Monthly Archives: May 2014

Other People’s Bookshelves #43; Seamus Duggan

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a regular series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. This week we are heading of to the Irish Midlands to join Seamus Duggan who blogs at Vapour Trails, and who has kindly agreed to be the latest participant to share their shelves (thank you to all of you who have volunteered to share your shelves you will be getting emails from me very soon) with you all. So grab yourself a cup of tea, or maybe a pint of Guinness or Irish Cream, and lets have a look through his bookshelves and find out more about him.


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?

A book has to be pretty woeful for me to get rid of it. Mostly the ones I get rid of are ones that I never really wanted to read but which came into my possession as part of a box I bought in an auction. My wife and daughter keep coughing pointedly during the TV programme Hoarders which often seems to be on in the evening when I emerge into the TV room. Are they trying to say something? Perhaps.
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 made many attempts at organising my books and there are areas like crime/Sci-fi /music/Irish/Spanish/German etc etc and have even got as far as alphabetising my collections of Short Stories but each area ends up being too small for the number of books as they grow and simultaneously the areas on each side become oversubscribed and the resulting hybrid is usually chaos.  This is even more exaggerated as the shelves progressively become two books deep. What lies beneath? Who knows. One problem I keep coming across is when a book is too large for the shelf it should go on, throwing everything into confusion. Having fitted out a room in my current house as a ‘library’ it is almost as if I am driven to fill every available inch of space. I am currently extending the shelves up to the ceiling and looking at the bare wall over my desk.
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?
Given my current habits I myself fund it hard to believe but I was really a library addict as a child. I cannot remember the first book I bought with my own money but my earliest memory is of the Ladybird reading series and my determination to make it to the final book in the series.
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?
Not really, there are good and bad books on the shelves and they include my kids books I have bought by the box at auction in order to get a couple of books. Once I bought a whole pallet of books and I have made some profit from the few I sold but have had to get rid of a lot and will have to get rid of many more. They are mostly British history books. I have toyed with the idea of trying to sell books online but am not organised enough. 
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?
I think I would burn in the throes of indecision. Perhaps my copies of Ulysses, Riddley Walker and Carpenter’s Gothic, all of which I re-read regularly which has invested the actual books with memories, such as the time Carpenter’s Gothic got soaked in cider, retaining the scent for years afterwards. I also have some First Editions that I love. JR , again by William Gaddis and The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch stand out.
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 have a particular memory of Gone with the Wind which I read during a rainy holiday at my grandmother’s house. It was the first ‘adult’ book of that size that I’d read. I remember being determined to read Ulysses and although only partially successful at fourteen I have gone on to read it a number of times. However it is the copy I bought at college that I have on my shelves.
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 buy almost every book I want to read that I come across in Charity/second hand bookshops. How I’ll ever get to read them all is not clear. (I won’t). I love being able to browse through the hundreds of unread books when wondering what to read next. because of all these books I never borrow any more.
What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?
Found A Handful of Dust yesterday. I couldn’t find my old copy and have been thinking it due a re-read. I feel a little indebted to Mr Waugh (see below).
Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?
A first folio Shakespeare! It would be nice to pay off the mortgage and be able to afford to live a little more comfortably! I recently found a first edition of Waugh in Abyssinia which I put up for auction and sold for £1,500 which will help with the out of control credit card / overdraft situation. ( As a reader I am currently hoping to pick up some Cesar Aria and maybe Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marias. These are the sort of books that very rarely show up in charity shops (although good things come to those that wait).
What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?
They would probably think that I’ve lost touch with reality and need to live more and read less. There is probably something for everyone. It’s got to the stage when I dig around a bit I find books which come as complete surprises to me. Eclectic is the word, I guess, or eccentric.


A huge thanks to Seamus for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. 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 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 with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Seamus’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?


Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

The Summer of Shorts…

No, despite the title of this post I do not plan on spending this summer wearing or collecting lots of varieties of shorts from Speedo’s to Bermuda’s – heaven forbid. However I do have some sort of plan for my reading this summer, in the main it is going to be short.

Hopefully I won’t be short on reading time, but it will have significantly less time to read this summer in particular as I am working on some small two month festival called the International Festival of Business 2014, which only has about 300 events running over the two months with an expected attendance of over 70,000 people and an aim to make £100,000,000 for the UK through future international trade and export! Phew, no pressure then. You may now see why my posting has been rather sporadic so far this year, the madness has been hitting since January.

