Tag Archives: Marian Keyes

Other People’s Bookshelves #77 – Liliane Ruyters

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the perfectly natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are in Utrecht, which is very exciting to join Liliane Ruyters and have a nosey through her bookshelves. There is, as always with these lovely folks, quite the spread on so let’s all grab a cuppa/glass of something and a nibble of something before settling down to get to know Liliane and her bookshelves better.

My name is Liliane, some people may know me from my blog BooksandLiliane. In it I write about the books I read, I also include pictures I take based on some of those novels. I studied English Literature at the University of Utrecht (I am Dutch by the way) and eventually ended up being a manager at a shared service centre. We provide the area of Dordrecht with advice on how to communicate properly with the people living there. A demanding job that, since I live in Utrecht myself, also comes with a total of 8 hours in commuting. These 8 hours I use to read the books I write about. Though my formal education and my current job do not follow logically I find it suits me well. I love reading, I love writing about books, I also love thinking about how to improve communications and help my team doing so. I’ve got the best of both worlds.

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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?

In the pre-ereader days I banished those books I did not really like to the bookshelves in my guest room. The one in my living room contains mostly favourites; the one in my bedroom mostly childhood books and romantic novels. I used not to throw away books. When confronted with bookshelves that were filled to the brim I did bring books to the second hand bookshop.

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 never even tried to organize my books alphabetically or on author. I was too aware of the fact that this would mean constantly changing the order of books on my shelves. My living room bookshelves go up to 3 meters, I need stairs to change anything. I did try to arrange books by origin: British, North-American, Down Under, African or Asian. When those shelves started filling up I ended putting books wherever there was room. With one exception: I once wrote my endpaper on modern versions of the Arthurian Matter. 4 Meters in my shelves are reserved for Arthurian novels. I am prepared to move other books to keep these together.

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

The first book I ever bought was The Once and Future King by T.H. White. It definitely has a place amongst the other Arthurian novels.  It has been used for my studies and the pages are filled with underlining and comments, it has become so fragile I just leave it where it is.

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 guilty pleasures. I am prepared to defend the funny and romantic novels by the likes of Marian Keyes and Kathy Fforde. I love them and they have a special place in my bedroom bookcase. I find that I very often do not need to defend them, they are the pleasure of a lot of readers.

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 and save my cat first, two books next: The Once and Future King and The World According to Garp. The first because it helped me in my decision to study English literature and made me an Arthurian matter addict. The second because I bought it on a whim for its cover. I started reading it after I just finished reading Middlemarch (which I really did not like at all, sorry!) and kept on reading until I finished it. I loved the way Irving advocated a prejudice free world by incorporating many not exactly everyday characters. It being signed by Irving himself makes my copy even more special.

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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?

My mother being keen on classics, I suppose that I took Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre out of her shelves first. I bought them when I started studying and they also are still on my shelves. I would not dream of removing them.

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 used to buy the books I wanted. Reading a lot of books on my e-reader has made me less attached to their physical form. Nowadays I buy e-books (I find that I am too lazy to search for free copies and do feel that the author deserves his or her money) or borrow them at the library.

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

The last book I added to my bookshelves was The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, to be placed on the Arthurian shelves naturally. The last one I bought was My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (I am trying to read the entire Bailey’s Prize shortlist).

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

No, if I want the book I’ll get it.

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

Someone perusing my shelves will definitely notice that the majority of my books is written in English. A minority is in Spanish or Dutch. Though most of my friends tend to read a lot, neither of them have the amount of books I have. People visiting my house for the first time usually comment on the number of books first, on the fact that most novels are literary next. In my blog I restrict myself to those novels that are considered literary, my bookshelves are a reflection of this policy. I do read the occasional detective or romance (the latest Galbraith has been kept waiting for the Whitsunday weekend), I find that I get a lot of joy reading novels that challenge or tempt me. Fortunately a lot of those are still being written.

