As with Simon and Lyn, I first met Hayley via an online reading group that began when a number of like-minded readers decided to share their interest in and love for Persephone Books. They eventually branched out and now read a variety of books (I joined much later), though mainly with an emphasis on 19th and early to mid-20th century fiction. Hayley is a British blogger living in Leicester and shares her bookish passion at Desperate Reader. Along with a love of books she also writes about about food and her cooking/baking adventures. Do click on over and if you prefer books of the sort Persephone publishes, have a good look through her archives and be sure you have paper and pen handy to jot down reading suggestions. (It was through Hayley that I first discovered Molly Keane by the way).
1. Describe your library/bookshelves. Are the books randomly placed or do you have them organized in a special way?
When I first moved here I had more shelf space than books and there was a system - roughly chronological for the fiction, and also split into genres. As the years have gone by the books have overtaken the space (I dream of a bigger flat with yard and yards more shelving) so the system has basically broken down but there's a kind of order . . . My Virago books and Scottish island books are in my bedroom, cookbooks in the kitchen, Persephone books sort of fit on one shelf, Georgette Heyer still has a shelf of her own, non fiction has managed to hang onto most of a bookcase, new books 'rest' on the edge of a particular shelf, and when I next have a sort out classics will hopefully end up together. Otherwise there are books everywhere and I rely on memory to work out where I last saw something . . .
2. Do you like to weed and recycle as you read or do you prefer to hold on to all your books?
I keep most of the books I read. Growing up we always had lots of books around and I've has books as long as I can remember (my dad built extra shelves above my bed and fixed a reading light there for me when I moved onto books that didn't have pictures and I've never looked back). I do weed out books every now and again, I don't get very many unsolicited review copies but I have had a few and most of those have gone off to charity shops because I know I'll never read them. I try and only buy books I think I'll want to keep so big clear outs are rare, though with space becoming an ever bigger issue I'm having to get a bit more ruthless - at the moment I'm sorting out books for my youngest sister and stepmother - that way they stay in the family.
3. Are your books confined to one area or are they spread out over your house?
Books are everywhere in my home and I go everywhere with them. I like them as objects and love them en mass. Most of them are in my sitting room where the shelves are beginning to get double stacked which I don't actually like as it makes things harder to find. The kitchen has cookbooks as well as a few of my wine books, the bath has quarterlies and letter collections, and my bedroom has mostly Virago books as well as a few boxes of fairly random bedside books which don't quite fit anywhere else (my father's holiday place has an increasing collection of books I'm on the fence about, happily he's still seeing these in the light of thoughtful gifts). Unfortunately for my book buying habit that's all the space I have. For a long time I held out against books in the bathroom, now that just seems foolish.
4. How long has your oldest unread book sat on your shelves?
A long, long time, the oldest unread book I have is a copy of The Wind in the Willows which I've had for about 35 years. The one I am most ashamed of is Fanny Burney's Cecilia that I started reading on holiday 20 years ago and never got around to finishing - I'll need to start at the beginning again now. Otherwise unread books don't bother me, I've probably read about half of mine but I buy them to lay down - they're what I'm looking forward to and there are lots of things I don't imagine having the time, or will, to read for maybe another 20 years (Dante and Milton are top of that list). There's something very satisfactory to me in having a good browse amongst my books and pulling out something to read that I bought years ago - I like the idea that it's been patiently waiting for the right moment.
5. What is your most treasured book?
This is the hardest question to answer. I'm very sentimental about my books as a collection - they've been presents, mark milestones, they chart my life and enthusiasms. The Virago books represent days hunting for them with a dear friend, and the Persephones led me to w while group of lovely people. However I don't collection special editions, I don't like hardbacks (they take up too much space and cost too much), don't have many signed books - basically almost all of them are replaceable and if there was a fire it wouldn't be a book that I grabbed. I think it has to be the memoires that my grandfather wrote for his family when he realised his memory was going because it's not something I could track down again and because I really miss him and wish I'd had the chance to spend more time with him as an adult. He had some wonderful stories - as children we loved the one about a shipwreck and an almost plane crash but I learned from the book that he stayed in the Paris Ritz in 1926 and who wouldn't want to know more about that?
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?
Normally at this point I choose a Gavin Maxwell* but I'm in a Victorian mood at the moment so would put in a plea for Margaret Oliphant's Miss Marjoribanks, it's part of the Carlingford Chronicles which were Miss Oliphant's response to Trollope's Barchester Chronicles. She takes him on, and I'm pretty sure she thinks she's doing a better job of it than he did - I might even agree with her. Miss Marjoribanks is the easiest one to find - it was certainly in print a couple of years ago and hopefully still is. It follows the heroine through her twenties - she's a very determined young woman who has come home to look after her father and improve the society of Carlingford. Over the years there are a number of suitors but somehow it never quite comes off and things are looking bad for our heroine but she's not the woman to be disheartened by a setback or to think of herself when she can help others. It's a gently funny book but it's also full of details about Victorian society and the role women played in it. Miss Marjoribanks has something of Jane Austen's Emma about her -- she is wonderful, and sadly overlooked. All the chronicles are excellent and worth reading but this one also works brilliantly as a stand alone read (writing that now makes me want to get it off the shelf again).
*Gavin Maxwell's Ring of Bright Water was another book I loved and discovered thanks to Hayley.
Many thanks to Hayley for sharing photos of her bookshelves and piles with us. Check back next Friday for a peek into another reader's library.