Library Checkout: April 2017

Worst. News. Ever. As of the start of this month, my library system charges 50 pence for each reservation. I can see my library use going downhill quickly. Now that I can’t reserve anything that’s on loan, on order, or at a smaller branch library unless I pay that fee, I’ll largely be limited to what’s on shelf at my local library, including the bestseller shelf (two-week loans; no renewals). I’m lucky this wasn’t introduced until after I’d gotten hold of all the Wellcome Prize shortlist books. It’s probably for the best, as it may force me to read more of the books I actually own (such as all those books we bought in Hay-on-Wye), as well as my dozens of advanced review copies from NetGalley and Edelweiss.

I’ve added in ratings and links to any reviews for books I haven’t already featured on the blog in some way.


  • The Universal Home Doctor by Simon Armitage [poetry] 
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova 
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi [a reread] 
  • The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss 
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami 
  • Jackself by Jacob Polley [poetry] 
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 


  • The Rebecca Rioter: A Story of Killay Life by Amy Dillwyn
  • How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France 
  • Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran 
  • The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee 


  • The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper
  • A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy by Colin Grant
  • Sculptor’s Daughter: A Childhood Memoir by Tove Jansson


  • Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, the Great War by John Lewis-Stempel


  • Ashland & Vine by John Burnside
  • Glad of These Times by Helen Dunmore [poetry]
  • What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
  • The Valentine House by Emma Henderson
  • Human Acts by Han Kang
  • White Tears by Hari Kunzru
  • Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss
  • Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss
  • Gerontius by James Hamilton-Paterson – My husband’s currently reading this one, so it’s not in the photo
  • In the Bonesetter’s Waiting-Room: Travels through Indian Medicine by Aarathi Prasad
  • The Rough Guide to Amsterdam – My husband’s been accepted to speak at a conference in Ghent, Belgium in September; we fancy stopping in Amsterdam on the way. (I’ve never been.)
  • Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift


(By chance I snuck in a few requests at the end of March, before the charge came into effect.)

  • Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life with a Very Large Dog by Lauren Fern Watt


  • Hidden Nature by Alys Fowler
  • Augustown by Kei Miller


  • Outline by Rachel Cusk (I read the first 66 pages but felt no impetus to continue. Her style just doesn’t connect with me.)


  • The Owl at the Window: A Memoir of Loss and Hope by Carl Gorham
  • Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson (both requested by other borrowers)

Hosted by Charleen of It’s a Portable Magic.

Have you been taking advantage of your local libraries? What appeals from my lists?


32 responses

  1. I’m reading Norwegian Wood at the moment and really enjoying it. My first Murakami!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Count yourself lucky. Our reservations cost £1.00. You CAN’T skim-read ‘Where poppies blow’. Sorry.


    1. I’m not very interested in WWI at all, and I’m finding his writing formulaic here in comparison with Meadowland. A few interesting tidbits here and there only. Sorry! I sometimes think that, like you and Penny, you and I don’t share all that many reading tastes. Maybe two or three of my recommendations will hit home in a year, and that’s okay 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually trust quite a lot of your recommendations to work for me, and certainly you’ve encouraged me to look for Meadowland. I’ve always had a bit of a passion for the literature surrounding WWI, whether it’s War Poets, Siegfried Sassoon. and Vera Brittain or whatever. I do think it would be surprising if an American could get fired up in the same way by this particular war, as though of course your forbears were involved, it may not have touched the lives of whole communities in the same way.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh dear! Fingers crossed, our reservations are free for the time being, except if you use the inter-library loan (so a library outside the borough).


    1. My most gleeful library use is when I visit my family in America and use the Maryland ILL service — you can borrow any book from the entire state for free.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carolyn Anthony | Reply

    Some books will be worth the 50 pence. Consider it overhead, an investment in your business. Maybe keep a list for Income Tax.

    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Interesting point. If I ever have to rely on a library copy for a paid review that I’m writing, I could think about reporting it on my taxes. I’ve never made any claims before, and I doubt it would make much of a difference in terms of what I end up paying, but you never know.


  5. Well, who needs books, culture and civilization anyway? Way overrated.
    It’s sooo long since I read any Tove Jansson!


    1. I certainly hope you’re being sarcastic there! I prefer Jansson’s Moomin books to her stories for adults. To my disappointment, most of the chapters in Sculptor’s Daughter already appeared in The Winter Book, which I read some years ago, and they in no way form a memoir.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lol yes. But that’s exactly what you’d think, the way things are going.


  6. Like Margaret we pay £1 and have done for years. I work in our local library and I understand why a charge needs to be made – cuts in funding etc. I consider our £1 charge well worth it especially for new hardback books. I really hope you continue to use your local branch.


    1. I’m sure you’re right about the funding cuts. Most of the West Berkshire branch libraries are going to be staffed by volunteers in the future. Alas, I think I’m more likely to request e-copies of any brand new books I hear about from now on.


