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Around this time of year, when the nights draw in and there’s more night than day, I find myself drawn to creepy books. I got more than I bargained for with Sarah Perry’s latest.

‘Melmoth’ resists categorisation. Though marketed as a gothic novel, the reviews I had read seemed to warn me off thinking of it as a horror – but the blurb seemed to suggest that it was. Here’s a synopsis which might explain my confusion:

A middle-aged woman, Helen, lives and works in Prague as a translator. She is undergoing a sort of self-imposed penance for a mysterious crime committed in her youth; she won’t allow herself any pleasure in life, but rather works constantly and sleeps on an uncovered mattress in a nasty old lady’s spare room.

When Helen’s only friend Karel comes into possession of a manuscript which tells of Melmoth, a ghostly figure who appears at mankind’s worst moments, she digs into the mystery and starts to believe that Melmoth has come looking for her to punish her for her own sins.

The power of empathy

Melmoth’s uniqueness in the catalogue of gothic monsters comes partly from the fact that she’s a woman.

When I saw Sarah Perry speak a month or so ago, she said she had deliberately written about a female ‘villain’ because ‘all the good monsters are men.’

Melmoth’s femininity is a powerful part of her effect. She lures her victims by coming to them at the breaking point of their moral compass; when people want to turn away from what they have done in shame, she arrives wanting to embrace them and take care of them. She invites them to go with her so that neither will be lonely as they live on as outcasts. Indeed, this sense of sinister lovingness, of sympathy, is a huge part of her characterisation.

Sarah Perry is very good at asking us uncomfortable questions – and making us sympathise with a scary monster lady who appears during humanity’s worst moments – but at its heart, ‘Melmoth’ is a novel about empathy.

Throughout the story Helen comes across many testimonies of people who believe that they have seen Melmoth at the moment of their worst act. Now, Perry has a vast catalogue of horrendous atrocities to choose from merely by looking at the last couple of decades of European history, but she always chooses moments that are decidedly murky from a moral standpoint.

We are constantly being asked, from behind the pages, what we would have done. If we would have acted differently. If we could have been better.

The answers are uncomfortable – and leave you with the unpleasant feeling that Melmoth might be turning up for you any minute.

Bearing witness

When I asked Sarah Perry to sign my copy of Melmoth, she added the instruction to ‘bear witness’:

This had me flummoxed until about halfway through the novel, when another layer starts to emerge.

Melmoth, or Melmoth the Witness, as she is sometimes known, watches humans commit the worst acts of which they are capable. But she isn’t there to punish them.

In the novel we are dealing with some truly dreadful eras of history, even touching upon the Holocaust, and Melmoth is there to represent our own shame. She’s an extension of our collective inner morals.

Where we, the guilty, would try to turn away, she refuses to allow us to do so. Instead, she obliges us to look their crimes in the face and suffer the punishment meted out by our own conscience.

It’s another level to the idea of empathy and our shared humanity. We have to acknowledge that we are all capable of these dreadful things and must look for the common humanity that makes us similar. We must stare our own darkness in the face. We can’t run from Melmoth because she is us; she represents our choices and consequences.

The horror is within

This novel will not have you checking under the bed at night. There are no moments of gratuitous gore or disembodied witchy cackling. So, you might find it difficult to call it a horror story.

Horror is a genre which is is chock full of clichés but even the more original works follow a recognisable pattern. It usually involves a demonic apparition or malevolent human presence that chases down and threatens the life of the hero. There is usually little room for ambiguity between what’s good and what’s bad.

There are plenty of decidedly gothic flashes in Melmoth: the deserted library, the figure shrouded in black, the corner-of-your-eye observer, the occasional blood-splattered moment of real violence and the unflinching, anatomical observation of death.

But Perry isn’t going to let us have an easy ride. Far from giving us the shock-horror satisfaction of a ghost story, she wants us, like Melmoth’s victims, to stare an emotional truth in the face. And the unsettling impression of our own capacity for darkness lingers long after the book has finished.

When Melmoth appears she asks her victims to come with her. Legend has it that she was the denier at the tomb of Christ, and as punishment for renouncing the resurrection she is doomed to wander the earth alone. So when she comes for her victims, she asks them to go with her, because ‘I’ve been so lonely!’

It’s the insidiousness, the allure but above all the humanity of this request which makes Melmoth so terrifying.

Have you read any Sarah Perry? What was your opinion on ‘Melmoth’?

