Tag Archives: Paulo Coelho

Other People’s Bookshelves #63 – Jackie Law

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 Wiltshire, a county I lived in for about 7 or 8 years of my childhood, to join the lovely Jackie Law who keeps the blog Never Imitate, which I highly recommend you give a read. Before we have a nose around her shelves lets all get some lovely afternoon tea that Jackie has laid on for us and find out more about her…

I always struggle to know how to answer when someone asks me about myself. I am a wife of twenty-three years, a mother to three teenagers, a back garden hen keeper and a writer. These are the roles I consider important, but I earn my money as a director of a small IT consultancy. I do all my work from home. I was born and grew up in Belfast during The Troubles, leaving when I graduated from university with a degree in computer science. I moved to rural Wiltshire and have been here ever since. I adore the county with its beautiful, rolling countryside and easy access to cities such as Bath, Bristol and even London, although it is rare for me to travel further than my legs can carry me. I write on my blog about books and life but most of my posts are now reviews. Occasionally I will create short fiction pieces, the quality of which has helped me appreciate the talent of authors. I spend a lot of my time reading and very little on housework. Both my home and myself epitomise shabby chic.

Bookshelves

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?

Unless I really dislike a book I want to have a copy on my shelves. I will sometimes buy a second copy of a book that has been borrowed and not returned despite knowing that I am unlikely to read it again. I tell myself this is because I wish to offer my children the opportunity to enjoy these fabulous stories, but in all honesty I am doing it for me. I wish to be surrounded by books. Like photographs, they bring back memories. I remember why I chose that book or who gave it to me, and the way I felt when I read it. My reaction to a book is a reflection of the experiences I was having at the time.

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?

My fiction books are ordered alphabetically by author. I have separate shelves for non fiction books which I arrange by subject matter. I have a few shelves for young children’s book although I culled this collection a number of years ago, something that I now regret. I loved reading to my children and wish I had held on to more of the books we shared. I rarely give books away unless I have multiple copies. My TBR pile (the books I buy) is crammed onto two shelves, double packed. I probably have about a year’s worth of reading there. The books I have committed to review are on top of my piano in piles ordered by publication date. My family tell me off if those piles get too high.

Some of the TBR mountain

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

I can’t remember which book I first bought. My father, who is also an avid reader, was always happy to buy me books and I read just about every title available in our local library. I do still have a number of my childhood books: ‘Teddy Robinson’, ‘The Adventures of Gallldora’; but many of my old books fell apart when I gave them to my children. I bought new copies of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories as I couldn’t bear not to have copies of those. I regret giving away my original ‘Famous Five’ collection we did a clear out of my children’s books.

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 have an eclectic book collection but keep them all on my shelves. Having said that, I’m not sure that I choose to read books that would be thought of as embarrassing. I dislike formulaic ‘best sellers’ including romances. I have been known to stop reading a book when the writing veered into descriptions of anything even slightly racy as it makes me inwardly cringe. I cannot comprehend the whole ‘Grey’ phenomena, but hold to the view that reading books is good and everyone should be free to enjoy whatever they choose without criticism.

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 have a small, slim book of Kipling’s verse published in 1931 which belonged to my father. I value it for the association, the memory of the man who gifted me my love of books. If there were a fire though I would save the teddy bears who also sit on my shelves. Books can be replaced, their value to me is the story more than the physical object. As someone who eschews ebooks and who relishes being surrounded by physical books this view may seem contrary but I have few possessions that I value for more than the service they provide. I do not need to own the original book to be reminded of the way I felt when I first read it which is why I replace books that disappear.

Kipling verse

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?

The first book that I wanted to read from my father’s shelves was ‘The Lord of the Rings’. I read it when I was fourteen and went on to read every book that Tolkien wrote. When I left home I took my father’s copy with me and each of my children read it. My younger son reread it so many times that it fell apart. I now have a replacement copy.My mother rarely read books but talked of enjoying ‘David Copperfield’ when she was younger. I picked it up with great expectations (I read that one as well) but was disappointed. I have never been able to understand the appeal of Dickens but still hold on to the books. I used to look at my father’s Penguin Classics collection and wonder if I would ever manage to read such weighty tomes. Again, when I left home I took them with me. I have read most of these over the years but still have some Homer, Ovid and Plato on my TBR pile. I am grateful for my father’s tolerance in allowing me to take his books. Years later he admitted that he bought replacement copies after I left.

