Tag Archives: Books on the Nightstand

Other People’s Bookshelves #60 – Michael Kindness

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, for a special 60th post in the series, we are off to Rhode Island to join one of my top five American’s of all time, the lovely, lovely Michael Kindness. Michael is one half of probably my favourite podcast Books on the Nightstand with the equally wonderful Ann Kingman. Last year Michael was lucky enough to be my roomie (ha) in the Savidge Kindness suite at Booktopia in Vermont and he was as ace (the snarky banter was high and hilarious) in person as he is on the airwaves…

One of my closest friends nicknamed me “Book Boy” early on in our friendship. She sensed immediately that books were part of my DNA. I’ve been reader since I could read, and my first job was at my local book store. For some reason I got a degree in Graphic Design, and then went back to working in bookstores. For the past 15 years I’ve been a sales rep for Random House, now Penguin Random House. (Incidentally, I’ve always loved penguins too.) In my spare time, I’m the co-host, with Ann Kingman, of the Books on the Nightstand podcast and the Booktopia weekend events. I live in a tiny town in Rhode Island with my wife and two sons.

 These bookcases in my office mostly contain books I've already read

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 I read, but over the past few years I’d been thinking about reducing the number of books on my shelves — and things in my life. After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up this past December, I embarked on a massive cull of my library. I don’t know exactly how many books I had before, but I’d say I got rid of 70-80% of my collection. Now, I’m only keeping the best of the best: books I truly might want to re-read someday (though I never re-read books anymore). I’m also keeping books I haven’t read that I still want to get to. When I did my cull, I was very honest about whether I still wanted to read each unread book someday. Most were donated, but I kept some.

I’d never really had a one-in, one-out system, but I’ve recently implemented a rule that the books in the bookcase next to my bed, the ones that theoretically are the ones I hope to read soon, must actually fit in or on that bookcase. I can’t stack books on the floor around the case anymore. So lately, when I go to put books on the shelves there, I have to decide what to let go of.

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?

See above for the answer to the culling question. As I mentioned, the bookcase next to my bed holds the books I hope to get to soon. You can see from the picture that my definition of the word “soon” is highly optimistic. I guess a better description might be that those are the books from which I like choose my next book. The books on these shelves aren’t super-organized, though graphic novel series are in volume number order, and I tend to think of the books on the top shelf (not the top of the bookcase itself) as the ones I’m most eager to read.


The bookcases next to my bed are where I tend to pick my next book

Then, downstairs in my office are several cases that mostly hold books I’ve read and are keeping, along with some unread books that might make it up to the bedroom bookcase someday. The books on these shelves are organized by fiction and few non-fiction categories, within which the books are alphabetical by author. The graphic novels on these shelves are not in any order other than like superhero titles grouped together and in volume number order.

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

Oh, how I wish I knew the answer to this question. I can remember the first cassette tape I ever bought (Tears for Fears – Songs from the Big Chair), but sadly I have no memory of my first book purchase. It was probably a book from one of those Scholastic Book Club flyers that came home from school. (Did you have those in school when you were a kid?)

I know this isn’t quite the question you asked, but I do remember being obsessed with a book about the Loch Ness Monster. I must have taken it out of my elementary school library 20 times. I don’t even know the title! My sister now works at that school, and I keep meaning to ask her to check to see if there’s still a black cloth-covered book about Nessie in the library, and if my name is still scrawled on the check-out card!

I love Green Lantern and have the book collection to show for it!

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, I’m not embarrassed by anything I read now. In the past, I might have said all of the Star Trek or Doctor Who books I used to read, but now I’m proud to be a nerd.

This case of graphic novels in my office is a continuation of the black bookcases around the cornerActually, I have a copy of George W. Bush’s Decision Points on my shelf. I wouldn’t want browsers of my shelves to think that I’m a fan of President #43. It’s there because it was a title I represented as a sales rep, and it’s signed to me (as are the books by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama)

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 wish had a book with sentimental value like your Conan Doyle collection, but I don’t. The closest thing to that isn’t even really a book. It’s a fabric covered box with letterpress labels and it’s filled with postcard reproductions of book jacket designs by Chip Kidd and Barbara deWilde. I bought it when I was in college studying graphic design, and it was ridiculously expensive ($250 in the early 1990s). But it’s beautiful, and I treasure it.

