One of the things I love most (aside from being able to take a peek at other readers' book collections) is getting to know another side of them. I am pretty familiar with those on my blogroll and often feel I can put, if not actual face, then a personality to the name. Often, though, they share some interesting things here that I hadn't come across previously when reading their blogs. I've been following Margaret of BooksPlease almost as long as I've been blogging, but I had no idea of several of the things she was kind enough to share about herself:
I'm a lifelong bookaholic and trained and worked for a while as a librarian in a local history library and then as a cataloguer. Danielle's series 'Lost in the Stacks' brings back happy memories of the time I spent in the stacks working in Manchester Public Libraries years ago, so I'm delighted she asked me to contribute to her 'Lost in the Stacks Home Edition'.
I began my blog after I left my job as a Definitive Map Officer working in the Rights of Way section in local government in the south-east of England. Part of my job involved meeting and interviewing people about the footpaths and bridleways they used, researching the history of the paths and writing reports. I wanted to carry on writing and researching after I left work and writing a blog seemed to fill the gap -- and it's meant that I've 'met' lots of people from different parts of the world, all with similar interests to me, as well as adding many books to my collection. It's also meant that I've developed an interest in photography.
For the last three years I've lived in Northumberland in the north-east of England, not far from the border with Scotland and I've been enjoying exploring the countryside in the Borders. When I'm not reading I like walking and finding out about the area and its history. I've also learned to paint and have joined a local art club, which has helped me enormously. I've always thought I couldn't paint and I'm still very much a beginner.
Do click on over and check out BooksPlease, Margaret often has several interesting-sounding mysteries on the go and I am always curious what her current reads happen to be!
1. Describe your library/bookshelves. Are the books randomly placed or do you have them organized in a special way?
My bookcases are full to overflowing with some double-shelved. They are a mix of non-fiction and fiction according to their size. I've arranged the fiction in two sections -- books that I've read and unread books -- both in A-Z author order. But my difficulty is that I haven't enough room on the 'read' shelves to fit any more in so the 'unread' bookshelves also hold books that I've read recently.
The non-fiction is randomly placed on the shelves, mainly by size, although I have placed books on the same subject together where possible -- books on history, biography and autobiography, art, cookery, gardening, yoga, religion, philosophy, language, travel and nature books mainly.
2. Do you like to weed and recycle as you read or do you prefer to hold on to all your books?
When I worked in the library I only used to buy books that I thought I'd want to re-read and I borrowed lots of books from the library. Later on I began buying more books, and those 3 or 2 offers meant that it was usually more than one book at a time and the numbers grew. In an ideal world I would keep all my books, but as space is limited I try to be firm with myself and week out books that I'm unlikely to want to re-read. It's very difficult because there have been so many times I've wanted to re-read or just check a particular book only to realise I no longer have it. So it's a slow process.
I take some books to charity shops but I'm lucky that I live within driving distance of one of the biggest second-hand bookshops in the UK -- Barter Books in Alnwick -- and I've taken quite a few there in the last 3 years. The drawback is though they don't actually buy the books -- they offer you a sum of money for them and then you 'buy' more. That's a drawback or a bonus depending on how you look at it.
3. Are your books confined to one area or are they spread out over your house?
My books are spread out over nearly the whole house, with bookcases in most of the rooms. Four bookcases line one wall of the hallway. These hold unread fiction and some non-fiction (photo 1). the fiction is double-shelved, which does make it more difficult to see what I have.
There are more bookcases in the other rooms. On the top shelf of the one in the lounge (photo 2) are more of the unread novels -- again double shelved. I have far too many unread books! The lower shelves hold a mix of fiction and non-fiction.
Photo 3 shows some of the books in the office. These are a mix of novels that I've read and non-fiction, mainly art books, cookery books, books on religion and health.
Most of the non-fiction is in a tall bookcase at the end of the inner hallway. It's a real jumble of books as show in photo 4, with books on history, travel, football (my husband's books), language, gardening, biography, walking and so on sitting side by side. I see there's even a novel that has infiltrated the non-fiction section! (photo 5 is a close up of a few of these books)
Photo 6 is of the little bookcase my Dad made me for my bedroom when I was about 8. It doesn't look anything special -- just a three shelf wooden bookcase he painted white, but I could never part with it. It's looking a bit the worse for ear now. On the top are some very old children's books and a pile of brochures from National Trust properties we've visited. The shelves contain many history books and some philosophy books.
There are very old books in a spare bedroom -- again some children's books from my childhood and my parents' childhoods, too, some history and gardening books and some dictionaries. I also have a few cookery books that I use regularly on a shelf in the kitchen.
I'd like to have all the books close at hand, but there just isn't enough space so up in the loft there are boxes of books that I've read and want to keep. Every now and then I have to go up and retrieve a few.
I've had to think very hard to answer this question. It's difficult because I haven't kept a record of when I acquired my books. I began to list my books on LibraryThing in April 2007 but by that time I already had a number of unread books, and some of those are still unread. So I started to answer this by trying to remember how long I'd had them -- impossible. And then I realised I still have a number of reference books that I bought when I was at school, doing my 'A' levels! One is a biography of King James the Sixth of Scotland and First of England, by David Harris Willson. I was studying the Stuarts for 'A' Level History and thought I'd read it after the exams were over, but I never got round to it! I'm not owning up to how many years I've had this book! It's probably very dated now in terms of historical biographies and it's not in very good condition due to the passage of time and 9 house moves.
5. What is your most treasured book?
This is another hard question to answer, because many of my books have sentimental value. I have books that were given to me as Sunday School prizes and as presents from my family and friends and I would be really upset if I lost them. But the book I'd be most devastated to lose is my Family Bible. This Bible belonged to my Welsh great grandfather, Isaac. Inside he recorded that he was born on 7 August 1848 and he married Elizabeth on 10 November 1877. (Coincidentally my birthday is 7 August and wedding anniversary is 8 November!) It contains details of births, marriages and deaths in the family from the latter part of the 19th century onwards.
There are so many I could choose and I've spend some time thinking about this question and taking lots of books off the shelves trying to decide which one to write about. As I understand the question it should be a book that I've not read for a while/forgotten about.
In the end I decided upon one of Iris Murdoch's later books, The Green Knight, published in 1993. It is one of my favourites, but it's a book I haven't read in years, so my memory of it is a little vague. But I do remember thinking it was really good, if rather strange. It combines myth, magic and philosophy and some very eccentric characters, including three sisters, a dog called Anax who misses his former owner, a mysterious figure and a professor who unintentionally kills a nocturnal assailant with his umbrella -- or does he? The blurb on the back from a review in the Independent states that:
Many thanks to Margaret for sharing photos of her bookshelves with us. Check back next Friday for a peek into another reader's library.
"it explores darkness as well as light, the route from sadness through self-knowledge into joy, and how loss and emptiness, if truthfully traversed, can be transformed into fullness and fertility ...A Romance in the fullest and most positive sense."