“Hi, Katarina! I would love to recommend you to read The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender”

A few days ago I asked for book recommendations in exchange for a signed copy of my book in any language I have at home. Over the following weeks I plan to publish some of the beutiful emails I got in response to it. All the emails are published with the sender’s permission. 

“Hi Katarina!

I’m Atikah, a book blogger from Malaysia and I would love to recommend you to read THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER by Leslye Walton.

It’s a young adult fantasy book, with an element of magical realism. This book is EVERYTHING to me. You would think that this book is all about Ava Lavender and Ava Lavender herself, given the title. However, it also tells about her family; her great-grandparents, her grandparents, and her mother. It’s about life, love, obsession, and desire and it’s so magically beautiful.

Leslye’s writing is absolutely beautiful and addictive. This book is one of a kind where it just opens the door and it lures you to step into it, once you start reading it. I couldn’t stop saying how magical is this book! Warning, this book will break your heart into pieces, and then into tiny pieces, because that was what happened to me!

Strange. Magical. Beautifully written. Haunting. Addictive.

I totally recommend this book to you!

By the way, this is my mailing address and I’d like to have your book in English (UK).”

Atikah blogs about books here. I still have copies left, so don’t hesitate to send me your book recommendation. Read more about it here

Books for book recommendations

One of the lovely things about having your books translated is that you get lots of copies of them from the publishers. One of the challenges is that you get lots of copies from the publishers. It feels like a waste to have your own book take up so much bookshelf-space. I mean, I have already read it.

So I came up with this brilliant idea to keep myself with book recommendations: send me a book recommendation, something about what you loved about the book and why you think everyone, meaning me, should read it, and I’ll send you a signed copy of my book. Email me at katarina@katarinabivald.se, include your adress and don’t forget to tell me what language you want my book in.

With a bit of luck, this will keep me in lovely book recommendations until I run out of copies of my books.

Richard and Judy Book Club

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend have been selected by Richard and Judy’s Book Club for their autumn 2016 list.

Richard about the book:

Sometimes when you read a debut novel you feel as if you’ve come home. You know you’re listening to a voice speaking inside your head that’s a very welcome new visitor.

Katarina Bivald’s quirky, charming story is one of those. This is a book about books, and it doesn’t so much grab you from the start as slip a warm hand gently into yours and lead you insistently into the world she has created. And that’s doubly remarkable because not only is this a first novel, it’s a translation from the original Swedish.

And Judy:

It’s a wonderful tale and if you don’t fall for Bivald’s storytelling charm, I’ll eat the paperback.

Although I can’t help noticing that she didn’t offer to eat the hardcover.

You can read more about the book club and the other amazing books selected here

Inspiration. Of a sort.

It is a sad fact in life that in order to write a book, you have to sit down and, well, write it.

Normally I don’t really mind it, but there are so many things that can distract you from it. There’s the paralyzing self doubt, the voice in your head that whispers that it doesn’t really matter whether you write because naturally your idea is trivial and the characters clichés, and besides, you know full well that you can’t write. Or the opposite, the kind of inspiration that borders on and then crosses the line to full blown hybris and makes you want to walk around, laugh to yourself, marvel at the sheer brilliance of what you’re doing but not exactly sitting down and doing it, not right now anyway, because besides you need more coffee and oh no, you’ve thought of another scene, and then another, and you definitely need more coffee now and then you can’t really sit still because you’re high on madness and caffeine.

For those times I have two photos to remind be to get back to business. One is a photo of Agatha Christie, sitting behind a typewriter and looking up at two enormous piles of books on both sides of her. For all I know it might not even be all the book she ever wrote, perhaps just a selection of them, looming high over her.

I keep that photo as a sort of taunt to myself. You think you’re a writer, that’s what the photo is telling me, mocking me. You can’t even write two books and one play a year. Get over yourself.

And then I have a photo of Patricia Highsmit of the later years, after the women and the booze and the difficult relationshop with her mother had turned her from a beautiful tomboy to what mostly resembles a lesbian axe murderer. She’s glowering at me in a slightly menacing way, and smiling, terrifyingly enough. She’s wearing a lumberjack shirt, of course, and I’m quite sure that there actually is an axe in the background.

That photo tells me to get back to writing, “or else…”

Hopefully it’s not also telling me to hit the whisky.

My bookshelves

Having written a book about a woman who re-arranges a bookshop into new categories, I am often asked the all important question: how do you organize your bookshelves?

