LIFELONG BOOK LOVER and former travel and lifestyle editor Simon Savidge is a regular contributor to several literary and lifestyle magazines and newspapers, as well as presenting on Sky Arts Book Club with Andi Oliver and Elizabeth Day, and on his own YouTube channel. He explains how each room in his house is dedicated to a different set of books.

Tell us about the bookshelves in your home.

I am a firm believer that bookshelves make a home a home. They’re like the best wall decorations ever and so try and have some in every room. The main shelves are all in a library I had converted from two bedrooms into one big space which is almost wall-to-wall books I’ve yet to read. Some people have said it would stress them out, for me it’s a space where endless adventures await my life ahead. My office downstairs houses all the books I’ve read and loved. The dining room houses cookbooks. One spare room is filled with books that people can read when they stay and take with them. The other one I have dreams of creating a whole set of shelves on one wall around the bed head. People thought I was joking when I moved to a bigger house for more bookshelf space. I wasn’t. The removal men asked me if I had ever heard of a Kindle, rude.

Which books are your most recent bookshelf additions?

The last book I bought was Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi, which I heard some fellow BookTubers I love recommending and wanted to get to for Women in Translation month. I also picked up Damon Galgut’s short-story collection. I loved The Promise and am having a bit of a binge on his backlist. Lovely finding a new favourite author you can head back to lots of books by, isn’t it? I was also bought a book on this spree by my friend Maddie, it’s Stasiland by Anna Funder, stories from behind the Berlin Wall. It’s not my usual bag at all but I’m trying to read more widely, and by whim at the moment and Maddie loves it and checked if I had it, and as I didn’t she got me it. People don’t generally buy me books often as they think I have them or have read them already.

Sometimes I think of putting them all in storage and trying a Zero TBR. Just buying as I read. Could be liberating. Could be terrifying.”

Do you judge people by their bookshelves?

No, sometimes by the knickknacks they have on them. Though I’m a fine one to talk! If people have bookshelves it means they read and that’s ace. I don’t judge what people read either. They’re reading, that’s brilliant.

Which is your most treasured book?

Ooooh. All the books my grandad wrote and illustrated for me as a very young child. They’re all about Simon and his adventures with Esmeralda the Witch and her cat Marmalade. Very special to me. I also have a collection of Arthur Conan Doyle stories I inherited from my great uncle who would memorise them to retell them to me on walking holidays when I was little.

What do your bookshelves say about you?

Hmmmm. Some might say ‘hoarder’. I think they show my life as a reader in my office. Maybe they show the readers I have been rather than the one I am now, upstairs. I need to have a cull and work out the reader I am right now, as those shelves are cumulative buys over a decade or so. Sometimes I think of putting them all in storage and trying a Zero TBR. Just buying as I read. Could be liberating. Could be terrifying.

What’s the oldest book on your shelf?

Probably my first edition of Nancy Mitford’s Noblesse Oblige. I found it in a metre of books a friend had bought from Oxfam for an art installation and didn’t need all of. That was a magical moment.

Do you rearrange your bookshelves often – and where do your replaced books go?

I do. I document the (torturous) process on my YouTube channel roughly once every month or two. Friends and family get first dibs when they visit, the library also gets donations.

Do you have any books from your childhood on your shelf?

Yes. The ones my granddad made me. Quite a few of the Ladybird Fairy Tales, which I am trying to collect all of but they’re hard to find. Oh and some of my He-Man and She-Ra books.

Book lender, book giver or book borrower?

Giver. I would much rather give or buy someone a book then lend them it.

Whose bookshelves are you most curious about?

Oooooh, so many. I would like to do a series of videos going round authors’ and famous people’s bookshelves and discuss what they say about them. No one better pinch that idea. I’d start with Elif Shafak, Andi and Elizabeth’s of course – I can’t believe I haven’t actually. Then Michelle and Barack Obama’s, Hanya Yanagihara’s, then maybe a few pop stars, I love pop music almost as much as I love books, I think Jade Thirwall reads a lot. So does Dua Lipa.

Introduced and compiled by Farhana Gani


The third series of Sky Arts Book Club airs on Sky Arts and Freeview every Wednesday at 8pm from 7 September 2022. There’s a Christmas Special on Wednesday 14 December 8pm, and July’s Summer Special and all past episodes are available to watch on Sky Arts, Now and Freeview.
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All images courtesy Simon Savidge