Tag Archives: Alan Garner

Other People’s Bookshelves #73 – Dan Coxon

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 are in the company of author and editor Dan Coxon. He’s put on a might fine spread of nibbles and drinks for us, so do grab a few and settle down on those comfy chairs as we get to know Dan better and have a right old rifle through his bookshelves….

I’m an author, editor and father, not necessarily in that order. My travel memoir Ka Mate: Travels in New Zealand was published four years ago, and was used as background for the ITV documentary River Deep, Mountain High last year. I also write short fiction, with stories in Gutter, Neon, The Lonely Crowd, The Portland Review, Flash, and many more; forthcoming in Unthology and Popshot. Non-fiction all over the place, from Salon to The Scottish Cricketer. From 2013-2015 I edited Litro magazine, and I’m in the process of editing an anthology of short stories about fatherhood, entitled Being Dad. We’re currently taking pre-sales and raising funds on Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dan-coxon/being-dad-short-stories-about-fatherhood). Please check it out – we have stories from Toby Litt, Dan Rhodes, Courttia Newland, Nicholas Royle and Nikesh Shukla, amongst others. It’s going to be wonderful.

????

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 natural instinct is to keep everything, good or bad. I guess I’m a hoarder, at least when it comes to the written word. In reality I’ve shed a few books over the years. Generally speaking, every book I read moves onto the shelves shortly afterwards. But some only take up temporary residence, while others are there for good. Signed copies (by anyone) and a few favoured authors (Iain Banks, Will Self, Ian McEwan, William Burroughs, Doug Coupland) will always find a space on my shelves, no matter what. Plus anything by someone I actually know in real life, or anything that blows me away. Basically, I’m always looking for a good excuse to hang onto books.

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?

For almost ten years I worked in the book trade, first as a bookseller, then as a bookshop manager. During that time my shelves were immaculate – arranged according to genre, then by author. It was basically like having a little bookstore in my house. Now that I have two kids, I have less space, and less time. I still have a ‘to read’ shelf, where all my latest purchases and the books I’d like to revisit reside. And a ‘friends’ shelf, stacked with books by authors I know (this is still growing – I may need two shelves at some point soon). Beyond that, I’m ashamed to say that most of my books are arranged according to size. Non-fiction is still separate, but it’s mostly a case of fitting in as many tomes as I possibly can. One day, when I have the time and the space, I’d love to return to a proper system again. I’d love to have all my short fiction in one place.

As for culling, my wife and I went travelling for a year at one point (part of which formed the basis for Ka Mate), and I cut a lot of books from the collection. The remainder were stored in friends’ attics for twelve months, so I had to be ruthless. The same happened when we moved to Seattle for a few years, and on the way back again. We’d fill boxes with the titles we were happy to part with, then we’d invite friends round to take their pick. If they were going to a good home it wasn’t such a tearful parting. I like to think that my shelves are still out there, just residing in my friends’ collections.

????

????

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

I’ll come clean – I had to check on this one. I always had so many books around when I was a kid that it’s hard to remember specifics. It turns out that my Mum can’t remember either. It was possibly one of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, although I thought I received those for Christmas. Given my childhood reading habits, it’s quite likely that it was one of the Doctor Who novelisations. I still have the Narnia books (nice editions, that have been passed down through my half-siblings and back to me), but I only have a handful of Classic Who novels in modern versions, nothing like the books I had back then.

What I do remember is that I had a rolling list of books I wanted, written on the back of a Waterstone’s bookmark (these were one-sided at the time, with a maroon front). At first it was just five or six titles that I’d heard of and wanted to read, but within a few years it had expanded to multiple bookmarks, with titles and authors packed in tiny handwriting on the back. I’d give these to my parents at every birthday, without telling them that most of the books were rarities or out of print. I was always interested in reading out-of-the-way books, the ones that everyone had forgotten about. These days there’s probably an app that will hunt them all down for you. But when I was a kid I loved having my never-ending wish list.

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?

To be honest, anything I was truly embarrassed by was thrown out during the culling. I do have a shelf of my juvenilia – Michael Moorcock’s Elric books, those early Doctor Who novelisations, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service – mostly the same editions that I had growing up. These sit directly behind my TV, in plain sight, so I wouldn’t exactly call them hidden. I’m actually rather proud of them. If people don’t ‘get’ them, then they probably don’t ‘get’ me either. I’ve been living with those books for so long that they’ve become part of who I am. Having said that, my wife does have a few Patricia Cornwells that I’ve stowed away, out of sight. Her later novels are just awful.

????

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?