And I always wish I had a better answer. I’m thinking something like the man in High Fidelity, who organized his music collection auto-biographically, so that in order to find any specific lp or cd he had to remember when he bought it. But the truth is, having worked in a bookshop, I know how very much work it is to re-organize a bookshelf. Books are heavy. Books are dusty. Any type of re-arranging will involve sweating and sneezing. And chaos. And once you’ve decided, you have to stick with it or do it all over again.

For example, years ago I decided to organize at least my fiction shelves in a traditional alphabetical order. I was young and ambitious, if I had known the dewey decimal system I would probably have gone for that too. So now when I buy books I have to sort them or leave them in piles laying around waiting to be sorted.

“Why do I have so many books?!” I asked my sister in desperation a few weeks ago, and then of course I had to go and wash my mouth with soap and stand in the corner.

The thing is, you see, I’m not really good with the alphabet. In order to find the placing of a specific letter, I have to start at the beginning every time. So there I was, walking around muttering for my self: “a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m – ah, m comes before n.” It is increadibly boring. The alphabet gets very repetitve after a while. And then of course I sneezed. And if you’re really unlucky, you find the m-shelft only to discover that there’s another Macdonald already there, and then you have to start all over again with a, b, c, etc. to find out whether or not Helen comes before or after. And sneeze again.

And do I sort the books not yet read, or will they disappear in the bookshelves and be lost forever?

And then it struck me. Do I really have to organize all my books alphabetically? Could I, perhaps, just have a more chronological To be read-shelf? I need hardly add that I meant an entire bookcase, not just one shelf. I already have more than four shelves of unread books.

Or would I be haunted by the ghosts of angry librarians who would extinguish my reading light at the very moment when I was reading something incredibly scary?

But I did it. Which brings me to the original question about how I organize my books.

My bedroom looks very much like a library with a bed in it, which is exactly the way I want it, except that I am running out of walls. Every bookshelf I buy, I promise my sister to be the last, and naturally it never is. Here I keep most of my fiction; literary and commercial and crime a like. There’s almost an entire shelf of Dick Francis, and then there’s my collection of beautiful old books by Remarque, a few Nobel prize winners, mostly Saramago, because I read his Blindness when I was young and fell in love with it. Michael Connely and Lee Child of course, and my first edition Helen Hanff on a special shelf, and my book perfume (it didn’t smell like books, but it was worth a try), post cards of Dewey the Library Cat, piles of Jane Austen and Shakespeare’s comedies but not his tragedies. And one, tiny, lonely empty shelf for future books bought…

Then there is the kitchen. I have used a kitched cupboard for my cooking books, and I have two cute shelves right in front of where I work at the kitchen table. The shelves in the kitchen are for reference books about writing. I have too many, because when I get stuck I tell myself that reading them is almost like writing. My favorite is How not to write a novel. Even if you aren’t a writer, you can read it just for the sheer fun of it.

In the living room, there are as many bookcases as my sister allowed, which is three. And a half. I sort of snuck the half one in. But I share it with my sisters books. I am generous, that way.

Here are the shelves for the living room:

One shelf for our Terry Pratchett-books
One shelf for biographies about writers (and some musicians)
One shelf for Agatha Christie
One for my books about The Great War (one day I’m going to write a book about it that’s so thoroughly miserable I’m going to have to publish it under psedonym)
One for mostly my sisters books, which I in my head call Male Humour (Christoffer Moore, Carl Hiassen)
Three shelves for my sisters art books (the bottom ones, because they are too large to fit otherwise)
One for our Georgette Heyer-books
Three for general biographies and popular history
Two bookcases (approximately) for my old political books, everything from Simone de Beauvoir to Stonewall to Che Guevara and Malcom X and political science-books about social movements and feminism and race
Two shelves for popular science/, suchs as Gladwell, which I’ve grown amazingly addicted to in later years

What have I forgotten?

Oh, the “office”! That is, the smallest room in the apartment where my printers live. Two bookcases, but at least half of them is full of my sister’s art projects and the material and equipment she needs for it. I do have a couple of shelves, though, where I keep my own book in different language; the author’s copies that regularly arrive from Spain or Taiwan or the US or Brazil or China. I don’t really know what to do with them all, seeing how I can only read Swedish and English. My dad gets one copy of every book. I think he’s starting his own collection.

And there it is. An… organic organization. But it is fascinating with books, how they are sort of archeological layers, telling you the shifting story of your life and interest at a glance.

Sleeping in a library. All completely normal.
Lots of space left
Isn't it beautiful? This is opposite my bed, so that I can look at it while I have my first cup of coffee for the day
Living room
It looks chaotic, but... oh well, it's basically chaos
But look how cleverly I snuck that half a bookcase in. She can't notice a thing.