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

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#BuyBooksForSyria

The capacity for bookish bods to do wonderful and charitable things is quite something. Not long ago Patrick Ness set up a fundraiser for Syria through Save The Children, which is still taking donations, and has just blown up and now made over $1,000,000. In the last couple of weeks author and vlogger Jen Campbell announced her challenge to write 100 Poems in 24 hours from the 6th to the 7th of October for The Book Bus, a wonderful charity that sends mobile libraries to communities in various places across Africa, Asia and South America to help children learn to read, provide teaching materials and create school libraries. Now the book shop chain Waterstones, one of the few chain stores I love whole heartedly, have announced their Buy Books For Syria campaign….

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They have teamed up with authors and UK publishers to raise £1m for Oxfam’s Syria Crisis appeal. From Today they will be selling books in our shops from a range of authors with all the proceeds going to Oxfam. A wide range of authors are supporting the campaign, including Philip Pullman, Hilary Mantel, David Walliams, Neil Gaiman, David Nicholls, Marian Keyes, Victoria Hislop, Ali Smith, Robert Harris, Lee Child, Salman Rushdie, Caitlin Moran, Julia Donaldson and Jacqueline Wilson.

I was kindly asked if I would like to champion one of the books and once the list was announced I went and chose one of my favourite thrillers of the last year or so which is Tom Rob Smith’s The Farm. If you haven’t read this corker of a thriller then here is my review to give you a taster and to add an extra reason to get your mitts on a copy for this cause.

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Though frankly don’t even go and look at that just please do order the book, using this special link so the proceeds all go to Syria, if you haven’t read it yet. If you have read it then have a look at the rest of the special selection of books which you can buy in store or online using the special links here. Often when we take a moment away from our books and watch the news we feel like we can’t really do anything massive, well with this initiative we can, and all buy buying ourselves and/or our loved ones the gift of a book. Simple really, how can we not? I am off to go and choose a title or two myself!

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Other People’s Bookshelves #71 – SE Craythorne

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 lovely Norfolk to meet author and bookseller Sally Craythorne, or SE Craythorne as she is otherwise known. So let’s grab a nice cuppa and some of those lovely biscuits that Sally’s put out for us and get to know a little more about her.

I live in Norfolk with my husband and my twin girls.  We have a small-holding, with goats, two rescue donkeys, and a field full of rabbits that eat our carefully grown vegetables.  We also have a dog, called Daisy, a mutt of such mixed breeding that people actually stop us in the street to ask ‘what is that?’  She’s gorgeous. I work as a bookseller at The Book Hive in Norwich.  My debut novel, How You See Me, was published by Myriad Editions on 20th August, and I’m working on my second.

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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 buy books all the time, but mostly don’t read them straight away.  I’d be a terrible reviewer.  It often takes me years to get round to something, even if everyone has told me it’s brilliant – or because everyone has told me it’s brilliant.  I think that timing is paramount when it comes to enjoying a book.  I don’t keep a diary, because so many of my memories are wrapped up in what I was reading at the time.  When my grandfather was dying I read Under the Net by Iris Murdoch; travelling through Africa on a particularly terrifying bus will always be remembered for trying to read Women in Love.  My read books are my diary, in a way.  So I keep them. That said, if I think a book’s terrible, it goes.  And if I’m having a particularly horrid time, I often blame the book I’m reading, and abandon it in favour of something that I hope will change my mood.

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?

Chaos reigns on most of my bookshelves, but occasionally I throw a small fit and try and introduce some order.  Crime – only polite murders, none of your gruesome – lives downstairs in the living room, and poetry – for unknown reasons – is heaped up in the bathroom.  It’s heaped because I panic about the covers curling, but I like looking at their spines, and sometimes their contents, when I’m in the bath. Everything else is everywhere else.  It’s mostly fiction, but it’s not in any order.  I find the book I’m after through a kind of divining process, without the rod.  It rarely works for locating what I have in mind, but usually turns up a book I want to read. When we moved out to the wilds and decided to have babies, I was forced to into a book cull.  My husband had the idea that we should be able to move through the rooms without negotiating piles of novels.  Years working as a bookseller meant that I’d collected a lot I was never actually going to read, no matter what the timing.  And books that had been tried more than once and never completed went too.  It was rather a relief.

