Tag Archives: Stephen King

Other People’s Bookshelves #65 – Sarah Perry

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 off to Essex to join author Sarah Perry who has just got back from her allotment especially to show us around her shelves. First let’s grab a cuppa and a custard cream and find out more about Sarah…

My first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, came out last year with Serpent’s Tail, and has just been released in paperback. My second novel, The Essex Serpent, is coming out in July 2016 (again with Serpent’s Tail, in an act of spectacular nominative determinism!).  I was once a civil servant – largely working in communications, such as writing speeches for government ministers – and then worked for the Council of the Inns of Court while I did a PhD in Creative Writing and the Gothic. I now write full-time, though not just fiction.

At the moment I’m finishing edits on The Essex Serpent. It’s about friendship, desire, sin, love, death and sea-serpents. I talk quite often about my upbringing, and am always afraid it’s going to grow tiresome, but find I’m still asked about it. I was born to a very strict religious family – often, I joke I was brought up in 1895 – and while other girls my age were surrounded by pop culture I was up to my ears in the King James Bible, classic literature, Victorian hymns and Reformation theology. The Gothic quality of my writing and my preoccupation with madness, sin and transgression is therefore not entirely surprising, I suppose.

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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’m frighteningly acquisitive when it comes to books, and absolutely hopeless at getting rid of them. About three months ago I attempted a cull, and there have been two large bags of books destined for the local charity shops in the middle of my bedroom floor ever since. I seem to gather books as I walk through the week like a magnet attracting iron filings and with about that degree of discrimination. Proofs arrive in the post, I order them online on a whim, am sent them as gifts, throw them into my trolley in the supermarket, grab paperbacks in charity shops, steal – sorry: borrow! – them from friends. They all wind up in one of the many drifts and piles in the house, and I fear many are destined to remain unread for years, if at all. But I can never quite shake the feeling that the day may come when that 80s edition of The Gulag Archipelago, or that little hardback Rumer Godden novel, is going to be exactly what I need…

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?

Some years ago a friend of mine tried to help me order my books (by genre, and alphabetically by author). It took absolutely hours and lasted for less than a week. I can’t begin to fathom how anyone who has a large number of books maintains any sort of order without a fleet of staff. Everything is all bundled in together – I’m looking at a bookcase right now and on a single shelf I can see a biography of William Gladstone, a guide to Jungian dream-symbols, TH White’s The Once and Future King, two Ishiguro novels next to each other (miraculously!), several crime thrillers, and a Puritan book on the doctrine of repentance. If you’re wondering how I ever find anything: I often can’t, and rage about the house accusing the cat of stealing books. My husband has a better memory than me, and can often lay hands on what I need. I do try and keep to some form of TBR system, and went as far as installing two bookcases on either side of the bed, but then I get distracted by something else, and it all goes out of the window.

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The only truly organised shelves are those where I’m temporary custodian of a friend’s books: he moved abroad, and left them with me, where I’ve taken to calling them ‘The Memorial Library’. I must say I consider arranging books by colour to be the sure sign of a deranged mind (apologies to any deranged readers).

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

I honestly can’t remember, and wish very much that I could! I do have lots of books from my childhood, though. I have on my desk here a very battered little Bible story book which I must have had since before school, and I’m very attached to a hardback Paddington bear collection which was a gift from one of my older sisters.

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?

With very, very few exceptions I really don’t have much truck with the idea of guilty pleasures when it comes to reading. Of course, even the most ardent anti-book snob must draw the line somewhere, and I would sooner go to the stake than have my shelves sullied with Fifty Shades of Grey or Ayn Rand. But I have everything out in the open – so far as the disordered tumult will allow! – and if anyone baulks at the sight of Stephen King, Terry Pratchett and Lee Child jostling cheerfully with WG Sebald, Maggie Nelson and Tennyson then I shall sit them down and have a long, gentle but firmly persuasive chat. I never read romantic fiction, but that is merely a matter of preference, in the same way that I would rather eat cauliflower than mushrooms: it’s not a value judgment. I must confess that if my parents visit I might double check that Catullus or Chuck Palahniuk aren’t knocking about where my Dad might take them off the shelves in an idle moment (there was an awkward moment last year with a Thom Gunn poem).

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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?

There are so many of these! May I have a wheelbarrow full? I have a complete Sherlock Holmes which my father gave me: it is a long out-of-print edition, and identical to his own copy, which I grew up reading, and which he is evidently not ready to part with. I have a beautiful vintage edition of Finnegans Wake which a friend gave me when I left London, and since really he deserves it far more than I do I secretly think of it as being in joint custody, like the child of an amiable divorce. When I sold my first novel a friend gave me a copy of A Literary Life by Posy Simmonds, which has got truer and more comforting as the years have passed. There are about half-a-dozen King James Bibles knocking about, most of them associated with events in life: my wedding, or a gift when I was tiny bridesmaid at my oldest sister’s wedding. Once when I had been away for a fortnight my husband met me at the airport with some marmalade sandwiches, two Calvin and Hobbes books and a copy of the Communist Party Manifesto, so I would like those. And I suppose I would like to take the first proof copy of my first novel, with all my anguished handwritten corrections.

