Tag Archives: Charlie Higson

Other People’s Bookshelves #30 (Part Two): Kate Neilan

Hello and welcome, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves which sees the series of posts turning 30! So to mark this special occasion we are heading to the delights of Essex for a big old party (grab your streamers, some cupcakes, a glass of fizzy and a paper hat) as we are hosted by one of my favourite bookish couples in the whole wide world. Today we join Rob and Kate from Adventures with Words, who I have the pleasure of joining along with Gavin every month to make Hear… Read This. Less about me, and more about them as I hand over to Kate (breaking the tradition of ladies first as I let Rob share his shelves earlier as they haven’t merged shelves yet, I am not judging their relationship on this basis though… much!) to introduce her lovely self and her shelves and all other bookish shenanigans…

I’m Kate – you might know me as @magic_kitten – and I’ve always been a huge reader ever since I can remember, and even before that if you believe my parents.  I work full time as Head of Citizenship and PSHE at a secondary school in Essex, although I originally trained as an English teacher at Cambridge, after doing my English Lit degree at Durham.  While I was there, I took the (very popular) Children’s Fiction module, which reignited my love for Young Adult books, to the extent that I wrote my dissertation on His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I’m now one half of Adventures With Words, alongside Rob Chilver. He began the blog to discuss books, films, games and stories in general and in 2012 we started recording a weekly podcast too. Recently, I’ve branched out with my own ‘Young Adult Edition’. Do go to www.adventureswithwords.com and have a look.

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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?

I’m a dreadful hoarder and, until recently, I kept every book that I bought, even if I’d read it and not really thought much of it.  My book collection fills three ‘Billy’ bookcases and more; I’ve got two boxes of books that have yet to be unpacked since Rob and I moved in together over a year ago. Lately, though, I’ve had to be more ruthless.  We now have a ‘To go’ pile of books where books I know I’m not going to read again go, although, as yet, they’ve not actually gone anywhere yet! If I’m being honest, these aren’t even all my books. I still have a shelf in my old bedroom at my parents’ house full of all my Point Horrors and teenage reads. I’m thinking about retrieving them but where would they go?!

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?

Before my most recent house move (I worked out recently I’ve moved more than ten times, taking into account university, teacher training and various flats and houses since moving out), I had my bookcases very carefully organised. I had three big red ‘Billy’ bookcases, one ‘half’ bookcase with three deep shelves, and one totally non-matching white one. That one housed my (excessive) CD and DVD collection, then my half-bookcase was for YA, and one large bookcase housed my university books (a mixture of textbooks, anthologies, Complete Works of Shakespeare/Chaucer etc and various novels, plays and poetry). The other two bookcases were organised roughly by genre, then by author; you could glance at the shelves and easily see the Tolkien, Iain (M) Banks, Isabel Allende and so on.

All this lovely system was completely destroyed when we last moved house; putting two sets of things into one house just doesn’t fit, so I gave up my white bookcase…and so it began! As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got two boxes of books that haven’t even seen the light of day yet – there wasn’t any urgency as they’re mostly university texts – but I’m sure I’ll want them one day… Eventually, during as summer holiday, I’ll take all these lovely stories off the shelves and rearrange them. I promise. We do have a “Blog TBR” bookcase (because piling them on the floor was becoming a little impractical) and some of these will graduate onto my own bookshelves after being read, reviewed and enjoyed.

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

Short answer? No, I’m really not sure, although I did spend quite a lot of my summer holiday aged 12 buying Point Horror books for a couple of pounds each from the second hand book stall in Norwich covered market… Still got them!

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 have very varied taste in books – I read literary fiction, lots of genre fiction and Young Adult – and I’m not really embarrassed about any of my choices; as far as I’m concerned, it’s fine to read something that’s a bit cheesy or clichéd as long as you enjoy it. I do own the entire Twilight series (and have read them all) and I’ve got The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. No, they’re not literary masterpieces, but yes, they were enjoyable in their own ways.

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 given to me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I have a lovely set of Tolkein’s fiction with matt black covers and a small picture on the front of each one, which I really love, and a fantastic set of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy in hardback, all first editions. These were from my parents and they’re very precious to me. I also have a very well-loved secondhand copy of Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks, my favourite of his science fiction novels, which was sent to me by the wonderful Gav of No Cloaks Allowed, The Readers and Hear Read This. He found it while browsing, opened up the cover, and saw that it was signed. After buying it, he tweeted about it and I jokingly tweeted back saying it would make my day (life) if I’d found it, and he sent it to me! What a lovely guy. Finally, I have one of only eight comb-bound preview copies of the final Artemis Fowl book, Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian. Rob knew I’m a huge fan of the series and managed to get hold of it, without letting on; as you can imagine, I was absolutely thrilled.

