Confession time


In the spirit of new year and new starts and all that business, it’s time I made a confession: my name is Lisa Davison and I have a book habit. So bad is this habit, that I’ve decided the only way to deal with it is to out myself. So, below is the pile of books I have bought over the past year that still need reading:




This doesn’t even include the twenty (somehow it looks less bad when I spell the word out) on my Kindle or the five (at least) that I want to re-read or indeed the two I’d forgotten about when I took this picture. I bought a new bookcase at Christmas. It’s already three quarters full. I even joined the London Library a couple of years ago to get the number down. It doesn’t help, now I borrow them, buy them and download them.


It’s not just bookshops that catch me out. I’m a sucker in a museum or a theatre shop (see: Books: A Living History and How to Make Books). When I find an author I like, I get several all at once (see: Waugh, Carter and Greene). And if it looks like a beautiful brick or has a ribbon bookmark attached then I’m sold (see: The Luminaries and The Goldfinch).


I’ve typed the list out as well, just for full name and shame opportunity. It’s written out at random but I suppose there is some semblance of a pattern: war books count as research; fiction written during the war years counts as a different kind of research; I’ll buy anything by Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Donna Tartt, David Mitchell (he got The Reason I Jump published in the UK), and Hilary Mantel (although Fludd is on loan from my Dad); I’m starting to read ghost stories again because I have an idea for one (see: The Woman in Black and MR James/another collection of ghost stories); I want to read more non-fiction (Cixi and essay collections).


The trouble is I don’t feel that bad about this habit. Books aren’t just diversions, they represent other worlds I have visited in my life, they represent bits of me and they act as punctuation marks in specific moments in my history. I can tell you what was going on when I read The Book Thief (my stepdad was ill); what a glorious afternoon I spent in Tate Britain looking at Henry Moore sculpture and war art when I bought How to Make Books; and I can tell you the name of my Waterstone’s (back when the apostrophe still mattered) colleague who told me to read Wise Children when I was 18. It’s Stuart.


I’d like to blame Stuart for this addiction. I worked in Waterstone’s on and off for about three years – six months of which I drove between Cardiff and Guildford every weekend just so I could carry on my job/obsession. But the truth is it’s not really Stuart’s fault – this habit pre-dates him by a good ten years. And he was right about Wise Children.


But while I don’t feel that guilty, the length of this list does give me the jitters. The fact that there is a book on mindfulness in there, makes this all the more amusing. Maybe that’s where I should start.


So, I think I’m going to have to go cold turkey. No more new books while I work my way through this list. I’ve already resisted buying The Telling Room (come on, it’s about cheese and revenge!) and The Shock of the Fall* this week. They will just have to wait – you don’t know how much willpower it took to put down a book about cheese. I will stick to the plan doggedly (I’ve already started The Woman in Black) so that hopefully by the time Sarah Waters and David Mitchell’s new books are out in the autumn – along with whatever other delights come along to tempt me, I will have made a little room, if not on the shelf, then my brain.


*In April I caved and bought The Shock of the Fall as part of my holiday reading.


The hard truth:

Bomber Flight Berlin – Mike Rossiter

Writing Historical Fiction: A Writers & Artists Companion  – Ceila Brayfield & Duncan Sprott

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel – Jane Smiley

The Crack-Up – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Flare Path – Terence Rattigan

Wartime Britain – Juliet Gardner

The Thirties: An Intimate History – Juliet Gardiner

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World – Mark Williams and Danny Penman

A War of Nerves – Ben Shephard

Paul Nash – David Boyd Haycock

Books: A Living History – Martyn Lyons

War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain 1939-1945 – Brian Foss

Flight Behaviour – Barbara Kingsolver

The Uninvited – Liz Jensen (lent to me by a friend)

Fludd – Hilary Mantel

Suite Francaise – Irène Némirovsky

Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh

Put Out More Flags – Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

The Third Man and The Fallen Idol – Graham Greene

The Heart of the Matter – Graham Greene

The Comedians – Graham Greene

Expletives Deleted – Angela Carter

The Magic Toyshop – Angela Carter

The Heat of the Day – Elizabeth Bowen 

Hell Came to London – B Woon

The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida

Give Me Everything You Have – James Lasdun

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination – Margaret Atwood

The Missing Ink – Philip Hensher

Blitz: The Story of 29th December 1940 – M.J. Gaskin

The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

Grimm Tales for Young and Old – Philip Pullman

Empress Dowager Cixi – Jung Chang

The Boy That Never Was - Karen Perry

Collected Poems - Sylvia Plath

The Bombing War - Europe 1939-1945 - Richard Overy

Battling for News - Anne Sebba

Looking for Trouble - Virginia Cowles

Love & War in London - The Mass Observation Diary of Olivia Cockett

London Was Ours: Diaries and Memoirs of the London Blitz - Amy Helen Bell

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing - Eimear McBride


The digital truth:

The Middle Parts of Fortune – Frederic Manning

Caught - Henry Green

The Sketchbook War: Saving the Nation’s Artists in World War II – Richard Knott

A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War – David Boyd Haycock

The Myth of the Blitz – Angus Calder

The People’s War – Angus Calder

Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 – Virgina Nicholson

Flappers – Judith Mackrell

Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch

Why I hate Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Several Decades of Reading Unwisely – Scott Bradfield

Nights Out: Life in Cosmpolitan London – Judith R Walkowitz

Testament of Youth: An Autobiography – Vera Brittain

My Dearest Enemy, My Dangerous Friend: Making and Breaking Sibling Bonds – Dorothy Rowe

Days and Nights of London Now – As Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it and Long for it Londoners – Craig Taylor

The Examined Life – Stephen Grosz

They Hosed Them Out – John Bede Cusack

Love in a Cold Climate – Nancy Mitford

Earthly Joys – Philippa Gregory

New Ghost Stories – The Fiction Desk

Collected Ghost Stories – MR James

Over to You: Ten Stories of Flying – Roald Dahl

The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filier

The Distant Hours - Kate Morton

Skayne - Jonathan Barnes

Carrie - Stephen King