Tag Archives: J.K. Rowling

Other People’s Bookshelves #85 –Anna O’Grady

Hello and welcome back to the series Other People’s Bookshelves. Every so often here 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 Sydney, where we are joining the wonderful, wonderful  Anna O’Grady, who is responsible for me hearing about many a wonderful read and even sending me  one or two from Australia that she really, really wants people to read. Like Charlotte Wood’s amazing The Natural Way of Things, which if you haven’t read by now you must. Anyway, Anna has kindly invited us to have a gander at her bookshelves with a nice cup of tea or two and some lovely treats, though the Violet Crumbles are all mice. Before we have a peruse of her shelves though let’s let Anna introduce herself a bit more…

I come from a third generation of booksellers – so you might say that books have always been my destiny and they certainly are my passion. My grandfather was a Polish bookseller and collector of rare books before World War II. Sadly his bookstore and most of his collection was destroyed during the final bombing of the city of Poznan. There is only a handful of books that survived, but one of them is an extremely rare hand-printed book of Japanese poetry. My mother carried on the tradition of family bookselling and married a man who was first trained as a printer, but went on to work in a small publishing house. As far back as I can remember our tiny apartment was always full of books and often full of writers having big political discussions around our kitchen table. I always loved reading, but rebelling against ‘following in my parent’s footsteps’ – I vowed not to work in a bookshop. I left Poland at the age of 19. It was really hard to start a new life with limited language skills and no friends and family, but I quickly discovered that bookstores were the best places to cure my homesickness and help me understand new countries. Here I came across old friends –  classics and authors that I’d read over the years, but  I also discovered a the whole new world of books and authors that I’d  never heard of. It was not long before my vows were forgotten and I started working in a bookstore. Although I moved countries a few times, I never left the book world, spending my working hours in bookshops in England, Switzerland, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. I made a move to the publishing side about three years ago and although I do miss bookshops, I also enjoy this different way of ‘making’ 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?

There is no way that I could have possibly kept all the books I read, but I did become very creative in finding new ways of stacking books ;-)….. My current library has over 3000 books, and I regularly do some ‘pruning’. I keep books by all my favourite authors (and there are quite a few of them) and I collect books in a couple of specific areas. Although I reinforced the floors under the part of the library that holds most of my hardcovers, I often pray that my little house does not collapse under the weight of all these books. I am also trying to make more use of my local public library to reduce the load on my bookshelves.

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?

Yes, I definitely have a system going. First my books are divided by the three languages in which I read; secondly they are divided by fiction and nonfiction. Nonfiction is divided into subsections: history/politics, arts, nature etc. with two special subsections in which I collect books about history of women and books about books, libraries, reading etc. My fiction section is divided by continents and then by the country of the author’s origin, the two biggest parts being dedicated to Canadian and Australian writing. I also have a special section for classics and poetry … and then there are of course my various stacks, books to be read later, books to be read now, books that I am dipping in and out of etc. etc. Yes, I know it’s all a bit mad.

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

My first recollection of books I bought with my own money are The Moomins by Tove Jansson. I was probably about 7 or 8 when they started appearing in Poland and I saved money for them in my little piggy bank and yes I still have them. I still love them and have added to the collection over the years.

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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 guilty pleasures are some of the horror novels (especially Japanese) and lots of mysteries, but I am not embarrassed by them and they live on the shelves in perfect harmony with all other books.

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?

This is the hardest question – I honestly could not name a single book. It would be more like an armful of books. I would definitely want to keep my original Moomins, but I also have an amazing collection of signed books. Most of these carry memories of unforgettable encounters and long conversations with extraordinary writers –  these include books by my favourites –  Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Gunter Grass, Peter Carey, Richard Flanagan, Jose Saramago, Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie, Anthony Marra, J.K Rowling and so many more. I also should single out my 1st Canadian edition of Life of Pi. Sorry, I know it sounds like a lot of name dropping, but over the years I have been very privileged as a bookseller to meet some truly remarkable people.

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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?

Probably some of the American classics of the 20th century, I distinctively remember being in  high school and discovering a  whole shelf of them in my parent’s library – books by Joseph Heller, Irvin Shaw, Ernest Hemingway. I had a preference for dark stories and that has not changed.

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?

If I really loved it yes I would go and buy it, but I no longer buy all the books I want to read. I really enjoy using my local library.

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

I bought this week The Mothers by Brit Bennett, on a recommendation of my favourite Australian bookshop: Readings in Melbourne. (I am ¾ into it and I would highly recommend it too) and I borrowed a copy of The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan on the recommendation of another author Aoife Clifford, whose reading tastes I always respect. I do have to add here that both you and Kim from readingmattersblog are very trusted and frequent source of recommendations too.

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

Nothing that I really would lose my sleep over, but I always have lists of books that I would like to read.

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

Well it is quite a mix of books that I have – so the only thing that I hope people would say is that I have an open and curious mind.