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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?

A bit like me, my parents have a house full of books, so I always remember them being there. One of the first “proper” books I read was Jane Eyre, aged 11, but I swiftly graduated to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and then The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is absolutely hilarious when you’re supposed to be asleep but in fact you’re reading about sweary robots under your duvet using a torch…

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?

Neither a borrower or a lender be! Well, I’m not, anyway. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about pre-read books; library books always have that slightly funny smell to them, other people crack the spine or turn over the corner of pages, a habit I managed to kick. I’m a huge recommender to others, especially my mum, but she buys her own copy rather than borrow mine because she doesn’t want to give it back in less than pristine condition! I’m very aware that this is all a bit weird; libraries are brilliant, they’re just not how I read. Plus, the last time I lent a book (a first edition hardback of the first in Isabel Allende’s YA trilogy) I didn’t get it back… #fuming

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

Funny you ask that, Simon – you may recognise the titles I’m about to mention.  Only earlier today, Rob came home from work with a lovely bookish goody bag for me. My newest acquisitions are Magda by Meike Ziervogel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough and The Gigantic Beard The Was Evil by Stephen Collins. I’ve also got a fantastic little Reading Journal. I find, when I’m reading, that I’d like to jot down ideas but I don’t fancy ‘texting’ them into my phone, so I’m looking forward to using this from now on. Hopefully, it should improve my reviews, too!

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

To be honest, I think I’m extremely lucky when it comes to books; there are very few that I don’t have but do wish for. I’d love a hardback copy of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old and I’m awaiting the arrival of All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld, but, other than that, it’s books that haven’t been published yet. I know they’re coming, because they’re part of series I’m reading: the final Heroes of Olympus book by Rick Riordan, and the next book in Charlie Higson’s The Enemy series, not forgetting the conclusion of Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne trilogy and James Dawson’s new book, Say Her Name.

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

I’m sure they’d think I’ve got very eclectic tastes – there’s a little bit of everything – but hopefully I’ve picked some great books from every genre, and hopefully they’d see things they’d love to try themselves.

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A huge thanks to Kate for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, though she really had no choice! If you haven’t go and visit Rob’s shelves, imagine all those books in one house, here! Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) 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 Kate’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Summer Read Suggestions – The Bloggers (Part One)

In the first instalment of my final set of vox pops (this runs over two days) for the Savidge Reads ‘Summer Reads Week’ that I have left scheduled and running while I had both a real holiday and a little blogging holiday I decided that after the publishers and the authors I would ask some bloggers what they were thinking of. Especially after my NTTVBG blogging co-hosts and I announced our Summer Selection this week, sadly we aren’t doing anything more than suggesting titles this summer. So I thought what about some other bloggers? Which summer reads have they loved and what are they looking forward to devouring over the summer?

Annabel, Gaskella

I do find it harder to concentrate on reading in the summer, with the long daylight hours I’m always more tired by the time I go to bed, but then I am up with the lark and read in the early morning a lot instead. On holiday I read even less. As to what I read, crime and thrillers often take over from lit fiction – books that are more plot driven and not so meditative work best at this time for me. James Bond, Michael Connelly and Henning Mankell for instance.

This summer I was thinking of starting to read Charlie Higson’s young James Bond series!  But also have had my eye on Robert Wilson’s Inspector Javier books and the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo for a while.

Rachel, Book Snob

Something that’s very gentle, atmospheric, and reminiscent of tea parties under parasols in English country gardens; light, witty, fresh and cheering to the soul after a long, hard winter. My favourite summery read? Can I have two? I would have to say The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim and Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge. Both perfect examples of what I’ve described, filled with the natural, evocative imagery of summer and the hope and fresh promise it brings.

This summer I really want to get Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim read.

Thomas, My Porch

Since I read all year, I don’t really believe in the whole notion of summer reads. But if I think about what I like to read while on vacation I can say that I am more prone to pick up something that would fall into the category of popular fiction. Like on my last trip I stumbled across Her Fearful Symmetry which I would never have picked up otherwise, and ended up totally enjoying it. The Potato Peel book would be another perfect example even though I didn’t read it on vacation.

