Tag Archives: V. C. Andrews

Other People’s Bookshelves #70 – Thomas Otto

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week, for the (fanfare) 70th post in the series we are going through the shelves of a very special guest, Thomas Otto. Thomas is not only my co-host on The Readers but he is also one of my best bookish buddies and someone I have known since my blogging began, or at least it feels like that. So we head to Washington D.C where he doesn’t just have shelves but an entire library, one which I will be having a gander at in four weeks when I spend a few days in DC after Thomas and I go on a road trip around America to Booktopia MI. So let’s all grab on of John’s pina colada’s, give Lucy a pat and find out more about Thomas and his books.

A puppeteer and demolitions expert by day, Thomas Otto has been blogging since 2006. Okay part of that first sentence is true, I will leave it up to Simon’s readers to figure out which part. But seriously, I live in Washington, DC with my husband John and our dog Lucy. I blog about bookish stuff at Hogglestock.com (formerly My Porch), and I co-host a bookish podcast with some guy in England.

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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?

My reasons for keeping books aren’t very straight forward. The only thing that is a constant is I don’t keep books I don’t like and I keep books I like. I know that sounds straight forward but there is a middle ground of books I am somewhat ambivalent about that fall under other criteria that aren’t always the same. At some point, if I need to start getting rid of books, I will probably keep stuff that is harder to find because they have been long out of fashion. I hate the thought of those books disappearing. Lately I’ve been thinking of my will. My collection may not fetch much money but I want it to go to someone who will appreciate some of the oddities I have rather than having my next of kin pulping them when they find out they aren’t worth anything.

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?

With a few exceptions, all of my fiction is organized alphabetically by author and then chronologically by title. I used to have my TBR on separate shelves, but since we moved back into the house after the renovations I have mixed them with everything else. I can’t bring myself to break up my Persephones into alpha order, so they are all together as are my collection of Melville House novellas and those little old Oxford World Classics that can fit in your pocket. My nonfiction is roughly divided into memoirs/letters, books on books and literature, books on music, books on England, etc. One day I will organize John’s collection of garden books, but for now they are grouped rather higgedly-piggedly.

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I also ‘face’ my shelves. That is, I make sure all the spines are lined up at, or near, the edge of the shelf. It drives me bananas when they are pushed to the back of the shelf and the spines of the various sized books are uneven. I should also note that I got to customize the dimensions of my shelves and I made them shallower than the typical bookshelf which I find far deeper than what I need for fiction.

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

One of Helen Cresswell’s Bagthorpe books, but I don’t remember which one. It may have been Ordinary Jack which is the first in that series. My copy of it disappeared over 30 years ago, but oddly enough I just bought it on my recent trip to Powell’s Books in Portland. There was a small, very short-lived bookshop in my hometown when I was a kid. For some reason I bought the Cresswell and was wildly confused by all of the Britishisms in it that I didn’t even realize were Britishisms at the time. I guess even then I was an Anglophile.

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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?

Although I don’t feel any guilt about them, I think that the non-Buncle D.E. Stevenson novels probably fit this category. They are overly twee, chaste romances that are not very well written, and some of the 1970s paperback versions are definitely embarrassing to be seen reading in public. I also have most of Nevil Shute’s novels. He tells great stories but his prose can be a little embarrassing. Still, I never feel guilt when I read them, only pleasure, and they both hold pride of place with the rest of my fiction collection.

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?

Many of the books on my shelves are not expensive but they are hard to come by, so it is hard to think of which one I would save in a fire. There is a whole class of books on my shelves that fit that category. However, if I had to choose just one I would have to go with a limited edition of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street. Not only is Lewis one of my favourite authors but this edition has colour illustrations by Grant Wood and is numbered and signed by the artist. It was also an insanely thoughtful gift from my husband.

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What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

Although my parent’s read quite a bit, there really wasn’t a bookshelf, it was more of a library existence for us in those days. The first adult book I read was Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. I was far too young to read it but that didn’t seem to bother anyone even though my mother and older sister read it first.

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 haven’t borrowed a book in many years, but if I did and loved the book, I would definitely buy my own copy.

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

I just bought 61 books at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, but they are being shipped so I haven’t added them to my shelves yet. I did, however, recently add Sybille Bedford’s Jigsaw. I have never read her so I hope I like it.

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

I still need to find about 20 D.E. Stevenson novels as well as more R.C. Sheriff and Richmal Crompton.

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

Unless they have tastes similar to mine I think their eyes would cross as they tried to find books or authors they recognized.

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A huge thanks to Thomas for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. I am beyond excited about heading over to the US to see him and go on our road trip, I am counting down the days. 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 Thomas’ 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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