Shelf Reflection is a monthly series where we delve into the reading habits of interesting Australians. This month’s reflection comes from broadcaster, podcaster, music journalist and host of Mornings on triple j, Zan Rowe.
What are you currently reading?
John Safran’s Depends What You Mean By Extremist. Once again John manages to infiltrate groups of all persuasions, and try and get to the bottom of their ideologies, and how they play within the current mainstream political field. His honesty and fearlessness, as well as a healthy dose of humour in the darkest of corners, is what I love about his writing.
Borrowed or bought?
I was waiting eagerly for this one, so snapped up a copy as soon as it came out. John is an old friend, but I also follow him as a fan on social media so knew he was in the midst of writing something compelling and, as fate would have it, very timely.
Fair to say, interesting time to be reading this. @johnsafran's latest book is about all sides. The contradictions, the confusions, and his own increasing internal stirrings as he again, puts himself inside opposing groups and remarkably gets access to all. I love the way John fearlessly interrogates a story, and honestly reflects his reactions as he tries to tell it. In short, there's a lot of grey area, and a lot of humour to be found in the politics of division. #zansbookclub
What kind of reader are you?
I generally read one book at a time but, depending on the intensity of a work of fiction, will sometimes intersperse a fictional narrative with a book of essays. During the week, I will often read when I go to bed which makes for a slow slog through a book as I’m often out like a light within three pages. On weekends I like to switch the screens off and spend long periods reading; whether it’s on my reading chair at home with lots of natural light streaming in, on a long train ride somewhere new, or curled up in bed (sitting up, so I don’t nod off again).
I used to finish every book I started but I think as I get older, busier and much more aware of my mortality, I won’t continue a book that isn’t doing it for me. And by the same token, I won’t often re-read books; I tend to pass along the books I love to someone else that I think will love them to. There are a couple of exceptions, and I do think I’ll return to Middlesex and What I Loved more than a couple of times in my lifetime of reading.
My reading habits are fairly broad, and I like to mix up what I read; going from non-fiction to fiction, switching to authors from different backgrounds and gender each time. I surprised myself recently getting into fantasy young adult fiction after a recommendation from a book club. I started at one, and became obsessed with the whole series!
I like to mix up what I read; going from non-fiction to fiction, switching to authors from different backgrounds and gender each time.
What does your book collection look like?
At the moment my collection is starting to be ‘Clancy of the overflow’; stacks of books piled on top of an already full bookcase. This is more to do with my book-eyes being bigger than my book-stomach – I’m such a sucker for buying more than I can read. I organise as best I can via genre (I have a lot of music biographies and books) but ultimately it’s wherever the next acquisition can fit. I probably tend towards new fiction quite heavily, and take recommendations from friends and trusted book stores as my main influence in buying. Lately I’ve discovered a brilliant library close to my home in Sydney, that has an excellent collection and has made me fall in love again with library borrows (and the motivation that a due date can instill in one’s reading!)
My book-eyes [are] bigger than my book-stomach – I’m such a sucker for buying more than I can read.
At my childhood home in Melbourne, I have a whole other giant bookcase filled with my much loved collection, and there would be one of the oldest books I own; a beautiful hardcover copy of The Secret Garden.
If you had to pick one book to live in for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Oh wow, what a tough question! And I’m not sure I could pick just one, or imagine living inside something that has such a definitive and immovable beginning, middle and end. I like the unknown too much. So perhaps I would say, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. Where I can follow many different paths and hope for a multitude of different endings, or beginnings.