Writer's libraries are always scarily messy affairs.
At the moment, my study is overcrowded with piles of research for new book projects, plans for our forthcoming US Garden Tour in May, tax receipts to reconcile, a huddle of watercolours to be used for the page designs for the New York book, an overwhelmingly – I mean frighteningly high – pile of archives, notes and interviews for the Picnic at Hanging Rock book (almost as high as the rock itself!), a smaller pile of ribbons and other passementerie for a new Paris book, a medium pile of bits and pieces for the new magazine, and an almost hidden cluster of clippings and ideas for a new company I'm working on. (Which is a pile that keeps getting pushed to one side, so I may have to remove it from the others altogether.)
I tell you, this study is not a safe place to be.
(NB I'm not showing you as I'm quietly ashamed of the chaos. It's organised chaos, but nonetheless, there is an element of alarm at the sight of it all)
An ex-boyfriend once told me that when he started dating a girl, he would look in her bathroom cupboard for clues, but I think you'd find out a lot more about someone by looking in their library.
Books are revealing things. I'm sometimes ashamed when high-brow literary friends come over because we don't have many high-brow literary titles. (Have you ever done the bookshelf shuffle when you've had guests? It's such panic, isn't it?) First editions are another sign that someone has a fine mind. (We have a first edition that's worth $10,000+, but it's the only one I have and I've hidden it so well I can't find it. That says volumes about us.)
Anyway, this post was inspired by another writer, the brilliant Australian-New Zealand author Diane Dorrans Saeks who's now based in San Francisco.
A former staff writer for Vogue Living and Vogue Australia, Diane has written more than two dozen coffee-table books on design, architecture and style (above).
Her blog www.thestylesaloniste.com [link] is always fascinating: a curious compendium of travel, design, ideas, books and style. It's like walking into a bookshop and finding the owner is one of the most interesting people you've ever met, full of sage advice about people to read and places to go.
She's rather well-known but she's also endearingly humble. (Anyone who goes to Luang Prabang is not pretentious.)
This week, she did a post on her library. It was astonishing. I wish I knew her better so I could email her. Do have a peek: book lovers will go ga-ga.
It gave me dozens of ideas for new and vintage books to buy. It also made me think: Why isn't there a blog that shows pix of people's private libraries? It would offer such wonderful inspiration for new book buys, don't you think?
And so here, in something of a confessional, are some images of our book 'piles' around the place. I hope it offers you all some bookish inspiration for 2014. We all need to buy more books – new ones, old ones, vintage and classic ones, bestsellers and small sellers, high-brow and low. Thank you Diane for showing me the beauty of books again.
INSPIRATION FROM A WRITER'S LIBRARY
TOP OF THE PILE
This is one of the best books. Ever. If you love gardens and particularly French gardens and their design, buy this new tome on Le Notre, the talent behind Versailles. It's surprisingly inexpensive. How they put it all together, with the garden plans, illustrations and text, for this price, I'll never know. It's an extraordinarily beautiful volume of work.
Le Notre: In Perspective
(Published to coincide with the current exhibition at Versailles.)
CLOSE TO THE TOP OF THE PILE
Audrey: The 60s
This was a Christmas gift, along with Le Notre. (I was so lucky. I received lots of beautiful books from family.) This is one of the most beautiful books about Ms Hepburn that's ever been published. And the 1960s fashion is sublime. (Especially on her.)
A FEW SUGGESTIONS FOR FRANCOPHILES
The Sun King's Garden, by Ian Thompson
Life in The French Country Home by Mark Girouard
and Côte d'Azur: Inventing The French Riviera by Mary Blume
FAVOURITE DESIGN / ARCHITECTURE TITLES
Robert Polidori's huge, three-volume Versailles,
which shows the behind-the-scenes restoration of the palace in beautiful detail.
Danish fashion designer Marlene Birger's Life & Work
And some of Tricia Guild and Christian Liaigre's titles...
TRAVEL & FASHION RECS
Manolo Blahnik's Drawings
Bare Blass: Bill Blass
and The Golden Age of Travel by Alexis Gregory
GREAT HOLIDAY READS
Anything by Lily Brett or Justine Picardie
A SURPRISING DELIGHT OF A READ
The Garden in Art
Anything by Adam Nicolson (Vita Sackville-West's grandson)
or David Hicks' My Kind of Garden
MORE GORGEOUS GARDENALIA
Bunny Williams' An Affair With A House
Heritage Gardens: The World's Great Gardens Saved by Restoration
Sara Midda's In and Out of the Garden
Garden Mania (a gem for those who love garden plans)
GREAT BEACH READS
AND BOOKS THAT ARE GOOD FOR DISPLAY
Anything by Images Publishing (my old company), particularly the New Classicist series.
And of course my new publisher, MUP, which produces beautiful books.
Although in the end, it doesn't matter what you read, as long as you keep reading...