Love Your Library, February 2022

We’re now onto the fifth month of the Love Your Library feature. A big thank you to…

  • “The Fab Four of Cley,” who run a Little Free Library in their area. They found last month’s post and gave me a link to a bilingual piece they wrote about a book sale they ran at their local church, with the thousands of books they’d amassed. Heavenly!


  • Margaret of From Pyrenees to Pennines for her lovely account (with photos!) of a visit to the Central Public Library of Valencia.


  • Mary R. of Bibliographic Manifestations for her post on interlibrary loans.

Blogger Laila of Big Reading Life also mentioned ILLs recently. I know some states and provinces are able to offer this service for free. When I lived in Maryland, statewide ILLs were free and I took full advantage of it. It’s how I binged on books by Marcus Borg, Frederick Buechner, Jan Morris, and many others during the year between my Master’s degree and moving back to England permanently. For my thesis research I’d had the University of Leeds’ ILL team get me an obscure Victorian novel on microfiche all the way from Australia. I also cheekily put through a few university ILLs for myself while I worked for King’s College London’s library system. Where I live now in the UK, a public library ILL costs £3 per book, so isn’t worth doing; you might as well find a secondhand copy at that price. I do miss the freedom of knowing that I could borrow (almost) anything I want.


Two funny moments from my recent library volunteering: I found Mrs Dalloway shelved under D, and an M. C. Beaton “Agatha Raisin” mystery shelved under R!


Read from the library recently:

The Jasper & Scruff series by Nicola Colton: Having insisted I don’t like sequels or series … I do sometimes make exceptions, like I did for these early reader books (meant for, I don’t know, maybe ages 7 to 9?). I was drawn by the grey and white cat with a bowtie – that’s Jasper, a dapper fellow who likes the fine things in life and desperately wants to be admitted to the Sophisticats’ club, until he realizes they’re snooty and just plain mean. Whereas Scruff the puppy, though he makes life messy, is loving and fun. I liked the sequels more than the original because they build on each other, bringing back characters from the earlier books for a pirate-themed scavenger hunt, a reality TV-style talent show, and bookshop and diner ventures. There are good lessons about being honest and fair, even if others are cheating to outcompete you, and being yourself instead of putting on airs. I also like the menagerie of mammals: not just dogs and cats, but African megafauna, too.


The Decameron Project: 29 New Stories from the Pandemic (originally published in The New York Times): Creative responses to Covid-19, ranging from the prosaic to the fantastical. I appreciated the mix of authors, some in translation and some closer to genre fiction than lit fic. Standouts were by Victor LaValle (NYC apartment neighbours; magic realism), Colm Tóibín (lockdown prompts a man to consider his compatibility with his boyfriend), Karen Russell (time stops during a bus journey), Rivers Solomon (an abused girl and her imprisoned mother get revenge), Matthew Baker (a feuding grandmother and granddaughter find something to agree on), and John Wray (a relationship starts up during quarantine in Barcelona). The best story of all, though, was by Margaret Atwood.


Allegorizings by Jan Morris: Disparate, somewhat frivolous essays written mostly pre-2009, or in 2013, and kept in trust by her publisher for publication as a posthumous collection, so strangely frozen in time. She was old but not super-old; thinking vaguely about death, but not at death’s door. The organizing principle, that everything can be understood on more than one level and so we must think beyond the literal, is interesting but not particularly applicable to the contents. There are mini travel pieces and pen portraits, but I got more out of the explorations of concepts (maturity, nationalism) and universal experiences (being caught picking one’s nose, sneezing).


The Priory by Dorothy Whipple (read for book club): A cosy between-the-wars story, pleasant to read even though some awful things happen, or nearly happen. Like in Downton Abbey and the Cazalet Chronicles, there’s an upstairs/downstairs setup that’s appealing. It was interesting to watch how my sympathies shifted. The Persephone afterword provides useful information about the Welsh house (where Whipple stayed for a month in 1934) and family that inspired the novel. Whipple is a new author for me and I’m sure the rest of her books would be just as enjoyable, but I would only attempt another if it was significantly shorter than this one.


Borrowed since last month:

My latest university library book haul. Paradise by Toni Morrison is to read with my women’s classics book club subgroup in mid-April. Findings is to reread just because Kathleen Jamie is amazing. The other three are in preparation for the 1954 Club coming up in April.

Do share a link to your own post in the comments, and feel free to use the above image. I’ve co-opted a hashtag that is already popular on Twitter and Instagram: #LoveYourLibrary.

Here’s a reminder of my ideas of what you might choose to post (this list will stay up on the project page):

  • Photos or a list of your latest library book haul
  • An account of a visit to a new-to-you library
  • Full-length or mini reviews of some recent library reads
  • A description of a particular feature of your local library
  • A screenshot of the state of play of your online account
  • An opinion piece about library policies (e.g. Covid procedures or fines amnesties)
  • A write-up of a library event you attended, such as an author reading or book club.

If it’s related to libraries, I want to hear about it!

16 responses

  1. There you go My least favourite entry in The Decameron Project was … the Atwood! ILLs here cost a totally prohibitive £10 …!! As to Love your Library, I’ll try to pop a post up later this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I don’t think you’re an Atwood fan in general, though? I thought she was truest to the brief.

      My goodness, at that rate you’d buy a brand-new copy of the book, wouldn’t you?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know if it’s significantly shorter, but I found Dorothy Whipple’s novel Someone at a Distance brilliant – well-written, sad, brutally honest but also subtle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to have a recommendation of another one of hers, thank you.


    2. P.S. My library does have a copy of this one!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Rebecca,
    thank you very much for mentioning our blog and our free little library. Now we regulary do the book corner in our church which is quite busy and we did a big book sale where we sold books just for a symbolic price.
    There are quite some free little bookshelves around here. Often in old phone boxes and churches.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful! I wish we had more in my area. We’re fundraising to build a Little Free Library box on a local patch of grass.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We wish you good luck for your found raising 🍀


  4. The Priory is her longest, I think, I love a Whipple and you can find reviews of all of them on my blog, although probably my shorter, less useful ones! I think I felt like you about Allegorizings – I was scared there was going to be an upsetting bit so read the last piece first, and found that and the first one really moving, then indeed liked the musings most (not so much the noses, actually). I think I was more excited about it at the time and before I read it than I am now, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought In My Mind’s Eye was a lovely read, but her final two books weren’t really worth reading.


  5. The Decameron Project sounds cool. And now I want to read the Atwood story!
    We have free ILLs here unless the book is from out of province. I use it ALL the time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought Atwood best followed the prompt set by the NYT, and did something fascinatingly original with it. It reminded me of her approach to The Tempest in Hag-Seed.

      I envy your free ILLs! I would take advantage of such a service all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As if there wasn’t already enough to envy Clarissa Dalloway for, now she’s a published author as well. Sheesh. Hee hee


  7. I’ve recently discovered that ILL at my own small town library is free for books within the province of Gelderland and only €3 for books from elsewhere in the country. Even secondhand books are expensive online here, plus P&P, so it’s good value for money. To my shock, the ILL in Nijmegen, our closest city, charges €13 for books from outside our area! On the other hand, our town library rarely buys books in English whereas the city library does. But that would certainly make me think twice before using that service.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Three euros doesn’t sound too bad if that was for accessing a few much-coveted new reads.


  8. […] Bailey (2010). Possibly the Bas Bleu catalogue? In any case, it was one of the books I requested on interlibrary loan during one of our stays with my parents in Maryland. Bailey, bedbound by chronic illness, saw in […]


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