Guest post: Linda Gillard picks her 10 books

In the comments for my last post, author (and friend) Linda Gillard mentioned that she’d like to take part but doesn’t have a blog – so, of course, I said I’d be more than happy to host her selection here. Over to you, Linda…

I’ve moved house a lot, often to a smaller property, so I’ve had to downsize my book collection. I performed another cull when I was recovering from cancer and decided to get rid of all the books I knew I’d never read. So what I have now is a modest but meaningful collection of books, all of which I’ve read and wish to keep or I intend to read.

So here’s my 10 book “biography”…


The oldest book I own is The Christmas Carol illustrated by Ronald Searle. I bought this on holiday in Margate in the 1960s at The Albion Bookshop. I think I was about 12. It cost 21/- (£1.05) which must have cleared me out of pocket money. This is also my most read book because for many years I read it every Christmas. If there’s a better opening paragraph in the whole of English fiction, I don’t know what it is.


I started collecting children’s books for my grandchildren before they were even conceived. I now have a grandson who will inherit some magnificent Folio editions of children’s classics. He’ll also get this 50th anniversary edition of Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. My first encounter with this book was at primary school. A beloved teacher called Mrs Sharp used to read it to us at the end of the day, perched on her desk. I remember the bell going for end of school and asking her if we could please stay and hear a bit more before going home. She didn’t oblige. I expect she wanted to get home.


I’m on to my second copy of Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes. The first one fell to pieces. The second copy is going the same way and its pages are stained and a bit sticky. I was a fan of Mary’s long before she was a TV celebrity. My waistline will attest to the fact that these cakes are fast, easy and delicious.


I have a complete set of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin historical novels that I’ve collected in second hand editions. I’ve read 15 of the 20-book series. I discovered him many years ago, travelling on the ferry from Skye to North Uist, one of the Western Isles. My fellow passengers included a family of two adults and two teenagers, all of whom were engrossed in a different O’Brian novel. This was an impressive advert for the books. I was also very taken with the atmospheric cover artwork by Geoff Hunt. This is a series I might have collected just for the covers, but the books are superbly written and the characters just jump off the page.


I have an almost complete collection of Georgette Heyer’s historical fiction which I’ve read and re-read for over 50 years. I bought Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester, but haven’t read it yet. I was put off by some reviews which said Heyer came across as rather unpleasant – rude, snobbish and casually racist as people so often were in those days. I can’t decide whether to read the book or if I’d rather preserve my fantasy that if we’d ever met, she and I would have got on famously.


I’ve acquired a lot of books for research purposes on subjects that have featured in my novels. Some topics I’ve re-visited so I tend to keep all research books in case I need them again. I have a motley selection of books on ghosts and the paranormal, including The Stately Ghosts of England by Diana Norman, an account of the tour she made with a psychic round the “haunted” stately homes of England.

I’ve never seen a ghost myself and remain a sceptic, but the real-life stories fascinate me. I’m not sure why I became interested in writing ghost stories, but it could be connected to my father’s death. He died in 2005 but I still struggle to accept his absence. I might have turned to writing ghost stories because I can’t accept that the dead are gone for good.

Someone said, “Grief is love that has nowhere to go”, an idea that has comforted me.


I own all the romantic  suspense fiction of Mary Stewart which I’ve read and re-read since my teens. Two of her novels are set on Scottish islands but they aren’t among her best. Stormy Petrel earns its place on my shelves for its gorgeous wrap-around dust jacket. The story is predictable but Stewart’s writing about landscape and wildlife is unsurpassed. I suspect this is where her real interest lay in this book.

I’ve lived on the islands of Skye, Harris and Arran. If someone asked me what it’s like to live on a Hebridean island, I’d suggest they read Stormy Petrel, but with low expectations of the plot.


Another island cover… Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. I believe I bought this because Simon and some other bloggers raved about it. It’s about an elderly artist and her 6-year old grand-daughter spending a summer on a Finnish island. I haven’t read this one yet, but I really should as I’m now a grandmother myself and love anything set on islands.