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A huge thanks to Anna 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 Anna’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #53 – Geoff Whaley

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves post. If you haven’t seen it before this is 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 Boston, yes the place I have always wanted to stay longer than the 24 hours I once did and home of my favourite series Rizzoli and Isles – though hopefully there won’t be any murder today, to join Geoff who blogs at The Oddness of Things Moving and has a podcast (which I am secretly hoping he will one day invite me on to discuss Rebecca) Come Read With Me. You can follow him on Twitter here. Before we have a nosey through his shelves, let’s find out more about him…

I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts and took a very roundabout way to get here. North Carolina born and bred, I moved to Boston after post-graduate studies in the UK and I haven’t looked back. I picked Boston for a few reasons, it’s just as confusing as any English towns (would street signs really kill anyone?) and it has so many things to do from the numerous cultural institutions to the Boston Book Festival! And that doesn’t even get me started on the wonderful independent bookstores throughout Greater Boston! As much as I wish reading were my whole life, apart from blogging it’s not. I get a lot of my reading time while commuting to and from my day-job where I raise money for a small private college. I love what I do because I hear people’s stories of why they support the causes they do and I get to connect those people (and their gifts of course) to something meaningful.

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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?

For the longest time I kept every book I owned, including 100+ Star Wars novels, but when I went to college I seriously pared down. My general rule is I have to have space on my bookshelf, but I do cheat with multiple layers on some of the shelves. Most books come in until I read them and when I’m done they either stay on my shelf (hardly ever) or they go in the bag to the left of my shelf to be sent to a used bookstore or donated to the local library.

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?

I don’t worry too much about organization in the alphabetical sense, but I do group an authors work together. Aside from generally putting them in size order (big to small), they’re broken down by shelves:

  1. On top of my big bookshelf are my TBR quick reads, the piles to the right are those that I could read in one-to-two sittings, and the larger hardback TBR books that won’t fit elsewhere.
  2. The shelf immediately below that, a little bit of the middle shelf and all of the shelves by my bed are my “forever” books. They’re the ones that friends and family have given me, those signed by authors or those that had a profound impact on me at the time.
  3. The middle and bottom shelf are all the other books I’ve picked up over the five years I’ve been in Boston that I will read and probably pass on. They’re the books that sound fascinating at the time but I just haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

I haven’t had to do a cull yet, but like I said above I have been cheating a little bit and my quick read piles are growing really fast, so I might need to in the near future.

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

Honestly, it was probably a Star Wars novel, and if it wasn’t Star Wars it was an Irene Radford Dragon Nimbus book. I kept two trilogies when I cleared out my Star Wars novels and I have a few books floating around from high school so there’s a good chance it’s still on my shelf.

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?

Thankfully Kindles were invented so I can hide my smuttier books on there, but in seriousness it’s hard to say. I’m not embarrassed by books or my guilty pleasures from Star Wars to Jane Austen fan-fiction I display them proudly and am always looking for converts! The only book I would be embarrassed about people seeing, because I’d be afraid they’d assume things about me I bought out of morbid curiosity: Going Rogue by Sarah Palin. I guess it’s tempered a little bit by Frank Bailey’s Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, but I still wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea.

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?

Isn’t this like asking which child you’d save? It’s a tough choice for me There are two collections I prize more than I probably should. The first is my slowly growing Wuthering Heights collection. I’ve stumbled across a few beautiful paperback editions, two from the 1950s, two from the 1960s and one from the 1980s, and I couldn’t help myself so I bought them. They’re all from before I was born and that’s my unofficial cut-of date when I look at copies in stores.

The second is my Harry Potter collection: complete and well loved American hardback and paperback series, complete British hardback, all the extras books, plus the first two in French and the first in Spanish! It’s only a matter of time before I get the new American edition and complete the Spanish edition.

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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?

Any of the classics. No, seriously, any of them. I grew up with big bookshelves in my house and my dad’s parents house was wall-to-wall bookshelves. At our house I really wanted to read the big leather bound tomes because they just looked so magical and at my grandparents house the classics just looked so worn from being read and loved so often, that I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve read a lot of Classics since then, especially those I was forced to read in school, and have fallen in love with many of them and have select copies on my shelf.

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?

I’m a strong supporter of local libraries, so I try to get as many books from the libraries as possible. I do spend more money than I should at used bookstores (Hello trade-in credit!). I do have a running list of books that I want to read and if I keep thinking about a book I will purchase it in hopes that I’ll read it faster, but that’s not serving me too well with almost three shelves of to-be-read books.

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

I just purchased a copy of The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. This is surprising as I don’t have a lot of non-fiction, but I’ve wanted to read about Mary Cassatt and this seemed like a good introduction. I also pre-ordered paperback copies of Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and Laline Paull’s The Bees after listening to the last episode of The Readers, but those won’t arrive until May!

