Monday, 12 September 2011

A Quiz of Books

Seeing as I have plenty of things I could post but don’t particularly want to, here’s a book quiz. I thought it might be interesting to compare answers from October 2009 to September 2011, as I’ve certainly learnt a lot...though I doubt that much will change! Here goes...

 Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?
Just by my parents reading stories with me at night.....they must of read A LOT of stoies for me!
This answer is pretty much the same, although nowadays I’d try and say something like the idea of books absolutely fascinated me. Books contained such a knowledge that I so strongly desired. People who read books were so clever and I really looked up to them. I suppose a love of reading also developed because it was one of the only things I was really good at in school.

 What are some books you read as a child?
Micheal Morpurgo - The Butterfly Lion - I swear I read it constantly in Primary School, think they tried to wean me off it with other books....Lucy Daniels and her Animal Ark stories....Shelty the Shetland Pony....Jaquline Wilson

What is your favorite genre?
I like a good old, nearly 'adult' fiction, historical novels by Elizabeth Chadwick, Fantasy stuff, 19C stuff mostly.
As I have begun to read other things since coming to university, I have to say this has changed considerably. I haven’t actually touched a fantasy book I haven’t read before for a couple of years as I find it increasingly difficult to find a fantasy which is not the same as all the others. I have begun experimenting with Ian Fleming and I love those gritty spy books. I still love historical fiction – I enjoy C.S. Forester. I have also been reading a lot of literary fiction, because that’s the market university tells us is more profitable. Ever since helping out at Bristol Short Story Prize, a love of the short story has blossomed, as well.

Do you have a favourite novel?
Not at this particular moment in time, though I must say I adore Chadwick's The Greatest Knight, and Temeraire by Naomi Novik
This is an incredibly difficult question, even a couple of years on. A couple of novels I read earlier in the year have been spectacular: Lolita, because of it’s gorgeous, gorgeous writing and sheer genius, and The Tortilla Curtain, which I always think about even though it’s been several months since I’ve read it. The Tortilla Curtain is an American novel, and where before I usually avoid such things, I found the story and language absolutely engaging. It certainly gave me a completely different view of life and prompted me to look at more of T. C. Boyle’s work.

Where do you usually read?
Anywhere, but mostly in bed! Though I was in a random park in Bath leaning against a tree reading Jayne Eyre in the sun the other week.
I love to read in a busy library, and by the lake at university. On the Three C’s is a pretty good place to read – it usually takes a few hours to get from one place to another and a considerable chunk of reading can be spent laying in my bunk and reading along to the relaxing motion of the boat...

When do you usually read?
When I need to loose myself in another world and rich exciting prose.
When I’m not tired, or not tired enough. Recently I’ve found it very difficult to read just before sleeping – I’m usually so tired that I find my eyes are closing even if I have a completely readable 30 pages left. Reading is also ‘productive procrastination’, unlike the internet. I love reading in my holidays and trying to see how much I can read in my time off.

 Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?
I try not to, but since starting university, I've got a HUGE reading list, and several books 'on the go' (well, meant to be 'on the go')
Technically I have 5 books ‘on the go’ at the moment. Ulysses and Rousseau’s Confessions are ‘on the go’ because I never finished them at university on time but I am determined to finish them some day in the far distant future. I started Jennie by Paul Gallico but that has come to a considerable halt as I’m re-reading a book in time for a talk with the author at the end of the month at Bath’s Children’s Literature Festival.

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?
I prefer not to, but I force my way through it if I do! I think a libray is the best place to read non-fiction, books about Nazis and boing politicans don't seem fitting for my comfy bed.
When I’m reading non-fiction I tend to be more liberal with a pencil, where as with fiction I mark quotes and words I like, I highlight in non-fiction things that are usually relevant to what I am studying. When reading more ‘difficult’ non-fiction I read it in bursts, a chapter at a time, and never any more.

