A Weekend in Ilkley (and Ilkley Book Festival!) 

I have spent my first weekend back in the UK away from home in the Yorkshire Dales/Moors and in the wonderful village (and mainly the pub) of Ben Rhydding next to Ilkley. What on earth was I doing there? Well apart from eating, drinking and chatting about books in the pub I was there  as part of the programme for Ilkley Literature Festival, which has just started and if you’re nearby you should really check out.

I was kindly invited by New Writing North to take part in a talk on writing and reading in the digital age and what social media, blogs and vlogs etc are doing for the industry, for readers and for writers. Chaired by (the lovely) Claire Malcolm, who is New Writing North’s CEO, I was on a panel with author and vlogger Jen Campbell and Unbound’s editor-at- large Rachael Kerr. It was a joy to do events with Claire and Rachael again and also to finally meet Jen! The audience were also brilliant. Annoyingly I forgot to take a picture of any of us together or the audience. I am a fool. 

I really love it when you get to do an event with an audience that is as engaged as last nights was. Some of the questions (which I will be answering in full soon here) really, really made me think. Never before has some asked me how responsible I feel about reviewing, or if they have I’ve never been made to think about it as much as I have since. Nor have I ever been asked what I feel my role is, if any, between author and reader. I didn’t think I had one, the audience weren’t so sure. Much to think on and come back to.

Before the event, after having checked in at the hotel which is a pub, I did manage to go around Ilkley. By which I actually mean I went to the wonderful Grove Bookshop… 

And parted with some cash as I somehow, because of the wonderful layout and selection of books, came away with not one but four books, it’s a sickness…

One I had actually asked if they had in (I’m Jack by Mark Blacklock) and they didn’t but managed to get in with a day’s notice. Now that is a bookshop to be proud of – and dream of having locally. Speaking of locals, I must mention the place I spent most of my time, The Wheatley Arms. No, I haven’t become a lush this was our hotel and it was, erm, lush. Look at my room…

I had a balcony all of my own. Now look at the Whitby crab and chips I had for my tea… 

I spent several hours in the restaurant and bar last night with Rachael, Claire and her husband putting the publishing and book world to rights. Before returning again for breakfast this morning and doing the same with Rachael and Jen before we all had to catch our trains. Well after a small lie in with a nice cuppa Yorkshire Tea (my fav) and one of the books I had bought in the worlds most comfortable bed.  

What a lovely weekend. Next weekend I am off to Durham Book Festival, more on that on Tuesday, but for now I will leave you with a link again to Ilkley Literature Festival, and these questions… What have you all been upto this weekend and what are you reading?

Oh and UPDATE the event I took part in has been reviewed. Me being reviewed seems most odd, thankfully it was a good one, phew. 


Filed under Uncategorized

Other People’s Bookshelves #73 – Dan Coxon

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are in the company of author and editor Dan Coxon. He’s put on a might fine spread of nibbles and drinks for us, so do grab a few and settle down on those comfy chairs as we get to know Dan better and have a right old rifle through his bookshelves….

I’m an author, editor and father, not necessarily in that order. My travel memoir Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand was published four years ago, and was used as background for the ITV documentary River Deep, Mountain High last year. I also write short fiction, with stories in Gutter, Neon, The Lonely Crowd, The Portland Review, Flash, and many more; forthcoming in Unthology and Popshot. Non-fiction all over the place, from Salon to The Scottish Cricketer. From 2013-2015 I edited Litro magazine, and I’m in the process of editing an anthology of short stories about fatherhood, entitled Being Dad. We’re currently taking pre-sales and raising funds on Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dan-coxon/being-dad-short-stories-about-fatherhood). Please check it out – we have stories from Toby Litt, Dan Rhodes, Courttia Newland, Nicholas Royle and Nikesh Shukla, amongst others. It’s going to be wonderful.


Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

My natural instinct is to keep everything, good or bad. I guess I’m a hoarder, at least when it comes to the written word. In reality I’ve shed a few books over the years. Generally speaking, every book I read moves onto the shelves shortly afterwards. But some only take up temporary residence, while others are there for good. Signed copies (by anyone) and a few favoured authors (Iain Banks, Will Self, Ian McEwan, William Burroughs, Doug Coupland) will always find a space on my shelves, no matter what. Plus anything by someone I actually know in real life, or anything that blows me away. Basically, I’m always looking for a good excuse to hang onto books.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

For almost ten years I worked in the book trade, first as a bookseller, then as a bookshop manager. During that time my shelves were immaculate – arranged according to genre, then by author. It was basically like having a little bookstore in my house. Now that I have two kids, I have less space, and less time. I still have a ‘to read’ shelf, where all my latest purchases and the books I’d like to revisit reside. And a ‘friends’ shelf, stacked with books by authors I know (this is still growing – I may need two shelves at some point soon). Beyond that, I’m ashamed to say that most of my books are arranged according to size. Non-fiction is still separate, but it’s mostly a case of fitting in as many tomes as I possibly can. One day, when I have the time and the space, I’d love to return to a proper system again. I’d love to have all my short fiction in one place.

