Other People’s Bookshelves #80 – Mary Doria Russell

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week is a very special week as we are joined by Mary Doria Russell who you will all probably know as the writer of the cult novel The Sparrow. I had the pleasure of reading The Sparrow for part of a special panel at Books On The Nightstand (I miss it so) Booktopia in Petoskey last year (which I also miss terribly) where myself and Thomas (of the Readers) joined Ann and Michael to talk about all our favourite books Ann’s being The Sparrow. You can here that conversation here. Anyway this week we are joining Mary, who I owe a small apology as she sent me this last year but I wanted her to have a special post, like this 80th, but the volunteers trickled so it has taken some time. Better late than never huh? So let us all join Mary and have a chat with her about the books she loves, has read and then have a nose through her shelves…

I grew up near Chicago. Dad: ex-Marine, Mom: ex-Navy nurse. Me: a shocking vocabulary. Didn’t know it was bad language until Kindergarten. BA in cultural anthro, MA in social anthro, Ph.D. In biological anthro; post-doc in craniofacial biomechanics, all of which prepared me for high-class unemployment in the mid-1980s. Fortunately, I’d married Don Russell in 1970. His income as a software engineer allowed me to stay home, raise our kid, and write stories about Jesuits in Space, all while living under a roof and eating regularly. Full-time novelist since 1991: The Sparrow, Children of God, A Thread of Grace, Dreamers of the Day, Doc, and Epitaph.

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’ve become pretty ruthless about culling. Each of my novels has required an extensive library of research material, but not all the background books actually contribute anything memorable to their novel. I keep the ones that provided something factual that a reader might inquire about. The others get donated or sold.

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 color-code books – I arrange them categorically – but I do pay a lot of attention to the aesthetics of the bookcases: mixing in photos, art, vases, small mementos, etc. I’ll fuss for hours to make things look pretty on the shelves, but the initial organization is rational. The research libraries for published novels go into bookcases in a guestroom; the sheer mass of books makes that room feel hushed and comforting. They’re grouped by the novel they contributed to.

guest_room

The working library is in my office. Those are books that have a direct bearing on the novel in progress.

working_library

The office also has a sort of trophy bookcase that holds all my published work, including translations, audio books, etc. When I despair of making the current story work, I gaze at the earlier books and think, “Don’t panic. You’ve done this before.”

published_books

We recently commissioned new cabinetry to flank my husband’s ginromous TV with shelves for books that have a personal significance for me: those by authors who are friends of mine; books I’ve blurbed or reviewed in the Washington Post; inscribed copies of books sent to me by their authors.

new_bookcase

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

There were the usual children’s stories – I was partial to tales about horses. None of those remain. The first significant book I bought for myself was acquired with my babysitting money in 1963: a used copy of T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. That is now surrounded by a collection of TEL biographies that became part of the research library for Dreamers of the Day, in which Lawrence is a character along with Winston Churchill and Gertrude Bell.

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?

Nope! Not ashamed of anything I read!

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 don’t have any precious books. I’d grab our elderly dachshund and run! If we had time to evacuate before a natural disaster (not that there are many of those in Ohio), I’d fill the car with artwork that can’t be replaced. Books are more like tools to me: I am more pragmatic than sentimental about 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 is it on your shelves now?

I read Mom’s copy of Gone with the Wind when I was a young teenager. And I did reread that while writing Doc, which is about the frontier gambler Doc Holliday. He and Margaret Mitchell were cousins and many of the episodes in GWTW are echoes of his childhood in Georgia. GWTW is a really brave book – Mitchell was willing to hang the whole novel on a thoroughly dislikeable central character and didn’t redeem Scarlett O’Hara or make her more likeable 833 pages later. [I just went to the Doc library in the guestroom to check on the page count!] There’s a lot I admire in the book, though it’s not fashionable 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?

I mostly borrow recreational reading from the public library. I buy books for the working library – a tax-deductible expense!

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

Rachel Holmes’ biography of Karl Marx’s daughter: Rachel Marx. My next novel is about the early days of the American labor movement, so I’m boning up on Marx; his daughter is WAY more interesting than Das Kapital.

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

YES! I want Karen Joy Fowler’s next book! Karen is a friend and she has been talking about doing a novel about Edwin Booth, the brother of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. I nagged her for years to finish what she called “my chimp book,” and I was right about that one! We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was short-listed for the Booker Prize and won the Pen/Faulkner Award.So this interview is just one more way to nag her to write the Booth book!

living_room

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

“My God, is there anything this woman isn’t interested in?!” Mathematics. Not mathematics. But pretty much everything else.

*********************************************************************

And a huge thanks to Mary for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, apologies again for the delay but it was so worth the wait. 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, I am catching up with all the latest volunteers. In the meantime… what do you think of Sarah’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

1 Comment

Filed under Mary Doria Russell, Other People's Bookshelves

The Man Booker Prize 2016 Longlist & My Initial Thoughts

So the Man Booker Prize 2016 longlist has been announced and once again I have been completely thwarted in my attempts to guess it. I managed to guess a whopping three books on the long list, one of which, Eileen, I had actually read (yet haven’t reviewed but will be soon). I have also read another, My Name is Lucy Barton which I didn’t predict would make the longlist – not because I didn’t like it (I have reviewed it here) there were just lots of other books calling to me when I made my very last minute guessing attempt on camera, ha.  So before I waffle on more, here is the list…

longlist

  • The Sellout – Paul Beatty (Oneworld)
  • The Schooldays of Jesus – J.M. Coetzee (Harvill Secker)
  • Serious Sweet – A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape)
  • Hot Milk – Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton)
  • His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband)
  • The North Water – Ian McGuire (Scribner UK)
  • Hystopia – David Means (Faber & Faber)
  • The Many – Wyl Menmuir (Salt)
  • Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh (Jonathan Cape)
  • Work Like Any Other – Virginia Reeves (Scribner UK)
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout (Viking)
  • All That Man Is – David Szalay (Jonathan Cape)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (Granta Books)

In case you are wondering why these are all in different formats; the books in bold I have read, the books in italics I have on my shelves. The Many is a book I was actually contemplating reading last week for Booktubeathon because it is slight and sounds spooky, it may well be the one I turn to next. Hot Milk I have been meaning to read for ages, as I have The Sellout which I was kindly sent by a lovely friend in America ages ago. Do Not Say We Have Nothing only recently arrived and The North Water has remained on my shelves despite being set on boats since reading Shirley Barrett’s whaling novel, Rush Oh!, earlier in the year (again I haven’t reviewed it yet) and loved it.

The others I know very little about but two are calling to me instantly, His Bloody Project because it is a thriller and Work Like Any Other which sounds intriguing with its tale of electricity stealing and manslaughter. Szalay and Means I need to look into more, Coetzee I have read and enjoyed, Kennedy I still haven’t tried and feel I should.

Am I going to read the longlist? Yes and no. I think I am going to see what takes my fancy between now and the shortlist announcement in September (though I have a feeling The Many may get whisked off the shelves this weekend) and see what happens and what the shortlist looks like later in the year.  It’s an interesting list of books though that is for sure. What are your thoughts? Which of the books have you read and what did you make of them?

13 Comments

Filed under Man Booker

Guessing the Man Booker 2016 Longlist

So I said I would hold off sharing video’s for a while, however I thought the easiest way for me to do my Man Booker Prize longlist predictions this year was in that form, so I have. Here it is…

We only have a few hours to go until it is announced, when you will see that none of my guesses were correct and that is exactly why the team haven’t phoned begging me to judge it yet, hahaha. I will share more info, on both the list and my thoughts on it, here on the blog not long after it’s announced and we can all have a good old natter about it. Hoorah. In the meantime what do you think will make the list?

3 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Man Booker, Random Savidgeness

And He’s Back, Where The Funk Has He Been?

Forgive me readers for I have sinned, it has been ten days since my last blog post. Ten days which actually feels like ten months as I have been working on the lead up to, delivery of and then derigging of a huge music festival and I am utterly, utterly shattered. I know I have shared a fair few video’s on here with you (some of you love it, some of you not so much) however I thought I would share a vlog I made last week whilst working on the festival, and a few other things, so you could see what on earth it is I do. You know, getting to know me a bit better and all that…

Bar festivals, and working around 15 hour days, I haven’t really done much else i.e. reading or writing reviews. I have mainly been bingeing on Stranger Things on Netflix or pizza’s when I get in. Then sleeping, as much sleeping as possible. So I guess I have been a bit boring book wise. What have you all been up to and what have you been reading? I would love to know.

Also, how can it be Man Booker longlist day tomorrow already, I haven’t even played guess the longlist this year which feels very odd. I might try and squeeze that in if I can maybe, though all I want to do is sleep, sleep, sleep. Oh and host an event with Jenn Ashworth tomorrow night, then I plan a long weekend of nothing but sleeping and reading, bliss. Bring it on. I am hoping to see Sarah Moss, Sarah Perry, Charlotte Wood, Garth Greenwell and Paul Beatty on the list. I need to give it more thought, what about you?

7 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

Books of 2016, So Far…

So as we have reached, well slightly gone over, the halfway point in the year, I thought I would do something I don’t think I have done before and share with you my  Books of 2016 so far. Well it made sense to me considering I had just done the below video for my YouTube channel and so I thought I would share it on here too. (I am really enjoying the booktube community but trying not to bombard you with it on here.) So if you would like to know some of my favourite books of the year so far, grab a cup of tea (as its about 20 minutes of me going on about books) and have a watch of this…

I hope you like the list, some of the books haven’t been mentioned on here before so give you an idea of what is coming over the next few weeks and months*. I would love to hear you thoughts on the books that I discuss and what you have made of them if you have read them. I would also really love to know which books have been the books of your year so far too, so do tell.

*Yes I know there have been a few video posts of late, with work being utterly bonkers in the lead up to one of our biggest festivals this weekend, video’s are so much speedier to make than a review which takes me ages, they will return though, honest – along with the usual rambling posts. I just need to play catch up with life after the musical festival has happened. It is this weekend so I am getting there. 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Time To Move On…

One of the reasons that I have been quieter over the last few weeks/months on the blog has been because I have been making a big decision, which some of you may know about through social media. After several years I have decided that enough is enough, I need more space for reading and books and so I am moving house. Well, I say I am, we are. Myself and The Beard have decided to get money married, me with a mortgage feels so grown up I could be sick/cry, before we actually get married in September 2017. I should also point out that I didn’t demand we move out, we have both – along with the cats – just outgrown the wonderful, wonderful apartment we have lived in for the last four and a bit years (which is The Beards not mine) and are heading to a new house in the next few weeks/months.

It is very exciting. It is also a bit odd and we are going to be very sad to say goodbye to somewhere we have loved, and had has such high ceilings perfect for so many bookshelves. I thought I would share some pics of the house because then a) you will get to know a bit more about where I live b) see why we are sad to leave and why it’s been so great for all the books.

13055481_10154166183163958_3998106586485265733_n

13043769_10154166183128958_7467496916731939011_n

13087822_10154166456883958_3605255291619371878_n

It is lovely isn’t it? But onward, what is very exciting is is that our new house is quite big and two of the six bedrooms are going to become a library for me on the first floor. (There has since been a small amount of kerfuffle when I mentioned I would still need shelves in every other room too, but that has been agreed in exchange for a new swanky kitchen.) Even more exciting is that The Beard and I are also planning on making the house a writers B&B, somewhere they can get away from it all for a week (well, five days) with breakfast, dinner and bookish chats by the log burner in the evening if they aren’t writing away. So exciting times ahead indeed, though with a holiday in Italy, several festivals at work and me having an operation for my Dercum’s it also looks like a bonkers summer.

