Tag Archives: Philip Roth

Other People’s Bookshelves #50 – William Rycroft

Hello and welcome to the latest Other Peoples Bookshelves, which has now hit its fiftieth post in the series. I think this calls for a celebration, party poppers and lots of cake and so we are heading over to the lovely William Rycroft who has kindly said we can have a party round at his whilst we have a nosey through his bookshelves. I have known William through the blogosphere for quite some years both from his written blog thats now a vlog and sparkly new YouTube channel (hes so modern) yet next month we will finally meet in the flesh in London town, very exciting. Anyway, before we have a good old nosey round Williams shelves, and get celebratory cake crumbs in his carpet, here is a little bit more about him

Whilst working as an actor William Rycroft started writing about books online in 2007 with his book blog, Just William’s Luck. The blog came a vlog on YouTube in 2013 and his passion for books led to him recently becoming the new Community Manager for Vintage Books. Whilst that means he won’t be treading the boards he can still be heard reading at events, narrating audio books and talking all things Vintage on their various online channels.

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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 used to keep every book I bought and was in fact very proud to see those shelves filling up as I grew older. Then there came a point when space became an issue – or as some people like to call it: marriage. Becoming a blogger obviously upped the ante, with books arriving through the letter box frequently to add to those I couldn’t resist buying. As you’ll see from the photos we are overflowing. So I have to be tougher now. Books I buy tend to stay, books I receive from publishers will only stay once read if I feel like I have to keep them on the shelf. I’m not a great re-reader so it isn’t that; it’s more of a statement along the lines of this is who I am.

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 or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

There’s a rather ad-hoc system in place. Special books like first editions, signed copies and collectibles tend to reside in my bedroom away from kiddy fingers. I used to have my books alphabetised and vaguely themed, and once I organised them by colour, but when we moved here things got all messed up and have never really recovered. I now have some books gathered together by publisher because I like seeing collections together on the shelf. As for culling, I had to force myself to do it a few years ago, something I would previously have considered unthinkable. But once I’d done it once I suddenly found it much easier to do it again. I don’t feel a need to keep all the books to retain their worth anymore. I’m not much of a re-reader as I said so why am I keeping them? The answer it seemed was that as I grow older I feel like I’m building up a library. There are simply some books I cannot let go, some that deserve their place and some that are trying to earn it. It’s nice watching it evolve.

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

Oooh, I have a terrible memory so I don’t honestly know what the first book was but I’m sure I don’t have it. Funnily enough I wasn’t a huge reader as a kid. I remember loving those books where you had to make choices for the main character along the way and flick to different pages accordingly, a literary precursor to interactive video games. I do remember being gifted books by my dad however for significant achievements, one of which was an illustrated Wind in The Willows in a slipcase. I still have that and it’s on my kids’ bookcase now.

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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?

How very dare you! It’s all classy round here. Seriously though, I can’t really think of any guilty pleasures. The closest might be the trilogy of werewolf novels that Glen Duncan wrote recently but he’s a fab writer of literary fiction so there’s no guilt there at all.

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?

Very tough one to answer this. I might have to grab a few. I have an early edition of Mcsweeney’s (No.4) which is a box containing separate booklets. My wife gave it to me on our first anniversary so it’s very special. I have a few signed first editions on the same shelf so I might have to grab those too.

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What is the first grown up, and I dont mean in a Fifty Shades of Grey way, that you remember on your parents 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 hearing a discussion of a book called Deception by Philip Roth on the radio and then seeing it on my Dad’s bookshelf. I knew it was all about an affair and so hopefully filled with sex so I nabbed that to read. I went on to become a huge fan of Roth and I still have that very copy on my shelf at home. I also remember looking at those big Russian novels like War and Peace and Anna Karenina and had great fun on a binge of epic fiction many years ago, all of which still have their place on the shelf.

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 don’t tend to borrow books from friends, I prefer to have my own copies of things and like many book lovers, it’s the buying of the thing that first thrills.

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

It was a graphic novel called Here by Richard McGuire which was recommended by Chris Ware who is a genius and who said that this book was a work of genius. It is.

