Show Your Books!

IMG_4323Today’s blog is from Jenny Jacoby, a wonderfully talented editor and all-around awesome lady who is filling in for Sara O’Connor while Sara is on maternity leave. Look out for more blogs from Jenny in the coming months!

An old internet meme I used to enjoy was ‘Show Your Books’. The name pretty much says what it was about, so I thought I’d resurrect the game and Show My Books as my first post on the Hot Key blog. (Also in the hope of starting a Twitter #showyourbooks meme…)


This is my bedside table. These are my books. Rather, these are my on-the-go books. There’s a second pile behind them of next-in-line books.

And here is my confession: I’m a terrible cheat on my books. I love them all but I can’t commit to one at a time. I’m a serial polygamist.

Like Renée in PAPER AEROPLANES, like everyone in THE VINCENT BOYS/BROTHERS, I might be in a relationship with a person (i.e. book) I love and who loves me back, but I can’t resist the temptation of a flirty new individual who crosses my path.

The story will go something like this: I’m reading FREEDOM but it’s a big, heavy hardback, so I keep it for reading in bed. That’s alongside my other long-term projects like THE MITFORDS. Then I need to have a portable book on the go too, for when I go on the tube. I start Iain Sinclair’s Hackney book, decide I’m enjoying it so much I want to savour just little bites of it at a time, so I start reading whole other books in between single Sinclair chapters… I’m given a copy of THE NAME OF THE STAR so I have to start it, and even though I’m loving it, when I’m then given a proof copy of Paper Aeroplanes I have to tear through that first.

I’ve lost track of how many physical books I have on the go at this stage.

What you can’t also see on the pile of books here is THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, which I’m reading on my iPhone because it’s good to have something illuminated to read as I lie in the dark on the floor next to my daughter’s cot while she falls asleep. (She doesn’t need me to do this every night … but it is a chance for me to catch up on some reading…)

I also have a couple of manuscripts I’m reading on my iPhone.

I’ve always been like this. As a child I had a bedside book pile of a similar height, which I kept on a strict rotation: one chapter per night from whichever book was at the bottom of the pile, replaced after reading onto the top of the pile and not getting another look until its turn on the eight-night rotation came round again. It could get confusing, one night being at boarding school with Charlotte Sometimes, the next joining Minty at the Moondial, and the next finding Paula Danziger’s Bat in Bunk Five, but I felt like I was having more fun than the book monogamists.

I like to pretend that this gets me through more books at a time, but it’s not true. I’m still officially reading BABIES AND THEIR MOTHERS (second from the bottom, there) because having a baby piqued my interest in infant psychology, but my daughter is two years old now. Hardly a baby anymore, and I’ve still not finished it.

Then there are some I just can’t let go, like THE MITFORDS – it’s an 800+ page beast and I’m only a few pages from the end but I’m not ready to say goodbye yet and actually finish it.

There are some that have reappeared on my pile, like THE EYES OF KAREN CONNORS, which I salvaged from my dad’s loft before he took what’s left of my childhood library to the charity shop. (I hope the people of my home town are ready for some good 80s book covers.)


Gone are the days of my regimented rotation. Now I pick up the on-the-go book that I feel most in the mood for. I’ll give full-time attention to any book I’m on the brink of finishing, because it feels good to actually complete something. So there is method to my madness. Not that my boyfriend thinks so.

Anyone else up for #showyourbooks ? Anyone with odder reading habits?


3 responses to “Show Your Books!

  1. Well… now that I am enjoying my maternity leave, I am blasting through the Carnegie shortlist. But I’m doing it one at a time. I too have a stack of “started” books on my bedside table, but recently admitted to myself that I was not going to go back to them. Either it grabs me or it doesn’t, so I’m going to work on developing the habit of letting go. If I don’t like it… if I don’t HAVE to finish it… it’s banished from the bedside table.

    P.S. So glad you’ve got everything under control, Jenny! Thank you! See you in September!

  2. God, I am exactly the same! My bedside reading pile is currently this:
    Literary Rogues – a Scandalous History of Wayward Authors, which I picked up in New York, (for tips, you know ;)) and read a chapter every so often; A History of the World in a 100 Objects – a Christmas present from boyfriend, which I love and have made good progress with, but its not every night you’re in the mood for dense history; American Psycho, which I’ve been reading bit by bit since last summer – not that I don’t love it, more that other fiction keeps getting in the way…hmm what else – I have about a billion books on my Kindle, and iBookstore Library, that I have started, and then got distracted – Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those! And even some of our own Hot Key future titles. It’s not a good trait!

    I did however spend my weekend reading from beginning to end, my other half’s next book – the third book in the Department 19 series, Battle Lines – and sped through that. Literally couldn’t put it down, which shows how good it is (not that I’m biased, of course…)

    I seem to be getting worse, and I’m not proud of it. The problem is, too many fantastic books keep getting published! Or I take on new reading challenges, like the Carnegie shortlist…which I MUST FINISH BY JUNE…but poor other books that are patiently waiting for me to return my attention to. I will get there though, I’m not as brutal as you SOC!


  3. things I never knew about you!!!

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