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When our flat becomes too messy I get more and more precariously close to mental breakdown.

I can bear it well for weeks (sometimes – shudder – months), but if I am in any way stressed or uncomfortable my resolve suddenly crumbles and we must, MUST tidy.

Sadly, we’re in a small flat and we’ve now reached peak bookshelf; i.e.: I keep buying books but we no longer have anywhere to put them.

In order to clear vital bookshelf space, this weekend I had to say goodbye to some of my babies. Here’s who got banished:

‘The Psalm Killer’ by Chris Pettit

I’ve tried to read this thing twice. Twice! That’s more effort than a book that didn’t interest me would normally get, but the blurb just made it sound so good:

A novel of bristling power–equal parts political thriller, murder mystery, and psychological drama–The Psalm Killer plunges readers into the terrifying heart of the crisis in Northern Ireland.

I think my main trouble with this book is that I don’t know or understand anything whatsoever about the Irish Troubles. However, I’m a lazy reader, and I expect the book I’m reading to teach me about the subject matter. ‘The Psalm Killer’ did not. In fact, it seemed to try to make everything more opaque as the book went on, and twice I bowed out before I was a third of the way through.

Into the banishment box it goes!

‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahnerman

Purely because I hatched a cunning plan to surprise Mr Shelf with a perfect present only to find out that it was so perfect that he’d already got it.

Still- ‘Thinking, fast and slow’ has been on my TBR for some time and Mr Shelf did actually love it, so we’re keeping the copy that is slightly less battered.

‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman

Another book I am inexplicably unable to get on with is ‘American Gods’. I was inspired by the epic trailer for the Amazon Prime TV show to get a copy – planning sneakily to watch the TV show afterwards – but again was foiled.

I think I would have appreciated ‘American Gods’ so much more if I had known more about Norse mythology (perhaps I should have read Neil Gaiman’s other book first) but sadly I felt like I was missing out on a few of the in-jokes and hidden significances of the story. I did finish it, I did enjoy it, but I won’t go back to it. Into the box with you!

‘Blood Meridian’ by Cormac McCarthy

I read it, I respected it, but it’s unlikely that I’ll ever put myself through the ordeal of reading it ever again.

If you haven’t read ‘Blood Meridian’, I do honestly recommend it. It is extremely well written, uniquely barbaric and very gripping. But it is not what I would describe is a ‘nice read’. I felt like I had been bludgeoned over the head when I finished it.

As one of the true American Greats, Cormac McCarthy really should be read by everyone.

But I can’t see myself settling in on a cold winter’s night and thinking: ‘ah! I’ll just leaf through that delightful book about scalping again’.

Ye be banished, McCarthy.

Any clear-outs happening at your house today?

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Friends, Romans. I have finally, fiiiiinally finished ‘War & Peace’.

You definitely cannot “review” a book like ‘War & Peace’ except to say that it’s awesome, so instead I will share the thoughts I had while reading it. Of which there were many.

I think the story is pretty well known so watch out for some SPOILERS below, folks.

I prefer salons to battlefields

As a fan of war films and a reader of war-related books, I thought that the ‘War’ part of ‘War & Peace’ would probably be the more interesting.

Turns out that epic descriptions of “our hussars on the hill” and “the enemy in a small alcove by the brook” and the exact location of each tent, campfire and warhorse are less interesting than expected. Or rather, they felt like a lengthy distraction from what was actually going on in the story.

I was surprised to find myself more interested in the salon intrigue of the main aristocratic characters than I was in the battles. It was much more fascinating to watch with horror as some of the more nefarious characters try to use parlour-room politics to ruin our heroes (or force them into marriage).

That said, my favourite character (hugely underrated in my opinion) is Denisov, a soldier that befriends one of the main families in the book the Rostovs and who is basically just a really nice bloke who looks out for everybody.

What’s eating Prince Andrei?

One of the main characters, a nobleman called Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, is what you might describe as a ‘melancholic’. He seems to be basically disinterested in – and scornful of – everything that isn’t war or Natasha Rostov.

Both he and the other main character, Pierre, wander through the periods of war and peace trying to figure out what the meaning of life is. Unsurprisingly, they don’t really figure it out. But it made me wonder what Tolstoy was trying to say.

I think his point is that leading a life of leisure and excess doesn’t really lead to happiness. In fact, the less the characters are concerned with all the nonsense of the salons, the happier they tend to be.