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Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you dont currently?

I like first editions, especially signed ones, so yes, there are loads of books I’d love to have on my shelves but they’re just so damn expensive. I hope to be able to add to my collection surreptitiously over the years.

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

What I’d like them to think: “That man has impeccable taste.”

What they really think: “What a ponce.”

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Huge thanks to William for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves and being my 50th guest! 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 William’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #28 – Simon Wilder

Hello and welcome, after a small hiatus while I was in London too hung-over to blog thanks to Kerry Hudson’s bad influence, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves. This week we are in London town (though I will be sticking to non alcoholic beverages as we peruse these shelves) and are all round book designer Simon Wilder’s for the day. I am very jealous of Simon’s shelves indeed and I think you may all get a slight book porn overdose, but before you do, here’s Simon with more about himself and his book and blogging addictions…

I’m 55, a graphic designer – I design books. Picture books; cookbooks, reference books, coffee table books. I have recently designed some fiction covers for Helena Halme for the Kindle, and now she’s started putting them into paperback. You can see some of them here. I also take pictures. Too many. I blog them. I’m an over blogger. http://999faces.tumblr.com http://waiterpix.tumblr.com http://maybeitsabighorse.tumblr.com http://wereallgoingona.tumblr.com I expect to finish my 999 faces project towards the end of next summer and am hoping to have an exhibition of it. I could spend a long time talking about it, but it’s not what we’re here for today. And I’ve lived in London all my life.

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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?

A book only has to be hardback for me to keep it. A few years ago I gave 30 years worth of paperbacks to the charity shop. Hundreds of them. I was giddy about it. They weighed me down. I also loved having so much extra space. Since then I give a laundry bag of newer paperbacks to the charity shop whenever it becomes full. I really dislike the smell of old books. I hate the brownness of the paper. Hardbacks are made from different stock, and I prefer them as objects. It’s really about decoration. I’m aware that this is all slightly soulless of me, but, really, the content of books is what’s most important, and I’ve read that.

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 have one bookcase for cookbooks, another for ‘reading books’. Both are arranged by colour of spine. The reading books are fiction to the left, and much smaller section of non fiction to the right. They’re also arranged by height. I know this is all a bit silly. I much prefer fiction, rarely read anything else in book form (Although Damian Barr’s Maggie and Me was one of my favourite books of 2013). Arranging them all by colour is no problem for reading books – I so rarely reread that I never have to look for them. It’s more of a problem looking for a cookbook. But then you get taken places that you hadn’t thought of, which I love. I sometimes think it would be brilliant to have all the recipes listed alphabetically, by ingredient and by country on my iPad. But one of the things I love most about books is that they make you discursive. I may think I want beef stew, but maybe I really want bouillabaisse, I just hadn’t thought of it. And if I do decide on beef stew, will it be Provencal or Irish? So many choices. Everything is about choice. And talking of Kindles (and their like), I tried one for six months. I don’t feel sentimentally attached to traditional book technology. I gave it a proper go. But for all Kindle’s virtues, turning a real page is still exciting to me, seeing how far I’ve read, how much is left of a book, is part of the pleasure of reading. I don’t think I’m too old to change, but I prefer an actual book. My 79 year old mother, far more conservative in all areas of life than me, very happily changed to reading on a kindle. Although, after two years of it, she went back to printed matter, for pretty much the same reasons as me.

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

Almost certainly something by Enid Blyton, or EE Nesbit. Maybe Peter Pan or a Mary Poppins. Oh, Swallows and Amazons? Doctor Doolitle? I can’t remember which, although I remember the experience and how brilliant it felt to be able to choose like that. I loved all the Edwardian children’s classics when I was growing up. I was one of those few boys who loved reading. I belonged to the Puffin club! I, most unusually for a boy, loved reading when I was a teenager, and I still love it. The only one I still have is Peter Pan. It’s a hardback.

