Previously:- I signed up on the 1st January to not buy any books from Amazon in 2018 having read The Diary of a Bookseller and realised what an impact the online bulldozer was having on our independent Bookshops. I love an afternoon in a bookshop but I had fallen foul of the ease with which I could press buy with one click and have a book delivered the next day whereupon it got thrown on the pile. Well, no more. The joy of book buying (and reading) will return to my life!
Week 1 Update:-
Books bought :- 8 Books bought from Amazon:- 0 Books bought online – 3 Books Bought in Bookshops – 5 Books read :- 2
I quickly acknowledged that this challenge wouldn’t be as easy as I perhaps initially thought. One does not simply walk into a second hand bookshop and find the book you are looking for. So I took the time to make a list of the books I wanted to read this year, although I’m currently thinking that list may take a life-time to complete, if not more! I did some googling and found books people recommend you read, you know like Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein and Great Expectations. Some I’ve read, some I’ve tried to read (I struggle with Dickens) and some I’ve frankly never heard of. But I am going to see how easy they are to find and then how easy they are to read!
As a result of reading The Diary of a Bookseller I had become aware of Jen Campbell who has written a number of books including The Bookshop Book that I started my challenge off with, buying from her own website. As a result she emailed me and asked me if I would like it signed and so I received my first non-Amazon book this week direct from the author and signed by her!
Having published my blog on my Facebook Wish Vintage page and my Wish Vintage Instagram account I got loads of recommendations of book shops that I have now made a list of. I was told there was a great second hand book shop in Winchester as well as an Oxfam Bookshop. Well, what do you know, we were travelling down that way to see my husband’s aunt and uncle on Tuesday, as they live in Southampton. We left a little early and went via Winchester where we were pleased to find both open.
The Bookshops:- We first ventured into Oxfam books which is set over two floors, well lit and with clearly signed areas. I spent most of my time in the classics section where I managed to find two books from my list, Madame Bovary by Flaubert and The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford. There were plenty of others from my list but I thought I would buy the ones I didn’t think would be that easy to find again. I have since seen The Good Soldier in several charity shops. I had never heard of it before I wrote my list so I think I had just never seen it. But I really thought that would be a tough one to find. On the way to the till I saw the more modern fiction section and managed to pick up a copy of The Accidental by Ali Smith which Jen Campbell recommends as her best book. I had just finished Boy Meets Girl which had, until then, been the only Ali Smith book I had been able to find. Though the one I did find (Oxford Street Books, Whitstable,) was a signed edition and only cost £7. As I paid the lady asked me if I was a fan of Ali Smith and I told her I had only read one so far but that this one came highly recommended. She too had only read one Ali Smith and we both agreed that we were a little unsure by our experience, if we actually liked her, but would give her one more try. The lady thought she might be a bit of a cult author. Well I hope The Accidental lives up to expectations.
Winchester Bookshop is at the end of an alleyway near to the Oxfam Bookshop and is extremely well signed so you can’t miss it despite it feeling like you’re going to a secret club. This bookshop is set over three floors and we decided to start at the top and work down. It’s a crooked little shop with winding staircases and 100’s of books. It feels like something you might expect to find in Diagon Alley! At the top I found the classics all arranged in alphabetical order and bagged myself a Folio copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, classic Sherlock Holmes. It cost £11 which was fairly expensive in my challenge but I felt that the prices in this bookshop were going to be on the high side and I wanted to show my support. Plus it’s a nice copy and another tick off the long list of books.
Winchester seemed like a fascinating town and has the house that Jane Austen died in, she is buried in the grounds of the cathedral. I’ve never been there before and would love to go back and explore a bit of the history. It’s nice to know that there are a couple of bookshops I can look forward to going back to and spending a bit more time in. That day, as we were on our way somewhere, it felt a bit rushed.
