Take a Long Hard Look at Your Shelf: Aidan Moffat

Musician, poet and storyteller Aidan Moffat tells us what's on his shelf ahead of his performance at the Neu! Reekie! event during Jura Unbound on 14 Aug

Feature by Alan Bett | 31 Jul 2014

What’s the most precious book on your shelf? 

I have quite a few – I'm a big B. S. Johnson fan and I went a bit mental a few years ago and bought all his first editions, and I've got a couple of rare books by Harry Price, the ghost hunter (and charlatan) from the 20th century, who I've been fascinated by since I was a wee boy. There are loads of comics too, although most of the precious ones are probably wrapped up and hidden away from direct sunlight!

What’s the best book on your shelf to be given to you by someone else? 

I honestly can't think of one – nobody really buys me books because I tend to get everything myself; I'm definitely a book token kind of guy. My friend Stevie did get me a great Tom Leonard book for my 40th birthday and inscribed it, but I already had it so I gave him my copy and kept the gifted one.

Which book on your shelf would you most like to give to others? For what reason?

I've given away several copies of B. S. Johnson books, mainly House Mother Normal and Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry, to try and spread the word. He remains a cult figure but I think a lot of his work is a lot more accessible than people think, but the 'experimental' tag – which he hated – tends to scare people off. The two mentioned here are actually really funny and moving books, and still have a lot to say about how we live. His self-effacing autobiographical work is great too, and very ahead of its time. His work's never perfect and he never did quite write the masterpiece he could have, but I can't help but get sucked into his enthusiasm for innovation.

Which book is your guilty secret, and what do you love about it?

I don't really have any – I don't believe in guilty secrets, we shouldn't be ashamed of anything we enjoy. I suppose some might say a strange one is the novelisation of The Goonies by James Kahn, but it's a book I hold very dear. It's the first novel I remember reading that had a real conversational, colloquial feel to it – remember, I was only 12 at the time – and it left a big impression on me. I used to collect a lot of film books when I was an 80s kid, it was a big part of the movie business back then, but I've sadly lost most of the others.

Which book has been most inspirational to you, both personally and professionally?

I'm not sure at all – although the Penguin Rhyming Dictionary can come in quite handy!

Are ebooks a threat to your bookshelf?

Not at all, I only ever use them when travelling, and even then that's very rare. You just can't emulate the thrill of paper and the physical act of turning a page, and I find e-reading pretty dull. It's no different to reading something online, and I spend most days in front of a screen reading and writing, so I need a different, more physical connection when it comes to reading for pleasure.

What book is missing from your shelf which you know you need to add?

I have the opposite problem – I've got shelves full of books that I probably don't need and never got round to finishing. I'm an awful hoarder and have been from an early age, I can't let go of anything. I still haven't read Ulysses though. I have it, but I've never read more than the first twenty pages. I really must get round to that, but I'm a little scared of long books.

Neu! Reekie! on Thu 14 Aug in Edinburgh International Book Festival's Guardian Spiegeltent, as part of Jura Unbound, 9pm, free http://www.edbookfest.co.uk