Coronavirus and the lockdown have had a variety of curious side effects. For example, people have become accustomed to video conferencing in a way that they would not have considered a few months ago. In fact, a few years ago, this level of video conferencing would not have been technically possible. TV shows where pre-lockdown there would have been a live audience watching notable people interviewed on a comfy sofa have changed radically. Now the interviewers sit at home while the interviewee appears in a picture-in-picture box, floating around the screen, talking from the comfort of their front room.
This, in turn, has given rise to a new phenomenon – other people’s bookcases. Granted, you can visit a site such as Goodreads to find out what people are reading, but you are only able to find out about your friends’ bookshelves. There is none of the voyeuristic thrill of seeing the bookcases of the unsuspecting stranger. This is a experience that lockdown has brought us. Today we watch chat shows not to hear what the guests are saying, but to see what they are reading.
For authors, this is particularly important. However original an author may be, it is a certainty that they will be affected by the authors they read. This is a good thing, because reading is one of the ways that we learn to write.
So, as we don’t have a video conference scheduled for today, after some suitable prodding from Hayley, I thought I show you my bookcases.
There are three of them, two large ones from Ikea chosen for size, and a smaller one which was chosen for looks, rather than capacity. The Ikea bookcases hold most of the books, one in the hallway, one at the top of the stairs. The smaller bookcase resides in the living room and has carefully chosen books for visitors to see.
And here’s the first bookcase:
It’s the one in the hall, and the books are two deep, so you can’t see everything.
What you will see in addition to copies of “Runaway’s Railway” and “Runaway’s River” is a large number of Terry Pratchett books. Of course, these days there’s not much remarkable about having Terry Pratchett on your book shelf, but I first started reading him when he wrote “Strata”, and before he was well known. If you haven’t read it, it’s a kind of proto-Discworld book. Straight science fiction rather than fantasy, and fascinating because you can see how the ideas fed into Discworld.
Alistair Maclean features quite heavily too – there are very few people who could write an action/thriller story like he did. He had an ability to write the big set-piece action sequences, and combine them with a plot that never felt contrived. Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat is another favourite on this bookcase. There is a string of Agatha Christie books on top of the bookcase, although you can’t see them here.
Worthy of mention is Genevieve Cogman’s “Invisible Library” series. If you haven’t read these, and you’re looking for a teenage/young adult book, then take a look at them. A clever idea and well written.
Scattered here and there you will also find various reference books, covering an eclectic range of topics.
Now we move on to the bookcase at the top of the stairs. Again, books are packed two deep, and stacked on top as well.
Books that you can’t really see here because they’re hidden behind others include Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” saga, epic fantasy at it’s best. On the top of the bookcase, in addition to a number of Biggles books you will find Jack Campbell’s “Lost Fleet” series. Good military science fiction is hard to find, and Jack Campbell represents this genre at its best.
Various other authors you might recognise include Brandon Sanderson (who completed the “Wheel of Time” saga after Robert Jordan’s death), and China Meiville. If you haven’t read Jonathan L. Howard’s “Johannes Cabal the Necromancer” series, then you’ve missed out.
You can also find most of Jodi Taylor’s “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” on the shelves. The ones you can’t see are probably being read at the moment. They are highly readable and a lot of fun – another series I can happily recommend.
And of course, more reference books, and more copies of “Runaway’s Railway” and “Runaway’s River”.
Going back down the stairs to the living room, we find the bookcase that holds the book that we like people to know we read (including yet more more copies of “Runaway’s Railway” and “Runaway’s River”). Mostly. I will confess that Mickey Spillane is possibly not the most intellectual of writers, even if he does tell a good yarn.
On the other hand, there’s Seamus Heaney’s “Beowolf”, which has got to be one of the better translations. You’ll also find a book of his poetry in there somewhere. Probably next to Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series.
You can also see a scattering of titles like Garth Nix’s “Abhorsen” books, but also some by Catherine Aird. You may recall that she’s mentioned in the dedication of “Runaway’s Railway”, for having given me very good advice and encouragement when I started writing. Her books are well worth reading if you like detective stories. She has a devious mind.
Finally, you will find some of the novels of Umberto Eco, who really is in a class by himself.
Hopefully this little tour of my bookcases will have sated your curiosity, and maybe suggest a few authors that you might like to try yourself.