Tag Archives: Joanna Trollope

Other People’s Bookshelves #75 – Deborah Fischer-Brown

Hello and welcome, after a five month sabbatical – come on guys get sending me your shelves, to the latest in 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 in the company of Deborah Fischer-Brown who blogs over at BookBarmy (great name) and her wonderful shelves. Deborah has put quite the spread on for us with something for everyone, so let’s all grab a cuppa/glass of something and a nibble of something and join her on her deck and get to know her before we have a nose through her bookshelves and learn more about her. 

My name is Deborah.  I live with my very tolerant husband, in a book-cluttered San Francisco row house that boasts a view of the Pacific ocean. I’ve been surrounded by books all my life – grew up in a family of book lovers, inherited by grandfather’s extensive library and have created my own reading nook in our little San Francisco home.   Once again – I’m happily surrounded by books. I blog over at BookBarmy.com. There is nothing better on a foggy San Francisco morning, than browsing my bookshelves of books I haven’t read yet – just to find the perfect book for my morning tea and reading. I’m retired from a career in high tech marketing.  We are able to travel extensively because we do international home exchanges.  I occasionally do some consulting – mainly helping non-profits hone and clarify their communications.  I’m also a volunteer with the San Francisco public library – see, more books. I tend a garden of roses, but also have herb and vegetable beds.  I love to entertain and cook for friends and loved ones – I cherish long meals and conversations that go on to the late night.

Intro Photo A

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 will never let go of my extensive library of classics which I inherited from my grandfather — most all are Heritage Press editions. And, while they are not worth much in today’s market they are precious to me.   I grew up with these books, I was allowed to read anything from his shelves and have fond memories of being curled up in our parlor pouring through Treasure Island or Arabian Nights.  Today, with my own books, I keep favorites with optimistic plans to re-read then, but otherwise, most books get donated or passed on to family or friends.  I have never been able to uphold a “one in-one out” discipline – there are just too many books I want to read and bring home to shelve, pile or stash somewhere in the many bookcases throughout the house.

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? 

Although I have great plans of one day organizing my many bookshelves, as yet, there’s no real system.  I am saved by the fact that I have a sort of “rain man” ability to locate almost any book on my bookshelves — even those I haven’t read yet.  I just remember where I put them without any trouble. That being said, I do have a shelf of what I call my “anglophile, English country manor” book collection. I also enjoy travel literature and have all those books on one shelf and a pretty impressive collection of cook books. 

Photo #2

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

Growing up in multi-generational family of book lovers and rooms of books, I never had to buy a book.  I was given books at every occasion and had a house full of books at my whim.  I do remember using my allowance money one summer to buy trashy romance comics to share with a neighborhood girlfriend.  When I got married and moved to our first apartment, my first book purchase at a used book store was Christopher Morely’s classics Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I am slightly bemused by my weakness for British women’s literature from authors such as Marcia Willett, Joanna Trollope, Rosamund Pilcher, Erica James.  There’s nothing better than a book wherein all problems can be solved over a cup of tea by the Aga.  I’m just a sucker for those veddy British reads – an Anglophile at heart.

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 have to choose my grandfather’s two volume copy of The Jungle Books, which he read to me and my younger siblings for many years – even after I could read I would happily pile into the chair to listen.  The books are richly illustrated and looking at them brings happy memories.

Photo #1

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 don’t know if they were my dad’s or my grandfathers, but for a while, there was a collection of Ian Fleming’s James Bond paperback thrillers.  One summer, I secreted them, one by one, up to our backyard treehouse, reading them for the excitement and slightly suggestive sex scenes.  Then one day they were gone. I’ve since tried to read them and they no longer hold any interest for me. A passing pubescent obsession.

