A Rich Life

The other day, my youngest was telling me that I always buy books. I believe that’s true. I told her that books are to me more than just buys or expenses, they are my life. From bibles, to non fiction, classics and contemporary books, books in English and in Spanish, books are part of who I am. They are nourishment for the mind and soul.

She also said how we have many more books than most homes she visits. I know better than to compare myself to others, and I’m careful not to judge. I’m the only reader at home, or the only avid reader. My daughters read incidentally, books they are assigned and a few others they choose. I try to remember that the intelligence or moral standing of people are not measured by how much or how well they read. There’s many ways to keep your mind connected with ideas, and to nurture your soul with beauty and truth.

Having said that, the books at my home represent part of who I am. They surround me with warmth, make my house look inviting, -to me at least-, and they represent possibilities, and also realities. I read them. But the unread ones are as important as the well known ones. It’s what the constantly showing up everywhere these days, Umberto Eco, calls an antilibrary. His idea is quoted here in this book, The Black Swan, the Impact of the Highly Improbable, which one of my real friends and reader extraordinaire let me borrow. A few days after I read it and returned it, my husband and I visited my sister in law’s condo to take care of it, -she doesn’t live in it-, and saw she had a copy of it that looked unread. It was one of those eerie moments in life, to see it there, on top of a table, like Alice in Wonderland bottle that said, “drink me”. I was tempted to snatch it, but I didn’t. Later on, she ended up disposing of her books and many other things, her daughter did. I lost my chance of having asked her for that particular book, -I know she would have gladly given it to me. It’s okay, it’ll come to me one way or another.

Back to Eco and his antilibrary quote in Nassim’s book:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have. How many of these books have you read?” and the others—a very small minority—who get the point is that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendages but a research tool. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means … allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

That quote is the motor idea when it comes to buying books. I believe we all weight the book and our means, and if we spend more than we want, it’s usually because we are getting something we value. It truly is an investment. Fortunately, I live at a place and time where acquiring good books, books I’m strongly interested in, it’s not that expensive. That can make me overbuy. If I’ve done that at some library or book store sales, with time I’ve culled my library, and even gotten book credit for the extras. So all is well that ends well, -is that how it goes?

I rarely pay full price for books. Loving classics has its advantages, -they are widely available and utterly cheap. Being willing to wait some time for the new hype books is also a strategy I employ. However, for those books one has to pay a higher price than usual, there’s christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions. There’s also the library, which I appreciate much. Only that, as we all know, library loans all show up at once, and usually when we are in the middle of a very long book, or when life doesn’t allow us to read much.

Obtaining books, and which ones I get, is something that evolves and grows with me over the years. From our homeschooling days, I have a good amount of quality titles across many subjects. Since space is not a constrain at the moment, I’m keeping them. Later in life, when the girls are ready to leave home, I’ll decide their fate and give them what they want, keep others, and dispose of the rest donating, selling, or trading.

When I first started with our home library, I had nothing and bought and took mostly everything. Library sales or sales of any sort were my best friends. As I needed certain books for our studies, online shopping became my new love. When I returned to reading more in Spanish, online stores became a necessity. But it never fails, after some weeks pass, the great bargain online orders that come in the mail are never enough. I need the experience of hunting books down at a brick and mortar book store.

I have not had the pleasure of doing any trip with any literary stop in many years. Two summers ago in Madrid, I could not visit any of its amazing book stores. It’s okay. There’s a time for everything under the sun. The way things are, my local second hand book store is a constant source of joy. There’s rarely a time in which I visit it that I don’t find amazing books.

Today, the findings have been fascinating. You all know I believe in the God of the Scriptures. To Him I thank for this rich life He gives us, for days like today, for the many blessings, the books, the people, creation.

Let me explain the haul you’ve seen sprinkled through the post.

