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Other People’s Bookshelves #72 – Ayo Onatade

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 in South London to meet blogger, reviewer and crime fiction expert Ayo Onatade and have a nosey at all of her books. However before we do that let’s grab a nice cuppa and a fondant fancy or two (or three)  that Ayo’s put out for us  whilst we get to know a little more about her.

I am an avid reader, blogger and critic of anything and everything crime, detective and mystery fiction related. I live in South London and work as a civil servant with very senior members of the UK Judiciary as my day job.  I hasten to add that my day job has nothing to do with my love of genre. I run the Shotsmag Confidential blog, review books and also write for Crimespree Magazine.  I also give occasional papers and write academic articles on crime fiction. In 2014 I co-edited along with Len Tyler a collection of short stories entitled Bodies in the Bookshop. Amongst my family I am known as the family library. Whilst my main passion is crime fiction I do actually read other types of books though I don’t think my family actually believes me when I say this.

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Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I can categorically say that the books on my bookshelves have nothing to do with whether or not they are my favourites or if they are really good.  It is more a matter of having somewhere to store them and being able to get my hands on a book when I need it. I certainly do not have a system of one in one out! God forbid. I can barely get rid of books. If that were the case, what would I do with all my “comfort reads” and books that I want to keep? I freely admit that I am to a certain extent a book hoarder and I can get very upset when books are not treated or looked after very well.  I do however have periods where I look at the state of my study and flat in general and shake my head in dismay when I take in the amount of books that I have. The books that I tend to keep fall into a number of categories and are invariably the ones that I value.  They are my signed first editions (especially those of authors whose works I really love), my reference books and literary criticism on crime fiction, which are incredibly useful when I am trying to write a paper and I don’t want to traipse up to the British Library, my comfort reads and books given to me as presents.  I will give away duplicates (especially if I have my own copy already), books that I know that I am not going to read again and occasionally books that I have been judging. With the cutbacks and the closure of many libraries I have found myself giving quite a large number of books to my local library, which luckily for me is at the end of my road. I think that it is outrageous the way in which libraries are being dismantled.  The other person who gets books is my local postman who reads a lot and it is my way of saying thank you since he is the one who as to lug a post bag full of books up to my flat every Saturday.

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 organised in a very disorganised way. They are not in alphabetical order of author but I have for example all my crime fiction reference books and literary criticism on crime fiction in one place, my short story anthologies are together and most of my historical crime novels are together in one place as well. Also my non-crime books are gathered together. Aside from that I generally tend to group an author’s books together in one place.  However, it doesn’t always work and I am not really too bothered as I generally tend to know where a book is when I am looking for it.  My TBR pile is all over the place.  My TBR pile tends to be split into books that I am planning on reading because I want to review them, books that I want to read for pleasure and books that I am reading because I am judging an award. Culling my books upsets me but over the years I have become a lot more resilient about it.  I do purge my collection but generally tend to do it through gritted teeth and with a lot of angst.

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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 the first book I ever bought with my own money.  I can remember the books that have had a significant meaning for me for various reasons.  The first is The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.  This was the very first mystery novel that I read and unknowingly introduced me to my love of crime, mystery and detective fiction.  The second book is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I read this whilst I was at secondary school and it was the first African novel that looked at the social and political aspects of Igbo society and the effects of European colonisation on Africa. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, which for me was the first, ever autobiography that I read that did not seem to be an autobiography.  It was funny, full of interesting information about collecting animals and what fun it was to live in Corfu with a rather eccentric family full of love. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett and Farewell my Lovely by Raymond Chandler changed my crime fiction reading tastes forever. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, which is the first of the Bond books. Reading it after I had started to watch the Bond films certainly confirmed for me the saying “Never judge a book by its movie” by J W Eagan. The first Casino Royale film featuring David Niven is a prime example. I have all these books on my bookshelf and every time I see them they make me smile and bring back memories.

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?