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library?
I buy them, mostly. Again, university requires too many books so I'll get some out of the library. I usually get second hand books anyway.
I don’t like reading library books, for some peculiar reason. I’d rather have my own copy so I can do whatever the hell I like with it. I rarely borrow books, and have the very unfortunate habit of buying books and keeping the ones I like, which means my shelves are getting clogged up fast, although it’s unlikely I’d read any of them again for a long time.

Do you keep most of the books you buy?
Uh-huh. I have quite a few books that I've had for a while but every two yeas or so I get rid of all the stuff I don't really like - for example, a recent purge involved charity-shopping Point Horror books apart from my favourites.
I keep the books I buy and then read them to determine whether they get condemned or not. As a result I have a hell of a lot of ‘to read’ books on a stand-alone bookshelf.

If you have children, what are some of the favourite books you have shared with them?
When I have children I would like to share the books I have written with them; and Micheal Morpurgo, JK Rowling and the usual.
I’d have to change my answer here: not J.K. Rowling. That would be something they’d discover without me. I would provide Garth Nix and Mervin Peake and Eleanor Updale.

What are you reading now?
I'm supposed to be reading The Mill On The Floss for uni, Digin in The Nightingale's Eye, and Jyne Eyre
Brisingr – Christopher Paolini
Jennie – Paul Gallico
Confessions – Rousseau
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Betrothed – Alessandro Manzoni

Do you keep a to-read list?
I usually have a 'to read' list pinned to the back of my diary but I can't read for pleasure anymore, unless I gain super-quick reading powers over night and finish my huge book-lst within days.
I keep a ‘to read’ book shelf or pile. It’s not in any order. I think I should put in in some sort of order – might be entirely more constructive.

What's next?
UUrhhh. Something on my booklist.
It should be a set text, like The Shoemaker’s Holiday, Michaelmas Term and The Country Wife but is more likely to be Flying Colours.

What books would you like to reread?
Naomi Novik, The Dream Merchant, Montmorency series, Garth Nix
This hasn’t changed much, either. I’ve re-read Temeraire and Montmorency recently, just the rest of the series to go now...

Name ten novelists who come to your mind who you love:
Naomi Novik, Elizabeth Chawick, Garth Nix, Antony Horrowitz, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Micheal Morpurgo, Eleanor Updale, Emily Bronte
Adding to the list: T.C. Boyle, Helen Oyeyemi, Ian Fleming, C.S. Forester, George Eliot, Mal Peet.

Which book has been on your shelves the longest?
Micheal Morpurgo for sure, but also Roald Dahl, The Witches

What is your last read?
the last book I finished hastily before my creative writing lectue about it was A Clockwork Orange
Live and Let Die – Ian Fleming

 What book did everyone like and you hated?
A Clockwork Orange! Terry Brooks
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck. I HATED reading this book in the crappy ‘library’ sessions we used to have to encourage us to read at high school. I don’t think they knew what kind of books I was reading at that point but I certainly thought that Of Mice and Men was far too easy and boring for my reading level.

Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read?
The Mill On The Floss! hahaha.
The Time Traveller’s Wife. It’s sat on my ‘to read’ shelf gathering dust like the other thirty books on there. TTTW is always a potential to read next, but never quite makes the cut, because it looks dauntingly long and I’m far too lazy to read it.

 Which book coming out in 2009 is top priority to read?
ermmm....The Elder Scrolls - The Infernal City
(2011) Since I don’t usually keep up to date with what is coming out and things, I’d say it is the last of Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, as I’ve already pre-ordered it.

Last page: read it first or wait ’til the end?
It's so, so, tempting, occasionally I do but usually I can restrain myself so I don't.
I sometimes accidently see a last word when I’m flicking through a book and think, ‘Balls, that’s ruined it.’ But by the time I get to the end I’ve forgotten what it is and remember I’ve accidentally stumbled upon it before after I’ve read it.

 Acknowledgements: waste of ink and paper or interesting?
Sometimes they can be quite cool; it makes me smile with some dedications, like what a nice gesture!
Sometimes the acknowledgements are fascinating. For example, dare I say it, Stephanie Mayer attributes Muse to her inspiration. And Paolini’s reference to Doctor Who. It’s also interesting from the point of view that the authors really give an insight in how the book has been out together  - for example, Elizabeth Chadwick is not really a historian but does a heck of a lot of research and I could easily follow up that research if I was interested in the subject.

