Welcome to the first edition of the Books Spark Joy. I was inspired to start this series by a fabulous article in the Washington post featuring a number of American authors talking about their bookshelves. It was such an enjoyable read I wanted more – and I wanted to find out about Australian writers and their relationship with books. The series will continue throughout the year with new authors appearing each Friday. If there is an author you’d like to hear about please email me or add a comment, and remember to subscribe to the blog so you know when a new post is up.
I’m so excited to have historical fiction author Kim Kelly kicking off this series. Kim writes breath-taking historical fiction and lives in the beautiful Millthorpe area of New South Wales. You can find out more about Kim and where to find her online at the end of the post.
Over to Kim …
I’m such a cliché there are books in every room of my house, including the kitchen – and they’re not of the cooking variety there, but novels. The main paperback hang is the back wall of the living room, where my muse de bloke, Deano, built me some five-metre-long shelves.
Book-hoarder? Me? No. The boxes of books in the junk room are all important, too. I’m not precious about them, either: file copies of romances and short story collections I’ve edited sit jumbled together with Nietzsche and Aristotle; history and art mingle with science and the classics of English Lit. The predominant flavour is Australian, though. Unsurprisingly, my ebook and audiobook shelves are taking on the same dimensions.
My only attempt at organisation is a dedicated bookcase for poetry and plays – and only because they tend to be such slim volumes I’d lose them otherwise. Like my linen cupboard and baking-ware drawer, I know where everything is, don’t you worry.
Not all of the books I love have been read but each of them means something to me, be it a gift that’s not been my cup of tea (yet) or copies of novels that belonged to and remind me of my late Mum and Dad. Not all of my books are with me: some I’ve lost, some I’ve lent out never to return; one, a copy of The Complete Poems of John Donne, was stolen, and I’ve never forgiven the thief.
Like the general state of my brain, they’re an eclectic magpie’s nest, chaotic but somehow all useful or nourishing, and all elements of me. They’ve had their fair share of odd comments: a snobby visitor once remarked that I had ‘unusually varied taste’; another queried how a writer such as myself could manage without any books on writing (that’s right – not one). Our bookshelves do reveal something of who we are, and those who judge another’s bookshelf without respect and sincere curiosity tend not to be the real-life characters I want to spend any time with.
Books that show me things I didn’t know give me a childlike joy that never grows old. But books that replenish my love of story take up residence in my heart and never leave. The most recent book to do just that is Normal People by Irish writer Sally Rooney. Her characters Connell and Marianne led me back to my younger self, opening a door on a story I realised I needed to tell.
Stories are among the most powerful things we own – those we tell ourselves and those we tell others, truths big and small we strive to express just for the sake of telling them. My bookshelves remind me of where I come from, what heights of love and knowledge and skill I aspire to, and they tell me where I belong.
Kim Kelly is the author of eight novels exploring Australia and its history, including the acclaimed Wild Chicory and The Blue Mile, and UK Pigeonhole favourite, Paper Daisies. Her stories shine a bright light on some forgotten corners of the past and tell the tales of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.
A widely respected book editor by trade, stories fill her everyday – most nights, too – and it’s love that fuels her intellectual engine. In fact, she takes love so seriously she once donated a kidney to her husband to prove it, and also to save his life.
Originally from Sydney, today Kim lives on a small rural property in central New South Wales just outside the tiny gold-rush village of Millthorpe, where the ghosts are mostly friendly and her grown sons regularly come home to graze.
Her latest book is the novella, Sunshine.