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

I wish I had the first copy of Wuthering Heights that I read back in high school on my shelf. I didn’t appreciate it enough when I read it then and even though it wasn’t a beautiful copy it was still the first one I read. I also wouldn’t say no to an original copy either, I did get to hold a First American Edition last December.

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

I’m not sure what they’d think because most of the time I’m not sure what to think! I have Star Wars novels next to Jane Austen novels, I have five copies of Wuthering Heights beside Gender and Queer Theory text books. I’d like to think people would see it as charmingly eccentric, but I’m not sure if I need to be an 80-year-old-professor or not for that one!

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A huge thanks to Geoff 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 Geoff’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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The Casual Vacancy – J. K. Rowling

Tonight sees the first part of the adaptation of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy being screened on BBC One here in the UK, admittedly I had no idea that it had been adapted till I saw the new edition of the book in the supermarket, so I thought it was about time I gave it a whirl. I am a fan of Rowling’s writing, I loved the Harry Potter books and indeed for the last three was one of the people who went and queued for a midnight release. Yet the hype and buzz around Rowling’s first ‘proper book for grown ups’ when it came out proved too much for me, even though it’s about a small British town which is a setting I love with all that curtain twitching. So I set it aside for when the time was right, which seemed like now as I needed to read it before I watched it on the telly, and so I started.

Little Brown, hardback, 2012, fiction, 503 pages, bought by myself for myself

As you would expect from a Rowling novel, The Casual Vacancy has a huge cast of characters and also a rather wide scope, even if only set in the small town of Pagford. As the novel opens Councillor Barry Fairbrother dies suddenly, leaving the casual vacancy of the title. If you are like me and not really up on government politics let alone local ones (which as I work for an offshoot of the council is ironic, I do get passionate around general election time so watch out this summer) then this will mean nothing to you either, yet it is indeed a true thing.

‘We’ve got a…?’ asked Maureen, frightened that she might have missed something crucial.
‘Casual vacancy,’ repeated Howard. ‘What you call it when a council seat becomes vacant through a death. Proper term,’ he said pedagogically.

Here too you might also think ‘oh no this sounds really, really dull and dreary why would I want to read about local politics?’ as I did, yet this is just really the background noise as at the centre stage are the lives of those who might stand to take up Barry Fairbrother’s place, as well as those he leaves behind on a personal level after his death. It is here behind closed doors, where people’s secrets lie, where the action and heart of the novel are. It is also where Rowling creates a wonderfully intricate and darkly funny series of plots and twists with the interlinking characters that live behind them.

First are the Mollinsons. Howard Mollinson is already on the council and, along with his wife Shirley, desperately want their son Miles to take over as the new councillor. This adding to Howard’s plan to make sure The Fields, a council estate that houses a drug clinic, fall under the council of the nearby city of Yarvil and becomes their responsibility – a major part of the book, more on soon. The only person who doesn’t seem keen in Miles’ wonderfully awful, miserable and bitter wife Samantha, who would rather just concentrate on making her lingerie shop more of a success before coming home and getting drunk.

Second up is Dr. Parminder Jarwanda, who was Barry’s right hand woman, and is seen as one of the most respectable prospects both with her job and her picture perfect family, of course the perfect picture often has cracks within it. Third up is Colin “Cubby” Wall a local Deputy Head Teacher who some would say was rather obsessed with Barry Fairbrother; he is also obsessed with not doing something else. Fourthly and finally is the rather left field option that is Simon Price, a man who thinks he is of the people, yet we soon learn is a horrendous tyrant and bully to his family.

All these people want to go for a respected role and yet, as you will have guessed, they all hide secrets, secrets which soon start to appear on the Pagford community website written by “The_Ghost_Of_Barry_Fairbrother” but who is this ghost and why are they spreading such poisonous messages exposing the flaws in the candidates. Could there be some undercover vigilante’s in the midst of the town and what are their motives?

As I mentioned the novel also deals with those who Barry left behind. There is his wife Mary, his best friend Gavin (who doesn’t quite realise it till he has died) and also teenager Krystal Weedon. Krystal may initially be a surprise link, yet she lives on The Fields, where we discover Barry came from hence his passion for it, and who he took under his wing. Krystal is a girl living with a hard life trying to look after her little brother when her mother falls off the wagon and either gets drunk or finds the funds, or prostitutes herself, for a fix of heroin. Krystal is also the link of sorts between all the other characters, she plays on a team (which Barry coached) with Sukhvinder Jawanda and is dating Colin Walls son, Fats. Are you still with me? Good. She is really Rowling’s heroine of the piece, yet I also found that she was the character that Rowling lets down the most in the end…

Before I get onto that, I want to share with you what I loved about The Casual Vacancy, as there is a lot to love. Most importantly, I really, really love Rowling’s writing. I love the way she creates Pagford so completely in your head. You see the streets that these people walk down, you watch the curtains twitch and you go and have coffee and gossip with them in the shops. Her characters are also wonderfully drawn; vivid and fully formed they inhabit your head as they inhabit the town. I also loved the way that Rowling uses a wicked sense of humour to create them and depict their physicality and situations, often in a quite upfront and giggle inducing way. No we are not in the land of Harry Potter anymore…

Though Pagford’s delicatessen would not open until nine thirty, Howard Mollison had arrived early. He was an extravagantly obese man of sixty-four. A great apron of a stomach fell so far down in front of his thighs that most people instantly thought of his penis when they first clapped eyes on him, wondering when he had last seen it, how he washed it, how he managed to perform any of the acts for which a penis is designed.

