Anatomy of a library visit

One of my bookish resolutions this year is to diversify my reading, and there can be few better ways of doing that than going into a library and browsing the shelves. That’s just what I did today, and I thought I’d share the process by which I decided what to borrow. I resolved to limit myself to five titles; but, well, that didn’t quite work out.


My first thoughts were: Stu is hosting Henry Green Week over at Winstonsdad’s Blog later this month; I’d not heard of Green before, but it would be fun to join in. There are only two Henry Green books on the shelves; I choose the one which my brief research from last night suggests is particularly well-regarded.

Book 1: Loving by Henry Green

I browse the G section further. There’s a book by Niven Govinden, whom I’ve meant to read for a while, but I’m after something older today. Elizabeth Gaskell, perhaps? Not this time. I decide that I want to read something by Iris Murdoch. There are quite a few, but it no difference from my perspective which I choose; I go for one whose title (pardon the pun) rings a bell.

Book 2: The Bell by Iris Murdoch

(Only later does it occur to me that I may have been thinking of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.) Passing the L section, a silver-spined Penguin Modern Classic catches my eye – The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. It sounds interesting and different, but I decide to put it back on the shelf for now. Instead, I go in search of something specific: I have a review copy of a book called Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine, which is about a graduate who uses Stevenson’s novel as a guide to life; I thought it might be a good idea to read the original first, and am lucky enough to find a copy on the shelf opposite where it should be.

Book 3: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I leave the S section, and move on to T; I keep meaning to read Anne Tyler – maybe next time. I look at the last of the fiction shelves and spot a copy of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We; an influence on Nineteen Eighty-Four, says the back cover. I’ve recently read Orwell’s novel, but I don’t feel like trying Zamyatin’s so soon after. How about something by Émile Zola? Not today. Another idea: Kim at Reading Matters is hosting an Australian Literature Month in January, and I don’t think I have any Australian books on the TBR, so why not borrow one now? At this point, my knowledge of Australian authors conveniently escapes me; I read a David Malouf novel a couple of years ago, but let’s see if I can think of someone else… ah, Peter Carey – I’ve never read him. There are four Carey books on the shelves, and I’d prefer one that’s set in Australia, so it’ll be this:

Book 4: My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey

One slot left, and I think it should be a classic – something by one of the Brontës, perhaps. Wuthering Heights? Another time. None of the books I can see by Charlotte seem good introductory ones, and that’s all there is… until I spy a novel on the shelf below that appears to fit the bill nicely.

Book 5: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

And those are my five books.

Except… I saw one book earlier which I know I’ll forget if I don’t borrow it now, so I go back and get it.

Book 6: The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

Right, that’s definitely it for the library. But then I find a used-book stall in town, and one book there catches my eye. It’s far my usual reading fare, but that’s the whole point of this exercise – and it’s only 50p, and it’ll contribute to the Mixing It Up Challenge, so why not?

Book 7: Arabella by Georgette Heyer


So there are a few more books which will be sprinkled into my reading over the next few weeks.

(This post is also a contribution this week’s Library Loot.)


  1. many thanks for the mention and joining henry green week ,look forward to your view on his work ,all the best stu

  2. I love how one thing always leads to another at the library (and always, always leads to one taking home more books than planned!). I’ve heard wonderful things about Loving so I hope you enjoy that. Agnes Grey is interesting; I found Anne is quite a bit funnier than either of her sisters, which I hadn’t at all anticipated. Being a Heyer fan, I can only applaud your purchase of Arabella and your willingness to try something new. Happy reading!

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