      1. The Library I work in is 100% volunteer run.
        In response to another comment you made – believe you me, any local Library welcomes big users. Improves the stats!
        Mind you, you’ll be all the more popular when you start paying your 50ps.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh dear, for such a dedicated user as you, that is a real blow. I was delighted to find, on joining my local library here in Cornwall, that reservations are free! My former library charged £1.30. The library itself is small so selecting from the shelves only would be very limiting. Mothering Sunday and the Sarah Moss titles are already waiting to reach the top of my list. The Otter’s Tale grabbed my attention though. I’m looking forward to hearing more on that one when you’ve finished it.


    1. Wow, £1.30 is the most I’ve ever heard of. I know that objectively 50 p is not that much, but when you multiply it by say 10 books a month, it does get to be quite a lot considering they’re books I can’t keep. Five or so years ago when we used Reading Borough libraries they also introduced a 50 p charge and I secretly wondered if it was a personal vendetta against me because they were sick of me having 10-15 books on the reservation shelf at any one time 🙂

      I’m about 1/3 of the way through Otters’ Tale and enjoying it, though I’m not sure about some of the more anthropomorphizing sections…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I won’t be encouraging you to consider a move to Cornwall then, Rebecca – in case that reservation charge comes with you! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh no, sorry to hear about the fee! Boo!

    I couldn’t finish Outline, either. I just didn’t care enough about what was happening.


    1. I liked individual lines, but didn’t sense enough of a narrative thread to keep me reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Nooo! I mean, $.50 isn’t much, and it’s obviously way cheaper than buying the book, but still… that’s a rough change.


    1. (And just realized I automatically switched to American currency in my head, but you know what I mean.)


      1. 50 pence is about 65 cents. I agree it’s not that much, but if I think to myself that I could pick up a used copy for 50 cents or $1 at a book sale, it starts to feel like less good value…


  10. That’s too bad about the charges for holds. I keep seeing things about libraries in England suffering budget cuts. Makes me angry and sad. Trump’s proposed budget includes cutting out funding for the IMLS, which gives grants to libraries all over the US. 🙁 I hope you’ll still use your library- they could use your circulation!


    1. Yes, England’s libraries have been suffering terribly for years. It’s sad to see such little value being placed on them by government/society. I will definitely continue using the library, but will probably borrow fewer items at a time and reduce my holds to only extremely occasionally.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I work at a small town library in Pennsylvania and never heard of libraries charging for holds or any services related to checking out books (well, except for overdues, of course). It just seems so strange…as for what book appeals from your list, I’m going to say White Lies by Hari Kunzru, just because I like the sound of the author’s name. It intrigues me. : )


    1. I don’t think I had ever encountered library fees (apart from overdue fines) until I moved to the UK. Although maybe it is common for all libraries to charge for DVD rentals?

      I have never read anything by Hari Kunzru, so I don’t really know what to expect, but this was on the New Books display and caught my interest. I’ll report back, perhaps in next month’s Library Checkout, about how it was 🙂


      1. Oh, true, some libraries here due charge for DVDs.


  12. Hello, so pleased to find your blog via your Instagram, love how organised you are about your reading. I borrow lots of books from my local library here in Buckinghamshire, it costs 50p to reserve a book but £3.00 if outside the Bucks Country network. So I think twice about the £3. I can get a bit carried away too with 50p reservations so am trying to rein myself in. Still a billy bargain compared to buying a book. I would like to read the Graham Swift book, have not read him for years since Waterland.


    1. Hi there! I think those are exactly the same as the charges in West Berkshire. It’s all relative, isn’t it? — just 50p is enough to make me think twice about whether I really need to order a book!


  13. What a weird policy! Ugh, such a bummer. But, yes, I’ll bet you’ll read more of what you have on your shelves at home. I guess that’s the silver lining…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. buriedinprint | Reply

    We don’t have such a fee, but I have heard mention of it being instituted here (when that sort of city leadership is sitting) and it makes me very nervous because I really very heavily on other branches. There are 99 branches but I’ve only visited 32 (you just inspired me to count them), although if they instituted that fee I’d probably have visited more of them. However, I do try to visit some of my favourites which are quite a distance away throughout the year as well, once or twice, and that makes for some lovely browsing discoveries (mostly I rely on lists and requests rather than browsing). Browsing does mean many more backlisted titles but that’s been suffering in recent years for me anyway, because I get caught up in review copies and neglect older reads, so maybe you’ll find other ways of reading that will become more appealing to you now that reservations have a fee attached? Sympathies!


    1. Wow, 99 branches! That is a huge library system. There are just nine in mine. I don’t drive over here, so I’d find it difficult to get to some of the smaller branches. One is in a town we visit fairly often, and I’m lucky in that we live within walking distance of the flagship library.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: