An impassioned reader's guide to books new and old

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Let's begin at the beginning

In my mother's arms (1937) , with my father and grandparents on the left, 
and my great-grandparents on the right

When we are born, who knows what path we will follow, what becomes compulsive or an obsession, and where that will lead? Inspiration can strike one unawares, in strange places: I was writing this in the bath, at the day's end, and the sky outside the low bathroom window was a particular shade of oyster-grey. I often write in the bath! But writing with ink on glossy paper with wet hands is not conducive to sensible thought; the words smudge and my brain runs ahead of me as thoughts tumble and twirl in my mind. So - at the computer now - I welcome you to my new blog; and if those of you who follow any of my others are wondering what has prompted me to create yet another - my fifth - well, this is why.

Ann (me) & PopPop
For a long while I was a solitary, only child, yet with a vivid imagination and somewhat wilful disposition.  Through circumstances of the second world war, as well as my own naughtiness, I was left to my own devices for much of the time - and stumbled upon books. How that came about, and how the encouragement of my great-grandfather and grandfather (pictured left) instilled in me a passion for the printed word, I will leave for anther day.

My current notebooks - all are in use simultaneously

Fast forward. In the course of any working day, books arrive; I pile them upon my desk , or on shelves, even the stairs, awaiting attention - and have done so for 40 years. As I work my way through them (loving every moment), details and descriptions are scribbled down and absorbed into the articles I write. But there is never enough space to do them justice, and I feel such an obligation to the talented authors and splendid publishers who send these books to me. I plan to provide better support.

I know that the 'reviews' I write within magazine book-sections and features, and more recently within blogs, encourage readers to buy. It's confirmed by the statistics that are fed to me. Mind you, I don't like to call them 'reviews'; what I write is always positive - if I don't like or value a book, it is left in the pile! Some books arrive unsolicited, but the vast majority are requested to fit a particular theme in my schedule. Then of course there are the books I buy for myself: history, travel, literature, art, gardening, craft (horrid word, because it covers so many exquisite disciplines). Fact and fiction, my beside book-cabinet made for me by my husband is equally filled with reading matter.

my reading notebook, circa 1965
double click on the image if you want to read what I wrote 46 years ago

And so, this blog will cover (come to the point, Ann): book write-ups - of course! Interviews with authors and publishers - or notes from them; recommended bookshops; second-hand book sources; online purchasing.  That's the real purpose, interspersed with brief moments of the journey that has led me from a.b.c. when I first discovered that I could read (magic), to running our own publishing company, to a writing life that I would never have envisioned all those long years ago. Where would we all be had the printing press never been invented?

a gift from my great-grandfather in the 1940s - the little mahogany cabinet contains a couple of natural history books printed in 1795, along with other small books almost equally old

Because you see, dear reader - if you have ventured this far - everything I write, article or blog, even commercial promotion, has been influenced by my life with books. A beloved retreat, a drug, a passion, and one I would wish to share. (And did any of you book-lovers read under the sheets into the small hours with a torch once you'd been put to bed?)

Next Post: a miscellany of new books 


  1. What a wonderful introduction to your new blog. Looking forward to reading your future posts. Fascinating! All the very best for your new venture, Ann.

  2. And thankyou, Laurie for all your 'pre-production' encouragement.

  3. Greetings dear Ann,

    My greatest passion and weakness is a love for books. So earlier this year I did the unthinkable and cut up a novel in poor condition to be used for collage. Even though I have also collected books for this purpose, it still remains most difficult.

    You are a remarkable person and seemingly with an endless amount of energy. This new blog of yours is fantastic and I shall look forward to seeing as it progresses. I wish you all the very best.

    Warmest regards,

  4. Egmont,

    Thankyou for your kind comment; I am so glad you like my new blog.

    On the cutting books up note - which I sometimes write about in my journaling blog (, I too find it difficult sometimes to cut up an old book I have bought for collage purposes. As happened with an old Bible - so now I tend to take a photo and print on very lightweight paper and use that - please also see the journaling blog where I describe the process (Monay 27th June), although that was created from a collage I made. I like the effect but it's not the same.

    I wish you all the best, Ann.

  5. I used to buy 10p books from the library and paint in them. It saved the trauma of cutting them up which I still can't do!

  6. Yes, yes, yes - books. Since my earliest days and still my greatest pleasure. So many nights, under the covers with the waning light as the torch batteries began to die!
    Interestingly enough, though a life-long reader and now a librarian, I do love using books in my art work and have no problem deconstructing them for collage, paintings, assemblages and altered books. Giving them new life, a wider audience and very special meaning to the art works themselves. Congratulations on your newest venture Ann.

  7. I have always loved books and usually have my nose stuck in a book, oblivious to the world. Many dinners have been burned as I lean against the counter turning pages instead of stirring the pot! I can still feel the frission of excitement I felt aged 6, when my mother, possibly too busy to read a bedtime storyu that night, told me I could read on my own, in bed for half an hour! It was like a paradise opening up before me, and I have never forgotten that feeling of bliss - being immersed in other worlds. Now James is showing an interest in words and reading and I am so excited for him. Looking forward to reading along here. xx

  8. I too was an only child immersed in books. I would love to join you on your new blog, on another new journey!

  9. Hello again Ann and well done on a great introduction to your new blog - I don't know how you do it all!! what is your secret? Do you get up at 4am and only need a few hours sleep? I'm so impressed and feel like quite a wimp in comparison
    Your words brought back memories - a torch in bed under the blanket/bedtime stories to my children and grandchildren etc etc! So many good times with books! Thank you for jogging the memory

  10. Exactly as A Rambling Rose put it! How do you do it?!
    My torch was a ladybird shaped one, the books Enid Blyton! Escape to another world.
    Looking forward to following this blog too.
    Thank you.