It was for all these reasons that I raced through the first two thirds of the book. Then I started to struggle. It is not that the book is too long, I just felt it and Rowling lose their way and get too caught up in the social mores and trying to piss Daily Mail readers off. You see whilst all the secrets and themes of the novel (the self harm, the depression, the domestic violence, racism, homophobia, assumptions about class) initially are the fire in the belly of The Casual Vacancy they also start to weigh it down too much.

There is the fact that to be honest there are no redeeming features in any of the characters, apart from Barry’s widow Mary, each one is really a bit of a shit in one way or another. Whilst this may be true of some villages and towns in the country a novel needs some form of redemption somewhere. Even the younger generation in the novel, who I should say Rowling writes the best, are actually little sods in some ways with the exception of Sukhvinder. Yes, even Krystal, the girl who Rowling uses to depict the working class and poor that she came from, soon gets motives of survival that I found quite insulting to that class.

Then Rowling did two things, one which I saw coming and didn’t think she would do as it seemed to obvious and one which I didn’t see coming and was enraged by, which for me both let all those people down she clearly wanted to highlight and make us feel for AND made the book so utterly bleak, grim and depressing I threw the paperback I anally bought so not to dent my hardback in my work bag on the commute across the room in anger and frustration – but not in the way I think Rowling wanted me too. There was just no need and no redemption, and this is from someone who likes books that are dark. I sulked, epically. I went from cackling to cursing.

Now I have had some time away from The Casual Vacancy I still feel very conflicted about it and I think I probably will remain so. On the one hand it is a tale about the lengths people will go for power. It is also a darkly funny novel about a fantastic, if unlikeable (which doesn’t put me off a book to clarify) bunch of characters and what they try to hide from each other. It is also about the responsibility of those privileged enough to get the power, especially in acting for those who may never get their voices heard let alone the power to make decisions in society. The thing is for me in the last sixty pages Rowling goes from vocalising those voices to inevitably letting them down, well in the opinion of this reader anyway.

I don’t think I am alone in this having mentioned the book on twitter a few times and indeed seeing that the people behind the BBC’s adaption have apparently changed the ending as they felt it was too grim. I still love Rowling’s writing, I am still going to read the Robert Galbraith crime novels, I just wish she had carried on highlighting the plight of a part of society without the extremity which then backfired, I thought. I will stop now or I will get cross again. Who else has read The Casual Vacancy and what did you make of it? Who else is going to be tuning into the mini-series?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #47; Alice Farrant

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 shelves to stave you off going on a buying/borrowing spree, or making you want to run and grab as many more books as you can. This week, the series returns after a rather long hiatus, with the lovely blogger Alice who has been a long time commenter on this blog and who I feel like I know even though I don’t. She too loves Rebecca making her even more special. Anyway, grab a cup of coffee/tea and lets settle down with Alice and have a nosey through her books…

I’m Alice, a late 20s book devourer from the south of England. By day I’m a Marketeer, and by night I worry about what on earth I am going to write in bios about myself. My favourite book is Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford, which I suppose technically is a series. It was the first novel where I physically experienced the anxiety running through the story (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier being the second). Fun fact: I’m terrified of Jenga. Despite a someone grumpy exterior I am always in favour of making new bookie friends, and you can find me at my literature blog, ofBooks, or on Twitter (@nomoreparades).

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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 have one book shelf, bowing under the pressure of all the paperbacks I insist on buying. Unless I have really enjoyed a book, once it’s read it’s gone. You would think that would stop me buying extreme amounts of books, but it doesn’t. Once all the space is filled it is time to be ruthless once more and part with the books I ‘don’t need’.*

* I need all books, this kills me every time.

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?

I would like to say that I have a wonderfully thorough alphabetical system, organise into fiction and non-fiction. But, I don’t. My system makes no sense to anyone but me. I have a to-be-read collection on top of the shelving. Then I have a ‘very favourite’ shelf in the middle, with the rest to-be-reads sitting in front of it. Other favourites go on the top shelf and ‘difficult to fit anywhere’ books and ‘other unreads’ live at the bottom. I’ve also got academic books down the side of my shelves, from my University days.

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

The only one I remember with any significance is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and yes it’s still on my shelves. I borrowed the first three books off my sister, and finished the third just before the fourth was published. It was the beginning of a long love of the HP Universe and J.K Rowling. However, there were many books that came before and after, which may have been bought with pocket money, I can’t be certain.