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 try not to do anything that I feel embarrassed by. I have enjoyed some TERRIBLE books, although I’ll defend Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls to the end. No, I read whatever I’m drawn to. I don’t read much chick lit or science fiction. Ok, none of either. I think Zadie Smith is horribly overrated and I’m maybe embarrassed that I bought THREE of her novels, never got further than page 50, before I admitted this. I may find it too easy to discard a book if I’m not enjoying it after, say, fifty pages, but often fewer. If I’m going to get more pleasure flinging a bad book across the room than I’ll get from continuing to read it, I’ll fling.

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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 Peter Pan, maybe. Or my copy of Catcher in the Rye that I read and reread when I was 17. It’s the only paperback I’ve held on to. I might want to keep my signed copy of The Boys: my father was a survivor of the holocaust. He was in concentration camps before being brought here in 1945. The brilliant Martin Gilbert wrote this book about him and the few other teens they could find alive that came here at the same time. It was incredibly important to my father that his story was told to the world. I have an album of photos of generations of my family who lived before I was born, many of whom I never met. That’s the book I’d miss. Otherwise I don’t think I’d care if they all burned.

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 was desperate to read The Dice Man, Portnoy’s Complaint and The Exorcist when I was 13, but they were forbidden to me. My mother was so frightened by The Exorcist that she burned it. Brilliant. She read all of Harold Robbins, and I wasn’t allowed to look at them, either. I think it was the sex that drew her and what made her want to keep them from me. So, all a bit Fifty Shades, although I suspect better written. I have since read Portnoy’s Complaint, and almost everything else Philip Roth has written. He’s one of the greatest 20th century authors. The Dice Man was a sensation when it was first published and still sells, but I remember finding it dull when I eventually read it. I don’t think I finished it. The Exorcist so scared me in the cinema that not only did I never read it, I didn’t make it to the end of the film.

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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 buy every book I want to read. Of course, I don’t want to read every book that makes it to my home. I don’t know what happens between the shop and my bedside table. I find it difficult to read anything because someone tells me to. I prefer, somewhat neurotically, to be the first reader of a book. I don’t want to find bits of other peoples’ dunked biscuits on the pages. I really love books of photography, but don’t buy them these days – I treat them like magazines – flick through then not open them again. It’s an expensive hobby.

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

Oh, The Goldfinch. I finished it two weeks ago and it is the book of the year. Sensationally good. I’m already sad that, because she writes so slowly, we only have a few more Donna Tartt novels to look forward to, at best. And she’s spoiled me for other writers. I’ve started – and abandoned – SIX books since finishing the Goldfinch. Nothing compares to it. Everything else tastes like ashes.

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

Only the unwritten Donna Tartt novels

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

I’d like them to think I’m a suave sex god.

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A huge thanks to Simon for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! 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 Simon’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #14 – Roz Campion

After a small hiatus Other People’s Bookshelves is back, back, backity, back… Hoorah! Thank you to everyone who has responded to my plea for more of you to share your book porn with us, keep them coming as I would love this series to run and run. Anyway, for the fourteenth in the series we get to have a lovely nosey through Roz Campion’s shelves, first though (I know you are desperate to see the books, the books, the books) let us find out a little bit more about Roz…

Roz works for the Foreign Office and currently lives in Washington DC. She has been obsessed by books and reading since she was little and never really understood why anyone would give a gift that isn’t a book. She says she is the kind of person who would read the instructions on a bottle of shampoo if there was nothing else to read – though fortunately she ensures that there always is… Her tastes are a combination of modern fiction, 19th century novels and Persephone-type books. Having a reasonably busy job plus more interests and friends than she did when she was a kid, means that she reads less than she might like. Or at least she did until this year, when the lovely Thomas of My Porch blog made a bet with her about who could read more during the course of the year. Being a determined girl this means she’s already had a fabulous year of reading and is now on book number 53. She listens to books as she walks to work and also listens to novels when she runs, which she admits most people think is weird (she ran her first half marathon whilst listening to an Anthony Trollope novel). She has been with her civil partner, Layla, for almost 6 years, and one of the most difficult things when they first moved in together was merging book collections…not least because Roz kept on trying to take Layla’s books to the local charity shop (to ensure there was enough room for hers). She occasionally blogs for the Foreign Office, though sadly not about books: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/rosalindcampion/ Right, lets take a look at her books and reading habits…

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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?

