Tag Archives: James Joyce

Other People’s Bookshelves #65 – Sarah Perry

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are off to Essex to join author Sarah Perry who has just got back from her allotment especially to show us around her shelves. First let’s grab a cuppa and a custard cream and find out more about Sarah…

My first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, came out last year with Serpent’s Tail, and has just been released in paperback. My second novel, The Essex Serpent, is coming out in July 2016 (again with Serpent’s Tail, in an act of spectacular nominative determinism!).  I was once a civil servant – largely working in communications, such as writing speeches for government ministers – and then worked for the Council of the Inns of Court while I did a PhD in Creative Writing and the Gothic. I now write full-time, though not just fiction.

At the moment I’m finishing edits on The Essex Serpent. It’s about friendship, desire, sin, love, death and sea-serpents. I talk quite often about my upbringing, and am always afraid it’s going to grow tiresome, but find I’m still asked about it. I was born to a very strict religious family – often, I joke I was brought up in 1895 – and while other girls my age were surrounded by pop culture I was up to my ears in the King James Bible, classic literature, Victorian hymns and Reformation theology. The Gothic quality of my writing and my preoccupation with madness, sin and transgression is therefore not entirely surprising, I suppose.

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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 frighteningly acquisitive when it comes to books, and absolutely hopeless at getting rid of them. About three months ago I attempted a cull, and there have been two large bags of books destined for the local charity shops in the middle of my bedroom floor ever since. I seem to gather books as I walk through the week like a magnet attracting iron filings and with about that degree of discrimination. Proofs arrive in the post, I order them online on a whim, am sent them as gifts, throw them into my trolley in the supermarket, grab paperbacks in charity shops, steal – sorry: borrow! – them from friends. They all wind up in one of the many drifts and piles in the house, and I fear many are destined to remain unread for years, if at all. But I can never quite shake the feeling that the day may come when that 80s edition of The Gulag Archipelago, or that little hardback Rumer Godden novel, is going to be exactly what I need…

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?

Some years ago a friend of mine tried to help me order my books (by genre, and alphabetically by author). It took absolutely hours and lasted for less than a week. I can’t begin to fathom how anyone who has a large number of books maintains any sort of order without a fleet of staff. Everything is all bundled in together – I’m looking at a bookcase right now and on a single shelf I can see a biography of William Gladstone, a guide to Jungian dream-symbols, TH White’s The Once and Future King, two Ishiguro novels next to each other (miraculously!), several crime thrillers, and a Puritan book on the doctrine of repentance. If you’re wondering how I ever find anything: I often can’t, and rage about the house accusing the cat of stealing books. My husband has a better memory than me, and can often lay hands on what I need. I do try and keep to some form of TBR system, and went as far as installing two bookcases on either side of the bed, but then I get distracted by something else, and it all goes out of the window.

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The only truly organised shelves are those where I’m temporary custodian of a friend’s books: he moved abroad, and left them with me, where I’ve taken to calling them ‘The Memorial Library’. I must say I consider arranging books by colour to be the sure sign of a deranged mind (apologies to any deranged readers).

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

I honestly can’t remember, and wish very much that I could! I do have lots of books from my childhood, though. I have on my desk here a very battered little Bible story book which I must have had since before school, and I’m very attached to a hardback Paddington bear collection which was a gift from one of my older sisters.

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?

With very, very few exceptions I really don’t have much truck with the idea of guilty pleasures when it comes to reading. Of course, even the most ardent anti-book snob must draw the line somewhere, and I would sooner go to the stake than have my shelves sullied with Fifty Shades of Grey or Ayn Rand. But I have everything out in the open – so far as the disordered tumult will allow! – and if anyone baulks at the sight of Stephen King, Terry Pratchett and Lee Child jostling cheerfully with WG Sebald, Maggie Nelson and Tennyson then I shall sit them down and have a long, gentle but firmly persuasive chat. I never read romantic fiction, but that is merely a matter of preference, in the same way that I would rather eat cauliflower than mushrooms: it’s not a value judgment. I must confess that if my parents visit I might double check that Catullus or Chuck Palahniuk aren’t knocking about where my Dad might take them off the shelves in an idle moment (there was an awkward moment last year with a Thom Gunn poem).

