Tag Archives: J. D. Salinger

Other People’s Bookshelves #84 – Tom Connolly

Hello and welcome back to the series Other People’s Bookshelves. Every so often on Savidge Reads we welcome a guest who takes over the blog and feeds into the book lust we all crave by sharing their shelves. This week we are off to London, where spookily I will actually be for a festival, and are being put up by author Tom Connolly who has kindly invited us to have a gander at his bookshelves with a nice cup of tea or two. Before we do let’s let Tom introduce himself a bit more…

I was raised in rural Kent before moving to London and working in the film industry, starting as a tea boy (runner) on sets and then in the camera department. I made short films that led to directing. Alongside writing, the visual arts – painting and photography in particular – have long been my great loves as well as the sea and windsurfing especially. I wrote my first novel, The Spider Truces, between 2003 and 2009 and it was published in 2010. My second, Men Like Air is published September 22nd 2016.

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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?

Definitely not much of a system. I keep all the novels I read unless I really didn’t get anything from it, which is rare. I squeeze them in to any available slot on the shelf. I am not a hoarder of anything other than books. Glancing across my shelves reminds me of when I read each book, what they meant to me, how much I loved them. I can’t always remember what happened in them but I can remember characters and the emotional impact. I have never kept a diary but my bookshelves play something like that role for me.

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 art, photography, design, architecture and gardening books are in a different room to fiction. I do cull non-fiction books and research material but not the rest, not really. Within each section there is no organisation other than separating novels, poetry and plays, no alphabetical ordering, and many wasted hours looking for books. I’m not proud of myself.

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

I don’t know. But the first one I can remember buying is the silver cover edition of The Catcher In The Rye from Sevenoaks Bookshop in 1981. That was the edition our teacher, Mr Pullen, gave us to read and it was that and Hemingway’s Indian Camp the previous year that first got me reading other than at gunpoint. I wanted the same edition, the same silver cover. It was the first time I recall wanting to own and keep a book. I still have it, yes.

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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?

My copy of “The Concise Guide to Life for Men with no Charisma” aside there’s nothing there that I would feel the need to hide. Some of the reference/research books can get a little peculiar (Araki springs to mind) and be placed on the higher shelves.

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?

The Specialist by Charles Sale. My late great Dad gave it to me when I had my first short film commissioned and broadcast by the BBC in 1993, a couple of years before he died. He wrote a message to me inside. After that, my copies of William Maxwell’s So Long See You Tomorrow are the ones I love the most. From a fire, I would save my surf boards – sorry.

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 was aware more of my eldest brother’s books as he is eight years older than me and was, unlike me, bookish. Hardy and Houseman were what I was aware of him loving and I remember feeling “grown up” when I read The Mayor of Casterbridge and I loved all the Hardy I read as a teenager. I have some Hardy and Houseman on my shelves, yes. The same brother took me to see the Polanski movie of Tess and that depressed the shit out of me enough to revert to sport for the next twenty years until my mid-thirties.

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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?

Absolutely. If I have loved a book I want my own copy of it.

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

I bought three together. David Mitchell’s number9dream, brilliant, but you don’t need me to tell you that; David Baddiel’s The Death of Eli Gold, which I am really looking forward to next; and Bunker Spreckels, Surfing’s Divine Prince of Decadence, which I consumed in one enjoyable sitting.

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

1971 – Never A Dull Moment by David Hepworth and Marshall Law: A Law Unto Himself by Sally Smith. Also, the novel or memoir that Timothy Keith Craig hasn’t yet written. He’s one of my closest friends, a brother to me these past 6 years, a fine writer and one of the funniest, brightest of people.

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

I have no idea. I’d like them to think I was a stand up guy but I imagine they’d only think I’ve got too many books about Andrew Wyeth.

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A huge thanks to Tom for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves.. 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, I am catching up with all the latest volunteers. In the meantime… what do you think of Tom’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #54 – Susan Halligan

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the filthy book lust/porn and either give you a fix of other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to Manhattan, to join Susan who has nicely just popped the kettle on and will be serving us all some pastries and the like, so kind. Before we have a nosey through her shelves, let’s find out more about her…

I’m a digital marketer and work (mostly) with non-profits on social media strategy, online and offline communications integration, content development, analytics and implementation. You can learn more about my work here. I’ve lived in Manhattan for most of my adult life and grew up in Baltimore, that wonderful, complex city that manages to be both Anne Tyler as well as The Wire and is home to the beautiful Enoch Pratt Central Library. I spent a lot of time in libraries as a kid (I was parked there after school, because both my parents worked) and remain an advocate of them as an important community resource. I even worked in one — The New York Public Library — one of the worlds greatest. I began my career in book publishing and still have many friends in the industry. I thank them all for continuing to send me free books.

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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?

A book does not have to be a masterpiece for me to wedge it into the shelves. If I like it, I generally keep it. I have a weakness for fast-paced mysteries (The Girl on the Train is the most recent example) and I very often pass those along to family and friends. About a quarter of the books on my shelves are unread. Should I admit that? The reasons vary: someone sent me the book and I just wasn’t interested in the subject, but I appreciated the gesture; I started the book, but couldn’t get going with it (and these include a couple of literary masterpieces); and the books that I am determined to read … one day, like The Adventures of Augie March.

