I have had the great pleasure of being let loose in the Oxfam Bookshop in Kings Heath, Birmingham. The store came up with a great idea – The Curated Shelf – to bring writers and readers closer together. During September, it invited five local authors and members of the OxfamReads! series to curate shelves from the donated offerings.
The writers were:
- David Hart, 1997/8 Birmingham Poet Laureate
- Catherine O’Flynn, winner 2008 First Novel Award at the Costa Book Awards
- Katherine D’Souza, author of the Birmingham-set novels “Deeds Not Words” and “Park Life”
- Gaynor Arnold, whose work “Girl in a Blue Dress” was long-listed for the 2008 Man Booker Prize
- Jo Ind – yes, that’s me – author or Memories of Bliss, former Birmingham Post journalist.
I greatly enjoyed being able to choose any book I wanted from the store to sit on my shelf. It was better than being a child let loose in a sweet shop.
Rarely, do I allow myself just to pick what I want. Normally my book selections are constrained by concerns about money and whether I will have time to actually read whatever title I’m considering. For The Curated Shelf, I could just pick what I fancied and there was a luxurious freedom in that.
My shelf turned out to be biographical. I chose books I had enjoyed as child and enjoy reading with my own little boy (Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle), novels where I had interviewed the author through my work as a journalist, sheet music because I love singing and playing the piano, a book on language to reflect my enduring interest as a philosopher and writer. In picking whatever I wanted, I found a story of my life displayed through the spines on books. That felt pleasurable and somehow important to me.
I hope people enjoyed looking at the curations as much as I enjoyed selecting the items – but I doubt that they could have done simply because I enjoyed it so very much.