...instead I am going to take you on a guided tour of one of my bookshelves.
The book unpacking is probably the most advanced of anything in the house, with the possible exception of the kitchen. We've unpacked all of the fiction and are left with nine boxes of non-fiction to find homes for. This would be easier if we hadn't essentially filled all available bookshelves; there's some space left in the study which is earmarked for the rest of the computing/maths books, but the rest is all now full - single-stacked, for the moment. We've split out some of the specialist stuff; cookbooks, for instance, now take up about two-thirds of a bookcase downstairs. (I semi-collect them, and certainly have quite a lot. Possibly the best title goes to 'How To Drink Wine Out Of Fish Heads While Cooking Lobster In A Volkswagen Hub Cap). Books about Oxford take up about half of the bookcase in the hall. And I discovered, to my ... horror? Shame? Amusement? all three? ... that my copies of Only Forward and Spares, in various editions, translations, and the like, don't all fit on an 80cm shelf. Oops. Some might say this is excessive Michael Marshall Smith-worship... nah.
We've tried to keep fiction and non-fiction split apart but haven't necessarily succeeded too well, as space became tighter. I have no idea how (or indeed if) we're ever going to manage to sort out the rest of the stuff. What we need are stacks (and indeed what we're probably going to wind up with are stacks; on the floor, on the other shelves, next to the bed, etc.)
Anyhow. The shelf.
This is one of the shelves on the bookcase on my side of the bed. This bookcase has wound up as mostly fiction with a fair proportion of larger-format stuff, as we didn't have any spare shelves for it. Most of our bookcase space is in the form of Ikea's Billy 80s, which come with four moveable shelves and one fixed shelf as standard; the most usual configuration is thus two moveable shelves, one fixed shelf, two more moveable shelves and then a 'shelf' which is actually the base of the bookcase. This is actually a bit loose for standard size UK paperbacks; with a couple of extra shelves it's possible to get eight shelves of paperbacks onto one bookcase instead of six, but Ikea have stopped making the shelves in this particular finish and we don't really want to go out and replace a dozen bookcases...
- Louis de Bernières: Senor Vivo and the Coco Lord
- My mother originally bought this book and gave it to me once she'd read it. I think she came to de Bernières via Captain Corelli's Mandolin but she's read several of his other works, and didn't then want to keep them. So I wound up with them; such a shame. I think I personally preferred The War Of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts (and no, not only for the title) but this one's OK too.
- Geoff Ryman: 253
- A book set on a London Underground train; 253 characters, each described in 253 words. It should be pretentious beyond all measure but somehow it works. The novel also has its own website: http://www.ryman-novel.com/.
- Tama Janowitz: Slaves Of New York
- Angst and whining among New York's then-glitterati. I think I bought this not too long after I visited NYC (a check of the copyright date shows 1987, which would fit; I bought it new). I didn't see the film; wasn't sure I'd be able to take that many Think-They're-Beautiful-People characters in one place, especially when they're so damn unlikeable.
- Danielle Steel: Wanderlust
- Look, sometimes a girl just needs words in a line to read, OK? And, while Ms. Steel's writing's atrocious... the overuse of ellipses drives me crazy... sometimes I just feel the need for something which doesn't require me to engage my brain and which is guaranteed to have a happy ending.
- Robert A. Heinlein: Tramp Royale
- Rather fascinating account of the Heinleins' world cruise. I don't agree with all of their opinions and the "rah, rah, we're American" feel is sometimes irksome, but the book's a product of its time (many years ago now despite its not being published until fairly recently) and should really be read as such.
- Poppy Z. Brite: Drawing Blood
- I think this was the first of Brite's books I read. It has a plot to go with the gore, which puts it above some of her later output, and Zach and Trevor are excellent characters.
- Graham Swift: Last Orders
- Recently made into a very good film, which inspired me to pick this edition up for 40p or so when I saw it in one of our local charity shops. The book is ... hm, better than the film? I don't know. As so often when you have seen the film first, the film's casting overrides any mental images you might have formed of the characters by yourself.
- Adam Mars-Jones: Monopolies of Loss
- I picked this up after reading and enjoying The Waters Of Thirst; it's a collection of short stories about AIDS and the world it has created. Don't read the whole book in one sitting; you'll come out of the other end miserable as sin.
- Mary Doria Russell: The Sparrow
- Better by far than Children of God, its sequel. I can appreciate this completely even though I am no Catholic (nor anything else; confirmed atheist, me). The first alien communication intercepted being music was a particularly appealing point.
- Bret Easton Ellis: Less Than Zero
- I had misplaced this book for several years, only finding it when we moved. I'd've been disappointed to lose it; while it's another of those mid-Eighties unpleasant-character types of book, I enjoyed it at the time I bought it (which was mid-Eighties; I took it on holiday with me the first time I went abroad without my parents. Corfu, summer 1986, after my A-levels). Ah, sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. Why does it all seem so different when you're twice as old?