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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?

There are so many of these! May I have a wheelbarrow full? I have a complete Sherlock Holmes which my father gave me: it is a long out-of-print edition, and identical to his own copy, which I grew up reading, and which he is evidently not ready to part with. I have a beautiful vintage edition of Finnegans Wake which a friend gave me when I left London, and since really he deserves it far more than I do I secretly think of it as being in joint custody, like the child of an amiable divorce. When I sold my first novel a friend gave me a copy of A Literary Life by Posy Simmonds, which has got truer and more comforting as the years have passed. There are about half-a-dozen King James Bibles knocking about, most of them associated with events in life: my wedding, or a gift when I was tiny bridesmaid at my oldest sister’s wedding. Once when I had been away for a fortnight my husband met me at the airport with some marmalade sandwiches, two Calvin and Hobbes books and a copy of the Communist Party Manifesto, so I would like those. And I suppose I would like to take the first proof copy of my first novel, with all my anguished handwritten corrections.

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 never really remember there being much of a division between children’s books and grown up books, and I more or less read what I wanted, when I wanted to. Which isn’t to say that I was reading terribly inappropriately (however one defines that) – there wouldn’t have been anything like that in the house, and I wouldn’t have sought it out: since there was so much to read, I was quite content. And so I remember reading Jane Eyre at eight, because it was in an illustrated hardback edition that I mistook for a children’s book, and my father gave me a copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles when I was ten (greatly to my teacher’s horror). My elder sisters would occasionally conceal slightly fruity novels beneath their beds, which I unfailingly found and would read in a single sitting. The most memorable of these was probably Flowers in the Attic, which I still adore – and which is somewhere on my shelves.

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?

Greatly to my shame, I never borrow books (unless from friends, in which case ‘borrow’ is often pronounced ‘steal’), and only ever darken the doors of reference libraries, in order to do research. I am simply not to be trusted with library books: they’ll be lost, dropped in the bath, battered, and never returned. It’s a moral failing I’ve long given up trying to remedy.

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

In the last week, I’ve bought Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (her memoir Bluets had a profound effect on me last year), Miranda July’s The First Bad Man (which I cannot imagine I will enjoy, having a very low tolerance for quirky books by privileged young New Yorkers, but I though I’d try and conquer my prejudices), Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, JG Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition, John Wyndham’s The Trouble With Lichen, and an Anaïs Nin book I immediately lost and can’t remember. I have also been sent a debut novel by Tasha Kavanagh called Things We Have in Common, which I’m looking forward to. Sorry, that’s several books, isn’t it?

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

Heaps and heaps! I am very close to mugging someone for an advance copy of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life: its August release date seems a terribly long way away, and literally everyone on Twitter has a copy except me. I also would like a facsimile edition (or a real one, if possible) of the Tyndale New Testament, because who wouldn’t? There are also a number of collected letters that I would like. For many years I had a curious ethical disinclination to read the ‘remains’ of writers: I felt that we should read only their work, not diary entries and correspondence they would never have intended for a general readership. But it turns out my principles are paper thin, and I’d particularly like the letters of Virginia Woolf, which I could cross-reference against her diaries.

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

I imagine their first thought would be that I am spectacularly untidy, and furthermore could do with doing some dusting. I wonder if they might then think that these are the books of several people, not only one – if they did, I’d be delighted. I honestly believe we all have a duty to read as widely and deeply as possible. The worst possible reader is the one who wishes only to affirm and bolster their existing world view, and the worst possible response to a book is this: “I just didn’t identify with any of the characters.” As to what I’d like them to think of my reading tastes: I couldn’t give a single solitary toss, I never have, and I never will.