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?

These days I mostly buy a book if I wish to read it whereas in the past I would have borrowed many from libraries. Occasionally I will remember a book and go to my shelves to reread a particular passage. I feel irritated if I cannot find it there. I like to own all of the books that I have enjoyed.

Teddy and Penguin Classics

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

I read several books a week so my collection is constantly growing. As I write this, the last book that I shelved as read was a children’s novel, ‘Deep Water’ by Lu Hersey. The last book added to the pile on my piano was ‘Pretty Is’ by Maggie Mitchell which I am very much looking forward to reading. My most recent purchase for myself was ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Stanley Kubrick.

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

This is a long list! ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig; ‘The Good Son’ by Paul McVeigh; ‘Bitter Sixteen’ by Stefan Mohamed; ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce; ‘The Gospel of Loki’ by Joanne Harris; ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho; ‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Ellis; ‘Malcolm Orange Disappears’ by Jan Carson.  There are more but I should probably stop…

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

I hope that they would be unable to pigeon hole me. I would like them to be inspired to talk to me about my collection, perhaps even ask for recommendations. Other than reading, there is little that I enjoy more than discussing books.

Books to review

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A huge thanks to Jackie for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, you can find her on Twitter here. 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 Jackie’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

A while back when I mentioned I wanted to read some Brazilian based books or books by a Brazilian author ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho was mentioned quite a few times. He is after all one of the biggest selling Brazilian authors worldwide after all. Lots of you mentioned it and yet all of the insights you gave to me about it were really rather mixed. As the reviews were so varied and because of the authors nationality I rescued it from a pile of books that were heading for the charity shop (my copy was bought five years ago and once I have a book that long and haven’t read it I am never sure I should keep it) and decided to give it a whirl myself and see what all the fuss was about, as its also rather a cult book too.

The best way for me to arrange my thoughts on ‘The Alchemist’ is to split my thoughts into two main sections the first would be the story, though really ‘The Alchemist’ fits more into the fable category. Santiago is a shepherd in the Spanish countryside, though educated highly rather than go onto another career he chose to herd sheep as it would cause him to travel and see some of the world and the people, places and quirks of Spain and human nature. As we meet him he has been having a reoccurring dream, a dream of a boy showing him treasure in the pyramids of Egypt though what can it mean? In a village he comes across both a gypsy lady and a king in disguise give him information that sends Santiago on an adventure to find out if dreams should be followed.

I did actually really like the story, I am always up for a fable and this is – in terms of story – rather a charming one. I also liked the characters, a few were a little one dimensional and some were a little contrived, I particularly loved the wise old gypsy woman and Santiago was a nice young man to follow the journey of. Can you feel there is a ‘but’ coming on?

The second aspect of the book is the fact it’s not just a story but almost a mixture of self-help book and moralistic clichés messages. You find characters will say things like ‘there is no such thing as coincidence’, ‘destiny is in your hands’ or ‘a happy man is a one who follows his heart’. I think I made the last one up but you get my meaning. At first you can ignore it, it’s rather mild and indeed the best fables and fairytales have some sort of moral message at the end.

The difference with this book is that I started to think ‘but why would that character say that?’ It became almost unnatural that these different random strangers would speak of destiny and omens in a few seconds of meeting each other. It felt forced from them and almost forced upon me as the reader. I then felt that little rebellious streak in me think ‘who is Paulo Coelho to tell me how to live my life’. I also didn’t like the underlying message, and maybe this wasn’t the intention, that if you were just a shepherd or a baker then your life was unfulfilled and you should want more. I can think of several of my friends who would do anything to have a successful bakery or cake shop.  So in a way all of this jarred with me as to start to affect the story. I lost interest a little and maybe if the book hadn’t been so short I might have given up on it.

