Saturday, July 28, 2007


By Suzanne Welsh

Recently I made two discoveries that have thrilled me both as a reader and a book collector.

For years I’ve been searching for a copy of a book I read in my early high school years. It’s titled “Black Horse Tavern”, by Janet Louise Roberts. I adored this book. I’m a re-reader—meaning that if a book captures me, I’ll happily read it over and over and over again. That’s the reason I have two copies of Julie Garwood’s “Saving Grace”. So when I had my original copy of “Black Horse Tavern”, I literally wore it out.

It’s a great story about a girl who lives in her creepy stepfather’s tavern during the Revolutionary War. Only she knows there’s a secret exit from the tavern, and uses it to spy on the redcoats and her stepfather. Then she gives the information she learns to the Sons of Liberty and the hero of the story.

As an American history buff even at the age of 15, I loved this whole book, but somehow lost my copy. Then I couldn’t remember the author’s name. About four years ago I managed to learn the author’s name through some sleuth work and a few good google sites. Finally, last week I found a copy on line in good condition and bought it! When I got home from the RWA National conference with 3 bags of books, my old favorite was waiting in a mailer for me.

The other find was a complete surprise to me. The week before the RWA National conference I always clean out my to be read (TBR) pile and my already finished pile (AFP) of books, this year to the tune of $35 at the half-priced bookstore nearby. But while going through the mountain of books I found a 1989 copy of “The Copeland Bride”, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. You know, the book she and her friend wrote before SEP went solo and became a NYT’s best seller. Imagine my amazement! I truly had no idea that book was in my possession. When I googled out of print books, I discovered that little paperback is now worth $50!

So, tell me, what books are on your keeper shelf? Any rare or out of print books? Is there one book you'll read over and over, maybe as a yearly ritual?


Keira Soleore said...

I ADORE this topic. Thanks, Suz.

My keeper "shelf" has pushed all the non-fiction books out of the library. As a result, we're going to have to build whole new set of bookshelves in another room to house the entire library together.

Julie Garwood got me into medievals and her Saving Grace and Ransom are two of my top favs. The one book that I've read and re-read over and over again is These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer.

The oldest book I have is a hardcover botany textbook for school-aged British children from 1874.

Stacy S said...

I have a lot that are on my keeper shelf & usually reread at least once a year(sometimes more). They are Julie Garwood, Sabrina Jeffries, SEP, Erica Spindler, Kay Hooper, Karen Hawkins. I have tons more. I don't have any rare books though.

Joan said... memories from childhood.

My Mom was a huge reader and every summer when I was a kid, we had a library bookmobile that parked on our street. She'd take us down there and I'd check out every book I could. I remember in particular biographies on Annie Oakley and Juliet Lowe (who started the Girl Scouts).

Then...THEN there was the Scolastic book club. My Mom ALWAYS let me order books. In fact, I still own most of those books tucked into my childhood toy chest at the family home.

But the book that I LOVED was "A Lantern in Her Hand". It was adult level but detailed the life of a pioneer girl from her immigration from Ireland (sigh, Ireland) to America's frontier, her growing up, marrying, raising a family in a sod house, the death of her husband and watching her children prosper in a new, modern world.(Well, up to horseless carriages)

When my goddaughter became of age, I gave her my precious copy. I don't even know if she ever read it and unfortunately, she misplaced it (gasp, heart breaking) but I just smiled, said "that's ok."

But I always grieved for the loss of that out of print book.

Then like you, Suz I discovered used books online and BANG there was a copy! I ordered that puppy so fast it made my head spin! And read it in one sitting.

As to romance fiction, "Fires in Winter" by Johanna Lindsey. I've EASILY read that book a hundred times. I could quote a few chapter if you'd like :-)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Morning, Keira! Am so glad another soul adores Saving Grace. When Joanna starts throwing bowls against the wall to get the men's attention and teach them manners, I still crack up laughing.

