About ALB

Thanks for stopping by!bree

I’m Bree. I currently reside in central Texas, where I work for a non-profit and preserve history on the side. Outside of work and side projects, I read a lot. Books were my first love, and to this day we’re still going strong.

I’m also a picky reader. I suspect everyone is picky about what they read, in one way or another, but I’m, like, really picky. Mainstream contemporary fiction tends to leave me feeling like I’ve just eaten cotton candy—sweet, sticky, maybe filling, but not in any way nutritious. Intelligent contemporary (literary) fiction, on the other hand, is often so darn depressing, I feel I need some cotton candy to balance things out. The reading journey is all about variety, but these days I prefer to avoid the extremes.

Enter: the really-good-but-almost-entirely-forgotten class of books.

In spite of never (or rarely) reading these books, we all know them. They’re the cheap books that populate your local thrift shop. They’re the books you find at yard sales after someone’s grandma passes away. Overwhelmingly, they’re the books that languish on library shelves for decades at a time, until eventually the harlequin and vampire (and sometimes harlequin vampire) paperbacks begin to demand more space. That’s when these dusty hardback books, long since parted from their haggard dust jackets, find themselves in a dark, moldy library basement. If they’re lucky, the next library sale might bring them a new owner. More often, though, they’re unlucky and end up being thrown away/recycled.

My goal is to restore these forgotten books—most of them published in the mid-20th century—and give them a second chance.

(Incidentally, I considered calling this blog Second Chance Books but, well, that sounds a bit like a halfway house, doesn’t it?)

The challenge I face most often in this blog is finding new old books to read. It’s hard to find something when not many people know it exists! If you have a book recommendation, therefore, please do pass it along.

One of the best resources for Another Look Book, I’ve found, is the site OpenLibrary. While the works in this blog aren’t usually old enough to be in the public domain (and therefore available for no-strings-attached download), many of them are available as books you can borrow for a week. If you’ve never checked out OpenLibrary, I highly recommend it. Its only pitfall is that its browsing/tag feature is horrible…or maybe just incomplete. Search, however, works like a champ!

Of course, there’s always good, old-fashioned physical books! For tracking down physical copies, I’m a huge fan of BookFinder. It’s been called “the Google of rare books,” as it compiles book listings from all over the Internet and lets you browse them on one site.

Like many devout readers today, I acknowledge the ease of acquiring and reading a digital book. Still, to me there is something sacred about a nice copy of an old book. Sometimes I like to take pictures of their prettiest parts. Excluding scanned cover images, any photography is my own. If you want to share any photos, in respect for my work please link them back to this site!

21 thoughts on “About ALB

  1. Bree,

    I read your review of Unveiled mysteries in Amazon. Unfortunately, I had already ordered the ‘fake copy’.

    Could you confirm that the format of the genuine green book is better than this one? I see a lot of hyphened wordings that are making me crazy.

    Also, I would appreciate reference of the similar books.

    Thanks.

    Nick

    • The formatting of the green book (published by Saint Germain Press) is WAY better. Nope, no strange hyphenated terms. For some reason that other edition (what I call the “fake” one) doesn’t ever include the phrase I AM, which is the whole point of the original text. I suspect the Saint Germain organization holds a copyright on the phrase, so the “fake” text uses those strange hyphenated terms to bypass the issue. Unfortunately, it also means the meaning of the text is completely sacrificed.

      The green book is beautifully bound, and the text itself is a dark indigo color, which I find is easier on the eyes than normal black text. If you enjoy this book, I’d recommend the second in the series, The Magic Presence, also by Godfre Ray King. From a different but related series, I’d also recommend Step by Step We Climb, by Pearl Dorris.

      Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by, Nick! Let me know if you need more recommendations!

  2. I love the idea for your blog! So many things you’ve written here align with my thoughts on books, especially on pickiness. Why would I want to read, say, something like “The Help”? Everyone else is reading it; it doesn’t need another reader. I’ve read the summary, and it doesn’t sound like the best book ever for *me* to read. (No offense if you do like “The Help,” as I have not read it.)

    One of the best things about rediscovering the older non-classics is that I have no expectations going in, unless I know the author. I discovered my first mid-century classic when I was 14; I hadn’t read anything like it. I read more and discovered that there is much, much more fiction to read than what Oprah is pushing. Now I’m 28, and, like you, I’m into the books no one wants. I take great pleasure in borrowing old books from the library, if they’re available, because that circulation should mean they won’t be weeded out for a year or so.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog, and I’m looking forward to getting to know yours!

    • Thank you for your wonderful comments! I know EXACTLY what you mean about the beauty of not having expectations for a book. For that same reason, I used to rarely read a book that didn’t have a dust jacket, because that meant I had no idea what it would be about! Thankfully, I’ve since developed alternative methods of figuring out whether a book suits my tastes. I find that the lack of plot description makes the reading experience feel about 1000 times more personal, like the book could be the best one ever written, and only I know about it.

      I regularly get comments from librarians to the effect of: “Oh my, you sure do like the old books!” My record for oldest-date-a-book-was-last-checked-out-on is 53 years. A few weeks ago I tried to check out a book that hadn’t been checked out in so long, it was never entered in the library’s computer database. The librarians just tore out the barcode and the checkout card and pocket, then handed me the book. Free book!!

      I love talking books! 🙂 And for the record, I did read The Help, though I read it about a year before everyone else. When I finished I actually closed the book and said, “Well, that’s gonna be a huge bestseller.” But while it’s occasionally fun to play the prophet, it’s a whole lot more fun rediscovering the past!

