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Bookcase Showcase: Blogger Darren from Book Zone

Kirsty asked me months and months ago if I would be interested in taking part in Bookcase Showcase, and naturally I said of course I would. Sorry it has taken so long – my only excuse is that between teaching, reading, blogging and writing some plans just tend to slip by the wayside.  I warn you in advance – I am a book addict and we are constantly running out of shelf space. This means that the majority of shelves are double-stacked (and yes, it is a pain when trying to find a specific book), and more recently I have started to box books up (all carefully wrapped in plastic to keep them nice and shiny).

I am incredibly fortunate that we could afford to have an extension added to our house a few years ago. This meant I could have my very own room, for my books CDs and records (far too many of these as well), and (in the words of my wife) any other junk I wanted to have on display. It means that after a long day at work, I can come home and surround myself with my books, guaranteed to put a smile on my face even if I have another few hours of school work to get done.

This first photo is my beloved room (and I used a cool iphone app to take this panoramic photo). The manga-style print on the right was a present from an ex-pupil in the first school I taught at. She produced a handful of them as part of her A-Level art course, and gave this one to me as I had introduced her to manga a couple of years earlier. The photo next to her was taken by a student at the school where I currently teach as part of his A-Level photography course.

 As far as shelves are concerned, on the left is my Ikea Expedit that has lived in a number of houses since I bought it back in 1999. It used to house only records but recently I have got rid of quite a few to make room for my ever-increasing collection of graphic novels.

The shelf on the bottom left (just below Elektra) is my triple-stacked To be Read pile. It is becoming increasingly difficult to decide just which book I am going to read next, and sometimes I just have to close my eyes and grab one from the pile. Most of the various figures have been bargain finds at car boot sales, although Rogue Trooper and Judge Anderson were treats to myself when 2000AD had a big sale at the beginning of the year.

Moving clockwise round the room we come to the first of my Billy bookcases (thank the Lord for Ikea!). These were bought as soon as my new room and been decorated and carpeted, and were filled with books within hours of them being erected. As they are quite tall I’ve split each one into two photos.

I guess my tastes are a little eclectic, and they have changed quite a lot over the years. I love stories that are full of action and adventure (I have very boyish tastes in books and films), historical thrillers, quest stories (yes, including Dan Brown), and over the last few years I have also started to read a lot more horror. Necronomicon on the top shelf was a present from my sister-in-law and her husband and I am slowly dipping in and out of it, discovering the genius works of HP Lovecraft. Towards the bottom of this picture you can see some of my plastic-wrapped graphic novels. These are all special bookplate editions that I have started buying from the wonderful Gosh Comics in London. Some of the Marvel figures were bought on our holiday to New York, and I completed the collection via the wonder of ebay.

Further down this bookcase are more of my graphic novels. The Marvel collection has grown ridicukously over the past twelve months thanks to some very lucky car boot sale and charity shop finds. Also on these shelves are my Tintin and Asterix books, most  of which I have had since I was a child.

Now we start getting to my YA and children’s books shelves. I am quite anal when it comes to shelving series books together, which is why a get a little frustrated when publishers suddenly change cover designs mid-series, or suddenly decide that the next book in a series will be hardcover instead of paperback. The palpitations never last for long though – after all, it is what is inside the book that is the most important thing. I’m quite chuffed that I managed to get to Winchester a couple of years ago to listen to Rick Riordan as I managed to get all of my Percy Jackson books signed.

Further down that bookcase there are more children’s books and then things become a little more random, although the bottom shelf is devoted to another ever-increasing collection – annuals from the 1970s and 1980s.

More children’s and YA books on this one, including my signed copies of the brilliant Department 19 books, although there are a couple of shelves devoted to adult books, including a few guilty pleasures – the Fu Manchu books by Sax Rohmer and a few volumes of Arsene Lupin stories by Maurice Leblanc.

Further down the YA and children’s hardly get a look in. Those that appear on the uppermost shelf are mainly purchases that I made in The Strand, an awesome book store in New York. The next shelf down houses my collection of Saint books by Leslie Charteris, and most of my all-time favourite series – the Modesty Blaise books by Peter O’Donnell. I am the very proud owner of a first edition of the very first Modesty Blaise book, as well as a handful of the others. I hope to gradually build on this over the years so that one day I will have a full set of the first edition hardbacks.

