Missing Books

You run your fingers along the spines of your shelf where you book should be and find – the book has gone. It’s a gone book. Somewhere there is a library of lost books, perhaps in the same street as the laundrette for single socks; opposite the museum of lost contact lenses; and the newspaper reporting on people who lost their hearts.

All those books, where are all those books? How have they come to be gone?

Not on the shelves

221 Well of LThe Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall. Writing a post about banned books I went to my shelves of novels, to look for the green spine of my copy of the Virago classic. I read the book I am sure in the ‘70s. But it was missing, although a friend was able to lay her hands on her copy when I mentioned this a few days later. Perhaps I only borrowed it. It’s a book I should have on my shelves, a classic. What else is not on my shelves?

Gone from the library

Virginia Woolf in Manhattan by Maggie Gee. I wanted to read this book because of the title. I like the idea of a novel about a novelist, and especially of one as revolutionary as Virginia Woolf. I reserved it from my local branch of the county library. A week later I received this email.

Dear Ms Lodge,

I’m sorry but the copy of

Gee, M Virginia Woolf in Manhattan

Which you requested is missing. As this is the only copy on the catalogue I have had to delete your request.

Unforgiveable, a library user in Devon has failed to return the service’s only copy of Virginia Woolf in Manhattan. Check your shelves Devon readers!

Not in the shops

24 Sussex, Ottawa

24 Sussex, Ottawa

What are you Reading Mr Harper? by Yann Martel. I posted about this book a couple of weeks ago. I planned the post after reading of the fall of Mr Harper and his Conservative government in the Canadian General Election. But the book was not available from my usual sources. In the end I went to the subsidiaries of a well-known on-line company that sell second hand books. My copy arrived from Switzerland. An international affair. And what has happened to all the books that Yann Martel sent Mr Harper, more than a hundred of them. Have they gone back to Calgary with Mr Harper? Or are they in cardboard boxes in the cellars of 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa?

Lent but not returned.

And then there is the category of books that go missing because they were lent to a person posing as a friend who never returned them. Is that what happened to The Well of Loneliness? Annecdotalist mused on this topic on her blog in November in a post called Never let me go: the dilemma of lending books. She lent Never Let Me Go and, yes, it has not returned. She writes movingly about the betrayal of trust, the damage to a relationship if the book is not returned. And has a word or two for those people who don’t ever buy books.

Not exactly given away

193 Bees coverThe Bees by Laline Paull. This is a new category, discovered when my book group was deciding what to read in 2016. My daughter revealed that she had my copy and overheard to say ‘it’s mine now.’ Not so much given away or lent as adopted, taken over. I need to check her shelves of course.



About missing

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. In this book it is people that are missing, a sister and a friend. And Maud is losing some of her marbles as dementia progresses. It’s a very successful debut novel, that treats an older woman with great respect. I reviewed it in the series on older women in fiction on this blog.

Not yet written

In my half century of writing I have imagined so many novels and written so few. I began a few. There was the as-yet-untitled saga of a large family who lived in a lighthouse in Brittany. And there was the adult feminist novel featuring Megan and her struggles in a life of discrimination against women. And not even started, the memoirs of a book obsessed reader.

Not yet finished

And then there is the novel I have drafted, but need to produce a second draft. And while I am not revising the first draft I am writing, with two others, a book on ageing. This book is scheduled to go to the publisher in March and then I can return to the novel.

With all these missing books, it’s fortunate that I have a tbr pile that extends for two feet along my shelves and continues as a file of scraps of paper waiting to be obtained from the shops or the library (or perhaps by underhand methods). On with the reading.

Explore the wonderful website: Library of Lost Books

Any books gone missing in your life?

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Filed under Books, Libraries, My novel, Publishing our book, Reading, Virginia Woolf

15 Responses to Missing Books

  1. I identify with so much of this but could add another category which is books that I have either misplaced or forgotten where I decided to place them in the first place. I am terrible at ‘knowing’ exactly where in my collection a book should be, failing to find it, acquiring another copy only then to find the original one in a corner of my library where I would never have thought to look. What made me put it there in the first place? I suppose if I knew the answer to that I would never have ‘lost’ it in the first place.

    • Caroline

      Hi Alex, when my father lost things he would shout, ‘Who’s got my oh there it is.’I know what you mean about not knowing where a book is, although all my fiction is one place nowadays. I too sometimes acquire second copies of things but usually because I think I would like to read it and forgot I already bought it!
      Your comments make me think you must have a rather scrummy collection of books.
      Thanks for your addition to my lost books

  2. Eileen

    Hello – Happy Boxing Day. The good thing about this time of the year is that the pile of new books grows and during the next ten days some will be read. And I got a really interesting one to write in. It is called 642 TINY things to write about. It includes Tweet The Story of your Life (140) characters. That’s a good one for me to start on in preparation for my Inkings course in January – Writing Your Self is its snappy sub-heading and it’s Advanced – I was reliable informed that this means I did a previous Inklings course not that my writing would be Advanced. How do you know if your writing is Advanced?
    So new books means that old books are more likely to get lost – except on the iPad and other electronic devices of course. That’s one advantage.

    • Caroline

      And to you dear friend and advanced writer. Anna tells me I’m difficult to get books for. She chose a great one, however, natural history based around a village in Norfolk.
      You’ll need to practice the story of your lfe in 140 characters. You’ve done so much. Perhaps older people should be allowed 2 tweets?

  3. Great article, Caroline, with all the essential ingredients: mystery, horror, humour, drama, romance (I love that one too!)
    It’s great to see the inclusion of books that are missing (if that’s not an oxymoron) as they are not yet written. I wish you success in weaving your magic with those words. Best wishes for 2016!

  4. Wicked thought: not such a problem for a Kindle devotee (except when the Kindle goes missing, of course).
    I was near to tears when my old original Kindle died, and overjoyed to learn that all the books on it moved magically to the new one.

  5. Marianne Coleman

    I think I have another category; books that I made a mental note to read and then forgot. A physical note is obviously required, so keeping an actual list will be one of my New Year’s resolutions, but will I keep it?

    • Caroline

      Thanks for that new category. I suggest you write down your resolution now, by the way, Marianne! Hope it goes well, keeping that one!

  6. This is wonderful, all those missing books! I have sometimes gone to my bookshelves to discover a book gone missing. Sometimes it turns up, sometimes it does not and I remain forever baffled as to where it could have gone to.

  7. Hi, Caroline, and thanks for linking to my post.I’d never have imagined there were so many ways for books to go missing. But as to the unwritten novels, I think it’s a requirement of writers to have far more ideas than we can use.

    • Caroline

      Hi Anne,
      I so agree about the ideas outnumbering the possibilities for use. There is an island of book ideas somewhere I suspect.

  8. Pingback: Life — A “choose your own” adventure? | Norah Colvin

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