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A huge thanks to Sarah for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, you can stalk her on Twitter here, you can also see her not once but twice at Gladfest this September, where you may just also see me! 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 Sarah’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #58 – Lloyd Shepherd

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we spending time round at author Lloyd Shepherd’s where he has kindly laid on an afternoon tea for us all. Before we have a nosey through his shelves let us get to know more about him, it is only polite after all…

My name’s Lloyd Shepherd and I’m a writer (I always said to my wife that I wouldn’t call myself a ‘writer’ until I’d had four books published, and the fourth book is out next year, so I’m going for it). The four books I’ve published to date have all been historical crime fiction – with a twist. The twist being there’s more going on that quite meets the eye. Before writing books, I worked as a digital product manager for the likes of the Guardian, Yahoo, Channel 4 and the BBC, and before that I was a journalist, writing about the tortuous financial shenanigans of the film industry.

As well as writing a new book, I’m currently engineering an Adventure In Reading, called The Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club. You can find out more about that at www.riddleofthesands.net – we’re calling it Taking a Book for a Walk. Because books need to get off their bookshelves every now and then, you know.

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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?

Well, first things first – they’re not MY shelves, because I’m married to a woman who reads voraciously, and who has a hoarder’s attitude to books. I’m more vicious – I’m only really sentimental about books that I have personally loved, or were given to me by someone close to me. Other than those – they’re heading out. Even the hardbacks.

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 have what can only be called a Multi-Zone Approach To Book Husbandry. Zone One is in the living room, and consists of Attractive Books Wot Might Be Worth Summat In Future Years. Hardbacks of classics, first editions, and a massive number of Folio Society publications acquired by my father. He was a lifelong subscriber to Folio, and though I’m not convinced he read a lot of them, they’re all beautiful things. So, if you need to read Moby Dick or a history of the Byzantine Empire written by a 1950s emeritus professor, it’s the living room you want.

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The bedroom is the Fiction Grotto, with two bookshelves groaning with paperbacks and hardbacks in alphabetical order, often double-shelved and generally all over the place, thematically. Also, my wife hangs her clothes on these shelves. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps she’s hoping they will gain something from being hung next to made-up stuff. Finally, my office is the Library of Facts (and poetry and drama and other stuff we don’t read in bed). It’s where I keep my history and reference books, my graphic novels, copies of my own books (hem hem) and my wide and random collection of sheet music. I also have two guitars in there, which are monumentally unplayed.

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

Gosh, good question. I don’t think I can quite remember. I want to say The Dark is Rising, but I’ve got a feeling that was a school library book which never quite made it back to said school library. I did buy a copy shortly afterwards, and two years ago I got it signed by Susan Cooper, which was thrilling. I remember going to buy The Lord of the Rings in Sevenoaks Bookshop (which is still there, bless its soul) with my Dad, and picking up the massive paperback collected edition while looking longingly at the three-volume hardback version. We left with the hardbacks. As I said, my Dad was a nut for nice books. I didn’t even pay towards it. I read those hardback editions, out loud, to my son when he was little.

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, not at all. I’m not embarrassed about anything I’ve read. Wish I could say the same about everything I’ve written.

The Study: History and Poetry n ting

The Study: History and Poetry n ting

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?

Well, Dad’s Folio books and the Lord of the Rings volumes mentioned above. My copy of Paradise Lost from university (there, I’m allowed one affectation, aren’t I?). The thing about books is, of course, that they’re replaceable – it’s only when they constitute memories rather than literature that they take on a different meaning. An old paperback of Sophie’s Choice, a collection of Emily Dickenson, a two-volume edition of The History of the Port of London – they’ve all got memories outside themselves which would be lost if the books were lost, even if the words were replaceable.

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 Dad had one of those massive Hamlyn collections of Robert Ludlum novels – you know, the 70s things which contained five or more novels in one edition, with type so small only a young vigorous chap could read it, but weighing so much you needed a fork lift truck to turn the page. I read The Scarlatti Inheritance, The Osterman Weekend, The Gemini Contenders and, most brilliantly of all, The Holcroft Covenant, which is still my favourite thriller of all time. It had a Fifty Shades of Grey bit in it, too, I seem to recall.