Other things I’d try to save in case of a fire, are some of my signed books: Any Human Heart by William Boyd, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, a galley of Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, and DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke.

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 parents devoured books by Sidney Sheldon and I remember being fascinated by the shiny covers that usually had only words on them — not spaceships and aliens like most of the books I was reading at the time. I think the first one of his that I read was If Tomorrow Comes, which came out when I was 14. I don’t currently have any Sidney Sheldon on my shelves, but it might be fun to go back and re-read one of them, purely for nostalgia. (Didn’t I say earlier that I don’t re-read though…?)

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?

Yes, if I borrow a book from a friend or the library, and it ends up becoming such a favorite that I want to keep it, I will buy myself a copy.

Fables and Y The Last Man are two great series for people who think they might not like graphic novels

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

Just yesterday I bought a copy of Judge This! by Chip Kidd, which is part of the TED Books series, and is sort of a continuation of his TED Talk on design. In it he talks about the importance of first impressions and how it’s okay to judge things visually. You can probably tell that, though I’m not a practicing graphic designer, it’s a subject I’m still very much interested in.

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

How much space do I have to list titles? Of course, a huge portion of my massive TBR list is made up of books I don’t own. Most of them, I’m content to get from the library. The only one that really stands out as something that I’d love to have on my shelves is Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale: Yellow, Blue, and Gray. It’s an oversized hardcover compilation of origin stories Loeb and Sale did for Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Hulk. I’m a big fan of their writing and art, but I haven’t been able to justify the $75 price tag just yet.

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

Maybe it’s the inveterate book recommender in me, but I really hope people looking at my book shelves would find some books that interest them, that I could then tell them about. I’m sure you can tell a lot about me and my tastes from the books on my shelves, but I don’t really care about that too much. I just want to find you some new books to read!

Fiction Nonfiction - the box of book jacket postcards that I paid far too much for in the 1990s

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A huge thanks to Michael for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, here’s hoping I can get Ann Kingman to do it in the future too! 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 Michael’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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What A Lovely Christmas

I am hoping you have all had as lovely a Christmas as I did. I was at my mothers for the first time in a few years and it was a full house as I brought The Beard (first Christmas away from his parents in almost two decades), both my stepsisters were there with their partners, plus my Mum stepdad and my little sister and brother. And so ten of us all spent a lovely 24 hours in my mother and step fathers converted old pub. You can see me playing Where’s Wally here after dinner, when I had unsurprisingly hidden away with a book for a while, though I didn’t really read anything much…

Where's Wally?

Where’s Wally?

I got some lovely presents, though I won’t list them or show you pictures of them all as I find that whole oversharing of the commercial side of Christmas makes me feel a little bilious. I will share the two books I received both by Peter Mendelsund, a book designer who I learnt all about in America when I went to Booktopia Asheville and Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, who host Books on the Nightstand, as well as several of the Booktopians were raving about both his books, so Cover and What We See When We Read came all the way from the US and will be being read in very early 2015…

Cover & What We See When We Read

Cover & What We See When We Read

Apart from the slight bit of reading, present unwrapping and mass eating we also played lots of board games, made more than one trip to the pub, went walking, drank rather alot and were generally a very jolly bunch, and I get a second Christmas Day on Sunday which I am really looking forward to, that and another week off reading. Bliss.

Me, The Beard, my stepdad, Mum, little brother and sister; all having far too jolly a time!

Me, The Beard, my stepdad, Mum, little brother and sister; all having far too jolly a time!

What about all of you? Did you have a wonderful day? Did you get any lovely books? Which ones did you give to people? What did you read?

Small additional note – this is my 2000th post! That’s madness!

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And I’m Back!

