Other People’s Bookshelves #14 – Roz Campion

After a small hiatus Other People’s Bookshelves is back, back, backity, back… Hoorah! Thank you to everyone who has responded to my plea for more of you to share your book porn with us, keep them coming as I would love this series to run and run. Anyway, for the fourteenth in the series we get to have a lovely nosey through Roz Campion’s shelves, first though (I know you are desperate to see the books, the books, the books) let us find out a little bit more about Roz…

Roz works for the Foreign Office and currently lives in Washington DC. She has been obsessed by books and reading since she was little and never really understood why anyone would give a gift that isn’t a book. She says she is the kind of person who would read the instructions on a bottle of shampoo if there was nothing else to read – though fortunately she ensures that there always is… Her tastes are a combination of modern fiction, 19th century novels and Persephone-type books. Having a reasonably busy job plus more interests and friends than she did when she was a kid, means that she reads less than she might like. Or at least she did until this year, when the lovely Thomas of My Porch blog made a bet with her about who could read more during the course of the year. Being a determined girl this means she’s already had a fabulous year of reading and is now on book number 53. She listens to books as she walks to work and also listens to novels when she runs, which she admits most people think is weird (she ran her first half marathon whilst listening to an Anthony Trollope novel). She has been with her civil partner, Layla, for almost 6 years, and one of the most difficult things when they first moved in together was merging book collections…not least because Roz kept on trying to take Layla’s books to the local charity shop (to ensure there was enough room for hers). She occasionally blogs for the Foreign Office, though sadly not about books: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/rosalindcampion/ Right, lets take a look at her books and reading habits…

Roz Shelves 5

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?

When I lived in London, I’d assess a book before putting it up on a shelf. That’s not to say that most of them didn’t end up on my shelves anyway – a book has to be really quite bad for me to be certain that I won’t want to read it again and therefore can “risk” giving it away. But now we live in the US I’m not really sure how to get rid of books – they don’t have charity shops in the same way we do in the UK (or not that I’ve been able to find) – which means I keep pretty much everything. After all, it feels just wrong to put a book in the recycling – no book deserves that fate.

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?

I was a nerdy child, and worked in the school library for 6 years (finally becoming Head of Library, which unsurprisingly didn’t bring with it the kudos or glamour that I’d hoped). This means that I like order in my books. Fiction is ordered alphabetically by author (though I’m ashamed to say that the last two times we’ve moved I’ve managed to get someone else to do the alphabetising!). Things have started to go awry a little since we are running out of room a bit. Non-fiction is downstairs and there’s a bit of me that would like to recreate the Dewey decimal system. Fortunately we don’t have enough non-fiction for that to be possible, so there’s a biography section, and then “other” which also has a few TBR books (which I’ve put there when doing a mad dash to tidy up before someone arrives and then forgotten about). My other TBR pile is my bedside table, which is impractical and messy but there you are. I used to cull books reasonably regularly when we lived in London (to Layla’s sorrow as I kept deciding we didn’t need her books!) but without somewhere to take unwanted books that’s not a feature of our lives anymore. And I’m still struggling with trying to work out how to organise my Kindle – I have created numerous different categories, but problem with organising books on a Kindle is that it is very much out of sight out of mind with me.

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

When I was about 6 or 7 I won a £5 book token in a drawing competition. In retrospect, this seems most bizarre since I am completely talentless when it comes to anything artistic and so I suspect it must have been some kind of pity prize. Anyway, I agonised for a while about what to buy and then was told I had to make a decision “now”. This meant I was rushed into buying a paperback of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Silver Branch. It’s a wonderful book (and I do still have my very dog-earred copy of it) but unfortunately it is the second in a trilogy. So it wasn’t a very successful first purchase… Fortunately (or unfortunately) my book-buying talent has improved a lot since then.

Roz Shelves 1

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 gave away most of my guilty-pleasures before we moved here. I’m ashamed to say that I thought that the packers would judge me for my low taste (in fact, I think they mainly hated me for the quantity of books they had to pack). I think, though, I did keep a few Sophie Kinsella books but these are now languishing unpacked at the back of a closet. Other than that, most of my guilty pleasures are on display. In some ways I quite like seeing the Harry Potter series nestled against Philip Roth…

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?

Most of the books which I have a sentimental attachment to are still at my mother’s home in England. I’d definitely save her copy of Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes which she got as a school prize in the 1940s, if there was a fire, for example. The only thing I might grab in case of fire that I have with me here is the set of Jane Austen books which my godmother gave me when I was a child. She taught my mother English literature and always sent my books as gifts – they were always a bit too hard for my age, but is one reason why I read so much great British literature when 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?

