Tag Archives: John Wyndham

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 #56 – Nina Pottell

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 in the hub of London metropolis and are just finishing having a lovely trim with the lovely Nina. You know when you ‘meet’ someone on Twitter and think they are probably really ace in real life, then you meet them at a bookish party say a few words and think you should be best friends for life so stalk them afterwards, sound familiar? Well, that is what happened with me and Nina. I was the stalker to clarify, it happens often, look at the results…

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Anyway, now we are back at her house with a good cuppa and some lemon drizzle, it’s over to Nina and her lovely bookshelves which I have been asked to say a big thanks to John the Builder for. Thank you John the Builder!

I’m a born and bred Londoner and a massive book lover. I’m a hairdresser and work in the West End and love my job a lot as it’s so varied. I have very loyal clients, lots of whom are avid readers so am always recommending books for them to read, be it just the one or a whole summer reading list. In between appointments you’ll find me sitting in my chair reading. I am also a huge tweeter of books (and tweet as @matineegirl) which started after being part of a Reader’s Panel for PanMacmillan and Picador. A blog related to books is currently a work in progress………

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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 keep all my books but before moving into my flat two and a half years ago I had to do a heavy cull! Also my tastes have changed a lot so it felt right to do it. When I moved I had 40 odd thrillers that I didn’t feel I needed to take with me, I’d overdosed a little on serial killers! They were destined for a charity shop until a work friend said she’d have them. She has since read them all AND kept them! I’m very fortunate to have books sent to me, if I’m sent something that isn’t my cup of tea I always pass on to a friend or client, I keep all the rest.

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?

Mine are arranged a little haphazardly. I do have all my poetry books together, the rest are grouped by authors or ones I just feel belong together. Last year was the first time I kept a list of everything I’d read and they are all grouped together, as are my reads of this year so far! This is where I get a little nervy, as where do those current reads by authors I have grouped together go? I keep my ever growing TBR on their own shelf/shelves/floor.

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

I’m not sure what my first bought book was? Far too long ago to remember… I’d hedge a bet on it being Enid Blyton or Judy Blume possibly. I adored reading as a child though was often told by my parents to put my book down as I needed to go and get some fresh air occasionally! Many of the first books I read were library books, my sister and I nearly had a residence in Primrose Hill library.

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

I don’t have any books that I hide! I have a couple of odd books that maybe don’t seem to fit in with the rest of mine. 95% of my books are fiction and every now and then I’ll buy something spur of the moment. For example I went to Prague last year and found it fascinating so bought a book on communism – which has never been read!!!

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 my most prized books are a recipe book which belonged to my Nan. This was mysteriously in the boxed books that moved in with me though I didn’t put it there?!? It was published by Selfridges & Co in 1936. Bizarrely I’ve just tried to find it to take a pic but I can’t?!? Also my school edition of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird because it’s a favourite and reiterates my love of reading and books. And I’d probably add How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward and Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler because they are both books I’ve wanted to hug or as Simon would say gave me the ‘book tingle‘.

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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?

Regarding what grown up books I first read. My Dad was and still is an avid reader and I suppose it was him that made me read and love John Wyndham because they were on the shelf at home. We weren’t a ‘classics’ family by any means but I loved William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and George Orwell’s 1984 because of my Dad. I don’t own any Wyndham but particularly enjoyed The Chrysalids.

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 borrow a book and love it I will definitely buy a copy of my own. As a whole I buy the books I want.

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

My newest editions added to my shelves include The Repercussions by Catherine Hall as I’m a massive fan of her first two. The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain because Twitter was shouting about it and Daunts had a beautiful window display. And Kung Fu High School by Ryan Gattis because his new book All Involved is phenomenally astounding so wanted to read his first. One kindly sent to me, added to my shelves recently is The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink which is a very special book and really resonated with me, for personal reasons.