Which book character do you hate?
Urrhhhh. Gosh, can't remember very many to be honest....any of Clockwork's evil characters, especially Alex.
Frodo Baggins.

Which authors do you want to read that you haven’t yet?
Eliot! lols! Dan Brown, Stephen King
I have no desire to read either of these authors any more. Susan Hill, Bernard Cornwell and Neil Gaiman are perhaps more accurate.

 Which books are still on your shelf from when you were in school?
The Bloody Chamber (LOVE Angela Carter) To Kill a Mocking Bird, Oleanna, A Merchant's Tale....

 Which book has been with you to the most places?
Gosh I have no idea. I would say Harry Potter (finished book 3 at work inbetween scooping icecream) and LOTR.

 Any “required reading” you hated in school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?
To be honest, I've loved all the books we've had to far.....

 Stephen King or Anne Rice?
Wouldn't know.

 Used or brand new?
I tend to get cheepo used Amozons, charity shop books, but I do like a new book too
Used. There’s no character in new books, although I’m partial to the smell.

 Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
Hahaha difficult. I must say, LOTR is a supreme film, and the book can be read as non-fiction too much, but still excellent. I live in fear of books becoming movies because they would ruin them....e.g, i ABSOLOUTLY refuse to see Eragon.

 Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
Very recently, probably my Creative Writing tutor Morgana (yes, thats her name) because she is incredibly crazy, and I think this year will be very interesting!
The above answer no longer counts. It has always been my brother, and will always be my brother.

Recommend a series/ or book:
Naomi Novik, Temeraire series!
Mr Fox – Helen Oyeyemi

 What is the first book you remember reading?
Puddle Lane books.....

 Pick up the nearest book (magazine or any available printed material will do). Turn to page 24 (or the closest to it). Go to the 7th line. What is it?
'...of Tristan, the Liebestod, with the single, cryptic word:.....' Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber
‘...which connects the two banks at that point seem to make the...’ The Betrothed, Alessandro Manzoni

 If you could be any character in literature, who would you be?
Scout Finch
Lady Barbara Wellesley from Hornblower, because he loves her. Or otherwise Delysia Lafosse from Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson.

 Name three poets that come to mind that matter to you:
uurh. Chaucer, TS Ellliot, Chaucer.
I don’t read poetry, so this answer has not changed much.

 What non-fiction books made a deep impression on you?
Urrh havn't really read that much non-fiction :S
A Book About Books by Frederick Harrison. I loved this book, it was so fascinating, and is a great reference.

 What three science fiction authors intrigue you this moment?
Douglas Adams (I'm going to say he's sci-fi) Alan Dean Foster (wrote Transformers novelisation) can't think of anyone else.
Plus John Wyndham.

 What is the last mystery novel you read?
hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.............i can't remember.
I haven’t read much mystery.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A bookbinder's cigar box

Recently I have had the amazing opportunity to visit a bookbinder’s ‘workshop’, which was set up in the room at the front of his house. It used to be a bedroom.

I got some hands on experience of using the professional tools and equipment a binder might use. It was an invaluable experience, to actually use these things, rather than read about them from books.

Roger gave me a few things to take home to practise with – things, he said, were just laying around the workshop. Honestly, I nearly cried at his generosity.

So hereby is a list of a bookbinder’s beginning: most notably, the difference between my set – things I’ve found around the house – and the one that Roger was so kind to give me. It really shows that I was incredibly naive, which is obviously something I have to change. That is why it is so important that you talk to someone who knows what they are doing. I used tutorials on the internet. Though they make a good start, they are not official and the quality of books made from them will be poor without the correct materials.

Note: In the first photograph, I have used materials which are probably unsuitable for bookbinding. If you want to start binding, it is probably best to buy the proper equipment. I will point out why things are wrong as I go along. 