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 volunteer at the Friends of the San Francisco Library bookstores, where we sell donated books to benefit the city’s library programs.  Volunteers get 30% off books, so eventually, yes I purchase most every book I want to read – and many I had no idea I wanted read.   I am also a strong supporter (much to my husband’s dismay) of  independent book stores here in the city and when we travel.  You know that famous Eramus quote:  “When I get a little money I buy books, and if  I have any left, I buy food and clothes” – That’s me all over.

Photo#3

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

I just brought home A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Not a book I would normally choose, but so many book lovers I respect and admire have recommended it. 

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

In a mindless fit of clearing out, I donated my childhood set of all four vintage Mary Poppins books. I would probably never have re-read them, but I sometimes regret getting rid of them. I’ve toyed with the idea of replacing them. But then again, maybe they are happy and loved in some child’s bookcase.

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

An eclectic reader who favors the classics, historical fiction, memoirs, travel literature, epistolary novels, anything British, and the classics. A bit of a “Pollyanna” with no taste for horror, true crime, or anything wildly violent – the real world has enough of that already.

Intro Photo B

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Huge thanks to Deborah 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 Deborah’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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The Book Boy – Joanna Trollope

I wonder if I can explain why I have not read any Joanna Trollope before without implying that I am some kind of book snob. I suppose it’s simply fair enough, and true enough, to say that I have never really fancied them. In my head, with a mixture of the covers and things I have heard along the way, I have imagined she is rather twee and upper class and I just wouldn’t like them. Sometimes though the title of a book will make you give an author a try and when I saw ‘The Book Boy’ at the library, and saw it was one of the ‘quick reads’ initiative title I thought ‘oh why not?’

Bloomsbury Books, paperback, 2006, fiction, 95 pages, borrowed from the library

Alice is a thirty-eight year old woman stuck in a rut. She is her entire families doormat. Her husband Ed domineers over her with a certain edge of the dark and fearful in anything he does, her son Craig seems to be following his example (and has started hanging out with an unsavoury new friend) and Becky, her daughter and possible ally, thinks she is stupid. All this seems to emanate from the fact that Alice cannot read, something she has always wanted to do, and its something that no one speaks of and yet everyone knows. It also seems to be what people, including Alice herself, us to hold her back.

I feel forgotten, Alice though. Forgotten.
 ‘Mum!’ Craig yelled.
Like, Alice thought, something that fell down the back of the sofa. And got lost. That’s what I feel like.

Of course from the premise of the book we know that this is about to change, what we don’t know is how. I will say that help comes in the least expected guise; I will leave it at that. Through the relationships she has outside the house, mainly with her friend Liz (who has a very funny moment when she becomes a spy) and the Chandra family whose corner shops she cleans, we learn just how closed a life she leads and one which is clearly making her deeply unhappy. This is not a melancholy novella however, in fact it is very much one of hope.

This is a piece of fiction of less than 100 pages which gives a very clear insight into the life of its main character. Alice and her situation are fully fleshed out and though the other characters, including her family, aren’t fleshed out so well they are really there in order to act awfully and show us just how dreary Alice’s life is. Its how she got there and the fact that she initially seems to simply accept that this is her lot in life which proves deeply affecting and through provoking.

How much of the world do we miss if we are unable to read? How do people judge those who can’t? How would our lives be hindered by it and in what ways? These are all the questions that Joanna Trollope looks at, and I was impressed by how much I felt in so little pages. It reminded me just how lucky I am to be able to read and how much it benefits my life, not only in the fact I can read little gems like this, but in the everyday things which we completely forget about and take for granted.

It’s interesting that whilst I enjoyed this example of Joanna Trollope’s work I am not sure if I would read any more. I liked this book because of the story it was telling rather than who was telling it if that makes sense? It was a book you could read for an hour and pop away, would I fare so well with something longer? Is there some underlying subconscious snobbery in me? Maybe I am wrong, maybe another Joanna Trollope would be right up my street, or maybe it was nice to read her once and that’s enough? We all have an encounter with an author like this now and again don’t we? Anyone got any thoughts?

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Books About Books, Joanna Trollope, Review