Safe and sound from the US of A and have had an amazing time! Seriously from the wonders of the utter bookish brilliance of Booktopia in Asheville, with the legends of Books on the Nightstand and utterly lovely Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman (we found time to do a joint podcast or two coming soon), to the joys of spending lots of time (for the first time) with my Readers co-host Thomas in Washington…

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To having a crazy and wonderful whirlwind of a time in NYC…

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Amazing! All of which I will be reporting back on in much more detail in due course, once I have caught up on the world, jet lag and had a small mini break in London with The Beard later this week (it is all go, go, go) but in the meantime you want to know all my bookish news don’t you? And probably are pondering about the threat statement I made about changes to Savidge Reads!

Well, while I was away I did lots of relaxing and thinking but not actually any reading. Nope not on the plane flights and no not on the Booktopia weekend (get a big group of readers together and they don’t shut up about books), not with Thomas (again too much gossiping along with book shopping and sightseeing) and NYC (more of the same). I finished one book on the flight back and am a little into another plus am about a third way through Gone With The Wind, which I am now dipping into regularly; as some of the language and themes are much harder going than I was expecting. I left The Goldfinch in Washington, hang on before you judge me, I have a copy here and needed the space for new books – I came back with one more bag of luggage than I left with.

Now before I move on I must mention Trespassing with Tremain, my reading of Rose Tremain in memory of Granny Savidge, which has been slightly waylaid – which she would have approved of as she loved travelling and it was a very bookish travelling trip away. So the NEW dates for your reading diaries, as I know a fair few of you are reading along and loved Trespass which was amazing, are…

  • The Road Home – Sunday September the 14th
  • The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and Other Stories– Sunday October the 5th
  • Sacred Country– Sunday October the 26th
  • Restoration– Sunday November the 16th

Yes I have made it every three weeks. Part of this is because so far I simply adore her writing so much  so I don’t want to rush it – yet at the same time I almost want to binge on it, but I must be strong! (Oh The Road Home, you wait!) Part of this is because of the way Savidge Reads will be changing in the coming weeks, well when it turns 7 years old (I know, seven years, blimey) a week on Monday on the 15th. I know, I am such a tease. In the meantime get ready for the answers to all the questions you asked, as well as some mini reviews as I have a clear out and catch up with myself.

But before all that, enough about me, what have you all been up to over the last few weeks? Even more importantly what have you been reading? I want the good, the bad and the ugly!

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Sometimes You Don’t Want to Read or Blog…

…You just want to take the neighbours dog for a long leisurely walk around the park after a week of being stuck in a balmy hot and bonkers busy office and just take some time out. And that is alright isn’t it?

Walking the Dog

Don’t worry I am not ill. As I was actually walking with Ann and Michael from Books on the Nightstand discussing books in my ears, I also then came home and recorded an episode of The Readers and am now blogging about it – but you know what I mean. Sometimes you need to tear yourself away from what you are reading (even if your book group is only two days a way and you have only read a chapter of the novel) and just sit on a bench out in the real world people watching (while your canine companion is squirrel watching) and just take in life and the fresh air…

Where is your favourite place to take a break from books and the hustle and bustle of the real world?

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Summer Reading? Try Books On The Nightstand Bingo!

So Ann and Michael of my favourite book podcast that I am not a host of ha! have come up with a great idea if you are struggling with your summer (or indeed possibly winter if you are down under) reading which I think is brilliant, all sorts of fun and we should all join in with… Because it is based around books you already own, can borrow and may already have in the back of the reading part of your brain to get to ‘at some point’. I am a bit funny about reading challenges – I know, I know I have set myself one recently with shorter fiction but bear with me – however ones that you can work your own TBR or library loan/loanable are always worth a twirl. So what is it… It is only Books on the Nightstand Bingo!