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 shelves are organized very broadly: cookbooks all together, by cuisine or subject. Art books — one long bottom shelf — together, Rembrandt next to Michelangelo. They painted, right? Oh, yes, Michelangelo sculpted. Perhaps I should move him next to the Rodin. Fiction, by author. As I glance over I do see that all the Highsmith’s and Cormac McCarthy’s ‘s are together, one after the other. Half my shelves are devoted to biographies (from Princess Diana to the LBJ of Robert’s Caro’s magisterial biography) and history, mostly 20th Century, everything from Margaret Macmillan’s Paris 1919 to Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower about the lead up to 9/11. I love big, sweeping looks at lives — the famous and the forgotten — and history. I consider these two particular interests my continuing education.

I do not alphabetize and rarely cull.

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

Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (Second Edition.) I bought it in a bookshop in Lagos, Nigeria. I wasn’t particularly drawn to Communism (likely I had no idea what it was), I simply loved the red plastic cover. And, yes, it still has a place on my shelves.

Here’s one of Chairman Mao’s quotes: “We are now carrying out a revolution not only in the social system, the change from private to public ownership, but also in technology, the change from handicraft to large-scale modern machine production, and the two revolutions are inter-connected.” Hmm.

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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 am completely unembarrassed to admit that I love books about the movies. This includes bios, cheesy as well as scholarly, and inside Hollywood accounts. Barry Paris’ Garbo, Katharine Hepburn’s Me, A. Scott Berg’s Goldwyn, Debbie Reynolds’ autobiography and tons of others have a home on my shelves. Anything that gives me a look behind-the-scenes at the movies — Old Hollywood, New Hollywood — delights me. Steven Bach’s Final Cut about the disastrous meet up of money v creative in the making of the movie, Heaven’s Gate, is probably the best inside-Hollywood account ever written and should be required reading for any entrepreneur today. Brooke Hayward’s Haywire, about the disintegration of the marriage of her parents, the 1930s cult actress Margaret Sullavan (The Shop Around the Corner) and the bigger-than-life Broadway producer, Leland Heyward, and its eternal effect on the lives of their three children, remains a devastating read.

Fun fact: Katharine Hepburn and Leland Hayward had a romance in the early 1930s before his marriage to Margaret Sullavan. In Me, Hepburn describes their relationship this way: “I could see very quickly that I suited Leland perfectly. I liked to eat at home and go to bed early. He liked to eat out and go to bed late. So he had a drink when I had dinner and then off he’d go. Back at midnight. Perfect friendship.”

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?

The Junior Illustrated Library signed by my maternal grandparents and given to me between the ages of six and eight.

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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?

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” I was 14. I thought I could learn something from Scarlett. A friend gave me a boxed 60th Anniversary edition of Gone With the Wind.

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?

Timely question. A friend’s mother just loaned me Thomas Beller’s J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist. I will definitely add to my shelves just to reread the section where Beller is in the Princeton University library moving between two tables of Salinger papers, the one with his laptop set up and a box of material that he was allowed to quote from, and the other, with letters, that he was prohibited to quote from. At that table, he’d read a bit, try to memorize something and then scoot back to the table with the laptop and start typing. A librarian never stopped him.

I got my first iPad about four years ago. From that moment, every book I read was digital. I did not add them to my shelves (just the cloud.) And then about six months ago, I began to weary of the screen and the swipe and long for the pinch of paper between thumb and forefinger as I turned the page. To test whether this was a phase or a physical need, I reread three books in hard cover — all novels — that had made especially powerful impressions on me at one point. Could I still read a physical book? Were the books as wonderful as I remembered?

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The Great Gatsby still glistens. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist is still one of the most thrilling-paced and potent novels that I have ever read. And that end? I still don’t know exactly what happened. It’s haunting. Twenty odd years ago, I read Peter Taylor’s exquisitely written A Summons to Memphis in the back seat of a car as my parents drove me back to New York after the Christmas holidays in Baltimore. It’s a story about a sympathetic older widower who falls in love and wants to remarry, but is thwarted by his evil children. That’s how I remembered it anyway. This time? Still beautifully written (and if you haven’t read Taylor’s two novels and his many short stories, get thee to a bookstore.) But my conclusions about the family completely flipped: the father was far less sympathetic, now revealed as selfish and emotionally absent from his children while they were growing up. The children remain manipulative and cruel, but the reasons why are far more complex. An interesting exercise to read a book when you are young and then re-read after you’ve experienced more of life’s nicks.

So I have a new rule: I will only read fiction on paper and I will buy the books in stores, not on the Internet.

