It's always fortunate when you can find another reader whose tastes overlap with your own. While I can always depend on good recommendations from fellow readers and bloggers (and often find unexpected pleasures in those unfamiliar reading suggestions) more than once I've asked Litlove for book ideas and it's uncanny how I can give her an idea of what I'd like to read and she'll come up with a list of books that will precisely match my mood. I'm sure this ability comes from her varied bookish background. She has worked in the literary world in a number of venues beginning as bookseller and buyer to lecturer in French Literature. She has recently (and happily for us who know her exquisite writing talents) taken to writing full time. She began her blog, Tales from the Reading Room in 2006 and is located in Cambridge, England. She has modeled her blog after a literary salon, but this virtual salon requires no special invitation. Do go check it out if you've not yet met Litlove.
1. Describe your library/bookshelves. Are the books randomly placed or do you have them organized in a special way?
For years there was no special arrangement as I rather liked the feeling that only I knew where every single book was. But there came a point when the books got the better of such youthful vanities and I categorised and alphabetised so I wouldn't buy the same one twice. Now I'm pretty organised. I have crime, (mostly) British classics and A-Z paperback fiction in the study; in the sitting room there's the non-fiction, hardbacks and world classics. In the conservatory I keep my books in French and there's a holding section for recently read books which I may or may not keep (I almost always keep them). Upstairs we have Mr. Litlove's books in the small study, rather a lot of hardback fiction and non-fiction languishing for now in the small spare room whilst awaiting the new bookcase Mr. Litlove has promised me, and in our bedroom I have a large stack of TBR by the bed.
2. Do you like to weed and recycle as you read or do you prefer to hold on to all your books?
I am not made happy by culling books although every five years or so I realise it has to be done. I very rarely get rid of many, though. Usually just paperback fiction I've abandoned halfway through, or books I know I'll never read again. Seeing as we are just about reaching capacity in the house, this policy may have to change in the near future. I am beginning to be attracted by the though of a personal library that contains only books I truly love and admire - though that would still be a pretty huge library.
3. Are your books confined to one area or are they spread out over your house?
We have books in every room of the house - even the kitchen has quite a lot of cookery books. The bathroom has one waterproof book of short stories and essays that Mr. Litlove bought for me in the Borders closing down sale (he liked the idea of it). I wouldn't mind having more books in the bathroom but I'm afraid they'd wrinkle. Even I realise I can't fit many more books in, unless I crate them and put them in the loft (not at all satisfactory). So we have here an environment that is delicately poised in equilibrium - any mass migration (and my books have yet to come home from college) risks tipping us into overload. This is an unresolved and potentially pressing concern (and no thank you, an ereader is not the answer).
4. How long has your oldest unread book sat on your shelves?
I had to think about this, but my guess is the trophy goes to The Heaven Tree quartet by Edith Pargeter (better known as Ellis Peters). As a teenager I adored historical fiction (I forgot to mention - I currently have four stacks of historical novels in the study) but I read less of it these days. I read and loved the first two books in the series, but still have The Scarlet Seed and The Marriage of Meggotta to go. And so they must be, hmmm, 27 years old. Yikes.
5. What is your most treasured book?
At the end of a very long think about this question, too, I had to come to the conclusion that I couldn't pick one. I mean I have my fancy Pleiade editions of Colette's works, which are undoubtedly the most expensive books I own. And I have two of Julian Barnes' books signed by the author. But I would be just as sorry if I lost any of the books I was given for Christmas, or indeed The Marriage of Meggotta which I have every intention of reading one day, or E.M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady, which I have read many times but it never fails to cheer me up. I think of my books en masse, as my private army, the peace-keeping force that maintains equilibrium whether the times are hard or prosperous ones. We're a team, you know, and every member counts.
6. If you could pick one "lost in the stacks/on your bookshelves" book to rediscover and share with other readers, which would it be?
So many contenders, but in the end I think I'll go for The Orchard by Drusilla Modjeska. This is one of those unique, unclassifiable books, hovering between fiction and non-fiction and considering with great eloquence, wisdom and beauty the place of the woman artist. Hardly anyone knows about Modjeska, who was born in England and lives and works now in Australia, but she is a wonderful stylist and a very intelligent writer.
Hint: click on photos for a close up! Per Litlove the photos are as follows from top to bottom: First three are books in her study (am quite envious of the books in top photo--I could spend hours looking through them!), fourth photo is a close up of books in her sitting room, fifth are bookshelves in her conservatory for books after she's read them (now I don't feel so bad about my own messy shelves), and bottom photo is Mr. Litlove's shelves (quite a respectable showing!).
Many thanks to Litlove for answering my questions and sharing such lovely photos of her library--truly a visual feast! Check back next Friday for a peek into another reader's library.