Judith Mackrell, the Guardian‘s dance critic and author of Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation stars in Generation F, our next salon at Drink, Shop and Do on Wednesday 18 September. Here she shares her reading past and present – as well as her iphoned bookshelves. Get your £11 (including wine, cake and a goodie bag) tickets here before they sell out!
Do you read paperbacks or ebooks?
My Kindle is brilliant, obviously, for travelling. It weighs almost nothing and it’s great being able to order up whatever books suit the place or the mood or the company I’m in, rather than having to decide what to take in advance.
I like the fact that ebooks are so much less of a commitment. Working as a journalist I felt obliged to read at least a few pages of 50 Shades of Grey, just to find out what all the noise was about. But it wasn’t a book I wanted to give shelf room to, so it was perfect to be able to get it, and then lose it, at a click.
Since I’m now at the stage of double stacking on my book shelves, I’ve also started to draw a line between books I’ll only want to read once, and will buy as ebook, and those I’ll want to keep. Very special books I’m much more likely to buy in hardback now.
There are books all over the house, but quite a lot of them have ended up in my study. There are shelves on either side of my desk: on one side are the novels and short stories – nominally in alphabetical order; and on the other are poetry, biography and history, and the dusty relics of the philosophy I studied at university.
What’s the book you reread more than any other?
Sorry to sound lofty, but I’d say Proust – all twelve volumes. I’m a really, really fast reader, and about once a decade I like to get lost in it all over again.
Recently I’ve started re-reading a lot of stuff I first read as a student. It’s quite shocking how little I understood when I was twenty.
What’s the book you own but have never read?
The Life of Pi.
What’s on your nightstand?
Richard Ford’s Canada. Brilliant but bleak
What’s in your handbag?
Richard Ford’s Canada. I’ll only read one novel at a time.
What’s the book you foist on people?
Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven. I’m not remotely a horsey person, but it’s a work of astonishing, imaginative writing. And such a good introduction to Smiley herself, who seems to reinvent herself with every novel she writes.
Name the four books that mean the world to you
Oh so difficult. But off the top of my head:
Virginia Woolf’s The Waves – the first book I ever read for the sake of its writing, rather than its story.
Charlotte Bronte’s Villette – the first novel I read that made a 19th century woman seem real to me.
Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series – I could almost recite them by heart as a kid, I read them so often.
Where the Wild Things Are – because of the fun I had reading it to my own kids.
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