Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Author: Ellie (Page 1 of 81)

How do you like yours?

Bookshelves, that is, not your breakfast eggs. Do you stuff books in anywhere there’s room, or do you have a system?

The reason I ask is, I was scrolling Instagram and came across this piece on Bookriot. Seriously, have a look; it’s fun, but make sure you read all the way to the end.

It got me thinking about how I organise my bookshelves – or rather, how I don’t. Yes, I know, I am an utter barbarian. No, I don’t care. Nobody needs to find a book here but me. My one rule about shelving is that series should stay together, regardless of format. That’s it.

You see, when I was but a junior bookworm, I had limited shelf space, but mad Tetris skills. My books were therefore arranged to maximise storage capacity, whilst still keeping the parts of each series in contact with one another. Once I had a house of my own, I had room to ease up on the double-stacking, but other than that, the only nod towards organisation was to keep the fantasy books and general fiction separate.

Then we bought the current house, and installed bookcases with non-adjustable shelves – something of a rookie error. It was further compounded by letting my husband Rob take charge of filling them. Bless his compulsively-organised, neat-freak heart, he chose to shelve the hardcovers and the paperbacks separately, by size.


Photo of three large bookshelves filled with (mostly) hardback books. If you look closely, there is a full set of Gollanc Masterworks on the rightmost top two shelves, but that's not important right now.

Our bookshelves circa Novermber 2015. My books on the left and middle bookcases, Rob’s on the right.

Yes, it was tidy but . . . Historical fiction was next to spy thrillers. Women’s fiction and memoir were cheek-by-jowl with fantasy. My Pratchetts were split across two bookcases because the first 10 or so are in mass-market softcovers, the rest in hardback – ditto The Wheel of Time. Several other series are in the paperback bookcase but on separate shelves due to a mix of A and B format. And Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, which I have as mass-market, followed by trade paperback, then by hardback, was distributed across bookcases in three different rooms.

Oh boy.

Rainbow coloured silicon muffin cases stacked in random order. This is very, very wrong.


Two sets of rainbow coloured muffin cases stacked as the good lord intended it, in colour-spectrum order

This is the way.

I couldn’t adequately articulate the sheer wrongness of it to me, and Rob didn’t get why it bothered me so much. But then he also doesn’t get why tea-towels must be folded with the printed design on the outside, or why only one of these stacks of silicon muffin cases is correct.

Or am I just  weird? On second thoughts, don’t answer that.

As you can probably guess, I will not ever be sorting my books by colour. Unfortunately, neither will I be shelving series together (except those I was able to buy all in the same format), because now that I’ve got used to them, Rob’s way of organising the bookshelves does look very nice.

But if anyone thinks that because of that I treat the books as purely decorative, they’re mistaken. My books are old friends. Every time I look at them I remember our shared adventures. That “photo album” effect is one of the things I miss the most about switching to ebooks. Maybe it’s why the shelf rearrangement bothered me: it shuffled all the familiar pictures around, and changed the narrative. No doubt when we next move house and everything’s boxed/unboxed again, I’ll have the same reaction.

So how do you shelve your books? Alphabetically by author, by genre, by vibes? Does the result have to be aesthetically pleasing, or merely useful?

Just don’t argue with me about the muffin cups, okay?

All images by Elspeth Cooper

Project Read the TBR – an update

Folks who know me know I read fast. I always have done. As a kid, my school called me in for a special reading class – sadly, the moths have been at my memory so I can’t recall whether it was because I demonstrated advanced reading skills, or they couldn’t quite believe that yes, I really was reading adult books when barely into double digits in years, and wanted to see me prove it.

Anyway. Here we are, many (many) years and many hundreds of books later, and I’m back on my reading habit. Rather than buying scads more new books (although I have bought some, because reasons) I have been making steady pace up the south ridge of Mount Toberead. Here’s what I’ve checked off since the end of March:



I enjoyed all of these reads in their own way; there’s not a duff choice in the lot. Several different takes on the idea of a fantasy novel, from fully-realised secondary worlds like The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to Los Nefilim‘s historical fiction with a quarter-turn to the fantastic, which subgenre has always been a particular favourite of mine.

Some observations, in no particular order:

  • City of StairsThe Once and Future Witches and Three Parts Dead were stand-outs.
  • Greek myths, my beloved! I have had a soft spot for these since I was small, so I found Circe a delight.
  • Who doesn’t love Murderbot?
  • I have now added The Divine Cities, The Glamourist Histories, The Craft Sequence, Inheritance Trilogy, Los NefilimPlanetfall and The Memoirs of Lady Trent to my list of series to finish, which now numbers 30. I don’t know whether to be proud of that or embarrassed.
  • As a self-confessed fan of Guy Gavriel Kay, I am frankly shocked that I managed to buy Ysabel on or around publication and then just . . . not read it for close to 17 years. I am telling myself that since I switched to ebooks, my shelves have looked the same for so long now that I’ve just stopped seeing what’s on them. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
  • It’s amazing how much reading you can get done in hospital waiting rooms when the patient transport flakes out and doesn’t send a driver for you.

In terms of continuing the TBR readathon,, there’s a difficult traverse looming, across the Wheel of Time glacier (book 9 onward). For years I re-read the series to date each time a new book came out, and round about Book 8(ish? I think?) I just stopped, although I continued to buy them up to Book 10 (Crossroads of Twilight).  Usually I can rely on my memory to hold enough detail about previous instalments that I can handle a break between books in a series, but the last WoT I read was so many years ago that I might need to go back to the beginning to avoid being lost.

On the other hand, starting again from The Eye of the World feels daunting, I’m not gonna lie. Part of me wants to complete the whole series, because warts and all it is part of my fantasy journey, and remains a significant work in the genre. At the same time, another part of me is muttering about sunk costs and more books in the sea. Hmm. Will have to think on this.

So what’s next? I have stuck a bookmark into Chapter 1 of The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. This is another book that has been patiently waiting since publication day (I know, I KNOW!)  and I’m keen to continue my Murderbot adventure. We shall see what else the summer brings.

Happy reading, everyone!


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