Hi, Stacy! your shelves sound like mine. I'd have to add Jayne Anne Krentz under any name, Johanna Lindsey, JRWard and Robert Ludlumm to the list, as well as my CP Sandy Blair. Thank goodness I have a CP who's books make me want to read them over and over!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, our adored books! What a great topic, Suz. My very first fantasy book (and a grown-up book, to my 12-year-old mind) was "The Forgotten Beasts of Eld" by Patricia A. McKillip. My mother worked pulling book orders at Ingram in Nashville and she brought it home for me one day. That was 1977.

I still have my very battered copy with the gorgeous cover. It was a third printing. *sigh* I'm sure it's worth nothing to anyone but me--but I would never part with it!

I also have my 1991 book club edition of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander". I credit her with drawing me back into romance, when I had ignored it for years while in engineering school (ack!).

Suzanne Welsh said...

Joan, is Fires In Winter the story that takes place in Russia? The one where the servant kidnaps the heroine and gives her an aphrodesiac? THAT Johanna Lindsey? OMG...fanning myself.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey, Caren! Your mom worked at Ingrams? Man what a great job. My oldest daughter worked at Borders off and on right out of high school. Since she wasn't married and lived at home, I got to use her 25% discount. Talk about a dangerous weapon! I once thought working in a book store would be the greatest job. I'd go broke spending all my paycheck on books!

Joan said...

No, Suz. "Fires in Winter" is the quintessential Viking romance story. (sigh) Garrick Haardrad.

I do recall one being set in Russia though, a Russian noble who kidnaps a English girl thinking she is "somebody".

Caren Crane said...

Suz, you're so right about the temptation of the discount! I think Mama got at least 30% off. You have to understand that my parents had divorced and my dad skipped the state to avoid paying child support, leaving her to pay the mortgages (2, because he took out a second for his business) and 5 children to feed. So, for Mama to buy a book was a huge luxury. That she bought a book for me made me feel incredibly special and loved. Maybe that is part of why I love that book so much. Then again, it does have a dragon and a witch and a handsome prince. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Joan, I think I read and re-read the same biographies as you! It was a whole series of them and they had them in the children's section of our library. I read all the ones about females and adored the ones about Annie Oakley and Louisa May Alcott. *g* I read several of them over and over. I clearly remember being quite disinterested in the ones about men (and there were lots more of those). For some reason, they all seemed boring. Maybe because they were mostly politicians?

TinaFerraro said...

When my daughter was in elementary school, I adored going to the library with her and finding and sharing my old favorites. One you might remember, Suzanne, since it's from the Revolutionary War period, was THE CABIN FACED WEST.

As far as keepers, on the Buzz Girls YA blog, we recently discussed favorites from our teen years, and after remembering how strongly MR. AND MRS. BO JO JONES touched me, I found a used copy, which is now sitting in my TBR pile for a re-read. I can't wait!

Anna Sugden said...

Great topic!

My keeper shelves (you know how many we have in our house!) are overflowing with books. I wish I had time to re-read, but with a TBR room and more new stuff, expecially from our Packers *grin*, every day, not a chance!

I have some really neat keepers - like all Janet Evanovich's romances (signed), Suz Brockmann's Love Spells (Yes - including Ladies Man), Linda Howard's McKenzie's Mountain, Nora's first novel, Tess Gerritsen's Intrigues and Lisa Gardner's IM's to name a few.

As for old books, with a hubby into first editions, I'm extremely lucky to have original copies of some of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books. I'd love an original Anne of Green Gables - but we'd need to win the lottery for that! Hubby has all the really old books and maps - his oldest book I think is 16th century!

I also have some of the original Moomin books by Tove Janssen and most of the Margery Sharpe Rescuers books.

I wish I had a copy of the first romance novel I ever read - but it's been lost over time. It's Robyn Donald's Bride at Whangatapu - fabulous!

Anonymous said...

I've got a collection of Johanna Lindsey's books on my keeper shelf, though I'm not a huge re-reader. I have to put some serious distance between myself and a book before I re-read--like 10 or 15 years.

I was so busy reading Harlequins at a very young age I never read a lot of the classics everyone else recalls. But I was also horse crazy, so I've got a complete set of the "Black Stallion" books.