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

Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea (this is one of Simon’s childhood favourites).  I bought it at Diss Publishing Bookshop when I was eight.  It was my own choice and paid for with my own money.  It’s a quest story with beautifully drawn characters set in Ireland against a background of Irish mythology.  It’s probably the book I have read and re-read most often.  The book I turn to in times of trauma.  The reading equivalent of sucking your thumb.  I love it. My original copy was lost, but it does turn up second-hand and I always buy it.  I only buy the same edition I had as a child, with the epic 80s illustrative cover, which was what first attracted me to it.  This was the book that made me a reader.  It also made me want to be Irish, but I’m mostly over that now.  Mostly.

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 believe in guilt for my pleasures.  I’m quite happy for Marian Keyes to sit alongside Sartre and Freud, I think they all get along famously.  If a book really irritates me, I have a habit of throwing it across the room, so there is a small pile of books with battered spines residing by the wall.  But they should be ashamed of themselves!

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?

It’s a small paperback poetry collection called Love Songs of Asia, translated by Edward Powys Mathers.  Its spine is broken and it was long ago fixed with tape, now yellowing with age.  It was given to me by the poet – and my greatest friend – Oliver Bernard.  He carried it around with him for over sixty years and read me many of the poems from it whilst we sat in his living room, smoking and drinking blackberry tea.  Oliver gave me his copy when I presented him with a fine edition I found second-hand, and inscribed it to me. Oliver died two years ago.  That small volume and the memory of his voice reading, in particular, ‘Ghazal of Iza Akhun Zada’, are amongst my greatest treasures.

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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?

I’ve always envied those who can claim a precocious childhood of reading the classics.  I was the most age-appropriate of readers, until I reached adulthood and realised I could read whatever I liked.  The ‘grown-up’ books looked terribly boring to me.  I do remember my despair that one day I would too have to grow up and read books without pictures. I do remember resolving to read War and Peace when very small.  My mum read it twice during each of her pregnancies, or so she told us.  I have multiple editions on my shelves, the full range of translations, in soft and hardback, I’ve bought it new and secondhand.  It’s my husband’s favourite book.  I’ve never read it.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I use the library regularly now, in the vain effort to keep down the quantities of books that I buy.  But, if I love a book I have to own it.  And I get rather irritated when I go looking for something I know I’ve read, only to remember it was a library loan. I am not a gentle reader – I’m a page folder and spine breaker – so I rarely borrow books from friends.  At least, not more than once.  But I do press books onto people to borrow and read, whilst repeating the mantra that my friend taught me: ‘never loan a book you don’t expect to be dropped in the bath, or covered in coffee’.  (Once a friend of my mother’s borrowed a John Irving signed first edition from me and gave it back with the casual aside that her daughter’s puppy had been visiting.  When I opened the cover, half the pages had been chewed out). I buy them again if they are amongst my beloveds.

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

Can I have two?  I bought two.  I’m having two. One: Letters to Anyone and Everyone by Toon Tellegen.  Now I have children, I’m allowed to buy more children’s books.  Yes, they are only babies, but they will grow!  This is an eccentric masterpiece of epistolary fiction.  And it’s very funny.  And it has one letter that goes:

            Dear Ant,

            Ant

            Ant

            Ant

            Ant

for a whole page.  I bought his book of stunning poetry about his father, Raptors, a couple of years ago when it was part of Writers Centre Norwich’s ‘Brave New Reads’ scheme and am now desperately trying to track down everything he ever wrote. Two: All Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith. This was a second-hand find, and one I’d been after for a while.  It’s a book of aphorisms (or what he terms ‘moral prose’) and it’s just beautiful.  Everyone should have a copy. I told you I’d be a terrible reviewer.