- Josh Pachter (ed.): Top Fantasy
- Almost certainly less interesting than you're thinking; it's a collection of short fantasy stories. Fairly unremarkable, but cheap.
- Peter Carey: The Unusual Life Of Tristan Smith
- I confess I've never read this one. It was the editor's choice one month from a book club we belonged to and I didn't get round to saying 'no, don't want this' in time, nor to returning it.
- Robert E. Varderman and Victor Milan: The War Of Powers
- One of the beloved's books, which I haven't read in forever and can't actually remember much about.
- Philip Pullman: The Subtle Knife
- The rest of the His Dark Materials books are scattered round the house, along with much of his other output. I like Pullman; he's darker than Rowling and his settings are more original. I'll be making sure our goddaughters read them when they're old enough.
- Matt Beaumont: e.
- Life in an advertising agency, as told through its email correspondence. Damn funny.
- Jasper Fforde: Lost In A Good Book
- This is a sequel to The Eyre Affair, which I haven't seen -- I bought this at an airport prior to a long flight (once you've checked in and proved you only have one piece of hand luggage, that is the time to acquire the new reading material for the flight. Especially if, like me, you speed-read). The book itself was, hmm, OK but a bit too self-consciously clever. I may give it another go sometime when I'm not cooped up in a metal cylinder with several hundred people, all of whom seem to be screaming children or elderly men who could snore for their country.
- Tom Clancy: Executive Orders
- This is another airport purchase; in Clancy's case it's often the only way to get a copy of the book that won't self-destruct at a moment's notice, as you can often get hardbacked books which are the size of paperbacks and printed on fairly thin paper. I was interested to see how he'd get himself out of the corner he'd written himself into (it seemed to me) with Debt of Honour, but was rather disappointed in this one.
- Douglas Coupland: Microserfs
- Trade paperback and probably the most-read book on this shelf. I used to dip in and out of it almost every night; I've never worked at Microsoft but I know enough people who work at monolithic tech companies that I could sympathise, and I've done the .com thing myself. Terrific stuff.
- Oliver Sacks: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat
- Am I the only one who wishes that Sacks would include more detail in this sort of book? (I have some of his others.) I realise that he's aiming at a populist audience but I would like more details, more followup, more...
- Matthew Branton: The House Of Whacks
- Picked up mostly on the strength of the title, it's a novel set in 1950 about pulp fiction, pornography and a bank robbery. If it were ever to be made into a film, they'd have to get Guy Ritchie to do so - it's sort of a fifty-years-earlier kind of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels feel, only with less cannabis.
- Kathy Lette: Foetal Attaction
- Another charity-shop buy, but I really ought to toss it in the box downstairs we keep near the door for visitors to rummage through and take away. Lette tries to be funny but her sense of humour just doesn't cut it for me.
- Michael Dobbs: The Final Cut
- A nice hardback copy of the last Francis Urquhart book (he was introduced in House of Cards). Dobbs is a politician himself (well, he works for the Conservative Party, anyhow, as I recall) and it shows. Deeply cynical and thus entirely worth the read.
- Tim Cook (ed.): The Wordsworth Book of 19th Century Verse
- This was bought for game research - I was playing a poet in 19C England and wanted to borrow the style...
- Jeanette Winterson: Sexing The Cherry
- Came as part of a set with Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit but I haven't yet read it.
- Jeanette Winterson: Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
- Came as part of a set; read once, long forgotten. I have some mental images of the TV adaptation - and those only from the trailers, I didn't see the adaptation itself - but little else. I should re-read this sometime.
- Edith Wharton: Twilight Sleep
- More game research - this time I was playing Edith Wharton in a LARP...
- Edith Wharton: Three Novels of Old New York
- Also game research (see above) but I enjoyed the novels in this collection rather more.
- Alexandra Hampton: The Experience Buyer
- The underlying idea is good - someone who is willing to pay people for their life stories - but it could have been done better. Well, I suppose we might comment that people are giving their life stories away for free on LJ these days anyhow :)
- Lucius Shepherd: Golden
- This is another one of the beloved's books which I haven't read.
- Claire McNab: Past Due
- Rather overly-worthy detective story. Not bad, I'll probably re-read it sometime, but I won't be expecting great literature.
- The Onion: Our Dumb Century
The Onion's Finest News Reporting
- Selected & collected stuff from The Onion, of varying humour levels; some of it only raises a slight grin, some of it's belly-laugh funny.
- User Friendly: The Comic Strip
Evil Geniuses In A Nutshell
- ... OK, so you probably figured out I was a geek already? http://www.userfriendly.org/. Again, all the way from grin to guffaw; probably more on the 'guffaw' end than the Onion stuff but that's likely mostly because of the geek bias.
And there you have it... if you're still reading!