Nope! I think all books are meant to be read whether good or bad. I do have a few books that I read at least ever 18 months and they tend

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 think my most prized book is actually the collection of Raymond Chandler novels that were published by the Library of America.  When you line them up in the correct order in the box then they show a man wearing a fedora holding a smoking gun.  They were given to me as a surprise present by a former boss who used to collect 1st edition works on William Shakespeare. I was very surprised when I received it as it was unexpected. Which books would I save? Bearing in mind the number of books that I have I would find it rather difficult to choose a few but I would certainly have to ensure that following are rescued. Certainly my Raymond Chandler collection published by the Library of America. My complete works of Dashiell Hammett. My collection of Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher, my JD Robb collection, all my James Lee Burke books and books by George Pelecanos, 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello.  Finally my collection of crime fiction reference and books on crime fiction literary criticism specifically The Blues detective by Stephen Soitos, Colleen Barnett’s encyclopaedia on Mystery Women and Spooks, Spies and Private Eyes: Black Mystery, Crime and Suspense Fiction of the 20th Century by Paula L Woods. Oops! That seems to be quite a lot.

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?

Argh! I can’t remember that far back. I wish I could. For me the division between when I stopped reading children’s books and moved to adults is rather blurred. We are all readers in my family. My brother and sisters and I used to spend a lot of time in the library when we were younger.  I do have books on my shelves that I have solely because they bring back memories of my childhood for example T H White’s Once and Future King, but aside from that my mind is blank.

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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 can’t remember the last time that I borrowed a book. I tend to resist doing so.  We are talking about over 25 years ago. It generally ends up being the other way around and nowadays I hardly ever loan my books out.  The only people that I will consider lending my books to are my family and very close friends.  I am quite lucky because of the amount of blogging and writing that I do on crime, detective and mystery fiction I get sent quite a lot of books.  I have been known to buy a book (sometimes second hand) if I have wandered into a bookshop and have seen a book that I have been looking for to add to my collection or a book (mainly American authors) that I can’t get here in the UK.  I generally tend to buy most of my reference books and literary criticism as well as my non-crime books.  I freely admit that I am a bit paranoid and precious about my books as I tend to believe that they won’t be treated well.

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

The Killing Kind by Chris Holm.  Chris Holm is much better known in the States as opposed to here in the UK.  However, he has a UK publisher and The Killing Kind was published in August this year. He is an award winning novelist and he has written a brilliant trilogy of  Collector novels which is a mash-up of fantasy and crime pulp.  The Killing Kind is a page turner of a thriller where an assassin that solely kills assassins finds himself on the run from both the FBI and the Mafia.

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

There are too many! Where do I start?  The geek in me would very much like the four volume hardback edition of 100 Bullets.  I would also like a colour version of House of Leaves by Mark L Danielewski, which was published in 2000.  A postmodern novel I first encountered it when I was doing my Masters degree.  The layout and page structure is very unconventional and you certainly have to have patience to read it. The novel is also distinctive for its multiple narrators, who interact with each other in elaborate and disorienting ways.  There is a coloured version and a red version.  Either one would do. Would it be too greedy for me to also want a complete set of original Penguin Greens and the complete works of James M Cain?

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

The first thought would be “how the hell can you find anything” as my shelves are not neat and tidy. The word eclectic also comes to mind. I would think that anyone perusing my shelves would initially think that I read too much crime fiction and that I need to get a life and that I am a bit of a book hoarder.  On the other hand I would also hope that they would ask me about my favourite books and authors and possibly ask me for recommendations as well. I would like them to think that my taste spans different sub genres of crime, detective and mystery fiction and that my bookshelves are an insight to my love of reading. I think that it would also depend on whether or not they are readers themselves. Other readers tend to be a lot more understanding and interested in what is on other peoples bookshelves but non readers are more likely to be disinterested.

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

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The American Lover – Rose Tremain

If one book could sum up my reading year it would probably be Rose Tremain’s collection The American Lover. In part this is because this has been a year in which I have rediscovered my love of the short story. It wasn’t that I had abandoned them; I think I was just reading the wrong ones. It is also the year that I finally read Rose Tremain, after reading her work in honour of Granny Savidge who rated her as one of her favourite living authors. I am kicking myself for not having read her sooner and The American Lover again shows why she is such a master of the story whatever length.