Anyway, I am going to be working on the marketing and social media, with some lovely people, and most scarily event managing ten large events (some lasting 3-5 days) in one of the city’s most prestigious listed buildings The Cunard – seriously it’s stunning, see below – and so time as you might imagine will be scant.

Three Graces

So I had a thought and there were three options. One, I could just read what I would normally and get frustrated when it takes me ten times as long to read, snatching glances at it when I can. Two, I could just not read all summer, I know ‘as if’. Three, I could make it a positive and read shorter books, graphic novels, novella’s and short stories, expanding my reading of the sort of books I don’t read as often AND providing me with wonderful short but no less brilliant, and sometimes more condensed and masterful, works to devour when I can.


I oddly thought that I didn’t own very much ‘shorter’ fiction but having only the quickest scans of some of my shelves (I have had some shelf drama over the last week which I will share with you all soon) I found I was wrong. I am already excited about these, plus I remembered I had picked all those ‘new to me’ books from the library which will give me short introductions to some new and fingers crossed utterly marvellous writers and writing.

So I thought I would ask for your thoughts on shorter fiction; novellas and short stories. Are you a fan of shorter works and if so why or why not? Do you agree shorter works are sometimes the most potent of tales? Which short stories, anthologies, novellas or graphic novels would you recommend I read over the summer? Who else fancies dipping into some shorter works?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

Suitably Swedish Suggestions…

Fingers crossed, in about nine weeks I will be heading off to Scandinavia, where I have never been before and always wanted to go. This has been a sudden and rather exciting development as a company is kindly sending me off to Sweden, in conjuncture with the Swedish Tourist Board, all thanks to this very blog. First I will be flying off to Gothenburg and then enjoying a ‘cold crime tour’ heading to Fjallbacka and spending some time on some of the remote islands out that way. To say I am thrilled or excited is an understatement, there has been much jumping up and down with joy, and now I am ready to start prepping… with books!

As I have mentioned many a time on this blog, not only do I like to read books set in the country and the place that I visit when I go away, I also like to reading authors from the area along with books set there before hand. So now I am going to start having some trips to Sweden through the joys of books and I wondered if you might help me with some recommendations…

I have already pulled some Camilla Lackberg and Lars Kepler from the shelves. I think I have a copy of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson somewhere and I really want to read Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg’s The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules admittedly partly because of the title. I have read the first and last of Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, I have a standalone or two of his. I don’t have any of the Stieg Larsson books as I tried and failed with the first one though I loved the films. Interestingly, speaking of that visual media, I have just been religiously watching the first two series of The Bridge (seriously how brilliant is that show and how amazing are Saga and Martin?) over the last few weeks with The Beard which I am now having withdrawal symptoms from. In fact if you can tell me of any books as brilliant to read as The Bridge was to watch I would be overjoyed.

Anyway, as you can see I could really do with some more recommendations, not just cold crime – though I love it so – but also any contemporary or classic literature which might take my fancy. Can you help? Get suggesting, the more the merrier…


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days – Jared Cade

A few days ago I reminisced about, and shared with you, a trip that I had back in March with some of my closest chums to Harrogate and York. I mentioned that we had headed to Harrogate because of its literary history and that, in what has become some kind of tradition, we had chosen to all read Jared Cade’s Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days as it has some of its setting in Harrogate as that is where Agatha reappeared after vanishing. Well I have to say it was a reading revelation as never before have I found a book so enthralling and fascinating and then been made so cross by it and the author themselves.

Peter Owen Publishing, paperback, 2011, non-fiction, 340 pages, borrowed from the library

In Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days Jared Cade, who is clearly a huge fan of Agatha Christie, tries to explain with the help of some testimonials and documents from some of her closest friends what really happened when she disappeared and, even more fascinating, why she disappeared. Something which has been a puzzle to many over the years, her own disappearance becoming as fascinating as some of the mysteries that she wrote. Theories have been rife, including one featured in an episode of Dr Who where she gets abducted by aliens.

I would have found all this fascinating enough as it was but what thrilled me all the more was that as I discovered as I read this was also really a biography of the author herself and the life she lived before and after the disappearance. I should here admit that when I first started the book I was thinking ‘oh blimey, we are getting her whole life her’ as all I wanted was the mystery but Jared Cade does quickly draw you in and as you learn more about her childhood, teens and first marriage you become more and more interested in her and also soon see why it is all relevant.

