‘I dream of a wall-to-wall room of books’
Angela Keoghan’s bookshelf
My book collection is like a traveller’s aviary of exotic birds; a splendidly colourful array, full of tales and characters collected from countries and cultures abroad.
Some of them are full of pictures with no written narrative. Others have that worn look of well-loved titles with peeling pages, fraying spines and that stale “old book smell”. I often lose my books in my bookshelf only to one day stumble upon a forgotten title, a feeling akin to discovering a rare specimen, and need to take it away and study it once more.
My menagerie is contained in a large freestanding bookcase with square shelves big enough to fit those awkward oversized varieties. Currently full to the brim, it resides in our lounge within handy reach from the couch. I dream of a wall-to-wall room of books but the reality is our home is rather small. The groaning tower our bookshelf has become is because of travels to faraway book fairs where you just can’t possibly leave without picking up a book or . . . seven to bring home in extra luggage space.
As an illustrator, my collection consists mainly of children’s books for all ages. Favourites like Home by Carson Ellis, A World of Your Own by Laura Carlin, Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt or wordless books like
Seasons by Blexbolex fill countless corners. A spattering of paperbacks by Jane Austen, Dodie Smith, Paul Gallico and James Herriot sit alongside the occasional book from art school masters like Robert Frank, Chagall, Picasso or Monet.
My appetite for reading started with my nana, who introduced me to the many misfortunes of Mitten the Kitten by Christine Rees, part of a BBC Radio programme called Listen with Mother. I still have her copy, although it is a little worse for wear nowadays as it seems determined to separate itself from its spine but the memory of my nana’s voice and the riveting tales of poor unfortunate Mitten had me hooked in the world of storytelling.
Book collecting is addictive yet so creatively rewarding. One of my earliest inspirations came in the classic Winnie the Pooh series. I loved the language and humour and E.H. Shepard’s beautiful ink drawings really bought the characters in the Hundred Acre Wood to life. Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy World is a book I would also pore over for hours, fascinated by the illustrations full of weird and wacky personified animals and the hilarious stories. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, is a favourite summer read. Humorous and full of wonderful imagery which transports you to the island of Corfu after a busy day at work.
The only book not in my bookshelf is the result of a slight miscalculation online where in a frenzy of button-clicking, I somehow failed to notice the sheer biblical proportions of Charley Harper, An Illustrated Life. Its measurements turned out to be more the actual size of a coffee table rather than being able to fit on one. So it pays to know the nature of the book you buy when thinking of housing it.
Angela Keoghan is a former photographerturned-illustrator who was commissioned by the UK’s National Trust to illustrate its new children’s book about conservation.
How to Help a Hedgehogand Protect a Polar Bear by Jess French and illustrated by Angela Keoghan (Nosy Crow, $28) is out now.