The first “grown-up” author I wanted to read, and wasn’t allowed to, was PG Wodehouse. I think my mother thought that I wouldn’t appreciate him if I read him too young and didn’t want me to spoil his books for myself. I managed to persuade the local library to let me get one out of the adult library when I was around 10 and I completely adored it, and read pretty much all of the others I could get my hands on. The one that sticks out most for me (and which I have re-read most often) was Psmith, Journalist. It gave me an all-consuming desire to go to New York, and is a brilliant combination of a humour and social conscience.

Roz shelves 2

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 borrow many books these days since to my sorrow I’ve not managed to find that many friends here who have my all-consuming enthusiasm to read (other than Thomas). But looking at my bookshelves now, I can see some books that I “borrowed” from my best friend in London (sorry, Hugo!) so perhaps that’s just as well…

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

The last book I bought was Appointment in Samara, by John O’Hara. I bought it in a lovely bookshop in Greenwich Village in New York, mainly because it had a beautiful cover and I saw it described as one of the great American novels – I’m very keen to read more American literature whilst I’m living here. I really enjoyed it, though no-one could say it’s a cheerful book.

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

Always. The recent Barbara Pym reading week made me want to buy some of Barbara Pym’s works (but I promised myself I wouldn’t till I got through more of my TBR pile).


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

I think that most people’s first thought would be bemusement that I shipped quite so many books across the Atlantic. I suspect that there would be some surprise that I don’t have more non-fiction – most houses that I’ve visited in DC seem stuffed with books on politics and biography (which make my three small shelves look paltry). And people often wonder why we keep the travel guides to the places we’ve been – to which there’s no clear answer except that it’s quite jolly to remember where we’ve been, they can lead to some good conversations (“you’ve been to Eritrea? why?”) and, of course, I don’t know how to get rid of books here…


A huge thanks to Roz for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in the 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 Roz’s responses and/or any of the books that she mentioned?


Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

9 responses to “Other People’s Bookshelves #14 – Roz Campion

  1. For Roz – There are many many thrift shops benefiting all sorts of charities in the US that will happily take donated books. Also – nearly every library I’ve ever used will take gently used books – often having periodic or ongoing book sales that benefit the library itself. Or, if you’re slightly ambitious – an excellent online bookstore betterworldbooks.com will allow you to print a pre-paid mailing label and ship your used books to them at no cost. All you have to do is box them up and lug them to the post office. (Or check their website to see if there’s a dropbox near you!) They sell the used books and portions of their profit go to reading charities around the world. An excellent organization.

  2. Ann Fuller

    When I had bookshelves – which in my current house I do not have – any book that I loaned out was never returned. So if I had a bookshelf now I would not loan out to anybody!

  3. Roz, there are definitely used book stores in the DC metro area that will happily buy books – my personal favorite is a ways outside the city in Manassas, but McKay’s is the best used bookstore I’ve ever found. (http://mckayusedbooks.biz/index.html) They have a free book bin outside, if you’re wanting to pass them along for nothing or they buy/give trade credit for your books.
    DC is full of lovely, bookish people but you’re very right- tastes do tend heavily towards non-fiction! It is fun though to ride the metro and figure out what the “it” fiction book is, as every young staffer will be reading it on their way into the district. Now that I’m on the west coast, I miss how much reading people do on their commutes, waiting on line, etc. back east. Thanks for sharing

  4. I loved this! Roz, I keep my travel guides, too. All of my journeys have been such fantastic moments in my life that I can’t quite get rid of the outdated manuals on my shelves. It’s a weakness, but one I indulge. 🙂

  5. novelinsights

    I think not finding anywhere to let your books go to is a excuse because you secretly want to keep them 😉 Lovely to hear from you Roz and to find out you write a blog too!

  6. Our contest was to see which of us could reach 100 books this year the fastest. But something tells me we are going to be competing for years to come. And just in case Roz sees this…I just finished #54…

  7. Ruthiella

    Great books and a great interview. I spotted quite a few books I would like to read or have read and enjoyed. I love the solid wall of shelves. I wish I had the space to pull something like that off.
    I agree that putting a book in the recycling bin would be wrong, but in addition to Frankie’s suggestions I second runslikethesnail in donating to charitable organizations. I have purchased books from betterworldbooks.com. I would also suggest to you to donate books to Goodwill. Where I live in California, other than the local libraries, thrift shops such as Goodwill are practically the only bricks and mortar sources available for used books. Not that I am encouraging Roz to cull (a very personal decision!), but I googled it and there is a Goodwill donation center on 2200 South Dakota Ave NE in DC. There are also donation centers in Gaithersburg, MD, Arlington, VA…

  8. Thank you Roz for letting us see your books and for your answers to Simon’s questions. As always it is an interesting experience to see other people’s books and book buying/reading/disposing habits.

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