Fortunately, unlike Prince Andrei, we don’t have to get blown up by a shell to realise this.

Princess Maria is my homegirl

Princess Maria is Prince Andrei’s plain, hyper-religious sister. While that description may not inspire you to look at her as a heroine, she’s actually pretty great.

She’s very kind-hearted to everyone, even when people are horrible to her, she doesn’t take any nonsense from men and she ends up being one of the richest and most generous people in the book.

She’s way more interesting than the main heroine Natasha Rostov, who’s just a bit of a moron according to yours truly, and spends all her time getting spellbound by men at balls.

The message? You don’t need all the silly aristocratic men chasing after you to be awesome. You go girl.

The BBC adaptation really helped

I usually hate watching films before reading the book, and TV series are no exception. But in this case, as I watched the TV version while I was off sick and it inspired me to read the book, it was actually pretty useful.

At the start of the book, there’s a whole section where you’re introduced to basically every character straight away and it’s really confusing.

Having the TV series to ground you and let you know who you should actually care about turned out to be really handy in the early chapters.

This book is long

It is. I mean, it’s really long.

But actually, it really helps you get sucked into the story as you spend so much time with the characters. I started off trying to plough through War & Peace as quickly as possible, but by the second volume (!) I was trying to slow down and eke the rest of it out.

It’s also less boring than I expected. True, if I’d thought it would be a complete snooze-fest I wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place, but as it happens it was really absorbing and quite exciting in parts.

If you have been thinking about trying it but have been put off the length, perhaps you’ll agree with me that once you get over the initial shock of how huge it is, its length quickly becomes a virtue.

So why not give it a try? I’m super proud of myself for finally having got to the end – it’s a book I never thought I’d read but I’m so glad I did.

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We have just returned from a lovely couple of days in Vienna!

Those of you who are frequent readers will know that I had a pretty hefty itinerary planned – luckily we did manage to do pretty much all of it.

Is there a doctor in the house?!

First on the list was the Freud Museum. Not only does it give you a chance to see the real rooms in which Freud used to see his patients for psychoanalysis, but there are also loads of images, books and videos to look at and a cool audioguide you can log into on your phone. There’s even the only existing audio recording of Freud speaking to the BBC (he speaks a bit like an Austrian Dumbledore, only slower).

The waiting room has been restored to pretty much exactly how it was when patients were waiting, including putting all the photos and art on the wall back in its original place. Anna Freud was a big part of the process and donated a lot of the original exhibits you can see.

I found an early copy of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’:

One of the saddest things we learnt at the museum was that Freud and his family suffered a lot at the hands of the Nazis following the Anschluss, when Vienna was occupied. Anna Freud was interrogated by the Gestapo for an entire day and the family home was raided several times.

The family were only allowed to escape after paying the Reichsfluchtsteuer (Reich’s Flight Tax) of about $200,000 in today’s money. It was only their position of wealth and prestige that allowed them to escape the concentration camps, although two of Freud’s sisters were not so lucky. It’s one tragic story among so very many, but truly sad. The move broke the ailing Freud’s health for good, and he died shortly after arriving in London.

Having already read ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, the museum inspired me to give ‘On Murder, Mourning and Melancholia’ next. Despite its depressing title, this book contains ‘Totem and Taboo’, one of Freud’s most celebrated works, and seems strangely prescient with all the current political instability and the possibility of conflict. Asking why humans give into their darker urges seems more appropriate than ever at this time.

I was told there would be cake

After some heavy Freuding, we headed over to one of Vienna’s most famous coffee houses, Café Central. This claims to be the place where Freud, Trotsky and Zweig used to go for coffee and cake (probably not together).

You can see the beautiful interior in the picture at the top of this post – but these guys are probably the most beautiful:

We ended up getting a chocolate brownie topped with raspberries, marshmallow and raspberry jelly – the red rectangular thing you can see above.

After learning so much about Freud I was surprised to see that there was so little information around about Stefan Zweig, apparently one of Vienna’s most famous literary sons. Instead, I had to Google him when we got back.

Although roundly ignored in England, as it turns out he was one of the most popular and most translated authors in Europe back in the day. It seems, though, that his ‘florid’ style has fallen out of favour since, and the articles I found on him describe him with various degrees of viciousness; one critic described him as: “a pedestrian stylist; a used-goods dealer in the Viennese literary bazaar”. Perhaps one to nudge in fairly low down on the reading list then.