You also learn all about her books, which for someone who has read and enjoyed a fair few of them again I found really interesting to learn where life had inspired her work. I also came away with a list of books (not Poirot ones, I still don’t have any desire to read any he features in and find it hilarious how much she came to hate her own character) which I am going to have to get my mitts on.

So before Agatha (who I feel I am firm friends with now) even goes missing you have a really good read, and Cade does write it in a thrilling way, you find yourself getting to the end of each chapter and saying to yourself ‘just one more’. The book then takes it up a notch once Agatha disappears and you get completely carried away with it while Cade teases you for a while as to what might have happened as the police investigate and then soon the journalists and then the public become utterly fascinated, you doing so to.

Publicity seekers continued to contact the newspapers claiming to have seen Agatha in places as diverse as Torquay, Plymouth and Rhyl, and this had led to the police in these districts being drawn into the search. An omnibus driver and conductor were both adamant that Agatha had travelled on their vehicle between Haslemere and Hindhead, and the manager of the Royal Huts Hotel in Hindhead also insisted she had lunched at his establishment on the weekend. The confusion arising from the suspected sightings was made worse because none of the women involved came forward to correct the cases of mistaken identity.

I had no idea who much it has captured peoples attention. I also had no idea just how bonkers some of the theories that journalists, the public, amateur detectives and even the police came up with, nor how far and wide the search went to find her, which interestingly then looks at the cost of the search which then outraged everyone and which soon started to turn interest and intrigue into anger and resentment.

On Monday the 13th many of the tabloids now indulged in their most fanciful theory to date: that Agatha might be living in London disguised as a man. While it seems extraordinary that the press could have advanced such a ludicrous suggestion, the public was not inclined to dismiss it. After all, had not Ethel Le Neve been dressed as a man when Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Walter Dew has arrested Dr Crippen?

Even one of the greatest of crime writers got involved in his own way…

Meanwhile, having obtained a glove of Agatha’s, Sherlock Holmes’s creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave it to a medium called Horace Leaf. ‘I gave him no clue at all as to what I wanted or to whom the article belonged,’ the famous writer later recalled. ‘He never saw it until I laid it out on the tableat the moment of consultation, and there was nothing to connect it or me to the Christie case… He at once got the name Agatha. “There is trouble connected with this article. The person who owns it is half dazed and half purposeful. She is not dead as many think. She is alive. You will hear of her, I think, next Wednesday.”’

It was the little facts like this which Cade weaves in and out of his biography, because that is what this is at its heart, that had me so enraptured throughout. That and the odd relationships Agatha had with her first husband and family, especially with her daughter. I was fascinated and didn’t want it to end, then things changed.

Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days was revised from its first edition from 2006 and updated in 2011. Well I wish I had picked up the unrevised issue, because I am assuming that left out the final few chapters where out of nowhere Cade suddenly twists the book to become a tale about the success of the book and himself and then how the Christie estate and other biographers (particularly Laura Thompson who wrote Agatha Christie: an English Mystery and who questioned his theory over a timetable and some other bits and bobs, and gets torn apart) turned against him. It suddenly becomes very personal and if I am honest really awkward to read. Yet, like all car crashes, I couldn’t help but look/read on as Cade goes into this huge defence of himself. Very, very odd. It seems a case of an author becoming too much a part of the work and airing their dirty laundry, but not in a good/intriguing/positive way. It very nearly ruined the book for me.

A shame really as overall I found Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days a thoroughly, and rather unexpectedly, fascinating biography which gives a wonderful insight into a truly fascinating woman, her life, her writing and her disappearance. I would suggest either find yourself a copy of the unrevised version of the book, or simply stop reading when you get past Agatha’s death. If I had this would have been one of my favourite non-fiction reads in some time.


Filed under Agatha Christie, Jared Cade, Peter Owen Publishing, Review

Sorting Out The Shelves, Sort Of

One of the joys of having a three day weekend is that there seems so much more time to potter, sort and mooch. As I was having a mooch between chapters, or it might have been between books, I suddenly noticed that things had possibly got a little out of hand (once again) with the amount of books that were starting to form small piles around the house, particularly in book corner…

Shelves 1

Yes it dawned on me that something needed to be done. There were two options. One was The Beard’s, simply for me to have a big bank holiday cull of books. Then there was my much more realistic, responsible and appropriate idea… Buy more shelves. Who do you think won in this battle of wills, erm yes, it was me!