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

After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry.  It’s the strange and compulsive tale of a man that, to his own astonishment, lies his way into a household and becomes embroiled in the lives of all that reside there. I keep buying it and then giving it to people, and – quite rightly, it is that good – they never give it back.  I’ve bought it more than five times, and I intend to buy it again.

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

This woman reads too many novels. They’d be right.  My general knowledge is completely founded on the reading of fiction.  I buy non-fiction, but more often than not, trail off after a story from the shelves before I’ve reached the halfway point.  It’s an illness, and it means I’m highly unreliable when it comes to facts.

AppleMark

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

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Other People’s Bookshelves #62 – Scott Pack

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 down in London town to spend some time with a man who I love much more than is right, and much more than he probably knows – you’ll see why. Yes this week we are spending time with the lovely Scott Pack. Now before we go and rummage through his shelves, let us grab a nice cuppa and learn more about him…

I am a publisher (just setting up a new independent imprint called Aardvark Bureau after six years at HarperCollins) and writer (a couple of toilet books under the pen name Steve Stack and bits and bobs of journalism). I sometimes host literary events of my own making and at festivals. I have a blog called Me and My Big Mouth. Outside of the book stuff I bake cakes and biscuits.

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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 am happy to read pretty much anything but I only keep books I love, am likely to re-read or that I think a member of the family will enjoy at some point.

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?

We live in a four-floor townhouse. On the ground floor is a set of shelves containing books I have read and loved and these are alphabetical by author. Alongside these are a bunch of classics, many read but some as yet unread. I designed the shelves myself and included a long shelf for my battered old Penguin paperbacks (see above) which are arranged by colour because I got bored one day and it killed an hour or so. Any old or particularly gorgeous hardbacks are on the opposite wall. In my bedroom are more shelves and here are kept all the unread books. There are lots of them. These are grouped by genre and then alphabetically.

Next to my bed are a couple of TBR shelves.

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The basement kitchen has the cookbooks. My son has temporary residency in the loft (he’ll leave home at some point, I am sure) and shares the space with piles of books I couldn’t fit anywhere else. When we moved here I got rid of 50 boxes of books that I had accumulated over the years and knew I would never re-read or get round to reading. The charity shops were very pleased. I do still cull quite regularly.

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

I am not sure. I am getting on a bit so it is hard to remember back that far. I definitely recall buying the Narnia books from a pokey little bookshop on Canvey Island but I don’t think I actually got round to reading them all (habit of a lifetime started right there). The late 1970s and early 1980s were not particularly affluent periods in my neck of the woods but my parents would always find money if I wanted a book, something for which I shall be forever grateful.

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?

Don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t like the idea of guilty pleasures. You know how one of the posh newspapers will ask literary authors for their guilty pleasures every now and again and the authors will pick Ian Rankin or Georgette Heyer or someone like that? Fuck the fuck right off! What the newspapers are really asking is ‘Are there any genre authors you’ll admit to reading?’

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Reading books is a bloody marvellous thing to do and no one should ever be made to feel guilty for reading anything. Ever. That being said, I know you didn’t mean it in quite that way. I hope every reader has books on their shelves that would surprise people. I love the novels of Miss Read. I have read them all. She is often assumed to be very Olde English and twee but her early work, in particular, makes for great social commentary. She charted village life accurately and with great wit. Her books are proudly displayed on my shelves, though.