El cementerio de Praga, The Prague Cemetery, by Umberto Eco. Signore Eco is everywhere I turn. I couldn’t pass on this title in Spanish. However, I have to say that I’m a bit apprehensive. I trust Goodreads, I do, and it doesn’t get very good reviews, specially from those who have loved his master piece, The Name of the Rose. At 400+ pages, it is on the longish side. It seems to be the poster-child of the conspiracy books. Who knows. It may be worth the try.

The Unconsolable. Another story to tell. Once upon a time, I was going to hold a book club here, and read this one with anyone interested, -and there were a few people who were in-. I ordered it, -it was a different edition-, and kept reading some reviews and some passages, and something told me it was not a book I wanted to read and discuss with others. I actually have thought for some years now, it’d be the only book by Ishiguro I would leave unread. Seeing The Unconsolable today at the store, when I’ve never seen it there before, along with An Artist of the Floating World, and after knowing that Bellezza loves it, something told me I must read it. (Actually, Belleza, if you read this before I contact you, this copy in English of An Artist of the Floating World is for you. I’ve read this title twice, but in Spanish, which I prefer).

So far, my favorite books by Ishiguro are not his most famous ones, this is my order:

#1 A View of Pale Hills
#2 An Artist of the Floating World
#3 We Were Never Orphans
#4 The Remains of the Day
#5 Never Let Me Go
#6 The Buried Giant

His book Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall, I had to return to the library and never quite finished. And I have not read The Unconsoled. I think I’m also missing another short stories anthology titled Come Rain or Come Shine. I’m impatiently waiting for him to write a new book.

What do you think about Cat’s Cradle. I have no idea why I love Vonnegut so much. I thought one had to be counter culture to enjoy this author, young and preferentially someone with tattoos. It may sound ridiculous, but that was the preconception that I had. Still I’m only up to my waist, I have not submerged myself completely in his books. I once started an audio for Breakfast for Champions, but that I could not stomach. I’m not cut for that book.

I also saw this edition of The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh. I knew he was the author of Brideshead Revisited, a book I have but have not read. I was hesitant, and reading what he said, that it wasn’t for the sensitive, or fainthearted, it frankly scared me. I also have to admit something funny, I thought Evelyn Waugh was a woman author. Brideshead was a book selected by a podcast called Close Reads. It made a big ripple in that group, but it’s one of those authors that I’ve decided I won’t like even though I have not read anything by him yet. Please, tell me if I’m missing something important.

The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm. I bought this one for me, and for my youngest daughter. Fiction Fan had mentioned another retelling of the Grimm tales, which I thought was illustrated but wasn’t. This one is. By no less than Maurice Sendak. I find his illustrations spell bounding.

Last, The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor. It’s just 100 pages. And such a story. Based on a true event, the shipwrecked sailor had several 6 hour interview sessions with Márquez who agreed to write the book in first person. Please, read this. Brona brought this book to my attention this week, and I was shocked to have found it today at the store. I’ve never seen this title there before. It’s a title that put the man’s life in jeopardy, as well as Márquez’s. If you haven’t being successful, or don’t want to commit to his acclaimed and long One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Love in the Time of Cholera, please, don’t hesitate with any and all of his short stories.

It looked as if someone who had read my blog and yours these past days had placed many books I want in the shelves.

And that’s all. I’m going to retire now, read some, rest some, and get ready for the Lord’s day tomorrow. Good night!

30 thoughts on “A Rich Life

  1. I strongly recommend The Unconsoled, I thought it was his best book, having read all but The Buried Giant which is on my to-read shelf. But his books are easy to read and this one is difficult so I think you have to be in the right mood, or as I was: trapped in a horrible resort, not the sort of place I ever go to by choice. Not a bookshop in sight. I’d brought this one along and it saved me. In fact, it consoled me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Trapped in a horrible resort, 🙂
      I love that it’s a more difficult book. Many say like you that is his best. I am excited about it. I love nuanced books.

