Elizabeth: How Does It Hold Up?

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, we recently went through a “Marie Kondo-ish” exercise at work.  According to the posters on the bulletin board, shredding unnecessary paperwork and clearing the detritus off our desktops was all we needed to do to be happier, more productive, calmer little worker bees.

Uh, sure.  Right.

I’m fairly tidy, so the exercise was a moot point for me, but some co-workers managed to shed an amazing quantity of stuff.  So much that it was hard to imagine how they had fit it all in their tiny cubes and offices to begin with.  The jury is still out on whether they are indeed happier, more productive, and calmer.

We have a number of Marie Kondo followers at work who have gone through their homes asking “does this bring me joy” for each item there and ruthlessly weeding out anything that doesn’t generate an immediate “yes” answer.  They seem happy and the thrift stores that get all of their donations are no doubt happy as well, so it’s a win for everyone.

When one friend told me she was turning her sights on her bookshelves however, I gasped in horror.

Get rid of books?

Who does that?

Her excuse explanation was that she did most of her reading electronically and was eventually going to be moving and didn’t want to have to schlep books from place to place.  I guess I can see her point.  I remember moving at some point during my college years in a pick-up truck that had a some clothes, some kitchen items, a rocking chair, and boxes and boxes and boxes of books. As you may have guessed, the answer to “does this bring me joy” for books has always been a resounding “yes”.

I have a wide range of books in my home library – from things I read back in high-school English class to current fiction novels to random reference books – I’m never at a loss for something to read.  Many of the books were favorites years ago, like the set of books by Phyllis Whitney, and I’ve kept them thinking I’d like to read them again some day.

That brings me to the actual point of this post.

The other day, a friend mentioned how disappointing it was when he re-read a favorite series and found it sadly lacking.

“the pontificating seems incredibly old-man-yelling-at-a-cloud and the homophobia is just horrifying”

I have to wonder if I’d find re-reading some of my old favorites equally disappointing.  I know I hit that problem with some romances from a few decades back that read as too rapey in this day and age, and I’m a big fan of Amanda Quick, but there are a few of her earlier Regency titles that veer a little to close to that “you said ‘no’ but I know you meant ‘yes'” line to re-read again, though in some cases it’s limited enough that I can skip/ignore those bits when I re-read.

Other books, I’m not so sure about.  I wonder about those old Phyllis Whitney stories that I loved way back when.  Would they hold up or would I wonder at what my younger-self ever saw in them?  I suppose I could re-read one of them just to check, but I’d be quite disappointed to find it lacking.  Perhaps I’ll just hold onto my fond memories and leave the books up there on the shelf.

So, how about you?  Have you re-read any favorite books that didn’t stand the test of time?  If so, what was it that didn’t work for you?


11 thoughts on “Elizabeth: How Does It Hold Up?

  1. A few years ago we decided to decorate the house from top to bottom. That meant packaging up all our books and moving them around as the decorators migrated from room to room. It was a mammoth task, so we looked at every one before we boxed it up and if we decided we’d never read it again, we gave it to the charity shop. We got rid of more than 800 books and had to split them over two charities when the first one asked us not to bring any more 😉 I can honestly say I haven’t missed any of them. I reckon another cull would probably bring similar benefits.

    A while ago I had the reading blues, and decided to re-visit a contemporary romance author I’d found warm and witty back in the day. I have about a dozen of her books on my keeper shelf and picked one I’d especially liked. It was the worst disappointment, right up there with old-man-yelling and homophobia. The hero was an asshat, the heroine was a cliche, the community a stereotype, and the plot was clunky and embarrassing beyond words. I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever enjoyed it. I still have the books, but I’m not planning to repeat the experiment. Better to enjoy my memories of good reads past 😉

    • Wow – 800 books! That’s some definite culling. I’m sure I probably have a lot of books that I too could get rid of without missing them, but I haven’t been motivated to do so yet. Also, hearing your experience with revisiting an old story – I think maybe I’ll pass on that . . . at least until I run out of new books to read (which is likely to be never).

