Dara Horn, A Guide for the Perplexed (Norton, 2013). Parallel-plot novel about a kidnapped computer programmer in contemporary Egypt and an academic from late-Victorian Britain, yoked together by their interest in Maimonides. (Barnes & Noble)
Mrs. O. F. Walton, The Mysterious House (RTS, n.d.). Late-Victorian religious novel about moving next door to what is rumored to be a "haunted house." Mrs. O. F. Walton was best known as the author of Christie's Old Organ and A Peep Behind the Scenes (an attack on using child actors). (eBay)
Mrs. Mackarness, The Cloud with a Silver Lining and The Star in the Desert (John D. Williams, n.d.). US reprint of two novellas, the first about marriage, misunderstandings, and murder, the second about reconciliation between an estranged married couple. (eBay)
L. E. Usher, Then Came October (Harbour, 2008). In the early 1930s, a young woman discovers the diaries of her mother, Edith Carew. (Amazon [secondhand])
John Darnton, The Darwin Conspiracy (Knopf, 2005). Modern-day researchers (who seem somewhat akin to the lead couple in Possession, just with science instead of literary criticism) uncover deep dark secrets behind the publication of Darwin's theory of evolution. (Amazon [secondhand])
Melissa Pritchard, Selene of the Spirits (Ontario Review, 1998). Historical novel about a Victorian medium, loosely based on the life of real-life medium Florence Cook. (Amazon [secondhand])
Count de Montalembert, Catholic Interests in the Nineteenth Century (Charles Dolman, 1852). Assesses the current state of Catholicism in mid-Victorian Europe and analyzes its prospects. More about the Count here. (eBay)
In comments, Roger asked an interesting question: given all these books I keep acquiring (and, therefore, have to shelve somewhere), how do I figure out when to put items from my collection out to pasture? (Or, at least, out to the free books table.)
1. As you might expect, we begin with denial, as I hear my books sobbing at the very thought that I might no longer want them. How could I be so heartless? So cruel?
"Because there are books stacked on top of books here," I tell them, firmly.
OK, I tell myself firmly.
2. Moving on past the Agony of the Books. Some books I never intend to keep. As it happens, these are the books I now buy in electronic format--SF or mystery anthologies, for example. I generally discard mysteries unless they're Victorian (I have a use for those), although I did hang on to all of my Dalziel and Pascoe novels. I also quickly discarded all those Anne Boleyn romances, and the Dracula knockoffs I currently have stacked up every which way will also decamp whenever that article finally puts in an appearance.
3. As an academic, I get free copies of teaching editions. There are times when one contemplates seven different copies of Jane Eyre and decides that there are other things that could be on one's shelves.
Now we're into the tougher decisions.
4. Question #1: Will I ever read this? For some reason, I built up a rather large stack of postapocalyptic novels. And yet, despite my naturally pessimistic nature, I then found myself deeply unmotivated to read any of them. Out they went.
5. Question #2: Will I ever read this again? At the risk of forever destroying what exists of my geek/nerd cred, I found that the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Silmarillion fell before this question like orcs in sunlight. (Let's just say that I think you need to have "caught" Tolkien, like Lovecraft, at a certain age; as it happens, my own immune system proved too strong for Tolkien's prose when I finally sat down to read it.)
6. Question #3: Will I ever write about this? Given my line of work, historical novels tend to survive this question, but a lot of contemporary fiction (especially contemporary fiction that didn't grab me the first time around) disappears into the ether.
7. Question #4: Will I ever teach this? Since I do teach the second half of the British novel survey, contemporary British fiction has a good chance of coming out alive. Literature in translation, which comes in handy for some lower division courses that fulfill GE requirements, also has an edge. And I generally hang on to novels that rewrite other novels and/or Shakespeare, as they're helpful for intro to literary analysis.
8. Question #5: Will I ever cite this? Culling monographs is a bit dicey--I just wound up rebuying (for less than a dollar, thank goodness) a book I discarded about a decade ago because I'd never used it, only to discover now that I need it for more than one project. Because interests are not predictable. (...Dracula knockoffs? Really?) These decisions were easier when I was a graduate student, and bought a lot of books that looked interesting without considering whether or not they were actually useful for my scholarship. A random interesting book should be checked out of the library; a useful book should be on one's own shelf.
Antonia Hodgson, The Devil in the Marshalsea (Mariner, 2014). In the eighteenth century, a wastrel lands in the Marshalsea Prison, then finds himself embroiled with a sinister murderer. (Lift Bridge)
Paul R. Messbarger, Fiction with a Parochial Purpose: Social Uses of American Catholic Literature, 1884-1900 (Boston UP, 1971). Study of the emergence and didactic use of the Catholic novel in the USA, including reception history, reactions to various historical problems, etc. (Amazon [secondhand])
[Harriette G. Brittan], Kardoo, the Hindoo Girl (RTS, ). A first-person novella about a young Hindu girl's life experiences and eventual conversion to Christianity in mid-19th c. India. Brittan, who appears to have been a missionary, wrote a handful of other works about India and Africa. (eBay)
Andrew Smith and William Hughes, eds., The Victorian Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion (Edinburgh, 2012). Major topics in Victorian Gothic fiction, drama, and poetry, including conventions, major historical influences, gender issues, etc. (Amazon)
John Walton, the Honest Cabin Boy (RTS, n.d.). Cute little RTS tract, probably from mid-century, about how a cabin boy's devotion to virtue allows him to turn a profit and rescue his mother from the workhouse. (eBay)
Harry Thompson, This Thing of Darkness (Headline, 2005). A rather hefty historical novel about Robert Fitzroy, the captain of the HMS Beagle, and his increasingly strained relationship with Charles Darwin. (Amazon [secondhand])
The Christian Witness and Church Members' Magazine, vol. 18 (1861). One volume of a British Congregationalist journal. (eBay)
Mary Martha Sherwood, The Children of The Hartz Mountains; or the Little Beggars (American Sunday-School Union, n.d.). A tract. In Germany, the poor children of an upstanding peasant family deal with the poor children of a non-upstanding family of beggars. (eBay)
Dinah Mulock Craik, Young Mrs. Jardine (Harper & Brothers, n.d.). A young man's choice of wife leads to dissension within his family. US reprint of one of Craik's last works, originally published in 1879. (eBay)
John Bamford, Elias Power, of Ease-in-Zion (Phillips & Hunt, 1885). Methodist novel about the exemplary Elias Power and his influence within the community surrounding the Ease-in-Zion congregation. Features characters with names like "Burnish Brighter" and "Jane Joyful." Originally published in the UK in 1884. (eBay)
Ross Gilfillan, The Edge of the Crowd: A Novel of Live, Science and Photography (Fourth Estate, 2001). Shenanigans going on and about the Great Exhibition of 1851, including innovations in photography and the pursuit of women. (Amazon [secondhand])
Jenny Diski, Monkey's Uncle (Phoenix, 1994). A woman hospitalized after a breakdown finds herself consorting with Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and sundry other somewhat out-of-time individuals. (Amazon [secondhand])
Hanya Yanagihara, The People in the Trees (Anchor, 2014). In the mid-twentieth century, an expedition to Micronesia produces a scientific breakthrough but endangers the indigenous population. (Lift Bridge)