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

I wish I had more of my books from childhood on my shelves. I still have Heidi and Mallory Towers but there are lots I don’t….I shall be having words with my parents later….

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

I’m proud of my bookshelves and the books on it. All my friends know I massively love reading and books so scan my shelves seeing which ones they should read next, as they value my recommendations. I’m rather anal about the condition of my books and have ‘rules’ should somebody wish to borrow one, which include, using a bookmark if you can’t remember the page number! My wonderfully prized possession proof copy of Shotgun Lovesongs was placed in a ziplock bag by a work colleague as she was scared of ruining it!!

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A huge thanks to Nina for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, and for my lovely haircut and bookish nattering this week in London, you wait till you see what she is going to do to my hair for the Fiction Uncovered party! 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 Nina’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #15 – Janet O’Kane

So after ANOTHER small hiatus Other People’s Bookshelves is back… Hoorah! Thank you to everyone who has responded to my plea for more of you to share your book porn with us, keep them coming as I would love this series to run and run. If you haven’t heard back from me, have sent them before but not been featured or you have held back thinking there’s a queue (it’s a small one) then do please email savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves and they will be featured. I have been a bit slack. Anyway, for the fifteenth in the series we get to have a lovely nosey through Janet O’Kane’s shelves, first though (I know you are desperate to see the books, the books, the books) let us find out a little bit more about Janet…

As Janet grew up in rural Dorset her parents instilled in her an immense love of books. They tried not to spoil her (she was an only child) but she was provided with all the books she ever wanted, either from the library or bought from a local second‑hand shop. For a long time she answered the question, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ with, ‘A librarian’. Despite this, her first job was in Harrods, the London store, where she sold Wedgwood china to rich tourists and underwear to the then 007, Roger Moore. She also worked for Boots for many years, although that company’s lending libraries were long gone. Now living in the Scottish Borders with her husband John, two dogs, two cats and numerous chickens, Janet still reads as much as she can and has a deep mistrust of anyone else who doesn’t. She mostly reads crime fiction, despite the best efforts of an Open University degree course and the Berwick Book Group to entice her away from that genre.

Janet has always written for pleasure, and remembers winning a Brooke Bond writing competition at the age of ten with a short story inspired by Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. She started writing in earnest when she moved to Scotland and early on was delighted to have a poem published in Forum magazine. Unfortunately, she couldn’t cash the £10 cheque because she had been too embarrassed to submit under her own name.  The idea for the opening of Janet’s first novel, No Stranger to Death, which will be published on November 5th, came to her at a Guy Fawkes party held in the village where they used to live. When she suggested to John that a huge bonfire would be a good way to dispose of a dead body, he said, ‘Go on then, write it’. And over the next few years, in between jobs and studying for a degree, she did. She now writes fulltime. Janet blogs about writing and her life in the Scottish countryside at www.janetokane.blogspot.co.uk and is also an avid fan of Twitter, where she is @JanetOkane

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I wish I had the space to keep every book I read, but instead I have to be ruthless. I try to find space for signed copies and novels I’ve really enjoyed. I also won’t part with some of the books I studied for my recent Open University degree, and a few teenage favourites, like The Chrysalids by John Wyndham. The rest I pass on to friends or our local charity shop. There is one exception: I’ve kept a copy of the worst crime novel I’ve ever read, and no, I’m not going to say what that is.

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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 group the books I’ve read by subject or genre. While many – okay, most – of my shelves hold crime fiction, there are also reference, travel, gardening, art and film books. Guides to writing are on a separate shelf unit. Unread books – of which I have over 100, excluding what’s on my Kindle – are grouped together on two TBR shelves. I’ve promised myself I won’t buy any more until I’ve considerably reduced that number, and regularly but cheerfully fail to keep that promise.

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

From an early age I spent all my pocket-money on books but I confess I don’t own a single Enid Blyton or Angel Brazil now. I do though, still have that copy of Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers I bought at the age of 17 to read on the journey up to London for a job interview. My Mum travelled with me and I remember sitting awkwardly to stop her from seeing what I was laughing at.

