Jane Isaac’s Bookshelf

Where’s your bookcase located and what does it look like?

I have five family bookshelves in my house, all double skinned and stocked with beautiful stories and prose that I’ve whiled away some very pleasant days enjoying. The one pictured is my favourite. You’ll see that the books aren’t arranged in height order; they’re stacked haphazardly and laid on top of each other as I retrieve them from time to time and re-read my favourite parts. I’m probably not the most efficient reader. I like to revel in the experience, look at the cover from time to time and flick back a few pages to check a point I think I might have missed, especially if I’m reading a thriller with twists and turns aplenty.

What kind of books will definitely not be found in your bookcase?

DIY and home improvement books. I’m hopelessly impractical.

What author have you discovered and loved recently?

Pierre LeMaitre. I loved the blend of psychological thriller and police procedural in Alex. His characters are carefully drawn out and layered in this tale which is both shocking and unputdownable amidst a French backdrop.

Where is your favourite place to read?

I love to sit on the patio at the end of our garden and read under a clear blue sky. However, since that doesn’t happen very often in the UK, I generally read in bed where I usually fall asleep over the pages and wake in the early hours to find my bedside lamp still on.

Can books change lives? If so, which one changed yours?

Any prose that enables you to escape into another world and sample it with all the senses has the ability to evoke feelings and bring about change. The first book that did this for me was a simple travel journal that my husband and I kept when we took a year out to travel the world, almost fourteen years ago.

On our return I found that the photos we took drew on memories, but it was reading the diary that transported me back to the sweet smell of Kuala Lumpur, to hear the of street music of Bangkok, feel the thick heat that pervades the wonderfully clean Singapore, see the red earth of Australia. Realising the power of words, it was this diary that prompted me to study creative writing and pen my first novel.

What’s the book you’d choose as your Desert Island read?

The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. I love Conan Doyle’s flowery prose and, for me, the character of Sherlock Holmes is a touch of brilliance in itself.

What book did you give last as a present and to whom?

I think it would be Nile Rodgers’ autobiography, Le Freak. My husband is learning to play the guitar and I thought it might be inspiring.

What are you reading now?

I am currently reading The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee which was inspired by the life and death of the Korean poet Yun Dong-ju.

The book is set in Fukuoka Prison in 1944 and quotes some of Yun Dong-ju’s posthumously published work. Despite being translated from Korean, the prose is beautifully poetic and I’m taking my time to savour it.

 What are your top ten books?

This changes almost daily, but here are the current favourites:

Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday

Tokyo by Mo Hayder

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

The Empty Chair by Jeffrey Deaver

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

Little Women by Louisa M Alcott

Peter Pan by J M Barrie

 What’s your most treasured book on your bookcase?

A very old copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis. It was the first book I read and I enjoyed reading it again with my daughter when she was young, and re-living the world of Narnia.

Jane Isaac is the author of ‘The Truth Will Out’ published by Legend Press on 1st April 2014.