Tag Archives: Charlie Hill

Other People’s Bookshelves #21 – Liz Broomfield

Hello and welcome to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves where we get to have a good old nosey through other peoples book collections. This week we get to have a gander round Liz Broomfield’s, Liz is a proof reader and editor at LibroEditing she is also an avid reader and writes about her ‘tales of the TBR’ here where you can also find out more about her own writing and books. For now though, grab a cuppa and some nicely provided biscuits and let’s find out more about Liz and her books.

I’m a bookaholic and inveterate reader – I used to read over 200 books a year and would regularly get people accusing me of not reading them “properly” – but I do! When I started running my own business while working a day job, my reading suffered, but I’ve ramped it up again now as part of using my business to support me but allow me to be flexible enough to continue to do the stuff I love. Reading keeps me sane, it’s my go-to activity when times are bad or stressful or I’m poorly. Some of my most important friendships have been made and sustained through books, and one of my favourite things to do nowadays is doing a joint read with Other Half on audiobook and me on paper book. I have a Kindle and enjoy using it on holiday, but it’s paper books for me all the way. I’m an editor, transcriber and localiser, but even though I’m immersed in the written word all day, that doesn’t stop me burying my nose in a book during breaks!

childrens booksDo 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?

As there are now over 2,500 books in my house, I am careful about what stays on my shelf. The basic rule: if I’m likely to re-read it, it stays. I periodically go through my shelves and either pick books to re-read to see if I will re-read all by that author in the future – if not, I clear them all off. Luckily I’m a BookCrosser, so I have safe places for the books to 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?

My TBR is separate (and shelved / read in rough order of acquisition). I keep fiction separate (and in a different room, by accident of how the house works) and in alphabetical order by author / chronological order of publication within author, with Persephone books separate. Non-fiction is divided into biography, travel, family, essays, Birmingham, history, quest (books like Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman’s or the one by the man who sets out be a Scrabble champion), IT, business, music, feminism, sport, animals, interior design, art, etc, all downstairs. In alphabetical order by author within those categories. Then, flanking the bathroom door, I have Nice Bindings on the left and Language and Literature on the right (Susan Hill’s Howard’s End is the on the Landing is on the landing, pleasingly) with a Terrible Pile in front of it (see pic: by the bathroom) of non-fiction that needs to go downstairs for shelving. I have a little pile of books on Iris Murdoch in my study. For culling, see above.

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

No idea, but it would be something like a pony book or E.Nesbit and if I don’t have the exact book now I’ll have a similar copy (see pic of children’s books).

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?

Not really! Our handyman was surprised by the Jilly Cooper in the fiction section, but I do comfort-read light, well-written fiction and I’m not 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 am fond of my collection of Iris Murdoch novels and a few first editions (not the early ones!) and books on Murdoch, and I fear I would save them and my notebooks for my research project on her if pushed. Luckily I have everything catalogued on LibraryThing so I know what I’ve got. I’m also fond of some Thomas Hardy Wessex Editions with nice bindings which I bought in a bookshop in Tunbridge Wells in which a friend worked, and would grab those in an emergency.

by the bathroomWhat 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?

Although my parents had an extensive book collection, the grown up books I wanted to read were on my neighbour, Mary’s shelves. She was a lefty, feminist lady who grew her own veg and made her own ice cream and wine, and her bookshelves were crammed with the books such a lady would read in the 80s – Viragoes, Women’s Press, Iris Murdoch … so I was most pleased when I got to read some of those in my mid-teens, and I have copies of lots of them on my bookshelves now.

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?

This was a hard question to answer. If I borrow a book and really love it, I will look out for a copy in general, in charity shops and the like. If it’s a BookCrossing book, which it often is, I will keep that copy on the shelf until I find my own one.

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

On a trip to London in August, I bought a copy of From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea, which was done by the Smoke: A London Peculiar people (one of whom is a transcription client of mine) and is a great looking book of writing about London. Then I fell into a second hand book and record shop and bought 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs which happens to be by another client of mine. Oh, and a paper copy of Virago is 40: a Celebration and The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat Diner by Edward Kelsey Moore. As a set of a Virago, a novel set in the mid-20th century American South, a book of travel stories and a book about music, which sums up my buying and reading taste quite nicely! I also recently bought The Space Between Things by Charlie Hill in a local Oxfam shop while searching for presents for other people. He knows a friend of mine, another friend is mentioned in the acknowledgements, and two friends taught him, so that’s Two Degrees of Birmingham in operation right there. And I picked up Bill Bryson’s At Home at the last BookCrossing meetup.

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

I would love to have a full set of Iris Murdoch first editions.

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 would think – and I would like them to think – that I was a left-leaning feminist who was into travel, politics and music. I would really like people to believe that YES, I HAVE READ ALL THESE BOOKS! because that is what people always, always ask!

biography

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A huge thanks to Liz for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the 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 Liz’s responses and/or any of the books that she mentioned?

