Reading: 84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff

84 charing cross road

I am reading 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff right now, and it’s absolutely delightful.

Delightful is a word I love to use to describe a book, but it’s also not one I get to use that often. The books I usually read tend to toward descriptors like intense or epic (as in fantasy, not awesome, although lots of them are awesome too) or edgy or suspenseful or terrifying (in a good way). (There are better descriptors I’ve used before, but my brain is kind of fogged up right now and won’t cough up any of them.)

But this book is, most definitely, delightful. It makes me want to surround myself with old books, preferably ones purchased in an antiquarian bookstore.

84 Charing Cross Road

I wish you hadn’t been so over courteous about putting the inscription on a card instead of on the flyleaf. It’s the bookseller coming out in you all, you were afraid you’d decrease its value. You would have increased it for the present owner. (And possibly for the future owner. I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins. I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages some one long gone has called my attention to.)

I thought this excerpt was rather appropriate given my recent interest in marginalia.

84 Charing Cross Road quote 2

And they NEVER read anything a second time so they don’t remember a word of it a year later. But they are profoundly shocked to see me drop a book in the wastebasket or give it away. The way they look at it, you buy a book, you read it, you put it on the shelf, you never open it again for the rest of your life but YOU DON’T THROW IT OUT! NOT IF IT HAS A HARD COVER ON IT! Why not? I personally can’t think of anything less sancrosanct than a bad book or even a mediocre book.

Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to drop a book into a wastebasket, but I do give books away, all the time. Hardcover or not!

It turns out this volume I have contained not just 84 Charing Cross Road, but also The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. I’m looking forward to this second book too.

7 thoughts on “Reading: 84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff

  1. Bernadette

    Oh I love that book and delightful is definitely the right word – then again I am a huge fan of letter writing so I’m bound to be fond of it. I’m also rather fond of the movie adaptation – Anthony Hopkins played Frank, Judi Dench was his wife and Anne Bancroft was Helene – I know it’s not particularly deep but it is delightful too.

  2. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    Delightful is the perfect word to describe this book! It makes me want to go on mad book buying sprees in really good used bookstores and buy beautiful books! I’ve read Duchess of Bloomsbury Street and enjoyed it but to me it didn’t have quite the same magic as Charing did. I’m with you on the giving books away but the idea of just throwing a book away makes me cringe a bit!

  3. jilllora

    I agree, it was very delightful! Did you read The Storied Life of AJ Fikry? That’s another one I’d label delightful. There’s just something about books featuring books.

  4. Heidenkind

    I’ve been meaning to read this for several years. Did you ever read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society? I got the impression these books were similar and TGLAPPS was definitely delightful.

  5. Kay

    I love the passage about getting rid of books. That would be me. Not so much the throwing away, but certainly giving away. If I had a penny for every book I’ve given away…well, it would be a lot. I could buy more books!

  6. Care

    And that would be me about not re-reading but I’m getting better. I’m getting to a stage that I know or hope that someday I might reread a particular something after enjoying it so. And sometimes I do. But I would be shocked that someone like her might throw away a book! I can’t bear to give away a book I havent’ read yet even if I know I might never.
    Ms Hanff was a character, wasn’t she!


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