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

My single most prized volume is The Satanic Mill by Otfried Preussler which was my favourite book as a child and probably still is. Much later I was able to re-publish it in the UK under it’s original German title of Krabat. Neil Gaiman rates it as one of his best spooky reads for kids so I clearly had great taste even back then. I do own a couple of books from the collections of famous people. I have a set of The Forsyte Saga that once belonged to Maria Callas and I also have Peter Cushing’s entire Noel Coward collection. And then there is my Fuck Off collection. 70+ books in which the authors have signed ‘To Scott, Fuck Off…’ or some similarly insulting message. John Le Carre, Marian Keyes, John Grisham, David Mitchell, all swearing their tits off.

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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?

My dad collected the Kings & Queens series from the BCA book club back in the 1970s. He would remove the dust jackets and put them on the shelves with their purple spines glaring out at me. From time to time I would take one down and flick through it. Recently I inherited his full set—he hasn’t popped his clogs yet, he was just getting rid of them—and they now sit on my shelves glaring out at my kids.

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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 am lent books quote often and I do use my local library. My collecting instinct has dropped off a bit as I have grown older but if I really love a book I do indeed need a print edition somewhere on my shelves.

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

No idea. Not a clue. A sign of having too many books but I don’t care.

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

You know what? I don’t think there is. Until the next time I see something in a bookshop and covet it.

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

They would, of course, think I am charming, witty, handsome, a great cook, intelligent and a careful and considerate lover.

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A huge thanks to Scott for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, and making me laugh and my slightly inappropriate crush even bigger! 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 Scott’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Why Does Literature Seem To Snub Genre?

I seem to have a backlog of random posts on my thoughts about the book world and reading at the moment. It seems I am having a phase where every book I read sparks a question about my reading habits or reading in general. I hope you all enjoy these posts because there is going to be quite an influx of them over the next few weeks. The first of these that I want to talk about came from my review of Penny Hancock’s ‘Tideline’ yesterday when I said it was ‘the sort of thriller that I want to put in the path of anyone who doesn’t deem thrillers as literature’ because this is something that seems to be a common misconception in the book world or in bookish circles. Why can’t a crime novel, and indeed any work that is deemed genre, also be deemed ‘literature’?

My initial line of thinking is the fact that on the whole crime novels are not particularly known for being flowery, you can’t really make a dead body picturesque can you – though you can make it haunting and atmospheric, yet flowery prose doesn’t mean that a book is literary either does it? Crime novels, and I am focusing on these as they are the genre I read the most outside what people deem ‘literary novels’, by their nature have to focus on plot and they have to have pace. This doesn’t have to come at the expense of good writing though as I find with authors like Kate Atkinson or Susan Hill the writing that they use in their ‘crime’ novels (atmospheric, observational, vivid) is the same as they use in the novels that would be put in the ‘fiction’ section and which are deemed to be much more literary because they lose the crime tag.

I have just recently given up on a very ‘literary’ novel because while the writing was stunning the book itself wasn’t going anywhere. The plot was there but it was fizzling out, it was dragging, and I was getting increasingly bored. So I gave up. That very rarely happens to me with a good thriller. With literary novels you often here the phrase ‘a multi layered novel’ have any of these people read the aforementioned Kate Atkinson (whose use of small coincidences to twist a tale is fantastic) or Sophie Hannah by any chance as both these authors created tales which are definitely multi layered, whilst being gripping reads with big stories at their heart, and I do think every reader loves a good ‘story’. Many people will say that genre fiction is train station or airport reading, but isn’t that in itself interesting that when people go away they want those sorts of books? Here we could go into the dangerous territory of ‘readability vs. literature’ so lets move swiftly on…

The other misconception I have often heard is that crime novels, or any genre novel actually, often feature one dimensional or rather stereotypical characters. I always find myself wanting to shout ‘what about Sherlock Holmes, people actually wrote to the man, they thought he was real’ to this, but I suppose that’s classic crime so doesn’t fit in with my discussion on modern crime now, though it was deemed literature in its day. If I was discussing chick-lit I would here use the Jane Austen argument and how at the time it was not deemed as ‘literature’ and look at how she is hailed now, Charles Dickens is another one, paid per word as a regular newspaper serialisation, now heralded as one of the greatest writers ever to have lived by many.