When I lived in London, I’d assess a book before putting it up on a shelf. That’s not to say that most of them didn’t end up on my shelves anyway – a book has to be really quite bad for me to be certain that I won’t want to read it again and therefore can “risk” giving it away. But now we live in the US I’m not really sure how to get rid of books – they don’t have charity shops in the same way we do in the UK (or not that I’ve been able to find) – which means I keep pretty much everything. After all, it feels just wrong to put a book in the recycling – no book deserves that fate.

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 was a nerdy child, and worked in the school library for 6 years (finally becoming Head of Library, which unsurprisingly didn’t bring with it the kudos or glamour that I’d hoped). This means that I like order in my books. Fiction is ordered alphabetically by author (though I’m ashamed to say that the last two times we’ve moved I’ve managed to get someone else to do the alphabetising!). Things have started to go awry a little since we are running out of room a bit. Non-fiction is downstairs and there’s a bit of me that would like to recreate the Dewey decimal system. Fortunately we don’t have enough non-fiction for that to be possible, so there’s a biography section, and then “other” which also has a few TBR books (which I’ve put there when doing a mad dash to tidy up before someone arrives and then forgotten about). My other TBR pile is my bedside table, which is impractical and messy but there you are. I used to cull books reasonably regularly when we lived in London (to Layla’s sorrow as I kept deciding we didn’t need her books!) but without somewhere to take unwanted books that’s not a feature of our lives anymore. And I’m still struggling with trying to work out how to organise my Kindle – I have created numerous different categories, but problem with organising books on a Kindle is that it is very much out of sight out of mind with me.

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

When I was about 6 or 7 I won a £5 book token in a drawing competition. In retrospect, this seems most bizarre since I am completely talentless when it comes to anything artistic and so I suspect it must have been some kind of pity prize. Anyway, I agonised for a while about what to buy and then was told I had to make a decision “now”. This meant I was rushed into buying a paperback of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Silver Branch. It’s a wonderful book (and I do still have my very dog-earred copy of it) but unfortunately it is the second in a trilogy. So it wasn’t a very successful first purchase… Fortunately (or unfortunately) my book-buying talent has improved a lot since then.

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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 gave away most of my guilty-pleasures before we moved here. I’m ashamed to say that I thought that the packers would judge me for my low taste (in fact, I think they mainly hated me for the quantity of books they had to pack). I think, though, I did keep a few Sophie Kinsella books but these are now languishing unpacked at the back of a closet. Other than that, most of my guilty pleasures are on display. In some ways I quite like seeing the Harry Potter series nestled against Philip Roth…

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?

Most of the books which I have a sentimental attachment to are still at my mother’s home in England. I’d definitely save her copy of Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes which she got as a school prize in the 1940s, if there was a fire, for example. The only thing I might grab in case of fire that I have with me here is the set of Jane Austen books which my godmother gave me when I was a child. She taught my mother English literature and always sent my books as gifts – they were always a bit too hard for my age, but is one reason why I read so much great British literature when I was in my teens.

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 “grown-up” author I wanted to read, and wasn’t allowed to, was PG Wodehouse. I think my mother thought that I wouldn’t appreciate him if I read him too young and didn’t want me to spoil his books for myself. I managed to persuade the local library to let me get one out of the adult library when I was around 10 and I completely adored it, and read pretty much all of the others I could get my hands on. The one that sticks out most for me (and which I have re-read most often) was Psmith, Journalist. It gave me an all-consuming desire to go to New York, and is a brilliant combination of a humour and social conscience.

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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 don’t borrow many books these days since to my sorrow I’ve not managed to find that many friends here who have my all-consuming enthusiasm to read (other than Thomas). But looking at my bookshelves now, I can see some books that I “borrowed” from my best friend in London (sorry, Hugo!) so perhaps that’s just as well…

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

The last book I bought was Appointment in Samara, by John O’Hara. I bought it in a lovely bookshop in Greenwich Village in New York, mainly because it had a beautiful cover and I saw it described as one of the great American novels – I’m very keen to read more American literature whilst I’m living here. I really enjoyed it, though no-one could say it’s a cheerful book.

