Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a regular series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. This week we are off across the ocean to Chicago (though I may be delayed in quarantine) to join the lovely Jeremy, one of the many, many booklovers who I have come to know through social media and now wish I could teleport to visit for a nice cup of tea and bookish natter every week or so (and to join his book group too). Sighs. Anyway, less about me and my science fiction whims, I will hand over to Jeremy and let him introduce himself while I get my visa checked and medical assessment and join you later on…
I’ve always been a reader for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the country and there wasn’t a lot to do. My brothers enjoyed fishing, hunting, being outside, but I preferred to stay in and escape in a book, or if my parents forced me to go outside and “play,” I would take my book with me. I read pretty much anything, except I don’t like biographies/autobiographies, especially about famous people, but memoirs are okay. Nor do I like Westerns. I’m not a shoot ‘em up, cowboys and Indians kind of guy. My favourite, and my go-to genre, when I just want to escape is fantasy. I love the worlds. I love the magic systems. Fantasy, for me, is imagination at its best. I moved to Chicago about 9 years ago, for the job opportunity. I had a hard time making friends, not being one to really go to the bars all that much, nor was I all that extroverted, so I decided to start the Chicago Gay Men’s Book Club in 2008, to make friends. I never imagined that it would be so successful. I’ve met some really great guys since, and have made some lasting friendships that I cherish.
I also recently started a book blog, www.bookjerm.com, which I’m kind of learning as I go. I’ve never blogged before. I’ve been rating and writing blurbs for books I’ve read on goodreads.com for several years, but writing full book reviews is new to me, and challenging, though finding time to actually write, I think, is probably the most challenging. But I’m super excited about it and looking forward to developing my site as a place to house all my bookish thoughts, etc. I’m also on Twitter, @BookAddict34, where I “tweet” about books, movies, and life in general.
Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?
All the books I keep are on my shelves. I usually only keep the books that I really love, for one reason or another, and donate the rest. I think, at least at the moment, I have more books I haven’t yet read then books I’ve actually read. I’ve got a bit of an addiction when it comes to buying books. I was out this afternoon, in fact, buying more books to add to the already overflowing shelves.
Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?
I used to alphabetize all my books, but decided it wasn’t fun anymore. The constant shifting of books became too tedious to keep up with. I usually group authors together where I have several of their works, e.g., Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Carroll, but the rest I just make sure they go on their designated shelf; Shelf 1, which goes straight across both bookcases 1 & 2 in my living room is for Fiction (larger trade size paperback). I have several books by Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Carroll, two very different writers, but both phenomenal writers. Shelf 2 is for non-fiction, which I don’t have a lot of. These books only take up one bookcase. On shelf two of the other bookcase starts my Fiction (smaller mass market paperback size), which runs on to shelf 3 of bookcase 1 as well. Shelf 3 of the second bookcase is dedicated to The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, a favourite fantasy series of mine. Shelf 4 is where I keep my GLQBT books. I don’t read a lot of this genre. David Levithan was an amazing discovery of mine last year. I absolutely loved Two Boys Kissing and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he co-wrote with John Green. Shelf 4 of bookcase 2 is where I house my Harry Potter books and books in French. Dangerous Liaisons is probably one of my favourite books of all-time, which is on this shelf.
Finally, the bottom two shelves of each bookcase is dedicated to my TBR. They are the most jam-packed, overflowing shelves in the entire bookcase. Sometimes I wonder if I don’t enjoy buying books more than reading them. At this point, if I stop buying books today, it would take me more than a decade to catch up. I also have two, smaller, bookshelves in another room, which houses my books on writing, which I have a slight obsession with reading, and other reference books, such as grammar and French. I try to cull books once or twice a year, but am hugely unsuccessful. I will begin by saying, “I am going to get rid of 20 books today, to make room for some new ones,” but at the end of the day, I will be lucky to decide on five.
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?
I don’t think I can actually remember this, but I do remember walking into a bookstore when I was young and buying Needful Things by Stephen King. I remember feeling very adult. It was a heavy hardcover, too, which made the experience that much more adult-like. I was going through a phase at the time where I was devouring books, especially horror novels.
Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?
This would probably be my Anne Rice books. I have all the Vampire Chronicles, and these are the ones that people make the most comments about. These books take up half a shelf on one of my bookcases. I used to hide them behind other books, but decided what’s the sense of having books if I’m just going to hide them. These books were part of my horror phase when I was growing up, and I display them proudly, since then, however, I have a hard time reading vampire stories. It would have to be a pretty fantastic vampire story to appeal to me today.
Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?
I would try to save as many of the books as I could. I have nightmares about losing my books in a fire. I live on the first floor of my apartment building, I think I would just start chucking them out into the street before jumping out the window after them at the last minute. My most prized books would probably have to be The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I really love this fantasy series. There are 14 books so far and it’s still going—I hope it never ends. I’m not one to collect antiquated books, or go to a ton of book signings, though meeting Jim Butcher is on my list of things to do before I die.
I have a funny story about book signings, actually. I recently went to my first this past year. It was Dave Eggers, who was signing for his new book at Unabridged Books here in Chicago. I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius a couple years prior and absolutely loved it. After waiting in line for just over an hour, I stepped up to get my book signed. I was expecting him to just write: “To Jeremy” and then sign his name, but he scribbled over the entire page, covering it in black marker, which leaked through to the next page. I cringed at this defacement. I take great care of my books, maintaining their pristine condition, even after reading them, so for me to even relent and allow a book to be signed is something special. Dave Eggers basically ruined that book for me. So, bad first experience.
What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?
I remember reading V. C. Andrews at a very young age and thinking, “I probably shouldn’t be reading this.” I then, of course, told my brother about these scandalous books and he was even younger than I was. We both read these books back-to-back. It’s probably the fastest I’ve ever read a book, ever.
If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?
Absolutely, but only if I loved it. I’ve borrowed books before where I had to have my own copy; I needed to “own” it. Recently, for example, The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker. I borrowed a copy from a friend and absolutely adored the story. I had to have my own copy for my shelf, which the hardcover with the black edged pages is gorgeous by the way. I’m the same way with ebooks. I’m one of those rare individual that reads ebooks and physical books equally. If I read an ebook that is amazing, I will go out and buy a physical copy for my shelf. I don’t know why I do this. It’s a compulsion, I guess.
What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?
I’m constantly adding new books to the TBR shelves, but the one I’m most recently excited about is Harriet the Spy, which was a childhood favourite of mine. The 50th anniversary special edition just came out last week, and I can’t wait to find time to sit down and read this again. I only hope I like it as much as an adult as I did as a child. Ready Player One is another that I recently purchased. I’ve heard so many good things about it, and I’m always drawn to the cover art when I’m in the bookstore, so I decided to buy it. I’ll get to it, eventually.
Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?
I’ve been a bit nostalgic lately for my childhood favorites. I wish I would have saved all these books that I read in my childhood! I’d really like to get my hands on the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary or the Anne of Green Gables series, both of which I absolutely loved.
What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?
I would like them to look at my books and think, “Wow, what an intelligent, well-rounded reader.” However, what I usually get is “Anne Rice? Really?” I read everything, but the books that I’m most judged for are my fantasy and horror novels.
A huge thanks to Jeremy for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, who else feels like they don’t want to go home and would rather stay and have a chinwag for much longer? Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the series then drop me an email to email@example.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Jeremy’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?