Tag Archives: Michael Chabon

Other People’s Bookshelves #30 (Part One) – Rob Chilver

Hello and welcome, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves which sees the series of posts turning 30! So to mark this special occasion we are heading to the delights of Essex for a big old party (grab your streamers, some cupcakes, a glass of fizzy and a paper hat) as we are hosted by one of my favourite bookish couples in the whole wide world. Today we join Rob and Kate from Adventures with Words, who I have the pleasure of joining along with Gavin every month to make Hear… Read This. Less about me, and more about them as I hand over firstly to Rob (breaking the tradition of ladies first) to introduce himself and his shelves (as Rob and Kate haven’t merged shelves yet, I am not judging their relationship on this basis though… much!) and all other bookish shenanigans…

I’m Rob and you may know me as @robchilver on Twitter. I’ve always been an avid reader, something which my parents and grandmother encouraged from an early age. This love of books led me to studying for an MA in English Literature, developing a fondness for Salman Rushdie and Michael Chabon over the years. The day after I finished my Masters I applied to be a bookseller and buyer for Waterstones, a position I still hold today. I talk about books all day as part of my day job but I continue this outside of work, reviewing books on AdventuresWithWords.com and co-hosting a weekly podcast with other half Kate Neilan. Added to this Hear… Read This!, a monthly podcast with Gav from No Cloaks Allowed and a certain Mr Savidge and a forthcoming event at Essex Book Festival. With all this going on, it’s actually been quite hard finding the time to read lately while the books keep on building up…

Robs Shelves 2

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 that I was either organised enough or had enough willpower to implement a one in, one out system but sadly I’m a hoarder! It’s the collector mentality in me that means that I keep all the books I read and very rarely get rid of any. I suppose if I’ve loved a book enough to finish it, who knows when I may wish to return to it or even lend it out to someone? At the moment we have a whole bookcase dedicated to our ‘to-be-read’ pile that we need to review for the blog along with research for our forthcoming event. This is conveniently placed in our living room, ensuring it’s a constant reminder that it is there! With my comic books, they are currently in a pile on the floor of our guestroom, awaiting to be boarded and boxed in chronological order. So while it may look like an unorganised mess, there is a method to it all somewhere!

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?

Despite living together, Kate and I still keep separate bookshelves that are now both overflowing with books. As you can see from the photos, it is getting to the stage where things are getting out of hand and I can’t actually get to one of my bookcases as Kate has boxes of books in the way! When I can get to them, I do try to keep my hardbacks together at the bottom of the shelves and gather books by the same authors together but other than that, it’s a bit of a disaster! Some weeks around 5-10 books can arrive so very quickly things have got out of hand. I think some of the shelves are actually bending under the weight of some of the books.

Robs Shelves 1

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

I’ve a very vivid memory of my first book purchase. It was going downstairs at Red Lion Books in Colchester, a great independent bookshop still going strong, to their science-fiction section and buying a hardback of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (when there was still four stories in the trilogy.) Coming from a family who always wrote dedications to one another when gifting books, I thought I was being ‘funny’ when I wrote a dedication to myself.  I still cringe when people see it 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?

I’m not one that believes in guilty pleasures as at the end of the day, if someone is reading at all, we shouldn’t really be one to judge. Saying that, I do have a soft spot for some John Grisham, who has a habit of writing the same sort of books over and over and yet I still end up devouring one over a holiday.

Robs Shelves 3

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?

As well as collecting books I do try where I can to get copies signed. On recent trips to Latitude Festival half of my rucksack has been filled with copies of books waiting to be signed. If the flames were threatening them, then my signed Michael Chabon, Sebastian Faulks and Carlos Ruiz Zafon books would be following me. Then I might go back for a few of Kate’s…. 😉

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?

Despite being brought up on a diet of Bond films, my Mum steadfastly refused to allow me to read the original Ian Fleming novels. Ignoring the copious violence, it was the prospect of the sex scenes that upset her and was the cause of her blanket ban. Imagine my surprise/disappointment when I had snuck them off the shelves, Fleming effectively does the ‘fade to black’ when Bond and the Bond girl get intimate. Of course I couldn’t correct my mother’s opinion without revealing that I’d read them! That aside, I now have my Dad’s yellowed and battered Pan paperbacks on my shelves and have collected different ones with numerous covers.

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?

Oh I’d have to have it! If it’s a book I love I want to keep it and I’m even worse if it’s a hardback. Looking over the shelves I’ve collected books in proofs, hardback and also in paperback if it is one that I’ve enjoyed. If I were to lend a book out though, it would have to be the paperback! I am in the lucky position to be given books to consider buying through work or copies to review which is fantastic but I will buy around the same quantity myself using my work’s discount.

Robs Shelves 4

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

Ignoring titles given to me for work or for review, I had a bumper crop of books given to me for Christmas. Two of the highlights were S, by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst, which is a love letter to the book itself, and a gloriously large hardback of The Making of the Return of the Jedi which indulges my love of Star Wars, filmmaking and gloriously large hardbacks.