Let’s get back to the characters in modern crime though. I think we could find the ‘stereotypical’ characters in almost every novel we read, does ‘stereotypical’ therefore actually mean the true to life people who live next door or you might pass by on the street? What of one dimensional characters? I read few crime novels where this is the case, they wouldn’t work for me as a read if they were. Again there are a number of authors, including the above, where I could say this statement was untrue; Tess Gerritsen (I read the Rizzoli and Isles series because I want to know what they are up to, I like them, I feel I have gotten to know them over a series) and Val McDermid (Jacko Vance might be my favourite serial killer ever, if one can have one) for starters.

Val McDermid once said to me ‘it’s not the crime that’s the really important thing to me, it’s what crime or murder does to the people surrounding it that truly motivates me’. I have paraphrased there, sorry if you read this Val, but I think is one of the true signs of why crime can be counted as literature, it looks at how humans are conditioned to react, emote and deal in extreme circumstances. People say ‘oh but crime stories are so farfetched’ but they happen and often it’s the most bizarre crimes that have us sitting watching the news and saying ‘oh you couldn’t have made that up’ and ‘how would you deal with that, can you imagine?’ With a book you can from the safety of your sofa, just as you can being in a war torn country, having been bereaved, experiencing dictatorial leadership or simply being in a very dysfunctional family. All these things people are experiencing all over the world but just because it’s not happening to us or those we know doesn’t mean it is ‘farfetched’. Also thanks to crime in translation we learn about other cultures through the subject matter dealt with by the novels of the likes of Henning Mankell or Natsuo Kirino.

Of course there is some badly written and one dimensional drivel out there on the crime shelves, but the same applies to literature doesn’t it. We also all have different tastes. I have always found it interesting when I have reviewed an M.C. Beaton and then had emails saying people won’t read my blog any more as they thought I only read ‘proper’ books. What constitutes a ‘proper’ book I do not know, any ideas?

I am fully aware that I can fall prey to the same issues with other genres (aliens… like they exist) though I have just read a stunning werewolf novel (no, really) and indeed I have been umming and ahhhing about reading Jojo Moyes ‘Me Before You’ because I have heard rave reviews from people I trust and think the premise sounds interesting, but from just looking at it my mind says ‘chick-lit’ and I switch off, this has happened whenever I have been recommended Marian Keyes, which has happened a lot. Am I then adding to the literary snobbery myself, I hope not, and may now rush and get ‘Me Before You’ just to prove a point.

This might be one of those posts that often appear on Savidge Reads where I start with a question that has been buzzing around in my head, write about it and end up asking more questions than I can answer and coming out the other side without a conclusion. It is a subject that interests me and one I would love to have a good old natter with you all about, so your thoughts please…

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Are We Reading Eclectically Enough?

I don’t want to keep banding the cancer word about, yet I do think its interesting that since I was told that those evil cells were now firmly friends of mine I have been thinking differently about reading. I mentioned last week how I went from racing through lots of books and today I wanted to discuss how it made me wonder if I was actually reading eclectically enough, and eclectic reading in general, so I hope you will all offer your thoughts.

I was actually eavesdropping at the hospital waiting area where they have a book exchange, which I find an interesting idea in a hospital, I mean the NHS have been great but no one wants to be coming back and forth to a hospital do they really no matter how necessary – sorry I have digressed. So anyway I was eavesdropping as a couple were routing through the shelves. They came across a copy of an unnamed but incredibly pastel coloured book and the woman said ‘oh even I wouldn’t read that it looks like utter chick lit nonsense’. On a separate visit a different pair were routing through the books on the shelves and came across a book that she described as ‘dafty alien rubbish, that’s the kind of thing you would read’ before shooting an eyebrow up at him. I found this interesting as both assumptions I had made about the same two books yet hearing them out loud I thought ‘oooh what snobs’ and then thought ‘oh dear does that make me a snob?’

