Other People’s Bookshelves #53 – Geoff Whaley

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves post. If you haven’t seen it before this is a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to Boston, yes the place I have always wanted to stay longer than the 24 hours I once did and home of my favourite series Rizzoli and Isles – though hopefully there won’t be any murder today, to join Geoff who blogs at The Oddness of Things Moving and has a podcast (which I am secretly hoping he will one day invite me on to discuss Rebecca) Come Read With Me. You can follow him on Twitter here. Before we have a nosey through his shelves, let’s find out more about him…

I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts and took a very roundabout way to get here. North Carolina born and bred, I moved to Boston after post-graduate studies in the UK and I haven’t looked back. I picked Boston for a few reasons, it’s just as confusing as any English towns (would street signs really kill anyone?) and it has so many things to do from the numerous cultural institutions to the Boston Book Festival! And that doesn’t even get me started on the wonderful independent bookstores throughout Greater Boston! As much as I wish reading were my whole life, apart from blogging it’s not. I get a lot of my reading time while commuting to and from my day-job where I raise money for a small private college. I love what I do because I hear people’s stories of why they support the causes they do and I get to connect those people (and their gifts of course) to something meaningful.

OPB - Big Bookshelf

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?

For the longest time I kept every book I owned, including 100+ Star Wars novels, but when I went to college I seriously pared down. My general rule is I have to have space on my bookshelf, but I do cheat with multiple layers on some of the shelves. Most books come in until I read them and when I’m done they either stay on my shelf (hardly ever) or they go in the bag to the left of my shelf to be sent to a used bookstore or donated to the local library.

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 don’t worry too much about organization in the alphabetical sense, but I do group an authors work together. Aside from generally putting them in size order (big to small), they’re broken down by shelves:

  1. On top of my big bookshelf are my TBR quick reads, the piles to the right are those that I could read in one-to-two sittings, and the larger hardback TBR books that won’t fit elsewhere.
  2. The shelf immediately below that, a little bit of the middle shelf and all of the shelves by my bed are my “forever” books. They’re the ones that friends and family have given me, those signed by authors or those that had a profound impact on me at the time.
  3. The middle and bottom shelf are all the other books I’ve picked up over the five years I’ve been in Boston that I will read and probably pass on. They’re the books that sound fascinating at the time but I just haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

I haven’t had to do a cull yet, but like I said above I have been cheating a little bit and my quick read piles are growing really fast, so I might need to in the near future.

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

Honestly, it was probably a Star Wars novel, and if it wasn’t Star Wars it was an Irene Radford Dragon Nimbus book. I kept two trilogies when I cleared out my Star Wars novels and I have a few books floating around from high school so there’s a good chance it’s still on my shelf.

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?

Thankfully Kindles were invented so I can hide my smuttier books on there, but in seriousness it’s hard to say. I’m not embarrassed by books or my guilty pleasures from Star Wars to Jane Austen fan-fiction I display them proudly and am always looking for converts! The only book I would be embarrassed about people seeing, because I’d be afraid they’d assume things about me I bought out of morbid curiosity: Going Rogue by Sarah Palin. I guess it’s tempered a little bit by Frank Bailey’s Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, but I still wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea.

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?

Isn’t this like asking which child you’d save? It’s a tough choice for me There are two collections I prize more than I probably should. The first is my slowly growing Wuthering Heights collection. I’ve stumbled across a few beautiful paperback editions, two from the 1950s, two from the 1960s and one from the 1980s, and I couldn’t help myself so I bought them. They’re all from before I was born and that’s my unofficial cut-of date when I look at copies in stores.

The second is my Harry Potter collection: complete and well loved American hardback and paperback series, complete British hardback, all the extras books, plus the first two in French and the first in Spanish! It’s only a matter of time before I get the new American edition and complete the Spanish edition.

OPB - Wuthering Square

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?

