Theme: Your Bookshelf

Discussion in 'Competitions, Themes & Blogs' started by Rob MacKillop, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Edinburgh Correspondent

    The theme is your own bookshelf, backed up with some text describing what the books mean to you, memories they throw up. I'll start. Don't let me be the only contributor :mad:

    An Evening With by RobMacKillop, on Flickr​

    Well, apart from the pic of me holding my daughter for the first time...

    Left to Right: Revolution - about the music of the Beatles. There are a few music-related books here. I actually didn't get into the Beatles until a decade or so ago. I was a Stones fan, and often the two were hard to like equally. But I came to realise how revolutionary they really were. This book helped contextualise that for me.

    The Scots Fiddle - the usual tunes, but the research behind each one is what made me buy this book.

    So What - a biography of Miles Davis. Genius. No question. I still teach the piece 'So What" to some of my students. No better piece for learning modal jazz.

    Peeking out behind that is a biography of Burns. Hard to put thoughts about the man in a sentence or two. He was a complex character, forged in the smithy of the Scottish soul, with all its glories and its faults.

    A History Of The Electric Guitar - a fascinating small volume by Grahame Wade. Worth a read even if you do not play the instrument.

    A biography of Ornette Coleman - a one-time hero of mine when I dallied with free jazz in my twenties. Seems a lifetime ago now.

    An overview of the National Galleries of Scotland - essential reading :)

    Charles Mingus - a biography. Creator of the classic "Goodbye Porkpie Hat", a lament for the death of Lester Young, my late father's favourite sax player.

    The Golden Days - a history of music in 19th-century Aberdeen.

    Hoose o Havers - my wife's translations of Ovid's Metamorphosis into Scots. Beautiful translations. Everyone should have a copy :)

    The Tree Of Strings - History of the harp in Scotland.

    I don't go in for novels much, mainly biographies and histories. I'm not an imaginative person, really. I hardly ever remember a dream. But I have a creative outlet during the day. Sometimes. In five minutes I have a student arriving to sing ukulele songs, and as he doesn't sing, I'll be singing "Stand by you man"! Sometimes it's hard to be a woman...
  2. Brian Moore

    Brian Moore Moderator

  3. Grant Young

    Grant Young New Member

    I need books to have a bookshelf. As of now, I have a shelf haha.
  4. Dave Moss

    Dave Moss Active Member

    We have books and about 4 bookcases but not together 2 Bookcases are full of DVDS 1 is full of ps2 games and the other is now full of wii and xbox 360 games
  5. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Edinburgh Correspondent

    Grant - You could still photograph the shelf...that still says something :)

    Dave - You could still photograph what you have on the shelves...
  6. Grant Young

    Grant Young New Member

    I'll toy with it.
  7. Pete Askew

    Pete Askew Admin

    Here's a random shot of one of the bookshelves. There are more bookcases and the contents are all equally random but this looked the most interesting. I was intending to present it in B&W but I liked the colours.


    So, what's on the shelf?

    The digger and tractor are from when I was young - I'm amazed they still have their boxes! The little cows have lived in the house as long as me - about 20 years but the cat in the box is older. As this is upstairs in the 'study' there is a clutter of software on the shelf and in front sits an old Gossen colour meter and a tiny telescope (in the silver bag) that is designed for admiring artwork from a distance and was bought in a museum in Vienna. The books on origami belong to Ina but pretty much all the others are mine. I read a lot of fiction and there are a few favourites on the shelf such as the Gormenghast trilogy and some books by Ian Banks. There are a few photo books there as well, a book on narcotic plants and another on British motorcycles (I spent many years riding motorcycles and still own one). And the fez was given to me by a friend when he returned from Fez! I'm a great fan of the artwork of Hergé and the picture is a 'frame' from one of the Tintin books. There are also a couple of graphic novels by Jaques Tardi in there - again, I like the artwork. All-in-all a rather eclectic mix!

    Photo using a Sony RX100. PP in LR / Nik ColorFX 4.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  8. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Edinburgh Correspondent

    Excellent. What's in the biscuit tin? I love all the bits and bobs that we place on bookshelves besides books. So, the tractor, digger, cows, etc, are all equally, possibly more, revealing. They not only tell others about us, but remind ourselves of who we once were.