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?

No, but only because I have so little space. Also, I have a Kindle (I know, I know, the thing of evil) so anything I wouldn’t want people to see on my shelves I can hide on there.

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?

My copy of Persuasion by Jane Austen. I say my copy, it’s actually my mother’s. It was one of the first books that I read as I got enveloped into reading veraciously. It was the first Jane Austen I read and it is to this day one of my favourite books. Being so far outside of what I recognised as Austen (feisty young heroines) and in Anne I saw myself. I would save it, not only because it’s not technically mine, but because it would be like leaving a little bit of myself behind to burn.

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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?

It wasn’t on my parents shelves, as most of my Dad’s books where historical or maps, but on my Aunts. We were visiting and I was allowed any book from her shelf. I chose an American psychological thriller called Tell Me No Secrets by Joy Fielding. I was too young to understand half of what was happening, but over fifteen years later I still have it. It was the first non-classic, adult book I ever read of my own volition.

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?

If I have loved it enough, yes. I do the same with e-books. If I have loved it in digital format I have to buy the paperback, e-books just aren’t the same. I find I don’t borrow books unless a friend has recommended one to me and lent me their copy. I get nervous with other people’s books, in case I were to scuff them in any way.

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

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I’ve read the former already, it was delightful.

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

The new Foyles in London stocks a two-part hardback copy of the Parade’s End series by Ford Madox Ford. They are gorgeous and I need them in my life, once I have £80 to spare anyway.

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

I think I would like anyone looking to think I had a wide ranging taste in fiction and was relatively well read, but I’m not sure that is the vibe it would give off. If anything I probably give off the impression I own a somewhat ramshackle collection of literature. Due to the lack of organisation and bowing nature of the shelves. Ultimately I would hope they would look at my shelves and think of books they would want to recommend to me. If I achieve that, I will feel I am reading successfully.

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A huge thanks to Alice 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) in the series then drop me an email tosavidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Alice;s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #35; Persephone Nicholas

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a regular series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. This week we are heading off to Australia to meet a lady who is named after my favourite Greek mythical character and one of my favourite publishing house, ok maybe the last bit wasn’t true, Persephone Nicholas. Before I start making more things up about Persephone let’s get to know her a little bit better and have a nosey through her bookshelves…

My name’s Persephone and I’m a UK born author and freelance writer now living in Sydney. I’ve always loved books and writing, but I didn’t start writing for a living until I moved to Australia almost a decade ago. I write for newspapers, magazines and a few corporate clients. Last year my first novel, Burned, won a Random House literary award and has since been published as an eBook and in print in Australia and New Zealand. I’m now working on my second novel. I also blog about books and writing at: http://thebookorme.blogspot.com.au/ and am on twitter: @PersephoneNich.

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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 used to hold on to every single book that came my way. My dad worked in publishing, my mum was a compulsive reader and I was a very bookish kid who went on to read English at uni. So at one point I had thousands of books. When I moved to Australia almost a decade ago, I had a huge cull. I decided that unless I’d loved a book so much I wanted to read it again, I would let it go. Looking back, I think I was too ruthless – I probably got rid of 90 per cent of my books. At the time I was so stressed at the prospect of moving my family to the other side of the world, that it seemed easier to get rid of things than organise them. The upside of all that is that I’m looking forward to buying some of my old favourites again, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series for example. I don’t keep a lot of books now. I don’t have a problem with getting rid of things I haven’t especially enjoyed and I love to share good books with friends, so I often lend my favourite books. Occasionally one gets lost, but I prefer to think of books being read, rather than languishing on bookshelves.

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?

A casual observer might think that my bookshelves aren’t organised at all. But I know exactly where everything is. I have shelves for books I want to read, shelves for books I’ve read and want to keep and another shelf for books that I’m happy to pass on. I also have shelves of reference books; on creativity and writing; and also on interiors as I regularly write for one or two home magazines. I’ve kept a few books that my kids loved when they were younger too. I’ve always enjoyed reading to them and keeping some of those picture books brings back happy memories.

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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 have absolutely no idea what the first book I bought was. I must have been quite young and I absolutely loved Mary Norton’s The Borrowers and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series so it might have been one of either of those.

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 always interested to read books that are hugely popular. I like to know what everyone’s talking about. That’s what made me pick up the first Harry Potter, Twilight and Fifty Shades. Only Harry Potter still has shelf room in our house though.

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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?

The books I cherish most were given to me by my mum. She’s always been a great reader and spent hours choosing books she thought my sister and I might love when we were younger. She bought Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth for me and introduced me to The Kite Runner many years ago. She still gives me great book tips. The other special book I have is my debut novel, Burned. I was very surprised – and honoured – to receive an award from Random House for it last year and it was amazing being able to put a copy of a book I’d written on my bookshelves. I’m writing another novel now and have definitely learned a lot about the process since Burned was published, but I think the first one will always be special.