If I follow the notion set forth above, I would have to say that I am probably most interested in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. It looks fun and easy and I liked the feel of the writing when I glanced at the first page.

Elaine, Random Jottings

I am not sure why I feel this way, but when the sun is shining and the sky is blue I have no desire to read a book that requires a huge amount of mental effort.  Almost as if the lazy, hazy days of summer affect my concentration and it has always been this way for me.  So toss the Margaret Atwood and the AS Byatt onto the to be read pile, ditch Ulysses and Recherché le Temps Perdu (for the umpteenth time) and turn to a more relaxed read, one that requires no flexing of the little grey cells, one that you can sink into and simply enjoy.

So into that category, oddly enough comes murder and detection but only of the so called ‘cosy’ variety.  In the last few months I have read the detective novels of Georgette Heyer, revisited those two redoubtable Dames, Agatha and Ngaio and have thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories with which I am so familiar.    Even knowing the books backwards and the identity of each murderer in each title does not lessen my enjoyment and relish with which I reacquaint myself with Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Inspector Alleyn and also Lord Peter Wimsey as I have  just reread Gaudy Night.

In the last fortnight I have read two of my favourite summer reads and I don’t think it is a coincidence that these books are always published at this time of year.  First up,  Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde which I have had on pre-order at Amazon for months.  Love her books, witty and amusing and, yes formulaic, but written with such lightness and joi de vivre they are a joy.   Read this one through in a straight two hours one afternoon last week as the sun shone. The other was The Wings of the Sphinx by Camilleri the latest Inspector Montalbano story.  I love, love, love these books and Montalba no’s attitude to life, love and food and they are the perfect summer read.  I also read the latest Donna Leon set in Venice a month or so ago and now all my summer delights are done and dusted.

I am sure I can find some more though if I look hard enough….

Rob, Rob Around Books

Like many readers I get a lot more mobile in the summer. I’m never in the same place for too long, and there’s so many other non-bookish activities screaming for my attention that I can’t seem to find the time I need to get through as many full-length novels that I’d like to. So in the summer months I prefer to keep my reading choices short and simple – choosing instead to read short stories and novellas – just so I can keep myself free from any long-term reading commitments. As for a favourite ‘summery read’? Well, I don’t tend to schedule my reading around the seasons but one particular favourite title that sticks firmly in mind partly because of its summery theme, is Niccolò Ammaniti’s ‘I’m Not Scared’ (Canongate).

Bearing in mind my preference for choosing to read shorter works in the summer months, there are a myriad of titles in my TBR that I’m looking forward to reading this summer. But picking just one – well two actually – there’s that wonderful duo of translated titles from Peirene Press that every blogger seems to be talking about right now, ‘Beside the Sea’ by Véronique Olmi and ‘Stones in a Landslide’ by Maria Barbal.

Verity, Cardigan Girl Verity

The most summery book I have read is The go-between by L.P.Hartley; partly because it is set over a long hot summer, but mainly because I remember reading it in my teens lying in the back garden over a very hot Bank Holiday weekend.  But perfect summery reads for me are generally either books which I have been saving for my holidays (and thus hugely anticipating) and/or books which are lighter in feel, whether this is in terms of plot, style of writing or target market.  Generally nothing too literary and dense!

Over the summer months I am most eager to read The Wavespotter’s Guide; I have a huge TBR of fiction but this new non-fiction book by the author of the Cloud-spotters guide is hugely appealing to someone who loves to spend their time at the seaside and who likes nothing better than to sit on the beach and watch the surf and the tide coming in and out.

Marcia, Lizzy’s Literary Life

Summery reading is something that I avoid.  Reading about hot places when it’s invariably pouring down in Scotland is not good for my psyche!  If I’m travelling, I like to read something associated with my destination.  Invariably I spend the second half of August in Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Book Festival and so somewhere along the line, I’ll read something set there.  Perhaps this year, I’ll allow myself to read the final novel in Alexander McCall-Smith’s 44 Scotland Street Series, “The Unbearable Lightness of Scones”.  I just love that title!   I’ve been saving it as I don’t want the series to end.

My reading list during July and August is dominated by the events I’ll be attending at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  The program was published last week and my first pass wish list amounted to 48 events!  At £10 a ticket, I don’t think so.  I will definitely be attending David Mitchell’s event and so,  even though the title contains the wrong season for the purpose of your feature,  “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” is top of this summer’s TBR.

So what do you reckon to these recommendations? Which books of the list today have tempted you? Which ones have you read and agree make the perfect summer read?

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