Any of the classics. No, seriously, any of them. I grew up with big bookshelves in my house and my dad’s parents house was wall-to-wall bookshelves. At our house I really wanted to read the big leather bound tomes because they just looked so magical and at my grandparents house the classics just looked so worn from being read and loved so often, that I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve read a lot of Classics since then, especially those I was forced to read in school, and have fallen in love with many of them and have select copies on my 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’m a strong supporter of local libraries, so I try to get as many books from the libraries as possible. I do spend more money than I should at used bookstores (Hello trade-in credit!). I do have a running list of books that I want to read and if I keep thinking about a book I will purchase it in hopes that I’ll read it faster, but that’s not serving me too well with almost three shelves of to-be-read books.

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

I just purchased a copy of The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. This is surprising as I don’t have a lot of non-fiction, but I’ve wanted to read about Mary Cassatt and this seemed like a good introduction. I also pre-ordered paperback copies of Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and Laline Paull’s The Bees after listening to the last episode of The Readers, but those won’t arrive until May!

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

I wish I had the first copy of Wuthering Heights that I read back in high school on my shelf. I didn’t appreciate it enough when I read it then and even though it wasn’t a beautiful copy it was still the first one I read. I also wouldn’t say no to an original copy either, I did get to hold a First American Edition last December.

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

I’m not sure what they’d think because most of the time I’m not sure what to think! I have Star Wars novels next to Jane Austen novels, I have five copies of Wuthering Heights beside Gender and Queer Theory text books. I’d like to think people would see it as charmingly eccentric, but I’m not sure if I need to be an 80-year-old-professor or not for that one!

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A huge thanks to Geoff 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 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 savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Geoff’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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And So Uncovering Fiction Starts…

So a while back I told you of my recent exciting news, fingers crossed I will have even more coming in the next few weeks and months. While I have been busy getting lots of reading done before I dive into the submissions, I have also been thinking about what I will do with the blog over the forthcoming books. I am not sure how much I will talk about my reading habits and adventures over the next few months. I was told that I could review the books that came in for the Fiction Uncovered, just not say they were for the prize, yet I know what cunning clever kinds of folk you lot are and I think you would guess. However fret not I am not about to go silent on you all for a few months, honest…

I have got a backlog of a whopping, yes I counted them, twenty three books that I have yet to read – well twenty four once I have finished Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven which I am reading before I interview her next Friday for the first episode of You Wrote The Book when it returns for the new series in July. With a some posts on non booky outings, other bits and bobs and booky thoughts in general which the Fiction Uncovered submissions might inspire as the reading gets under way. I can safely say it has now indeed getting under way as the first batch (there will be a few) of submissions have arrived…

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Obviously I can’t tell you what is in the box, I can tease you all and say that there were some I had heard of, and indeed had hoped might be in the mix, there are also loads of books filled with promise which I hadn’t heard of so I am really excited and ready to get reading which is what this weekend will entail. Bring on the reading adventures ahead! There may be some phases of silence, do bear with me though – and think of all the reviews (almost a hundred) I will have afterwards and all the wonderful book to tell you about.

Now unlike me, with my now firmly sealed lips, you can tell me what you are reading at the moment and how you are getting on with it? You can also tell me what you will be doing this weekend, so I can live vicariously through my books and through you!

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Guessing the Bailey’s Prize Longlist 2015

I haven’t done this for a year or two I don’t think, yet as it is International Women’s Day it seemed fitting for me to celebrate it by celebrating female authors and what could do that better than by playing guess the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction longlist which will be revealed on Tuesday next week. Initially I didn’t think I would be able to hazard a guess at this, yet when I started thinking about the books that I have read and loved plus went and looked through my shelves of all the books I have meant to read in the last year I suddenly had far too many. You see that is my criteria for guessing, which books have I read and loved that are eligable and which ones would I love to see listed because I am desperate to read them and think they may well be corkers, as may you!

