My bookshelf

This post was inspired by Naomi Epstein’s response to Grant Snyder’s comic strip My Bookshelf. I’m going to write about books in general though, not just teaching ones – lots of answers popped into my head as I was reading Naomi’s post. Here goes…

The book I couldn’t put down

This is a pretty long list, and includes pretty much everything by Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and what I’ve read of Neil Gaiman so far (still a work in progress). Also Sharon Penman books when I was a teenager, the Cicero books by R0bert Harris I’m currently reading, the Harry Potter books the first time round, the Robin Hobb books, etc. etc. etc.

The book I couldn’t pick up

I’m going to put some books here which I had on my shelf but put off reading for ages because they scared me a bit, but which I ended up loving when I finally read them.

  • Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky
  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  • All classics, until I read Pride and Prejudice when I was 18 🙂

The book you gave me (I haven’t read it yet – sorry!)

IATEFL sent out A History of IATEFL to members last year and gave a copy of The Non-Native Teacher by Peter Medgyes at the conference in Glasgow. They’re sitting on my shelf, but I haven’t got round to them yet. I know I’ll have read them by this time next year though!

The book I brought to the beach

I’m not really a beach person, but I definitely remember getting sunburn in the back garden from spending too long outside without putting suncream on when I was reading Love in the Time of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the Alexander books by Valerio Massimo Manfredi when I was a teenager.

The book I tried so hard to like

When the BBC Big Read came out in 2003, I’d already read 25 of the top 100 books, and decided to read the rest of them. This meant that I dragged myself kicking and screaming through:

  • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (boring)
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams (repetitive – the rabbits eat, sleep, poo and fight)
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (I just wanted to bang Cathy and Heathcliff’s heads together and tell them to get a grip)
  • The last 100 pages of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (philosophical thoughts he’d already conveyed multiple times, and which interrupted what I felt was a gripping story)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (urgh)
  • Ulysses by James Joyce (trying far too hard – just annoying)

I did read every page of all 100 books though, and it led me to a whole load of authors I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise. There were at least 10 books on there that are now among the best books I’ve ever read, so it was worth it! I’d love to know what an updated version of the list would look like.

The book I somehow own three copies of

Looking at my bookshelves, the thing that immediately jumped out at me was three Collins German dictionaries, and three matching French ones, though ‘somehow’ probably isn’t the right word – they chart my progress from 11 years old, to GCSEs, to university, getting considerably bigger each time!

The book that saved my life

I’m not sure I could claim that any book has ever saved my life, but the single book that probably changed the way I think in the shortest number of pages was The English Verb by Michael Lewis. I read it as part of Delta, and it completely changed the way that I think about language. I constantly tell people about it, and have it on my shelf right now, waiting for me to read again.

The book I lent you (can I have it back?)

If pushed to choose my favourite book of all time, I’m pretty sure I would go for Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I have owned various copies of this book, but now don’t appear to have any. I have definitely lent it to people in the past, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never got it back. Oh well. Spreading the love 😉

The book I fall asleep to every night

Since August 2016 I’ve been reading a few pages of Harry Potter in Polish every night before I go to bed. When I first started, it took about 10 minutes to read two pages, and I didn’t understand many of the words on the page. I only knew what was going on because of my prior knowledge of the stories. I’m now on the penultimate chapter of book three, can manage 6-8 pages in 10-15 minutes, and reckon I understand about 50-60% of what I read. It’s made me realise first hand just how useful extensive reading is for language learners.

The book I mistook for a hat

Hmm…I suspect the answer to this may also be dictionaries when I was at university – they’re certainly big enough, and we often used to have to carry them around with us!

The book I’m desperately trying to write

Well, a series actually. Book one should be out in the next couple of months, I hope, pending permission from a few publishers to use quotes from their works, and I have ideas for lots of follow-ups if it’s successful 😉 Watch this space… (and if you can’t wait, try my first e-book, Richer Speaking)

All the books that changed my life

I can’t imagine a life without books and reading, and I’m grateful to my family for instilling a love of reading in me at a young age. I don’t remember not being able to read. I do remember reading by the light of the late evening sun in the summer coming through my red curtains when I was supposed to be asleep. I’m a reading addict – when there’s nothing else to read, I’ll pick up sauce bottles on a table, cleaning products in a bathroom, anything with words on really, regardless of the language! Now I read a few blog posts every day, and have three or four books on the go at any one time. Right now it’s Harry Potter 3 in Polish, Imperium by Robert Harris, Pop-up Shakespeare by Jennie Maizels, Austin Tichenor and Reed Martin, and a few teaching magazines that have been sitting on the shelf for a while. Books really have shaped a lot of who I am. (P.S. If you want to buy any of the books in this post for yourself, and you decide to click on this Amazon Affiliates link, I’ll get a few pennies – thank you!)

My bookshelves
My bookshelves – the first furniture I bought for my new flat!

As Naomi said at the end of her post,

Here’s to all the books I’ve read and those that are waiting to be read! Life is good!

6 thoughts on “My bookshelf

  1. Love this! I enjoyed reading every word!
    May books continue to enrich your life!
    So funny, what a coincidence!-
    Someone just gave me the book Imperium that you mentioned. Do you recommend?
    Life with books is good!


    1. Yes! I’ve read the series as 2, 3, 1 as those are the books I’ve had access to. I was halfway through book 2 before I realised it was part of a trilogy, and there was no way I was going to stop 🙂


  2. Great post Sandy. I remember reading through a list in high school of the top 100 books, I could never get through Falkner however although I did fine with War and Peace, Wuthering Heights and Lord of the Flies. What was really cool was getting to sing a duet in college between Catherine and Heathcliff from the opera by Carlisle Floyd- it was amazing being the character.

    The books I have gone back and read in the last year include: Philip Roth – ‘Plot Against America’, Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale’ and Beaumarchais: ‘Barber of Seville and Marriage of Figaro’.

    A book that saved my life when I began teaching was Penny Ur’s ‘Grammar Practice Activities’ which I probably bought some 25 years ago and don’t even know which currency I used to buy it. I was thrilled to get Penny to sign it in December at a conference in Graz.

    Books that friends have recommended which I loved include:
    Elena Ferrante – ‘The Neapolitan Novels’
    Kathryn Stockett – ‘The Help’
    Isabel Allende – ‘House of the Spirits’
    Geraldine Brooks -‘People of the Book’
    Naomi Alderman – ‘Disobedience’ (which was given to me and I have subsequently bought it for others)
    Kazuo Ishiguro – ‘Never Let me Go’
    Nicholas Kristopf and Sherly WuDunn – ‘Half the Sky’ (recommended by our 2018 IATEFL plenary speaker, Brita Fernandez Schmidt

    And books I picked up and just loved:
    Judy Blume – ‘In the Unlikely Event’ (about my hometown in New Jersey)
    Victoria Hislop – ‘The Island’
    Vikram Seth – ‘An Equal Music’
    Anita Diamant – ‘The Red Tent’

    What I am reading now: ‘Shattered’ about Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency.

    I am sure there are more and will add them in when I stumbled across them again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved Catch 22 first time round, maybe I’ll read it again to check. Never really get the time to read much, well, I probably do get the time but don’t use it well. Last year I completed the Southern Reach trilogy – well worth a read (and was great to find some real escapism from teaching!)


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