Will I ever read Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots? I’ve dipped in many times but I haven’t made much headway with its 700+ pages.  The seven basic plots are Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy and Re-birth. Booker believes the success of Lord of the Rings can be attributed to the fact that Tolkien’s tale included all seven plot elements.


I have a small collection of art books. Victoria Crowe: Painted Insights is one I acquired as an impulse buy. In 2001 I was taken by a quilting friend to an exhibition in Inverness of Victoria Crowe’s paintings. She’s a well-known Scottish artist but I didn’t know her work. I was stunned by the beauty of her paintings and felt I had to own some, so I forked out £20 for a signed hardback book on the spot. I never regretted my extravagance.

Don’t you find, it’s never the books you buy that you regret, it’s the ones that got away.

Linda Gillard

Linda Gillard lives in Ayrshire, Scotland. She’s the author of eight novels, including Star Gazing, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and the Robin Jenkins Literary Award. Her Kindle bestseller House of Silence was selected for Amazon UK’s Top Ten “Best of 2011” in the Indie Author category.

Author website:



14 thoughts on “Guest post: Linda Gillard picks her 10 books

  • June 1, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    I copyedited Mary Berry’s ‘Fat Cakes’ way back in the 1980s…and have made – or my son has made – her Christmas cake every year since. It is unbeatable for taste – regardless of being ‘fast’.

    • June 2, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      No, really, Elizabeth, “fat cakes” is entirely appropriate. If only there were less delicious…

  • June 1, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Lovely list of books – thank you for inviting Linda to share here. I loved “A Christmas Carol” too and I would have leapt at a Searle illustrated edition if I’d ever seen it! :)

  • June 2, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Linda reminds me of my great guilt over The Summer Book. Karen sent me a copy about two years ago and I still haven’t read it. Maybe this year.

  • June 2, 2017 at 11:10 am

    No wonder I like Linda Gillard’s writing! We have a very similar taste in books.
    Sorry, Simon and other fans, I just couldn’t get on with The Summer Book.

  • June 2, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Very nice selection. I wouldnt have associated Mary Berry with Fast Cakes or anything cooking related so that is a good one.

  • June 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    Oh this is a lovely post – Hello, Linda! I have had the Seven Basic Plots book on my wish list for SOOOOOO long and never got round to buying it …

    • June 2, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      Liz, I really don’t think I’m going to read it. Can I post it to you? I think I’m slightly paranoid about it: if I read too much about the seven basic plots, I’ll never write another novel because I’ll realise it’s all been said before (which it has.)

      • June 3, 2017 at 3:45 pm

        Oh, if you want rid of it, I’d love it, but I’ll send you the postage or put it in a charity tin as it’s a chunkster, I think. Argh – now I’ll have to read it! But that’s very kind really, thank you!

  • June 2, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    What a great list of books. I love Mary Stewart, although Stormy Petrel isn’t one of my favourites either. I’m working my way through the Aubrey-Maturin series at the moment, but haven’t reached The Wine-Dark Sea yet!

    • June 4, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      I’ve rather ground to a halt with the series, Helen, even though I only have 4 to go, because the general consensus even among O’Brian devotees seems to be that the books tail off in quality towards the end. (Perhaps O’Brian was getting bored or just tired?) I do want to complete the series, but equally, I don’t want to feel disappointed after such a glorious journey through the first 15 books. But I know if I read #16 I’ll then have to complete the series. The die will be cast!

  • June 3, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    Lovely list — I’ve only read A Christmas Carol and Tom’s Midnight Garden, but it’s been ages so I think I’ll need to reread them. I also own the Heyer biography, that might be a fun summer read.

    And now I’ll have to add the Aubrey-Maturin series to my TBR list — an entire family reading the same series is a pretty good endorsement. 20 more books, oh no!


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