I have recently stopped buying books. Not because I don’t want to buy them or I’m somehow bored – how can you be bored of books?! No, but the reason is unfortunately just as mundane. I spend too much on them and I’m running out of space. And I’ll be in trouble with my better half if I cram anything else into the bookcase.
Ah, maybe one day I’ll afford a library and have the space to resume buying books. Lots of them.
On a serious note, I love my book collection. It’s stimuli when I need it. If I’m out of ideas, I pick up a book. Many of my books are for reference. I have a little fiction (Bernard Cornwell, Julian Stockwin, Terry Pratchett and so on) but the rest of it is slightly heavier reading. My collection is housed in a 6ft x 3ft solid wood bookcase. People keep saying to me, why are you buying books, it’s the 21st century, get a Kindle, buy ebooks.
There’s a reason that book shops can still be found on the high street – people love physical books. The feel of them. The smell. The look of the text on the page. Book shops are doing well for the moment at least, though bigger stores like Waterstones have been under fire for threatening smaller, independent stores.
I have a few books that I return to time after time. They are my favourites out of a bookcase of books I enjoy, for different reasons. I’ll give my reasons for liking them too. Here they are, in no particular order:
The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth
What is it about The Wake that keeps me going back for more? Well, the way it’s written for a start. You’ll struggle to read The Wake if you just pick it up and throw yourself in. It is written in a fusion of modern and Old English, a language that doesn’t exist but conveys the feeling of the time, almost transports you back to the period in which the main character in the book, Buccmaster of Holland, is living. Author, Paul Kingsnorth, describes it as a ‘shadow tongue’. It works. If you’re interested in 1066 and the time thereafter when the Normans attempted to tighten their grip on England in the face of an English resistance in the fens, then this book is for you.
Spellcraft - Old English Heroic Legends by Kathleen Herbert
Spellcraft is a collection of Old English legends with an account of their sources. You’ll find such gems as The Story of Heoden and Hild, a popular story of a doomed relationship; and The Harper and the River Elf, the story of Beowulf’s young kinsman Wiglaf. Kathleen Herbert was a student of JRR Tolkien and it was through Tolkien that her love of language and history was formed.
Possibly a little hard to get hold of today, as this was published back in 1993 with a 1996 reprint – it is occasionally stocked here.
Kydd, by Julian Stockwin
I first read Kydd around 2007 and was captivated. It was a chance purchase, I was looking for something new to read, had a look at the back cover and thought ‘why not?’. Kydd tells the story of a young man pressed into service on a British ship in 1793. Thomas Kydd was a wig maker from Guildford, but an encounter with a press gang was to change his life forever. This is the first in a series of which I’ve got maybe half of. Julian Stockwin is prolific. I need to buy the rest. Kydd really is a book to get lost in. I’ll warn you, you’ll want more.
You can purchase Julian Stockwin’s Kydd here for £9.99.
Early Middle English Verse and Prose, by J A W Bennett, Oxford University Press
This book is something else. It’s complex and I am far from an expert in Early Middle English, but it’s through my lack of knowledge that I find the language most fascinating.
How can you not be entranced by ‘Som-what with better chere. When he fell in thout and care, Sche comforth hym euer mor, Hys sorow for-to stere.’
The book is quite rare, I discovered it by chance at a mobile book store some years ago. It is a compilation of poems. J A W Bennett was one of the Inklings, the Oxford University literary group that CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were also members of.
More What If, by Robert Cowley
Imagine if things hadn’t panned out the way that they did.. if a battle was won by the other side. How would it (potentially) change history and how would we be living now? Would we speak a different language? Would the world have taken a drastically different path? This is a fascinating book looking at alternate history. Maybe, somewhere in another dimension, people are living in a world where Nazi Germany triumphed in World War II, or where King Harold Godwinsson succeeded in repelling William the Bastard in 1066?
If you’ve bought one of these books, or already own one, drop me a comment, I’d love to know your thoughts. Also, are you a keen reader? Is buying books your thing too? What books would you recommend and why?