Tag Archives: Marilyn French

Other People’s Bookshelves #5– Shelley Harris

This week on Other People’s Bookshelves we get to have a nosey through an authors book shelves as we are joined by the lovely Shelley Harris. Shelley was born in South Africa and emigrated to Britain at the age of six. She has been a local journalist, a secondary school teacher, an assistant in a wine shop and a bouncer at teenage discos (no, really). She likes slapstick humour and salted caramels. Her first novel, Jubilee (Weidenfeld and Nicolson – which I have on my shelves) was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and picked as a 2012 Richard and Judy Summer Read. So let us have a nosey through her shelves…

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 tend to keep all the books I read – except the atrocious ones. Those go straight to Oxfam. My favourites never leave unless by mistake, when I lend them to someone who doesn’t give them back (see also: Behind The Scenes At The Museum, A Christmas Carol).

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?

OK, this is a bit complex, but here goes:

Most of my books are upstairs, in the room I write in; three walls are covered in shelves, and most are mine (I allow my husband a measly three shelves – he’s very good about it). One of the walls is for non-fiction, and within that there’s history (chronological), auto/biography (alphabetical by subject) and general non-fiction (autobiographical by author). My fiction used to be alphabetical by author too, but this summer I decided to arrange it by colour, and it’s bee-ootiful. I should admit here that it’s sometimes just the teensiest bit hard to lay my hand on exactly the book I want, but – did I mention it’s bee-ootiful? I’ve also got very un-arranged shelves connected with whatever I’m writing at the moment or want to write next. My To-Be-read pile is downstairs. It’s four shelves big.

I do cull my books from time to time, and it’s a curiously double-edged thing for me. I feel that liberation you always get when you shuck off some of your possessions, but also the anxiety that you might be throwing out something you’ll want next week. That actually happened once; a novel stayed on my shelves for two years unread, so I got rid of it. The next week, someone told me it was brilliant.

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

I’ve racked my brains, but I can’t remember. What I do know is that at the age of ten I read two books alternately for months on end – maybe I bought them, I don’t know. They were Antonia Barber’s The Amazing Mr. Blunden, and E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. At some unsentimental moment in my life (stupid early adulthood) I threw them out, but now have replacement copies on my shelves.

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?

Oooh, now I’m really interested in your Hidden Shelf. I don’t have one; I’m not at all ashamed of anything I take pleasure in, and that includes books which are…what would people scoff at? Stuff that’s considered lowbrow? Erotica? It’s all good.

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?

That’s a tough one, but I think I might try to save the books my students gave me as gifts when I finished teaching them (they were so relieved, the poor mites). I’m massively proud of having taught, and to have been called ‘a WICKED English teacher’ is one of the best things anyone’s ever said about me.

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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 remember being transported (as many girls my age were) by Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and read the book soon after the single was released. I was maybe eleven at the time. But my parents were responsible for lots of the books I read – grown-up and not-so. Dad used to quote a lot of Shakespeare and poetry at me, using a voice he thought sounded like Laurence Olivier (it sounded like a Dalek). And my Mom read and loved The Women’s Room and passed it over when I was about seventeen – it was a really important book for me.

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 love it I tend to want to keep it – some of my Oxfam purchases are novels I’ve borrowed and loved but want for myself. I read Jane Harris’s Gillespie and I on Kindle (very rare for me) and now have the hardback on my shelves.

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

A copy of A Christmas Carol which I bought from Oxfam because it’s weirdly disappeared from my shelves. I suspect our resident twelve-year-old reader.

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

Yes – I want to magic the next Sarah Waters onto my shelves right now.

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

I don’t mind what they think, but my best guess is that they’ll notice I mainly read contemporary novels, that I love books passionately (I have lots of them), and that they may suspect I’m borderline OCD.

