The Books I Miss

Have you ever owned a book but then lost it? Or given away a series because you were tired of it at the time but then regretted that decision for years afterwards?

That’s what this post is about: the books I once owned but still think about.

Why? Why Would I Get Rid of Books??!!!??

I only get rid of a book because I’ve run out of space.

Physical books are pretty substantial items, and I do not have infinite space to store them. Some of these books went to friends, some of them went to Powell’s book buyers. I mean, it’s quite likely I would have kept even the books I did not care for if I had had unlimited shelf space but sometimes the one particle board bookcase is full and there are new volumes in continuing series to fit on there. Space must be made!

Sometimes I will discard a book because I don’t really like it very much. This reason captures why I no longer have many literary works such as Finnegan’s Wake, Wuthering Heights, or The Return of the Native. I never got very far with the Joyce but read the other two. They were worth reading but did not engage me that deeply.

Then there are other books that fell by the wayside because I made too fast a decision which I have regretted ever since.

The Regrets

These are in the order I thought of them rather than any meaningful sequence.

  • Greg Egan – a writer of hard science fiction, rigorous and compelling. I had two of his books and I still don’t understand why I got rid of either of them.
    • Diaspora – humanity mostly lives in virtual environments, but Earth can still be threatened by large enough stellar events. Epic scale story of interstellar and interdimensional exploration.
    • Axiomatic – an anthology of short stories mostly themed around personality backups and how their introduction would change society.
  • Spellsinger (Alan Dean Foster) – a story about a college student and part-time janitor who is summoned to another world by a wizard who also happens to be a tortoise. There were five books in the original series and they were a lot of run. I think I gave these away because they were too derivative to be worth keeping, but I miss the raw entertainment value.
  • The Lords of Dûs – a member of an outcast race, the Overmen, travels the civilized world seeking fame, fighting old gods and awakening new ones. It’s a plo coupon fantasy series, but still one I think about a lot.
  • Ayuamarca: Procession of the Dead – first book in a trilogy which I never collected the rest of, it’s a dense and initially confusing read. I tend to put this mentally in the same bucket as Jeff Noon’s Vurt, but that’s mostly because of the dream-like quality of some of the sequences.
  • Sheri S Tepper – Blood Heritage and The Bones. I still have Tepper’s The True Game, but these two books are bone-shuddering horror. I’ve got rid of a lot of horror novels over time because I lost interest in most of it but these still haunt me.
  • The Star Fraction, Ken Macleod – back in the early days of my Iain Banks collecting I started collecting Ken Macleod books too. He and Banks knew each other and I liked the idea of reading more books from that literary constellation. This is one I moved on because I had read it, but I would like to read it again.
  • William Gibson – The Difference Engine, Virtual Light, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Idoru. Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy are formative books for me and I still have those, but I always felt like Virtual Light and its sequels were not quite futuristic enough to be interesting. The Difference Engine is rather splendid and I regret losing that one.
  • Darwin’s Radio (Greg Bear) – I don’t like all of Greg bear’s books, but I regret selling on Darwin’s Radio. It’s a story about the next step in human evolution and it has lots of interesting ideas about the co-existence of multiple human ancestors.
  • Dune, Frank Herbert – I got rid of Dune! Aargh! I don’t especially regret getting rid of the five sequels that I had since they were mostly unreadable, but Dune… well.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat, Harry Harrison – another one where I wonder what on this green Earth I was thinking, but I had read it and all its sequels several times so I think I was just bored of them. I’d like them back now, though.

Are there any books you’ve given away which you regret no longer having?

One Reply to “The Books I Miss”

  1. Stevie says:

    I *never* get rid of books (which is why our house has furniture made of piles of books with a blanket thrown over them to disguise the provenance of the laz-e-boy) but when I was renting in the pre Mrs Stevie days (pause while music swells along with tears) my landlord complained so I gave away my entire collection of Thieves World paperbacks. I’d enjoy re-reading the first one, maybe.

    I really *should* get rid of some of mine and convert my “buy and collect” mentality into a “borrow from library” one. Dresden Files, That whole Anita wotsit series that held such promise but went lame in book two, all the Patricia Cornwell books, The Kinsey Milhone alphabet saga I started reading in 1994 but now can’t stand.

    But I get the shakes when I go to start bundling. Crikey, I still have all but one of my College Chemistry texts in a trunk downstairs, and they date from the mid seventies. Heck, I have my tech college Math books which I wouldn’t open short of being forced to at gunpoint.

    Of course, the math doesn’t work any more because it was the sort we had before Unix. Everyone knows the world changed when Unix was published, which is why young SAs are so snotty around here. 8o)

    The thing is that all my older books (hundreds of them) have memories attached I don’t want to lose. The sight of my silver covered Corgi editions of the Ray Bradburys that I got over the course of my 17th year from a long-gone bookshop in Coventry conjure the sounds of the radio, the weather and the smell of old books.

    The NEL Edgar Rice Burroughs “Mars” stories that I bought from a wholesale outlet one hot, dry summer having walked into town to save the bus fare. My skin feels dusty and sweaty when I look at them.

    The Dangerous Visions paperbacks I searched the stalls in Coventry Market for after I graduated but was still out of work. The small of apples is with me as I type, as is the buzz of the market at work.

    The boxed Hawkmoon set I found in a Norwich bookseller during my first lonely year as an undergrad at UEA one dark winter’s Saturday. I can feel the load of the carrier bags full of groceries from Sainsbury’s and Craske’s the pork butcher cutting into my hands. I found the books in a corner in a cellar devoted to SF.

    The American editions of Niven and Zelazny I got at Andromeda in Birmingham.

    Nope, couldn’t sell them if I wanted to.

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