I am hoping it doesn’t as really I would classify sci-fi and chick lit not as books that I am snobby about but just ones that aren’t really to my taste. This used to be the same for non-fiction books, however I have slowly but surely started to convert myself, and the same applies to classics actually (though these were more books that English Literature lessons at school put me off rather than me being adverse to them in the first place) which I have been trying harder at… occasionally, in fact I should be making more of an effort with the classics again and finally read a Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy if I am honest.

Why don’t I think I like sci-fi, fantasy and chick lit? Well I have never been a huge fan of aliens in books, in films and TV it’s fine, I used to love The X Files and am still a fan of Doctor Who (though not to excess), but for some reason on the page its never quite washed with me. I have yet to read a book that has convinced me by an alien world. The same applies to fantasy, I tried Lord of the Rings when I was younger and just thought it was ridiculous and have carried that thought, without testing it again, ever since. Weirdly though I love a good tale of the supernatural or ghost story, not that they are the same but its interesting a spooky world can ignite me (yet I don’t tend to read horror either) yet an alien or troll filled one doesn’t seem to.

Chick lit and I used to be friends. Who hasn’t read Bridget Jones Diary, and what made people less sneery about that book than others? My friend Gemma has been telling me for ages I must read Marian Keyes and I have always winced a little and said ‘really?’ I have been told to read Jenny Colgan often by Paul Magrs and the same response has been given. Yet I used to read everything by Lisa Jewell, and ‘A Friend of the Family’ is still one of my favourite books, and yet I havent picked up another in years and years. Why not?

So maybe its time to challenge myself, I have pulled four books I have been sent (I couldn’t find any fantasy) out of the TBR and they are by the bedside and will be little tests, to be read on a whim of course, that will gently test the waters with my tastes once more (the Daisy Goodwin sounds up my street, I have seen the film of I Am Number Four, Jessica Ruston is Susan Hills daughter so have always wanted to try her and I have had success with China Mievilles crime novel so might with his full on sci-fi)…

But I think its time for a gauntlet to be thrown down and see if maybe I need to be a bit more adventurous. So I thought you could all help by suggesting your favourite books in various genres (because I am aware that while I love crime fiction books there are lots of you who don’t) and seeing if we could enlighten each other to what books we have loved that might open new reading paths for each other. So here are the categories and I have put my favourites in and left question marks in the ones I have no idea about .I have missed out literary fiction as I never really know what that means; I just think that’s general fiction isn’t it or have I opened a can of worms there? Have I missed any other genres?

Chick Lit: ?
Crime Fiction: Any of the series by Tess Gerritsen, Sophie Hannah or Susan Hill
Horror: ?
Fantasy:  ?
Non-Fiction: In Cold Blood – Truman Capote, Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosely
Science Fiction: ?

Anyway it could be a fun little exercise for a Tuesday. If you don’t fancy giving it a go then do let me know your thoughts on eclectic reading (or do both) in general. Are there any genre’s out there you avoid and if so why? Do you often test the waters with genres you think you don’t like to see if your mind can be changed or do you think with so many books out there life is just too short and it’s best just sticking to what you know? Is all of this just a question of taste, can you be converted?

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A Few More Aquisitions

So last weekend when I wasn’t ill in bed with the delights of pig flu and had finally gotten around to unpacking most of my things Novel Insights came round and we went to my favourite ‘5 Books for £2’ store and I went a bit crazy, as did she. However I then went back again the next day… and on Monday, whoops. I love seeing the treasures that you have brought back when you have been shopping and so once again I thought I would share mine.