Smart Books For Public Display (Folio!)

Smart Books For Public Display (Folio!)

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 buy almost everything I read, I think. I like buying books. People should buy more books. And I also like giving books away, a practice which is a bit shit if you’re an author but a bit great if you’re a human being.

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

In no particular order: a 1970s edition of The Riddle of the Sands for our Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club project; The High Middle Ages (Folio!), Elizabeth McCracken’s Thunderstruck (the best book I’ve read in the past year), Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, and The 9th Directive by Adam Hall. My reading overlaps!

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

David Hepworth’s upcoming book on 1971. Julian Cope’s One Three One and Krautrocksampler. An edition of Ulysses abridged by Simon Armitage (this doesn’t exist).

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

He Liked Books And A Good Story Well Told. Also, why is that dress hanging there?

Bedroom Fiction Shelf with Clothes

Bedroom Fiction Shelf with Clothes

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A huge thanks to Lloyd for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, don’t forget to check www.riddleofthesands.net and follow the adventure into the world of a book! 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 Mark’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #43; Seamus Duggan

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 of to the Irish Midlands to join Seamus Duggan who blogs at Vapour Trails, and who has kindly agreed to be the latest participant to share their shelves (thank you to all of you who have volunteered to share your shelves you will be getting emails from me very soon) with you all. So grab yourself a cup of tea, or maybe a pint of Guinness or Irish Cream, and lets have a look through his bookshelves and find out more about him.

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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 has to be pretty woeful for me to get rid of it. Mostly the ones I get rid of are ones that I never really wanted to read but which came into my possession as part of a box I bought in an auction. My wife and daughter keep coughing pointedly during the TV programme Hoarders which often seems to be on in the evening when I emerge into the TV room. Are they trying to say something? Perhaps.
Do you organize 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 have made many attempts at organising my books and there are areas like crime/Sci-fi /music/Irish/Spanish/German etc etc and have even got as far as alphabetising my collections of Short Stories but each area ends up being too small for the number of books as they grow and simultaneously the areas on each side become oversubscribed and the resulting hybrid is usually chaos.  This is even more exaggerated as the shelves progressively become two books deep. What lies beneath? Who knows. One problem I keep coming across is when a book is too large for the shelf it should go on, throwing everything into confusion. Having fitted out a room in my current house as a ‘library’ it is almost as if I am driven to fill every available inch of space. I am currently extending the shelves up to the ceiling and looking at the bare wall over my desk.
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?
Given my current habits I myself fund it hard to believe but I was really a library addict as a child. I cannot remember the first book I bought with my own money but my earliest memory is of the Ladybird reading series and my determination to make it to the final book in the series.
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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?
Not really, there are good and bad books on the shelves and they include my kids books I have bought by the box at auction in order to get a couple of books. Once I bought a whole pallet of books and I have made some profit from the few I sold but have had to get rid of a lot and will have to get rid of many more. They are mostly British history books. I have toyed with the idea of trying to sell books online but am not organised enough. 
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 think I would burn in the throes of indecision. Perhaps my copies of Ulysses, Riddley Walker and Carpenter’s Gothic, all of which I re-read regularly which has invested the actual books with memories, such as the time Carpenter’s Gothic got soaked in cider, retaining the scent for years afterwards. I also have some First Editions that I love. JR , again by William Gaddis and The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch stand out.
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 have a particular memory of Gone with the Wind which I read during a rainy holiday at my grandmother’s house. It was the first ‘adult’ book of that size that I’d read. I remember being determined to read Ulysses and although only partially successful at fourteen I have gone on to read it a number of times. However it is the copy I bought at college that I have on my shelves.
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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?
I buy almost every book I want to read that I come across in Charity/second hand bookshops. How I’ll ever get to read them all is not clear. (I won’t). I love being able to browse through the hundreds of unread books when wondering what to read next. because of all these books I never borrow any more.
What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?
Found A Handful of Dust yesterday. I couldn’t find my old copy and have been thinking it due a re-read. I feel a little indebted to Mr Waugh (see below).
Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?
A first folio Shakespeare! It would be nice to pay off the mortgage and be able to afford to live a little more comfortably! I recently found a first edition of Waugh in Abyssinia which I put up for auction and sold for £1,500 which will help with the out of control credit card / overdraft situation. (http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21761/lot/180/) As a reader I am currently hoping to pick up some Cesar Aria and maybe Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marias. These are the sort of books that very rarely show up in charity shops (although good things come to those that wait).
What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?
They would probably think that I’ve lost touch with reality and need to live more and read less. There is probably something for everyone. It’s got to the stage when I dig around a bit I find books which come as complete surprises to me. Eclectic is the word, I guess, or eccentric.
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A huge thanks to Seamus 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 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 Seamus’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Could This Be The Last Book Binge?

