I read Barbara Kingsolver’s best seller about a family uprooted from Georgia by their missionary father and replanted in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the Belgian Congo as it was known in 1959, a while ago. It and three other books by Kingsolver made their way to the charity shop after a failed attempt to make space for new books on my groaning bookshelves. I need a bigger house. Seriously, one with a room with bookshelves that stretch from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. I started eyeing up the spare wall space in our front room, then.
Anyway, The Poisonwood Bible is a book I remember enjoying but don’t remember much about the plot, which makes me regret giving it away because I’d like to read it again. This happens more frequently than I care to admit. Sometimes it’s books from my childhood, like The Family From One End Street, which was my favourite book from childhood and the victim of a purge when I moved house. I later went on about how good it is to my husband. So much so that he bought me a new copy. Which I read, and was thrilled to find as good as I remembered.
My favourite book from adulthood is Crime and Punishment. I lent my Penguin Classic copy (the David McDuff translation) to a feckless boyfriend who later moved house and lost it, precipitating the end of our relationship. It still makes me angry, and it’s a good job he now lives in London and we have no contact. Anyway, I bought a replacement, and then also bought a copy of the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation. Happiness is multiple copies of your favourite book.
Crime and Punishment is one of two books I’ve read and re-read most often, at five times each. The other book is Possession by A S Byatt. This is the odd book out in my chain, because I have neither given my copy away nor lent it to anyone. Sometimes I know better.
A book that I have UNBELIEVABLY given away, I discovered when I wanted to lend it to someone worthy of its majesty, is Catch-22. It’s okay, th’usband has a copy. But still. Why did I divest myself of my well-thumbed, much loved copy? I will never know. In itself, this is quite apt for a book which is about the insanity of trying to maintain your sanity.
Speaking of which, in a moment of insanity aimed at maintaining my mental health, I once gave a book back to the person who gave it to me. It was better that I did. I subsequently bought a replacement copy of it (paperback rather than the beautifully bound hardback that was the original gift). The book in question is Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinths. This collection of short stories and essays includes The Library of Babel, a place of never ending shelves with room for all the books that could ever exist. Which brings me back to my need for a bigger house. I actually need a library of Babel.
Where’s your chain going to take you? Have you ever given a book away and later regretted it? How many times have you had to replace a book?