Tag Archives: Paul Murray

Other People’s Bookshelves #61 – Nikesh Shukla

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, for a special 60th post in the series, we are off to Bristol to join author Nikesh Shukla who has just left an array of gorgeous treats for us all to nibble on as we have a nosey through his shelves. I had the pleasure of taking part in Newcastle Writer’s Conference which involved lots of bookish chatter, laughter, beer, vogue-ing, book recommendations and almost karaoke. Let’s get to know him a little better before we start riffling shall we…

Nikesh Shukla is the author of Meatspace, Coconut Unlimited (which was shortlisted for a Costa Book Award), The Time Machine (which won best novella at the Saboteur Awards 2014, and Simon reviewed here) and Generation Vexed (a non-fiction book co-authored with Kieran Yates). He wrote the multi-award winning short film Two Dosas, a Channel 4 sitcom pilot called Kabadasses and has contributed to Buzzfeed, Guardian, Independent on Sunday, BBC Radio 4 and many more. He also sent a lambchop into space, which was nice. He talks about race, rap and comics a lot on Twitter. And is a new dad. Which supercedes all of this.

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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 keep everything I plan to read at some point. I’m getting to a point where my shelves contain more unread than read books, which is very different from how it was when I was growing up. I read everything on my shelves. And I kept everything on my shelves. Even stuff I didn’t like. I didn’t have much access to books as my local library was small didn’t stock what I wanted to read. I was obsessed with reading writers that looked like me (not white) so I had to buy everything. And I read it all. And quickly learned that much as I felt this compulsion to read writers I felt a cultural affinity for, they had more than one story. And it was ok to not like them all. I think that’s the problem with the attitude to writers of colour today – people still assume we only have one story to tell. Sorry, I’ve gone off topic. To bring it back, I junk books I’m not enjoying when I know I’m not feeling them, and I eject from books I like when I feel like I’ve got it. I hold on to the ones I like in case I need to revisit. The culled ones, twice a year, I take them to my work and host a free-for-all.

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?

They started off alphabetical – A-Z fiction, A-Z non-fiction, A-Z short stories and A-Z homeys (books by my friends) but I’ve just given up at this point. My TBRs are by my bed (growing perilously tall – if it’s suddenly announced that I died when the new Paul Murray book fell from a giant height and smashed my nose into my brain, don’t suspect foul play). We also now have children’s books, picture books and board books everywhere because we’ve read to our baby at a young age. We’ve put most of her favourites in a box in front of the television. I have an orange shelf to match the orange of my study walls. The paint colour is the same Pantone as the cover for Coconut Unlimited, which I love. I have a shelf of books that is my ‘study of orange’. I love the colour orange, it’s auspicious in my family’s cultural heritage and it makes me happy. I have a t-shirt with Hindi on it, which translates as ‘In the game of life and death, we’re all oranges’.

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

Oh god, wow, this just dredged up a memory. With money I borrowed off my dad, I bought Better Than Life by Grant Naylor. It was the second of the Red Dwarf books. We were in a rainy hotel on a weekend away in Portsmouth and I had seen a friend reading it at school, and was desperate to also read it, because I was obsessed with Red Dwarf. Mum was really pissed off I bought it because it was Red Dwarf and therefore silly. Not a proper book. It taught me a lot about comedy. I stayed up all night reading it in our tiny family bedroom, biting the sheet to avoid LOLing.

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 so. I think I’ve charity shopped the ones I’d be really embarrassed about. For two weeks, in 2004, I read every Dan Brown book that was out. I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again.

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 copy of Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her is signed. It says ‘Finally we meet, young brother. Stay on course. We need you.’ A copy of a Zadie Smith book has her referencing an injoke we had about dubstep when I did a podcast with her. Two writers I respect and admire treating me like I could be an equal – it’s very inspiring. The most cherished book that doesn’t involve a namedrop is my tattered copy of a book called Bombay Talkie. It came out in like 1999 or 2000. I found it in my university bookshop. It’s the only book that Ameena Meer wrote. It is the book that set me on my course because it told a story I knew I had to counter with my own. It’s really special in my heart because reading it was my day dot of wanting to be a writer.

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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 mum read Mills and Boon books and my dad has only read an Aristotle Onassis biography. They’re not big readers. I tried to read Crime and Punishment when I was 11, because the pretentious narrator of a Paul Zindel had read it. I didn’t get 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?

Hell yeah!! Now I don’t collect records or box sets anymore because of streaming services, I collect books.

