Continuing the Vintage SFF Reading Adventure

A couple of years ago, as many have done before me, I made a long-term plan to read all the Hugo Award winners as a way of gaining an overview of how speculative fiction has evolved and to kind of ground myself in this genre that I love so much. There’s an undisputable value in knowing what came before, even if we humans aren’t collectively that great at putting such knowledge to good use. However, after stating my intentions, making a sweeter-than-candy banner for my project and starting in on Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugos, which was to be my casual guidebook, I … lost faith (let’s say) … in the venture, and dropped it.

But I still wanted to do some kind of structured reading of older SFF. My biggest frustration when I pick things for Vintage SciFi Month is that I’m often reading the only books I’ve been able to find at the library or secondhand and have no sense of where they ‘fit’ in the timeline of published speculative fiction. Yes, I investigate to the best of my ability. No, I don’t always have the time or energy to go as far as I’d like with that.

Enter library patron, stage left.

Let’s call him … ‘Bob’ (his name is absolutely not Bob, but I can’t keep calling him Library Patron and I’m not about to blow his cover either).

‘Bob’ and I have been chatting about older SFF for a while. In fact, my original Hugo winners reading plan stemmed in part from our conversations. Bob had been lending me both awesome and dreadful books from his collection and tolerating my lurid cover-art obsession for about three years when the new, smaller apartment he’d been waiting for finally became available and downsizing his library became a priority. A lot of his books have been read to death and Bob’s biggest worry was that if he took them somewhere they’d just get pulped. He knew too that we couldn’t put them into stock at the library for the same reason. So, he gifted them to me.

Which now makes me the proud owner of a collection of science fiction and fantasy books that spans over two thirds of Bob’s lifetime, affectionately known in our household as The Motherload. Better than a stack of award-winners to my mind, because here I have a snapshot of one person’s adult reading life. It’s not a finely curated collection, Bob hasn’t edited it to his tastes. Yeah, it’s all SFF, but having kept pretty much everything he’s ever read, here are books that he’s both loved and loathed. His acquisition policy is ‘whatever I can get my hands on’ and he doesn’t purchase books over the internet. So this motherload of reading matter provides a picture of what was physically available, primarily second-hand, here in our corner of the UK from the early sixties, say, to the mid-noughties (these dates are an educated guess as we don’t really talk about when Bob bought something).


The link below will take you to a list of the 693 books he’s passed onto me (because of course I catalogued it):

The Motherload


And, way more importantly, here’s my new header image for this slow-burn reading project (because what really cut me up about dropping the Hugo plan was that I had to ditch the banner I was so, so pleased with):


I doubt that I’ll read everything Bob has given to me. Some things on the list will never be my cup of tea and there’ll be DNFs for sure, but I’m looking forward to wading in and making discoveries. Three of the four books I read this Vintage SciFi Month came from the Motherload and I have a preliminary stack of titles that tickle my fancy to dip into as the mood takes me.

(What’s that? You’d like a photo of said stack? Can do!):

A stack of 30 vintage SFF books
The tip of the iceberg … book-berg?


Finally, I have Bob’s blessing to pass on books to others who will appreciate them. I won’t be doing this yet awhile, but I intend to gift books on if there’s any interest (and as long as it’s not a keeper). I guess I’ll wait and see what response this gets before I make any concrete plans on how I’ll go about it, so hit me up in the comments if you have thoughts or feelings about the proposal.

And in the meantime, wish me luck, yeah?




  1. That is fantastic! I really hope you get years and years and years of enjoyment out of this.

    Of course, trying to get rid of them might be more difficult than you think. I look forward to that aspect of this journey too.

    Finally, that banner 😀 * fist bump of awesomeness *

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! *returns fist bump*
      It really will be years and years too. 🤣
      And yeah, i don’t expect anyone to be chewing my hand off for any of these books, but if I can help anyone out with a free book I will. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my word, this is EPIC. Wishing you all the luck and waving my frantic book buddy arm for when you get to Guy Gavriel Kay because I am ALWAYS around for a reread of his books! I would also be very excited to buddy read Le Guin (The Dispossessed), Tepper (The Gate to Women’s Country) and Cherryh (Pride of Chanur) at some point if you fancy it 😉

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  3. This looks interesting! Why are the RAH books removed?
    What a strange and interesting selection! No Dune, only rudimentary Le Guin, but lots of British New Wave. Is Bob in his 70s?

    Liked by 1 person

    • 1. RAH books removed because they’ve been lent to a friend.
      2. Yes, Bob’s in his 70s – good guess!
      3. He’s keeping Dune because its a favourite, and I already have a copy.
      4. He’s admitted to not being a fan of Le Guin. 😱

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  4. Just wow. What few books I still had left from my cache of SF Book Club purchases, my children stole.

    The only one I have left close at hand is Leviathan’s Deep, Jayge Carr, because it speaks to me somehow, and I reread it every couple of years.


    Liked by 1 person

      • Strong female protagonist who is an alien and defends her culture against an attempt by the larger and more powerful human incursion into her planet and its culture – and how they won.

        Has stuck with me forever even though the very ending of this short novel is a bit rushed – but very good. I think I read it first in grad school.

        I tend to be very loyal to the books that reached something deep inside.

        Liked by 1 person

    • It IS a treasure trove, you’re right. I get such a kick from digging around and pulling out something that looks interesting, but which I know nothing about. It’s like a lucky dip! 😀

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