Awhile back the Twitterverse was awash with the phenomenon of the “shelfie” – a picture of a person’s book shelf. Kind of a fun idea; after all, the books you read tell quite a bit about the person you are, don’t you think? So, jumping late on the bandwagon as I am apt to do, I thought it might be fun to give you an idea of the books on my shelf. But not just any shelf. I have waaay too many books to photograph them all. The shelf I photographed above sits above my writing nook, and on it are some of the books that have played a large part in my writing journey as I wrote down The Traveller’s Path trilogy.
From left to right:
1. The AA Book of Britain’s Countryside – I can’t remember exactly how or when I stumbled across this particular treasure, but I am so glad I did! This book has been invaluable to me as I strove to write accurate descriptions of the area around Lindisfarne and Bamburgh; places I have never been (yet! Hope springs eternal….). In this book Britain is divided up into areas, and each area is described with photos and text, including detailed information on the flora and fauna found there. This book has made my novels come alive, and helped me to envision the rugged coastal area of Northumbria so that I can write about it with confidence. Well, that, and YouTube….
2. The Illustrated Bede – Bede (often called the Venerable Bede) was one of the world’s first historians, and lucky for me, he wrote about the time period and people that populate my books. His work is called the Eccelesiastical History of the English People, and he completed it in 751 AD when he was 59 years old. As the title suggests, Bede, a monk at the monastery of Monkwearmouth, wrote this book to describe the history of the church in England, and he begins his book at 55 BC and the invasion of Caesar, ending it just before his death in 735 AD. The book on my shelf includes both Bede’s work and illustrations of the places he mentions in it. A great “first hand” resource for this era, one of the few that describes the people and places, although he is maddeningly silent on most things that don’t impact the church. Spoiler alert! A blog post on Bede is coming soon!
3. The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s (McCutcheon) and What the Past Did for Us (Hart-Davis) – two books not relevant to my novels, they are waiting for “another day”.
4. The Lindisfarne Gospels (British Library – the little blue book)- I picked this up in the British Library bookstore when I was there last, in 2007. I was looking for books about Lindisfarne, this was a nice small one that would not add much weight to my luggage and included some great descriptions of how the monks made illustrated manuscripts. Plus gorgeous pictures of the Gospels, truly some of the most beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure to see. Seeing the Lindisfarne Gospels in the British Library for the first time in 1987 was the first seed that planted the idea for my books.
5. Welsh Talk – also picked this up on my trip in 2007. I thought it might come in useful for helping me write down Welsh speech, but it’s a little too modern for my books. I can’t quite imagine my 7th century exiled Welsh warrior, Celyn, saying “I could drink a pint!”, could you? (if you’re interested, the translation is Gallwn i yfed peint!) Next time I go to Wales I’ll brush up on my Welsh, though….
6. Listening for the Heartbeat of God (Newell) – one of the many things I had to learn about in order to write my novels was Celtic Christianity, the “brand” of Christianity practiced by the monks on Lindisfarne. The church in Britain, particularly in the West and North, developed its own way of doing things in the period between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of Augustine. There are some significant differences, not theological, mainly, but ones of approach and focus. This book helped me to understand those, and to appreciate the practice of Celtic Christianity from a modern perspective.
7. Anglo-Saxon FAQs (Pollington) – pretty self-explanatory, really. A great resource on all things Anglo-Saxon, although sometimes I wished there was more information in it (the curse of a historical novelist, I suspect!). One thing I quickly discovered is that there is much “guessing” about the Anglo-Saxon era, especially in trying to figure out just how ordinary people lived. Most of what survives as information about this era is all about the kings and churchmen of the day. So this book was a good resource to find out other things, like what regular people ate, drank, or wore.
8. Treasury of Anglo-Saxon England (Cavill) – another great resource on the Anglo-Saxons and the time in which they lived. Used this one quite a bit.
9. Christianity and the Celts (Olsen) – another book picked up at the British Library bookstore. A fascinating, concise history of the Celts and their embrace of Christianity, focussing on some of the important figures in Celtic Christian history, such as St. Patrick and St. Brigid. Great pictures, too.
10. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne (Adam). The author was Vicar of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne for thirteen years. It is a good little history of the island.
11. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Anglo-Saxon England (various editors) – I probably used this book the most to research the times and people of the day. The contributors are leading scholars and experts on AS England, and it covers pretty much everything you might want to know; from the food people ate, the books they wrote, the languages they spoke, to the prominent people of the time. Invaluable. This was the book I pulled off the shelf most often when I got stuck on questions like, “Where was the Battle of Hatfield Chase?” or “Who was king before Edwin?” Or even, “Oswy, Oswald, Oswine….drat, who is which?” (Let me just state up front for those who may complain about confusing, similar sounding names in my book: It’s not my fault. These are real people, and those are their real names. Deal with it.)
That’s it for now….Part 2 coming up next month….
Why not take a shelfie of your own and share it with me? I’d love to see it!