The original torte

I’m a big fan of Sachertorte, that chocolatey bit of mischief that is so unique to Vienna, so I couldn’t visit without a trip to the famous Hotel Sacher.

Legend has it that the original torte was invented by kitchen boy Franz Sacher for Prince Wenzel von Mettelnich in 1832. The prince wanted something ‘special’ for dessert, but the main pastry chef was off sick, so Franz had to think on his feet and came up with a chocolate cake covered in apricot jam and chocolate ganache. It was a hit, and became a regional delicacy.

After Franz Sacher’s death, there was a big fight between the Demer bakery, where Franz initially worked, and the Hotel Sacher for rights to claim the ‘original Sachertorte’ crown. The Hotel won and has a nice little chocolate tag to prove it. I can confirm that the tag itself was also delicious.

I discovered I would make quite a good aristocrat

The next day we headed to Schonnebrunne Palace on the outskirts of Vienna. We had to wait two hours to get in – fortunately, there was a little Christmas market where I was able to coax Mr Shelf into waiting by supplying waffles and Glühwein – but it was worth the wait to see the incredible, beautifully preserved interiors. Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos, but you can take my word on it being epic.

Much as I am a card-carrying feminist and I don’t much fancy returning to the days where my future husband would have to be supplied with a dowry in order to marry me (nonsense! They should pay me to marry them!), I can see a certain appeal in spending my days surrounded by gold leaf and walnut panels as I fastidiously embroider some edelweiss onto a handkerchief for my beloved.

Or perhaps the appeal comes from the prospect of the balls; I can just see myself trotting up to the grand front gate in my horse-drawn carriage, wearing a big-ass ball gown and sable hat (I am reading War & Peace at the moment, which may have influenced this somewhat).

The Christkindlmarkts

Of course, the big draw for going to Vienna at this time of year is for the Christmas markets. There were about five on while we were there; we went to three deliberately and stumbled upon several smaller, informal ones too.

It was the perfect place to recover from our wanderings with some Glühwein which, naturally, is served in a boot. I can also recommend the hot apple glog/punsch.

All in all a very happy pre-Christmas trip! If you have a few days before Christmas, I highly recommend it.

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Huzzah!

Absolutely thrilled to be able to say that my little blog is in Feedspot’s Top 100.

You can subscribe to Feedspot to read all your favourite blogs. It works a bit like Bloglovin if you’re more familiar with that one.

Thank you very much kind readers for supporting The Shelf and listening to my ramblings! There will be many more to come

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I’m thinking ahead to the Christmas holidays. The agency shuts for that magical period between Christmas and New Year and we can get a proper break that is so needed at the end of a long year. But the best part of Christmas is looking forward to it, and a big part of getting into the Christmas spirit is a good Christmas book!

I’ve tried once to read ‘A Christmas Carol’ – I did not succeed, mostly because I kept picturing Bob Cratchitt as Kermitt the Frog and it somewhat ruined the effect.

But it’s also way too obvious a choice for Christmas reading. If you are looking for something festive but a little bit out of the ordinary, add these ideas to your ‘To Be Read’ list.

A Christmas Murder Mystery

Who better to look to than the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie? I read the most obvious Christmas choice, ‘Hercule Poirot’s Christmas‘, a few years back so this year I will probably go for one that isn’t quite so obviously festive, like ‘And Then There Were None’ or ‘Murder on the Nile’. I just love Agatha Christie books, but it’s been many years since I picked one up. I found that if you read a couple close together it becomes quite easy to spot the murderer simply because you get used to her style, so I’m hoping that our time apart has reinstated my ability to be beguiled by the epic twist.

A read to restore your faith in humanity

I have several times picked up and put down a rather chunky tome by Steven Pinker over the last few months, but perhaps that magical interlude between Christmas and New Year will give me the time I need to sit down and properly appreciate it. ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature‘ hypothesises that basically everything is getting better, despite what we read in the papers. According to Pinker, we’re living in the most peaceful epoch in the history of humanity and have also seen dramatic improvements in equality, education and the preservation of human rights. The world may still be imperfect, but at Christmas it seems the right time to stop and think about how far we have come in recent years.

A return to graphic novels

Last year I read my first ever graphic novel, which was given to me as a present by Mr Shelf. I had always been quite disparaging of what, to me, were just bulkier versions of ‘The Beano’, but I was absolutely proven wrong by Art Spiegelman’s ‘Maus’. The author charts the story of his father who suffered persecution and internment at a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. I’m planning to write a separate post on that, but suffice to say it has inspired me to try another. This year I’m looking at Persepolis, another graphic novel dealing with a tough subject – life in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.

