Debrief Staff | Contributing Writer | Thursday, 5 March 2015

It’s World Book Day! So We Asked Some Of Our Favourite Authors To Show Us Their Shelfies

The Debrief: Awesome books on the shelves of awesome authors

Peter Haynes

Books are bloody great aren’t they? We think so. So to celebrate World Book Day we invited some of our very favourite female authors to share their favourite books in the whole world. Books that inspire, excite or just make them lol. Oh and they also let us in to their homes to show us the shelves they keep these awesome books on.

Emma Jane Unsworth, is the author of Animals, Canongate

 

‘I own what feels like a strange collection of books. This is because a) I have a godwaful memory and am afraid to jettison anything ever in case it belongs to someone else, b) I give a lot of my favourite books away – press them into people’s hands and say READ THIS – and then I don’t get them back, which is fine, but makes my shelves a little unrepresentative of my tastes, and c) I like some weird shit. I have books from when I was at university – the compendiums and canonical stuff. I have books from when I first started reviewing books and got overexcited at the prospect of free books. I have unread A-level textbooks of all the subjects I wish I’d studied and still haven’t got round to. I have a lot of poetry and I have Joanna Lumley’s autobiography, because I am probably as interested in Joanna Lumley as I am in poetry. Joanna Lumley as Patsy IS poetry. And I have a quail in a bell jar. Because why not? ‘

Follow Emma on Twitter: @emjaneunsworth

Zoe Pilger, author of Eat Your Heart Out, Serpent’s Tail 

 

‘I’m writing my second novel at the moment and watching a lot of Twin Peaks for inspiration. I particularly love the log lady. Part of the new novel is set in Mexico, where I lived for a year when I was 19, and first discovered Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, which is one of my favourite books. I went back there for the first time last October. I became very interested in Hermann Hesse last year and read a few of his books – I like Siddhartha. I’m writing a piece about alter egos at the moment so returning to John Berryman’s Dream Songs, which I’ve loved since I was in my early 20s, particularly the lines: ‘There ought to be a law against Henry / …There is.’ And the myth of Linda Lovelace features heavily in my new novel and I recently read her memoir about the porn industry, Ordeal.'

Becky Wait, author of The Followers, Picador 

 

‘My bookshelves are not organised in any particular way, which means I never know where to find anything. But that’s OK, because I enjoy the browsing process. I’m a big fan of Jean Rhys. Good Morning, Midnight is uncompromisingly bleak and led to me drinking a lot more Pernod (though, as I’ve discovered, it’s fairly disgusting). Kurt Vonnegut is reckless and funny; at the moment I’m reading Galapagos, which I’m possibly enjoying even more than Slaughterhouse Five. Marilynne Robinson is one of the writers I admire most; there’s something almost biblical about the rhythm of her prose, a kind of weight and stillness to it. Various editions of Beowulf are scattered across my shelves, because I’m unashamedly nerdy about Old English poetry. Seamus Heaney’s translation is my favourite because he captures the feeling and force of the original but also creates a fresh and brilliant poem in its own right.' 

Follow Rebecca On Twitter: @Rebeccawait 

Lucy Ribchester, author of The Hourglass Factory,  Simon & Schuster

 

'I’m not at home at the moment as I’m in London promoting The Hourglass Factory but have had a rummage through my father-in-law’s bookshelves and he has surprisingly good taste :-) I wasn’t a child who grew up reading The Classics. I read mainly genre fiction – Enid Blyton’s mysteries gave way to Christopher Pike, then came Lynda La Plante and Agatha Christie. But when I was in sixth year I discovered Thomas Hardy and fell in love. Tess is my favourite. I’ve read it multiple times and each time I hope it will end differently. I’ve also borrowed Wise Children from my publicist because really you should never leave home without an Angela Carter (*slaps own wrist*). I think if I did have to pick one favourite novel it would be this. I love Virginia Woolf’s Orlando for similar reasons – ostentatious beauty, wit and a refusal to follow real-world rules.  On the other pile are some of my favourite reads from this year.'

Follow Lucy on Twitter: @lucyribchester

Bryony Gordon, author of The Wrong Knickers, Headline

 

‘You may think this a bit weird given that I have written a book about my disastrous love life, but my favourite thing to read is dystopian fiction, ever since I read The Lord of the Flies when I was 14. Stephen King described it as the first book he had read that 'had hands... Ones that reached out of the pages and seized my by the throat', and who am I to argue with that? Speaking of King, I think he is one of the greatest writers to have ever lived and The Stand is a masterpiece of post-apocalyptic story-telling. Margaret Atwood does feminist dystopia that feels like a frightening possibility rather than a grotesque fantasy, and The Handmaid's Tale should be required reading for all young women. Finally, some books that don't feature end of the world scenarios: Hope, by Shalom Auslander is the darkest, funniest book I have ever read (it's about a man who finds Anne Frank living in his attic); and Heartburn by the peerless Nora Ephron, because it does that rare thing - it makes you laugh about heart break.’

Follow Bryony On Twitter: @bryony_gordon

Joanna Biggs, author of All Day Long, Serpent’s Tail 

 

'Here are my appallingly disordered shelves (which I now realise I also use for storing hair oil). I read a lot of plays: I'm re-reading Sarah Kane at the moment, but the last new play I loved was by Alice Birch. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again, a series of funny and provoking monologues encouraging women to be less accepting of the world as it is. I always return to Sylvia Plath, slowly memorising Daddy so I can recite it like a Hail Mary; I always return to Simone de Beauvoir, most recently to her novella La Femme Rompue. And then there are novels, mostly pretty unarguably great: Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Madame Bovary, A Far Cry from Kensington, The Bell Jar. More recently I've been reading Ben Lerner, Elena Ferrante, Gwendoline Riley and discovering Elizabeth Hardwick, Renata Adler and Joan Didion. For the book on work I've just finished, All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work, I read and re-read Studs Terkel's overwhelming Working - 650 pages of interviews with workers across 1970s America - and I found my epigraph re-reading Chekhov's plays. I would be embarrassed to admit how many translations of The Seagull I own.'

Follow Joanna On Twitter: @joannabiggs

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Photos: Peter Haynes

Tags: books