Now in the words of Ann and Michael (who will now know I have had a bit of a BOTNS catch up listen as this is a few weeks old) the way it works is… “Just visit the link below and you’ll see a BOTNS bingo card. HIT REFRESH TO GET A NEW, RANDOM CARD. You will also see a link to print the card. Use this BOTNS Bingo Card in any way you like to enhance your summer reading. You can choose to go after a particular Bingo row and pick the books that fit; you can read as normal and check off books as you read; or write each of your words on a slip of paper and draw randomly, reading until you get Bingo!” How brilliant is that? To give it a whirl follow this link here and join in by pressing refresh to mix them up. I have already and here is mine…

Bingo

I have spent many an hour, while some of the conferences I am event managing have been ‘in session’, mulling over them all and what my options are and it is great fun just playing at working out which books you have which can tick off which square… I am going for FULL HOUSE!!!! In fact I am planning on presenting my card to Ann and Micheal all complete when I see them in Asheville in August – swot much? The one I am really struggling with is middle-grade book… Hmmmm!

So who else fancies giving it a whirl? If you do let me know or share your bingo card someway some how and what you might read to get a line or full house?

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Watch Out USA, I’m Coming Your Way…

After much organisation, faffing, missing out on the right flights, then being unable to book the next-right ones and then sitting in a dejected mess because my bank thought I was a fraudster – I can now confirm that I am officially booked, signed, sealed and everything for a trip to the USA in August. And what a trip it is going to be…

First up I am heading, via Munich and Chicago oddly, to Asheville in North Carolina where (and I am start struck already) I will be spending a long weekend at one of the Booktopia’s which Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, of the marvellous Books on the Nightstand Podcast, organise every year around America. The itinerary looks marvellous and I have been reliably informed I may just be mentoring an event with Anthony Marra (of whose A Constellation of Vital Phenomena I was all over) which gain is just too exciting, in fact so exciting it is almost untrue. Ann, Michael and myself may even make time to record a special edition of The Readers!

Speaking of The Readers, once the Booktopia weekend is over the blues I am sure to feel will fly away (quite literally) as I then head to stay with my lovely co-host and unofficial travel agent Thomas in Washington for a few days. This I am imaging will involve some touristy sightseeing, book hunting and lying down by the pool rather a lot, all with lashings of bookish banter. Again, I am excited and beyond about this.


Then, because I won’t have done quite enough travelling, I am off to New York for a while where I am going to be doing more (slightly secretive) bookish stuff and wandering around being a tourist before I fly home at the beginning of September… Phew!

I have just realised I haven’t booked in a theme park on this trip and American theme parks are the best! DratsI Anyway… So if you are in any of these places; Asheville, Washington or NYC then do let me know. I am planning on packing Gone With The Wind (it is almost North Carolina, no?) for the long flights and the seven hours in Chicago airport on the way but as always if you have some recommendations for books set in Asheville, Washington or NYC I would be thrilled to get some ideas, or indeed for any of the ‘Great American Novels’ I have yet to read…

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Incoming Thoughts…

It has been about a month since I shared some of the highlights of the books that have come through the Savidge letterbox and so I thought I would share some of the books (as I am being very tough on books that now come through the door unsolicited) that I will be reading over the next few months as the mood takes me. Though I have been thinking about how I might change things on Savidge Reads in the New Year, but more on that after I have mulled it further. Anyway back to the books that have come to Savidge Reads HQ and have made themselves most at home. First up some books which have come out quite recently…

Out Now

First of all, I have to mention the book that is causing some big buzz here there and everywhere at the moment and that is S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. I have to admit that initially I was a bit sceptical about the book because of all the hype. I knew it was written by ‘the man behind Lost’ and if I am honest I wasn’t sure about it because I stopped watching Lost after the first series as I got, erm, lost. However as I saw people discussing it and how the book houses postcards, napkins with maps on, letters and much more my interest was officially piqued. When it arrived in the post last week I will admit I did do a little dance of glee. As yet I haven’t dared open it, I am planning on spending the day with it next weekend – as I don’t want to lose the pieces inside or put them in the wrong order. This is partly why I still haven’t opened Building Stories by Chris Ware, it is still wrapped on the top of my bookshelves.

