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 I have a special guest as we hit the big 4-0 mark with this series, more of which you can find here, with Kim who you all all know from Reading Matters. Kim’s was one of the first book blogs I started following avidly. Lucky old me through her wondering about a London book club, and spookily finding out we were working on the same street in London, we became mates and no trip back to London seems quite the same without a pint (or two) on the Southbank with her. This week saw the start of Kim’s ANZ Literary Month and so I begged her to share her shelves and in honour she has put out a wonderful spread of violet crumbles, Tim Tam’s and jarra tea. So let’s settle down with a cuppa and a treat and find out a little more about her…
Kim Forrester, also known as kimbofo, was born in Australia. She has a Masters in Journalism and after a few years working on local newspapers, she came to London in 1998 to try her luck in the magazine industry — and never went back. She’s always been a book obsessive and spent her childhood with a nose in a book. All these years later, not much has changed. She’s been blogging about books at Reading Matters since 2004, although the site also features reviews dating from 2001, which were originally published on a personal website. She tends to only read literary fiction, preferably from Ireland or Australia, but also enjoys crime, translated fiction and narrative non-fiction. She can’t remember a time when she wasn’t adding new titles to her always-growing TBR and wishes she could give up the day job (she’s a freelance copy editor) so she could make a dent in it.
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 simply don’t have the space to keep every book I read, so I tend to keep only those that have really made an impression on me. Most are passed on in some way: to Oxfam, to friends, family or work colleagues. I do, however, collect certain imprints — namely “silver” Penguins and “white” Penguin Modern Classics — so these are never given away!
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?
Once-upon-a-time all my shelves were arranged alphabetically, by author surname, but I found I could cram more books on my (limited) shelving if did away with that system. So now I fill each of the “boxes” in my Expedit shelves three books deep according to a theme: I have a section for Commonwealth fiction, another for translated fiction, one for crime and another for British. Meanwhile the top of my wardrobe is filled with fiction from Ireland and Australia. And, just to be really controversial, the books in my TV unit are arranged by colour just to make it look prettier. Please don’t judge me!
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?
I couldn’t possibly remember what book I bought with my own money, but I suspect it may well have been one from the Trixie Belden girl detective mystery series, which I adored in my early teens. The volumes used to be sold in the local supermarket (I vaguely remember them being about AU$1 each) and as soon as I’d read one, I’d be saving up my pennies to buy the next. I no longer have any of them, and I suspect my mother chucked them out long ago!
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?
Afraid not. I don’t think anything I read is embarrassing. If I was to name a guilty pleasure, it would be psychological thrillers of the Nicci French variety, but I need to be in the right mood to read them.
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?
This is a good question. I’m not much of a material possessions person and as much as I love books, I always figure you can buy or borrow them again if you need to — even ones out of print can usually be tracked down via the wonders of the internet. However, I have to be honest and confess I’d be terribly upset if anything happened to my small collection of John McGahern paperbacks, simply because I have such fond memories of discovering his fiction in the summer of 2006, or any of the hardbacks I’ve had signed by various authors at book events, because I’d never be able to replace them.
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 the first proper “grown up” book I read was probably Virginia Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic. However, I didn’t spy it on my parent’s shelves or the library; I saw it at my best friend’s house. It was her mother’s and I was allowed to borrow it. It then did the rounds of almost every teenage girl in my school. It was quite a raunchy book at the time; I suspect it’s pretty tame by today’s standards. I then went through a Beatles phase and read loads of biographies about the band, including Philip Norman’s biography about John Lennon, one of the most memorable non-fiction books I’ve ever read. I never owned any of these books — they were either borrowed from my friend or the local library — so they’re not on my shelves today.
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?
What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?
At Easter I bought an interesting French novella called Moon in a Dead Eye, by Pascal Garnier, about a gated community plagued by problems, which sounds suitably dark and Ballardian.
Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?
Well, I have possibly the world’s longest wishlist thanks to all the many recommendations I glean from book blogs, GoodReads and Twitter, so yes, there are a lot of books that I wish I had on my shelves. I’m particularly partial to the lovely bound volumes in the Everyman’s Library and dream of one day treating myself and buying the whole lot. I’m not sure I have the space to keep them though.
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 wonder why I’ve got so many unread books in my house, because about 90 per cent of my collection is actually my TBR. They’d probably also think my tastes were fairly eclectic — and they’d be right. Some may raise their eyebrows at the lack of pre-20th century classics, but I’m a modern and contemporary kind of reader — and am not ashamed to admit it.
A huge thanks to Kim for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. To find out more about Kim’s ANZ Literature Month head 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 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 email@example.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Kim’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?