Chatto & Windus, 2014, hardback, short stories, 232 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

One of the things that I most love about Rose Tremain’s writing is how she gets into the heads of the outsider or the underdog, or indeed the forgotten voices in society. This is probably the theme that runs through all her work and is the only thing that really connects The American Lover which is about as eclectic a selection of short stories as you could ask for in terms of scope, lengths and subject matter.

We have all felt, even the most confident of us, like outsiders at some point in her lives and this theme chimes within us even if we aren’t like the two old men in Captive or Smithy, who both live alone and try to get by and be helpful both (heartbreakingly so), we can empathise with them from what we have experienced as we do in all the stories. Rose also looks at people who choose to be outsiders such as Walter and Lena in A View of Lake Superior in the Fall who have become recluses hidden away in the wilds to hide from their grown up daughter, you will laugh and you will cry; and in another tale the very real Leo Tolstoy who appears, having escaped his horrendous wife in The Jester of Astapovo. She also looks at Sapphic love and how being different in whatever way makes us feel an outsider in the brilliant Extra Geography. Another highlight for me though was the appearance of one of my very favourite fictional outsiders…

Everybody believes that I am an invented person: Mrs Danvers. They say I am a creation: ‘Miss du Maurier’s finest creation’, in the opinion of many. But I have my own story. I have a history and a soul. I am a breathing woman.

You can imagine my chills of excitement when I saw that yes, Rose Tremain takes on Rebecca in The Housekeeper looking at it from a completely different angle of the relationship between muse, writer and the finished works. In fact writing is one of the themes interspersed throughout The American Lover, indeed in the title story we discover the tale of Beth whose affair with a much older man when she was younger inspired the bestselling novel The American Lover, yet what was she left with after. This is a wonderful and, another Tremain trope, heartbreaking tale and you can see why it was up for the short story award earlier in the year. As we have a reimaging of how Rebecca was inspired and how Tolstoy spent his last days we also get a wonderful modern retelling of a rather famous Shakespeare play with 21st Century Juliet, which had me cackling. The excerpt below made me laugh and also reminds you all to pop my birthday date in your diaries, ha!

24th March
Cook supper for Cousin Tibs. I adore the bastard like the brother I never had. We get smashed on the (four) bottles of Corvo he’s brought and I tell him about Mayo and about Perry’s declaration. Relief to get everything out in the open. And Tibs is really sweet and on my side and agrees with me that good sex is awesomely rare and that Perry Paris is verging on being a pillock.

What I also love about Rose Tremain’s writing (and I have a lot of love for it if you hadn’t noticed) is that she explores all aspects of we strange human folk. She looks at loneliness, grief, rage, love, loss, death, kindness, bitterness in all their forms. One of the tales that did this best (and is probably in my favourites of the collection with The American Lover, Captive and obviously The Housekeeper) is BlackBerry Winter where we meet Fran as she goes home for Christmas. Here with time to reflect she does the things we all do now and again, and something that Tremain is very good at discussing in her work, asking the questions of ourselves we don’t like to face or are shocked to face. Some are hard and dark; what are we doing with our lives, are we in the right relationship, do we like ourselves? Some are dark but funny (Tremain does black comedy so, so well) like when we contemplate killing our mothers, or wishing we were dead, even just for a moment.

Fran unpacked her clothes and put them in her old wardrobe, which used to creak and grumble in the night, like something alive. Then, she sat down on the single bed and took out her BlackBerry and emailed David. She told him that she almost wished Peggy had been sliced in half by the gin trap; she told him that the moonshine on The Trib had made her long to be a Tahitian again; she told him that her love for him was as dark and familiar as the wood. When she signed off and contemplated her evening alone with Peggy and the TV, she experienced thirty seconds of wanting to be dead.

I loved the whole collection of The American Lover, there is so much that is wonderful in here I haven’t managed to mention A Man in the Water, Juliette Greco’s Black Dress, Lucy & Gaston  or The Closing Door which are all marvellous, and all have all the Tremain-isms in them that I mention above. Also you might need another reason to quickly run and get this from the shops for loved ones, though really I would recommend you just treat yourself and find a few hours to curl up with it and all the worlds and stories Rose Tremain creates for you.

When Simon Met Rose...