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  2. Lovely photos Silvia and fascinating books; both photos and books gave me much to think about. I always enjoy your posts. There’s a great deal of overlap in our reading taste but you’ve ventured beyond me in several areas, so i always find something interesting that I’ve yet to explore! Umberto Eco, for example (I haven’t yet to read The Name of the Rose!) Thanks very much for sharing his concept of the antiibrary — it’s a lovely idea and one that wasn’t familiar to me.
    One of our overlaps in taste is definitely Kazuo Ishiguro! Like you, I haven’t read The Unconsoled, even though I’ve had a copy for years. I knew from the reviews that it would be a difficult read and I kept putting it aside. As you remarked in your post, we live in an age where so many books are so readily available, which is wonderful, but don’t you think there’s a downside as well, at least for some of us? It’s so easy to put aside the more difficult, challenging books “for another day” (one, alas, that doesn’t always come, for me at least) in favor of the more quickly read, sometimes less substantial works. But enough of the digression! I also haven’t read Nocturnes or The Buried Giant. Regarding your ranking of your favorite Ishiguro novels: I like them all, but in roughly reverse order! Never Let Me Go & Remains at the top; Orphans at the bottom and Pale View and Artist of the Floating World (don’t you love the title, BTW? I’ve always been fascinated by that Japanese concept of the floating world of transitory pleasures) tied for the middle.
    I think we’ve discussed Vonnegut before, I’ve only read Slaughterhouse Five, many years ago, but you’ve almost gotten me interested in him again! If I follow my usual pattern, one day I’ll just pick up one of his novels out of the blue (when I’m intending to read sometime else) and just start reading!
    I haven’t read much Evelyn Waugh. I know he’s highly lauded by many but I’ve never been quite sure he’s my cup of tea, so to speak. I did love Brideshead Revisted when I read it many years ago — it’s very heavy on that romantic nostalgia for a vanished past that can be quite appealing at a certain point in one’s life and it does have some memorable characters. I’m not sure, however, how I’d like it now. I’m also not sure how representative it is of most of Waugh’s work. It’s certainly very unlike A Handful of Dust, which is the only one of his other books I remember well (no nostalgia there, but a very bleak and biting satire of a certain segment of the British upper class).
    I loved the illustration from the Grimm Brothers Tales — I think Sendak is perfect for them!
    One of these days I’ll try Márquez — he’s another of those writers who intimidate me! I’ve very envious, BTW, of your ability to read in more than one language. Such a gift! Translations are wonderful but how much better to read it directly, unfiltered by another’s choice of word or concept.
    Like you, I do onlline book shopping but I totally agree there’s nothing more satisfying than a treasure hunt through a brick and mortar store. You really won the lottery with this collection — Congrats!

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    • I love your comments and your digression. I agree we are a distracted people and it’s hard for most of us to focus on the difficult titles. I’m amazed, you have read that which I haven’t, Waugh. I may like the satire more than the romantic nostalgia.
      Do not be intimidated by Márquez, his short books are very straightforward in style, easy to read.
      So you like Ishiguro when he is less ambiguous? I like the opposite. I have read Artist of the Floating World twice and the second time it was better. The title is brilliant, the theme of art in the book my favorite. This book the second time showed me things I never saw the first time. It’s such a book better enjoyed slowly. And I have become impatient myself. When I met you we talked about this, and I come back to it. Some books, most or all the good ones, demand our undivided attention. There’s nothing wrong with a break after a hefty title, but if I stay too long within those fast reads, I start to not like it.

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      • Silvia: I hadn’t thought about Ishiguro in those particular terms, but I think you’re right — I do prefer his less ambiguous books! I usually read pretty fast and teasing out the ambiguities takes time; it’s the “impatience” you speak of. It’s probably another reason I don’t read much poetry any more — the meaning needs to be obvious and with poetry it so seldom is! It’s also another aspect of the downside of having so many, many books. We’re deluged with choices and are faced with the question of “move on to something new, or take the time for a re-read (or even a slower first read)”? I think we really lose something by this, as many great books (not even the classics, but newer and very worthwhile novels, such as Ishiguro’s) demand more time/attention that readers can/will give them (much less going back for a re-read!). I’m very guilty in this regard; as I mostly read new things and I read them once. I do reserve a few books for re-reads: Middlemarch, a few James novels and an occasional novel that I fondly remember from times past, pretty much selected at random, to see if my opinion of it’s changed! I AM thinking about those two Ishiguro novels, however (Artist and Hills) and thinking I may re-read, although it will have to wait.

