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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Half Way Round the Library

While I am reading Choosing a Care Home by Independent Age, which I have to physically read in the library because it is a reference book which I am not allowed to take out, I can take stock of how far I have come so far. I have literally traversed half the library already, although that sounds far more impressive than it actually is. In reality I have only chosen works from the very outermost of bookcases with their backs to the wall. Like the skin on an onion, there are many more layers of bookcases to traverse around again as I spiral my way inwards to the centre of the library and my ultimate goal of reading at least one volume from every bookcase. I have also skipped a large part of wall where the self-service machines, returned books and the librarians are located. There is much still to come but I have at least made my way from the door to almost the furthest point away from the door in the first quarter of the first year of my project, and this is going to take more than a year - I can be certain of that.

As I look back I can see I have completed all the cases in the following sections: True Crime, Book of the Week, Teenage, Graphic Novels and Language. Five sections that I don't have to return to until this project is over. Each section had their moments and kept me entertained over several days' free time, courtesy of our library service.

Pending my next trip to the library to continue with Choosing a Care Home, which I can't take out the building, I have moved on to the next section, Local History, which forms Bookcase 19 and 20. Seemingly as ever, on Bookcase 19 there was already a book I have read before - Blood of the Isles by Bryan Sykes, which is in the Genealogy section tucked at the end of local history on bookcase 19.

I have mentioned before in this blog how I love reading books about the past which explain the world we find in the present and the book I have chosen from Bookcase 19, Memories of Old Dorking, I am hoping will shine light on some of the present features of the town I have lived in for over 16 years.

I have of course read books about the history of Dorking before (I especially enjoyed Dorking, a Surrey Market Town Through Twenty Centuries by Alan A. Jackson when I read it ten years ago), but this book is different because it is written at the time by contemporary sources rather than a local historian many years later. I have read similar books before in other subject areas and they have a rawness about them which modern narrators struggle to convey. There is of course a price to reading sources close to the original material, in that the language and vocabulary of the 1840s, when the first part of Memories of Dorking is set, is a bit challenging to the modern reader, but hopefully that won't be a problem with the Internet to aid me if needed. I think there are three sections to this book set in different times and with three distinct authors, all the more interesting.

The book itself is dated now as well, being printed in 1977, when I was still reading books in the children's library and had never heard of Dorking, never mind set foot in it. This copy has stayed in the library system for nearly 40 years and no doubt it has seen big changes in the library around it during those decades, almost on a par with its subject matter. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Dorkinians must have held this work in their hands. So much has changed in Dorking since the book was compiled in 1977, but that shouldn't detract from my enjoyment of Memories of Dorking, it might even add to it.

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