For my 21st birthday my Dad bought me a 1st edition boxed set of Lord of the Rings, so that would be the easy choice. Quite apart from the sentimental attachment, it’s also worth more than any other books that I own, by a rather large margin! Beyond that, there’s a copy of The Swiss Family Robinson that my dad stole from a local library about fifty years ago. I’ve been dragging that around for so long that I couldn’t bear to part with it now. The same goes for the copy of Moby-Dick that I pilfered from our school supplies when I was 17. (They’ll probably read this now and demand it back. It’s not even a particularly nice copy, but we spent an entire term wandering the playing fields reading excerpts from it, imagining that we were the Dead Poets’ Society. If nothing else, it’s an irreplaceable reminder of what a pretentious tosser I was in my teens.)

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 it was the Selected Stories of H.G. Wells. My dad is a rabid science fiction reader, and our shelves were always dominated by his books. I seem to remember an illustrated edition of this book, although I may be making that up. I read these stories fairly early, and loved the sense of imagination and adventure that came with them. I was lucky that my parents encouraged my reading habit, and didn’t mind me dipping into their shelves on occasion. I haven’t read them in a while, but there’s a copy still buried on one of my shelves somewhere. ‘The Time-Machine’ probably looms larger in my subconscious than any other single story, and I’ve taken a few shots at writing a time travel story over the years. Maybe it also explains why I’m still an unrepentant Doctor Who fan.

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 borrow quite a lot of books – I firmly believe in the library system, and if we don’t use it, we may lose it. Whenever I read something that I like, which I’ve borrowed, I have to ask myself whether I’m likely to read it again. If I will, then I’ll buy a copy (especially if I want to make notes on it, I wouldn’t deface library property!). In most cases, though, upon honest reflection, I decide that my shelves probably can’t take the extra weight.

????

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

I’ve been cutting back on book purchases this year. I have such a backlog of wonderful reading that I want to dedicate some time to catching up with the pile. I have made a couple of purchases in the last month or two, though. Most recent was at the Green Man Festival, in Wales. I’d read most of the book I’d taken with me on the train, and it rained solidly for much of Saturday and Sunday, so I was tent-bound with nothing to do. Luckily there was a well-stocked book stall, where I bought J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World (irresistible, given the weather) and Christopher Priest’s The Affirmation. I’m happy to say that both were excellent.

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

There are always books that I want to own, but I’ve gradually come to realise that I’ll never have the time to read them all. Currently, as I type this, I’m craving Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, as well as Jonathan Evison’s latest, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!. But I will resist, for now at least.

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

I think they’d probably be a little confused. My shelves are quite a mess at the moment. But I like to think that they’d pause for a moment and find an unsuspected gem or two hidden in the stacks. Reading is always at its most exciting when it serves up unexpected pleasures, and there are some genuine treasures in among the chaos. Or maybe they’d just see a Doctor Who-loving geek with a love of impenetrably pretentious modern literature – either is fine by me.

????

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

A huge thanks to Dan for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, you can check out his short story collection kickstarter 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 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 Dan’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

2 Comments

Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

Other People’s Bookshelves #9; David Dean

As Thursday rolls round again it’s time to take a nosey look through someone else’s shelves and this week we are joined by book cover illustrator, and commenter extraordinaire on this blog, David Dean. David is an illustrator, mainly of children’s books (you can see some of his work here, my sister Mim loved ‘Dead Man’s Cove’) which means he can combine his two passions – books and painting – and get paid for it, which, he says “seems to me to be pretty ideal. Getting to go off and play in authors’ worlds all day is just the best job”. He lives with his two cats, Button and Ptolemy, to the east of Manchester, in the foothills of the Pennines where he loves to go walking. Book-wise he reads mainly contemporary fiction, though lately he is trying to read older books. He has a particular fondness for Canadian literature and is slowly starting to explore Australian fiction too. So let’s have a look through his shelves and find out more…

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 everything on my shelves, read and unread, but I ran out of shelf space a few years ago and now all my shelves are double-stacked. So behind what you can see in the photos there is essentially the same number of books again. The books hidden behind are ones I haven’t read and don’t immediately plan to read (though I have recently been having fun by rooting around in there amongst books I’d half forgotten to select my next read), but there are also quite a few back there which I have read but which I maybe didn’t like all that much but don’t want to get rid of. Typically this will be because they’re by an author I otherwise like – as an example ‘The Testament of Mary’ by Colm Toibin went straight to the back, whilst ‘Brooklyn’ is still on display. As for ‘one in, one out’ – ha! I wish I could be that tough, but I really struggle to part with books. The number of times I’ve put books in a charity bag only to wish I still had them years later.

Bookshelves1

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?

