My sister asked me a question the other day that I realized I hadn’t exactly worked into my FAQs, and I think a few other people have put this to me in one way or another since I began collecting books for the library, which is this: am I going to kick any books out of the library? And the answer is, absolutely. I mean, probably.
Which means that, if I collect a book I haven’t read yet, and I read it and it’s junk, I will absolutely boot it out of the collection. So far, though, I haven’t had to do that. Everything I’ve read since beginning the library has been up to par with the standard I’ve set in my brain for excellence. But, if the time comes when a book that seemed enchanting from the outside turned out to be, well, junk, I will not keep it in the library.
For the most part, I’ve tried to mention what I’ve been reading as I’ve gone along, but here’s a roundup of what I’ve read since starting out. Everyone so far gets to stay!
Sassafras Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange (the whole reason I started the blog, of course it stays!)
Elders and Betters by Ivy Compton-Burnett (Ivy’s a weirdo and I respect weirdos)
Yonnondio From the Thirties by Tillie Olsen (Olsen is a genius and this book broke my heart)
The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford (what a strange book, but a skilled writer wrote it)
I Heard The Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven (a product of its time, but a sweet book nonetheless)
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter (I will never not love Angela Carter)
Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers (same)
Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Dandicat (well this was just amazing)
Two Old Women by Velma Wallis (I should write a separate blog post about my thoughts on this book)
Corregidora by Gayl Jones (brutal but amazing)
Passing by Nella Larsen (one of my faves)
Latecomers by Anita Brookner (a writer I’m glad I gave a second chance to)
Kindred by Octavia Butler (I don’t even need to tell you)
If and when we come to a bump in the road where I need to kick a book or two to the curb, I will make mention of it!
So, in the course of this project, I’ve developed a habit of collecting books by an author before I’ve technically determined if she’s any good or not. For example, I’ve got at least three Rumer Godden books (maybe four – I need to check the spreadsheet), and I’ve read nary a one.
The best I’ve done is watch the film Black Narcissus on Turner Classic Movies, which is based on one of her books and stars Deborah Kerr as a nun. I probably shouldn’t have bought books 2 and 3 (and maybe 4) without reading the first one, but – oh well.
I bring this up because one of the authors that I began to collect before vetting was an author named Mildred Walker. I found Winter Wheat at the Friends of the Montgomery County Library a year or two ago, surprised to find a book by a female American West writer of the 40s that I was unfamiliar with.
Then, I found another of her books in Alaska called Fireweed. I was tickled since there was so much fireweed in bloom in Denali at the time, so I bought it, even though I hadn’t gotten around to reading Winter Wheat yet. I figured it wasn’t too much of an investment in the long run if it turned out she stunk.
Well, I just got around to starting Fireweed this week, having never cracked Winter Wheat. As I flipped through the introduction, the words “graduated from Wells College in Aurora, NY” caught my eye. Y’all, she’s an alum of my college. For those of you who went to normal colleges with lots of famous and non-famous alums, please understand that I went to a tiny private women’s college with like 80 women in my graduating class, so running into any alums, famous or not, is a big deal!
Needless to say, regardless of how Fireweed turns out, Mildred Walker is probably not getting kicked out of the library…