelves all those books that no longer had a place in my reading practice, the books that are mere parasites on better books, the endless production of literary academia.

I no longer have time for these books in my reading practice, and I have long believed that a bookshelf should be an index to the one who has filled it.  So I purged, and I weeded, and  I pruned, and in the process I think perhaps I also pruned some dead branches from myself.