When Simon Met Rose…

I had the joy of meeting Rose, who is just lovely, and talking about The American Lover and some of the other books she has written (and indeed I have read for Trespassing with Tremain, the review of Restoration coming before the end of the year) a month or so ago which you can listen to here on You Wrote The Book. Who else has read this collection and what did you think? What about Tremain’s other works? I still have plenty to go which I am so excited about; she is definitely a firm favourite author of mine now.

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Other People’s Bookshelves #43; Seamus Duggan

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 of to the Irish Midlands to join Seamus Duggan who blogs at Vapour Trails, and who has kindly agreed to be the latest participant to share their shelves (thank you to all of you who have volunteered to share your shelves you will be getting emails from me very soon) with you all. So grab yourself a cup of tea, or maybe a pint of Guinness or Irish Cream, and lets have a look through his bookshelves and find out more about him.

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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 has to be pretty woeful for me to get rid of it. Mostly the ones I get rid of are ones that I never really wanted to read but which came into my possession as part of a box I bought in an auction. My wife and daughter keep coughing pointedly during the TV programme Hoarders which often seems to be on in the evening when I emerge into the TV room. Are they trying to say something? Perhaps.
Do you organize 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 made many attempts at organising my books and there are areas like crime/Sci-fi /music/Irish/Spanish/German etc etc and have even got as far as alphabetising my collections of Short Stories but each area ends up being too small for the number of books as they grow and simultaneously the areas on each side become oversubscribed and the resulting hybrid is usually chaos.  This is even more exaggerated as the shelves progressively become two books deep. What lies beneath? Who knows. One problem I keep coming across is when a book is too large for the shelf it should go on, throwing everything into confusion. Having fitted out a room in my current house as a ‘library’ it is almost as if I am driven to fill every available inch of space. I am currently extending the shelves up to the ceiling and looking at the bare wall over my desk.
What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?
Given my current habits I myself fund it hard to believe but I was really a library addict as a child. I cannot remember the first book I bought with my own money but my earliest memory is of the Ladybird reading series and my determination to make it to the final book in the series.
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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?
Not really, there are good and bad books on the shelves and they include my kids books I have bought by the box at auction in order to get a couple of books. Once I bought a whole pallet of books and I have made some profit from the few I sold but have had to get rid of a lot and will have to get rid of many more. They are mostly British history books. I have toyed with the idea of trying to sell books online but am not organised enough. 
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 think I would burn in the throes of indecision. Perhaps my copies of Ulysses, Riddley Walker and Carpenter’s Gothic, all of which I re-read regularly which has invested the actual books with memories, such as the time Carpenter’s Gothic got soaked in cider, retaining the scent for years afterwards. I also have some First Editions that I love. JR , again by William Gaddis and The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch stand out.
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 have a particular memory of Gone with the Wind which I read during a rainy holiday at my grandmother’s house. It was the first ‘adult’ book of that size that I’d read. I remember being determined to read Ulysses and although only partially successful at fourteen I have gone on to read it a number of times. However it is the copy I bought at college that I have on my shelves.
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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 almost every book I want to read that I come across in Charity/second hand bookshops. How I’ll ever get to read them all is not clear. (I won’t). I love being able to browse through the hundreds of unread books when wondering what to read next. because of all these books I never borrow any more.
What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?
Found A Handful of Dust yesterday. I couldn’t find my old copy and have been thinking it due a re-read. I feel a little indebted to Mr Waugh (see below).
Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?
A first folio Shakespeare! It would be nice to pay off the mortgage and be able to afford to live a little more comfortably! I recently found a first edition of Waugh in Abyssinia which I put up for auction and sold for £1,500 which will help with the out of control credit card / overdraft situation. (http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/21761/lot/180/) As a reader I am currently hoping to pick up some Cesar Aria and maybe Your Face Tomorrow by Javier Marias. These are the sort of books that very rarely show up in charity shops (although good things come to those that wait).
What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?
They would probably think that I’ve lost touch with reality and need to live more and read less. There is probably something for everyone. It’s got to the stage when I dig around a bit I find books which come as complete surprises to me. Eclectic is the word, I guess, or eccentric.
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A huge thanks to Seamus for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. 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 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 Seamus’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #30 (Part Two): Kate Neilan

