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