Shelf Obsession: Em Angevaare

You’ve been invited to dinner at someone’s home. Your host is busy in the kitchen and you wait in the living room. What do you do to pass the time? Admit it: you snoop around their bookshelves don’t you? We know you love shelf snooping just as much as we do, and now you can check out all sorts of bookshelves via the ABC blog.

Em is a regular contributor to Do You Read Me?. He reads widely and he reads a lot. We had a peek at his bookshelves and were amazed by two things: a) how many books there are, and b) how neat he keeps them!

Click on the photos to have a proper nosy look at all the books Em has. 🙂 There’s more after the jump!

I can see some classic Penguin covers framed on the wall. Which books are they from?

There is no deep reason behind the choice of titles, but I read and liked them all (and I’ve also got an unmutilated copy of each, I’m happy to report). And now they’re there, I rather like it that all three titles are plural noun phrases. There’s also a Penguin Modern Classics cover of Tender is the Night in my hallway.

These photos look as though they are taken in different rooms. Where are your bookcases?

Everywhere. I live in a two-room flat, and there are bookcases in the living room and the bedroom.

What would your dream bookcases look like?

Like this, only more so. I had the bookcases in the living room specially made, so the shelves are designed for standard UK booksizes, unlike the ones you buy at Ikea, which never come with enough shelves.

How do you organize your books?

First by size, then by subject. Fiction is arranged alphabetically, history more or less chronologically, and the rest any old way. I’m not a very tidy person, but I like it when my bookshelves look neat.

What do you do when your books start to become too numerous? Do you weed them out or add more shelves?

Add more shelves. Although I’d probably have to move house before I can do that again. And some of the small paperbacks are in double rows already. I can’t imagine weeding out, I reread a lot, and I never know when I’ll suddenly need a book again to look something up. If I there’s a book I regret having bought, which does sometimes happen, I sell or give it away as soon as I can. I certainly won’t keep them.

How many books do you think you have altogether?

1691. (That’s not a guess, I have them catalogued.) I’ve kept a reading record for eight years now. I read a pretty consistent 200 books a year over that time, but the number of pages is falling, because I have been reading  less fiction lately.

So your taste has changed?

My taste hasn’t, but the books I read have. I still like the books I liked ten years ago, but I also keep discovering new things and I ended up reading more non-fiction now than I used to.

I’ve always been a critical reader, and that gets worse the more I write myself, so if you hear me praise a book, you can be pretty sure that it was well-written. I have also always disliked books without a sense of humour, even serious books need that.

What was the last book you read?

Sword, Miter and Cloister: Nobility and the Church in Burgundy 980-1198 by Constance Brittain Bouchard. This is fairly typical. I read a lot of specialized medieval history, preferably about the period from 1150 to 1230, because I write about that time, and because I find it utterly fascinating.

Is there an author or series that you absolutely must have (nearly) everything of?

I always find series very tempting. I have all the Discworld novels (always excluding the latest hardback) but I wouldn’t miss the first ones if I didn’t. I do find it very hard to resist orphaned volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia. I have thirty-nine of them (in seven languages, so there is some point to it – reading a translation of a book you know well is a good way to get to know a new language.)

I’m also very fond of the Very Short Introductions from the Oxford University Press. The last time I was in England they had a ‘three for two’ offer at Blackwell’s – I came home with twenty-one. If I ever have money to spare, I’d like to have the whole series, now I just stick to the subjects I’m interested in.

If you could give one author eternal life so that they could write forever and ever, who would it be and why? (You can resurrect a dead author too if you like.)

Reginald Hill. I would just love it if I always had a new Dalziel & Pascoe novel to read instead of having to wait long enough to have forgotten the plot before rereading them.

If you’d like to show off your shelves, e-mail If we use your bookcase, we’ll give you a ten euro American Book Center gift voucher to say thank you!

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