Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

For this week’s Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times meme which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness I’ve chosen some much older books.

The photo below is of a couple of my shelves for Scottish books. These ones are all of fairly ancient titles, but ones that I have loved reading in the past and will never get rid of.


I went through a phase of reading J.M. Barrie’s books, it’s probably about 15 or 20 years ago now. Hardly anyone reads his work nowadays, beyond Peter Pan which is such a shame. In his day he was incredibly successful with his novels and his plays were wildly popular in the theatre. I particularly loved his The Little Minister, Tommy and Grizel and Sentimental Tommy.

John Buchan wrote a lot more books than The Thirty Nine Steps, I have just a few of them really. I haven’t read all of these ones yet, but Greenmantle is my favourite so far.

A.J Cronin was a local GP in Dumbarton where I grew up, although at some point he gave that up to concentrate on his very successful writing career – and moved to Switzerland, probably for tax reasons. But he still supported the local football team. Possibly his best known book is The Spanish Gardener which was made into a film starring Dirk Bogarde. It’s well worth watching too.

O. Douglas who was also known as Anna Buchan was John Buchan’s sister. Her books are real comfort reads, a step back to what seemed to be a simpler time, on the surface anyway. Like many Scottish female novelists she often writes about the making of a home and there’s usually a group of children to be loved by someone who isn’t a mother, but becomes a mother figure. One little boy is usually absolutely adored. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a real pity that Anna Buchan never married and had children, but she wrote her own families, which might have been some solace I suppose.

These authors are all well worth reading and Anna Buchan, John Buchan and J.M. Barrie’s books are available on Project Gutenberg, it’s strange that Cronin’s aren’t, but maybe they are still in copyright.

8 thoughts on “Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

  1. Some old friends of mine on those shelves.
    My father’s copy of “Greenmantle” was the first John Buchan I read and I found it memorable and strangely foreboding.
    I’ve loved and re-read often all O. Douglas’ books: much gentle wisdom and knowledge of human nature therein, and vivid descriptions in a few words.
    “Peter Pan and Wendy” seems almost uncanny in places, not exactly a children’s book – “she thought she had seen him before in the faces of many women who have no children.”

    • Valerie,
      I agree that Peter Pan seems to be not really a children’s book, although I suppose all the best children’s literature can be read on two levels. I think Barrie was very much influenced by the death of his older brother at the age of 13 or so – a boy who never grew up.

  2. You have some lovely old editions there. I like older books, even though they are olf fragile.

    I have read The Thirty Nine Steps and plan to read further in that series, especially
    Greenmantle. I used to read the Oz books to my son but I don’t think we ever read Peter Pan or any of Barrie’s other books.

    • tracybham,
      I think that Peter Pan and its variations were the only books for children that Barrie wrote. The others that I’ve read have all been about life in rural Scotland, they’re a glimpse into the social history of the past.

  3. I enjoyed perusing your shelves and noticing the authors you mentioned. I’ve not read either Buchan or Barrie, but I have 5 of A J Cronin’s books on my shelf which I’ve gathered over the years including Beyond This Place, A Song of Sixpence, A Thing of Beauty, The Green Years, and The Citadel. I learned about and really liked the story of The Citadel when I saw a film version on my local public television station back in the 80’s. I’ve never seen it available to watch since then, but I loved the book, and I have the DVD series called Doctor Finlay which I think is loosely based on the same story… not sure about that. I think I also read Keys to the Kingdom years ago which I borrowed from my library.

    • Paula,
      I remember reading A Song of Sixpence as a teenager, before I started collecting his books. I loved Hatter’s Castle and I knew the woman whose father was the ‘Hatter’ when she was an old lady. Apparently everyone in the town recognised that character. Yes Cronin wrote the Doctor Finlay books and there have been two TV series of that, one in the 1960s and again in the 1990s I think. I loved the 1960s series when I was wee.

  4. Hi Katrina,
    I’m so very much intrigued that The Spanish Gardener is probably Cronin’s most well-known book. I’d love to read it–and see the film, but it’s interesting because I’ve not come across it here. Will explore it!
    The Green Years (film) was a Hollywood movie. Maybe that’s why it’s better known here? And The Citadel was a Dell paperback and sold loads of copies here. A Song of Sixpence likewise. How cool that you grew up in “his” town!
    I grew up in Wellesley, Mass., where Sylvia Plath grew up, and my mother knew her mother via the Unitarian Church in town. Our doctor was pals with her in high school. My English teacher junior year was her mentor. So interesting! I heard lots of fascinating stories!

    • Judith,
      I haven’t read The Green Years – yet. I can imagine the stories! I think she was a bit if a tortured soul even as a youngster. BTW Jack has also decided to take part in Bookshelf Travelling this week.

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