Monday, 26 September 2016

Books - To Keep or not to Keep?

When it comes to books, are you a Keeper? Do you hoard the books you've read - or are they ear-marked for a friend or the charity shop as soon as you reach the last page?

The Library at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

During the process of moving house, I had to strip my bookshelves and bundle all my books into boxes. For several weeks, due to refurbishing and decorating, most of them have stayed in their containers. Yesterday, I couldn't bear to have all my books hidden away for so long, so I filled out a bookcase in my study and in doing so, I began to see how significant my bookshelves are.

The urge to get some of my books on shelves is too great!
To me, bookcases are not merely places to keep sources of information or stories in their own right, they are containers for something far deeper and significant. The books I've read represent the 'timeline of my life'. When I see my books lined up across the wall, I can track the history of my life in stages. Each one has its place in a different era in my past.

Early books

Like many who grew up in the sixties and seventies, the first books I read were by Enid Blyton: Five on a Treasure Island and First Term at Malory Towers spring to mind. In terms of my childhood, these books came at a specific stage - after my phase of hiding magazine clippings of Queen Elizabeth II under a rug beside my bed (ahem) and before my 'Donny Osmond period'! Then came my absolute favourite, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Sadly, I have none of these books left (they were often borrowed from school friends or came from the library), but just hearing the titles or seeing the old covers again takes me straight back to the heady excitement and discovery of being around eleven years old.
Aged eleven...

During the time I was studying for my A levels, books about Schumann, Elgar and the poetry of Baudelaire began to populate my shelves and by the time I went to university, I'd started building a motley collection of non-fiction books about modern art and philosophy, as well as thrillers such as Catch 22, The Day of the Jackal and The Cradle will Fall. Since then, my books have mapped transitions; moves to new cities, shifts in careers and ultimately they showcase an entire life-journey. Only when I packed them away did I notice that they were like little signposts charting their own story of my past.

Bookshelves can trace the path of a lifetime. My tall, apparently random stacks of volumes stand silently around a room like coded maps only I can read. Visitors can dip in and out of my collection, but no one else can take in the whole picture like I can. My shelves unlock secret doorways to reveal where I was, what I was doing and who I was with, at any given time. They embody a complexity that even I was barely aware of until the books disappeared into cardboard boxes. They show my interests and passions and feature the questions I've asked. They highlight the route I took through life and reflect aspects of all the 'selves' I have been on the way - like a diary. By glancing at the shelves, I can see the person I have been, the roles I have played, the stages that have shaped me. They show my journey from school interests in art, crafts, embroidery, Olga Korbut and yoga (I started when I was twelve), through to classical music and modern art, psychology and personal development. There are novels by Hermann Hesse and Sartre, as well as early psych thriller writers, Minette Walters and Nicci French. There are books I bought this week, by Clare Mackintosh and Belinda Bauer.  Each book is a little landmark on my trail through creativity, the search for identity - culminating in my latest expedition towards the realm of  writing fiction.

Books in boxes - can't wait to find them a home!
To me, books are for keeps, especially now I'm a writer myself. The novels on my shelves provide perpetual lessons in plot, structure, prose, characters and so on. They are a course in the craft of writing in my own living room! I use libraries a great deal, but if I really value a book that I've borrowed, I'll buy a copy of it to keep. At times, people ask me: 'Come on - are you  ever really going to read The Celestine Prophesy again?' - the point being that if I'm not, then why keep the book? The answer is, even if I don't necessarily plan to re-read a book, I might do, one day. I might need to refer to one or want to find a phrase or piece of information - they are always to hand. Besides, as I've mentioned here, my books are the building blocks of who I am and to remove one here - and another there - feels like it would be prising away parts of my personality!

Secondhand books

I don't keep every book I read - only the ones that strike me in some way. I've given plenty of books to charity shops, but I'm careful about those I let go. I'm also mindful if I lend a book to someone...more often than not, I'd like it back, please!


For me, ebooks can never embody the same value or generate the same attachment as a physical book. A thumbnail on a screen doesn't have the same resonance for me - it feels impersonal and transient; it can be wiped out at the press of a fingertip. With a book made of paper, you can feel the weight of it, smell the pages, trace the texture of the cover with your finger - more of your senses are involved. A book carries substance and takes up space in your home. A book becomes part of your domestic landscape and ultimately - an extension of you!

What about you? Are you a keeper?  Or do you let books go? Do you also feel protective and nostalgic about your CD or DVD collections?

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AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author
All books can be read in any order 
(Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) also form part of a series)
  •  Over 400,000 books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  #1 Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015 & 2016) 
  • No Longer Safe  30,000 sold in the first month & #1 in 'Crime Noir'
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK 2016 & 2017

Thursday, 15 September 2016

In Conversation with AJ

Here's my first attempt at a Video blog all about my new book, Inside the Whispers. Don't miss the out-take at the end!

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   Inside the Whispers is the latest Psychological Thriller from AJ Waines. 
You can PRE-ORDER it NOW

  •  Over 1/4 Million books sold worldwide
  • Girl on a Train  a Number One Bestseller on Kindle in UK and Australia (2015)
  • The Evil Beneath Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' (UK Kindle charts)
  • Awarded Kindle KDP Top 10 'most-read Author' in UK (2015)
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