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 don’t think anyone should feel guilty about what they read, as long as they do read! My tastes are there for all to see.

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?

To me, a book is just a book and easily replaced, so I don’t have an emotional attachment to any in particular. I’d concentrate on getting my husband, cats and dogs to safety and making sure the fire didn’t spread to the henhouses.

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 only read non-fiction, usually about World War Two or football, while my Mum was a huge fan of crime fiction by the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Guess whose books I moved on to when I outgrew my own! I have a few Christies on my shelves but tend not to reread books except for a specific reason, like a competition. Revisiting The Murder of Roger Ackroyd proved worthwhile as I won a weekend pass to the 2010 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Festival in Harrogate for summing it up in 50 words.

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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’m lucky to be able to buy most of the books I want to read, although I struggle to justify buying hardbacks or expensive books about art. I enter competitions and drop hints at Christmas for those.

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

I recently went to an event in Newcastle by crime-writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Professor Dave Barclay who write together under the pseudonym A.D. Garrett. It was a great evening and I’ve enjoyed Margaret’s writing in the past, so I bought their first book, Everyone Lies. I started reading it on the train going home and was hooked. I finished it a few days later and it’s now rubbing shoulders with my permanent collection of Reginald Hill novels.

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

I’ve got my eye on Barry Forshaw’s British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, which has a cover price of £90, although I’m sure it is well worth that much. Moving away from crime fiction, I’d really like to own Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer and Build by Peter Goodfellow, The Chicken: A Natural History by several authors including my poultry ‘guru’ Andy Cawthray, and Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.

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

I like to think they’ll see further than all that crime fiction and realise I’m a person with a wide range of interests who just happens to enjoy reading and writing about people being murdered.

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A huge thanks to Janet 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) 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 Janet’s responses and/or any of the books that she mentioned?

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40 Books Before I’m 40 (Redux)…

So today is my birthday and I have turned the ripe old age of thirty one, which means I officially can no longer pretend I am in my ‘very late’ twenties, rather like at New Year I use my birthday to put the last year into perspective and focus myself for what I want in the year ahead. As it was the big 3-0 last year I pondered looking a decade forward and choosing forty books to read before I was forty. I promptly then went off the idea and popped it on the back burner for another time.

Well that time has arrived. I have spent the last few days whittling over books that I feel it would be good to give myself, albeit rather loosely, a nudge in the direction of reading. Some of the books were ones, like ‘Middlemarch’ which will get a special mention shortly, which I have been simply meaning to read, other more modern books I have been intrigued about. I was also greatly helped with my new edition of ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ (not that I am suggesting this will be on my 40th heaven forbid) which I have spent long periods mulling over.

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The rules, for there must always be some guidelines or things just get silly (see I even sound older), were simply that the books must be published by an author that I hadn’t tried before – thought I better throw that in there before I get some emails/comments telling me I have missed some absolute gems. Simple as that! And here is the list…

  1. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  3. Before Night Falls – Reinaldo Arenas
  4. Nightwood – Djuna Barnes
  5. The Heat of the Day – Elizabeth Bowen
  6. Wild Swans – Jung Chang
  7. Claudine’s House – Colette
  8. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  9. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  10. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  11. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  12. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  13. The Well of Loneliness – Radclyffe Hall
  14. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  15. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
  16. Smilla’s Sense of Snow – Peter Hoeg
  17. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  18. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  19. Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
  20. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
  21. Independent People – Halldor Laxness
  22. Lost Language of Cranes – David Leavitt
  23. The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
  24. Embers – Sandor Marai
  25. Fugitive Pieces – Anne Micheals
  26. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  27. The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien
  28. Quartet in Autumn – Barbara Pym
  29. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
  30. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
  31. Pamela – Samuel Richardson
  32.  Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
  33. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  34. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
  35. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  36. Restoration – Rose Tremain
  37. Myra Breckinridge – Gore Vidal
  38. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
  39. Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
  40. Therese Raquin – Emile Zola

So there they are! I have also made sure I miss some famous classics (‘The Leopard’, ‘The Iliad’, etc) and some lesser known ones (‘The Odd Women’, ‘A Crime in the Neighbourhood’) but those are on my periphery too plus I also need to have some for when I do my fifty before fifty don’t I?