As for culling, my wife and I went travelling for a year at one point (part of which formed the basis for Ka Mate), and I cut a lot of books from the collection. The remainder were stored in friends’ attics for twelve months, so I had to be ruthless. The same happened when we moved to Seattle for a few years, and on the way back again. We’d fill boxes with the titles we were happy to part with, then we’d invite friends round to take their pick. If they were going to a good home it wasn’t such a tearful parting. I like to think that my shelves are still out there, just residing in my friends’ collections.



What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I’ll come clean – I had to check on this one. I always had so many books around when I was a kid that it’s hard to remember specifics. It turns out that my Mum can’t remember either. It was possibly one of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, although I thought I received those for Christmas. Given my childhood reading habits, it’s quite likely that it was one of the Doctor Who novelisations. I still have the Narnia books (nice editions, that have been passed down through my half-siblings and back to me), but I only have a handful of Classic Who novels in modern versions, nothing like the books I had back then.

What I do remember is that I had a rolling list of books I wanted, written on the back of a Waterstone’s bookmark (these were one-sided at the time, with a maroon front). At first it was just five or six titles that I’d heard of and wanted to read, but within a few years it had expanded to multiple bookmarks, with titles and authors packed in tiny handwriting on the back. I’d give these to my parents at every birthday, without telling them that most of the books were rarities or out of print. I was always interested in reading out-of-the-way books, the ones that everyone had forgotten about. These days there’s probably an app that will hunt them all down for you. But when I was a kid I loved having my never-ending wish list.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

To be honest, anything I was truly embarrassed by was thrown out during the culling. I do have a shelf of my juvenilia – Michael Moorcock’s Elric books, those early Doctor Who novelisations, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service – mostly the same editions that I had growing up. These sit directly behind my TV, in plain sight, so I wouldn’t exactly call them hidden. I’m actually rather proud of them. If people don’t ‘get’ them, then they probably don’t ‘get’ me either. I’ve been living with those books for so long that they’ve become part of who I am. Having said that, my wife does have a few Patricia Cornwells that I’ve stowed away, out of sight. Her later novels are just awful.


Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

For my 21st birthday my Dad bought me a 1st edition boxed set of Lord of the Rings, so that would be the easy choice. Quite apart from the sentimental attachment, it’s also worth more than any other books that I own, by a rather large margin! Beyond that, there’s a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson that my dad stole from a local library about fifty years ago. I’ve been dragging that around for so long that I couldn’t bear to part with it now. The same goes for the copy of Moby-Dick that I pilfered from our school supplies when I was 17. (They’ll probably read this now and demand it back. It’s not even a particularly nice copy, but we spent an entire term wandering the playing fields reading excerpts from it, imagining that we were the Dead Poets’ Society. If nothing else, it’s an irreplaceable reminder of what a pretentious tosser I was in my teens.)

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I think it was the Selected Stories of H.G. Wells. My dad is a rabid science fiction reader, and our shelves were always dominated by his books. I seem to remember an illustrated edition of this book, although I may be making that up. I read these stories fairly early, and loved the sense of imagination and adventure that came with them. I was lucky that my parents encouraged my reading habit, and didn’t mind me dipping into their shelves on occasion. I haven’t read them in a while, but there’s a copy still buried on one of my shelves somewhere. ‘The Time-Machine’ probably looms larger in my subconscious than any other single story, and I’ve taken a few shots at writing a time travel story over the years. Maybe it also explains why I’m still an unrepentant Doctor Who fan.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I borrow quite a lot of books – I firmly believe in the library system, and if we don’t use it, we may lose it. Whenever I read something that I like, which I’ve borrowed, I have to ask myself whether I’m likely to read it again. If I will, then I’ll buy a copy (especially if I want to make notes on it, I wouldn’t deface library property!). In most cases, though, upon honest reflection, I decide that my shelves probably can’t take the extra weight.


What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

I’ve been cutting back on book purchases this year. I have such a backlog of wonderful reading that I want to dedicate some time to catching up with the pile. I have made a couple of purchases in the last month or two, though. Most recent was at the Green Man Festival, in Wales. I’d read most of the book I’d taken with me on the train, and it rained solidly for much of Saturday and Sunday, so I was tent-bound with nothing to do. Luckily there was a well-stocked book stall, where I bought J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World (irresistible, given the weather) and Christopher Priest’s The Affirmation. I’m happy to say that both were excellent.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

There are always books that I want to own, but I’ve gradually come to realise that I’ll never have the time to read them all. Currently, as I type this, I’m craving Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, as well as Jonathan Evison’s latest, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!. But I will resist, for now at least.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I think they’d probably be a little confused. My shelves are quite a mess at the moment. But I like to think that they’d pause for a moment and find an unsuspected gem or two hidden in the stacks. Reading is always at its most exciting when it serves up unexpected pleasures, and there are some genuine treasures in among the chaos. Or maybe they’d just see a Doctor Who-loving geek with a love of impenetrably pretentious modern literature – either is fine by me.