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

Charles Blow’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones. Blow is a New York Times columnist that I admire a lot. He writes with a clarity that has cumulative power. He’s been an important voice in much of the recent anguished conversation about racism in the United States, from the death of Trayvon Martin to the Oscar snubs of the movie, Selma. The book is a memoir of his growing up in rural Louisiana. Months before the book’s publication, Blow began to tweet and Facebook like mad about the book to build interest. Turns out he’s a genius marketer, too. Authors should closely study his pre-publication, digital promotion model (@CharlesMBlow)

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

Lemony’s Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I’ve read them all, borrowed from my niece, Amy, but I only have the first, The Bad Beginning. Never was a book so inaptly named, it was a fantastic beginning. I also must find a hard copy of Mommie Dearest 🙂

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

Whenever someone comes over, even repeat visitors, they spend some time eye-balling the shelves. The shelves run floor-to-ceiling along a 21-foot wall and are hard to ignore. Sometimes the objects displayed attract attention — especially my grandmother’s clock and the pieces of African art — but, mostly it’s the books. I have a lot of interests (did I mention the boxes of board games at the bottom of one shelf?) and am endlessly curious. I hope my shelves reflect that. I love it when a visitor pulls a book off the shelf and opens it up…

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A huge thanks to Susan for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! 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 Susan’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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My Worst Best Books

“What’s the worst ‘best’ book you’ve ever read — the one everyone says is so great, but you can’t figure out why?” That is the question from today’s Booking Through Thursday and I could instantly think of one and that would have to be Twilight which though no one I knew was loving most of the UK population seemed to be joining in with that whole bandwagon and that included me. I thought it was overly long repetitive and didn’t really have any likeable characters. I also got very bored with the whole ‘I love him but he’s dangerous’ that seemed to be repeated twice every page.

However if I am talking about books I have been recommended by lots and lots of people I know and would generally say I trust in terms of great reading guidance I think I have four main contenders, actually no, I have five books I could put forward for you. All of them have been described as being ‘very me’ and though bar one I have finished them all they have left me completely cold. The one I didn’t finish and therefore have promised several people I will re-read this year is We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Hated the writing style, was bored and then someone told me the ending which I am hoping I have forgotten! I was also just generally a bit bored with it.

Second on my hit list would have to be The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Even I thought I would love this book as I am a big fan of dark gothic spooky tales but this left me cold, one part made me jump admittedly but the rest I thought was a bit dull, Novel Insights read this with me at the time and agreed. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger was another book loads of people told me I should read. I have never disliked a lead character more and I know you shouldn’t like all characters but when all they do is moan, lie and fantasise you come away bored. Fourth would be The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, found it very confusing and then the ending just completely let me down!

Now for the fifth and final book which I am sure will cause uproar for some people when I say this but it has to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The leads are two of the most selfish vile characters written and in an overlong and quite dull narrative, totally boring. I couldn’t wait for the end of both of them and the end of the book. There I have said it. Sorry if that shocks you but seriously I was so disappointed. Having been to Haworth and walking to the farm that caused the inspiration for the book and walking the moors I thought I would love it… no!

I do love being recommended books though. I would never have read The Book Thief so early on if it hadn’t been raved about by my friend Danielle. I would never have dipped into Daphne Du Maurier if three people hadn’t told me Rebecca was one of the best books ever written, in fact I would have missed a fair few of my favourites (The Woman in White, Brideshead Revisited, Lady Audley’s Secret, To Kill A Mockingbird) if they hadn’t been recommended to me so fervently.

I am trying to think of books I have recently been recommended. Simon at Stuck in a Book has told me I must read Alice in Wonderland so will be giving that a go soon and reporting back and indeed I have promised Dovegreyreader I shall try We Need To Talk About Kevin once more. I will report back on those! What books would you recommend I read? What are the worst best books you’ve read?

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The Catcher in the Rye – J.D Salinger

I never had to do J. D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ when I was at school and it’s always been a book that I have wanted to read and yet have never sort out when I have been in the bookshop. However this all changed when I saw a copy of this in Oxfam, they go like gold dust in charity shops I have been reliably told, for a whopping 99p. I am glad I didn’t pay any more for it frankly.

There is always a danger when you have heard how amazing a classic is that it simply wont live up to the hype, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is certainly one such book. I am sure that writing this will be seen as some kind of literary sacrilege, I am happy to put up with that as I don’t think me panning it will stop it selling anymore copies now will it?

Holden Caulfield is the protagonist and this is indeed his coming of age tale, this confused me from the start as I simply couldn’t work out how old he was, sometimes I thought he was about ten other times I thought he was about seventeen I found it completely confusing. I didn’t like him, he started of saying how he was a liar and from that point on I couldn’t work out whether what he was telling you was the truth or not, and I sadly ended up not caring. All the secondary characters were stereotypes and I felt the book offered nothing new we haven’t read or seen a hundred times of more, this being the classic I suppose it was one of the originals to do this, but hey ho.

No I really didn’t like ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ in fact I wish I had read it at school as you always hate the books you read at school and study to death, plus I would have got a boring dull book out of the way early on in my reading life. I have kept it on my shelves though, just to show people I have actually read it. I hope the classics I have planned to read soon don’t turn out as bad as this.

Note: My mother an English teacher has just said on the phone ‘oh god why did you read that rubbish, it’s terrible’. My Gran who is extremely well read and proud of it said something equally similar though slightly ruder.

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