07 August, 2009


I was reading a post on Good Finking earlier about choosing books, and I got to wondering why I'd never really mentioned my book collecting thing on here. It's weird that I haven't, because books have been a really huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I had a bookcase earlier than I can even remember getting it, and it was filled with picture books and comics at the bottom, and Enid Blytons and Roald Dahls on the top two shelves. I practically existed on a diet of Blyton for the first five years of my reading life. My mother would read me a short story every night before I went to bed (thanks, Mom!) and the first story I ever read by myself was a Blyton story called "Colin is a good policeman". Sigh. Those were good days.

It's come to my attention since then that Enid Blyton really didn't happen in the USA, so some of you might not know what the heck I'm on about. But if your childhood lacked the Faraway Tree, where a different magic land appeared at the top every so often, the crime-fighting Famous Five (or Secret Seven), the jolly fun at Malory Towers or the enchanted toys and fairies of many of her stories, then, well...I don't want to say I feel sad for you, because I'm sure your childhoods were perfectly happy, and not filled with a Blyton-shaped void, but I don't know *what* I would have been doing if I hadn't had her books, so I'm glad for myself. :-)

Anyway, I carried on reading these well into my teens, under cover, of course, because The Flying Spaghetti Monster forbid you are a 15-year-old reading about kids catching smugglers instead of Sweet Valley High. But at some point I'd had enough of them. Not because I was tired of the delightful happiness of them all, but because I was literally tired of reading the same books over and over and over and over and over. I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times I reread some of my favourites, but it must be well over a hundred.

And it was round about this time that I discovered the delight of BRITISH SCHOOLGIRL STORIES.

Mostly written between the 1920s and 1950s, this type of boarding school story, where everything revolves around hockey matches, midnight feasts, playing tricks on the French Mistress, and being bound by the schoolgirl code of honour, lost impact in the 60s, and as a result, most of the titles have been out of print for over 50 years. Which makes it even more fun to collect them, because you can't actually buy what you want, you can only buy what you find! That, my dears, is the excitement of it all. Not to mention that (a) I still really enjoy these old-fashioned stories, and (b) some of the rarer titles are worth a truckload of money. Except that I'd never sell them, of course. So I spend my life hoping for duplicates to come along. :-)

Now I'm a collector by nature. I have to have a complete set of something, all pretty and (hopefully) matching on the shelves, so you can imagine how this drives me nuts. The holes in my collection keep mocking me, I tell you. They cry out to me in the night, and I dream about finding that elusive copy of The School in the Woods or The Chalet School in the Oberland. Which is probably never going to happen, considering how impossible it is to find these books, and how much they COST on ABE (which, by the way, is the second-hand book-buyer's best friend).

Here's a quick shot I took of one of my bookcases. There are more, but some of them are still hanging out at my parents' house because we keep thinking we're going to move and then don't.

They're so PRETTY. I love the old dustwrappers and the thickish, browned pages. They smell so delicious.

One of my favourites.

Oh, and if you were wondering where I got this book-collecting thing from, take a look at my parents' house:

And I promise you this isn't all of the shelves. I also feel the need to apologise for the photo quality - it was very dark in there and I hadn't brought my flash with me. Pop-up flash is not cool.


  1. Oh my gosh! Found your blog ages ago (can't remember how!) and been paying visits ever since.

    I live in London & share your love of school stories - especially Chalet School! I finally completed my set 7 years ago - at the age of 22 - having started at age 8. The best way to go about finding cheap(er) copies of rare books is to join FOCS (Friends of the Chalet School) - members list copies they have for sale. They also re-publish some of the rarer ones. Of course, if you're only after the hardbacks, you may find it an impossible mission!

    This last new years eve I was at a house party where I discovered a bookcase full of a complete set, in hardback, with dustjackets - I was in awe & had to take a photo immediately!

    Good luck! Liz x

  2. Thanks for your comments!
    No, not on Girlsown - will have to check it out. And as for the 'appalling' taste in music, yes, musicals rule - it's just become a bit of a joke on my blog! One of my friends thinks they're awful & teases me all the time. x

  3. I have a funny feeling in the future my husband's and I bookcases will look like that. It's kinda funny because neither my parents nor his are really big readers but we both consume books.

    I can also add that I have never read a single SweetValleyHigh in my entire life. One was purchased for me when I was younger but I was too engrossed in ghost stories and the like.

  4. WOW! It looks like you could just sit and browse for hours at your parents house. I have a few books; somewhere in the basement of my parents house, that I had read over and over. Judy Blume was my favorite. I collect old book too, they do have this wonderful old smell. Plus many of them have little note on the inside of the cover like "To Anne, with much love on this Christmas, love Aunt Iris" with the date. Usually it's close to the publishing date, so it's kind of cool to imagine a 1890's book being all new and special.

  5. Blablover - I did read 2 or 3 Sweet Valleys, and I got rid of them post haste. They are awful.

    Aly - More like browse for YEARS. Unfortunately mist of those books are my Dad's (my mom has 2 bookcases only), and he and I don't really like the same topics. But he has TONS of non-fiction, so if you want to know the answer to something, it's probably in there. :-)

    Oh and I love the old inscriptions in books too! I hate it when people write in new books, but it seems very special in old ones.

  6. Wow. SOOOOO jealous of your parents house. Dreamy!

  7. *gasp* I LOVED Enid Blyton growing up!!! My mom used to buy us those books all the time! They were my all-time fave until I discovered the Bobsey Twins.

    I have far too many books for our small place here which breaks my heart. I'm trying to learn how to keep only my very favorites but gosh, it's hard.

  8. Oh yay! Blyton lovers unite! Meanwhile, I can't ever get rid of books, so I feel your pain (neither can my Dad, as you see!)


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