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 never really remember there being much of a division between children’s books and grown up books, and I more or less read what I wanted, when I wanted to. Which isn’t to say that I was reading terribly inappropriately (however one defines that) – there wouldn’t have been anything like that in the house, and I wouldn’t have sought it out: since there was so much to read, I was quite content. And so I remember reading Jane Eyre at eight, because it was in an illustrated hardback edition that I mistook for a children’s book, and my father gave me a copy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles when I was ten (greatly to my teacher’s horror). My elder sisters would occasionally conceal slightly fruity novels beneath their beds, which I unfailingly found and would read in a single sitting. The most memorable of these was probably Flowers in the Attic, which I still adore – and which is somewhere on my shelves.

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?

Greatly to my shame, I never borrow books (unless from friends, in which case ‘borrow’ is often pronounced ‘steal’), and only ever darken the doors of reference libraries, in order to do research. I am simply not to be trusted with library books: they’ll be lost, dropped in the bath, battered, and never returned. It’s a moral failing I’ve long given up trying to remedy.

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

In the last week, I’ve bought Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts (her memoir Bluets had a profound effect on me last year), Miranda July’s The First Bad Man (which I cannot imagine I will enjoy, having a very low tolerance for quirky books by privileged young New Yorkers, but I though I’d try and conquer my prejudices), Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, JG Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition, John Wyndham’s The Trouble With Lichen, and an Anaïs Nin book I immediately lost and can’t remember. I have also been sent a debut novel by Tasha Kavanagh called Things We Have in Common, which I’m looking forward to. Sorry, that’s several books, isn’t it?

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

Heaps and heaps! I am very close to mugging someone for an advance copy of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life: its August release date seems a terribly long way away, and literally everyone on Twitter has a copy except me. I also would like a facsimile edition (or a real one, if possible) of the Tyndale New Testament, because who wouldn’t? There are also a number of collected letters that I would like. For many years I had a curious ethical disinclination to read the ‘remains’ of writers: I felt that we should read only their work, not diary entries and correspondence they would never have intended for a general readership. But it turns out my principles are paper thin, and I’d particularly like the letters of Virginia Woolf, which I could cross-reference against her diaries.

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

I imagine their first thought would be that I am spectacularly untidy, and furthermore could do with doing some dusting. I wonder if they might then think that these are the books of several people, not only one – if they did, I’d be delighted. I honestly believe we all have a duty to read as widely and deeply as possible. The worst possible reader is the one who wishes only to affirm and bolster their existing world view, and the worst possible response to a book is this: “I just didn’t identify with any of the characters.” As to what I’d like them to think of my reading tastes: I couldn’t give a single solitary toss, I never have, and I never will.

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A huge thanks to Sarah for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, you can stalk her on Twitter here, you can also see her not once but twice at Gladfest this September, where you may just also see me! 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 Sarah’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #36; Eric Karl Anderson

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a regular series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. This week we are heading to London to join a great blogger, you so need to be following Lonesome Reader if you aren’t already (his reviews are so good I almost want to hate him frankly, Joyce Carol Oates reads it), and great acquaintance of mine Mr Eric Karl Anderson. Myself and Eric have just started a new cultural project for all the pogonophiles and beardy book lovers out there called Beardy Bibliophiles, which launches officially next week both online and in Central London. You have been warned, ha!  So let us find out more about Eric and have a nosey through his books…

My name is Eric. I grew up in Stephen King country (Maine) in the USA, but I moved to London in 2000 and have settled quite snugly into the city having created my own personal library/study. I’ve always been a keen reader. When I was little I loved being read to. I don’t remember this myself but my father tells me that after my first day of school I came home crying. When he asked what was wrong I complained “They didn’t teach me how to read yet.” I can spend ages just staring at my bookshelf. It’s like my own alter/church. I did a Master’s degree in Studies in Fiction, but I’ve always been more about reading for pleasure than academic purposes. I’ve published several things myself including a novel and a scattering of short stories in literary magazines and anthologies. I’m also keen on disaster movies and baking muffins.

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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?

It would be sensible to adopt a one in one out system, but instead I keep trying to cram more in until I’m pressured into making a book cull. Generally only books that I think are particularly brilliant get to stay on my shelves or ones which have been signed or have sentimental value. Most of the books I read are given away to friends or charity shops. A large portion of books on my shelves are waiting to be read, but will probably go once I get to them. These days a lot of the ones which get to stay are more obscure books which I think would be difficult to track down again.

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?

There’s not much order. By my bedside, I mostly keep books of short stories or poems because I’ll sometimes read aloud from these to my boyfriend before we go to sleep. In my front room I keep hardback books together and most of these are signed by the authors. My boyfriend once tried to get me to alphabetize the books in our study. I got as far a D and gave up. I try to keep books by the same author together. I like the general disorder and unusual pairing even if it makes it hard to find something. Book culling is painful, but unfortunately necessary since I live in London and space is precious.