My favorite old books on my keeper shelf are the "Lad" books by Albert Payson Terhune, circa 1920s. Anyone else read Lad? He was a precurser to Lassie, an incredible collie with "the look of eagles."

Tawny said...

My absolute keepers on my shelves (as in, no matter how many times I clean the shelves and donate books, these never leave) are all of Nora's -I'm missing two, I think, from her early days, otherwise I have the complete works *g*. I have a number of Julie Garwoods, all of Vicki Lewis Thompsons and the complete Harry Potter series. But my yearly re-read, or whenever I'm sick or bummed, is David Edding's Belgariad/Mallorean series.

Aunty Cindy said...

Kirsten, I was horse crazy too! This was BEFORE Aunty discovered that boys did not have cooties after all... Well, some of them didn't! I read ALL the Black Stallion series (along with Laura Ingalls Wilder) and like Suz, I literally wore out my copy of "Black Beauty."

As for valuable books, probably the only one I have that is worth more than the original cover price (and I have some 50 cent paperbacks!) is a SIGNED (personally to ME) copy of "Roots" by Alex Haley. I stood in line for almost an hour for that!

Of course, I'm sure that SOMEDAY all my original, SIGNED (coff coff) copies of our first Bandita books (CTC, DD, Mrs. Brimley, Scandal's Daughter) will be worth a fortune!


Anonymous said...

Tawny, I don't have a copy of all the Belgariad/Mallorean books, but I do re-read them all periodically. Definitely one of my all time favorite works!

AC, how could you keep re-reading Black Beauty? That book tears my heart out just remembering it! Poor Black Beauty, his hooves rotting, being whipped, falling down...ah, I'm getting teary just thinking about it!

Caren, your mom sounds like an incredible woman, managing to raise her kids under such difficult circumstances and still giving them a love of books and writing! She must be very proud of you!

Joan said...


I confess having never read the "Anne of Green Gables" books but gosh, I loved that series that...who was it? PBS? Did about 10 years ago. (The one with Coleen Dewhurst)

And AC, your post reminded me of my copy of Black Stallion. Mentioning it immediately brought a full image (including illustrations) of that one book to my mind.

I also read one called "Red Shoes for Nancy". It was autobiographical, written by a woman in the early 60's about the experience of caring for a daughter with cerebral palsy. May have sparked open that empathy gene I have.

Great discussion!

Kate Carlisle said...

I'm with Tawny - I have almost the entire catalog of Nora's original Silhouettes--along with every other book of hers in a whole separate bookcase. Love her!

I have so many other keepers -- Julie Garwood (I just re-read Lyon's Lady!) and Johanna Lindsay and Amanda Quick and Linda Howard and all the early Susan Johnsons and Christina Skye's Draycott Abbey books and too many others to name.

This is a fabulous topic, Suzanne!

Anna Campbell said...

Suz, I love this topic! Actually I think my house must look like your house. Well, it would if you could see the house under the piles of books!

Caren, your mother sounds like an extraordinary woman. No wonder she had such an extraordinary daughter (and I mean that in a GOOD way, my friend!).

Hmm, keepers. There's a definite hierarchy in my bookcases. The all-time faves get to go in the fancy bookcase in the bedroom.

The Dorothy Dunnetts take up a shelf as I've got most of them in hardback. Cost me a fortune but worth it. The Loretta Chases - I re-read Lord of Scoundrels on a regular basis. It's one of the best romances ever written, IMHO. Anne Stuart takes another shelf. The Austens (re-read P&P too). The Brontes. War and Peace - people talk about that book as if it's indigestible but I found it a fantastic read. The Eva Ibbotsons. Her A Countess Below Stairs never fails to make the world a better place for me. The Laura Kinsales. Oh, man, I'd give my right (which I just typed write - ha!) arm if I'd written that. Severe case of writer's envy whenever I read that book!