Should it be simply the story/fable of this book that I was scoring it on it would have done much better, however the moralistic force feeding and slightly patronising undertones of the book became too much. 4/10 (I know I don’t normally give books somewhat negative reviews but I very much doubt little old Savidge Reads is going to have any effect on Paulo’s sales, ha.)

So have any of you read ‘The Alchemist’ and what did you make of it? If you are a fan I hope I haven’t offended and backed up my case as it were? I would actually like to give the author a second whirl, I try and do this with any author I haven’t quite got first time round,  yet in the back of the book all his other works seem to be about him and some amazing trips of learning and destiny he goes on. Has he not written any other books with a story sort of like this one?

I read this as part of my Reading For Brazil effort, I am slightly loathed to call it a challenge as its really me reading a Brazilian book or author every now and again as the whim takes me before I go.

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Filed under Harper Collins, Paulo Coelho, Review

Savidge Reads for Brazil

You may have been wondering why I have been getting rather focused on Brazilian literature in some posts of late even leading me off to Daunt Books to do some research (yes winners of those bags and some surprise books are at the bottom of today’s post). Well as I am off there for a while in November I decided to set up a little sort of ‘reading expedition/challenge’ in the lead up to that date that I hope you will all join in with in some form or other into the foreign lands of Brazil (unless you already live there of course).

It was a conversation about Brazil that originally sparked all this off in my head when one of The Converted One’s best friends said to me ‘you know you should immerse yourself in the Brazilian culture and history before you go, and you are a bit of a book geek to why not read yourself silly about it’ and so I thought ‘well why not?’ It was then another conversation where The Converted One said ‘when you get back from Brazil you will be buying and reading books for England’. And I thought ‘well why not twist that phrase and before I go read for Brazil!’ So now I am planning on doing just that. (Thanks to Kim of Reading Matters who has done my lovely logo’s!)

I am aware that I did say back at the beginning of the year that I would avoid all reading challenges; however that hasn’t stopped me from doing the NTTVBG and Persephone Reading Week etc, etc. So I am breaking my own rules again and have been off through the TBR looking for books that fit the criteria and I am most surprised by how many I already had at home…

The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts – Louis De Bernieres
The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman – Louis De Bernieres
Senor Vivo and the Coca Lord – Louis De Bernieres
The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes – Daniel Everett
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado
The Lost City of Z – David Grann
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
The Seamstress – Frances De Pontes Peebles
Viva South America – Oliver Balch
Equator – Miguel Sousa Tavares
Orphans of Eldorado – Milton Hatoum
Ashes of the Amazon – Milton Hatoum
Barbequed Husbands – Betty Mindlin & Indigenous Storytellers

I am already thinking that ‘The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts’ by Louis de Bernieres, ‘A Handful of Dust’ by Evelyn Waugh and ‘The Seamstress’ by Frances de Pontes Peebles (which sounds like a Brazilian Sensation novel set in the 1920’s and 30’s and really rather brilliant) would make two great choices for a read-a-thon if anyone is up for it?

  

I have also been researching what books I don’t have, which of course is most vexing because a) I am on a book buying ban and b) most of the books I would love to read aren’t available in the UK – so if any of my US readers spot anything by Clarice Lispector or a wonderful sounding crime series by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza which starts with ‘The Silence of Rain’ then do let me know as I am most open to Brazilian Relief Parcels hee, hee. There are lots of authors though who I have heard of and don’t own whose titles I will be hunting down in the library such as John Updike, Sylvia Townsend Warner, John Grisham etc. I have in fact added an all new page ‘Reading for Brazil’ which has more details of these authors and more plus more information on the lack of rules around this ‘challenge’. So do have a gander.

So will you be joining in with some of the titles? I would soooooooo love it if you did (and so would The Converted One) if you are let me know, if enough of you like the sound of certain titles maybe we could do some reading along together before November which might be nice? Oh and feel free to let other people know about it too! Hopefully you will all catch the Brazil bug (if only in terms of fiction)!

Oh and the winners of the two Daunt Bags with some surprise books thrown in are… Suejustbooks and Jodie (in true Brazil colours), well done Jodie thats two wins in a few weeks!

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