Now this is going to be the last pile of books that I have bought you will be seeing for a while as I have decided to now officially test myself and see how long I can go without buying a book. There are a few reasons for this. The main one (at the moment) is that I am seriously considering, and I have mentioned this a few times of late, seeing if I could manage not to buy a single book in 2010. Pick your jaws up off the floor, or the pages of your book, I am being quite serious. Could I spend a year not buying any books at all? At the moment I am in the ‘yes I could’ camp, mind you shortly you will see a picture that will make you all say ‘pah… as if’.

There are two more factors one of which has been watching Verity of The B Files curbing, well actually stopping, her spenditure on books which is making for really interesting reading and she is doing amazingly well. The other factor is my own binge spending knows no limits; as can be shown by the array of books I came back with from the north last weekend. Do note I didn’t spend more than 50p on a single book in fact most of them were 25p. That’s what I love about it up home in the north everything is cheaper even the second hand shops. It also illustrates why it’s best I don’t live there. As you will see though every book had a reason for being bought…

The Final Book Binge?

  • The Story of Lucy Gault – William Trevor (Gran keeps telling me its his best)
  • The Ghost Road – Pat Barker (I like paperbacks normally but this Man Booker winner I never find and like the Trevor above was 25p for a hardback)
  • Surfacing – Margaret Atwood (I love this green Virago edition)
  • The Tortoise and the Hare – Elizabeth Jenkins (everyone’s recommended it to me)
  • The Body of Jonah Boyd – David Leavitt (really hard to get hold of new which I have been wanting to for ages)
  • Instances of the Number 3 – Salley Vickers (am planning a Vickers binge)
  • Dubliners – James Joyce (no luck with Ulysses lets try this)
  • Incendiary – Chris Cleave (meant to get this from publishers but Royal Mail strikes mean it’s gotten lost and if does turn up I can do a giveaway, I also loved The Other Hand)
  • Queens – Pickles (this is an out of print book that came out in the 80’s and describes the underground gay scene in London and the secrecy is also very, very funny apparently)
  • After You’d Gone – Maggie O’Farrell (have been wanting to read more of her since The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which was superb)
  • Mr Golightly’s Holiday – Salley Vickers (another one for the Vickers binge)
  • Gigi & The Cat – Colette (an author always wanted to read)
  • To Love & Be Wise – Josephine Tey (want to read one Tey book before start Nicola Upson’s books where Josephine is the main character)
  • The Blessing – Nancy Mitford (just because it’s Nancy Mitford need I say more?)
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (several people have said this is one of their favourites)

Now in total this book binge came to the whopping price of £4.75!!! An utter bargain, but then I have to think actually in reality how long will it take me to read all these fifteen books? It’s that which makes me think maybe, just maybe, I should try and not buy anything next year. After all I get review copies in the post so that’s latest books covered, there is always the library which I am using more often now but not making the most, plus I do own over 600 books I haven’t read. There are also gifts and swaps. As the picture below demonstrates…

Gifts and Swaps

Only at book group on Thursday did Kimbofo give me a copy of David Vann’s ‘Legend of A Suicide’ which I have been really hankering after. Novel Insights sent me a surprise gift copy of The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbit from Amazon after she saw I had loved Tuck Everlasting. Also through ReadItSwapIt I have rid myself of some books I thought were duds but other people wanted and gotten Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie and, another book for the Salley Vickers binge, Where Three Roads Meet. So could this be the very last book binge? Well I cant say for definate as if I am not to buy a book throughout the whole of 2010 I may need one final mass binge to see me through. For now though let’s just see how the rest of November goes and if I can manage that small amount of time!