A huge thanks to Dan for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, you can check out his short story collection kickstarter here. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Dan’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?


Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

Win Not One, But Two, Signed Copies of Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress

My second give away of the day is doubly delightful. You can win not one but two signed copies of Margaret Atwood’s ‘nine wicked tales’ that make up Stone Mattress thanks to the lovely people at Virago and Little Brown. So that is one for you and a friend or family member. (Good Christmas present alert!) If you have yet to read any Atwood (are you mad?) then this would be an ideal introduction, if you are a fan of Atwood then this will just be a treat. Here is a teaser from the tale Dark Lady which is so my cup of tea…

Every morning at breakfast Jorrie reads the obituaries in all three of the papers. Some of the write-ups make her laugh, but to the best of Tin’s knowledge none of them has ever made her cry. She’s not much of a sniveller, Jorrie.
    She marks the noteworthy dead people with an X – two Xs if she plans to attend the funeral or the memorial service – and hands the papers across the table to Tin. She gets the real paper papers, delivered right to their townhouse doorstep, because according to her they skimp on the obituaries in the digital versions.
    “Here’s another,” she’ll say. “‘Deeply missed by all who knew her,’ I think not! I worked with her on the Splendida campaign. She was a sick bitch.” Or else: “‘Peacefully, at home, of natural causes.’ I doubt that very much! I bet it was an overdose.” Or: “Finally! Creepy Fingers! He groped me at a company dinner in the ’80s with his wife sitting right beside him. He was such a lush they won’t even have to embalm him.”


So what do you have to do? Well firstly you have to be from the UK, apologies international readers, and secondly you have to leave a comment telling me what your favourite short story collection AND fairy tale is. Two book recommendations which could win you two signed copies of a wonderful book (which I am now popping in my case for a weekend at Ilkley Book Festival!) You have until midnight GMT on Monday the 5th of October 2015 – this is a day extension as Monday is a busy day on the blog. Good luck!


Filed under Give Away, Margaret Atwood

Who Fancies Attending Stylist Magazine Live?

Today is a day of giveaways, as I am still too jetlagged to actually write a review or even concentrate on a book (which is quite annoying frankly). The first of today’s two give aways might not initially seem that booky but in fact is rather booky indeed, as Stylist Magazine have kindly given me 10 pairs of tickets to give away for Stylist Live to the first 10 of you to apply for them. What is Stylist Live? Well, funny you should ask that, it is a four day event where Stylist Magazine (who emailed me and said they were a fan of the blog which thrilled me to bits obviously) quite literally comes to live. They have live fashion shows, live events with celebrities, masterclasses on all kinds of journalism, live baking and cookery (and cocktails, woohoo) as well as some very booky events. These, which I know you will be the most interested in, though the line up over the four days is pretty brilliant, are quite first rate. Two highlights are such as Salman Rushdie & Emma Cline: Literary Legend vs 2016 hottest debut author. Salman Rushdie converses with American writer Emma Cline whose debut novel The Girls is 2016’s most anticipated novel months before its release – The audience will each receive an advance copy of this 2016 must-read. There is also a Q&A with one of Stylist’s favourite feminist writers, Caitlin Moran known for her bestselling books How to be a Woman and How to Build a Girl as she talks to journalist Sophie Heawood. You can also see Yotam Ottolenghi talking about his cook books and what we will all be eating over the next year. Plus, one of my favourite things… a daily book club with the Booker winner, Nina Stibbe, and Kate Griffin. You can see the full event schedule right here.


Now of course what you want to know is how you could win and get your self down there (well you have to physically get yourself there but you know what I mean) on one of its four days in London. It is really simple. You follow this link here then type in Quills and select your date and if you want a ticket or two – that is all. I will be there on a few of the days and am hoping to see some of your lovely faces there. Good luck and let me know if you win and are heading there!


Filed under Give Away, Random Savidgeness


The capacity for bookish bods to do wonderful and charitable things is quite something. Not long ago Patrick Ness set up a fundraiser for Syria through Save The Children, which is still taking donations, and has just blown up and now made over $1,000,000. In the last couple of weeks author and vlogger Jen Campbell announced her challenge to write 100 Poems in 24 hours from the 6th to the 7th of October for The Book Bus, a wonderful charity that sends mobile libraries to communities in various places across Africa, Asia and South America to help children learn to read, provide teaching materials and create school libraries. Now the book shop chain Waterstones, one of the few chain stores I love whole heartedly, have announced their Buy Books For Syria campaign….