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        • I do love to converse on this topic. I never tire, Janakay. Sometimes I feel like I have to take a month or more to close the curtains, lock the door, -figuratively speaking-, and just read with proper attention. But when life has been busy and I have had to stay away from the blogs and this conversation, my reading life has withered. It’s a matter of finding that balance. And more than anything, finding a time in the day conducive to that unhurried reading. Funny but lately I too have neglected my poetry reading.
          I think I am at a not too bad place right now, I just need to sharpen some edges in my current reading course, and plan with some wisdom. But the challenges and reads I have in mind for these months and next year seem reasonable. I know I will depart somehow, but I am more aware of the need to bring my reading attention into submission more seriously.

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  3. I like your story about how you trust a copy of The Black Swan will come to you. It’s funny how that works but it often does…a title becomes known to a reader and very soon a copy becomes available without any effort.

    Many years ago my physical home library consisted pretty much of every book I’d ever owned, though it wasn’t a huge amount of books really. Maybe a few hundred. Enough to fill one Ikea shelving unit in an apartment. It didn’t matter whether I liked a book or not, I kept it. And I had every intention of reading everything I’d ever acquired. I thought I had plenty of time. Now I have many, many more books but I am much more aware of what comes in and what goes out and just how short a reading life is in the big scheme of things. As painful as it might be, if I don’t think I will re-read a book and/or if it is not from a beloved author, I now pass it on either to another reader or to the Goodwill. And sometimes I have to get rid of a book unread. That is the hardest part of the balancing act for me. Thankfully we have websites like Goodreads or Library Thing that allow readers to keep a virtual library.

    Vonnegut is such a crazy writer. I don’t have tattoos (LOL) but I did fall for him first in my late teens so you might be on to something there. I just love how he seems to loath and also love humankind at the same time in his books.

    I did like The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. It is short and kind of mean, but funny. Simon at the blog Stuck in a Book really liked it which made me want to read it. Maybe wait and see if it comes your way again. If it keeps popping up in your second hand shops…

    I loved Never Let Me Go so much but have only since read The Remains of the Day and The Buried Giant. I need to jump into Ishiguro’s back catalog. I often really like ambiguity in novels and am intrigued by your comments! I need a “back catalog reading month” or something to trigger this! I have a pretty long list of those writers where I’ve read one or two books and they have so much to explore and yet I keep reading new things instead. I’m going to put A Pale View from the Hills at the top of my list since it is your favorite. 😀

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    • I too have evolved in my keeping or ridding of books and like you, if I am not going to reread a book or if I see books I got but I have lost interest in them, I dispose of them.

      Oh, noooo. I’m going back for The Loved One. I have visited Simon’s blog, I need to follow it. And the way The Black Swan will come to me may involve me buying it, ahem.

      You nailed that description of Vonnegut, he is a crazy mix of caustic and tender. Maybe the loathing quality speaks to our teen spirit, while his love for humankind is what gets old readers like me hooked.

      I’m pretty confident that you will enjoy A Pale View… It’s Japanese Noir, no kidding. It’s one of the most perfect novels I have read. I think it is underrated. Let’s put it in the place it deserves.

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    • More on Ishiguro. I love Never Let Me Go. It’s to me the best of his direct ones. The Buried Giant, I have read twice, but it doesn’t get to me as much as his first two books which happen to be Pale View and Artist of the Floating… It’s all the ambiguity and suspense, and I totally love the Japanese theme. I like the dystopian element of Never Let Me Go. I can say that I love the ambiguity in those two books because when I read them again it’s like a new book. More direct books seem to have a more consumable plot. I don’t know what makes a book worth rereading, but classics have that quality. Other books are just great but they don’t avail themselves to indefinite rereading.
      As I type this, I am longing to read A Pale View again.

