Like most things in my life, my bookshelves are a mixture of compulsive order and flagrant disorder. We have dysfunctional shelves in the junk room upstairs, with too many books crammed and jammed in, double- and triple-shelved; it’s impossible to find any one book without unpacking almost all the others. Hopeless. But the wall of shelves in our living room is reasonably functional, and rather beautiful.
|Picture Credit: Liane McGee|
On these shelves there’s a rough divide into fiction and non-fiction, although they overlap and intermix. The non-fiction books are a mixed bag. There are plenty about science — Antarctica (my partner’s interest and career), seaweed (my interest — what used to be my career), oceans, maths and physics. Others are about music, film and theatre, writing, design. Some — like The Pursuit of Oblivion ] and Heritage of Pines ] — I’ve used as background reading or research or just inspiration for my writing.
On the fiction shelves, writers from Australia, New Zealand and Canada — the three countries I’ve lived in — predominate. There are runs of books by the same author — Peter Carey, Helen Garner, Fiona Kidman, Charlotte Grimshaw, Joan London, Damien Wilkins, Elizabeth Jolley, Tim Winton — but then a too-tall edition will break the run, end up on the tall shelf. Or I’ll just get lazy and file a book on the nearest shelf when I’m done with it.
There are some of my great-uncle Richard Beilby’s novels . There are some titles by and about Katharine Prichard, searched out at second-hand bookstores during my residency in 2008 at Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre .
There are gaps in the shelves in our house, from many many years when — particularly as a broke uni student — I bought very few books, and did all my reading from libraries. I’m still a great library user. Moving countries twice culled the books a little, too. There are the books that have been long lost, lent to friends — you must read this — but not returned. Sometimes you have to let books go.
Some books are inscribed. I was a gibbering slavering fan-girl when I faced Peter Carey over the signing table after a reading he did in Vancouver in October 1995. I don’t keep my inscribed books separately; they’re in amongst the others, little surprises when I open them.
There’s a shelf with literary mags, another of knitting, crochet, making and craft books; and there’s a shelf that holds copies of my printed works (vertically), next to some of my favourite books of poetry (horizontally, held down by Godzilla).
In our bedroom there’s a bookshelf that’s made from our old kitchen cupboards. It houses most of our crime and thriller novels, as well as just-read or to-be-shelved overflow. And by the bed are books still to be read, and — usually — the book I’m currently reading. That’s “book”, singular; I’m strictly a one-book-at-a-time plodder. I rarely don’t finish a book, once I’ve started it.
At the base of this pile is Kirsty Gunn’s The Big Music, which I read at a gallop in two days over Christmas 2013 — what a brilliant, rewarding, wonderful book.
Thanks Tracy! What a wonderful collection you have.
If you want to know more, Tracy will be a guest at the 2014 Perth Writers Festival!