They have teamed up with authors and UK publishers to raise £1m for Oxfam’s Syria Crisis appeal. From Today they will be selling books in our shops from a range of authors with all the proceeds going to Oxfam. A wide range of authors are supporting the campaign, including Philip Pullman, Hilary Mantel, David Walliams, Neil Gaiman, David Nicholls, Marian Keyes, Victoria Hislop, Ali Smith, Robert Harris, Lee Child, Salman Rushdie, Caitlin Moran, Julia Donaldson and Jacqueline Wilson.

I was kindly asked if I would like to champion one of the books and once the list was announced I went and chose one of my favourite thrillers of the last year or so which is Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm. If you haven’t read this corker of a thriller then here is my review to give you a taster and to add an extra reason to get your mitts on a copy for this cause.


Though frankly don’t even go and look at that just please do order the book, using this special link so the proceeds all go to Syria, if you haven’t read it yet. If you have read it then have a look at the rest of the special selection of books which you can buy in store or online using the special links here. Often when we take a moment away from our books and watch the news we feel like we can’t really do anything massive, well with this initiative we can, and all buy buying ourselves and/or our loved ones the gift of a book. Simple really, how can we not? I am off to go and choose a title or two myself!


Filed under Random Savidgeness

And I’m Back…

Though not quite back in the land of the living I am not far off, I don’t think. Jet lag has hit rather heavily since my return flight on which I got no sleep, so I spent all of Monday in an over tired fog. Yesterday was sorting everything out day after a corking twelve and a half hour sleep, which involved lots of shopping (because it was my first new job pay day, I bought one book which wasn’t even for me) and then sorting out of my luggage and loot. Here is my final collection of book haul from America… 

I think I did quite well with this nineteen strong haul! There’s some brilliant bargains, some random risks, some US only published chances, some gems I didn’t expect and two books I was bursting to buy. All in all a grand old haul. I will be telling you about them all over the next weeks, months and possibly years. Ha. I also came home to a small, select and brilliant bundle of parcels…

Today I have been back to work which has been a small effort as I have felt I have been behind a screen watching everything at a distance (my team were all so lovely to me about it) and at once point I thought I was seeing things at one meeting…

I wasn’t. I was just having a meeting that involved a Dalek. As you do. Can you see why I love my job?!? Now I am super shattered and am watching the semi final of the Great British Bake Off before going to bed with a book that probably going to terrify me more than any episode of Dr Who…

So what have you all been up to? What are you reading? What’s new? Let me know, or I will weep and being as overtired as I am that is quite likely!!!!


Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts

The Readers Roadtrip Day 9; The Last Full Day, A Bloggers Meet Up & The Last Supper

And it came and went so soon, the last full day in Washington and indeed in America. How has it all whizzed by so fast? Today I will be flying back to the UK, but let’s not think about that, let’s talk about yesterday which was a lovely day and started in the perfect way with a bookshop… 

Now, I have to admit I went to Politics & Prose last year and had a really bad experience. Everyone had raved and raved about it and I went in and witnessed the worst customer service from a man who coughed constantly in the fiction room and then was so rude so loudly to a customer on the phone. I couldn’t believe it. Neither could Thomas to the point he complained. So I was slightly horrified when that person was the first person I saw on arrival…  

But this time I have to say I enjoyed it way more. So much that I bought a couple of books without thinking, I might blog about it too over the next week or so. Maybe. All in all DC has done pretty well out of me as every bookshop has seen me part with cash, I might have problems with my luggage allowance later! Anyway we had a good wander, which was followed by a lovely lunch with Frances of NonSuchBook who is a blogger I have followed for ages and ages and ages.And she was so lovely! You should follow her blog if you don’t already.

We had a lovely lunch and also recorded a special Man Booker episode of The Readers which will go live in a week or so before the announcement. Frances has read all of them, which is partly my fault as I was going to read the longlist with her and had to not last minute to do some work for another prize (which I still can’t talk about) however she carried on with a wonderful group of bloggers and has a WoMan Booker Panel. We then spent ages in Thomas’ library talking about books, books, books…

For the last night in Washington I was a very lucky sausage as Thomas and his husband John took me for dinner in Doi Moi which did amazing food and amazing Pina Colada’s (which have been the drink of the holiday) and we had a wonderful night on the town. They have seriously been the hosts with the most and Thomas has been a joy to spend so much time with going around the country.  

I’m sad it’s almost over! So now it’s time to pack all these books and start heading home! It’s been such a brilliant booky break, my best bookish holiday ever.


Filed under The Readers Roadtrip