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

This is really difficult to remember. In the 6th grade my English class had a sort of book club we could join and order books from. That was the first place I started purchasing books from using my allowance money. They were a series of Choose Your Own Adventure books and I particularly liked that they were numbered so appealed to my geeky collector’s personality. All these books have sadly gone with yard sales. There is a new book coming out soon called “The Boy in the Book” by Nathan Penlington which I’m keen to read since it’s about his passion for Choose Your Own Adventure books.

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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?

Probably “Delta Style” by Delta Burke. It was a sort of joke gift and I’ve never read it. But I loved watching Designing Women. I didn’t read them as a child, but I have the entire Mr Men series. I think they are brilliant. At my college graduation I announced to the crowd that it was story time and read “Mr Clever” aloud to them. Otherwise, I have published some naughty stories and my author copies of those books are hidden away rather than being displayed.

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?

It’s so hard to choose! My number one would probably be a holograph edition of Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves.” This contains a rough draft of the novel when it was still titled “The Moths” and has her corrections in the margins. It also contains a more recognizable draft of the novel with more of her corrections in the margins. Since “The Waves” is my all-time favourite novel it’s incredibly fascinating seeing the actual process she went through to get to the finished thing. It’s an incredibly rare book.

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But I also really prize a proof copy of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel “Do With Me What You Will” which has included at the back a typed alternative ending to the book. Both the ending printed in the proof and the typed-up alternative ending differ to the ending which appeared in the final version of the book.

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 think the first ‘grown up’ book on my parents’ shelves that I noticed and really fancied reading was James Clavell’s “Shōgun.” I think I was about 12 when I read it which is fairly young considering the length and subject matter – loosely based on historic battles in 1600s feudal Japan. I absolutely loved and devoured it.

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Although you didn’t mean it that way I’m going to tell you anyway. The first ‘grown up’ scene I remember reading in a book was Stephen King’s “The Eyes of the Dragon.” It’s the wedding night where a king married a girl who is somewhat baffled when he undresses. She asks him what that thing is and he replies “It’s my purple-headed warrior.” This made me giggle endlessly and was my first introduction to a bad sex scene.

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?

Even if I love a borrowed book I’ve read I’m usually happy to give it back because of limited space. But if I’m really wild about it I’m more likely to sneak it on my shelf and keep “forgetting” to give it back. That’s wrong, isn’t it?

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

The last book which has gone on the shelves and will be staying there is Jim Crace’s novel “Harvest.” It’s an absolutely beautiful book and I had him sign it when I went to the Booker Prize readings last year. I’m somewhat glad I read what turned out to be the winner “The Luminaries” as an e-book as I would have wanted to keep this on my shelves as well. I’ve bought and received plenty of books since acquiring “Harvest” but I don’t think they’ll be staying on the shelves forever.

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

There are lots of “classic” books I’d love to house on my shelves, but there just isn’t room for them and I know they are easy to acquire should I feel inspired to read them. I’ve read several novels electronically which I’d love to have on my shelves, but the truth is that there just isn’t room. Of course, if I ever get a Beauty & the Beast size library I’ll immediately be filling it up with physical copies of all these e-books.

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

Everyone has different standards they hold people up to when considering their reading tastes. Considering what’s on my shelves they would probably accurately think that I have a taste for contemporary literary fiction as well as first time novelists and slightly more experimental fiction. I have two shelves overflowing with Joyce Carol Oates books so I bet they’d be able to guess my favourite author.

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A huge thanks to Eric for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, I am very excited about next weeks beardy bookish get together. If you are in central London next Thursday and fancy a natter do check the website to see how you could be there with a bookish beardy beverage. Anyway… 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 Eric’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #33; Jeremy Largen

Hello and welcome to the latest in Other People’s Bookshelves, a regular series of posts where you get to have a nosey at other book lovers bookshelves. This week we are off across the ocean to Chicago (though I may be delayed in quarantine) to join the lovely Jeremy, one of the many, many booklovers who I have come to know through social media and now wish I could teleport to visit for a nice cup of tea and bookish natter every week or so (and to join his book group too). Sighs. Anyway, less about me and my science fiction whims, I will hand over to Jeremy and let him introduce himself while I get my visa checked and medical assessment and join you later on…

I’ve always been a reader for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in the country and there wasn’t a lot to do.  My brothers enjoyed fishing, hunting, being outside, but I preferred to stay in and escape in a book, or if my parents forced me to go outside and “play,” I would take my book with me. I read pretty much anything, except I don’t like biographies/autobiographies, especially about famous people, but memoirs are okay.  Nor do I like Westerns.  I’m not a shoot ‘em up, cowboys and Indians kind of guy.  My favourite, and my go-to genre, when I just want to escape is fantasy.  I love the worlds.  I love the magic systems.  Fantasy, for me, is imagination at its best. I moved to Chicago about 9 years ago, for the job opportunity.  I had a hard time making friends, not being one to really go to the bars all that much, nor was I all that extroverted, so I decided to start the Chicago Gay Men’s Book Club in 2008, to make friends.  I never imagined that it would be so successful.  I’ve met some really great guys since, and have made some lasting friendships that I cherish.