So what is news with you? What have you been reading lately? Also, random ask but how would any of you feel about a readers retreat, somewhere you can just go and read and hideaway from the world with a lovely breakfast, dinner and lots of bookish chatter in the evening – maybe a few trips to the seaside thrown in. The Beard doesn’t think people would go for it, I am not so sure. Thoughts please.

37 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

Other People’s Bookshelves #79 – Sarah Shaffi

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the perfectly natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are in London where we join the lovely Sarah Shaffi, who works for the book news bible that is The Bookseller. There is, as always with these lovely bookish folks whose houses and shelves we invade, quite the spread on so let’s all grab a drink and a snack and get to know Sarah and her bookshelves better.

I’m a journalist by trade, currently working at The Bookseller magazine as online editor, which feeds my book habit. I’ve had a blog for a few years now, mainly focused on books, but also includes a little bit of whatever takes my fancy!

IMG_1240

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?

My system basically consists of trying to keep my bookshelves at home and at work under control. This means being able to stack everything bar maybe half a dozen or so books on my shelves. I don’t always succeed, but I am thankfully past the days when my floor was taken up by multiple large tote bags full of books. I generally keep books I only really, really, really love now. And even then, something else can supplant that if needs be.

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?

My bookshelves at home are double stacked horizontally, and then those rows have books lying on top of them. The top shelf of my bookcase has some of my university textbooks on it, and some non-book stuff (*gasp*), and at the front is where I keep my graphic novels. The rest of my shelves are a mix of fiction and non-fiction – the back row is ordered alphabetically by author surname. The front rows, which are the ones you can see, used to be for books I hadn’t read but intended to, but given that I have so many books they’re a complete mix now, and I’m sad to say there’s no order – read, unread, fiction, non-fiction, new, old, proofs, final copies. I’ve learned how to live with them.

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

I really don’t remember. I do remember buying an abridged copy of a Dickens’ novel, possibly Great Expectations, on a school trip when I was about eight. And I’m sure I bought something from one of those Scholastic fairs that used to come to school, but I really don’t remember what.

IMG_1253

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?

I don’t believe in book guilt – read what you want, enjoy what you want, don’t be ashamed of it.

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 love my copy of Anita Desai’s The Peacock Garden, which was the first book I ever read with a non-white protagonist and which I got for completing a summer reading challenge with my local library. I also adore my battered copy of The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton, which was a birthday present. And I have a gorgeous limited edition proof of Ryan Gattiss’ All Involved, which is signed and which I would love to rescue because it definitely can’t be replaced.

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 spent many, many hours at the library, but the grown up books I remember are all from my dad’s bookshelves. I read my way through all his Jeffrey Archer novels when I was about 12, and the book I always wanted to read that he had was Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. I’ve never got round to it – life is too short to spend reading classics you think you should have read.

IMG_1243

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’ll only buy a book I’ve already read and enjoyed if I really, really love it. I just don’t have the room otherwise, and I grew up borrowing books from the library, not owning them, so I’m in the habit of not buying everything I read. But I do have a tendency to buy books I love to give as presents to other people in lieu of buying them for myself.

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

The last book I bought was The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie, for my Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction reading, but I’m constantly bringing books home from work, so I’m not sure that was the last one I added to my bookshelves.

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

When I was little my dad bought me a box set of the Beatrix Potter books, and we gave them away once I’d grown out of them. Now I really regret that, I’d love to have those on my shelves, not least because you never grow out of great books!

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

I like to think they’d think I’m a person who just loves books and words.

IMG_1241

*********************************************************************

Huge thanks to Sarah 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 Sarah’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

3 Comments

Filed under Other People's Bookshelves