So here are the books that I have read and would LOVE to see on the list on Tuesday, I have linked if I have reviewed them…

The Bees by Laline Paull, He Wants by Alison Moore, After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry, Thirst by Kerry Hudson, Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth, The Repercussions by Catherine Hall (which I edited one edition of so haven’t reviewed yet but will with that caveat) and finally The Miniturist by Jessie Burton, which I just read and absolutely adored, more soon.

Then for the books that I really want to read…

Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill (which I actually have finished since scheduled this post), Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre, How to be Both by Ali Smith, Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud, An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay, Rise by Karen Campbell, Her by Harriet Lane, Weathering by Lucy Wood, I Am China by Xiaolu Guo, Mother Island by Bethan Roberts and Young God by Katherine Faw Morris.

(I could also have mentioned The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart which I have read all of. And I also mulled over Academy Street by Mary Costello, The Ship by Antonia Honeywell, The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald, The First Bad Man by Miranda July, Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller, The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, A Blue Spool of Thread by Anne Tyler and The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer.)

Blimey hasn’t it been an amazing year, again, for women’s fiction. What are your thoughts on the Bailey’s Prize longlist, let me know if you have had a guess and if not which ones would you like to see on the list? Have you read any of the above and if so what did you think? Who would you love to win?

P.S Sorry the pictures aren’t all the same size, it is setting off my OCD slightly too!

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Whoops!

I’ve been a little more silent on the blog the last few weeks with fewer reviews. I have been busy doing this…

Yep. Reading like a loon making sure I have got all my last Hear Read This, You Wrote The Book and book group reads before I have a break from them over the summer, plus some other books for various events I have. All this BEFORE I start the serious reading task of the Fiction Uncovered submissions, some of which have arrived already and I am really excited to read.

The picture above was taken by The Beard as I read my choice for book group. Seems I’m having a reading binge before the reading binge I can’t talk about. Means I have plenty of reviews lined up while I am hidden away judging though. Now best start Susan Hill’s I’m the King of the Castle so back to more reading!

What are you reading at the mo?

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It’s World Book Day; Celebrate With A Quick Read (Or A Long One…)

It is World Book Day, hooray! A day devoted to celebrating the love of books around the world. It is all too easy to forget though, especially in the bubble of the book blogosphere, that not everyone out in that there big wide world has the ability, time, money or simply the inclination/desire to read books. Some people may even be wary of the world of books or find reading difficult.

As I have mentioned many a time on this blog, I myself was a great reader as a child but my late teens and early twenties were a barren time for books. I had been put off by the endless re-reading and re-reading of school texts which had to be analysed to the umpteenth degree. I felt that books were more for academics than for enjoyment. Oh and I was more interested in getting drunk on alcho-pops and dancing to Britney in my early twenties and so was lost in a bookish wilderness. I had become alienated from the wonderful world that books can provide for us all and in actual fact, hold on to your hats, thought that books were for the pretentious and elite. Now I know different, obviously, all it too was the recommendation of the right book to try (in my case The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie) and I was off…

Sometimes all it takes is that quick recommendation, loaning of a book or pointing in the direction of a library that can create the spark needed to fire a love of reading. Or of course re-reading. Quick Reads is an initiative which aims to do the same and selects several titles by well-known authors that are short, sharp reads aimed to attract those who think books and reading might not be for them and get them hooked. They are designed to encourage those who have been put off reading or are late to reading to ‘give a book a whirl’ and who knows they might become a book addict? Great stuff!

Yet they are also perfect, as I discovered when reading three of them after this year’s titles were announced, for an avid reader who might fancy trying out an author you have meant to read for a while, or just getting time to read something short and sharp whilst on your commute or having a nice cup of tea in your favourite book nook. Here are my thoughts on three of them…

Dead Man Talking – Roddy Doyle

Vintage Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 98 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Pat had been best friends with Joe Murphy since they were kids. But five years ago they had a fight. A big one, and they haven’t spoken since — till the day before Joe’s funeral.

What? On the day before his funeral Joe would be dead, wouldn’t he?