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

Always. The recent Barbara Pym reading week made me want to buy some of Barbara Pym’s works (but I promised myself I wouldn’t till I got through more of my TBR pile).

Roz TBR

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

I think that most people’s first thought would be bemusement that I shipped quite so many books across the Atlantic. I suspect that there would be some surprise that I don’t have more non-fiction – most houses that I’ve visited in DC seem stuffed with books on politics and biography (which make my three small shelves look paltry). And people often wonder why we keep the travel guides to the places we’ve been – to which there’s no clear answer except that it’s quite jolly to remember where we’ve been, they can lead to some good conversations (“you’ve been to Eritrea? why?”) and, of course, I don’t know how to get rid of books here…

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A huge thanks to Roz for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in the 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 Roz’s responses and/or any of the books that she mentioned?

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Taking Little Novel(la) Risks…

I am deep in the middle of reading Man Booker longlisted novels for We Love This Book and also the submissions for the Green Carnation Prize and it’s made me realise, and often without those two excuses, that I do tend to read a lot of contemporary fiction. In fact looking at my reviews most of them now veer towards books published in the last year or soon out. I have started to feel I am missing out on books pre-2010/11 and I think I need to combat that.

I also worry I’ve not read enough of ‘the greats’ either. I’m not just talking about Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens (seriously I haven’t read them, I shouldn’t call myself a lover of books should I?) but also writers like Somerset Maugham or Forster and what about modern-ish classic writers like Philip Roth or Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Well the other day I had a slight epiphany.

Going to the library one lunch time this week (as I don’t already have enough books do I?) I saw ‘Lesley Castle’ by Jane Austen. It was very short, it would be a taster of her writing. I had a brainwave, why not search the shelves for some authors I have meant to try/heard are masters from all eras and find the shortest books by them too? This is the collection I pulled off the shelves…

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I wanted a real mixture from all eras, areas of the world etc and so I ended up with ‘Lesley Castle’ by Jane Austen, ‘Claudine in Paris’ by Colette, ‘Memories of my Melancholy Whores’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘The Lady and the Little Fox Fur’ by Violette Leduc (which Simon T has mentioned), ‘Up At The Villa’ by W. Somerset Maugham and ‘Anthem’ by Ayn Rand. What a collection!

I am going to read them randomly at whim, well I have already devoured two on trains in and out of town this week, but I like the idea of slowly upping my classics in take and being introduced to new older authors between more ‘current’ reading.

What do you all think of this idea? Do any of you do all this already? How do you try and keep a more stable reading diet combined with a whim routine? Or do you not?

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Library Lunacy?

I have not long just been online to renew my library loans and am now feeling rather guilty. You see I currently have fifteen books out… and I have renewed them for the THIRD time, eek! The problem is that when I look at them all I still don’t want to cull any, even though I know there are other people who might have read them and returned them by now. (Actually having said that no one has reserved them and they could have.) Also, I do feel I shouldn’t be getting books from the library, as I do have a library of my own indoors. Oh it’s a bit of a dilemma really isn’t it?

So what are the books that I have been hoarding for the last month or two with selfish intent…

  • The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
  • Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
  • Un Lun Dun –China Mieville
  • The Worst Street in London – Fiona Rule
  • Solo – Rana Dasgupta
  • Ghost Hunters – Deborah Blum
  • Honor & Other Peoples Children – Helen Garner
  • The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack – Mark Hodder
  • Dimanche & Other Stories – Irene Nemirovsky
  • Still Missing – Beth Gutcheon
  • Wallflower at the Orgy – Norah Ephron
  • Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
  • Barbequed Husbands – Betty Mindlin
  • The City & The City – China Mieville (half read)

I do want to read them all, its just not knowing where to start. I am off in Manchester for a few days so am only talking library books with me as my choice reads as I really do need to get through them, I am not allowing myself to press the renew button one more time. I am not!

Do you ever have a library loot dilemma? Any advice on how I should stop this naughty habit? Recommend any of these titles get read instantly, I always love your recommendations? What have you taken out of the library of late?

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