I also recently started a book blog, www.bookjerm.com, which I’m kind of learning as I go.  I’ve never blogged before.  I’ve been rating and writing blurbs for books I’ve read on goodreads.com for several years, but writing full book reviews is new to me, and challenging, though finding time to actually write, I think, is probably the most challenging.  But I’m super excited about it and looking forward to developing my site as a place to house all my bookish thoughts, etc.  I’m also on Twitter, @BookAddict34, where I “tweet” about books, movies, and life in general.

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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?

All the books I keep are on my shelves.  I usually only keep the books that I really love, for one reason or another, and donate the rest.  I think, at least at the moment, I have more books I haven’t yet read then books I’ve actually read.  I’ve got a bit of an addiction when it comes to buying books.  I was out this afternoon, in fact, buying more books to add to the already overflowing shelves. 

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 used to alphabetize all my books, but decided it wasn’t fun anymore.  The constant shifting of books became too tedious to keep up with.  I usually group authors together where I have several of their works, e.g., Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Carroll, but the rest I just make sure they go on their designated shelf; Shelf 1, which goes straight across both bookcases 1 & 2 in my living room is for Fiction (larger trade size paperback).  I have several books by Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Carroll, two very different writers, but both phenomenal writers. Shelf 2 is for non-fiction, which I don’t have a lot of.  These books only take up one bookcase.  On shelf two of the other bookcase starts my Fiction (smaller mass market paperback size), which runs on to shelf 3 of bookcase 1 as well.  Shelf 3 of the second bookcase is dedicated to The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, a favourite fantasy series of mine. Shelf 4 is where I keep my GLQBT books.  I don’t read a lot of this genre.  David Levithan was an amazing discovery of mine last year.  I absolutely loved Two Boys Kissing and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which he co-wrote with John Green.  Shelf 4 of bookcase 2 is where I house my Harry Potter books and books in French.  Dangerous Liaisons is probably one of my favourite books of all-time, which is on this shelf.

Finally, the bottom two shelves of each bookcase is dedicated to my TBR.  They are the most jam-packed, overflowing shelves in the entire bookcase.  Sometimes I wonder if I don’t enjoy buying books more than reading them.  At this point, if I stop buying books today, it would take me more than a decade to catch up. I also have two, smaller, bookshelves in another room, which houses my books on writing, which I have a slight obsession with reading, and other reference books, such as grammar and French. I try to cull books once or twice a year, but am hugely unsuccessful.  I will begin by saying, “I am going to get rid of 20 books today, to make room for some new ones,” but at the end of the day, I will be lucky to decide on five.

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

I don’t think I can actually remember this, but I do remember walking into a bookstore when I was young and buying Needful Things by Stephen King.  I remember feeling very adult.  It was a heavy hardcover, too, which made the experience that much more adult-like.  I was going through a phase at the time where I was devouring books, especially horror novels. 

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?

This would probably be my Anne Rice books.  I have all the Vampire Chronicles, and these are the ones that people make the most comments about. These books take up half a shelf on one of my bookcases.  I used to hide them behind other books, but decided what’s the sense of having books if I’m just going to hide them.  These books were part of my horror phase when I was growing up, and I display them proudly, since then, however, I have a hard time reading vampire stories.  It would have to be a pretty fantastic vampire story to appeal to me today. 

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 would try to save as many of the books as I could.  I have nightmares about losing my books in a fire.  I live on the first floor of my apartment building, I think I would just start chucking them out into the street before jumping out the window after them at the last minute.  My most prized books would probably have to be The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  I really love this fantasy series.  There are 14 books so far and it’s still going—I hope it never ends.  I’m not one to collect antiquated books, or go to a ton of book signings, though meeting Jim Butcher is on my list of things to do before I die.

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I have a funny story about book signings, actually. I recently went to my first this past year.  It was Dave Eggers, who was signing for his new book at Unabridged Books here in Chicago.  I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius a couple years prior and absolutely loved it.  After waiting in line for just over an hour, I stepped up to get my book signed.  I was expecting him to just write: “To Jeremy” and then sign his name, but he scribbled over the entire page, covering it in black marker, which leaked through to the next page.  I cringed at this defacement.  I take great care of my books, maintaining their pristine condition, even after reading them, so for me to even relent and allow a book to be signed is something special.  Dave Eggers basically ruined that book for me.  So, bad first experience.

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 reading V. C. Andrews at a very young age and thinking, “I probably shouldn’t be reading this.”  I then, of course, told my brother about these scandalous books and he was even younger than I was.  We both read these books back-to-back.  It’s probably the fastest I’ve ever read a book, ever.

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?