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

As I’ve said before, I’m a collector so I do look at the shelves and have a desire to fill in the gaps in series or in an author’s back catalogue. I can get a bit particular about collecting the same editions of books, something I’m frequently asked to do at work, so I at the moment I’m on the lookout for certain editions of Asterix that I want to complete the copies I had growing up.

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

If they saw past the haphazard shelving, I hope they’d see a mixture of books that cross a number of genres. I’d hope that they’d see that I’m found of literary novels that remind me of my studies but also enjoy a good gripping page turner.

Robs Shelves 5

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A huge thanks to Rob for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, though he really had no choice! Keep your eyes peeled for Kate’s shelves later today! 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 savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Rob’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Manchester Literature Festival 2012

I really do love a literary festival. I can’t say I have been to hundreds, in fact it’s more like five or six, but when I saw loads of people I know going off to Edinburgh over the last few weeks I have been, frankly, green with envy. There is something so special about the vibe of these events, the coming together of reader and author and the general love of books that makes me go giddy at the thought. Last year I had the pleasure of going to Manchester Literature Festival, which is the nearest to me (Liverpool doesn’t have one, why?), and seeing many of the events and meeting the authors and event hosts afterwards for The Readers Podcast. This year, in October, I am planning to do the same again, and a little more as you will see, and what an incredible line up there is this year.

I already have sorted tickets for the opening event next week, a trailblazer, which is with none other than Zadie Smith who I am really keep to see talk, especially after having dipped into ‘NW’ already, which I am planning on reading properly this weekend between Green Carnation submissions. This is an event to kick start it all officially and I will be reporting back on for you all.

After the festival starts ‘a proper’ in October I have a mammoth wish list of events to see with authors including; Michael Chabon, Carol Ann Duffy, Penelope Lively, Salley Vickers, Clare Balding, Pat Barker, Jackie Kay, Mark Haddon, Jeanette Winterson, AM Holmes, Jonathan Harvey and ‘Unbound Live’. Phew! You can see these events and many more on the festivals calendar page. I think I am going to miss some sadly as I will be in Iceland, maybe someone reading this might report back for me?

To top it all off though there are two other events on the calendar that I am particularly excited about and that is because… I am hosting them! The first will be on Monday the 8th of October at 18.30 when I will be hosting an event with Patrick Gale and Catherine Hall, who happens to be a fellow Green Carnation judge and also wrote ‘The Proof of Love’ which won the prize last year and was a book I adored. I am going to be re-reading a few Patrick Gale novels over the next couple of weeks including his latest ‘A Perfect Man’ and ‘Rough Music’ which I read, shock and horror, over a decade ago.

The second event I am just as excited about and is at lunchtime on the following day. In the oh so apt Manchester Town Hall, which was used in Sherlock Holmes as the House of Parliament, I will be hosting a Victoriana event with the lovely Jane Harris and Essie Fox, both of whose work I have thoroughly enjoyed as I am sure you are aware. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Jane and Essie before so I know this is going to be a hoot.

Well that is me all excited then isn’t it? I do hope, as I am giving some advance warning, I will see some of you at these events I am hosting or at any of the others I am desperate to see (you’d better say hello). In the meantime though I wondered what your thoughts on literary festivals were. Which have you been to? What was good and bad about them? What makes the perfect bookish event? What makes the perfect host? Oh and would any of you also consider smaller more intimate ‘Reading Retreat’ weekends? Cannot think why I am asking the latter…

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Impulse Books…When They Should Work But Don’t (Is It Me?)

After dropping off and distributing my ‘World Book Night’ books I found myself in that awful position of not having anything to read and a long journey ahead of me. You see my family had dropped me off and my friend needed to get back into town and so I found myself with a 30 minute bus journey and not a word to read. Naturally I headed for the nearest second hand shop (which happened to be an Oxfam Bookshop) and scoured the shelves… nothing took my fancy, and believe me there were loads to choose from.

Four more second hand shops down and still nothing. The idea of travelling and simply watching the world from the window didn’t appeal but I thought I was going to have to grin and bear it. Then I spotted a sneaky Cancer Research (my second hand shop of choice anyway at the moment for obvious reasons) shop and dived in, I didn’t care what it was but I had to leave with a book. After toying between ‘Trust Me, I’m A Junior Doctor’ by Max Pemberton and ‘The Yiddish Policemen’s Union’ by Michael Chabon for quite some time I went with the latter. After all Chabon is one of the many ‘authors I need to get a wriggle on and read’ and would reading about hospitals in rather a too honest way be a good idea at the moment?

I got to the bus stop, where I had a twenty minute wait ahead, and started reading. I got on the bus and carried on reading. I got home and stopped. Well, I say stopped… I actually tried to pick the book up several times but for some reason it simply wasn’t holding me anymore. The writing was great, the plot interesting (if a little confusing) and even all the chess stuff wasn’t bothering me. Yet I was no longer held, fifty pages in and I was floundering… but why so suddenly?

It could possibly be in part due to the pile of advance books that have suddenly arrived, which I will be discussing later in the week, or it could be the fact that I had been so desperate for a read that anything would do. Yet is was well written, it was interesting at first and I did, sort of as the plot hadn’t full got rolling, want to know what was going on. Is it one of life’s great mysteries or do I just have to resign myself to the fact maybe this wasn’t a book for me or a book for me right now? Is it because I bought it on impulse?