Now you may have noticed that there is one book which breaks the trend slightly and that is ‘Middlemarch’. Which leads me to a little announcement, and I hope those of you joining in with Classically Challenged won’t be cross, as I have decided to postpone writing about it on the last Sunday of March and am moving it to the end of June. I know, I know, June is ages away. However after some thought, and having only got eight chapters in so far, I decided I don’t want to rush this read (and I am enjoying it so far) because of a deadline and with a fairly long trip to London next week, plus a literary festival to prepare and read for, oh and those solo podcasts too… you get the picture. I simply want to enjoy ‘Middlemarch’.

So what do you make of the list? Which have you read and which have you been meaning to? Let me know and I promise I will be back next week, well tomorrow, catching up on all the comments that I have been meaning to for ages. In the meantime there are things to unwrap, candles to blow out, cake to eat and some serious applying of anti-aging cream to be done!

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Other People’s Bookshelves #4 – Annabel Gaskell

For the latest instalment of other peoples book porn bookshelves we get to have a nosey through the lovely Annabel Gaskell’s shelves this week. I must add here that through the wonder of WordPress and its tools I know that Annabel is my most commenting visitor, I think that might deserve a prize or something, I will  have to mull it over. Anyway, Annabel has been blogging at http://gaskella.wordpress.com for over four years. She says “ Like the rest of my family, I’ve always loved books – we’re all book-hoarders too.  A child of the 1960s and 1970s, I’m a South Londoner, and studied Materials Science at Imperial College, London. I worked as a proper scientist in the chemical industry for years, before my biological clock went ping at 39. I took several years off work after having my daughter who is now 12, and now I’m a lab technician in an Oxfordshire prep school. I’m a staunch supporter of independent bookshops and literary events in Abingdon near Oxford, and have hosted three literary quiz nights for charity in the town” – a fourth is in the planning. So lets have a nosey shall we?

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 keep every book I read, but it does eventually get to a stage where you have to make hard decisions about how many are worth keeping. Some time ago, book geek that I am, I made myself a set of criteria for keeping books:

  • I rated it 9 or 10 points out of 10;
  • It’s part of a series I am reading and intend to keep in its entirety;
  • It’s a collectable edition/set, e.g. hardback firsts, Folio, illustrated, or signed;
  • It’s an important book in the history of literature, e.g. Canon or a major prize-winner
  • It’s by an author I collect;
  • It’s a book I want to keep for my daughter;
  • It belongs to a particular ‘reading trail’ or area of special interest, e.g. Russian novels, fairy tales, classic children’s novels;
  • It’s non-fiction and useful for reference.

Note – having made the rules, I don’t follow them religiously – but I do tend towards them, keeping less than half the books I read these days.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

My fiction books are split between read and unread. In my posh bookcases in the guest bedroom (in which all the books are unread), they’re strictly alphabetical by author’s surname, with biographies and non-fiction separated out.  Then I have a separate bookcase for hardback biographies, and my travel books are in the downstairs loo. In my study bedroom are the holding shelves which are totally mixed up and double stacked. I have my reference library in the dining room. Finally I have my bedside bookcase which has most of the books I plan to read soon in! I am gradually culling a lot of my unread books now – I have more than I could possibly read, and there are all those shiny new books too, but it’s so difficult! I am getting tougher on myself though and upping the pace of culling slightly which is good, I think…

Posh bookcases

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

I was never short of books to read as a child. My parents bought us lots, and I used the library extensively. It’s hard to remember but I suspect that amongst the first books I bought (which were from the Guides jumble sale) were science fiction – Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, and Fantastic Voyage – I still have the latter.