Hello and welcome, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves which sees the series of posts turning 30! So to mark this special occasion we are heading to the delights of Essex for a big old party (grab your streamers, some cupcakes, a glass of fizzy and a paper hat) as we are hosted by one of my favourite bookish couples in the whole wide world. Today we join Rob and Kate from Adventures with Words, who I have the pleasure of joining along with Gavin every month to make Hear… Read This. Less about me, and more about them as I hand over to Kate (breaking the tradition of ladies first as I let Rob share his shelves earlier as they haven’t merged shelves yet, I am not judging their relationship on this basis though… much!) to introduce her lovely self and her shelves and all other bookish shenanigans…

I’m Kate – you might know me as @magic_kitten – and I’ve always been a huge reader ever since I can remember, and even before that if you believe my parents.  I work full time as Head of Citizenship and PSHE at a secondary school in Essex, although I originally trained as an English teacher at Cambridge, after doing my English Lit degree at Durham.  While I was there, I took the (very popular) Children’s Fiction module, which reignited my love for Young Adult books, to the extent that I wrote my dissertation on His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. I’m now one half of Adventures With Words, alongside Rob Chilver. He began the blog to discuss books, films, games and stories in general and in 2012 we started recording a weekly podcast too. Recently, I’ve branched out with my own ‘Young Adult Edition’. Do go to www.adventureswithwords.com and have a look.

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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 a dreadful hoarder and, until recently, I kept every book that I bought, even if I’d read it and not really thought much of it.  My book collection fills three ‘Billy’ bookcases and more; I’ve got two boxes of books that have yet to be unpacked since Rob and I moved in together over a year ago. Lately, though, I’ve had to be more ruthless.  We now have a ‘To go’ pile of books where books I know I’m not going to read again go, although, as yet, they’ve not actually gone anywhere yet! If I’m being honest, these aren’t even all my books. I still have a shelf in my old bedroom at my parents’ house full of all my Point Horrors and teenage reads. I’m thinking about retrieving them but where would they go?!

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?

Before my most recent house move (I worked out recently I’ve moved more than ten times, taking into account university, teacher training and various flats and houses since moving out), I had my bookcases very carefully organised. I had three big red ‘Billy’ bookcases, one ‘half’ bookcase with three deep shelves, and one totally non-matching white one. That one housed my (excessive) CD and DVD collection, then my half-bookcase was for YA, and one large bookcase housed my university books (a mixture of textbooks, anthologies, Complete Works of Shakespeare/Chaucer etc and various novels, plays and poetry). The other two bookcases were organised roughly by genre, then by author; you could glance at the shelves and easily see the Tolkien, Iain (M) Banks, Isabel Allende and so on.

All this lovely system was completely destroyed when we last moved house; putting two sets of things into one house just doesn’t fit, so I gave up my white bookcase…and so it began! As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got two boxes of books that haven’t even seen the light of day yet – there wasn’t any urgency as they’re mostly university texts – but I’m sure I’ll want them one day… Eventually, during as summer holiday, I’ll take all these lovely stories off the shelves and rearrange them. I promise. We do have a “Blog TBR” bookcase (because piling them on the floor was becoming a little impractical) and some of these will graduate onto my own bookshelves after being read, reviewed and enjoyed.

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

Short answer? No, I’m really not sure, although I did spend quite a lot of my summer holiday aged 12 buying Point Horror books for a couple of pounds each from the second hand book stall in Norwich covered market… Still got them!

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I have very varied taste in books – I read literary fiction, lots of genre fiction and Young Adult – and I’m not really embarrassed about any of my choices; as far as I’m concerned, it’s fine to read something that’s a bit cheesy or clichéd as long as you enjoy it. I do own the entire Twilight series (and have read them all) and I’ve got The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. No, they’re not literary masterpieces, but yes, they were enjoyable in their own ways.

