I have a dream of having beautiful hand-crafted bookshelves built into my office, but for now I make do with the ubiquitous Ikea expedit giant cube. As I have three little children, the books don’t stay in any sort of order for long, but I do try!
Up high, out of the reach of grubby toddler fingers, are my nice, ‘to keep’ books, including hardcovers. I don’t have a lot of hardcovers, so these tend to be books that I have rushed out to buy by my favourite authors, like Kate Grenville, Tim Winton, and Jeffrey Eugenides,. I also have some that I bought because they look beautiful, such as My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead, a collection of short stories about love (edited by Eugenides). It has a gorgeous cover, and a beautiful collection of stories from all sorts of writers including Cattalus (84BC), Munro and Checkov.
I also have some other books that I try to keep away from the children: my signed collection of Shaun Tan graphic novels (I love these and have two prints of images from The Red Tree in my kids’ bedrooms); a hardback set of Harry Potter books that I read over a 3 week period during the night feeds with my first baby; my signed collection of Michael Palin’s travel books; Chris Ware’s Building Stories; and an old version of Wind in the Willows that belonged to my husband when he was a boy.
Other shelves are roughly arranged into topics: non-fiction, biographies/memoir, travel books, and art books. The rest – the overwhelming majority – are general fiction. If I have a few books by a particular writer then I try to keep them together, and scanning my shelves, I can see who some of my favourite authors are by the number of books I own: Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, John Irvine, JM Coetzee, and Isabel Allende. I do try to keep the Australian fiction titles together,
and there is also a shelf full of books to read! This is in addition to the pile on my bedside table. One of the ‘problems’ I have is that I keep buying new books, even when I have literally dozens waiting to be read! I try to read them in the order in which I bought them, but sometimes I cheat and read something that jostles for my attention.
I have a couple of books out of my shelves at the moment, those that I use for inspiration while writing my second novel. I think it’s important to read a lot while working on a novel. When I was writing Fractured, I re-read Kate Grenville’s Dark Places, Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. For my current work in progress, I’ve been looking at Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Robert Drewe’s The Drowner. Reading others’ book can inspire me by the beauty of the language, the topic, or the setting.
So that’s a tour of my messy bookshelves. I’ll stop before I start talking about my ‘virtual’ bookshelf on my e-reader!