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 were pretty liberal and let us read everything when we were growing up. I don’t remember anything ever being deemed inappropriate, so if there was something I wanted to read on their shelves (which were absolutely jam-packed), I would have just got on with it.

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?

If I’ve borrowed a book and loved it, I will often buy a copy. It might not go on my shelves, I might give it to someone else as a gift, but I do like to support writers whose work I’ve enjoyed.

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

An Australian girlfriend recently gave me The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea by Randolph Stow. He’s widely considered to be one of Australia’s finest writers, but I hadn’t heard of this book until she told me about it. That’s what I’ll be reading next.

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

Their first thought would probably be that I don’t have many books. If they looked a little more closely, I hope they’d think that I enjoy intelligent writing by a wide range of authors.

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A huge thanks to Persephone for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves and for taking the time to chat with us all. Anyway… 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 Persephone’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #33; Jeremy Largen

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a regular series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. This week we are off across the ocean to Chicago (though I may be delayed in quarantine) to join the lovely Jeremy, one of the many, many booklovers who I have come to know through social media and now wish I could teleport to visit for a nice cup of tea and bookish natter every week or so (and to join his book group too). Sighs. Anyway, less about me and my science fiction whims, I will hand over to Jeremy and let him introduce himself while I get my visa checked and medical assessment and join you later on…

I’ve always been a reader for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in the country and there wasn’t a lot to do.  My brothers enjoyed fishing, hunting, being outside, but I preferred to stay in and escape in a book, or if my parents forced me to go outside and “play,” I would take my book with me. I read pretty much anything, except I don’t like biographies/autobiographies, especially about famous people, but memoirs are okay.  Nor do I like Westerns.  I’m not a shoot ‘em up, cowboys and Indians kind of guy.  My favourite, and my go-to genre, when I just want to escape is fantasy.  I love the worlds.  I love the magic systems.  Fantasy, for me, is imagination at its best. I moved to Chicago about 9 years ago, for the job opportunity.  I had a hard time making friends, not being one to really go to the bars all that much, nor was I all that extroverted, so I decided to start the Chicago Gay Men’s Book Club in 2008, to make friends.  I never imagined that it would be so successful.  I’ve met some really great guys since, and have made some lasting friendships that I cherish.

I also recently started a book blog, www.bookjerm.com, which I’m kind of learning as I go.  I’ve never blogged before.  I’ve been rating and writing blurbs for books I’ve read on goodreads.com for several years, but writing full book reviews is new to me, and challenging, though finding time to actually write, I think, is probably the most challenging.  But I’m super excited about it and looking forward to developing my site as a place to house all my bookish thoughts, etc.  I’m also on Twitter, @BookAddict34, where I “tweet” about books, movies, and life in general.

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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?

All the books I keep are on my shelves.  I usually only keep the books that I really love, for one reason or another, and donate the rest.  I think, at least at the moment, I have more books I haven’t yet read then books I’ve actually read.  I’ve got a bit of an addiction when it comes to buying books.  I was out this afternoon, in fact, buying more books to add to the already overflowing shelves. 

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?

I used to alphabetize all my books, but decided it wasn’t fun anymore.  The constant shifting of books became too tedious to keep up with.  I usually group authors together where I have several of their works, e.g., Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Carroll, but the rest I just make sure they go on their designated shelf; Shelf 1, which goes straight across both bookcases 1 & 2 in my living room is for Fiction (larger trade size paperback).  I have several books by Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Carroll, two very different writers, but both phenomenal writers. Shelf 2 is for non-fiction, which I don’t have a lot of.  These books only take up one bookcase.  On shelf two of the other bookcase starts my Fiction (smaller mass market paperback size), which runs on to shelf 3 of bookcase 1 as well.  Shelf 3 of the second bookcase is dedicated to The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, a favourite fantasy series of mine. Shelf 4 is where I keep my GLQBT books.  I don’t read a lot of this genre.  David Levithan was an amazing discovery of mine last year.  I absolutely loved Two Boys Kissing and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he co-wrote with John Green.  Shelf 4 of bookcase 2 is where I house my Harry Potter books and books in French.  Dangerous Liaisons is probably one of my favourite books of all-time, which is on this shelf.

Finally, the bottom two shelves of each bookcase is dedicated to my TBR.  They are the most jam-packed, overflowing shelves in the entire bookcase.  Sometimes I wonder if I don’t enjoy buying books more than reading them.  At this point, if I stop buying books today, it would take me more than a decade to catch up. I also have two, smaller, bookshelves in another room, which houses my books on writing, which I have a slight obsession with reading, and other reference books, such as grammar and French. I try to cull books once or twice a year, but am hugely unsuccessful.  I will begin by saying, “I am going to get rid of 20 books today, to make room for some new ones,” but at the end of the day, I will be lucky to decide on five.

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

I don’t think I can actually remember this, but I do remember walking into a bookstore when I was young and buying Needful Things by Stephen King.  I remember feeling very adult.  It was a heavy hardcover, too, which made the experience that much more adult-like.  I was going through a phase at the time where I was devouring books, especially horror novels. 

