Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we spending time round at author Lloyd Shepherd’s where he has kindly laid on an afternoon tea for us all. Before we have a nosey through his shelves let us get to know more about him, it is only polite after all…
My name’s Lloyd Shepherd and I’m a writer (I always said to my wife that I wouldn’t call myself a ‘writer’ until I’d had four books published, and the fourth book is out next year, so I’m going for it). The four books I’ve published to date have all been historical crime fiction – with a twist. The twist being there’s more going on that quite meets the eye. Before writing books, I worked as a digital product manager for the likes of the Guardian, Yahoo, Channel 4 and the BBC, and before that I was a journalist, writing about the tortuous financial shenanigans of the film industry.
As well as writing a new book, I’m currently engineering an Adventure In Reading, called The Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club. You can find out more about that at www.riddleofthesands.net – we’re calling it Taking a Book for a Walk. Because books need to get off their bookshelves every now and then, you know.
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?
Well, first things first – they’re not MY shelves, because I’m married to a woman who reads voraciously, and who has a hoarder’s attitude to books. I’m more vicious – I’m only really sentimental about books that I have personally loved, or were given to me by someone close to me. Other than those – they’re heading out. Even the hardbacks.
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 have what can only be called a Multi-Zone Approach To Book Husbandry. Zone One is in the living room, and consists of Attractive Books Wot Might Be Worth Summat In Future Years. Hardbacks of classics, first editions, and a massive number of Folio Society publications acquired by my father. He was a lifelong subscriber to Folio, and though I’m not convinced he read a lot of them, they’re all beautiful things. So, if you need to read Moby Dick or a history of the Byzantine Empire written by a 1950s emeritus professor, it’s the living room you want.
The bedroom is the Fiction Grotto, with two bookshelves groaning with paperbacks and hardbacks in alphabetical order, often double-shelved and generally all over the place, thematically. Also, my wife hangs her clothes on these shelves. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps she’s hoping they will gain something from being hung next to made-up stuff. Finally, my office is the Library of Facts (and poetry and drama and other stuff we don’t read in bed). It’s where I keep my history and reference books, my graphic novels, copies of my own books (hem hem) and my wide and random collection of sheet music. I also have two guitars in there, which are monumentally unplayed.
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?
Gosh, good question. I don’t think I can quite remember. I want to say The Dark is Rising, but I’ve got a feeling that was a school library book which never quite made it back to said school library. I did buy a copy shortly afterwards, and two years ago I got it signed by Susan Cooper, which was thrilling. I remember going to buy The Lord of the Rings in Sevenoaks Bookshop (which is still there, bless its soul) with my Dad, and picking up the massive paperback collected edition while looking longingly at the three-volume hardback version. We left with the hardbacks. As I said, my Dad was a nut for nice books. I didn’t even pay towards it. I read those hardback editions, out loud, to my son when he was little.
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?
No, not at all. I’m not embarrassed about anything I’ve read. Wish I could say the same about everything I’ve written.
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?
Well, Dad’s Folio books and the Lord of the Rings volumes mentioned above. My copy of Paradise Lost from university (there, I’m allowed one affectation, aren’t I?). The thing about books is, of course, that they’re replaceable – it’s only when they constitute memories rather than literature that they take on a different meaning. An old paperback of Sophie’s Choice, a collection of Emily Dickenson, a two-volume edition of The History of the Port of London – they’ve all got memories outside themselves which would be lost if the books were lost, even if the words were replaceable.
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 Dad had one of those massive Hamlyn collections of Robert Ludlum novels – you know, the 70s things which contained five or more novels in one edition, with type so small only a young vigorous chap could read it, but weighing so much you needed a fork lift truck to turn the page. I read The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Osterman Weekend, The Gemini Contenders and, most brilliantly of all, The Holcroft Covenant, which is still my favourite thriller of all time. It had a Fifty Shades of Grey bit in it, too, I seem to recall.
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 everything I read, I think. I like buying books. People should buy more books. And I also like giving books away, a practice which is a bit shit if you’re an author but a bit great if you’re a human being.
What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?
In no particular order: a 1970s edition of The Riddle of the Sands for our Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club project; The High Middle Ages (Folio!), Elizabeth McCracken’s Thunderstruck (the best book I’ve read in the past year), Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, and The 9th Directive by Adam Hall. My reading overlaps!
Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?
David Hepworth’s upcoming book on 1971. Julian Cope’s One Three One and Krautrocksampler. An edition of Ulysses abridged by Simon Armitage (this doesn’t exist).
What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?
He Liked Books And A Good Story Well Told. Also, why is that dress hanging there?
A huge thanks to Lloyd for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, don’t forget to check www.riddleofthesands.net and follow the adventure into the world of a book! 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 Mark’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?