The Lure of the Library 3

One of an occasional series about the books I have borrowed from the library. The winners, the losers and the ones I took back without reading.

Pile of library books borrowed in February 2023

It’s a long time since I last wrote about my library visits. Unusually for me, I’ve been to the library twice in the last month or so to pick up specific books, and I already had a pile of books from before Christmas. Usually I only visit in person when I am forced to return a book because somebody else wants it, or I have to renew in person after the 5-time online renewal limit. Time to show my appreciation of my local library, linking to the #LoveYourLibrary meme hosted by the lovely Rebecca at her Bookish Beck blog.

Borrowed from the library

I am rather horrified to discover that there are still books on the pile that are unread, even though I listed them in my last Lure of the Library post in March last year! That’s what happens when I’m reading something and a new theme or challenge starts up. This is why I have so many half-read books and books that are listed as currently reading on Goodreads. This has not been improved (quite the contrary) since I’ve joined Book Sirens and NetGalley and have e-ARCs to read to a deadline. Ah, well, c’est la vie, as they say.

Library books read and returned

  • I Am Legend (1954), Richard Matheson, trans. into Dutch by F. Lancel. A man has to survive, barricading himself in his house every night. In the Will Smith film version, he is threatened by zombies. I was surprised to discover they were vampires in the original book. Read in April 2022 for the #1954Club. ***
  • De wand (1963), Marlen Haushofer, translated from German into Dutch by Ria van Hengel. Shaun Whiteside’s English translation was heavily publicised last year as it was reissued as a Vintage Classic, so I reserved the Dutch version from my library. It was wonderful! It’s a dystopian version of Heidi or Robinson Crusoe, set in the Austrian Alps. A woman goes to visit a mountain farmhouse and discovers she is enclosed in some sort of time warp. Everything outside the radius of her farm seems to be in suspended animation, visible through a transparent wall, gradually decaying. Her life is restricted to survival and tending to her small menagerie. Read in April 2022. ****
  • Melmoth (2018), Sarah Perry. A translator in Prague is plagued by her past and visions of the threatening female presence, Melmoth. Superb enough for me to write a full review. Read in June 2022. ****
  • Holzer’s Permaculture (2004), Sepp Holzer. This is slated as the original explanation of permaculture methods, but it is aimed firmly at farmers and smallholders rather than gardeners, though there is a section at the end that has some ideas. I had this out for at least a year without reading it, then read it in a weekend because someone else had reserved it. Read in November 2022. ***
  • Mijn ex, de Dood en ik (Sophia, der Tod und ich) (2015), Thees Uhlmann, translated from German to Dutch by Herman Vinckers. Death turns up on the doorstep to take a man, but nothing goes to plan: an ex-girlfriend interrupts to say he has promised to visit his mother, the man’s last wish is visit his young son who lives with his ex-wife and Death wants to know more about life. So they all go on a road trip. Germans definitely have a sense of humour! I read this for German literature month in November 2022. ****
  • Hygge: de deense kunst van het leven (The Little Book of Hygge) by Meik Wiking, translated to Dutch by Barbara Lampe. An entertaining book about how Danish people make their lives all warm and snuggly, cherishing family, friendship, comfort food, hot drinks, natural textures and mood lighting. Beautiful graphics, some poorly-chosen stock photos and he says everything three times, but I lapped it up, sitting wrapped in a blanket, cuddling my cup of tea and a cat. Read in January 2023. ***
  • Een jaar in de tuin van White Stork Farmhouse [A year in the garden of…] by Marijn O’Hanlon was an impulse loan. It’s a diary-based book mostly about birdspotting rather than gardening. It was a disappointment because the author is a townie and always asks her husband, aged explorer and raconteur-cum-naturalist Redmond O’Hanlon, to help identify birds. Even the presence of the stars of the show, the storks on the roof, can’t rescue this book for me. I wanted to hear about the garden. It doesn’t help that Marijn seems completely starstruck by her husband, so frequently reports what he has to say. I’m not sure he’s a completely reliable narrator; he’s a recovering alcoholic, sometimes depressed, frequently withdrawing to his bed or his hideously untidy study. Or he’s out in the garden, digging yet another hole with the sharpest spade in the world; he sharpens it every day. I did finish it and there are a few interesting snippets of information, but is also hampered by the diary format, which sucks all the pace out of the book so you lose the thread of the few ongoing storylines such as the progress of the stork family. The year finishes in February 2022, when many migratory birds were blown off course by terrible storms. By the end of the book, the female stork has not returned and this is left hanging. There needed to be an afterword to tell us if she eventually turned up or was replaced by a younger model. A very frustrating book in very many ways. I haven’t returned this year because just finished reading. Read in February 2023. **

Currently reading / Reserved

No library books being read at the moment as I would like to read some of my own TBR, plus I have a number of NetGalley and Book Sirens e-books lined up. This month my reading theme is supposed to be birds and anything to do with them, including title words such as wing, flight, song, etc. The White Stork Farmhouse book fit the bill there, of course, which is partly why I finished reading it. As I currently have the maximum number of 15 books out, I don’t think I’m allowed to reserve any more, though I have to admit, I haven’t tried.

Pile of library books borrowed in February 2023
The current library pile, February 2023

Borrowed, to be read

The books I have currently borrowed fall into a couple of categories or have stories behind why I borrowed them in the first place.