New Books... And More New Books 

Portrait of a Marriage by Nigel Nicholson – This is an account of one of the most famous literary marriages and quite an unconventional one. “Vita Sackville-West, novelist, poet, and biographer, is best known as the friend of Virginia Woolf, who transformed her into an androgynous time-traveler in Orlando. The story of Sackville-West’s marriage to Harold Nicolson is one of intrigue and bewilderment. In Portrait of a Marriage, their son Nigel combines his mother’s memoir with his own explanations and what he learned from their many letters. Even during her various love affairs with women, Vita maintained a loving marriage with Harold. Portrait of a Marriage presents an often misunderstood but always fascinating couple.”

The Sun King by Nancy Mitford – I am a slight Mitford addict and that’s after having only read their letters to each other and the first of Nancy Mitford’s novels ‘The Pursuit of Love’ but believe me that is enough. Now finding this very rare and out of print copy of one her non fiction novels I was completely overjoyed.  

Martha Peake by Patrick McGrath – A gothic mansion and a mystery tale, which kind of sold it for me, plus it’s in almost brand spanking new condition. I haven’t read any McGrath yet but have ‘The Asylum’ in my TBR too. This was a slightly random purchase.  

Tales from the Town of Widows by James Canon – I liked the title, I won’t pretend it was anything more than that because it wasn’t. Well… I liked the blurb too, a town of widows and how they cope with war as well as each other.

Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor – I have seen a few very good reviews of this and though I have STILL not read ‘The American Boy’ when I saw this in mint condition I couldn’t say no. There must have been a book group which this was the choice of as there were about six brand new copies in the store.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron – I have a vague notion of what this cult classic is about and feel I may cry my eyes out when reading it (please don’t anyone give me any spoilers) this has been on my radar in previous visits to the shop and finally gave in. 

Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold – I have been sent a review copy of Glen David Gold’s latest novel ‘Sunnyside’ and I wanted to give what has become some sort of modern cult classic first.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – I want to try my hand at more non fiction and have heard some people say that this is as good as, if not better, than ‘In Cold Blood’ which I think is absolutely fantastic so this had to be purchased. 

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt – Actually I bought this on a quick dash into the store on Monday after I had heard the sad news that Frank McCourt had sadly past away. After hearing from so many of you how wonderful this book is I decided I really needed to read this.

Playing With The Grown Up’s by Sophie Dahl – When I was young Roald Dahl was one of my favourite, if not favourite, author’s and I have been intrigued by the fact his now famous Granddaughter Sophie becoming a writer. I wouldn’t have bought this if it wasn’t for the fact that one of my friends who doesn’t read very often has raved about this endlessly so I hope they are right.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – At book group Claire brought this in as her favourite read. I have always quite fancied giving it a go anyway however this made it a future must read. The books that Claire has reviewed and that I have read and she has loved I have also loved so her recommendations are ones I always hanker after.

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes – I hope that Savidge Reads isn’t a snobbish book blog and accepts all different sorts of literature or at least has a go at them. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest selling books of the year and I gave Twilight a go so why shouldn’t I give this one a try. Two people who I like very much have also raved about her writing.

Passion by Jude Morgan – I have just started ‘Taste of Sorrow’ and my mother has been raving about ‘Indiscretion’ which I bought her (and I own) so I have a feeling that Jude could become an author that I like a lot. If not it was only 50p. I know little about Mary Shelley and the idea of reading a fictional account of her excites me, I loved Frankenstein.   

Devoted Ladies by Molly Keane – I have heard of ‘Time After Time’ but not this one. I admit I bought it for the cover and the fact that the blurb sounded so art deco and fabulous. Two female friends who aren’t actually as friendly as they might appear sounds like a recipe for 1930’s fun.

The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling – I saw a review of this on Bath Books and have been hankering after it ever since. Gothic late Victorian London, a book-binding business gone bust and Dora Damage must go to any lengths to save herself and her family. It has been compared to some of Sarah Waters earlier work… I cannot wait.

Do you own any of these? Have you been hankering after any of these? What books are you itching to get your hands on? What have you bought recently?

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