Alphabetically (for fiction anyway) – I can never understand people who don’t alphabetise books and CDs. And then each author’s books are organised by publication date. I have all my fiction books in one room, though my Folio Society editions are in boxes rather than out on the shelves – cloth bindings (especially if they’re faux Victorian looking) seem wrong to my eye when put next to modern dust jackets. And then in what I laughingly refer to as my ‘studio’ (in reality the box room) I have all my art and design and travel books. These are not filed in any particular order, just by the most efficient way to get as many on to the shelves as possible, a system that drives me mad, but needs must I’m afraid.

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

Goodness, I don’t know. I’ve always read but I wouldn’t say I was an avid reader as a child (I read comics more than books) and I spent my pocket money on toys rather than books. Books we got from the mobile library. I remember having and reading copies of Roald Dahl and Alan Garner, but I think my Mum probably bought those for me. I didn’t become a big buyer of books until I was about 13 and I started reading Star Trek novels, of which I must have had well over a hundred. But I suppose with my own money it might have been this from 1985. It doesn’t reside on my shelves but I think it might be in my Mum & Dad’s loft somewhere.

bookshelves4

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?

Guilty pleasures? Not really. Most of the books on my shelves are contemporary literary fiction and boringly respectable. I do have a full set of Dan Dare books (reprinting the original stories from the Eagle of the 50s and 60s), some collected editions of the Transformers comics I loved as a kid, a few graphic novels, but nothing I’d be embarrassed by.

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 think most would be replaceable, and there are other things I’d save first in the event of a fire. I’d perhaps save my copy of ‘King of the World: The Padshahnama’, a very nice art book on the paintings produced for the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. The pictures have been a huge influence on my own painting so it has been an important books to me.

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 don’t think I ever borrowed anything from my parents’ shelves. Their tastes didn’t really appeal to me at that age, though me and my Mum now regularly lend each other books. I do remember looking through a couple of my Mum’s for the rude bits!

Bookshelves3

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 pretty much just buy what I want to read, and far more than I ever actually COULD read!

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

A handful bought this week: Olivia Manning’s ‘The Rain Forest’ (I want to read her two trilogies, but thought a single novel might give me an idea if I like her writing before embarking on a huge tome); Alyson Hagy’s ‘Ghosts of Wyoming’, Dylan Nice’s ‘Other Kinds’ and David McGlynn’s ‘The End of the Straight and Narrow’ (I’ve grown to love short stories over the past year and a lot of my favourites have been by American authors) and Lucy Wood’s ‘Diving Belles’ because Simon has raved about it so often on his blog!

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

Yes, lots! My wish list on Amazon currently contains 327 books and my wish list on Book Depository runs to 15 pages.

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

That I read too much?

Bookshelves2

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

A big thank you to David for letting me grill him. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves 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 David’s responses and/or any of the books he mentioned?

7 Comments

Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

Alderley Edge

I went out for a wander on Alderley Edge yesterday and thought I would share a couple of pictures with you. I was going to pop up a book review today but sometimes I think a non-bookish post can be a nice little breather on here, it may even let you get to know me a tiny bit better – I think that is a good thing? Anyway, there is a slight bookish link with Alderley Edge as it was said to inspire, along with local folklore and legend, Alan Garner’s ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ (which surprise, surprise I haven’t read) and when you get there you can see why it is so inspiring, the views from the top for a start…

It was one of my favourite types of days yesterday, sunny and clear but with some ominous clouds in the distance. The chilling winds blowing away the cobwebs in your mind and making you feel grateful that later on you can be lying in a warm bath or sat reading in front of the fire. I think if I could have a state of permanent weather it would be this and the atmosphere it brings. But back to Alderley Edge; speaking of the edge in the name of sharing the experience with you all I teetered as close to the literal edge as I could for a picture, which actually wasn’t as close as I could have gone but I don’t like heights…

After ‘dicing with death’ as I called it and being told I was a drama queen it was off for a walk through the woods. It reminded me how lucky I am that I live where I do now. The countryside is fifteen minutes away and as I squelched through mud and embarrassed myself sliding ungainly down the hillside (much to other peoples muffled laughed – actually not that muffled, rude) I felt really thankful that I could be somewhere so atmospheric and slightly spooky, so I just stood in the woodland and took it all in. I could certainly see what might make people think this was such a mythical and magical place.

It was quite the mind cleanser and made me want to return home (after a trip to the warmth of a good pub) and find a spooky book set in some dark autumnal woods, any recommendations? I hope you don’t mind the non book interlude; well actually it is a bit tough if you do as I have done it – oops.

12 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Bookboy Reads #3

I am very sorry that I have not had time to do a blog of late, but I have been inordinately busy. In response to some of your comments on my last blog, I love the Harry Potter books and am a massive Harry Potter geek (has anybody had chance to see the latest film?). If you have, I‘d love to hear your comments about it, and hear if or how you think it differs from the book. Also, I am a very big fan of classics, and in a future blog, I will feature some of them. I am not the biggest fan of graphic novels (but if there is one of the Harry Potter series, I might just be persuaded!) Thank you, as well, to Kristen.M for her recommendations, and I will look them up in due course.