This final Billy shelf is nearly all non-fiction books, most of which are historical in nature. I especially love books about London and have quite a few books about the city, some quite recently written some from the turn of the last century, and others from all the years inbetween. Pinhead on the right was another great car boot sale find.

The history books continue, as well as some rather hefty tomes about myths, legends and folklore. If you are at all interested in British folklore and history, and love dipping in and out of big, chunky encyclopaedias, then I can highly recommend three brilliant books: The Lore of the Land by Westwood and Simpson; London lore by Steve Roud; and Hibbert and Weinreb. On the right, just peeking out from below one of my decks, you can see part of the book that my wife bought me for Christmas. It is the largest book in my collection, and is a retrospective of the first 75 years of DC comics, published by Taschen, titled 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. It is a stunning book!

I tend to store books in any available space, and this is a unit underneath my record decks containing a mixed bag of how-to-DJ manuals, more history books and various art and film design books. As a DT teacher I have a silly number of design books, but thankfully I have an office at school where I can keep the vast majority of these. One of the copies of Dougal and the Blue Cat has been in possession for almost as long as I can remember. I’m not sure why I bought a second copy – I probably saw it in a charity shop and couldn’t resist.

That’s it for ‘my’ room. Over the past few years I have slowly managed to sneak other sets of shelves into various other rooms around the house. This next one is in our dining room, my excuse being that we needed some way of storing our cook books (bottom shelf, not shown).

As well as the ubiquitous set of Harry Potter books, there is also my complete set of gel-sleeved Joshua Files books by M.G. Harris. A couple of these are signed, but I hope to meet M.G. one day and get the rest of them signed. If you look carefully you will see that there is a space towards the bottom left – this is reserved for the final volume in Barry Hutchison’s fab Invisible Fiends series.

I have decided not to take photos of every book shelf in the house, but there is one more area that I want to show you. Our house comes with a bonus room – a semi-converted loft. From the outside it looks like a door to an airing cupboard, but inside are a set of steps that lead up into a room that is perfect for storing all kinds of things, and of course, more books. Again, everything is pretty much double-stacked, but this is where I keep most of my horror books, old Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie books, and pretty much any other book that there isn’t space for elsewhere. Many of the books I get sent for reviewing also end up here, once they have been read of course.

I am not by nature a show-off, but I honestly could talk about my books all day and bore you to tears. I am only sorry that I can’t show you the complete collection, but my wife would kill me if I started unpacking boxes just to take photos.


Is this for REAL? ? ?? ? ? ? ?? ? I am so jealous. First off love the books.. second love the collectables! I am going to comic con in a couple weeks.. MAYBE I will get some cool stuff too!

Amber said…
This is awesome! I'd love to have a room like that. It's really cool that you put up your student's artwork up.
TayteH said…
Holy crap, can we trade lives? I'd really like that room.
CarlyB said…
Awesome collection, Darren. I love your man cave!
serendipity_viv said…
OMG! What an awesome room! I am so jealous!!!
*Hinges jaw back on*
This is the coolest room I have ever seen- I love it!
I love the bookshelves under the sloped walls, it looks so striking.
Anonymous said…
Wow, I'm so jealous of your room Darren!
Wow. Just wow. Look at that room and all those lovely books. Wow.
Liz said…
Dude, I cannot wait to visit to touch all the books! :-D

Fantastic collection!
BookZone said…
Thanks for all the comments guys. My godson and his brothers were staying here at the weekend as they are over from Canada and they spent god knows how long looking through my books and writing up wish lists. Thank goodness for The Book Depository and its worldwide free postage!

It scares me sometimes when I look at my books and think how many there are that I haven't read yet!
Unknown said…
So jealous! Of the space and the number of books, though I suppose you have a couple more decades than me to collect (please don't be offended, I'm only a teenager, I don't mean to say you are old). I really want to ask you to list all of the books because it's hard to see the titles in the pictures but looking at the amount you have it would take you a year! I have seen some that look good though so I'll keep a lookout next time I go shopping.