Just to avoid things getting too saccharine

After reading up on Michael’s excellent blog in which he talks a lot about David Sedaris, I found ‘Santaland Diaries‘, in which Sedaris discusses his time working as a part-time Elf at Macy’s. I’m expecting this to be hilarious – and probably to skewer my holiday spirit just a little bit. In a culture which hugely over-commercialises the festive period, it’s probably no bad thing to be reminded just how silly it can be.

A gothic horror for when you’re snowed in

Shelf Towers may not quite be The Overlook Hotel, but I do still get a little chill down my spine every now and again over Christmas. It could be that romantic tradition of fireside reading and storytelling, or the imagined possibility of getting snowed in with a madman, but for me, Christmas has always had a gothic edge. In my family that has typically meant digging out the old M.R. James compendium (which we will probably still do), but this year I will also be reading ‘Melmouth‘ by Sarah Perry. After meeting and fangirling the author, I am very excited to read her scary book about a ghostly figure who appears at humanity’s worst moments.

What are your Christmas reading plans?

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I really want this blog to be personal but I didn’t just want to womble on randomly about myself, so I went in search of some ‘get to know me’ quiz questions! 

Here they are – hopefully you’ll get to know me a bit better this way.

1. Are you named after anyone?

Pretty sure my parents just liked the name, but I think there was a bit of influence from Cathy from ‘Wuthering Heights’. Which I thought was lovely and romantic until I read the book and realised I was named after a not-very-nice-crazy-lady!

2. When was the last time you cried?

Oh, goodness. I cry constantly. Probably a week or so ago for no reason whatsoever.

3. If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?

I think so! But I’d be friends with the version of me that my nearest and dearest know.

4. Do you use sarcasm a lot?

It has been known…

5. What’s the first thing you notice about people?

Like most of us I tend to firstly judge people on the ‘vibes’ they give out – but actually I’ve often been wrong. People I’ve thought were rude at first have become my dearest friends! So I try not to set too much store by that. I do notice whether people smile a lot and I pay attention to how they treat other people. I would not look kindly upon someone who was rude to a waiter or shop assistant, for example.

6. What is your eye color?

It’s blue!

7. Scary movie or happy endings?

Both have their place but… I do love a scary ending.

8. Favorite smells?

Baking bread, fresh cut grass, fresh lemons.

Disclaimer: I did not bake this loaf of bread. Mine are never this neat.

9. What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?

Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point of South America. I traveled there just before university.

10. Do you have any special talents?

I think I do a fair impression of a few singers. My speciality is Dolores O’Riordan of Cranberries fame. And no I will not do it for you.

11. What’s your zodiac sign? Do you believe in it?

It’s cancer. I don’t believe in horoscopes but I do rather like all the ‘origin stories’ if you can call them that. The tale goes that the plucky little crab Cancer took on a giant by nipping his ankles.

12. What are your hobbies?

I sing in a jazz choir and love yoga, all kinds of crafts, writing, salsa dancing when I can. But traveling and reading are my favourite things to do.

13. Do you have any pets?

No, we’re not allowed to keep them in our flat. But I consider myself a third parent to my family dog, Pip.

Pip, my adopted dog-child/sister

14. What do you want to be when you grow up?

For YEARS I really wanted to be a journalist, and when I was little I used to make my own newspapers with my own stories. Nowadays I dream about being a writer and living in a little cottage on the cliff, where I can write reams and reams of novels listening to the waves crashing on the rocks.

15. 3 things that make you happy?

Travel, family, and that feeling you get when you’ve just totally kicked butt after working really hard on something. 

16. What’s on your mind?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how to carve more time out of my day for writing. I haven’t quite got to the bottom of that one to be honest.

17. One word that describes you?

Dweeb.

18. What are your favourite quotes?

“A change is gonna come” – Richard Powers, ‘The Overstory’

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” – Margaret Atwood, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

19. Are you an extrovert or an introvert?

Bonafide introvert. I’ve learned to embrace it though – I wouldn’t change it.

20. What’s your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?

Sweet things! An almond croissant, thick toast with butter and jam, or maybe french toast with maple syrup.

21. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Barcelona! I adore that city, and it would be a good chance to brush up on the old español. There’s just so much history and culture there, not to mention the fact that it’s absolutely beautiful.