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?

This would probably be my Anne Rice books.  I have all the Vampire Chronicles, and these are the ones that people make the most comments about. These books take up half a shelf on one of my bookcases.  I used to hide them behind other books, but decided what’s the sense of having books if I’m just going to hide them.  These books were part of my horror phase when I was growing up, and I display them proudly, since then, however, I have a hard time reading vampire stories.  It would have to be a pretty fantastic vampire story to appeal to me today. 

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 would try to save as many of the books as I could.  I have nightmares about losing my books in a fire.  I live on the first floor of my apartment building, I think I would just start chucking them out into the street before jumping out the window after them at the last minute.  My most prized books would probably have to be The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  I really love this fantasy series.  There are 14 books so far and it’s still going—I hope it never ends.  I’m not one to collect antiquated books, or go to a ton of book signings, though meeting Jim Butcher is on my list of things to do before I die.

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I have a funny story about book signings, actually. I recently went to my first this past year.  It was Dave Eggers, who was signing for his new book at Unabridged Books here in Chicago.  I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius a couple years prior and absolutely loved it.  After waiting in line for just over an hour, I stepped up to get my book signed.  I was expecting him to just write: “To Jeremy” and then sign his name, but he scribbled over the entire page, covering it in black marker, which leaked through to the next page.  I cringed at this defacement.  I take great care of my books, maintaining their pristine condition, even after reading them, so for me to even relent and allow a book to be signed is something special.  Dave Eggers basically ruined that book for me.  So, bad first experience.

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 remember reading V. C. Andrews at a very young age and thinking, “I probably shouldn’t be reading this.”  I then, of course, told my brother about these scandalous books and he was even younger than I was.  We both read these books back-to-back.  It’s probably the fastest I’ve ever read a book, ever.

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, but only if I loved it.  I’ve borrowed books before where I had to have my own copy; I needed to “own” it.  Recently, for example, The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker.  I borrowed a copy from a friend and absolutely adored the story.  I had to have my own copy for my shelf, which the hardcover with the black edged pages is gorgeous by the way.  I’m the same way with ebooks.  I’m one of those rare individual that reads ebooks and physical books equally.  If I read an ebook that is amazing, I will go out and buy a physical copy for my shelf.  I don’t know why I do this.  It’s a compulsion, I guess.

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

I’m constantly adding new books to the TBR shelves, but the one I’m most recently excited about is Harriet the Spy, which was a childhood favourite of mine.  The 50th anniversary special edition just came out last week, and I can’t wait to find time to sit down and read this again.  I only hope I like it as much as an adult as I did as a child.  Ready Player One is another that I recently purchased.  I’ve heard so many good things about it, and I’m always drawn to the cover art when I’m in the bookstore, so I decided to buy it.  I’ll get to it, eventually.

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

I’ve been a bit nostalgic lately for my childhood favorites.  I wish I would have saved all these books that I read in my childhood!  I’d really like to get my hands on the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary or the Anne of Green Gables series, both of which I absolutely loved.

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

I would like them to look at my books and think, “Wow, what an intelligent, well-rounded reader.”  However, what I usually get is “Anne Rice?  Really?”  I read everything, but the books that I’m most judged for are my fantasy and horror novels.

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A huge thanks to Jeremy for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, who else feels like they don’t want to go home and would rather stay and have a chinwag for much longer?  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 Jeremy’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #27 – Matt Cresswell

Hello and welcome to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves, which must mean it is the weekend and I have survived my first proper full week of work, and have been in blog-hiding after my honest and possibly offending post, and am probably/hopefully curled up with a good book somewhere or watching Kylie on The Voice. This week we are back in the Manchester area (because the north is the best, ha) as we join jack of all trades, as he would call himself, Matt Cresswell, who is a writer, editor and illustrator and soon hopefully bookshop owner. I will let him explain better…

The projects seem to be piling up. I’ve published short fiction in various places, including Icarus Magazine, Hearing Voices magazine and in Shenanigans: Gay Men Mess With Genre from Obverse Books, and, like half the people I know, am halfway through writing a novel – a steampunk/Victorian detective novel with Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle and Queen Victoria as the detective’s gang of assistants. I blog at www.mattcresswell.com, and I also edit Glitterwolf Magazine, a UK-based literary magazine showcasing fiction, poetry, art and photography by LGBT contributors. And I am the creator, writer and co-illustrator of End of the Rainbow, an online webseries (www.endoftherainbow.co.uk) set on Canal Street in Manchester, which has a print omnibus forthcoming in 2014 from Lethe Press. When I’m not balancing all those plates, I put the bread on the table with freelance copy-editing, graphic design and audiobook narration. I am also an avid reader.

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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?

