Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, which has now hit its fiftieth post in the series. I think this calls for a celebration, party poppers and lots of cake and so we are heading over to the lovely William Rycroft who has kindly said we can have a party round at his whilst we have a nosey through his bookshelves. I have known William through the blogosphere for quite some years both from his written blog that’s now a vlog and sparkly new YouTube channel (he’s so modern) yet next month we will finally meet in the flesh in London town, very exciting. Anyway, before we have a good old nosey round William’s shelves, and get celebratory cake crumbs in his carpet, here is a little bit more about him…
Whilst working as an actor William Rycroft started writing about books online in 2007 with his book blog, Just William’s Luck. The blog came a vlog on YouTube in 2013 and his passion for books led to him recently becoming the new Community Manager for Vintage Books. Whilst that means he won’t be treading the boards he can still be heard reading at events, narrating audio books and talking all things Vintage on their various online channels.
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 bought and was in fact very proud to see those shelves filling up as I grew older. Then there came a point when space became an issue – or as some people like to call it: marriage. Becoming a blogger obviously upped the ante, with books arriving through the letter box frequently to add to those I couldn’t resist buying. As you’ll see from the photos we are overflowing. So I have to be tougher now. Books I buy tend to stay, books I receive from publishers will only stay once read if I feel like I have to keep them on the shelf. I’m not a great re-reader so it isn’t that; it’s more of a statement along the lines of this is who I am.
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 or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?
There’s a rather ad-hoc system in place. Special books like first editions, signed copies and collectibles tend to reside in my bedroom away from kiddy fingers. I used to have my books alphabetised and vaguely themed, and once I organised them by colour, but when we moved here things got all messed up and have never really recovered. I now have some books gathered together by publisher because I like seeing collections together on the shelf. As for culling, I had to force myself to do it a few years ago, something I would previously have considered unthinkable. But once I’d done it once I suddenly found it much easier to do it again. I don’t feel a need to keep all the books to retain their worth anymore. I’m not much of a re-reader as I said so why am I keeping them? The answer it seemed was that as I grow older I feel like I’m building up a library. There are simply some books I cannot let go, some that deserve their place and some that are trying to earn it. It’s nice watching it evolve.
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?
Oooh, I have a terrible memory so I don’t honestly know what the first book was but I’m sure I don’t have it. Funnily enough I wasn’t a huge reader as a kid. I remember loving those books where you had to make choices for the main character along the way and flick to different pages accordingly, a literary precursor to interactive video games. I do remember being gifted books by my dad however for significant achievements, one of which was an illustrated Wind in The Willows in a slipcase. I still have that and it’s on my kids’ bookcase now.
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?
How very dare you! It’s all classy round here. Seriously though, I can’t really think of any guilty pleasures. The closest might be the trilogy of werewolf novels that Glen Duncan wrote recently but he’s a fab writer of literary fiction so there’s no guilt there at all.
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?
Very tough one to answer this. I might have to grab a few. I have an early edition of Mcsweeney’s (No.4) which is a box containing separate booklets. My wife gave it to me on our first anniversary so it’s very special. I have a few signed first editions on the same shelf so I might have to grab those too.
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 remember hearing a discussion of a book called Deception by Philip Roth on the radio and then seeing it on my Dad’s bookshelf. I knew it was all about an affair and so hopefully filled with sex so I nabbed that to read. I went on to become a huge fan of Roth and I still have that very copy on my shelf at home. I also remember looking at those big Russian novels like War and Peace and Anna Karenina and had great fun on a binge of epic fiction many years ago, all of which still have their place on the shelf.
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 tend to borrow books from friends, I prefer to have my own copies of things and like many book lovers, it’s the buying of the thing that first thrills.
What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?
It was a graphic novel called Here by Richard McGuire which was recommended by Chris Ware who is a genius and who said that this book was a work of genius. It is.
Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?
I like first editions, especially signed ones, so yes, there are loads of books I’d love to have on my shelves but they’re just so damn expensive. I hope to be able to add to my collection surreptitiously over the years.
What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?
What I’d like them to think: “That man has impeccable taste.”
What they really think: “What a ponce.”
Huge thanks to William for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves and being my 50th guest! 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 forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) 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 William’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?