  2. Like you, I loved Phyllis Whitney back i the day. When I took my first novel-writing class,one of the exercises was to write a chapter by chapter outline of a favorite book, and I chose The Trembling Hills. I still liked it (not sure I would now, post-Jenny, but that’s another question for another day) but it made me realize how very much alike all her books were. I still have a few on my shelves, but if I have to do another cull, I’m not sure I’d keep them.

    • Yes, those books were very much alike. Fortunately, at the time, it didn’t bother me at all. Now, after the McDaniel program, it probably would.

  3. I was introduced to historical romance by being gifted some Julie Garwood books by my grandmother (The Bride was my first). A few years ago, I picked it up again, and after about 50 pages, I wanted to throw it against the wall. The conversation was inane, the plot slow as cold maple syrup, and the constant “misunderstandings” drove me nuts. I’ll always regard it as one of my favorite romances, if only for sentimental reasons, but yesterday’s keepers are no longer today’s keepers. Which my husband was very grateful to hear, as we’re renovating our kitchen and family room, taking out a bar area and replacing it with a floor-to-ceiling/wall-to-wall bookcase. Hubs didn’t want the bookcase to be “littered” (his words) with a bunch of romance novels (I did point out to him that romance is what I write, but he seemed unfazed). It will be, but just a shelf or two. Most of what I have now are research books. And a big TBR pile, but that will go slowly over time.

    As we pack up our kitchen/first floor (we’re also doing new tile on the first floor, including my office) in preparation for the renovation, I’m being very ruthless about getting rid of most things, but books are something I approach with a little less fervor. For me, it doesn’t have to spark joy, just interest. If I’m interested in reading it, it stays.

    • “Misunderstandings” generally drive me nuts. When I find myself shouting, “just TALK to each other”, I know it’s time to put the book down and walk away.

      • “Misunderstandings” are the worst plot device in regular use, in this reader’s opinion, especially when the author drags it out for ages. “I saw him holding her hand and so I knew he’d betrayed me so naturally I did the only possible thing by running away to another city and refusing to even look at the notes he sent me.”

  4. I’m doing a clutter-clearing myself, not the Marie Kondo thing, but I do occasionally ask myself if the item I’m debating getting rid of gives me joy. I’m doing a one-thing-a-day method so at the end of the year this house will have 365 fewer things in it. Of course, sometimes, one of the things is a trash bag of old sweatshirts. And I’m in total agreement on the books, except for cookbooks.

    I do re-read old stories that I liked. And I can get around the rapey scenes most of the time as long as the copyright is, say, pre 1985. In romance fiction, it still wasn’t okay for a woman to want sex prior to about that time (IMO). There is an old Jennifer Blake that I haven’t re-read in a while but I keep meaning to because it is written in third person but strictly in the heroine’s head. I recall that Blake was a master at portraying other characters’ emotions through actions and words in such a way so that it wasn’t clear to the heroine but gave the reader a hint to the motivations of the other characters. It’s called Royal Seduction which is a royal misnomer as many Amazon reviewers point out. I’ll have to dig it out of my stash of books and try it again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  5. Getting rid of books?? Are we burning the Library of Alexandria again????

    That’s my gut reaction. But the thing is, the Library of Alexandria didn’t have three copies of the same Grisham novel (I get a lot of my books from expats moving away and needing to get rid of books . . . and to be honest, I haven’t been tempted to even touch Grisham, so all three copies have been unread).

    My dream was to start up a lending library so people wouldn’t have to buy and bring over more of the same ol’, same ol’. But, the logistics are beyond my time and space limits. I don’t even have time to put them all online, let alone mail them out or meet up with people.

    My new dream is to have a whole two walls of “insulation” (bookcases stuffed with books) for next winter. But honestly, I should probably toss them. Real insulation would be thinner and more effective. (But . . . but . . . but . . . someone wrote those books, and someone found them worthy of publishing . . . !)

    • I can relate, Michaeline and I love the idea of insulation by book. I have a whole room that is insulated in just that way. As for your Grisham-ish problem, maybe you could just move to a only-one-copy-of-a-title solution. That way, should you ever wake up one morning and think, “Wow, I’d really love to read that Grisham book”, you’d still have it.

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