    It is important that contributors to this thread do not arrange for the camera. The randomness of where you point and click is important. Any space on any shelf will reveal much about us. No need to present an arrangement. Clearly Pete hasn't arranged anything, and my shot was actually aimed at a photograph - the books just happened to be there.

    Looking forward to more contributions.
  9. Pete Askew

    Pete Askew Admin

    Origami paper and, probably, some part-completed origami project of Ina's. Actually I have just noticed the book by TE Lawrence. Somewhere there is an early copy of 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom' - I wonder where that is hiding? Now I'm going to have to go and look! Mind that means getting up and stopping listening to 'The Magazine' by Ricky Lee Jones - on vinyl ex eBay!
  10. Pete Askew

    Pete Askew Admin

    Before I went back upstairs I took a few shots of the bookcase in the living room. I wasn't so keen on them though and so I posted the one above. But looking at the one I posted while writing the description was quite an interesting experience. Although I had at one time or another put all those things there I have become used to them. Seeing them in a photograph was like seeing them anew. As a result I went back to the others and this detail caught my eye.


    The snails were a gift for Xmas from a friend and migrated to the shelf from under the tree. The little ceramic 'vase' was bought a few years ago at Wisley - it is wonderfully tactile. And I guess the books represent a good cross-section of my interests; photography, archeology, biology and cinema. As for Freshwater Fish...

    Sony RX100. PP in LR/Nik ColorFX 4.
  11. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Edinburgh Correspondent

    It was the Origin Of Species which caught my eye - a book I keep meaning to read, but never have. I like to read about Darwin, but I'm no scientist. Just now I'm reading Rebecca Stott's Darwin's Ghosts - in search of the first evolutionists. A kind of survey of the evolution of evolution. Fascinating read - starts off with Aristotle.

    That vase looks interesting...

    I'm glad to see you have not carefully ordered your shelf space alphabetically or Dewey style!
  12. Brian Moore

    Brian Moore Moderator

    ...and Fashion...

    Nice, Pete. We share an interest in archaeology as well as photography (and of course fashion;) Pete.
  13. Brian Moore

    Brian Moore Moderator


    Good point Rob.
  14. Dan Cattermole

    Dan Cattermole Dan Down - The Steampunk Womble

    Unfortunately, I do not read books.
    I love what you have here.
    My concentration span doesn't last long enough to read more than a few pages.
    I do envy those who can read a book, as I've never read one in my existence! :/
  15. Vic Shaw

    Vic Shaw Senior Member

    I'm interested in reading 'An evening with Rob Mackillop'
  16. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Edinburgh Correspondent

    I didn't read much while at school. I vaguely remember Jemima Puddleduck and suchlike characters while in Primary school. in Secondary school I read and enjoyed A Kestrel For A Knave (which became the film, Kes). I went to a Roman Catholic school, and had a nun for English. After I somewhat naively told her I couldn't believe in God, she just put a red pen through everything I did without reading it first. I soon gave up. But after school finished, when I was fifteen, I started reading. I learned about other philosophies, other histories, other possibilities, and I never looked back. Finally I could escape from the crap that surrounded me.

    My school, Lawside Academy in Dundee, seemed to do its best to crush me. Even the Music Department got in on the act. My father had left home, and my mother was too poor to buy me a musical instrument, and only kids who could buy their own instruments got tuition. One day I sneaked into the music instrument cupboard and tried to work out a tune on the double bass, without ever having played it before. I remember feeling this was a liberating moment in my life. Then the Head of Music caught me, gave me 'six of the best' with a leather belt, and banned me from the music department.

    But I got the last laugh. When my CD, Flowers of the Forest, went to the Number One position in the Scottish Classical Music Chart (The Scotsman newspaper) I copied the chart and sent it to the school, thanking them for all they did for me, with a special thanks to the music department!

    Reading doesn't matter, Dan. Escaping from the crap does. :D
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  17. Dan Cattermole

    Dan Cattermole Dan Down - The Steampunk Womble

    Music was the key thing for me to keep my mind interested in school. That was my escape from crap in life back in those days.
    Obsession in the way things sounded was my escape ,'/ then escalated to music :)

    These days, I don't carry that through, it's photography now, and that's not a regretted decision.

