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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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Other People’s Bookshelves #30 (Part One) – Rob Chilver

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 firstly to Rob (breaking the tradition of ladies first) to introduce himself and his shelves (as Rob and Kate haven’t merged shelves yet, I am not judging their relationship on this basis though… much!) and all other bookish shenanigans…

I’m Rob and you may know me as @robchilver on Twitter. I’ve always been an avid reader, something which my parents and grandmother encouraged from an early age. This love of books led me to studying for an MA in English Literature, developing a fondness for Salman Rushdie and Michael Chabon over the years. The day after I finished my Masters I applied to be a bookseller and buyer for Waterstones, a position I still hold today. I talk about books all day as part of my day job but I continue this outside of work, reviewing books on AdventuresWithWords.com and co-hosting a weekly podcast with other half Kate Neilan. Added to this Hear… Read This!, a monthly podcast with Gav from No Cloaks Allowed and a certain Mr Savidge and a forthcoming event at Essex Book Festival. With all this going on, it’s actually been quite hard finding the time to read lately while the books keep on building up…

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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 wish that I was either organised enough or had enough willpower to implement a one in, one out system but sadly I’m a hoarder! It’s the collector mentality in me that means that I keep all the books I read and very rarely get rid of any. I suppose if I’ve loved a book enough to finish it, who knows when I may wish to return to it or even lend it out to someone? At the moment we have a whole bookcase dedicated to our ‘to-be-read’ pile that we need to review for the blog along with research for our forthcoming event. This is conveniently placed in our living room, ensuring it’s a constant reminder that it is there! With my comic books, they are currently in a pile on the floor of our guestroom, awaiting to be boarded and boxed in chronological order. So while it may look like an unorganised mess, there is a method to it all somewhere!

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?

Despite living together, Kate and I still keep separate bookshelves that are now both overflowing with books. As you can see from the photos, it is getting to the stage where things are getting out of hand and I can’t actually get to one of my bookcases as Kate has boxes of books in the way! When I can get to them, I do try to keep my hardbacks together at the bottom of the shelves and gather books by the same authors together but other than that, it’s a bit of a disaster! Some weeks around 5-10 books can arrive so very quickly things have got out of hand. I think some of the shelves are actually bending under the weight of some of the books.

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

I’ve a very vivid memory of my first book purchase. It was going downstairs at Red Lion Books in Colchester, a great independent bookshop still going strong, to their science-fiction section and buying a hardback of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (when there was still four stories in the trilogy.) Coming from a family who always wrote dedications to one another when gifting books, I thought I was being ‘funny’ when I wrote a dedication to myself.  I still cringe when people see it on my shelves.

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’m not one that believes in guilty pleasures as at the end of the day, if someone is reading at all, we shouldn’t really be one to judge. Saying that, I do have a soft spot for some John Grisham, who has a habit of writing the same sort of books over and over and yet I still end up devouring one over a holiday.

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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?

As well as collecting books I do try where I can to get copies signed. On recent trips to Latitude Festival half of my rucksack has been filled with copies of books waiting to be signed. If the flames were threatening them, then my signed Michael Chabon, Sebastian Faulks and Carlos Ruiz Zafon books would be following me. Then I might go back for a few of Kate’s…. 😉

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?

Despite being brought up on a diet of Bond films, my Mum steadfastly refused to allow me to read the original Ian Fleming novels. Ignoring the copious violence, it was the prospect of the sex scenes that upset her and was the cause of her blanket ban. Imagine my surprise/disappointment when I had snuck them off the shelves, Fleming effectively does the ‘fade to black’ when Bond and the Bond girl get intimate. Of course I couldn’t correct my mother’s opinion without revealing that I’d read them! That aside, I now have my Dad’s yellowed and battered Pan paperbacks on my shelves and have collected different ones with numerous covers.

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?

Oh I’d have to have it! If it’s a book I love I want to keep it and I’m even worse if it’s a hardback. Looking over the shelves I’ve collected books in proofs, hardback and also in paperback if it is one that I’ve enjoyed. If I were to lend a book out though, it would have to be the paperback! I am in the lucky position to be given books to consider buying through work or copies to review which is fantastic but I will buy around the same quantity myself using my work’s discount.

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

Ignoring titles given to me for work or for review, I had a bumper crop of books given to me for Christmas. Two of the highlights were S, by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst, which is a love letter to the book itself, and a gloriously large hardback of The Making of the Return of the Jedi which indulges my love of Star Wars, filmmaking and gloriously large hardbacks.

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

As I’ve said before, I’m a collector so I do look at the shelves and have a desire to fill in the gaps in series or in an author’s back catalogue. I can get a bit particular about collecting the same editions of books, something I’m frequently asked to do at work, so I at the moment I’m on the lookout for certain editions of Asterix that I want to complete the copies I had growing up.

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

If they saw past the haphazard shelving, I hope they’d see a mixture of books that cross a number of genres. I’d hope that they’d see that I’m found of literary novels that remind me of my studies but also enjoy a good gripping page turner.

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A huge thanks to Rob for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, though he really had no choice! Keep your eyes peeled for Kate’s shelves later today! 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 Rob’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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