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 given to me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I have a lovely set of Tolkein’s fiction with matt black covers and a small picture on the front of each one, which I really love, and a fantastic set of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy in hardback, all first editions. These were from my parents and they’re very precious to me. I also have a very well-loved secondhand copy of Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks, my favourite of his science fiction novels, which was sent to me by the wonderful Gav of No Cloaks Allowed, The Readers and Hear Read This. He found it while browsing, opened up the cover, and saw that it was signed. After buying it, he tweeted about it and I jokingly tweeted back saying it would make my day (life) if I’d found it, and he sent it to me! What a lovely guy. Finally, I have one of only eight comb-bound preview copies of the final Artemis Fowl book, Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian. Rob knew I’m a huge fan of the series and managed to get hold of it, without letting on; as you can imagine, I was absolutely thrilled.

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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?

A bit like me, my parents have a house full of books, so I always remember them being there. One of the first “proper” books I read was Jane Eyre, aged 11, but I swiftly graduated to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and then The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is absolutely hilarious when you’re supposed to be asleep but in fact you’re reading about sweary robots under your duvet using a torch…

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?

Neither a borrower or a lender be! Well, I’m not, anyway. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ about pre-read books; library books always have that slightly funny smell to them, other people crack the spine or turn over the corner of pages, a habit I managed to kick. I’m a huge recommender to others, especially my mum, but she buys her own copy rather than borrow mine because she doesn’t want to give it back in less than pristine condition! I’m very aware that this is all a bit weird; libraries are brilliant, they’re just not how I read. Plus, the last time I lent a book (a first edition hardback of the first in Isabel Allende’s YA trilogy) I didn’t get it back… #fuming

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

Funny you ask that, Simon – you may recognise the titles I’m about to mention.  Only earlier today, Rob came home from work with a lovely bookish goody bag for me. My newest acquisitions are Magda by Meike Ziervogel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra, The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough and The Gigantic Beard The Was Evil by Stephen Collins. I’ve also got a fantastic little Reading Journal. I find, when I’m reading, that I’d like to jot down ideas but I don’t fancy ‘texting’ them into my phone, so I’m looking forward to using this from now on. Hopefully, it should improve my reviews, too!

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

To be honest, I think I’m extremely lucky when it comes to books; there are very few that I don’t have but do wish for. I’d love a hardback copy of Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old and I’m awaiting the arrival of All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld, but, other than that, it’s books that haven’t been published yet. I know they’re coming, because they’re part of series I’m reading: the final Heroes of Olympus book by Rick Riordan, and the next book in Charlie Higson’s The Enemy series, not forgetting the conclusion of Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne trilogy and James Dawson’s new book, Say Her Name.

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

I’m sure they’d think I’ve got very eclectic tastes – there’s a little bit of everything – but hopefully I’ve picked some great books from every genre, and hopefully they’d see things they’d love to try themselves.

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A huge thanks to Kate for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, though she really had no choice! If you haven’t go and visit Rob’s shelves, imagine all those books in one house, here! 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 Kate’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #29 – Anne Coates

Hello and welcome, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves. In the grand scheme of things we have now gone from a post on porn, well sex, in books to book porn as we all nosey through someone else’s book shelves. This week we are in finally joined by Anne Coates. I say finally as we have been trying to get Anne’s shelves shared with you all for quite some time but technology has been defeating us until now! So without further ado here is Anne to introduce herself and her shelves…

Books have been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. After graduating in English and French, I worked in publishing and this was wonderful for reading and learning about contemporary fiction and different genres. As a freelance editor and writer, I have been involved in non-fiction as well. I have always written short stories which were published in women’s magazines. Endeavour Press have recently published two ebook collections Cheque-Mate & Other Tales of the Unexpected and A Tale of Two Sisters as well as two parenting books linked to my family website, Parenting Without Tears. As you may imagine Roald Dahl is one of my favourite authors and as an antidote to my work in non-fiction, there’s nothing I like better than a good murder!

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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?

Obviously I keep all my favourites but every now and again I have a cull. Once I kept every Reader’s Digest book I’d worked on then thought – why? So out they went. Also some non-fiction books become outdated/superceded so they go too. A lot of the non-fiction books on my shelves were for review or research. I love re-reading books I’ve enjoyed but Twitter has introduced me to a whole world of new writers and the “books to read pile” has become a tower or rather several towers if you include my ebooks!.

