Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 20, 2009

What’s on your bedside table?

There’s a somewhat unnerving tale doing the rounds about a well-known Australian writer whose bedside table was piled so high with books that it caught fire when the bedside light was left on…so I’ve rationalised mine a bit.

The TBR proper lives in more-or-less tidily in the library.   The shelves which seemed so capacious when first built are now all holding double rows of books, back row standing vertically, front row horizontally, in alphabetical order so that I can find them.  Like a good librarian, I have shelved non-fiction separately and since reluctantly parting with all the Quarterly Essays I’d been hoarding since the first edition, I have succeeded in reducing one of these three NF shelves by a quarter, but I have no idea where I shall put any more books once that is filled again.  I haven’t (yet) been able to persuade The Spouse to build a second storey so that we can have a branch library upstairs…

There were 406 books jostling for their turn in April when last I counted, but I think I’ve acquired more than I’ve read since then.  Just today I found three treasures at the Op Shop: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped; North West by South by Nancy Cato and Peter Goldsworthy’s Maestro.  I could hardly leave them there when they were only $7 for the trio, could I?  We need these real books in case the digital book takes over in our old age, do we not?

Bedside table 19.6.09

TBR By the Bed (#BTB)

I don’t really think the books on the bedside table were ever in any serious danger.  My eyesight is now so bad (too much reading, of course) that I recently had to buy a beaut new mega bedside lamp that could accommodate a pile at least 20 books high without peril.  Nevertheless,  as you can see, TBR (#BTB) is now a shadow of its former self.    Jill Roe’s superb biography, Stella Miles Franklin, is there, with a nice little children’s novel called The Princess Academy which I am reviewing for Allen and Unwin.  On the bottom of the other pile is the catalogue from the Medieval Imagination Exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, which on Sunday mornings I am still browsing on and off – partly for the sheer pleasure of revisiting the superb illustrations and partly because the explanatory chapters are such a delight to read.  Then there’s The Cellist of Sarajevo, which I started but put aside when I found Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn at the library, and also from the library Beloved by Toni Morrison and Creme de la Phlegm, Unforgettable Australian Reviews, by Angela Bennie.  On top of the pile is Opportunity by Charlotte Grimshaw, our next ANZLL read; and last of all, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, which I love and read occasionally as others might perhaps read a bible at bedtime. 

Library TBR 19.6.09

TBR - Supplementary (#S)

And then there’s TBR (#S).  The acquisition of one of those ridiculously big TVs meant we had to buy a ridiculously big whatsit for it to be in, and so the sensibly sized whatsit has made its way into the library, tucked neatly next to my desk.  The shelves for videos are now home to my photo albums, the space for the VCR holds a tub full of stuff to be scrapbooked (eventually) and the space the TV used to sit on is just the right size for a supplementary TBR.

In the back row, there’s Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World and the accompanying Penguin Historical Atlas of the British Empire; last week’s acquisition, Brief Encounters, Literary Travellers in Australia 1836-1939 by Susannah Fullerton; and the latest La Trobe Journal which focusses on Victorian writers.  In the middle of the back row are two titles listed for awards: The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee, which was shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award; and The Devil’s Eye by Ian Townsend.  On the right hand side are titles for the What’s in a Name Challenge: Amy’s Children by Olga Masters; The Blind Eye by Georgia Blain; and Water Under the Bridge by Sumner Locke Elliot.

In the front row on the left hand side are titles recommended by ANZLL’s Lurline aka ‘The Temptress’: The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff; The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stig Larsson.  In the middle are books on loan/gifts from ANZLL friends: Umberto Eco’s Baudolino; Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey; Swords and Crowns and Rings by Ruth Park, and David Malouf’s On Experience.  And finally, on the RHS are the two remaining titles I have yet to read from the ANZLL schedule for 2009: The Other Hand by Chris Cleave; and One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna. 

Well, that’s how it looks today.  One of the pleasures of having a library and a serious TBR is the impulse to rearrange them all!

Updated 1.5.2011 to include links to the books I’ve read and reviewed.


  1. I dispose of most books as soon as I’ve read them. I maintain a library of about 250 or so and give away or sell the rest. A rather different approach!



    Free your books! But, having said that I’ve actually acquired more books then I started with through bookcrossing.

    But, the beauty of bookcrossing is that you can share your books with others, and hopefully they’ll journal their thoughts and pass the book along.


  3. O how brutal LOL! My books are like my best friends; I could no more part with them than I could sell my child!


  4. You haven’t read Beloved? You are in for a real treat. It’s pretty unforgettable. And it is one of those books whose first lines I have memorised: 124 was spiteful. (At least I believe that’s it). My TBR pile is mostly on the floor in our rumpus room – four tall teetering piles totally around 200 (very roughly) but there are little piles elsewhere in the house…I managed to get ONE scheduled by a group this year. One down … as they say … !


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