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 don’t have any books to be embarrassed about, no hidden shelves or downloads on my Kindle.

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?

Over the years I have treated myself to the Folio Society’s collections of fairy tales which are gorgeous editions with lovely illustrations and I’d be loath to lose them. Some of my signed books are quite precious to me too.  There’s also my Beryl collection.  Everything is replaceable – but I do have a catalogue on Librarything just in case!

Beryl Books 001

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?

This is a cop out, but I can’t remember specifically. I just devoured everything that came my way – I got an adult library pass at around 12yrs old, and after reading Day of the Triffids at school in year 7, I got heavily into SF for many years. I did discover ‘Rebecca’ as a young teenager at home though …

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 don’t use the library at present, so I acquire the books I want to read.

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

Winter Games by Rachel Johnson – I’ve just read it too, and it was rather good.

Reference Library

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

My Am**on wishlist currently runs to around 450 items, over 400 of which are books, so yes – lots!

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

I just hope they’ll be pleasantly surprised at the breadth of the type of books that I read. Although I mostly read contemporary fiction, I try to read a bit of everything else alongside it. Ultimately though, I hope they could find books they want to read on the shelves too.

Holding bookcases Travel books!

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A big thank you to Annabel for letting me grill her. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in 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 Annabel’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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Packing in the Classics

After the weekend with the homophobic and verbally abusive neighbour from hell, which I might share with you at some point though as the police are involved am not sure if I am allowed, I then had the joys of babysitting my 4 year old twin cousins before coming to Grans where I will be staying for a while. It has already been a whirlwind with a big hospital visit today and then I needed to go out and do some chores and shopping so while I have dinner on and she is gripped by Strictly It Takes Two (don’t ask) I thought I would finally share a post on the books I have packed for this stay, and as you will see I have gone for some classics of all era’s…

Packing in the Classics

I have been thinking about my reading habits and I do seem to spend a lot of time reading those shiny new books. This is no bad thing of course yet I do think this means that I tend to miss out on the classics, be they modern or canon, and I want to address that and so I thought that this trip might just be the time and so I smuggled, well shoved, this five motley crew of a selection.

‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a series I have read but these I have brought as comfortable tales I can revisit, also (most importantly and meaning these will be my main reading fodder) they can be read in random sittings when I am not rushing around. The others however are just books I have meant to get on and read for a while. ‘Madame Bovary’ because both Polly of Novel Insights and Gran herself have both said that it has ‘a real bitch in it who you might really like’; I am taking that as a compliment of sorts. John Wyndham is an author I have always wanted to try and ‘The Chrysalids’ is meant to be very accessible and has an apocalyptic theme which might stand me in good stead if everything kicks off in a few weeks on the 21st ha, ha. ‘Miss Smilia’s Feeling for Snow’ by Peter Hoeg sounds like a literary crime thriller that I would love and some say is the first Scandinavian crime, lovely stuff – I am craving crime at the moment. Finally there is the one I am most nervous about ‘Great Expectations’ by a certain unknown author called Charles Dickens. In fact I think I want to move on swiftly or the worry might start…

Anyway I wondered what older classics, modern or properly olde, you have been meaning to read or revisit of late and why, and if you too ever feel like you end up reading more new books than old or the other way round?

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Savidge Reads Library Loot #2

So here is the second in my new series of vlog posts where I get to embarrass myself once more talk to you all about the latest books that I have borrowed from the library, and waffle a lot about why.

The books mentioned in this video, in order, are…

Havisham by Ronald Frame
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
Florence and Giles by John Harding
Everything I Found on the Beach by Cynan Jones
Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd
High Wages by Dorothy Whipple
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Living in the Maniototo by Janet Frame
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

What have you recently acquired from the library? Have you read any of the above and if so what did you think of them?

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