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

I just bought The Box, by Gunther Grass, because it’s my book club’s next book. It’s okay. I also used the dreaded *m*z*n to buy a book that doesn’t have a UK release date. It’s called Delicious Foods by James Hannaham. It’s incredible. I’m shocked no one in the UK is going to take a punt on it. I also preordered at my local Foyles the debut book by Katherine Woodfine. She’s one of my closest friends and that book is headed directly to the homey shelf.

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

Oh my god, yes! I sold my comic book collection in my mid-twenties so I could go travelling. I wish I hadn’t. Also I leant my brother-in-law my copy of the now-out-of-print The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead and I need it back thanks.

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

I bet he’s only read 40% of those. Which is a lie. It’s more like 47%.

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A huge thanks to Nikesh for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, here’s hoping I can get Ann Kingman to do it in the future too! 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 Nikesh’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Simon’s Bookish Bits #27

I can’t actually believe that I haven’t done a ‘Bookish Bits’ post since the start of August. However there are occasionally times when you are writing a post filled with little bookish bits this is just what you need and today is such a post. I have a few different things I want to natter with you about such as the Costa Prize, a lovely publisher loot when I had a meeting about the reading guides I am going to be writing and The Green Carnation event.

I do really like the Costa Book Awards, as I commented on Kirsty of Other Stories blog earlier in the week, I’m never sure why this is though because I don’t think I have read that many of the winners but I have read and really enjoyed many of the books which have been shortlisted, without knowing they have been shortlisted. I don’t read children’s books, on the whole, and I don’t really go for poetry (though I wish I did) and can be funny with non-fiction so in some ways you would think that the prize would maybe not be so much for me but I love the fact it doesn’t seem so snobbish and the lists are always eclectic as you can see from The First Novel and Novel Award short lists…

Costa First Novel Award

  • Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai
  • Coconut Unlimited by Nikesh Shukla
  • The Temple-Goers by Aatish Taseer
  • Not Quite White by Simon Thirsk

Costa Novel Award

  • Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty
  • The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale
  • The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

I have already read two of the novels of the years and loved Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘The Hand That First Held Mine’ and would recommend everyone on the face of this planet gives it a read. I am slightly surprised that Nigel Farndale’s ‘The Blasphemer’ is on the list as I didn’t love this book, not that I think I am any authority on what should be short listed on this prize. I am wondering f I should return to it as it’s been nestling on my ‘possibly give to charity or my family’ pile. Hmmm! I have been sent some of the other books listed and I think I might pick some of them up in the not too distant future.

I was kindly sent ‘Witness of the Night’ by Kishwar Desai from Beautiful Books which I had heard nothing about but sounds great, ‘Coconut Unlimited’ by Nikesh Shukla which I have heard lots and lots of good things about from Quartet Books, ‘Skippy Dies’ has been languishing on my TBR for ages (oops), I managed to grab Aatish Taseer’s ‘The Temple-Goers’ in the library when I took some books back finally, and I managed to sneak a copy of Louise Doughty’s ‘Whatever You Love’ from Faber & Faber’s HQ when I went in this week, which nicely leads me to the next part of my post…

I mentioned a while ago that I am going to be writing some Reading Guides for a publisher. I can now tell you that the publisher is Faber & Faber and thanks to the comments we are coming up with something very new and different with how these reading guides are going to work. I have lots of brainstorming to do, lots. I stupidly forgot to take a picture of Faber HQ but I did spot this amazing house filled with books which I wanted to move into on the spot.

I did manage to leave with some lovely loot from Faber though in a rather delightful bag. Top priority was ‘Gillespie & I’ by Jane Harris (I adored ‘The Observations’ and am begging Faber to let me write the reading guide for that one next) which isn’t out until May so am soooo chuffed managed to get my mitts on it. I also got all the Ishiguro novels I don’t own which was great (and some double copies which I have passed on) as I want to get to know Ishiguro better as the first book I am going to be writing the reading guide for is ‘Never Let Me Go’ my review of which got me the job unbeknown to me at the time.

Straight after Faber I ran to The Green Carnation Event which was a huge success, so much so I got stuck at the back with the other judges as it was so busy we could barely move and lots of people couldn’t even get in…

It was a great night for those of us who did get in with the readings from the authors and then lots of drinking afterwards in the local pub which I will report back on in due course, I am awaiting some pictures from one of my lovely friends.

So what bookish goings on have you been up to lately? Any great recent reads or new book arrivals? What are your thoughts on how reading guides could be made more modern (for my brainstorming)? Any thoughts on the Costa Book Award Shortlists, have you read any of them at all, any recommendations?