Yes, he would…

This was my first foray into the work of Roddy Doyle (despite my mothers best efforts, unless you count having watched The Commitments film at a young age and spending hours singing the soundtrack in the car) and I was not sure what to expect but I enjoyed it very much. Regular readers will know that I quite like ghostly tales and stories that are quite quirky and this is both.

There is a wonderful surreal element to this story without it ever veering too far off into magical realism which some new and avid readers might find off putting, it almost has a ‘fairytale for adults’ feel whilst as it goes on and takes stranger and stranger twists reminded me somewhat of a Roald Dahl sinister short story and a Hitchcock movie. What I thought Roddy Doyle did wonderfully was give the book an underlying message of grief, regret and mortality yet never making it overtly melancholy. All in all an interesting and thought provoking twisting tale, I need to read a novel of his now don’t I? Where would you recommend I start?

Out of the Dark – Adele Geras

Quercus Books, paperback, 2015, fiction, 101 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

Rob Stone comes back from the horrors of the First World War with a ruined face and a broken heart. Lonely, unable to forget the things he has seen, and haunted by the ghost of his dead captain, all that Rob has left is a picture of the captain’s family. Rob sets out to find them, hoping that by giving them the picture, he can bring peace to the captain’s ghost – and to his own troubled heart.

Another author that I have been meaning to read for ages (another which my mother has also raved about reading her young adult novels with her studenst) and another quick reads with a ghost in it this year.

I am normally not the greatest fan of wartime novels, I think the subject has been overdone, yet I really, really loved this story. In a very short space of time Adele Geras makes you sympathise and empathise with our main character and the affects that war has had on him both physically and mentally. The tale of Rob’s heartbreak after his fiancé backs out of the marriage was one which I found both heart-breaking and also, for me, added a side to the war that I have never seen depicted in another piece of writing about the time. In fact I think that was one of the things that I liked so much about Out of the Dark was that it really put me in the head of a young man who had been to war far more than anything else I have read has done. More food for thought, and another author that I shall return to.

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen – Sophie Hannah

Hodder & Stoughton, paperback, 2015, fiction, 117 pages, kindly sent by Quick Reads

After Chloe and her daughter Freya are rescued from disaster by a man who seems too good to be true, Chloe decides she must find him again to thank him. But instead of meeting her knight in shining armour, she comes across a woman called Nadine Caspian who warns her to stay well away from him. The man is dangerous, Nadine claims, and a compulsive liar. Alarmed, Chloe asks her what she means, but Nadine will say no more. Chloe knows that the sensible choice would be to walk away – after all, she doesn’t know anything about this man. But she is too curious. What could Nadine have meant? And can Chloe find out the truth without putting herself and her daughter in danger?

Regulars to Savidge Reads will know that I am a big fan of Sophie both as an author or some corking thrillers, and a wonderful collection of short stories (which were recommended to me by a friend and got me into her work – see it’s all about the recommendations) of which you can find out more here. Shockingly though, and despite having them all, I have not read one of her books since 2011!?!? Where has the time gone?

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen is, as you might expect, like the perfect condensed versions of one of her Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer thrillers, and indeed they turn up in this one. From the off you are constantly question who is telling the truth and who is doing some serious lying and manipulating, the guessing only gets greater as Sophie throws in some twists, turns and potential red herrings. If you love this then go and get your hands on Little Face which is the first in the series, I need to grab Lasting Damage just as soon as I have finished the Fiction Uncovered reading, promise!

This isn’t the whole collection of books either, I still have three more to dip into in due course – which I will be eating with more of the Galaxy chocolates these arrived with – but hopefully gives you some insight into the diversity of the books which Quick Reads produce (and they have a whole backlist you can go through, here are some more I’ve read) and how easy they are to get into and just taking you away. As I said, perfect reads for any reader be you avid or just wanting to give books and reading a try. And all for just £1 or to be found in your local library, what could be better? (Though if you’re reading something longer that’s good too, I will be spending some of the evening with Maya Angelou, you?) Happy World Book Day all!

