Other People’s Bookshelves #4 – Annabel Gaskell

For the latest instalment of other peoples book porn bookshelves we get to have a nosey through the lovely Annabel Gaskell’s shelves this week. I must add here that through the wonder of WordPress and its tools I know that Annabel is my most commenting visitor, I think that might deserve a prize or something, I will  have to mull it over. Anyway, Annabel has been blogging at http://gaskella.wordpress.com for over four years. She says “ Like the rest of my family, I’ve always loved books – we’re all book-hoarders too.  A child of the 1960s and 1970s, I’m a South Londoner, and studied Materials Science at Imperial College, London. I worked as a proper scientist in the chemical industry for years, before my biological clock went ping at 39. I took several years off work after having my daughter who is now 12, and now I’m a lab technician in an Oxfordshire prep school. I’m a staunch supporter of independent bookshops and literary events in Abingdon near Oxford, and have hosted three literary quiz nights for charity in the town” – a fourth is in the planning. So lets have a nosey shall we?

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?

I used to keep every book I read, but it does eventually get to a stage where you have to make hard decisions about how many are worth keeping. Some time ago, book geek that I am, I made myself a set of criteria for keeping books:

  • I rated it 9 or 10 points out of 10;
  • It’s part of a series I am reading and intend to keep in its entirety;
  • It’s a collectable edition/set, e.g. hardback firsts, Folio, illustrated, or signed;
  • It’s an important book in the history of literature, e.g. Canon or a major prize-winner
  • It’s by an author I collect;
  • It’s a book I want to keep for my daughter;
  • It belongs to a particular ‘reading trail’ or area of special interest, e.g. Russian novels, fairy tales, classic children’s novels;
  • It’s non-fiction and useful for reference.

Note – having made the rules, I don’t follow them religiously – but I do tend towards them, keeping less than half the books I read these days.

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?

My fiction books are split between read and unread. In my posh bookcases in the guest bedroom (in which all the books are unread), they’re strictly alphabetical by author’s surname, with biographies and non-fiction separated out.  Then I have a separate bookcase for hardback biographies, and my travel books are in the downstairs loo. In my study bedroom are the holding shelves which are totally mixed up and double stacked. I have my reference library in the dining room. Finally I have my bedside bookcase which has most of the books I plan to read soon in! I am gradually culling a lot of my unread books now – I have more than I could possibly read, and there are all those shiny new books too, but it’s so difficult! I am getting tougher on myself though and upping the pace of culling slightly which is good, I think…

Posh bookcases

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

I was never short of books to read as a child. My parents bought us lots, and I used the library extensively. It’s hard to remember but I suspect that amongst the first books I bought (which were from the Guides jumble sale) were science fiction – Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, and Fantastic Voyage – I still have the latter.

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?

I don’t have any books to be embarrassed about, no hidden shelves or downloads on my Kindle.

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?

Over the years I have treated myself to the Folio Society’s collections of fairy tales which are gorgeous editions with lovely illustrations and I’d be loath to lose them. Some of my signed books are quite precious to me too.  There’s also my Beryl collection.  Everything is replaceable – but I do have a catalogue on Librarything just in case!

Beryl Books 001

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?

This is a cop out, but I can’t remember specifically. I just devoured everything that came my way – I got an adult library pass at around 12yrs old, and after reading Day of the Triffids at school in year 7, I got heavily into SF for many years. I did discover ‘Rebecca’ as a young teenager at home though …

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 don’t use the library at present, so I acquire the books I want to read.

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

Winter Games by Rachel Johnson – I’ve just read it too, and it was rather good.

Reference Library

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

My Am**on wishlist currently runs to around 450 items, over 400 of which are books, so yes – lots!

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

I just hope they’ll be pleasantly surprised at the breadth of the type of books that I read. Although I mostly read contemporary fiction, I try to read a bit of everything else alongside it. Ultimately though, I hope they could find books they want to read on the shelves too.

Holding bookcases Travel books!


A big thank you to Annabel for letting me grill her. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves 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 Annabel’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?


Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

19 responses to “Other People’s Bookshelves #4 – Annabel Gaskell

  1. gaskella

    Thank you for doing me proud Simon. I like that you’ve kept the toilet photo till the end! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Appearing elsewhere … « Annabel's House of Books

  3. I ran across this article using Zite and really enjoyed reading it. I loved the fact there are bookshelves in the toilet …. hmmm

  4. I have so much shelf envy right now!!

  5. What *amazing* shelves Annabel – I wish I could inspect them in person!!

    • gaskella

      Thanks Kaggsy. I couldn’t survive without Billy bookcases from Ikea. However my favourites are the white ones in the spare bedroom which I had made for me for paperbacks.

  6. Totally jealous of these shelves, even the one in the loo. This series is getting dangerous. I found myself totally coveting my sister’s built-ins over Christmas!

  7. I’m green with envy.

  8. Fascinating! I’m a book Blogger who doesn’t collect books and so don’t really retain any other than the few exceptional ones. I would be a poor candidate for this series!

  9. I’m jealous of all the shelves! I live in a bedsit so can only have three bookcases (and they are overflowing) and have to keep the rest of my books in my mum and dad’s attic. I would love to have the rooms to have them all out on shelves!

  10. debbierodgers

    Oh, Annabel! Bookshelves in every room – and such a variety of topics. *swoon* Will you invite me to your house, please?

    • gaskella

      Not quite every room. I forgot my cookbooks under the stairs. Only the lounge is book free – instead that’s full of other stuff… You’d be welcome to visit too.

  11. I love it when I see books in people’s bathrooms!

  12. I love that Annabel has shelves of books all over the house! I think that is the down side of having a library. Although I’m sure the collection will grow enough to need more shelves elsewhere in time!

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