Mal Booth is Sharing the Shallows

Mal Booth and I are LibraryLand colleagues, he is my university librarian and a Twitter friend, too. We have had many twittversations on matters of libraries, information, copyright and open access, fiction and reading, brutalist architecture and of course, politics (he is after all a Twitter friend!). In real life, we have had only a handful of conversations at industry and uni events. We’ll often walk past each other on the street and on campus where with a barely perceptible nod of the head we acknowledge the intersection of our real and virtual interactions.

Mal Booth portrait

Flickr user: MalBooth (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Mal Booth

University Librarian 

Can you describe yourself:

Mal is unable to play any musical instruments or dance. He is very keen on true crime podcasts and ever so slightly obsessive compulsive. This goes some way to explain his extensive fountain pen, camera and bicycle collections. He has never played a computer game nor completed a PhD. He speaks only one language and remains a fan of the Hawthorn FC. Mal also claims to be a fan of good design but this cannot be verified by an independent authority. In the early 2010s various rumours circulated that he was working at UTS Library but sadly, these too were unsubstantiated. He doesn’t take selfies. You could try the Google.

What is your main reading medium (books, blogs, games, news, etc) and how much time do you spend reading a week?

My main long form reading is books – paper books. I do have an e-reader, but tend not to use it. I also love printed magazines, but I’ve been controlling my addiction over the last five years or so.

I generally have one book going and usually try to read myself to sleep at night or during quiet times when I feel like it.

I also read a fair bit online, mostly via Flipboard and the twitter, but I think that what I used to read for entertainment online has now been replaced by a recent surge in podcasts subscriptions. Mostly I listen to true crime podcasts when walking to/from work and the local swimming pool, i.e. every day. I think that has replaced a need to read a lot because it is so convenient and so addictive, at least it is for me. I wrote a recent blog post (that nobody will read of course) about the podcasts I subscribe to https://malbooth.com/2016/11/18/true-crime-podcasts/

Len Deighton't s Winter: A Berlin Family,What or who is your joyful reading (guilty or otherwise) pleasure? 

I think it varies a lot and depends on what catches my eye now. I think I’ve read almost all of John Le Carre’s and Len Deighton’s spy novels, so obviously George Smiley and Bernard Sampson are personal heroes for me. I also loved Deighton’s historical novel Winter: A Berlin Family, 1899-1945 and I guess my enjoyment of that led me to impulse buy The House by the Lake: A Story of Germany by Thomas Harding in Kinokuniya a while back when I was supposed to be buying books for my niece.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible VoyageI guess somewhat along the same lines I really enjoy inspiring true stories like Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose and even Russell Braddon’s The Naked Island (which I read before my first Ironman triathlon in 1985, thinking that nothing I was to endure voluntarily on that race day was going to be anything like what those poor POWs endured under the Japanese in WW2).

I used to read quite a lot of autobiographies and biographies, especially by/of people who knew everyone, like Harpo Marx, T.E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, JFK or Gore Vidal, but I’ve not read any recently.

And I get a lot of joy from gay/queer authors like Alan Hollinghurst, Christos Tsiolkas, Edmund White and David Sedaris (although I’m now listening to him via podcasts).

Game of Spies: The Secret Agent, the Traitor and the Nazi, Bordeaux 1942-1944 by Paddy Ashdown.Do you have a favourite storyline or plot? And do you have one you will not read?

Not really. I used to really enjoy Cold War spy plots, but they all seem to have withered a little since the fall of the Berlin Wall. There seems to be a few historical works out that are retelling the history of the French Resistance in the Second World War. New information reveals it wasn’t a very well coordinated or united mob at all and it was quite effectively undermined by the Nazis by late 1943 with a fair bit of betrayal happening. I’m reading one of those now: Game of Spies: The Secret Agent, the Traitor and the Nazi, Bordeaux 1942-1944 by Paddy Ashdown. It was another impulse buy at Kinokuniya.

I don’t do cheap romance novels at all, nor anything that is too self-indulgent. If it is just plain boring I never get very far at all.

Why do you/don’t you use a public library?

I don’t. I’m not sure why. I run a pretty large university library so I guess I could use that anyway, but usually if I want a book to read I like to buy it. It is an odd habit that I must stop because I am running out of space at home.

Do you RUI*. If so, what?

Not that I know of. I guess I may have. I don’t remember. I probably shouldn’t.
Whatever is going at that time.

Do you have a favourite reading spot?

An easy chair in the living room and propped up in bed.

Toilet reading: 
a) Never do it

Romance fiction of the Happily Ever After (not the love tragedy) kind – are you a Lover or a Hater and why?

Hater. Because it is usually about hetro folk. Gay men never seem to live happily ever after in lasting relationships in your average book. None that I’ve come across. They all have pretty tragic endings.

What would you give up reading for**?

I don’t really think I could, unless it could all be replaced by audible books and podcasts. Even then what would happen to books with images and other visuals in them?

Can a romance/crime/super/etc hero be the driver of a hatchback?

What an odd question. I can imagine George Smiley driving a Jaguar Mark 2 (that is, like the one Morse had). Bernard Sampson probably would have driven a hatch back if they were around in his day, but I doubt there were any. T.E. Lawrence rode a Brough Superior motorbike. Most criminals drive Toyota Camrys – the Kelvinator on wheels. It is in fact a crime to drive a Camry.

Gif of George Smiley driving away in a car from Tinker Tailor Sailor Spy

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