Xan Brooks

These bookshelves are in my study all down one wall. They’ve been the background for many an author pic and interview but the truth is they’re not mine – or at least very few of them are. The shelves are actually the province of my husband and when we first moved in together they caused a war. I’m a library user and I just don’t hoard books – to me, they’re for sharing. I buy books, read them and pass them on. I borrow books from the library, take notes and pop them back again. Books exist for me, not as physical entities with pages and binding, but in the province of my mind. A book is a story – even if it’s non-fiction, and once I’ve read it, I have the story with me, inside my head, always. I just don’t need it any more.

This is shocking for many people and I admit that three single shelves of this array do belong to me, reserved for books that I adore – stories I know I want to read again and again and even quote from. Those books are a medicine cabinet of healing words. T C Boyle’s Water Music. Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea. I wouldn’t be without them. As to the rest…

I wanted him to clear it out. There were multiple copies of some books – different editions. We fought about it and I sneaked some away to the charity shop, which incensed the poor man. Then we realised that our minds work differently. To him a book is a totem – the physical personification of his reading appetite. If he rid himself of these books it would be a desecration of his reading memory.

I relented. So did he. And the bookshelves do look lovely. One day, we say wistfully, we’ll shelve them properly but for now it’s a Lucky Dip. And I lucky dip now and then. So I have the bookshelves to thank for introducing me to the delights of Robert Sheckley and Rev J P Martin – books I found on a rainy day on a high shelf – unopened for years and now alive in my mind.


Sara Sheridan, self confessed swot, writer of 1950s murder mysteries and novels about early Empire explorers. The third in her cosy crime noir series, The Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries is called England Expects and will be published in April by Polygon Books. You can pre-order it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/England-Expects-Mirabelle-Bevan-Mystery

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