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The Man Booker Longlist 2010

So it’s been announced and I will probably just be repeating what is already old news but here are the thirteen books the judges have picked (if you are already bored of the Man Booker or just not interested have a gander at the Mum Booker Longlist I popped up earlier here)…

  • Parrot and Oliver in America by Peter Carey (Faber and Faber)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (Picador)
  • The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (Fig Tree)
  • In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (Atlantic Books)
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Bloomsbury)
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy (Headline Review)
  • C by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Thousand Autumns of Zacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (Sceptre)
  • February by Lisa Moore (Chatto & Windus)
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Trespass by Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Atlantic)
  • The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner (Jonathan Cape)

How many did I get right, well you can compare today’s list with my list here and see!!!

I have marked the one, yes one, that I have read in bold and the ones that I own in italics (some of which have been saved from the ‘for the charity shop’ pile as we speak – I won’t say which ones). The latter part of that statement suggests I might be thinking of reading the whole longlist. Am I? I don’t think I will be; in part because I don’t have all the books (which isn’t me being bitter) but in the main because I did it last year in a full on way and it became a chore. There are some titles on there that I would like to give a whirl though but if I don’t own it (though I know one of the titles I don’t own yet is on the way) its very unlikely to be read. I have a feeling ‘Skippy Dies’ and ‘The Slap’ might get devoured fairly soon though!! Athe moment though, as its the only one I have read, I have everything crossed for Levy hahaha! I did really like that book though.

It is an interesting list, and one that I don’t think anyone could have predicted the whole of – which is a good thing, I think. I was slightly surprised that Ian McEwan didn’t make it and feel slightly smug I predicted Amis wouldn’t be on there.Why do I have a small vendetta against that man after quite liking the last book I read by him? I am rather chuffed for Andrea Levy and sad to see Maggie O’Farrell wasn’t on there but most of all annoyed Neel Mukherjee didn’t make the cut as that’s one of my favourites of the year and one that feels truly worthy of winning. I kind of think its a forgone conclusion that Mitchell will win which is a bit boring, but I could be wrong.

So what do you make of the list? Any surprises or shocks for you? Any you are really annoyed were missed out or even included?

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(Sort of) Birthday Books

Hopefully there will be a post above this now which talks more about how the books come into Savidge Reads and my ethics behind it all. In fact some of you might have come from there, but enough of that rant and onto something joyful. Books, books, books! Yes its one of those posts with pictures of the books to have arrived of late at Savidge Reads.

The first ones that I will share, though one isn’t a book really, are presents from some friends I saw at the weekend. My lovely friend Dom got me ‘The Truth About These Strange Times’ by Adam Foulds “worried buying you a book would be a nightmare Simon, but I saw the line ‘he felt almost savagely awake’ and instantly thought of you’. I know nothing about this book so am quite excited. My friend Michelle got me a host of goodies including the ‘Postcards from Penguin’ I have had my beady eyes on for some time.

Next up and some parcels from publishers which were in some cases birthday parcels and in other cases just random lovely parcels. I have separated them and below you can see ten of the long listed Orange books.

I won’t list them all because I am well aware some people are already a bit Orange’d out already (I had a phase of that yesterday but am back to loving it all again) but it now looks like I will have no excuse not to read the short list or frankly the long list. No pressure though I might just see how I get on with one of them now and again.

More of a mish mash of titles now for you which I would love your thoughts on, well I would love your thoughts on all of the books in today’s post but you know what I mean.

Miss Savidge Moves Her House – Christine Adams (how can I not love this when it’s someone with my name, very excited about this non fiction book)
Wigs on the Green – Nancy Mitford (need I say more?)
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – Daniyal Mueenuddin (have heard wondrous things about this one)
Italian Shoes – Henning Mankell (an author I pretty much want to read the entire works of after only one Wallander, this isn’t a Wallander book)
Ascension – Steven Galloway (I thought The Cellist of Sarajevo was utterly brilliant)
The Book of Negro’s – Lawrence Hill (wanted this for ages though might have to give reading fiction about slavery a rest after The Long Song by Andrea Levy)
Jasper Jones – Craig Silvey (I think everyone is going to be reading this book this year)
Skippy Dies – Paul Murray (a modern epic is what I have been told, might be perfect for a chunky read over the Easter break)
The Lessons – Naomi Alderman (know nothing about this one but I do love the cover so that’s a good start)

There you have it. Have you read any of them, or indeed anything else by the authors? What are your thoughts on posts on incoming books? I love them on other people’s blogs but would love your thoughts; I might be in a minority.

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