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 bookshelves tend to evolve organically and they have moved around the house. Used to have all my fiction in the dining-room but then needed the space there. Having looked at my shelves for this article, I’ve realised what a mess they are in. Fiction used to be alphabetical with a separate shelf for French texts and plays and poetry together. However the shelves are rather chaotic at the moment – time for another cull? On the other hand sometimes, when I’m looking for one book, I find another I’d forgotten about and that’s always a joy.

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

I remember being given some money when I was about nine or ten and I went straight out and bought a maths book! However I’ve no idea what happened to it.
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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 don’t harbour any guilty reading pleasures (she said in her best Lady Grantham voice) but I don’t like westerns or erotica. However on my shelves is a copy of Joy in Love translated from French by one Anne Dante (!). My mother read it without comment but she had read The Story of O. I probably wouldn’t want anyone to think I’d read it but I just can’t bring myself to throw away or hide the first book I translated.

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 love having books that members of my family (who are now dead) have owned. My paternal grandmother won a copy of Mrs Beaton’s Family Cook Book (second prize for a Victoria sponge) which contains notes and comments and some of her recipes. So I’d certainly want to save that. Plus I’d grab Mum’s Shakespeare knowing that she had held the book and read the plays. I also have her copy of Andrew Marvell which I bought her as she loved his poetry. Whenever I read those poems, I smile thinking of my mother. I also have books signed by authors I have worked with which are very special to me.

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

My parents didn’t own many books (although my mother was a voracious reader and went to the library every week) but I do remember As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, The Essential Hemingway and Sticky Wickets by Lionel Lord Tennyson. I still have their Pears Encyclopaedia. I did read the first two but am not that interested in reading about cricket.

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 used to buy every book but then had to reduce expenditure so use the library and share books with friends. Having a Kindle has made a huge difference as I buy books on special offer.

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

The latest book has literally just arrived: The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne. I shall be reading it to see if I am hoodwinked by Steven’s perfect plot twists. A lovely challenge.

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

Am looking forward to the latest from Peter James and Mari Hannah –Dead Man’s Time and Monument to Murder – they’re on my Christmas wish list.

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

I hope they’d think here’s someone who loves books and reads widely. Some of my books are “well-thumbed” and some have notes written in them which would probably say more about me than the book. Observers might wonder at some of the non-fiction titles … but all in the line of duty.

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A huge thanks to Anne 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 Anne’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that she mentions?

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Other People’s Bookshelves #5– Shelley Harris

This week on Other People’s Bookshelves we get to have a nosey through an authors book shelves as we are joined by the lovely Shelley Harris. Shelley was born in South Africa and emigrated to Britain at the age of six. She has been a local journalist, a secondary school teacher, an assistant in a wine shop and a bouncer at teenage discos (no, really). She likes slapstick humour and salted caramels. Her first novel, Jubilee (Weidenfeld and Nicolson – which I have on my shelves) was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and picked as a 2012 Richard and Judy Summer Read. So let us have a nosey through her shelves…

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 tend to keep all the books I read – except the atrocious ones. Those go straight to Oxfam. My favourites never leave unless by mistake, when I lend them to someone who doesn’t give them back (see also: Behind The Scenes At The Museum, A Christmas Carol).

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?

OK, this is a bit complex, but here goes:

Most of my books are upstairs, in the room I write in; three walls are covered in shelves, and most are mine (I allow my husband a measly three shelves – he’s very good about it). One of the walls is for non-fiction, and within that there’s history (chronological), auto/biography (alphabetical by subject) and general non-fiction (autobiographical by author). My fiction used to be alphabetical by author too, but this summer I decided to arrange it by colour, and it’s bee-ootiful. I should admit here that it’s sometimes just the teensiest bit hard to lay my hand on exactly the book I want, but – did I mention it’s bee-ootiful? I’ve also got very un-arranged shelves connected with whatever I’m writing at the moment or want to write next. My To-Be-read pile is downstairs. It’s four shelves big.

I do cull my books from time to time, and it’s a curiously double-edged thing for me. I feel that liberation you always get when you shuck off some of your possessions, but also the anxiety that you might be throwing out something you’ll want next week. That actually happened once; a novel stayed on my shelves for two years unread, so I got rid of it. The next week, someone told me it was brilliant.

