The Iron Rule of Home Bookshelves

Kenny Brechner - May 18, 2023

Given that the walls of my home look like this one near the front door.

Given that the stairway of my home looks like this.

An iron rule, imposed on me from an awesomely powerful organizational power, is in force. If a new book or ARC takes up residence on the house’s book shelves, one of our literary  residents must leave the house to make room. If you thought doing bookstore returns was a soul-testing experience, I can report that you haven’t really been tried in the furnace until you’ve had to expel an old friend to make way for a new one. 

There is one safe harbor in the house. My nightstand is an island of refuge for ARCs I bring home to read and assess.  

Most come back to the store. Some claim a place on our shelves and bear witness to the Darwinian struggle which my regard for them has occasioned. Others sometimes cling to the nightstand piteously, hiding from the intransigence of Fate for months at a time. And yet, the hour of reckoning surely comes when an inexorable observation reaches my ear that the nightstand pile is looking ungainly and needs culling.

Recently, at one such dire weeding, I dug up a book that been hiding for many months: Susan Dennard’s The Luminaries. The ARC admitted to me that the book had actually come out last November. It had missed its frontlist tide and was now subject to be taken away to the bookstore’s donation pile. Holding the ARC in my hand, however, a strong feeling came upon me that my stern sense of duty was internally divided here. I felt impelled to stay the executioner’s hand, not as a means of allowing The Luminaries to retreat to the bottom of the pile and cling to life. No. It came upon me that instead I should take the book out to the back deck and read it, spurning the strident pleas of the frontlist nightstand ARCs that clamored for their chance of being read in a manner consistent with both timeliness and justice.

What I discovered was that The Luminaries was a very strong and appealing read. The world building, a group of family clans keeping the lurking horrors of enchanted woods secret from mundane humans was not novel, but it was well done and with many appealing wrinkles. Most striking was that the main character Winnie’s bid to restore her family from the outcast status conferred upon it by her father’s treason was filled with emotional depth and nuance. Also, the romantic angles and the suspense were first rate. I ordered some copies for the store and will handsell it with vigor. Will I keep the ARC? Let me just say that, like the Luminaries themselves, I will hunt through the book shelves at home seeking a book whose destiny lies elsewhere.

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