    I noticed you said that you was into philosophy?

    That reminded me of a book I tried to read to my hearts content and got over half way through. Unfortunately my lapse of concentration got the better of me and decided to take another spontaneous interest in something else that I can't remember.

    But I do remember the book..... It's called The Celestine Prophecy!
  18. Pete Askew

    Pete Askew Admin

    What an interesting thread this is turning into. As a slight aside, after posting the second image I had to go and see what the thin book beside the Capa anthology was. It is a German magazine special on Marlene Dietrich!

    Books have always been something of an obsession with me. I rarely leave a bookshop without something. And I have read continuously from an early age. My father taught me to read before I started at school; secondhand Noddy books I think. Oddly, he was not really a reader himself and neither was my mother. He was quite a talented artist though, especially pencil drawings. The main source of written work at home was a set of encyclopædias which I used to spend hours flicking through (The Book of Knowledge). At junior school we used to have reading afternoons and there was a small selection of books at the back of the class you could choose from. And before that, a teacher called Mr Rugg would read something to us - I still remember his voice as he read The Just-So Stories and The Jungle book and I often think of him as a formative influence on me. Other than that I used to buy an occasional book from the village jumble sales with my pocket money (I still have the copy of The Exploration of Space by Arthur C Clarke that I bought when I was about 6). When we moved to the south coast it was to a town rather than a small village and it had large library in a wonderful old Victorian building and would go there quite often after school to get some books out. Interestingly I rarely borrowed fiction. My clearest memory is borrowing books on cinema. Fiction books I liked to buy in the small bookshop next door or in the paperback exchange. I soon amassed a large collection and I still have quite a few (I have never had the heart to throw out my Biggles books even though they are now stored in boxes!). I shall be starting a new novel this evening as I finished Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan last night, probably Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje (having read The Cats Table recently and The English Patient some years ago). Luckily Ina is as keen and we have similar tastes in fiction and swap backwards and forwards. In fact, that is how we met as, talking over dinner at a meeting, we discovered that we had a favourite book in common! :rolleyes:
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2013
  19. Rob MacKillop

    Rob MacKillop Edinburgh Correspondent

    This is all very interesting. It's amazing what a random shot of a bookshelf can unravel. There could be a whole book in this, though the publisher would want it to be "The Celebrity Bookshelf"! Maybe even an afternoon TV series...

    What fascinates me is that modern physics teaches us that the self is a construct of memories which are illusional. We are physically not the same thing we were ten years ago, with not the slightest physical trace of that thing we were when a child. And that consciousness exists only in this exact moment, sustained by the illusion of memory, aided by objects, smells, relationships. So, part of this formulation of a 'me' is the weaving a narrative out of countless momentary experiences, giving an illusion of a self. Some argue that this self has a negative aspect - we feel we are separate from the world, different from each other, and many religions say that we must rid ourselves of this illusion in order to become 'at one' with the universe. But for many, this sense of self makes life meaningful, without it we are no-thing. Either way, finding a balance is difficult.

    It's too early. I need a coffee :D
  20. Pete Askew

    Pete Askew Admin

    Not bad at all before coffee! I find this whole thing fascinating. We trust very dubious senses and consider that what we see, touch smell etc is a reliable way of measuring the world around us. We are of course nothing but a simulation engine and the result of evolution. An oddly titled but excellent book is Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert ( - no it's not a self-help book but a superb summary of vast numbers of psychological experiments. Well worth reading (and I stumbled upon it because it was left behind by some friends who visited us in Potsdam - I didn't just bin it despite the title as they are both professors of wood science from the US and they don't 'do' trivial!).

    Thinking about what you wrote Rob, I guess this is all part of why we find ourselves attached to objects, especially ones from childhood etc: times which we don't really recall but which we can re-simulate with the aid of such props. And this is one of the reasons I am so interested in images of details of our immediate surroundings. More so than pictures of holidays and events (we were always happy in the past and the skies were always blue). I also like the way you can create false trails and imagined events and places and impressions.

    And all this from some messy shelves! I'd better drink my tea now! :)

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