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    Rob Hunter: Bookshelf

Bookshelf: The brimming bookshelf of one of our favourite illustrators, Robert Hunter

Posted by Liv Siddall,

You may recognise Rob’s incredibly friendly illustration from such publications as the much-adored Young Colossus which almost single-handedly changed the way we look at album artwork. The publication, made in collaboration with Maccabees singer Orlando Weeks, is a testament to the good-natured, happy style for which he has become so well-known. This illustrative style seems to carry through to his bookshelf too, as you’ll see below when Rob tells us about the lengths he once went to to get Vladimir Nabokov’s Collected Stories to a friend…

Ted Hughes: Tales from Ovid

This was a spontaneous purchase and has since been one of my most reached-for and best-travelled books. It’s a retelling of 24 poems from Ovid’s Metamorphoses . I’m a big fan of Ted Hughes’ creation stories for kids – they are filled with really unusual and often humorous reasons for why things are the way they are in the world. He brings a similar feeling to this book but with occasional dips into darker territory. The verses are written in a way that carry you through the narrative easily and you can enjoy some of the classic legends as well as a few of the less well known ones in a language that’s easy to grasp, which is perfect if you are a bit daunted by the thought of reading a poetry book. When I start a new project this is one of two books that lives in my backpack to help inspire ideas.
Ted Hughes: Tales from Ovid

Vladimir Nabokov: Collected Stories

Of all the books on my bookshelf this is the most beaten up. This is partly due to its cumbersome size but mostly because of its attractive content. I was first recommended Vladmir Nabokov by my good friend Jon McNaught who, by the way, would provide an excellent bookshelf feature. I read Lolita and was blown away by the language, the book is so beautifully written which makes the theme all the more horrific. I’m not a particularly good reader but I get on really well with Nabokov’s writing which can be abstract and usually feels like you’re reading a poem.

The reason for this, I think, is that his observations are perfect. He will highlight something subtle in day-to-day life I would never think about but subconsciously seem to know in great detail, and it’s these moments that carry his collected stories along and make them accessible as well as poetic. One of the most visited stories in the book is Details of a Sunset and I have recommended it to many people to the extent that I once went to a post office and photocopied it, glued it together and posted it.
Vladimir Nabokov: Collected Stories

David Eagleman: Sum: Forty tales from the Afterlives

I think this is the most recent book I have bought so it’s done well to be in my top five. It is – as the title says – 40 very short stories of what the afterlife might hold. This book was in my studio and I picked it up, read the first few pages and immediately went and ordered a copy for myself. The opening story called Sum explains that when we die we will relive everything we did in our past life but rearranged and categorised together, for example sleeping for several years. As this progresses, its pace and delivery becomes funnier and sets the tone for the book nicely. Each mini story is packed with weird and wonderful ideas and for such a short book is one that I think about a lot.
David Eagleman: Sum: Tales from the Afterlives

Peter Blake: Venice Fantasies

I recently noticed that the colours are fading from the cover on this one – I have had it on display in full view of the sun which the price you pay when you want to show off a book. Venice Fantasies is simply a real visual treat and it’s only recently that I read the interview and little captions that accompany the artwork. I really enjoy the immediacy of the work in this book and considering it was made when he was in his 70s, it’s refreshing to see and read about his spontaneous approach to this collection of collages.  I see it as a big reminder to find time to experiment, have fun and revel in the process.
Peter Blake: Venice Fantasies

Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita

The Master and Margarita is another book that I recommend to a lot of people. The serial imagery throughout this story and the intriguing premise of the devil visiting Moscow makes it really fun to read, the structure is quite amazing as it has two parallel narratives that weave together throughout. If you get an edition of this book from Penguin or Everymans Library it has an interesting introduction about how the author wrote the book in secret and even destroyed a first manuscript of it. I recently found out that he book has also been made into a theatre production that is on this December at The Barbican. Having tickets for it myself I have been recommending the book more than usual so my friends can read it before we see it.
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita

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Posted by Liv Siddall

Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and is now one of our editors. She oversees itsnicethat.com and has a particular interest in illustration, photography and music videos. She also runs our London listings site This At There, and is a regular on our Studio Audience podcast.