Absolutely, but only if I loved it.  I’ve borrowed books before where I had to have my own copy; I needed to “own” it.  Recently, for example, The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker.  I borrowed a copy from a friend and absolutely adored the story.  I had to have my own copy for my shelf, which the hardcover with the black edged pages is gorgeous by the way.  I’m the same way with ebooks.  I’m one of those rare individual that reads ebooks and physical books equally.  If I read an ebook that is amazing, I will go out and buy a physical copy for my shelf.  I don’t know why I do this.  It’s a compulsion, I guess.

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

I’m constantly adding new books to the TBR shelves, but the one I’m most recently excited about is Harriet the Spy, which was a childhood favourite of mine.  The 50th anniversary special edition just came out last week, and I can’t wait to find time to sit down and read this again.  I only hope I like it as much as an adult as I did as a child.  Ready Player One is another that I recently purchased.  I’ve heard so many good things about it, and I’m always drawn to the cover art when I’m in the bookstore, so I decided to buy it.  I’ll get to it, eventually.

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

I’ve been a bit nostalgic lately for my childhood favorites.  I wish I would have saved all these books that I read in my childhood!  I’d really like to get my hands on the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary or the Anne of Green Gables series, both of which I absolutely loved.

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

I would like them to look at my books and think, “Wow, what an intelligent, well-rounded reader.”  However, what I usually get is “Anne Rice?  Really?”  I read everything, but the books that I’m most judged for are my fantasy and horror novels.

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A huge thanks to Jeremy for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, who else feels like they don’t want to go home and would rather stay and have a chinwag for much longer?  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 Jeremy’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #20 – Gavin Pugh

So this week’s Other People’s Bookshelves is a little bit late but that is because I wanted to do something special for its 20th post in the series and have a special guest and delayed it to match that special guests birthday (21 again). Yes this week it is none other than my bookish beardy best mate the lovely, lovely Gavin C. Pugh. Really he doesn’t need an introduction, many of you will have followed his blog or seen him around Twitter (where he is like a bookish Lady Gaga in terms of followers) as @GavReads.

He describes himself as a social reader and has only recently admitted to collecting books. He was the original co-host of The Readers podcast with me, and will be back at some point, though now does more behind the scenes producing The Readers and You Wrote The Book where he makes me sound better and less inept – oh if only you all knew! He is back with a new podcast called Hear Read This! with Kate and Rob from Adventures with Words any myself too. He’s mainly known for loving SFF but he’ll delve into reality every now and again. He’s currently running NoCloaksAllowed.com and going to be reviewing a piece of shorter fiction a day for the next year. So wish him luck. Now let’s go and nosey through his shelves…

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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?

That’s a huge question. Before I moved to university I had 3 tall book cases 10 years ago and at the time I squeezed as many of those books as I could into my car to take with me. I couldn’t store them all so I had a big cull. Don’t worry too much it was things like Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson, so books that I wouldn’t reread. But I did get a feel for culling books. And I can be quite heartless if I need some space. That doesn’t mean that I have room for books. Right now, I’ve got six tall and wide book cases at the minute and a couple of piles keeping my desk up.

Now, this is a confession… I worked out recently that I had 483 or so unread books in the house so my read books have to be extra special to stay. I’m not sentimental though I sort of wish that I did keep the Anne McCaffery and Robert Rankin books from my teens. I did keep my Terry Pratchett books and those really do need two shelves now especially with the new Gollancz hardbacks coming out as I’ve definitely run out of room. I’ve culled books that I loved as if I’m not going to re-read it usually goes unless there is some other reason. I’ve started collecting certain books so I am now especially keeping books to make collections. You might see Adam Roberts for example and I bought the first edition of Stone as I read it from the library and really missed not having a copy. I buy and acquire more books faster than I can read them. I envy people’s restraint who can do one in one out.

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 shelves are currently quite organised. I’d love to make them alphabetical but I think I’d have to cull them by half so I could see them all rather than have half of them hidden by double spacing as they are now. Before I had a bit of a tidy up the Neal Asher books for example were all over the house they are now all together even if they can’t all be lined up. And that made a big difference to how I looked at my bookshelves. Before it was a case of anywhere that I could find a space! Now I try and keep them together through some sort of link, hover tenuous that is. Though that does mean that Jim Butcher and Peter F. Hamilton have got buried. I do like seeing them together. The yellow-spined SF Masterworks are together but only I know what I’ve read as I don’t keep read and unread separated. And it’s lovely to see The Readers Book Club books all on the shelf together.

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I have this big shelf of writing-related books that’s quite scary to look at – does one person need that many writing books I wonder? But I can’t bear to part with them. Actually, I’m ignoring the elephant in the room. As a reviewer and book-cheerleader I get a fair few review copies and they sometimes get shelf space while they wait but mostly new ones are on the floor in front of the shelves. But without reviewing I’d have a lot of books. I buy a lot of ebooks (sorry Simon) rather than physical copies though I’m swinging the other way and buying physical copies if there is a change I’d want them around to look at after I’ve read them. The other thing I do, like with the short stories, is to be able to pull those books off the shelves and pile them on my desk for reference and easy grabbing.
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What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now? 