The tools are photographed on a piece of gray board. This is the board that will form the hard cover of a book. The weight and size of the book block (the pages) determines the thickness of the board. Is you have a heavy book block, the board needs to be quite thick to enable it to support the book. This sheet of grey board is 3mm and I brought it from a art shop.

     Also notice the square grid cutting mat. These are extremely useful for accurate measurements, and obviously protecting the surface you are working on. I don’t glue things on this board, as it is important that you keep things glue free – otherwise, it will ruin your work. When I glue things I use shiny magazine paper. 
The 'things found around the house' bookbinding kit

These things are mostly inappropriate.
1.       Scissors are an obvious tool. They are indispensible within bookbinding, from cutting the paper, to cutting the thread. These are just a normal pair we had at home, but I tend to keep these with my bookbinding tools and use different pairs for anything else. Binders, as well as having a normal pair of scissors, will also have some shears. These are a lot more heavy than normal, and will cut through board easily, where as it is quite difficult to cut through board with a normal pair.

2.      This is a lid from a jam jar. I use it to hold glue and to rest my brushes against, to avoid getting glue everywhere. It could also be used for mixing materials, if necessary.

3.      Needle. I stole this from my mother’s sewing kit. It is a bigger size from what you would use to make repairs in clothes. It also has a more obvious eye. I chose this needle because it is stronger, and because the thread I use is also quite thick. It has a slight curve to it now where I have used it in bookbinding.

4.      Linen thread. I brought this from a haberdashery. It is normally used for repairing heavy materials and furniture. Admittedly, it is not very good. It is far too thick, not flexible enough, and very easily likes to fray. I knew that linen thread was used in binding, but obviously did not buy the correct type. ( see D)

5.      Bandage. From a first aid kit. I used this as an alternative to mull (M). It is far too stretchy and again, likes to fray. Completely unsuitable for bookbinding, but it was a start. 

6.      PVA glue. This stuff has probably been with you since you were in play group. Obviously it is quite strong and useful for sticking things. It can wash out of brushes (and clothes) easily. However, it is not suitable for bookbinding. PVA is pretty much impossible to get rid of once you have used it within bookbinding, and heavily damages what you have done. Roger told me that if you can’t revert something, then don’t do it. However, binders still use PVA glue, but it is reversible. (C)

7.      Bias tape. This is actually used for sewing repairs, and again is highly unsuitable for bookbinding – especially bias binding tape, which allows a curve to appear within material. I used this as an alternative to linen tape, which is used on a spine of a book to give strength, and glued to the boards to provide strength to the book, as well as a support for flexibility of the book. (E)

8.      This is just a stronger thread I found in my mother’s sewing kit. I would use this for small book, as the linen thread I had was often too thick and would damage the paper. This thread is ridiculous. It breaks very easily. 

9.      Plastic rule. I like to use the plastic rule because then I can see through the ruler to be able to get a reasonably accurate measurement. I only use this ruler to measure things. NEVER USE PLASTIC RULES WITH KNIVES. They are very likely to slip. Bye bye fingers. 

10.   Paintbrush. This actually has quite short hairs and they are quite ‘solid’. I use this brush for all kinds of gluing, especially the delicate parts, and the edges of a cover. It is extremely important you keep your brushes clean, and that they are dry when you start to use them.

11.    Metal rule. My metal rule is non-slip – it looks like a flattened out ‘m’. This allows your fingers some protection from your nasty, sharp craft knife.

12.   Stencil brush. The hairs are thick and short. There are a number of different brushes binders use, and this makes a good alternative. Brushes with thick hairs like this are used to cover materials with glue. Rather than brushing glue on, you apply it like you would with paint on a stencil. This allows a more even covering of glue and it is easy to control the level of glue with this kind of brush.