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Haters Gonna Hate…

Hold up, let’s just stop for a minute before we continue in the lovely world of booky thoughts and reviews as I just wanted to have a brief chat with you all about something. This was randomly brought up on Twitter over the weekend, by someone I am not linking to and giving more airtime, and then again by a ‘kind’ comment yesterday on the about page of this blog which initially stung before I was actually slightly flattered and then found very funny…

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Now I know I should take trolling like this, and the accusation was pretty much the same on twitter over the weekend, with a pinch of salt and in the main I do. I had an author on facebook calling me the ‘number one blogger of grammatical atrocities’ for a while. After all, I choose to put this blog and my thoughts and opinions out in the ether, I’m no fool there are negative wallies out there. Yet just for a minute I was stung somewhat; not by my ego, which is not as big as these people seem to think frankly, but for the fact that someone would need to chip in and be so unkind.

You see I am aware that my grammar and spelling can sometimes be a bit rogue yet I would hope that people wouldn’t judge something like this blog or any blog which is done for free and all for the enthusiasm and love of books. If it was a published novel or article (where I had an editor, which is what all authors and journalists need) then fair enough, I just can’t always edit my own words because I have stared at them for too long or written them in a whirlwind of excitement. (Gran used to remind me off this sometimes ‘ooh your grammar Simon’ but she was never mean and remembered I left school early. She was just chuffed I loved books so much again.)

But what if I had dyslexia or some other factor rather than enthusiasm or just being blind to my own grammatical errors which I am probably committing all the time? Does this mean, like the lovely lady on twitter was hinting at when she said ‘an illiterate blogger is judging a book prize’, that people with dyslexia or another disability shouldn’t be allowed to blog or have an opinion? What an awful elitist (another thing oddly she accused me of) world that would be!

I think any regular reader to the blog knows that I love books and want everyone to be able to get their mitts on them and enjoy the escapism, learning and enjoyment they bring. Hence why I am so passionate about libraries, where I spent most of my childhood, and why I love initiatives that celebrate books written by and from the perspectives of all walks of life.

So after feeling the sting for a while, I wrote a reply…

Rude Comment Comeback

I felt much better. Plus, it is true. If you don’t like the blog, or something else somewhere else on the internet, don’t waste your time writing a negative comment/review (and if you have to then don’t be an anonymous coward) just bugger off and read something else as frankly I don’t want you darkening my blog’s door. Go on, off you trot and please don’t come back thank you.

Also if you have received any comments, as I know I won’t be the only one hence another reason why I decided to post this, or snark on social media etc like this; just let the sting pass and think ‘blimey I should be flattered they wasted their time commenting/tweeting’ before reminding yourself of what lovely old Madonna, she of the falling down the stairs and getting back up again, has once said (I think, though it might have been someone else or I might have made it up) at some point… ‘You know you have made it when someone really hates it.’ It’ll make you feel much better. And with that let’s move on…

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Other People’s Bookshelves #52 – Claire Fuller

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves. If you haven’t seen it before this is a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to spend some time with author Claire Fuller, whose debut Our Endless Numbered Days has just come out and will be one of the books I will rush to when I finish judging Fiction Uncovered. So anyway, let’s settle with a nice cup or glass of something and find out more about her…

I live in Winchester, occasionally with my teenage children (when they’re not at university or with their dad) and my husband, Tim, who’s a university librarian. I studied sculpture at art school in the 1980s, and still get my chisels or my pencil out now and again. But mostly I’m a writer. Our Endless Numbered Days (Fig Tree/Penguin) is my first novel and I also write a lot of short stories and flash fiction, most of which are posted on my website: www.clairefuller.co.uk. I read a lot: before I get up and before I go to sleep, and I have one of those contraptions to hold my books open so I can read at the table while I’m eating.

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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?