  3. I happened upon your blog the other day. Might I suggest another writer who deserves a second look? Joy Packer ( I enjoyed several of her books set in South Africa and which include Nor the Moon by Night, which was made into a film starring Dirk Bogarde – they must, of course, be read bearing in mind the politics of the time.)
    Have you already considered Norah Lofts? In the last couple of years I have read her Town House trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed it, the story of a house and its occupants over the centuries. Just two more for you to consider.

    • Thank you for the recommendations! I’d never heard of Joy Packer—which makes her books perfect for this site! I’ve added Nor The Moon by Night to my reading list. I know what you mean about being aware of the politics of the time, as I often run into “non-PC” things in my reading. I grimace a bit, of course, but I actually consider racism, gender bias, etc. a valuable part of the experience of reading old books. (And nothing bugs me more than historical fiction where the author passes everything through a PC filter. It completely spoils the authenticity.)

      And as for Norah Lofts, yes, I actually have the first Town House book on my bookshelf! It’s been waiting patiently but thanks to your recommendation might not have to wait much longer.

  4. I’ve just discovered Open Library & it’s great for the mid century authors who haven’t been reprinted or digitised. The scanning can be a little dodgy but it’s not so bad that I can’t read the text. I’ve read several D E Stevensons from OL in the last couple of months & have a very long wishlist.

    • Open Library is, like, the love of my life. If I could write poetry, I would write OL love ballads and post them here.

      I used to download the books in epub format (as I use a Kobo e-reader, and sometimes an iPad). But those auto-rendered files can be full of spelling and formatting errors, which really detracted from the reading experience. Then I switched to the PDF scans, and it was like a whole new world! No weird errors, for one thing. But even better: the original typeface, margins, illustrations, etc. It helps each book feel unique and authentic. Anyways, just an idea! Enjoy the DES.

  5. I haven’t been able to get the PDF files to open on my iPad in the Overdrive app. I can get them to open on my Sony Reader but the print is just a bit too small & if I enlarge it, it reverts back to the scanned version with all the errors. Still, it’s definitely an option if the ePub version is really bad. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the information about the PDF files. I persevered & discovered Bluefire Reader & now have several PDF files from OL. You’re right, it’s a much better reading experience.

      • So glad it worked out! A few days back I had a breakthrough in my iPad PDF-reading experience. It’s an app called Blio. It takes a little more work to transfer books from computer to app, but the reading experience is wonderful. I love that I can finally have two PDF pages on the screen at once. The page turn animation is also quite diverting. No DRM support yet, though. 🙁

  6. This is such a great site. I fall firmly into the mid-century or earlier forgotten fiction, as my only chance to read (to myself, since I have two little kids who take up much of my reading breathing space these days) is late at night and I canNOT manage the depressing/disturbing stuff that much modern literature is composed of and still fall asleep! Although reading the first Wayne book in Elizabeth Cadell’s oeuvre the other night kept me awake with delight anyway. But I am so excited to have the endless seeming options here! I read primarily through Interlibrary loan, which is free for me since I work at a library (from where sadly most of these books have long gone).

    An interesting sub-genre of mid-century books are the childrens’ books from the era, especially British and European (the Children of Green Knowe, Enid Blyton, the Moomintrolls). My mom read these to me, which perhaps laid the groundwork for my enthusiasm for the adult genre these days! I read them to my two now…

    • Thank you so much, Lindsey! I understand exactly what you mean about (solo) reading time being precious and wanting to avoid overly-negative content during that time. Hmm, I haven’t read Cadell’s Wayne family books…I have a few of her other works on my reading list, but I always seem to gravitate towards new authors instead of repeats. The main exceptions to this are Madeleine Brent and D.E. Stevenson, who I’m simultaneous afraid of “running out” of, and yet keep saying “hit me” with another book, like this is some kind of vintage author blackjack!

      That’s wonderful that you work at a library! I used to have great Interlibrary Loan access in college. I miss those days! I’ve recently moved and have struck out with the libraries here. I think the oldest books in their system (modern classics aside) are from…2007? My best source of these old, out of print books is usually some cheap thrift store. Hey, if Grandma owned the book, I just might like it! 😉

      I know several readers/bloggers online who are also into the vintage children’s lit genre. One of my favorite bloggers, Barb over at Leaves and Pages, reviews quite a few books in this genre. She has really awesome literary tastes in general. I’ve been known to peruse her site when looking for a good book.

      And lastly, you’ve got me thinking about the books I’ll read to my own children someday! Now THERE is a solid point in favor of physical books over digital ones.

  7. I just stumbled across your blog via a link in a Goodreads review, and I’m so glad I did! I love mid-twentieth-century historical fiction, and I’ve already found several books to add to my books-to-read list using your “Reader’s Matchmaker” search. Look forward to exploring your blog some more!

    • Thanks so much, Katie, and welcome to the blog! I’m so glad you’re finding some new reads via the Matchmaker tool. I’m delighted to give personalized recommendations too. And hey, I’m also on Goodreads! 🙂

  8. Hi Bree. Love your site! I found it via the lovely Barb @ Leaves & Pages. I have a small collection of early-mid century fiction left to me by my grandmother which are wonderful. So I want more! I’m thrilled to find there are others out there who love them as much as I do. I’m looking forward to checking out your recommendations. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your lovely comment! Barb’s site is such a favorite of mine too. What a wonderful inheritance from your grandmother. I envy you having a vintage fiction collection to build off of…I’ve been building my own for only a couple of years so far! Let’s keep spreading the joy of overlooked early/mid-century fiction. 🙂

Join the discussion! Everybody's welcome.