Have you been on a book binge of late? Are you under a book ban? How do you cope with the guilt after a binge, if you have any, or the restraint a ban takes? Have you read any of the above? Have you any advice for me? Should I try a year with no book buying?

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Ulysses… Trailing Slightly Behind

…And not just in terms of reading as I am actually blogging about the first stage of voyage to accomplish Ulysses by James Joyce a day after everyone else is as you will see from the latest Team Ulysses blog on Dovegreyreader. I did manage to add a few words on their yesterday but still being internet-less at home is making things a little slower than normal. 

In fact I would say that moving in general is partly why I seem to be lagging a little behind everyone else as its certainly not the book which so far almost at the end of the first chapter, around 50 pages in, I am really enjoying it. Part of me wants to say “what is all the fuss about” however I think that the initial climb is quite a gentle one and there may be rough terrain ahead though I am not thinking about it and just taking it all in at a gentle pace, a speedy start might induce burn out later on. 

I was actually instantly taken with the book from the opening line which might have to become one of my very favourites…

 “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stair head, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

I just think that’s a great way to open a book and made me instantly take a liking to Buck who you would think is the main character. From what I can gather the book is going to be very much about Stephen Dedalus or ‘Kinch’ as he is sometimes called which confused me. In fact the nicknames and real names are part of what has made me decide to re-read the first chapter as soon as I have finished it. Not because its complex, though there was a part where I suddenly realized a woman had appeared in the conversation and I had no idea of who she was or how she had gotten there, but also to really lay down the foundations firmly so I have more to work on. My “Book Notes Note Book” is already crammed with jottings, more on that in a later post today though… 

The writing is also what’s making me want to re-read the opening chapter again. So far it is wonderful; from the opening line you can see how he easily characterizes people in a sentence. Having said that Haines is simply and ‘Englishman’ which could be a good or a bad thing, and Stephen himself hasn’t been described very much but his mother’s death, which could be mysterious, and the effects its had on him have. It’s an interesting group of characters so far and I simply can’t second guess what’s coming, it could be something it could be nothing. 

It’s not only his characters that are drawn well and simply. The scene itself is written in a delightful style. I loved Dublin being described as “living in a bogswamp, eating cheap food with streets paved with dist, horsedung and consumptive’s spits” the scene is gloriously in front of you within that one line. I am also definitely looking forward to more of Joyce’s made up words as I go, apparently he threw these in partly to show what a pretentious character Stephen is (I can’t decided whether I am going to love him or loathe him) and partly to stop speed readers in their tracks. 

I haven’t picked up ‘Ulysses and Us’ yet, I am holding back for when the terrain gets rocky! How are all of you getting on, happy stories or horror stories of Ulysses so far?

Has anyone else noticed on public transport when people look at what your reading and see Ulysses the pull a face – a mix of wince or frown I have noticed. The same applies for people you know seeing you with a copy, I have had a mixture of comments from ‘carrying that is just to make you look clever isn’t it’ to ‘blimey, good luck with that’. All in all its an interesting exercise and I am still really enjoying it! More in a month’s time.

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Current Top 5 TBR’s

This weeks Booking Through Thursday is all about your TBR. The question is “Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?” Now if you go to my post from last weeks BTT post then you will see the state of my Great Unread and that is pretty much how I have my TBR in general. Though there is a system to it, as you will see, which are on one side…

  • Biographies & Autobiographies
  • Big Books
  • Short Books

And the other side…

  • Man Booker Winners Unread
  • Latest Publishers Paperbacks
  • Latest Publishers Hardbacks

It does look a little bit like the book section of a charity shop from those pictures which has made me giggle. The rest of my 900+ TBR are all in boxes hidden away. None of my TBR ever ends up on any of my shelves in the lounge, I only have the books that I actually have read, finished and liked. I am actually going to be routing through my ‘already read’ shelves and slim lining them over the weekend.