  • READING THE WORLD. These include the Olga Tokarczuk (Primeval and Other Times) from Poland, which was already on my pile a year ago and is half-read. Jaguarman by Raoul de Jong is a memoir about his father by an author from the former Dutch colony of Suriname. De tuinen van Buitenzorg [The Gardens of Buitenzorg] by Jan Brokken are letters from the author’s mother to her sister about life as a preacher’s wife and survivor of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka won the 1922 Booker Prize, so I snapped it up when I saw it in the English collection. They seem to have twigged there is a British literary fiction fan in town! This is a magical realism story about a Sri Lankan who has seven moons in limbo to reveal an explosive secret.
  • SCANDINAVIAN. Inspired by Annabel’s #NordicFINDS23 challenge, I strapped on my cross-country skis (poetic licence) and headed to the library for a book about Hygge (now read and returned). To my astonishment, there were multiple books about similar themes from various Scandinavian countries,, and some of them seem to have followed me home. Cool by Martin Vos and Gert-Jan Hosper is subtitled ‘What we can learn from the Scandinavians’. Licht op het noorden [Light on the North] by Stine Jensen is by a Dutch-Danish journalist and so will hopefully more insightful than much of the Hygge-ish hype.
  • PAGES MISSING. I had started to read my own copy of Purge by Sofi Oksanen, which I had acquired for free at a BookCrossing book swap meeting, when I discovered that it had been misbound, with one section missing and another duplicated. As I was enjoying it so much, I decided to borrow it from the library, so my free book ended up costing me € 5 for interlibrary loan.
  • GOOD STUFF IN THE ENGLISH SECTION. Living in the Netherlands, in a small town, I should think myself lucky that there are a couple of hundred books in English to choose from. Unfortunately, most of those are thrillers, crime or romance. As I mentioned above, that seems to changing, with literary fiction appearing more often, sometimes from the regional collection, but sometimes in our own collection. It would be rude not to borrow some. Hence I felt compelled to borrow Crusoe’s Daughter by Jane Gardam. Everything Everything by Nicole Yoon simply looked like fun. I’d really like to join the hype and read Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, but I’m hoping this will be the next best thing.
  • BROWSING BLISS. Then there are the books that caught my eye while browsing the shelves. Bernard Quiriny and his Een bizarre bibliotheek [A very peculiar library] has lingered here for months, partially read. I borrowed it to use in an alphabet challenge last year for the letter Q, but finished neither the book nor the challenge.
  • CHRISTMAS MENU PLANNING. At the beginning of December, my daughter, who now lives on her own, said she was interested in simple recipes. This sent me to the vast cookery section of the library. I brought home four vast tomes and neither of us has looked at them since. There are two Jamie Olivers, a Nigella and one about healthy cooking for one. Incidentally, my husband does all the cooking over Christmas, I always cook without recipes and my daughter is too tired at the end of the day to do anything fancy, so these books are 100% aspirational.
  • LIBRARY SALE. As I walked past the tables loaded with books for sale at ridiculously cheap prices, I couldn’t help noticing there was one by my favourite Dutch garden writer, Romke van de Kaa. Verwilderen: laat de plant het werk doen [Naturalising: let the plant do the work] perfectly suits my gardening style. Likewise De wilde tuin [The wild garden] by Hans van Cuijlenborg. Both of these have been added to my permanent collection for the time being.

Returned unread

  • De diamant [The diamond](1954) by Harry Mulisch, one of the Netherlands’ supposed great trio of authors. This was the story of a diamond that has some sort of mystical powers and what happens to it through the ages. I struggled three quarters of the way through the book, then gave up. I only borrowed it for the 1954 Club and I had an excess of riches, though it’s always galling to have to give up on something.
  • Het luizenpaleis (The Flea Palace) (2002) by Elif Shafak. This book was thicker than I was willing to commit to at the time, so I returned it. This January, my book club read Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World and I loved it, so I will definitely be reading more of this author’s work. However, I already bought another two of her books at a library sale last year, so I shall prioritise those.

When I went to pick up that Hygge book, my library was incredibly hyggeligt, so I’m planning to share another blogpost about that in the near future. Happy hyggeligt reading, folks!


8 thoughts on “The Lure of the Library 3”

  1. I would really struggle with a limited English-language selection. (All the more reason to read your own books, right? 😉 ) Nonetheless, it seems that you manage quite well, especially since you read in more than one language. I like your reading theme for the month, too!


    1. It’s amazing how slowly I get through my own books, nevertheless. My monthly reading theme is prompted by a BookCrossing forum thread called The Ultimate Challenge. The person organising it posts a list of 12 themes for the year and I sort my TBR books into the themes at the beginning of January. It’s a good way of reshuffling the books and sometimes nudges me towards reading something that’s been languishing too long.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed going through your list and reviews. Living in rural Japan I rarely if ever visit the library. They have a mini English language book section that consists mostly of off-beat books. They have children’s books in English but that gets old. I order used books online and I often “find” my books by reading reviews- like yours🙂. I have a shelf in my little library with books I’ve purchased and am hoarding… saving… to be read later. It makes me feel better to have a little stash of unread books to browse through.


    1. Of course, it would never do to run out of books! Are public libraries free in Japan? In the Netherlands, they are free up to the age of 17, after which there is a hefty subscription fee (€60). All the more reason to get my money’s worth. But my home library is more than big enough to keep me going for several years without any new input.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi- yes public libraries are free in Japan. Ours is super small. There is a larger one in a neighboring town. Hearing that you must pay a fee makes me think I should go to our library more often- just because I can!


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