James Oswald’s Bookshelf

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James Oswald’s Bookshelf

Join us on an exclusive You’re Booked tour of James Oswald’s bookshelf, author of COLD AS THE GRAVE! Featuring a very special
feline guest…

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

This is just one of many bookcases in my writing room. Behind it are boxes and boxes of comics. There are bookcases in almost every room in the house, and still boxes in the garage from when we moved in a couple of years ago. I need to go through them soon and sort out what can go to the charity shop, or risk being buried under a book collapse.

There is no great organisation to these shelves, at least not yet. I have a bit of a reference section for dictionaries and the like, but otherwise things are somewhat randomly shelved. I keep promising myself that I’ll at the very least arrange them all by author. There never seems to be the time though.

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

I don’t think I’d exclude anything on the grounds of ‘kind’ or genre. I’ll not keep something if I didn’t enjoy it, but I know too well how much effort goes into creating a book to dismiss it on the basis of what category it’s listed under. You’ll not find many fad diet or self-help books on my shelves, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not read some.

What author have you discovered and loved recently?

Emma Newman’s Split Worlds fantasy series was a fairly recent delight. Her SF novels, Planetfall, After Atlas and Before Mars are all excellent too. There’s a new one coming soon, which I’m looking forward to.

Where is your favourite place to read?

Probably in bed, although there’s something rather fine about curling up on the sofa by the fire with a mug of tea and a book. Alas, my hectic schedule hasn’t allowed me that luxury in a long while.

Can books change lives?

Certainly the ideas contained within them can. That’s why libraries are so important.

If so, which one changed yours?

I could cheat and say Natural Causes, my first published novel. My life changed dramatically when it hit the number one spot on the Amazon Kindle chart in 2012.

I started off writing comics because that’s what I read growing up (still a work in progress, I reckon), so maybe it was a comic more than a book that changed my life. I remember the excitement of reading 2000AD when it came out in 1977, and I still have my copy of the first issue, although I’ve lost the space spinner toy that was given away with it.

In terms of prose fiction, I would say two writers, rather than specific books, changed my life. The first was Terry Pratchett, the second Iain Banks. Pratchett made me want to write prose fiction, and Banks showed me I didn’t need to be bound by the constraints of any particular genre.

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

Perhaps heresy to say, but I think I’d rather not have any books than only be able to read the same one over and over. I devour stories, but am not a re-reader at all. Maybe I’d choose one of those blank farmer’s notebooks with a pencil in the spine, so I could carry on making up my own stories. If not, I’d just have to let them fill my head until it exploded.

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

I’m forever giving away copies of my own books to people, but I suspect that’s not what you mean. For nephews and nieces, I’ve tended to give book tokens rather than guess what they might like. My late father was a voracious and rapid reader, so he’d always get a book or two for birthday and Christmas – usually something I wanted to read myself. Most recently, I bought a secondhand first edition hardback of Jingo by Terry Pratchett for my partner, as our original, signed copy has gone missing. There isn’t any particular book that I would always buy and press upon friends though. I’m not that pushy.

What are you reading now?

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce, The Ruin of Kings by Jenny Lyons, Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky and Mick Herron’s Slow Horses. I’ve got James Bennet’s Chasing Embers on the headphones at the moment too, and I’ve been dipping into the Penguin Book of Scottish Folktales and an old collection called The Lost Pibroch. I tend to have multiple books on the go, dotted around the house so I can grab one when I have a spare moment. I switch between genres depending on my mood, too. Audiobooks are a godsend as I can listen to them while out on the farm.

What are your top ten books?

You’re kidding, right? I don’t think I can even name the last ten books I read, let alone the top ten.

What’s your most treasured book on your bookcase?

I’m not one for viewing books as objects so much as repositories for ideas and sources of enjoyment. I hoard rather than treasure. I have a vast collection of comics, but don’t obsessively bag them and keep them pristine. If I had to save something in a fire, then it would be the handful of signed and dedicated Terry Pratchett novels. I was lucky enough to meet him a few times in the eighties and nineties and he was an inspiration.


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