Happy Thursday everyone! It’s almost the weekend thank goodness! Today I’m kicking off the blog tour for Nicholas Royle’s White Spines: Confessions Of A Book Collector.
Many thanks to Helen Richardson for inviting me on the blog tour and to Salt Publishing for my advanced copy of White Spines.
A mix of memoir and narrative non-fiction, White Spines is a book about Nicholas Royle’s passion for Picador’s fiction and non-fiction publishing from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. It explores the bookshops and charity shops, the books themselves, and the way a unique collection grew and became a literary obsession. Above all a love song to books, writers and writing.
What Did I Think?
The White Spines are sacrosanct…
This man is a collector. I thought I was obsessed with book buying and I know a few others who undeniably are but Nicholas Royle takes book collecting to a whole new obsessive level. He is very (extremely) particular about his collections – it has to be the right edition and with some, a particular artist’s work on the front or books with “inclusions” – random things left inside when the book is donated to charity or sold to a second hand bookshop.
White Spines chronicles over 20 years of obsessive collecting, hunting down the precious books for Royle’s collections. The joy of discovering missing book in an charity shop or one with an unusual or intriguing inclusion leaps out from the page. As it covers such an expanse of time, Royle references the past 12 months (written in March 2021 it is the year of lockdown). The reopening of shops and precautions that have to be taken in such a stark difference to his previous free rein rummaging and browsing of any shop he might locate a precious addition to his collections.
I really enjoyed the little random snippets of overheard conversations in the various charity shops and book shops that Royle has frequented over the years. They provide a light hearted look at book buying and who doesn’t love overhearing an amusing conversation and with these taken out of context and just a few lines of dialogue, they made me grin as I played them out in my head.
White Spines is very different to any other memoir I’ve read. There is no beginning, middle and end – well there but not in a story sense. It’s a work of obsession, a desire to complete a what seems to be a never ending collection. I’ll admit, I wasn’t aware of the white spines of Picador before – the green covers of certain Penguin books (I know I’ve got an Agatha Christie one somewhere) but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for them now.
Who Is Nicholas Royle?
Nicholas Royle was born in Manchester in 1963. He is the author of seven novels, including: Counterparts, Saxophone Dreams, and First Novel, and a short story collection, Mortality. He has edited sixteen anthologies, including A Book of Two Halves and Neonlit: Time Out Book of New Writing. He lives between London and Manchester and teaches creative writing at MMU.