You know I honestly can’t remember. I got a lot of books from the library when I learning what I liked as a reader. I’ve always been a reader but I didn’t gain traction until I was 16 and that was all down to The Witches Collection that Gollancz published collecting Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad and that got me hooked and I devoured all the Discworld books and kept myself topped up as they game out every 6 months for a while. I don’t have it anymore but I do have the individual volumes.

The thing I’m really bad at is overbuying books. I’ve not read the Edmund Crispin’s Gervase Fen mysteries yet, but I like having them around. There are some books that I bought when I was first getting into books hidden behind others on the shelves. I’ve always gorged on books. One thing I don’t do is buy second hand books but there is a copy of Storm Constantine’s Stalking Tender Prey as I lost it in a move and couldn’t do without having it on the shelve as battered and smelly as it is.

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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?

You know, I’m a little embarrassed by my poetry collection. It’s very different from SFF that I’m known for reading. It’s probably that I don’t know many people to ‘geek-out’ with the same way I can do with you or with people on twitter. Though I think poetry is a powerful thing that I wish more people weren’t put off by in school.

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 did have a no-burn shelf but since reorganisation they are a bit scattered. I don’t really go for signed books. I have a few signed books but almost all of those are mementoes of meeting an author and that makes a story and a connection. I have signed books by a few of my heroes Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Mark Chadbourn, Storm Constantine, Neal Asher and Garth Nix for example. Some celeb books like Russell T. Davies, John Barrowman, and Barry Humphries. I have books signed by friends that I’d have to try and grab. The Terry Prachett hardcovers. And then there are some ARCS (advanced reading copies) that I’ve been lucky enough to acquire that are special to me like Horns by Joe Hill. Though a lot of books that I would grab because they are OOP have found a new life in ebook so I’d leave those until last like The Great Game by Dave Duncan and the Mark Chadbourn series – sorry Mark. Oh I almost forgot China Miéville – I’d grab those first as most are signed and he’s an amazing writer that I love seeing on the shelves.

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What is the first ‘grown up, and I dont mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Greyway, 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 guess you’d say that was Stephen King and Dolores Claiborne. Stephen King for me is very hit and miss author. I’ve tried a good many of his books some like Gerald’s Game, which should be shocking didn’t grab me and some like The Stand I didn’t see why they were talking so long. I love Under the Dome but I don’t have a copy any more but Dolores Claiborne is the book that I’ve bought and given away about 5 times and it’s currently missing. I need to buy another copy soon as I like rereading it. It’s got no horror in it as such but tells the lives of two women as they grow old together.

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?

This is one reason that I’m really sad that libraries are disappearing as I’ve read some books when I was finding myself as a reader that are missing from the shelves like Martin Bauman by David Leavitt that I should have got around to re-buying but it’s not a book I want to read again mostly as it was such a powerful book the first time that I don’t think a second reading will live up to that. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman I did end up buying though I thought I would reread it much earlier than I actually did and then I listened to it as an audiobook so that doesn’t really count as I still didn’t open the actual copy on the shelves. I guess that’s one reason why I’m ruthless at culling is that once I’ve read a book I have to be honest  if I’ll reread them and that I’m not just holding on to books in the vague hope they’ll be useful later. Saying that though now I’ve admitted I’m a collector I have a much better excuse for keeping more books.

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

One thing I love about twitter is that it’s so easy to call out and get good book recommendations. I did that recently and got back suggestions of Murial Spark The Driver’s Seat and Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckingridge & Myron. I can’t remember what the criteria was now but I tend to ask for older books that people love.

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

I’ve already mentioned Martin Bauman. I’m a little sad that I gave away Un Lun Dun by China Miéville  as that’s a proper collection gap. Also when I was a student I didn’t by Making Money by Terry Pratchett and a couple of weeks ago I bought a first edition hardback to fill that gap. I can’t find my hardback of Thud!, another Pratchett, and I could swear I bought the hardback so I might have to get a first edition of that soon.

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

Having a wall of books in the living room, which is four of the bookcases, is an impressive sight. I think it shows a person that loves reading. To be honest I’m sure that they’d know a fraction of the authors that I have. They’d probably be more impressed by the soft toys that have been placed here and there amongst the shelves.

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A huge thanks to Gavin for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. Also, without sounding daft, a huge thanks to him for being a brilliant bookish bud, he’s ace.  If you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) 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 Gav’s responses and/or any of the books/authors that he mentioned? Don’t forget to wish him a Happy **th Birthday too!

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Incoming (And Possibly Outgoing)…

It seems that I have rather belatedly cottoned onto the idea of a proper spring clean, just the two months late eh? It has all come about when after coming back from London I was rather strictly told that I better bloody had really ought to think about the amount of books that are in the house. Despite all those bookshelves that Gran bought me last Christmas, along with several storage boxes I don’t technically count, the space was running out. The tops of the shelves themselves, radiator covers and chests of drawers – pretty much anything that could house books has been. The words ‘sizing down’ reared their ugly heads, I hope they were aimed at my books anyway.