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Books – Charlie Hill

I feel like this post today should be a public service announcement to anyone who loves books, the book industry and/or books about books. If you fit into any of those camps then, the aptly titled, Books by Charlie Hill is definitely a book for you as it satires the industry and the mediocrity which is rife in the amount of books that get published. Yet do not mistake that for it being a book for literary snobs, that is not what it is about at all, it is a look at what the role of a book is and why people started reading them in the first place.

Tindal Street Press, 2013, paperback, fiction, 192 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Richard Anger is a struggling writer, possibly as his short stories are rather dour and so experimental nobody can really read them, who as he loves book so much bought and now runs Back Street Books single handed. It is on his annual break from the shop on holiday, packing David Foster Wallace, that firstly he meets Lauren , a neurologist he instantly falls for, and then witnesses the first in a series of deaths caused by SNAPS (Spontaneous Neural Atrophy Syndrome) commenting on what a rubbish book the person who died was reading. When Lauren gets back to Birmingham she learns of more deaths from SNAPS and is intrigued and so looks Richard up again. Richard then puts two and two together realising that mediocre books are making people literally brain dead, and in all these cases the books that were being read were written by Gary Sayles – an author set to have the biggest hit of the year, an author who must be stopped.

Three days later review copies of The Grass is Greener began to arrive at newspaper offices, bookshops and the homes of bloggers. Within twelve hours the reviewers began to die.
A pointlessly detailed passage in Chapter 3, in which the hero of the piece argues with his wife during a Bank Holiday trip to IKEA, accounted for a part-time-critic-about-town on the Bristol Evening Star; Chapter 4’s barely credible description of a drunken seduction and one-night-stand did for a contributor to Beach Reads R Us!; and the Books Editor of the Glasgow Chronicle passed away after becoming cognitively becalmed during the course of a particularly laborious pun in Chapter 5.

Through Richard we see many aspects of the book industry roughly as it is now, though of course through a satirical gaze. As he struggles with rejections from publishers and literary magazines etc, we see how times are tough for the author and how the anti-snobs have almost created snobbery themselves in a different way. (Hill cleverly shows the other side of this with Gary Sayles who is the most up himself author, with minimal talent too, and one who clearly believes his own hype and promotion – I think we all know of those types don’t we?) Through Richard’s shop Back Street Books we get to see how the Independent’s are struggling against the internet and supermarkets and even indeed, dare we say it, the publishing industry itself. Oh and the broadsheets, reviewers and bloggers also get a look in as Richard has his own blog The Bilious Bibliophile – my hackles were ready to raise at this but like the rest of the book it made me laugh at the truth of it and indeed myself.

I should say here whilst Richard is clearly a snob and only wants high literature in his life, you can tell that Hill as the author is not. Hill clearly just loves books with a bit of a punch and it is with a love of books that is where Books comes from, indeed Lauren showing Richard that the best books can meet in the middle is a big part of the book. It’s main redemptive feature if you will – publishers take note! It is also this love of books that makes Hill create a satire here and not a farce.

Interestingly there is another strand to the book, which leads to its fantastical dénouement, which I haven’t mentioned. Pippa and Zeke are two artists hired by Gary to help promote The People’s Literature Tour (a brilliant send up) who are so ‘modern’ they are probably ‘retro post-modern’, yes those types. I didn’t warm to them, but I don’t think you are meant to, and I have to say I could see what Hill was doing but, apart from at the very end, I didn’t really see the need for them as I was more interested in everything else going on. In fact I would have liked more of characters like Muzz instead, who appeared a few times to much comical effect like when he swindles supermarkets bookshelves; another part of the industry nicely highlighted there to for what it does, or doesn’t, seem to stock.

‘It’s like this. The security guard in Waterstones in the city centre, he clocks me every time I go in. I can’t hardly move without him following me. But they’ve got this thing where they don’t mind exchanges. You know, providing the books in good nick they’ll swap it, even without a receipt. So I go to Sainsbury’s, help myself, get it to Waterstones and upgrade. So far I’ve managed to swap Jeffery Archer for Glenn Duncan, a Louise Bagshaw for a Beryl Bainbridge and Breaking Dawn for The Blind Assassin.’

Books is going to easily find itself in my books of the year. It is a brave book, even with its comic tones and edge, for an author to write. In part because it is almost an author speaking out against the industry to a certain point, which might not get you invited to all the big bookish parties (though as Hill is based outside London he won’t get invited anyway as I can vouch – ouch) and might make some people in some circles of the industry a little uncomfortable with the mirror it might hold up. Also being a book that is anti-mediocrity, the author needs to write a bloody good book to stand up to what it is highlighting itself. I can safely say that Hill exceeds that with this book, and indeed it’s his love of books that shines through and makes it such a successful and brilliant satire. If you love books then, erm, read Books – it is that simple.

For more on Books and a discussion about it and indeed books and the book industry, you can hear myself and Charlie Hill in conversation on the latest episode of You Wrote The Book.

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