Two rare books that I re-read are The Silver Devil and The Flesh and the Devil by Teresa Denys. They were published in the late '70s, very early '80s and are just stunning. Very non-pc but somehow they transcend their time. One's first person and set in the Italian renaissance. The other's one of my all time favorites and it's set in 17th century Spain. The heroes are absolute mongrels for most of the story but somehow you forgive them. I can't think of writing that has more passion (of ALL sorts!). Teresa Denys was an editor for Mills and Boon in England and she was killed in a car accident shortly after writing TFATD. So sad. She would have been a major influence on the genre if she'd lived, I'm sure.

Oh, it's fun to revisit my favorites. Thanks, Suz!

Christine Wells said...

Keira, I'm with you on These Old Shades! In fact, I have a whole slew of old editions of Heyers that my grandmother passed on to me when she died, so they're precious to me for both reasons.

Also on my keeper shelf I have Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels and Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm. Two books that always put me in my place when I think I might be getting the hang of this writing thing:)

And then I have a keeper shelf reserved for my writing buddies--the banditas and other wonderful friends who are now getting published. Yay! Great post, Suz!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Speaking of Anne of Green Gables , I have an illustrated version from 1983. I'm sure at one time I had a copy from the 1960's, but haven't a clue where it went to. And AC I loved the PBS version, didn't Gilbert get cuter and cuter as he grew up? MMMMMM

Beth said...

My keeper shelves are filled with books by Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockmann, Virginia Kantra and Meg Cabot to name a few.

I adore Johanna Lindsey and believe I've read all but one or two of her books. She was my first 'auto buy' author after I picked up a copy of The Magic of You in the library *g*

Great topic, Suz! Love hearing about everyone's keeper books :-)

Helen said...

I have a huge keeper shelf my mother read a lot as well and I have most of her books as well as ones of my own. I keep the majority of books that I read I may not read them again but one day when I retire and can't afford to but books like I do now I will have plenty to read. I have all of J. Lindeys K Woodiwiss S Busbee J Garwood some very old R Rogers J McNaught and more. As for old books when I was a child my mother and I would look thru second hand shops and I have some ladies manuals from the 1920's and 1930's and they are fun to look at sometimes they are not in very good condition but are still readable.
Have Fun

Caren Crane said...

OMG, Tawny! I was just going through the books I've had since I was a youngun and guess what books I have? All the David Eddings Belgariad and The Mallorean books! It's a small world in fantasy. *g*

Trish Milburn said...

Like Kirsten, I'm not a huge re-reader. I have WAY too many unread books in my house. I need a clone of myself who does nothing but read 24 hours a day. :)

As for my keeper shelf, other than books by friends (my cps, the Bandits, and the Wet Noodle Posse), the keepers include all of Pamela Morsi's historical romances, all of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books, and a complete set of hardbacks of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon mystery series, the protagonist of which is a National Park Ranger. All the stories take part in a different U.S. National Park, and I'm a huge fan of the parks system and of Anna's character.

If you're ever trying to find an old book and can't remember things like the title and author, try a site called Stump the Bookseller. They helped me find an older book just based on very skimpy info. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to memory.

Caren Crane said...

Thanks Anna C and Kirsten for kind words about my mother. She really is the most fabulous woman! She is very charming and charismatic--I am a wallflower in comparison. I tell people I am the quiet one in my family and nobody believes me--until they meet my mother and siblings! *g*

My re-reads include all my Anne McCaffrey Dragon books (all the Dragonriders, plus the fire lizard books) and I also love McCaffrey's Crystal Singer books. Have read all those many times.

Also, Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries are all keepers and re-reads for me.

Oh, and Lavyrle Spencer! She breaks my heart with every re-read. And Rosamunde Pilcher's "The Shellseekers"--okay, any Rosamunde Pilcher. I adore her!

jo lewis-robertson said...

Interesting topic for discussion, Suz. Sorry, but I, too, am not a re-reader except for the literary classics. One of my favorites that I've read at least 50 times is Orwell's 1984. And, geek that I am, Shakespeare. I've re-read his plays so often that I've memorized whole passages. I adore the Bard!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Caren-My favorite Rosamund Pilcher was Snow In April. It was probably a Harlequin size story, but I just loved it! And Yes on LaVryle Spencer, especially Hummingbird!

Thanks everyone for playing "Rummage through your keeper shelves" with me!