Home burning books Burning Books…on paper—Louise Finch

Burning Books…on paper—Louise Finch

Louise Finch, author of The Eternal Return of Clara Hart talks all things bookish for Burning Books…on Paper, the companion series to our popular podcast.

Louise Finch

“While I totally understand the recent trend for books to have beautiful sprayed edges and elaborate covers – they look beautiful on social media and bookshelves—it has rather ruined things for those of us who want to love our books to death.”

Turn down the page, or book mark?

I turn down the pages. I’m happy for my beloved books to turn into scratty bundles of pages held together with bent, warped covers from being read in the bath.

I think books should be comfortable things, like blankets that get softer and cosier with age.

While I totally understand the recent trend for books to have beautiful sprayed edges and elaborate covers – they look beautiful on social media and bookshelves—it has rather ruined things for those of us who want to love our books to death. The prettier the book is, the guiltier I feel for turning down pages or accidentally falling asleep on it and bending the cover back.

Do you lend without expecting a book returned?

I don’t lend my books. The problem is, if a book is good enough to recommend and lend, I will want my copy back and people never return books. Now, if a book is brilliant and I think a friend will like it, I simply buy them a copy.

Most recently I gifted another copy of Boys Don’t Cry by Fíona Scarlett to a friend who was hopefully in the mood for a good sob.

Do you keep all of your books, or do you have a regular cull?

I’m mostly a keeper, but every few years I run out of space and have to make some tough decisions about which books get to stay on my shelves. It will be time for another one soon —there are a lot of books living permanently in stacks around my house with nowhere to go.

Digital or physical copy?

A mix, but if I love a book I’ve read in digital form, I have to buy a physical copy too. There’s a beautiful independent bookshop in a town near where I live and they sell the most wonderful coffee and cake, so it’s always worth the trip to go and pick up my books.

Do you finish every book you start? 

Almost every book. Even if I’m not particularly enjoying something, it’s always interesting to consider why.

Are you one book at a time, or a polyamorous reader?

I’m currently reading one book by myself and another with my partner which he reads aloud to me in the evenings. He doesn’t read at all otherwise.  

We chose Looking for Emily by Fiona Longmuir, a lively, tightly-plotted middle-grade mystery. Middle-grades are perfect for reading aloud because they are a bit shorter and more manageable.

Our last choice was N K Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, which was absolutely fantastic but took us forever to get through.

A book you associate with a particular life event 

I read Expectation by Anna Hope in 2021 when my book was out on submission to publishers and hadn’t yet been picked up.

It was a case of the perfect book at the perfect moment, the story of three thirty-something friends struggling to find connection and contentment in the seemingly successful lives they’ve built.

A timely reminder of how difficult it can be to live up to the expectations we set for ourselves, even if things go more or less to plan. Anna Hope’s prose is spare and elegant, the structure is ambitious, the characters are complex.

I ate it up.

One of your own books that you’d choose to save

I’d save my debut novel, The Eternal Return of Clara Hart. I’ve lived with it for so many years and it’s very close to my heart.

All about trauma, grief and gendered violence, there’s a lot of my own experience in there, plus it’s the novel that made my dream of being a published author come true.

A book you are reading now

I’m currently reading The Seawomen by Chloe Timms. It’s atmospheric, feminist and beautifully written and it’s already sweeping me away.

A book you’d leave in there to burn

American Pastoral by Philip Roth. I started reading it during the height of the pandemic lockdowns when my concentration was shot to pieces.

And then I tried to force myself to continue reading it for far too long and ended up hating it. I’ll never go back to it now.

You can save one non-book item: what is it? 

Assuming my partner and dogs don’t count and are safely out, I would probably save my box of photo albums.

I’m old enough to own photographs that only exist as pieces of paper, many of which are of people who are no longer around. It would be awful to lose them. In fact, I should probably get round to making electronic copies!