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      • I agree that there are certain books that really lend themselves to re-reading because each time the reader views the book from a different angle. I think of Rebecca by DuMaurier or Jane Eyre for example.

        There are also books that are just great stories and the reader likes the comfort of living that story over and over. I am thinking here more of the very plot based books that people enjoy experiencing multiple times. I would say Dickens qualifies here for me. I try to experience his books a second time on audio to enhance the experience and also make me fell less guilty about my precious free time.

        There are also those “big ideas” books that I think really gain from a reread. Those are the ones I avoid because often they were such work the first time around. 😀

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        • I like audios for that reason, I too sometimes listen to books I have read and love it.

          Dickens, even if the first time we read to find out what happens in the book, is always a good reread because his books are long and so rich one never exhausts them.

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  4. Silvia, I’ve always admired people who are avid readers and secretly wished I were one. They make me ashamed to say that I majored in English in college. (However, my reason was that I loved grammar, not literature–ha, ha). Anyway, I remember that my fourth-grade teacher told us that books are our friends. Since I felt that I did not have friends, I think the presence of books made me feel that I did. So over the years, I have put them around me. In fact, I made sure that each of my children had a bookcase in their bedrooms for whatever books (friends?) they wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Judy. Thanks for stopping by. No shame on majoring in English and not being an avid reader. I know you love and appreciate books, and you even wrote two. That’s a sweet and powerful story, your fourth grade teacher. Sometimes we don’t know how much a teacher or person can and does inspire us.
      I’ve had times in my life of reading more, others of not reading much. Lately I’m blessed with a life in which I can devote some time to reading and it enriches me.

      I hope this comment finds you well. My regards to Jim.

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  5. Now I have to get a copy of The Black Swan!!!!

    I wish I knew more people who loved reading bc books are for conversation…and when they come into my home and say nothing, I feel bummed that I have no one to talk to about the things that are in those books. Only one person has come over and perused my bookcases – my Pastor – and that is because he reads, too, even if not the same books. Nonetheless, he reads, and reading invites conversation.

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    • Same here, Ruth. I too miss the conversation, good thing we can at least chat here and I can do so a bit in real life. But I do wish more people perused my shelves, and to see more books at my friends homes.

      The Black Swan is a book that was a very interesting read, I learned a few things from it. I want to read it again.

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  6. Oh man. Now I want to read all these that you are chatting about. Ha. 😉 I haven’t read ANY of these and they sound so interesting, challenging, and different. ❤ Love the book chatting, Silvia. And that Grimm's looks lovely! Even if the stories can be a bit ahem, grim. 😉 Love Sendak.

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  7. Thank you for the link! Those Sendak Grimms’ illustrations are wonderful. One of the things I most enjoy about reading older classics is that they tend to have been illustrated at least once, and sometimes several times, over the years, and it’s such a boon that so many of the illustrations can be found online. I’ve only read one of your selection – the Eco – and I fear I disliked it intensely, and abandoned it halfway through. However, the joy of books is that we all react differently to them, so hopefully you’ll find you love it… 😀

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    • I think I won’t like it, lol. But I am loving his non fiction book on translation. I think I will take it back to the store, jajaja, seriously.

      I agree that the illustrations of the classics are so beautiful.

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  8. Oh, I shouldn’t have read this post!! My daughter is no longer homeschooling and I’ve been trying to pass on some of our homeschooling books. However, they’re like old friends and some of them were difficult to find so I haven’t been doing a good job of purging. Perhaps this is a good thing!

    I do want to know how many books people have read if they have a good size library, but I would say my motivation is for inspiration. I remember going to a home service once in a house where the people (both literature professors) were complete bibliophiles. There were books lining almost every wall of their house and honestly, I heard not one word the pastor said, I was too busy looking at the titles! 😆

    I’m reading an illustrated Moby Dick and it makes an enjoyable experience that much more enjoyable. I’m going to look for more of these type of classics.

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