Now to my first book, it is called ‘The Valley of Secrets’ and is by Charmian Hussey. The main character is a boy called Stephen who was abandoned at birth and lives in a care home. He goes on a course for people who struggle with academic subjects, but who excel at biology, zoology and wildlife conservation. There, he receives a letter from a lawyer called Albert Postlethwaite telling him to come to his office at a time that is suitable, and so Stephen pays him a visit. He learns, to his astonishment, that he had a Great Uncle who has died and left him his entire estate in Cornwall. So Stephen travels to Cornwall and settles into his new house. Once there, he finds a diary, which turns out to have been his Great Uncle’s from when he took a trip to the Amazon in 1911. Stephen discovers something that will turn his world upside down, but will it be to his advantage or disadvantage?

I found this book a joy to read and I think that it’s appropriate for 9 year olds and above. If you have read ‘Journey to the River Sea’ by Eva Ibbotson, then you will find this book enjoyable.

My second choice is ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning’ by Lemony Snicket. This book is about three siblings called Klaus, Sunny and Violet Baudelaire. They live with their parents in a mansion until it is burnt by an evil villain. A banker by the name of Mr Poe is put in charge of their affairs and comes to inform the children that their parents are dead. They are then put in the care of Count Olaf, who claims to be their distant relation, though the children doubt that this is true. Whilst Count Olaf displays no clear cruelty, he is not a loving guardian and does not really care about them at all. The only thing Olaf is after is the children’s fortune, which was left to them by their parents. Olaf schemes, plots and tries all manner of things to get his hands on their fortune. However, the only snag is that Violet (the eldest Baudelaire) inherits the fortune when she is 18, by law. Will Count Olaf get the Baudelaire fortune, or will he and his despicable henchmen fall at the last hurdle?

I would recommend this book to people over the age of 8, but there is simply no book on this planet (in my opinion) that you could compare it to.

Next on the agenda is ‘The Mysterious Benedict Society’ by Trenton Lee Stewart. The main character in this book is a boy by the name of Reynie Muldoon, and he is exceptionally clever. He lives in an orphanage, but when he sees an advertisement in the paper that reads, “Are you a Gifted Child looking for special Opportunities,” he just can’t resist the chance to find out what it’s all about. He goes to the designated place and is put through a series of rigorous tests, and, finally, gets through to the final stages. He meets the person who put the advertisement in the paper, and, also, the other children who got through to the final stages of the test. Mr Benedict (the man who put the advertisement in the paper), brought the children together to form a society. This society would try and defeat a man who was threatening to invade people’s minds. Will they defeat this evil nemesis, or will he prevail?

Anybody who likes mystery, danger and slightly weird ideas will like this book, and I think it is best suited to people of above 10, as the plot is slightly complex.

Second to last is a personal favourite of mine, ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R Tolkien. Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit. Hobbit’s do not like adventure, and would rather stay in their warm houses smoking pipes and eating second breakfasts. So when a wizard called Gandalf turns up on his doorstep with a horde of dwarves, he is astounded and confused. They inform him that they are on the way to The Lonely Mountain to seek the treasure that is rightfully theirs, but is being guarded jealously by a dragon by the name of Smaug. They want Bilbo to join them as a burglar, as he is small, nimble and light. They force Bilbo to accept, and so begins a quest of much peril and danger. Who could have imagined that a mere Hobbit could become such a hero?

‘The Hobbit’ is a classic, and there is only one book I can think of that it compares to, and that book is, ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ by Alan Garner. I would recommend it to age groups of 11 and above.

Lastly, I am going to review ‘The Higher Institute of Villainous Education’ by Mark Walden. This book begins with Otto Malpense waking up with a blinding headache in a helicopter with an observant boy by the name of Wing Fanchu. Otto is not sure how he got there, but the last thing he remembers is a woman clad all in black kidnapping him, as he publicly humiliates the Prime Minister of Britain. Otto and Wing arrive at H.I.V.E, where their life being trained as villains begins. They are taught all kinds of things, stealth and evasion, criminal history and tactical education. But Otto and Wing’s primary aim is to escape from H.I.V.E, I mean, how hard can it be?

This book is the first in a fantastic series, and if you have read any of the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, then you will like this book. I would recommend it to people of over 9.

Thank you very much for reading my blog (I hope you enjoyed it), and watch this space, as around New Year, I’ll be publishing my top reads ever which you might want to indulge in during 2011.

So long for now! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

6 Comments

Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Bookboy Reads, Egmont Books, Harper Collins, Hodder & Stoughton