What has just added a new joy to my life is bedside cabinets. I now have space, finally, too put the books I intend to read next (I say intend as something on one of the many shelves can call me at any moment instead) these are:

  • Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman ( which I am reading now)
  • Ulysses – James Joyce (which I am very slowly reading now)
  • The Gathering – Anne Enright
  • Ask Alice – D. J. Taylor
  • The Glassblowers – Daphne Du Maurier

There will be more on Ulysses a little later on today as its Camp One with Team Ulysses over at Dovegreyreader. Back to the TBR though, how is yours arranged and what are your top 5 next TBR books?

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Ulysses & Me

Firstly, before I start on a Ulysses ramble, a HUGE thank you for yesterday, all your insights and responses were very much appreciated and by the end of the day I will have responded to you all. Right back to business, so I know that it isnt the 16th yet and that is when those who are taking part in Team Ulysses have a good old catch up but I have already been wondering how everyone else is getting on and then when a large parcel was awaiting me last night it seemed like the perfect time to do a mini Ulysses catch up before a much bigger one next week.

The parcel that awaited me, in the old flat, was ‘Ulysses and Us’ by Declan Kiberd which the people at Faber kindly thought to send. This is a book that dovegreyreader has already mentioned on her blog and seems to be a book about Ulysses and an accompanyment for those who dare to climb it. The blurb will probably put it better than I can.

Now to clear up matters I have never attempted to read Ulysses and so my approach to it is slightly gung ho! I have also never read a ‘book companion’ (though I have a lovely Daphne Du Maurier one) before in my life so this is going to be quite an experiment for me. With companion books should you start the companion or the book first? Please help me with that one as I havent got a clue.

Ulysses & Us

Ulysses & Us

“Ulysses continues to be one of the central books of the twentieth century and this is an audacious new take on it. It was never meant to be an abstruse a book for the elite, argues Declan Kiberd. It is a book for the common people, and offers a humane vision of a more tolerant and decent life under the dreadful pressures of the modern world. Leopold Bloom, the half-Jewish Irishman who is the book’s hero, teaches the young Stephen Dedalus (modelled on Joyce himself) how he can grow and mature as an artist and an adult human being. Bloom has learned to live with contradictions, with anxiety and sexual jealousy, and with the rudeness and racism of the people he encounters in the city streets, and in his apparently banal way sees deeper than any of them. He embodies an intensely ordinary kind of wisdom, Kiberd argues, and in this way offers us a model for living well, in the tradition of Homer, Dante and the Bible (on all of which Joyce drew in the writing of his book).”

I have to say I think not knowing so much about how daunting Ulysses might be is a bonus, they do say ignorance is bliss after all. And indeed so far, though I will admit I am only 30 pages in I am finding it  really enjoyable read… maybe this isnt destined to last!? How are those of you who are reading it finding it so far? are you reading it straight through or in a random order as Declan apparently suggests? Have you hit any hurdles before the first base camp? What about those of you who have read it before or tried too?

Now if you arent reading it, havent read it, or dont want to read it, dont feel left out as this made me think of another question for all of you! Is it sometimes a case that you just think or assume a book is too hard for you, or have people told you its too hard for you (someone once said War & peace would be to hard for me… I was furious) or do you find there is a book you would love to read butt just find it too daunting?

Mine would have to be a book I have owned for about 7 years but never actually tried to read. Not because its one of those books I won’t read for fear my favourite author will let me down or I am holding back with excited antictipation. No the reason I won’t read Mark Z. Danielewski’s ‘House of Leaves’ is simply that I am a bit fearful of it and think it may make me feel a fool! Which of course only makes it all the more intimidating, does anyone else have a book that makes them feel like that and if so what is it?

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