This tale doesn’t end there though as once having decided to head to IKEA something awful happened upon heading to the Expedit collection section (via the food hall for lashings of meatballs for lunch, glass section, cacti, stationery and even mattress section – yes IKEA see me coming every time) where upon I have discovered that even though they should still be available until June all the 2×2 shelving units in white HAVE GONE… NEVER TO RETURN. Their replacement was in stock early and so I had to bite the bullet and get two Kallax (which sounds angry) 2×2’s, which are slightly smaller and playing havoc with my OCD…

Shelves 2

Can you tell they are smaller? Will it become less noticeable when I fill them with books? I do hope so. They are the same dimensions space wise, I am still furious they have changed them even if only slightly and yes even if it is saving the world and trees (book lovers can’t really be holier than though when it comes to trees making paper and wood can we?) noticeably even though you are getting less wood for your money (insert euphemistic snigger here) they haven’t dropped the prices. Funny that!

So tomorrow will be a book sort, the irony of this being that I may actually be left with enough space that I needn’t have bought new shelves at all, but then again at least I will have space for even more books which is no bad thing is it?


Filed under Random Savidgeness

Lend Me Your Bookshelves…

Just a quick post before the next in the Other People’s Bookshelves series of posts goes live next week, I am looking for some more wonderful guests to share their bookshelves with me. We all love having a nosey through people’s bookshelves when we pop round to other people’s houses don’t we? So don’t be shy and share your shelves…

…Just drop me an email titled ‘Other People’s Bookshelves’ to and I will send you a questionnaire and some instructions. Thanks in advance.


Filed under Random Savidgeness

(Pre) Bank Holiday Bookshopping…

Apologies for the fact that I haven’t posted, or indeed finished, the review of Agatha Christie and the Eleven Missing Days which I said I would. Work has been rather bonkers and I have also been spending the evenings watching the final episodes of the second series of The Bridge which I have been obsessed by. Anyway this weekend is a nice three day weekend thanks to the one of the many lovely Bank Holidays we have in the UK and fingers crossed I can catch up on some blogging but most importantly some READING!

This weekend is extra special and needs to be extra relaxing and fruitful because it is my last free one for the next two and a bit months as my job goes operational, eek. Speaking of work, after a particularly rubbish morning this morning I decided to cheer myself up and so stomped headed to my local bookshop to just breathe in the air of books and calm myself. There is nothing like it is there?


And would you guess what happened when I was in there? Well, strangely I decided that I needed to treat myself to some books, just a few *coughs*. Yes, I know I mentioned I had lots but as I also mentioned we always want more…

photo 2

Now all these books had very valid reasons for coming home with me, well via the office, today. Dead Snow by Georges Simenon is a book I have been hunting for for ages and ages as I am possibly going to be on a book podcast that isn’t mine talking about it. It hasn’t been in stock until now, so that was snapped up, hoorahs. I have no idea how good or not this would be but as it is a NYRB edition I am assuming it will be amazing, I have always wanted to try him. The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim has just won the Indie Foreign Fiction prize, I need to read more translated fiction and short stories, in the basket it went.

Camila Lackberg is about to become part of a Swedish crime obsession I am about to have as I have been (through this very blog) invited to Sweden by its tourist board to go on a cold crime tour, starting in Fjallbacka where these are set. I am starting at the beginning. The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker was the book I mentioned the other day I have been wanting to gte for a few weeks as people either love it or hate it and it sounds different being described as Twin Peaks meets Atonement meets In Cold Blood… ok!!! Finally I blame Rob of Adeventures with Words for making me buy the filthy sounding Sex Criminals. He mentioned this on Hear Read This recently and the idea of a couple who have sex, stop time and rob banks to save a book shop (or a library) sounds too odd and bizarre to resist. Plus I could do with a laugh. I left the shop on a high.

So I am planning on spending a lot of the long weekend reading some of these and just escaping into the pages. What are your plans? What have you recently bought and will be spending the weekend devouring?


Filed under Random Savidgeness