E-books are not for me. I love books as physical objects almost as much as the stories they contain. I hate creased spines or mucky covers, and I try to collect hardbacks. Oh, and I believe in the saying “only fools lend books”. I’m much happier buying them for people.
Since I live in a small attic flat, I have to be really selective about which books I keep and which I give way. I aim to arrange books according to genre. Unfortunately, this system is undermined by the fact my books and shelves come in different shapes and sizes.
The usual nineteenth-century suspects are here, jostling for space with my children’s library. My favourites of these are the picture-book Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak, and The Midnight Folk by John Masefield. Authors Diana Wynne-Jones and E. Nesbit feel like old friends, and I reach for the Just William series when I’m in need of cheering up.
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I try to swot up on ancient history (I studied Classics at university) and dip into poetry, philosophy and feminism. Crime fiction’s another interest; I’ve always wanted to write a thriller, so although Burn Mark’s full of witches and magic, there are gangsters and gun-battles too.
Illustration is important to me, probably because my dad’s a painter. A recent purchase is a Folio Society edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, with beautiful colour illustrations. Then there’s my precious Errol le Cain fairy-tales, sourced from E-bay, and a collection of etchings by my favourite contemporary artist, Paula Rego. Last but not least is Girl Culture by Lauren Greenfield, an anthology of photographs and interviews that explores what it’s like being young and female in the 21st century. The pictures are tender, edgy and provocative – and full of people I’d love to write about.