Elsewhere in that pile are some new to me authors such as Ismail Kadare (who won the International Man Booker Prize, and its short so worth a punt), Jorn Lier Horst (who I was recommended I would like for giving a very different twist on the cold crime genre) and Nadifa Mohammed (whose Black Mamba Boy I have always meant to read and haven’t and is one of the Granta Best Young British Novelists), all of whom I am going to give a try.

There are authors I know too of course. M.R.C. Kasasain’s The Mangle Street Murders was one of the books I mentioned in my ‘books to look out for in the second half of 2013’ on The Readers, I love a Victorian mystery and this looks like a great start of a new series with a duo with a new dynamic and looks at the roles of women in Victorian society, ace. Val McDermid I have been a big fan of for ages and am very excited to read the next Tony Hill and Caron Jordan series after how she left us with The Retribution, this time Tony is prime suspect in a crime. Kishwar Desai’s series is one I often tell myself off for not reading more of, this is her third so I really must read her second.

The last two books are from more famous authors I suppose you would say. Donna Tartt really needs no introduction at the moment as The Goldfinch has had more press and social media buzz than I have seen in a book in ages. It has really put me off and after hearing the last episode of The Readers, her publishers sent me this to see if I could be tempted. We will see. I loved The Secret History so I am not sure why I am so anti this one. Finally there is the memoir of Anjelica Huston (who I like to call Jelly Who-Who, and have been slightly obsessed by since she played the Grand High Witch in the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches and as Morticia in The Addams Family) I can be a bit funny about celebrity memoirs but I find her a fascinating woman and apparently her mother was a great writer and it runs in the family by all reports. Actually a bit giddy about this one.

Next up, some more books to keep your eyes peeled for in 2014…

Coming 2014

Oh actually Essie Fox’s latest The Goddess and the Thief, another Victorian delight, is out at the start of December my mistake. Louise Welsh is back with A Lovely Way To Burn the start of a new trilogy which sounds like a crime set in a dystopian London from the blurb. Tim Winton is back with Eyrie a novel of a man who has shut himself off from the world and whose past comes to haunt him through some neighbours he meets. Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li (who I have meant to read for some time) also sees the past coming back to haunt three friends, now living continents apart, who were involved in a mysterious accident in their youths that saw a woman poisoned.

Eat My Heart Out is meant to be the debut of the Spring as Zoe Pilger has apparently written The Bell Jar meets The Rachel Papers, intriguing – Sam Byers loves this book. Lost tribes are hunted in 1950 in Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees which Ann Kingman of Books on the Nightstand has been raving about. If you like your books with a dark disturbing twist and sense of malice The Bear by Claire Cameron looks amazing as a camping trip goes horribly wrong and five year old Anna is left to fend for her and her three year old brother as her parents have disappeared and something is lurking in the woods.

Ray Robinson’s Jawbone Lake is one that will intrigue me personally as it is set in the Peak District, which is of course my homeland, and you know I love a good tale set in the countryside and a literary thriller, which apparently this is. I actually spent some time with Ray when he was writing it and we hunted murderous spots in Matlock – though I’ve noted there are no thanks for this tour in the author’s acknowledgements, the bugger, ha! This is probably going to be my next read.

Finally, blimey I have gone on, three books I bought when I fell into a second hand bookshop the other day…

Second Hand Treats

You will read my thoughts on A.M. Homes May We Be Forgiven in the next few weeks and suffice to say I am a bit on the fence with her. I think she’s an incredible writer but almost too good. That might sound crazy though it will make sense when you see my review; I decided to grab Jack as I want to try more of her work. Tove Jansson is an author many people, especially Simon T of Stuck in a Book, have recommended so I thought I would try her short stories. Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky I know NOTHING about but it was a silver Penguin Classic and so I thought ‘oh why not?’ and snapped it up.

Phew – that is more chatter than I had planned, I do apologise. So do tell me your thoughts on any of the books that are out, the ones that are coming and any of the authors mentioned. Oh and if you think this is a showy off post go here and see my thoughts on that. Also do let me know what books you have got your hands on lately or what you are keen to read, I look forward to hearing all about them.

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