Before I moved to university I never threw a book out. But then when I moved out it was like Sophie’s Choice. From then on I’ve had to be picky about what can take up space on my shelves. I currently live with a flatmate who has almost as many books as me, and we had to negotiate our bookshelves, like negotiating a delicate truce. There’s bookcases in every room, including two in the hallway. I always judge people by their shelves though, so what’s left on display is just the favourites. And when I say ‘just’, that’s still quite a few of ‘justs’… My system for maintaining that is yearly trips back home with boxes of books for the attic because I still can’t bring myself to not in some way possess them.

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?

I routinely re-organise them, create a complex system, which then immediately goes to pot. Currently there are three shelves of favourites (the top two of the black shelves, and all the shelves by my desk – which also have my slim section for my own publication credits), a shelf of LGBT fiction, about six or seven shelves of to be read, short story collections, non-fiction and what has come be known in the household as the ‘pretentious hardbacks shelf’ which were all the books I bought because Waterstones said I should, and I’ve never read.

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

My god… I’m not quite sure. When I was growing up, my dad was an antiquarian book dealer, and our home didn’t have a television, so I was bought lots and lots of books. We spent half our lives in second-hand bookshops, and because he used to get dealer’s discount on whatever leatherbound tome he’d ferretted out, they just used to throw in all the paperbacks that I’d found for free—so I never had to buy my own books. The first I can remember buying for myself was Outcast of Redwall by Brian Jacques, when I was about seven, bought at a school book fair. I read the whole series, passing the books to my mother who read them after me. I was very sad to hear of his recent death—without exaggeration, it was like bit of childhood fading! It’s not on my shelves anymore, but it’s with the rest of the series on my mother’s shelves, where it’s been read by a few of the generation after me.

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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?

When my parents visited once, I stripped the house of anything even slightly sordid, but missed the tattered paperback of Lolita that my Presbyterian minister dad leafed through then put back hurriedly. I’m not really embarrassed of any of it, although my partner John tells me that I am subconsciously embarrassed of his books – fantasy epics in the vein of Raymond E. Feist, Robert Jordan, Trudi Canavan, etc. – because I relegate them to the bottom shelves or the bookcases in the bedroom.

Mind you, I do get a bit defensive over the presence of both of Belle du Jour’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl books on my favourites shelf. But that just makes me stubborn and determined to put them on display, because I tell myself off for being a book snob.

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?

There’s a 15th century Bible that you can see on the desk shelves. Me, my brothers and my sister all took one book from by dad’s library after he died to remember him by. I have no attachment to the actual words on the page inside it, but the book itself would be the first thing I’d save in a fire. Aside from that one, there are very few things I’d actively be heartbroken about. I have some signed copies that I’d be quite sad about – Neil Gaiman, Paul Magrs, Iain Banks, and, um, John Barrowman – but as long as I can remember the events themselves, the books aren’t as important. 

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 mother had The Lord of the Rings on her shelves – which was very odd, because the rest of her reading was in the line of biographies of missionaries, and books like Harry Potter were frowned upon for their ‘black magic’. I read The Lord of the Rings when I was nine, but had to break the spine of the paperback into the three books because I couldn’t hold it otherwise. My teachers at school didn’t believe I was actually capable of reading it, and quizzed me to check I wasn’t making it up. It’s still on my shelves, the same, split-into-three copy, with covers that I made out of cut-and-stick photocopies. I didn’t think of it as an adult book though – I thought of it as another children’s fantasy that just went on a lot longer. My brother lent me the novelisation of The Fugitive the same year—he meant to censor the first chapters, but I was impatient, read it anyway and scared myself silly.

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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?

Yes! I’m a completionist. I don’t tend to borrow books though – I’m usually the lender. But I’ll buy something for the kindle and if I like it, I’ll feel the urge to have a physical copy to put on the shelf. The reverse of this was The Time Traveller’s Wife, which I bought seven times, after each loaned copy was lent on to someone else in the excitement, and lost.

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

Hal Duncan’s forthcoming short story collection, Scruffians! which I was lucky enough to get an ARC of. I’m recording the audiobook version of it too, which when I was asked, made me giddy with hero-worship. He’s a wonderful, wonderful writer.

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

I’ve recently dipped into the starts of series and am now wishing I had the whole series on my shelves – George Mann’s Newbury and Hobbes, Discworld, Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May, Lev Grossman’s Magician series, Mark Hodder’s Burton and Swinburne and all of China Mievelle’s oeuvre. I’ve made a start with all of them, and am now panicking at the volume of ongoing series I’ve opened a door to. So many books, so little time…

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

My dad popping Lolita back on the shelf, or perusing all the gay fiction titles would probably think ‘Filth!’ but hopefully that’s not what everyone else would think. I was very conscious after English Literature at university of trying to get away from the ‘book-snobbery’ that kind of education brings on, so I hope that my shelves look like a hodge-podge of someone who loves books for the enjoyment, and isn’t trying to check off a list of ‘worthy reads’, as it were.

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A huge thanks to Matt 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 Matt’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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