So there you have it, all about me in 21 questions! Hope it lets you see a little bit of the ‘me’ behind the shelf.

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The run-up to Christmas has officially begun, guys. At a mere five weeks before the event, it’s definitely an appropriate time to start jingling those bells and thinking about Christmas gifts.

First up I must share my colleague’s most excellent idea to ditch the Secret Santa in favour of a book-only gifting policy. (I have yet to come up with a snappy name for this – there surely must be something in ‘elf’, as in ‘booksh-elf’?)

If you want to replicate this idea in your own workplace, all you need to do is to get everyone to send you an email with their name and a genre they usually like reading (or an author they particularly like). Print them out and get people to draw them from a hat. Remember to grab a gift receipt and pop it inside the book just in case your gift is so on the money that they’ve actually already read it!

If a book swap isn’t your jam, or you know your book-loving pal would rather choose their books themselves, try the suggestions below. All are either book-related or are a useful reading accessory which any bookworm will love.

A reading subscription box

Subscription boxes are growing in popularity everywhere and the literary community is no exception. There are lots of different types on the market and several cater to different reading ages and tastes.

The Willoughby Book Club offers boxes which are aimed at quite general categories like ‘Fiction Lovers’, ‘Classics’ or ‘Young Adult’.

But perhaps the most personal boxes I’ve found are from Mr B’s Emporium. This bookshop based in Bath actually appoints an expert bookseller to curate your bookworm’s collection for you, based on their answers to a quiz.

You can customise them to last for a period of up to a year and can specify details like whether you’d prefer to include paperback or hardback books.

It’s the best of both worlds, introducing readers to books that are new to them, but which they’re very likely to enjoy.

A decent bookmark

Don’t mock (yet). A book lover is always in need of a bookmark and we get weirdly emotionally attached to the good ones.

As a commuter-reader, I hate bookmarks which stick out too far above the pages or are flimsy and easily breakable, as they will never survive being stuffed repeatedly into my rucksack. Instead, I love a sturdy bookmark that keeps your place while staying low.

This little cute-tea would make a great (and affordable) stocking filler, or if you are in need of something a bit more substantial, Etsy does a great line in charm bookmarks. This birdie version is rather sweet and will be kind to your beloved pages.

However, I couldn’t do this post without recommending a cat-themed bookmark – this one is sturdy enough to survive the dreaded rucksack commute and is adorable to boot.

Create a literary hamper

If you are paired up with a bookworm, you will understand that reading a book does not simply require “just” the book.

Settling down to read is a whole ritual which must involve a blanket, cosy clothes, a hot drink (or wine) and nibbles of choice. I’m a Galaxy Counters gal myself.

Therefore a hamper containing all of the requisite items for a “proper” read is an ideal gift for your resident book addict.

I’m quite enamoured with this hamper featuring female authors from The Story Gift, which includes items themed on authors from Agatha Christie to Jane Austen. You can expect such bookish accessories as a themed mug, candle, tea and a literary print.

If you want to create something a bit more individual, you can also create a bespoke hamper for your beloved.

An e-reader case

In all the excitement of finally owning an e-reader, the case is often overlooked. If you are like me, you have probably already fallen into the trap of buying a cheap one off Amazon only to have it immediately shed its decorative skin like a sad Kindle-snake.

My advice would be to invest in a proper cover for your bookworm friend. Look for proper, quality materials that will last, and try to find one with a magnetic closure if possible.

If you have a Kindle, the magnet will automatically turn your Kindle off when you close it, stopping it from draining the battery.

Obviously, it must also be beautiful and fill you with bookish joy merely by looking at it.

This Totoro themed cover is an almost unbearably cute case for a home-reader (I’m not sure it’d pass the rucksack test!) whereas for the more heavy duty reader you could try this case which will make you look like you’re always reading Harry Potter.

For those who just want an attractive, hard-wearing case, these ones from Etsy tick all the boxes and there’s a design for everyone.

A book blanket

As previously mentioned, all proper book reading sessions require a blanket. So, why not get a book-themed blanket specifically for reading which positively screams “do not let the dog sit on me!”?

Personally, I am very taken with this subtly creepy number which is patterned with text from ‘The Raven’ of Edgar Allen Poe.  But you could always create your own blanket featuring the covers of books your beloved adores.

So there you have it: five gift ideas for your resident bookworm. Go forth and be merry!

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