Other People’s Bookshelves #31; Elizabeth Paulk

Hello and welcome, to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a weekly series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. After quite a few weeks sticking to the British Isles we are fleeing the apocalyptic storms and floods and heading all the way to Texas to have a gander at Elizabeth Paulk’s shelves. I was going to say I will be near these parts in August when I come to Asheville for Booktopia but then looked at the map and realized it’s a million miles (well not quite) away. So quickly glossing over my lack of geography, let’s hand over to Elizabeth and Futz the cat.

I am English – grew up in Bedford, UK — and now live in the Texas Panhandle, home of Buddy Holley and the Crickets. I came to the U.S. a long time ago to go to a Division One university on a swimming scholarship, and ended up staying in the States (which had been my goal all along). I am a professional technical writer, an avid reader, and a freelance photographer.  I still have strong ties with England, family and otherwise, and do occasional voice-overs for electronic telephone menus (“Press One for…”) for businesses in England and other places. My blog is at www.ravingreader.wordpress.com (Just One More Page).


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?

No, I don’t feel the need to keep every book that I read – luckily, or the house would be over-run with paper! I do keep one or two here or there if they’re particularly strong reads or are nicely produced or otherwise special in some way, but that is not the common practice. I generally try to maintain a “One In, One Out” strategy, although it’s mostly “Out” until March 31 as I’m participating (unofficially) in the TBR Challenge. Probably about 75% of the titles on my shelves are TBRs.

Do you organize 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 have two separate bookcases in the back room: one 5-shelf bookcase with mostly NF, and one 3-shelf with mostly F. (There might be a pile in front of the bookcases every now and then if I hadn’t the time or inclination to put the books where they are supposed to be, but I try and keep the total number of books to what fits in the shelves themselves.) 

NF vacillates as to how organized they are. I recently rearranged the books (including a slight cull) and took them out of a particular order and put back into a random method. (I’m such a rebel.) This gave me the feeling that I had a load of new books (since they were in higgledy-piggedly order) and moved some forgotten titles into the spotlight a bit more. The same goes for the F shelves actually – just shelved in a random order mostly. (This is most unlike me to be all unorganized, book-wise, but I was trying something new, and with the TBR Challenge in progress, this brings books bought long ago to the fore which is fun.)


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

Gosh. The first book I ever bought? (Long time ago!) Perhaps a Ponder and William book? I do know that I frequently thumbed through a survival book as I was fascinated with the idea of that. (Not that this event was at high risk of happening to me. I lived in a Victorian house in the middle of a market town in England and never went camping!) However, I liked the idea of being prepared. (Still not a big fan of camping!) Oh, and Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series – the descriptions of boarding school, midnight feasts and ginger beer would make me deliriously happy.

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 really don’t have any books that I would be embarrassed about. I read a wide range of books (both fiction and non-fiction), and don’t feel I would have to worry about anyone who was browsing the shelves. (In my teenager-y past, there may have been some titles that would mortify me now!)

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?

My most prized bookish thing would be a carefully curated photo album of my family going back more than a century. I grew up in England, and have collected these over the years – it even has an index of sorts. Who would be interested in this stuff when I’m dead and gone? No one, I would expect, but it’s fun for me, and if someone finds this in a charity shop one day, at least they might have an idea of who’s pictures are inside.  If we are being very strict about how we define “book”, then I would say that my childhood acquisition of “The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast” by  William Plomer is near the top of cherished titles. My edition has the most fantastic illustrations by Alan Aldridge which held my attention for ages at one time when I was young.

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?

My siblings and I had a fairly free and unsupervised reading life so whatever we were curious about, the odds were that we could find it one way or another, even if meant sitting on the floor of the bookshop for hours at a time.


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?

Whenever I find a book that intrigues me, I usually start with checking our library, then the inter-library loan program, or, if I’m desperate to own it, go on-line and order it. As mentioned, most of my bookshelves are TBR, so since I’m in the middle of that TBR challenge, I’m sticking to what I own and can find in-house at the moment.

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

The last title I bought was a NF called Samba by journalist Alma Guillermoprieto about the year she lived in Brazil learning samba and preparing for Rio’s annual carnivale parade. (I am no dancer, but I like to learn about things it’s highly unlikely that I will ever experience in RL.)


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

Not really. I’m very lucky to be in the position of having lots to read with more choices in the future! I don’t really yearn for first editions or similar although I appreciate them. I’d rather have a book that I’m not afraid of ruining, really, as I can be somewhat accident-prone.

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

Hmm. I’d like to think that I have a title somewhere on the shelves that would interest most people, regardless of who they are, generally speaking. I don’t have any romance, horror, or mass market, but apart from that, I think it’s quite a big spread of topics and fiction titles from which to choose. I think it would be clear from the number of books on the shelves that reading is important to me, although it might be quite puzzling that most of these books have not been read yet!



A huge thanks to Elizabeth for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, and for Futz making a special appearance at the end!  Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) 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 Elizabeth’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?



Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

2 responses to “Other People’s Bookshelves #31; Elizabeth Paulk

  1. I like the bookshelf guardian, Futz the Cat. And I know exactly what Elizabeth means about getting that TBR pile under control. That’s my mission as well. Thank you to both of you for this lovely series for nosy people…

  2. Pingback: Guest Post at Savidge Reads blog | Just One More Page…

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