Book SortingStrangely a day after this I was very sick with flu, it must have been the shock. Though whilst being sickly I came up with an amazing idea, how about swapping some of the shelves around? This would then mean I would almost double my shelf space logistically (I won’t bore you with how) I forgot that it would also then mean a proper full on spring/autumn clean. If it was to save the books though, what did it matter? Only weirdly in moving shelves I started to move books and notice some that I wondered why I had/didn’t fancy reading anymore/was sent unsolicited and thought I might try at some point but haven’t a few years on. I thought really it was a bit selfish to keep them when the library/friends/neighbours may want them so I started sorting… and it got quite addictive. As you can see I am still in the process.

This of course means there will be space for some more books. I am no fool. This is good as I have had some treats in during the last week and I thought I might share them with you.

Incoming BooksFirst up some random treats have arrived in the last week. The only ones here I was expecting was Tom Sharpe’s ‘Riotous Assembly’ which is the book group read for next weekend and which I should really get a wriggle on and read frankly. Gran always used to tell me that I should read them as she thought the Wilt books were absolutely hilarious. I just remember them for having boobs on some of the covers. At last I am getting round to him, though really a little too late sorry Gran! The other two were the Natasha Solomons, I am a fan, and also the Suzanne Berne. I am wondering if I should read Suzanne’s Orange/Women’s Prize winning book ‘A Crime in the Neighbourhood’ first though. What do you think?

AutumnalNext up were some suitably autumnal books. I seem to have ignored the fact that autumn is here when normally I am celebrating this on the blog as it means I can dust of some Victorian novels, get stuck into some darker crime novels, ghostly tales and revel in the dark nights. Well I think all four of these will be just the ticket. Gavin of GavReads has raved about Sarah Pinborough for quite a while and so I thought with theses retellings of fairytales ‘Poison’ (Snow White) and ‘Beauty’ (Beauty and the Beast) I am in for a treat or two. I need to get ‘Charm’ (Cinderella) to make the set complete. ‘Marina’ was Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s debut novel before ‘Shadow of the Wind’ (which I think I need to re-read – though maybe not with all the books I have yet to read, hmmm) and is the tale of a mysterious disappearance in Barcelona. I am not sure ‘Doctor Sleep’ really needs an introduction. Though it links to the next few books as I have been thinking of spooky reads for Halloween…

Halloween HorrorI have a small ritual of reading a ghost story on Halloween. I have been puzzling what to read this year and am now spoilt for choice with these four books. I managed to snag these copies of ‘The Rats’ and ‘Psycho’ in a random charity shop I fell into the other day. I have been meaning to read ‘The Rats’ since James Herbert sadly passed away earlier this year. I have only recently wanted to read ‘Psycho’ though having watched the movie ‘Hitchcock’ which suddenly made me want to read it instantly. I have also been greeted by treats only this very morning from the very person who said I should clear the bookshelves a bit. That naughty fellow called The Beard. Apparently when shopping today ‘The Ghost Hunters’ by Neil Spring and Adam Nevill’s ‘The House of Small Shadows’ sounded like they were very much my sort of books. I think that this may be the case; I am now spoilt for spooky stories over Halloween.

So what have you borrowed/bought/been given books wise lately? What books are high on your periphery? Any Halloween reads planned?

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Can You Dip In & Out of Long Books, Or Will You Lose The Plot?

I have a funny relationship with books over 500, possibly 450, pages long. If they are done well there is nothing better than being immersed in a fictional world for hours and hours. However there are two flaws with long books, one is the fact that they can take forever to get into (yet the build up is worth the wait on the whole) and also there is the fact that when I first pick up a monster of a book I can’t help but think ‘how many smaller books could I read instead?’*

That raises the question that I want to ask all of you. Can you dip in and out of a massive book, or will you lose the plot and therefore resent the next several hundred, possibly a thousand (though I don’t think I have ever read a book that big oddly), pages or more you have ahead?

I am asking this because there are two books I am contemplating reading at the moment that fit the bill. The first is Ford Maddox Ford’s ‘Parades End’; this arrived in the post the other week to coincide with the new BBC adaptation and has tempted me. I was wondering if it also might be an idea to watch the show and then read that much of the book, or vice versa. Or could that kill it all the more? The second in Stephen King’s ’11.22.63’ which a Liverpool Book Group has asked me to join reading with them by the end of September.

Obviously I wouldn’t dip into them both at the same time but if I choose one would it work? At the moment this would be most practical as I still have rather a lot of Green Carnation submissions to be getting on with, but once that is done I am wondering, if it worked, if it could be a new way of me getting through those bigger books, and maybe even some classics like Dickens? I know it is working for Dovegreyreader’s Team Middlemarch with George Elliott. What do you think?

*There are of course exceptions, generally any ‘sensation’ novel of 450+ pages I can read without even a thought, as autumn appears on the horizon I am wondering if it is time to dig some out maybe.

