Books and the pursuit of the new

I thought my blog was getting a little tired. And then I noticed that it was me that was getting a little tired of the blog. But I can see that the blogger who is tired of blogging is tired of … Later, it occurred to me that what I am actually tired of is the relentless pursuit of the new book. 

So here’s a slight rant and a resolution.

The Pursuit of the New

Early this year I wrote a post called Six ways to choose books to read. You can link to it here. I stand by these sources, but I have come to see that I might be unnecessarily chasing too many new books. Many of my ideas for books to read and comment on come from those who are obviously going to promote the new:

  • Publishers
  • Prizes
  • Reviews in newspapers
  • Bookshops
  • Lists of bestsellers.

For example, I look at the list in the Guardian Review of the bestsellers of 2018 called Chart of the Year. I amuse myself with the table. 27% of books in the chart are by women The #1 seller is one of those: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine  by Gail Honeyman. I have only read three of the books on that magic 100 chart. And the feeling that I might be missing something was itself disappearing.

Then I listened to some comments from a group of travellers who expressed their opinion of much new fiction: “tosh”. I removed several novels from my tbr pile. And it felt good.

The enjoyment of the established

Elizabeth Bowen

And then I found myself doing the following

  • rereading some books
  • reading unread books by familiar authors, published some time ago
  • enjoying the blog’s Decades Project of children’s classics from 1900 
  • agreeing with the editors of the excellent Slightly Foxed periodical about the attractions of books published some time ago
  • enjoying perusing Persephone Books lists
  • Visiting second-hand bookshops
The Second Self

One bookshop I have been keen to visit is The Second Selfin Soho, London, specialising in early editions of women’s writing. I spent a very happy hour there recently and a lot of money. I was shown Jane Austen’s best friend’s copy of Sense and Sensibility. Very foxed, very beautifully bound in three leather volumes and very pricey of course.

My haul from The Second Shelf


Muriel Spark

So here’s my resolution. I am going to read more Muriel Spark, some Henry James, Elizabeth Bowen, some classics, Sanditon by Jane Austen, The Juniper Tree  by Barbara Comyns and as few new titles as the whim takes me. And of course, more children’s literature from the twentieth century. And you can expect to read more of the old on this blog.

Happy reading.


Filed under Books, Books for children, Elizabeth Bowen, Reading, Reviews, The Decade project

15 Responses to Books and the pursuit of the new

  1. Marianne Coleman

    Hi Caroline will that mean re-reading books you read some time ago, or are these ‘old’ books new to you?

    • Caroline

      Hi Marianne,
      both: some rereading, some new reading of books that have been around for some time. And I’ll read new books as long as they are recommended by people I trust.
      Caroline xx

  2. Absolutely in agreement. Most of the “new” books I read are translated or quirky or reprints of old books. Chasing the latest bestsellere really doesn’t appeal as I tend to agree with the word “tosh” being applied to them. Can’t go wrong with Spark and Bowen. And yes – isn’t The Second Shelf lovely????

    • Caroline

      I read your post about your visit and realised that we had done some of the same route, but I was a day ahead of you.
      I enjoyed my visit to The Second Shelf, not least because there was some wonderful live singing going on. And I got some interesting books.
      And I felt a sense of achievement to have found it in that delightful court.
      I feel quite relieved to be have given up the pursuit of the new.

  3. Janet Emson

    You are in tune with me. I’ve decided I’m missing out on many great older books. To remedy that I’m having a Persephone month and I’m starting to read books I’ve had on my TBR for quite a while. I’m sure I’ll read some newer titles too but I don’t feel like I’ll be missing out if I don’t keep up with the latest publications. I hope you enjoy your older books

    • Caroline

      Thanks Janet. A Persephone month is a great idea. Others have had a Virago Women’s Classics month in the same way.
      I am already enjoying my decisions about giving up the focus on the new. It has been quite liberating and you will see the outcomes on the blog very soon.
      Please comment again when you feel moved to.

  4. I completely understand. I’ve started reading fewer new releases and more by theme etc. And it’s wonderful! Have to visit Second Shelf!

    • Caroline

      I like the idea of reading by theme. My Decades Project does that, to some extent: at the moment its a month by month look at children’s classics since 1900. But I might think about different ways of following a theme as well. Thanks for the idea.
      And for your comments.
      Enjoy The Second Shelf.

  5. Hooray. As someone who reads some new books, but mainly older books I think you will benefit greatly from this resolution. Elizabeth Bowen is a writer I particularly love. So glad you enjoyed the Second Shelf.

  6. Sounds great! You can’t go wrong with Muriel Spark and Barbara Comyns, so the resolution is off to a great start.

    • Caroline

      You are right. I have The Juniper Tree ready and will consider my next Sparl over the next few weeks.
      Thanks for the comment

  7. I agree with the comments above. I rarely buy or read newly published books – except for those by a few favoured authors (some of whom have died now anyway, like Philip Roth). You’ll enjoy Harriet Hume – I read it last summer as a companion to May Sinclair’s The Life and Death of Harriett Frean. One could probably read nothing else but the back catalogue of VMC, Penguin Classics, etc., and not miss too much.

  8. Anne Hercock

    Agree. My current established but neglected author is Daphne du Maurier. Recently enjoyed Delafield and Pym.

    • Caroline

      I’m not sure I agree that Daphne du Maurier is exactly neglected. Perhaps I just follow the people who like her work? I see a lot about her on Twitter.
      But the other two are among those I plan to read more of. And have already reviewed some of their fiction on this blog.
      Thanks for the comments. Do revisit the blog in future.


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