13.   Craft knife. These kind of knifes are most commonly found in a school’s art room. this knife is quite old and I find it incredibly uncomfortable to use after a while. If I buy a new knife, I will buy a retractable one which has a comfortable grip. This allows me to change the blade when necessary and not hurt myself.
14.   Tea spoon. Ah, the famous spoon! I’ve used this as an alternative to a bone folder (J) ever since I started binding. It does the job: folding paper (a nice crisp edge) and smoothing out materials (getting air out from underneath materials when gluing is very important). The problem with spoons is that they can be too harsh and any pressure is concentrated in the ‘bowl’ of the spoon, where really it needs to be spread out. Kind of like wearing snow shoes as opposed to not wearing snow shoes. 

15.   This is just some tape from the haberdashery. I fold it over and sew it as an alternative to headbands, which fills the gap between cover and spine. It makes books look neater, and is purely decorative. Of course this alternative looks a bit messy, especially fraying as much as it does. 

16.   Sandpaper. Incredibly useful – when cutting the board, often the edge is far too sharp and this can penetrate and damage paper. I use sandpaper to wear down the boards to make a smoother edge, which makes covering easier. Sandpaper is also good for keeping your tools sharp and clean. 

17.   Pencil. Used for everything, measuring, etc. I like to use a retractable pencil to avoid sharpening and produce fine lines that can be easily rubbed out. 

The Correct Tools
There are quite a few differences between this photo and the old one. Most noticeably, some of the ‘alternative’ tools I have used are now gone (including the spoon). The things I have not numbered remain the same, and they have the same purpose, although with my new tools I may use them in a different way. The plastic rule is also missing from this photograph. I will probably keep on using it, but professional bookbinders tend to measure things by eye, a skill that is built up over the years. a pair of dividers (K), come into play here.

  1. A.     Headbands. These are the bands you will most likely find in a hardback book. Arthur W. Johnson  in The Practical Guide to Craft Bookbinding provides an particularly good description: ‘A true headband consist of coloured threads entwined tightly round a core of vellum backed with leather, and is sewn through the sections, filling the gap at the spine between the top or bottom of the section and edges of the boards.’ The headbands here are not as elaborate. They are ‘imitation’ headbands, and used only as decoration.

    B.     PVA paste. This is different from PVA as paste is used for paper and other porous materials. It is also used for leather. I would use this when sticking the endpapers onto a book block.

    C.     PVA. This, specifically, is reversible PVA. Being reversible causesactivation to be delayed therefore allowing repositioning in the glueingprocess. It also has a built in resistance to yellowing due to aging and aneutral pH of 7.’ This glue is used on the spine as well as when gluing book cloth to the boards. 
    D.     Linen thread. This is a lot more flexible than the alternative I used. It is not as thick, but still pretty strong. Bookbinder will wax the thread, which enables it to be pulled through sheets of paper with ease and fluidity.

    E.     Binding tape. This is the official stuff, usually made of linen. It is a lot stronger than the alternative, and gives the spine and book strength. I learnt a new way to sew the tape onto the book block, rather than sticking it on afterward. This will make my books immediately stronger.

    F.      A range of different sized needles. The thickness of thread and paper determines which needle will be used to sew with.

    G.     Drawing pins. When sewing onto tapes, a sewing frame is used. Tapes are strung from a horizontal bar and are made taut. Drawing pins attach the bottom of the tape to the frame. I don’t have a frame, but I will be using the pins to attach the tape to my desk. Having the tape attached like this makes it a lot easier to keep in place, creating accuracy. 

    H.    Knife. This is used for a whole number of things, and there are a whole range of knifes that binders used. I don’t really know the function of this one specifically, but if it sharp enough it can be used with paper and any number of different materials. 

    I.       Bradawl. Use for piercing holes in the paper or boards. Alternatively, a needle can be used, but this can be quite tedious, as it is sometimes to get an accurate hole, whilst with a bradawl multiple sheets of paper can be pierced.

    J.      Bone folder. Used pretty much in every stage of bookbinding. Smoothes cloth down, makes neat and sharp folds. I love using a bone folder. It’s so fluid and nice to use. 

    L.      Surgeon’s  (curved) needle. This needle is commonly used in bookbinding. I’ve never tried to use one of these before, so it should be interesting.