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The Literary Prize vs. Readability

Yesterday the bookish world, well in the UK at least, seemed all a twitter with the story of a new literary prize, called, erm, The Literature Prize. I am a big fan of any new book prize, both having co-founded one myself and because they promote books which is no bad thing in the current book climate, books need all the pushes they can get. However it seems to be that The Literature Prize has started out with some interesting, if unsettling, intentions and in a blaze of retaliation towards another prize, not the most positive of starts is it.

Books, glorious books, would any of these have won The Literature Prize?

When I jumped on board co-founding the Green Carnation Prize last July it was from a place of positivity. Ok, we did give it the name ‘The Man Fooker’ and it was from a comment of frustration on twitter by Paul Magrs that there was no platform/prize for works by gay men (now we include all LGBT authors) in the UK. Yet we set the prize up in a whirl of excitement and positivity, we didn’t start slagging other book prizes off, we weren’t snide, and we don’t aim to be. We simply wanted to make it happen. We also wanted to be inclusive of all works of literature and their diversity like readers and their reading habits, not just The Literature Prize’s specific aim to “establish a clear and uncompromising standard of excellence”. Yet who is setting/deciding the standard? It appears that the answer to that won’t be revealed for another few weeks.

The bit that made me get all the more cross was the snidely aimed “For many years this brief was fulfilled by the Booker (latterly the Man Booker) Prize. But as numerous statements by that prize’s administrator and this year’s judges illustrate, it now prioritises a notion of ‘readability’ over artistic achievement.” Firstly that to me sounds like ‘let’s get some press off another prize which is very successful’ (and it has been successful this year there’s a couple of great books on the shortlist and they are selling like hotcakes). Secondly it implies that the judges, people who read are too stupid to understand artistic achievement and so go for dumb down ‘readability’ instead.

Within hours of this announcement there started a raging debate about what the difference is between ‘literary’ and ‘readability’ or if indeed there really is one. I think the two can be mutually compatible. In fact the best books have that mix of being stunningly written, transporting you to another place in time or culture and living with its characters for however long the read takes. I think this can be done whilst making the reader want to do nothing but read that book whether it is plot or prose driven. The reader gives their dedication, time, energy and imagination to the book and the partnership between reader and writer is cemented. A book is designed to be read, learnt from and enjoyed. It shouldn’t be so ‘artistic’ no one can cope with it, unless you are a scholar, which leads me to my next annoyance.

The ‘academy of judges’. Now, if I am being generous I am hoping that my initial ‘you elitist bunch of *****’ reaction is unfair and that actually The Literature Prize will find a diverse ‘lottery’ of judges, not as I fear a bunch of academics who may alienate the common reader (that isn’t meant offensively). I think a perfect panel of judges would be a group of writers, journalists, literature teachers, bloggers, librarians, book group leaders but most importantly ALL avid readers. The main criteria for a book judge should simply be that they love books; they want excellent books to be getting noticed and they want to recommend their favourites to all in sundry.

My final annoyance is that, and apparently it is being currently procured, I bet you this prize gets a stupid amount of money thrown at it. Part of me in all honesty is disheartened because The Green Carnation could do with some for promotion etc, the judges do it all for free, but more importantly what about established prizes like the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize which didn’t happen this year due to  lack of funding and has been doing a wonderful job for decades? That to me seems unfair, but then life is I guess.

There is also the fact reading and readers are changing as they have for decades. Who knew back in the day that a popular romance novelist would become a classic and admitted author, she’s called Jane Austen, I don’t know if any of you have heard of her. Or that a serialised newspaper author or three would become deemed some of the greatest writers of British history, like those guys called Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They wouldn’t have won The Literature Prize if it had been conceived then would they? That said they probably wouldn’t have won the Booker either.

Aren’t we as readers always changing? Don’t our tastes change from book to book? Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t want a book that meanders forever and ever in its own glory and prose and self satisfied nature, I believe that great characters, plots and escapism can be readable and literary, or maybe that’s just my taste. I bet Susan Hill isn’t looking for the same criteria in a book as she judges the Man Booker now as she did in the 1970’s, her reading and its tastes will have evolved even if in subtle or unconscious ways as life changes as it does for all of us. Some of us like to go from an Alan Hollinghurst to an Agatha Christie, from a Charles Dickens to a Stephen King or from David Nicholls to Umberto Eco. That’s the joy of reading, its diversity.

Who knows what the future of the The Literature Prize is, indeed the cynic in me says it could simply be a bit of pre-Booker announcement hype with its shroud of mystery; as with no announcement of who the board is, who is funding it or if indeed it will make its debut in 2012. Hmmm. I wish it luck, should it come to fruition, I think maybe it needs to change the way it holds itself in public in the future though, be less a prize trying to do what another prize already is (and sulking it’s not doing it as it feels it should) and then find its own voice and the ears of all readers out there. It has one thing going for it; it has certainly caused some interesting debate about books, readability and literature.

What are your thoughts on the new prize? Do you think readability and ‘literary merit’ are mutually exclusive, or should the best books have a percentage of both?

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