Any thoughts? Has this ever happened to you? Do you get as cross with yourself as I have over the whole thing? I feel a bit of a failure reader to be honest, and so far having picked up anything since… help!

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Latest Reading Arrivals…

I thought as I have gone a fair few book reviews in the last two days that I would put up some pictures of the latest arrivals here in Tooting Towers. I have had some lovely parcels (some people call them promotional items – I call them presents) from some of the publishers which I always greet with great excitement. You can see these below…

The First Person & Other Stories – Ali Smith (Penguin)

I had the pleasure of reading Girl Meets Boy earlier in the year and so far its still one of my favourite reads in ages, I also loved The Incidental when I read that a few years ago. A collection of short stories that are “always intellectually playful, funny and moving’ should be a joy to read.

Mr Toppit – Charles Elton (Penguin)
The cover (or covers… more when I review) of this makes it look like a gothic mystery novel and I adore those. I have high hopes for a debut which seems to have a massive marketing campaign going and took fifteen years to write. The line “and out of the Darkwood Mr Toppit comes, and he comes not for you, or for me, but for all of us” sounds deliciously dark. I have to admit I have started this it just looked to good to savour.

Netherland – Joseph O’Neill (Harper Perenial)
Another one of the Richard and Judy Books of 2009 for which I am doing the challenge. This one is the one that in all honesty (and I will always be honest) has the least appeal to me initially as it seems to be about cricket which I am not a fan of. However its also a book about ‘belonging and not belonging’ which sounds unusual plus it was longlisted for the Man Booker and didnt win which is a good sign. I am more of a fan of the longlisted or shortlisted than the winner.

The Devils Paintbrush – Jake Arnott (Sceptre)
I meant to re-read his novel The Long Firm earlier but didnt manage to get round to it (don’t worry though I will) which is part of his trolgy about gangsters. This scandalous tale is set in Paris in 1903 and is Arnotts first foray into ‘historial fiction’.

The Dog – Kerstin Ekman (Sphere)
Dovegreyreader reviewed this recently and I would never have heard of it if not for her… and the people at NewBooks Magazine who have asked me to review it. It sounds a bit sad though, a puppy getting lost in the wild and having to fight for its survival. However this may actually make the dog loving Non Reader pick up a book after I have finished one for once.

The Prophet Murders – Mehmet Murat Somer (Serpents Tail)
A crime which has the wonderful subtitle of ‘a Hop Ciki Yaya Thriller’ – I am already sold.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon (Harper Perennial)
I cannot count the times that people have told me ‘you will love that book’ its huge so I will be saving it for some very long train journeys I have lined up in a few weeks. The fact its a “heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic” does sound like quirky brilliance so I may very well love it.

King Kong Theory – Virginie Despentes (Serpents Tail)
This book has caused quite a lot of controversy of late (well in the broadsheets at the weekend anyway) and has made me want to read it and from the chapter titles (oh its short autobiographical stories) which I shant print just yet I can see why. Its also very short and short reads are the way forward after Mr Toppit I think.

I also went second hand shopping yesterday and found…

The Danish Girl – David Ebershoff (Phoenix)
After the thought provoking The 19th Wife it seemed like fate when I saw this for 50p. The story is again based on real people this time the “story of Danish painter Einar Dresden, this is a strange and eerily haunting novel about a very unusual love affair between a man who realizes he is really a woman and his remarkable wife” sounds unusual and is currently being made into a film with Nicole Kidman and Charlie Theron in it!

The Leopard – Giuseppe di Lampedusa (Vintage)
I have seen this book listed in so many ‘books you must read’ lists and the like that again for 50p how could I say no? I had no idea what it was about but apparently its a materpiece “is set amongst an aristocratic family, facing social and political changes in the wake of Garibaldi’s invasion of Sicily in 1860” time will tell I sometimes have issues with masterpieces. Love the old Fontana edition I got will feel cultured andretro reading it on the tube.

The Secret River – Kate Grenville (Canongate)
I had been out shopping second hand especially for this. It’s for this reason that charity books are brilliant, money to a good cause and also when your unsure of an author its a good way of trying them before you become addicted and buy everything they do th moment it comes out… or never read them again. I heard Grenville on the Guardian Book Group podcast and despite the fact it pretty much gave everything away (I shant dear readers) I thought I should try it. It is another Man Booker nominee that didnt win so the signs are good I will like it.

As for what I am specifically reading this week after Mr Toppit… mainly short reads including The Dog as mentioned. After a few heavier novels I want some faster fiction plus I had a readers block for a while and short reads are the best medicine for that. I might recah for another Capote maybe. I have also promised Novel Insights (who is on a world tour so wont be blogging till the summer now – selfish) I will read The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood for our mammoth Rogue Book Group and shes stared already!

Any short read recommendations out there? What are you all reading?

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Filed under Ali Smith, Book Spree, Charles Elton, David Ebershoff, Jake Arnott, Joseph O'Neill, Kate Grenville, Kerstin Ekman, Virginie Despentes