In the last couple of years I’ve let myself give up on books I’ve not been enjoying, and these ones go to the charity shop. All other books get kept. Luckily, at the moment we have spare shelf space – my husband recently built some more shelves – so keeping books isn’t a problem. When I’ve finished a book I leave it on the dining-room table and it gets mysteriously filed away. It’s like one of those returns trollies they have in real libraries. I’m not sure what we’ll do when all the shelves are full. Build some more?

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?

Three and a half years ago, Tim moved in with me, bringing with him over two thousand books. I must have owned five hundred, and we spent about a week sorting them all and when we came across duplicates, deciding which one to get rid of. The only book where we kept both copies was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers because before Tim moved in we’d both read it at the same time. I’ve always liked the idea of having my books filed properly so I could easily find things but I never got round to it when I lived on my own. But now all the paperback fiction is organised alphabetically, non-fiction is by genre, and hardback fiction has its own shelves because of the size issue. Like I said, I leave the filing to Tim, because I haven’t got the patience to move everything along in order to squeeze in a new paperback.

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

I think it was probably Freefall by William Golding. I won the art prize at school a few times for which I received a book token, so I would go to my local bookshop in Thame, and browse. I probably chose it because of its cover. The bookshop used to be called The Red House; it’s still there but it’s now The Book House. I still have the original copy of Freefall, but I can’t remember anything about the story. I should probably re-read it.

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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?

[Simon – the photo of the Scrabble dictionary (above) is to go with this answer] There’s nothing on my shelves I would be embarrassed by, or at least if there is, I’m hoping it will disappear through sheer quantity of books. Although, I’ve just remembered that I do have a book which lives in a drawer. It’s put away not because I’m embarrassed by it, but because of the state it is in. I really should buy another.

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 first choice, if I’m allowed, would be the book my daughter wrote when she was about four. Actually, she dictated it rather than wrote it and she drew the pictures. She also made the jacket for it out of clay, which is not very practical. It starts, ‘The fairies lived on the mountain’. But of the published books I own, that’s such a hard thing to choose. Perhaps one of those my Dad bought me when I was a child (The Pocket Oxford Dictionary from 1975 or Complete Poems for Children by James Reeves, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone) or the first paperback American publication of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson, which Tim gave to me.

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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 was in a mail-order book club when I was growing up in the 1970s, and I remember the excitement when the parcel arrived. I doubt this came from the club, but the first book I remember reading from his shelves was Small Dreams of a Scorpion by Spike Milligan. I must have been seven or eight. This isn’t a funny book; it’s full of sad poems about Milligan’s depression and hospitalisation and I can still recite some of them today. My Mum, who’s German, had very few books, but there was one she kept from her time when she was a nanny. It was a book about childhood illnesses and it was in German, so I couldn’t understand it, but I remember poring over the vivid and gruesome photographs of boils and rashes.

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 do sometimes borrow books from the library and those that I love I always mean to buy so I can read them again, but then another book comes along and makes me forget. Like Waterlog by Roger Deakin; I wish I owned that.

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

It was Aquarium by David Vann. I was lucky to be sent an advance copy by the publishers – one of the perks of being a writer. This is one I’ll definitely be keeping. Tim has filed it away beside all the other David Vann books I own.

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

I’ve met lots of lovely debut authors since becoming one myself, and I’d love to get round to buying and reading all of their books. Some I have read, and others have made it as far as my ‘to be read’ list, which is a start. To name a few – The Ship by Antonia Honeywell, Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye and Ridley Road by Jo Bloom.

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

Someone perusing my shelves might think I know a lot about French film, read many works of Scandinavian fiction in which nothing much happens, and that I have a love of the nouveau roman movement from the 1950s. But unfortunately they would be getting me muddled up with Tim. If they knew which books were mine they might think I read fairly broadly – contemporary authors, some narrative non-fiction, many books from the past forty years – but that I could probably try harder with the classics.

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A huge thanks to Claire 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 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 savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Claire’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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