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

I’ve racked my brains, but I can’t remember. What I do know is that at the age of ten I read two books alternately for months on end – maybe I bought them, I don’t know. They were Antonia Barber’s The Amazing Mr. Blunden, and E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. At some unsentimental moment in my life (stupid early adulthood) I threw them out, but now have replacement copies on my shelves.

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?

Oooh, now I’m really interested in your Hidden Shelf. I don’t have one; I’m not at all ashamed of anything I take pleasure in, and that includes books which are…what would people scoff at? Stuff that’s considered lowbrow? Erotica? It’s all good.

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’s a tough one, but I think I might try to save the books my students gave me as gifts when I finished teaching them (they were so relieved, the poor mites). I’m massively proud of having taught, and to have been called ‘a WICKED English teacher’ is one of the best things anyone’s ever said about me.

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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?

I remember being transported (as many girls my age were) by Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, and read the book soon after the single was released. I was maybe eleven at the time. But my parents were responsible for lots of the books I read – grown-up and not-so. Dad used to quote a lot of Shakespeare and poetry at me, using a voice he thought sounded like Laurence Olivier (it sounded like a Dalek). And my Mom read and loved The Women’s Room and passed it over when I was about seventeen – it was a really important book for me.

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?

If I love it I tend to want to keep it – some of my Oxfam purchases are novels I’ve borrowed and loved but want for myself. I read Jane Harris’s Gillespie and I on Kindle (very rare for me) and now have the hardback on my shelves.

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

A copy of A Christmas Carol which I bought from Oxfam because it’s weirdly disappeared from my shelves. I suspect our resident twelve-year-old reader.

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

Yes – I want to magic the next Sarah Waters onto my shelves right now.

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

I don’t mind what they think, but my best guess is that they’ll notice I mainly read contemporary novels, that I love books passionately (I have lots of them), and that they may suspect I’m borderline OCD.

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A big thank you to Shelley for letting me grill her and allowing us to nosey through her shelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in 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 Shelley’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

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Juliet’s Balcony, From Romeo & Juliet

I will be doing some longer posts on my break away in Italy, from the sightseeing to the bookshops that I discovered, over the next few weeks. Today I thought I would do a special post on the most literary of the venues we went to in Verona which is, of course, Juliet’s balcony which is said to have been the inspiration for the story behind the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ if that makes sense.

I have admitted before that I was thoroughly put off Shakespeare by my English teachers at school, yet ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was my favourite of the plays we studied, I was also of the generation who ran to see Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation when it came out at the cinema, all edgy and new, which we all thought was amazing. So seeing ‘the alleged ledge’, as I kept calling it, was on my list of places to go (so was Juliet’s tomb but we kept missing it when we were hunting for it) if we could. What amazed me is what a Mecca it has become for lovers; the walls of the entrance to the courtyard are just covered in graffiti of lovers, love hearts and initials.

So much so that there isn’t any space for anymore and so people have started flattening chewing gum and writing in permanent marker on those chewy circles when they have dried, or sticking notes and post its through the same method. Clearly the tourist board aren’t too happy with that and so they have started a new craze which is to padlock your initials, and therefore love, to chains around the courtyard instead…

Oddly enough all the nearby shops have cottoned on to this and you can by a variety of padlocks in all sorts of colours and sizes. We saw endless girls running, some squealing, to the shops (invariably dragging a slightly embarrassed beau with them) and buying a padlock there and then. Well, who were we not to join in?

Alas we didn’t get to see the tomb where it all ended so dramatically, and which I suddenly desperately wanted to find, nor did we visit Romeo’s house (The Beard said ‘his house isn’t famous for anything, let’s be honest’) or have a picture touching the statue of Juliet’s breast (why do people do this?) but it did make me ponder if I should turn to Shakespeare again? I have been reading some of his poems on and off since and I am seeing them in a new light. Anyway, I thought with its literary twist you might like to see Juliet’s ‘alleged ledge’, have any of you been and left your mark? Oh and do any of you know if it is true that apparently the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was a local fable which Shakespeare ‘borrowed’ and was inspired by? That is what we heard while we were there. Hmmm, intriguing.

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