Keeping on the theme of the actual bookshops, on Saturday we paid heed to another recommendation and made our way to the town of Lewes in East Sussex. I had again turned to the mighty Google to give me a comprehensive list of bookshops in the town, and comprehensive it was! We saw more bookshops than we went in the door of to be honest and it was nice to see what essentially is a book town. There were two proper antiquarian book shops with beautifully displayed shelves of stunning books including a book by my hero Ernest Shackleton. One volume of the two volume set cost the best part of £500 so much as I felt the shop was heaven and desperately wanted to move in I can’t see that I’ll be able to afford to actually support them! But it was a pleasure to see and smell the shops and feel that antiquarian book sellers were very much still a part of the High Street. Another book shop up near to the house of Ann of Cleves was located in a building that must have dated to the time of Henry VIII and given its name, Fifteenth Century Books, probably does! They didn’t used to call me a Detective for nothing! A beautiful building housing a very disappointing bookshop. The door to enter was tiny and initially I couldn’t even get in because customers inside were looking at books located by the door. When I did manage to get through the door the inside wasn’t easy to navigate either. You really need to be the only person in the shop to be able to get round it otherwise you’re just constantly blocked by people or blocking people. I can’t browse books with that sense of stress going on. I managed to find a shelf of the classics but as they were displayed alphabetically I didn’t see the end of the alphabet and couldn’t find it anywhere. There were signs on some of the shelves telling you not to touch anything, to ask for help in touching anything but then you tripped over a pile of old books covered in dust. I didn’t have a comfortable experience at all though I may try again one day and see if I can go at a quieter time where I am the only person in the shop. I find The Shakespeare Book Co. in Paris makes me feel like this though and look how people love that! So do let me know what you think if you have visited The Fifteenth Century Bookshop.
We stopped off briefly at the Waterstones in the town as hubby needed the toilet and I have to say it looked lovely. Set in an historic double fronted house this had books in lots of lovely rooms. I’m not quite sure about shopping in Waterstones as to me it remains one of the giants though I think Amazon is having and has had an effect on their business and ultimately I do want bookshops on the High Street.
As a result of publishing my first instalment of the blog last week I was told about Hive which is an online site where you can order books for delivery but ask that they send some of the money to a nominated local bookseller. I hope to find out more about their story in the coming weeks but I’ve ordered two books from them. One of them is this months book for the Penguin Classic Book Challenge 2018 – The Picture of Dorian Gray. Hubby has agreed to do the challenge with me so that we can talk about the books. Why don’t you join in too?
Books Read this week:-
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I got this book and a ticket to see Matt on his book tour for Christmas. I finished reading it this week. Well I read it on Thursday. I thought the premise was excellent and really interesting. A guy born in the 1500’s who has a disease whereby he barely ages so he is currently living and working in London aged somewhat over 400! I loved the start of the story and the descriptions of London at the time of Shakespeare, and Shakespeare himself. But towards the end I felt it got really rushed, lacked description and seemed to slide so quickly towards an end I felt Haig had either been hurried along by his publisher or got bored of his own story. For a tale that started so well I finished it really disappointed. I like Matt Haig a lot. I discovered him in reading Reasons to Stay Alive when I was going through a tough period. It was superb and clearly the title derives from that book as anyone that has read it would know. I think he has gained massive popularity as a result of that book and may be under pressure to publish. Don’t spoil your good name Matt!
Don’t Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – this book I took as a recommendation from Jen Campbell as one that gives you a “book hangover”, one you think of for a long time. Kazuo Ishiguro is not an author I have read before though I remember seeing him interviewed on BBC news last year as he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his latest book and he also wrote Remains of the Day which was turned into a film starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. This book was published in 2005 and has sold millions. For me I started reading it the night I finished Haig and it took me three days. For the first quarter of the book I knew what I was reading and I felt that there was something going on but I had no idea what. It centres around Kath and her friends Tommy and Ruth, their time at their school – Hailsham – through to Tommy and Ruth’s death. That’s not a spoiler as that information is with you from the start as Kath is writing about her memories. The thing you find out quarter of the way through the book I will not spoil because I think that is central to the theme of the book – that you do not know what this issue is. But Jen Campbell is right, it is a book hangover / lurker book because I haven’t stopped thinking about it. It speaks to so many themes I think, not just the obvious (that you’ll realise when you read it) but about others who “we” perceive don’t belong. Highly recommended. What an amazing writer! The characters, the scenery, the moments described – they are just so vivid.
So, up next is The Picture of Dorian Gray!
Also this week I visited The History of Magic and Harry Potter exhibits at the British Library where I went and looked at the original handwritten draft of Tess of the D’urbervilles in the treasures room. Can you imagine how much that would be worth? The rather marvellous History of Magic exhibition continues until the end of February and whilst Harry Potter fuels the queues of people going in it is in reality about the history of magic with books on display that are 100’s of years old detailing how things like divination and magical creatures were viewed at the time of publication. The books have been carefully curated and are beautiful to see. With little gems from J K Rowling interspersed around as you go it really is something to book, I’ve been twice!
Thanks for all your support this week. As it’s been the last week of the holidays we have been busy and able to tour around on days out and visit lots of bookshops. I expect that will calm down a bit next week as we get back to normal. Thanks for getting this far!!! Also, don’t miss out on the #mymonthinbooks which is featuring on Instagram this month with a list of daily themes. Worth a look…