It was a lucky day for me back in August 2010 when Caroline left a comment on my blog and we began chatting about books. We've not stopped chatting since then, and like so many other readers I've come to know online she's greatly enriched my reading life (as my own towering piles of books will attest). Although she considers Paris her hometown she now lives in Switzerland and blogs at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. Enviably she is multilingual and no doubt my own increase in reading more books in translation over the last few years has been inspired by Caroline's own eclectic reading. If you've not yet met Caroline do click on over and check out her blog. I have to give a little plug, too, for her Literature and War Readalong, and hopefully she'll be helping to once again organize another German Literature Month later this year. (For a closer look at the books just click on the photos).
1. Describe your library/bookshelves. Are the books randomly placed or do you have them organized in a special way?
I do have a system for the main bookshelves. I don’t mix fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction is divided by topics; fiction is divided into genre and literary fiction. The literary fiction is organized by countries, the countries are organized chronologically and by authors. I would never organize anything alphabetically. Due to the growing piles and interests, I have a lot of shelves which have an order only I know. I love to buy books that all circle around some interests, maybe a city or a topic and the books I bought with that in mind would be grouped together even though they could be fiction, non-fiction and genre books. As long as I haven’t read the books, I try to keep the piles together. They are a bit like a notebook and tell me what ideas and interests were on my mind during a certain period. The moment I look at them I remember and feel inspired.
2. Do you like to weed and recycle as you read or do you prefer to hold on to all your books?
I don’t weed but I do not keep everything, especially not genre fiction which I didn’t find particularly great. I keep most literary fiction, non-fiction and the genre novels I might read again.
3. Are your books confined to one area or are they spread out over your house?
They are spread all over the house, in the attic and cellar. There are numerous bookshelves but also a lot of other furniture which has been converted. Some books are in drawers and there are piles everywhere.
4. How long has your oldest unread book sat on your shelves .
I can’t answer this question as I really have no clue. More than ten years, I’m sure, but I don’t know which one it is.
5. What is your most treasured book (and why)?
That’s also something which is hard to answer as I have a lot of books I treasure for different reasons. Some because of the content, others because they are valuable and some because there is a story linked to the book.If I had to pick only one my choice would be a Spanish edition of the Don Quixote. A young man stole it from his parents’ library and gave it to me when I was travelling through Spain and staying in Sevilla for a few days. It’s a very pretty old book, small, with very fine paper, it’s bound in red leather. I must confess that I still haven’t read it but I like to look at it, it’s displayed on a little table.
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 (and why)?
That’s tricky as a lot of the lesser-known books I love have not been translated into English. An author which is an exception is Cesare Pavese. I'm very fond of his novel La bella estate (The Fine Summer). It has everything I love in a book. A melancholic mood, a beautiful story, appealing characters and a great deal of atmosphere. I’m afraid it is out of print at the moment but everything Pavese wrote is lovely, you can pick anything and it will be a winner, The Devil in the Hills, Among Women Only*, his diaries...
*Both The Devil in the Hills and Among Women Only are published together with The Beach and The House on the Hill in the NYRB edition of The Selected Works of Cesare Pavese, which I bought last year. Perhaps this is just the gentle nudge I need to go pull my own copy of the book from the shelves.
Many thanks to Caroline for sharing photos of her bookshelves and piles with us. Check back next Friday for a peek into another reader's library.