    M.   Mull. This is an open-weave cotton cloth, hardened with starch. This is the real material that should be used, as is gives vital strength to the book.

     There we go! There’s a list of the should and should not tools of bookbinding. I learnt so much from Roger and hopefully my work in the future will be stronger, and of a high quality. Having a kit like this is really a start of a collection if I’m going to become a professional -  a tiny box within a mound of materials at my fingertips. I hope this has helped any of you interested in making books!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Two Devonshire Indies

The Harbour Bookshop

What a pleasant surprise! The Harbour Bookshop is a cheerful independent bookshop with a really great selection of books. I love bookshops where you get a good feeling from walking into it – and this certainly was a good feeling. Out of the other shops in Kingsbridge The Harbour Bookshop is truly the most independent – I couldn’t really see any other independent establishment, and it really stood out – in a good way.


 My visit was extremely fleeting but I know that I would have had an amazing chat with the ladies behind the counter if I had the time. They were so friendly.

Also, I got to pick up some free things about books. Huzzah! The ladies at the bookshop write their own pamphlet to review books which is such an outreaching idea.

The kids section is bright and very encouraging.

An amazing shop situated perfectly, it would seem, in Kingsbridge, doing it for the indies. 

Salcombe Bookshop

Salcombe is like Cowes and Kingsbridge is more like Lymington – there are lots of higher end shops in Salcombe, and a few independent ones, too. The bookshop we stumbled upon is situated down a picturesque little ally. Unfortunately, the shop itself was quite disappointing.

Very small, I thought the shop was rather more like a brand new shed with some books shoved on some shelves. The shelves were untidy, and the place had no character.

Sorry Salcombe.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A Bibliophile in Frome

Hunting Raven Books


Hunting Raven Books is perfectly placed in the medievally picturesque Cheap Street, among other independent shops that share an equal passion for their goods.  The building itself is impressive, enticing you in with clever window displays and an urge to find a story behind the sign.

The shop itself is extremely well stocked and bright, with clear sections and shelving that give the books an opportunity to speak.

As well as books, Hunting Raven also sells CDs, stationary, and cards, as well as children’s toys. There is a section in the ‘Gallery’ at the back that would satisfy any bibliophile.


The staff are also incredibly informative, enthusiastic and friendly. I read on their website that they offer gap year opportunities for students. What an absoloutly fantastic and innovative idea! I wish I had a local inde that did that. 

I was so happy to find this shop – after my Easter book cruising it’s always a delight to step into a bookshop and really look at it. It’s definitely something that I will do every time I step into a bookshop – and recently I have picked up a free magazine called Book Time – a great magazine about recent publications which also review bookshops. They really get into so much interesting detail – maybe I should do that kind of research too, it would certainly make my blog more interesting!


What’s not more interesting than a shop that has an old tin bath outside its door? (My mother would probably tell you if you let her that she used a similar tub in front of the fire when she was younger) but what’s more interesting? The pile of books on the table in the door.

Stepping into Crowman was a very nostalgic and wonderful experience for me. Amongst the paraphernalia of different objects, all sorts of gorgeously rustic furniture, spinning wheels, stuffed foxes – were books. We climbed the narrow winding staircase and I was plummeted into the memories of my grandparent’s cottage – in fact, the shop may as well have been that cottage, except that everything was crammed into one room. Think The Room of Requirement in Deathly Hallows – maybe think of an old shed – but wherever you look, there is certainly a feast for the eyes, somewhere where you could happily emerge yourself into and absorb generations through your finger tips.

It seems that books were nestled into any available space. If I were left to my own devices, I could have spent hours deconstructing the towers and towers of books and sitting gleefully in a genuine old chair-in-front-of-the-fire armchair. In the end, although I was sorely tempted by a book that would be fascinating as a reference, I brought A Book is Made for You to add to my ever increasing second-hand bibliophilic collection.

The owner and his lad were sat around a huge dining table (for sale) and he seemed to know his stuff. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating. I really recommend it.