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A big thank you to Shelley for letting me grill her and allowing us to nosey through her shelves. 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 Shelley’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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Updates & Big Thank You’s

I have been meaning to say a big thanks for everyone who has popped by and wished me well over the last week or so since my hospital visit. An update on that is that I had another procedure last week and have another one coming next week after which, fingers crossed, we should know what the heck we are dealing with as everything seems a bit cloak and dagger at the minute. I am once again up at Mum’s for some recuperation and it also happens to be her birthday TODAY! Gran is here too and there have already been quite a few discussions about books… my poor step-dad and brother!

Anyway one of the things that I wanted to say a big thanks for was your recommendations for books to read whilst resting (am having a bit of a rubbish reading time at the mo) but also to those of you who have sent me some reading material especially, some of you want to remain nameless but regardless I want to share some of the lovely loot, which I photographed last week on my window seat.

The Woman’s Room by Marilyn French – really excited about this as heard its superb, hope that it lives up to the hype.

Reality and Dreams by Muriel Spark – you all know how I am quite into my Spark and this sounds like it could be a corker.

Suite Francaise
by Irene Nemirovsky – I tried this for a book group a few years ago and really didn’t love it but since reading ‘Jezebel’ I have been of a mind to give this one another try.

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle
by Catherine Webb – I had never heard of this until an email asking me for my address to receive a ‘Victorian treat’ arrived and it does indeed like this will be a wonderful escapist Victorian romp.

The Silence of the Rain
by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza – The lovely Marcia of Lizzy’s Literary Life sent me this one for my Reading for Brazil challenge which I have been a little lax on, however with my health it looks like I might not be going so I shall have to read about it instead 😦

The Great Stink by Clare Clark – another Savidge Reader thought this book and its Victorian routes might be just the thing for me, am rather excited about this one instantly.

Wait For Me!
by Deborah Devonshire – sent by the lovely Simon T of Stuck-in-a-Book as a thank you for staying at mine a while back, this is one I am desperate to read… and so am naturally holding back from reading, why do we do this to ourselves? I actually had two of these but have given the second to Gran, in fact Mum and Gran have recieved two large piles of my cast off books which they have been thrilled with!

So a HUGE thanks for all of these as they are most appreciated and will be read at some point. I do love it when surprise parcels pop through the letter box it’s been an added boost to all your kind comments and emails. So seriously thank you very much.

I should also thank the publishers as a few newly released books have appeared of late in the house which I am also looking forward to.

Book of Clouds by Chloe Aridjis – not sure where… but have heard this is brilliant.

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek – I have never heard of this or the other ‘Serpents Tail Classic’ I was sent (see below) but this does really appeal.

They Shoot Horses Don’t They
by Horace McCoy – Another classic as mentioned above that I hadn’t heard of but sounds like it might be an interesting read. I do worry sometimes that I have such a limited knowledge of certain classics.

The Unit
by Ninni Holmqvist – Sounds a bit sci-fi and I am having some cravings for science fiction which is most unlike me, so if you have any suggestions let me know.

Packing For Mars
by Mary Roach – ridiculously excited that this has arrived as I loved ‘Stiff’ so much and think that having gotten on so well with her when she talked me through cadavers she might be just the person to get my head around the science of space, especially as she asks all the questions I would want to such as ‘what happens if you need the toilet or throw up in a spacesuit?’

The Bride Time Forgot
by Paul Magrs – I was thrilled to see this arrive as I love the ‘Brenda & Effie’ series, I then realised I still haven’t read the fourth in the series ‘Hell’s Belles’ oops.

The Distant Hours
by Kate Morton – I am not sure how I feel about this book. You see I read her first book and thought it was ok but nowt special, and this looks a monster… and yet there is something about the cover that makes me think I do want to read it! Eek!

So what have you had arrive or been out and bought of late? What have you read that’s blinking brilliant that everyone should know about? Right I best get back to Mum’s birthday celebrations, we are all shortly off to see ‘RED’ at the cinema, Mums choice (!!!) and then off to a Charity Hog Roast, Bonfire Party and Firework Display later on. Hope you’ve got good weekends lined up?

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