Friday, 10 December 2010

Books etc.

Here is the top of my favourite bookcase, the one I call my ‘Haunted Bookcase’ for obvious reasons. The shelves are freighted, two deep, with the Ghostly and Gothic, more piles of books spill on to the floor and I despair of ever reading through my entire collection. And there, on the top, sits my raven, Edgar, between the Grim Reaper bookends and presiding over such personal treasures as my Professor Snape figure and my Weeping Angel.
Over on a far more scholarly blog than this one, a cyber-friend (who, considering what a genial person he seems to be, mysteriously blogs under the soubriquet ‘The Argumentative Old Git’) has produced a list of one hundred essential books, all neatly categorised. It’s the kind of list I envy, being the somewhat slapdash, disorderly person I am. Years ago, when I’d just come out of uni, I might have attempted a similar list, but now, I’m just too shambolic. And I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I’m never going to finish the Decameron and Orlando Furioso, both of which I started (and was enjoying) as a Fresher. So, I’ve decided to start producing a different type of list, based on my bookcases and on which seven books I’d save for each if, for some ghastly reason, I was told I couldn’t keep them all.
So, starting with this bookcase and in no particular order:--
1. Harry Potter. No—I’m not ashamed of loving Harry Potter. I love the way the story arc develops in the sequence of the books, I love the way the themes deepen and darken, and I love Professor Snape. (Why on earth didn’t Lily see that out of James and Severus, Severus was the far more interesting man, Heathcliff to James’s Linton?) So if I can only have one Harry Potter, I’m taking ‘The Half Blood Prince’.
2. All three of Richard Dalby’s Virago anthologies of Ghost Stories.
3. The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R.James---Monty was the Master.
4. John Harwood: The Ghost Writer---a wonderful, creepy novel.
5. Dracula-Bram Stoker. The book no respectable member of the Dracula Society can be without. Have re-read about five times now.
6. Lots of anthologies of vampire stories here; if I can only have one, I’ll take the Penguin Book of Vampire Stories.
7. And finally (I’m going to cheat!) I’ll have the complete Brenda and Effie novels of Paul Magrs (the sequence begins with Never the Bride)—they are an absolute treat.
That’s it for now….


  1. Hello Sue, picking favourite books is great fun, isn't it? I think I decided to make up my own list because I got tired of the various lists going round purporting to be books you absolutely MUST read, but in which many of the one I have read I didn't like, and many of the ones I hadn't I did not wish to read in the first place. But if you don't like a list - best make up one's own! And when you do start making up a list, it's like taking stock: after all these years of reading, what sort of taste in literature have I developed? What does that say about my literary values? And so on. And on top of that, as I said, it's great fun!

    Of the books you mention above, "Dracula" and the MR James stories are absolute musts. (I think actually I'll read the MR James stories over again this Christmas: we normally spend Christmas at my mother's, and she lives at the foot of Pendle Hill - it's a good location for reading ghost stories!) I have a few anthologies edited by Rchard Dalby, though not all the Virago ones. And "Dracula", as you say, is a must-have.

    I think "The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories" must be out of print now: I haven't seen it in the shops for ages. I do have "The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories" (which features a particular favourite of mine called "One Who Saw" by A. M. Burrage: I haven't seen this story anthologised anywhere else, and it's a corker) - and I think that's out of print as well now.

    But it's not all bad news, of course: there are some terrific titles in the Wordsworth Ghost Stories series. And I have already noted your recommendation of "The Ghost Writer" by John Harwood.

    (And by the way - as for my sobriquet "The Argumentative Old Git": I always think it's a good idea to be self-deprecating before someone else deprecates you! :-) )

    Cheers for now,

  2. Hello, Himadri, great to see you here!

    I agree with you about A.M.Burrage--I've got a collection of his work, 'Warning Whispers' somewhere on my shelves--must dig it out.
    Pendle Hill is fantastic; I spent some time there this Autumn, exploring the Lancashire Witch Country with the Dracula Society.

  3. I love the Professor Snape figure. The bookshelf in my study has a figure of the delectable Spike, bought for me by a very discerning friend, plus two black cats and an alien. Not at all sure what that says about me! Sometimes it has a real black cat perched on top of my printer (it's warm see?) in the guise of the very beautiful Mildred Hubble otherwise known as Millie. I have several copies of Dracula there, including a 1920 publication with the original dust jacket -there's a reason my husband is my husband!