A couple of weeks ago someone asked me where I got my best book recommendations from outside of the internet. Initially I was slightly stumped by this because surprise, surprise online tends to be where I hear most of the chatter, along with some of the shouting which is beginning to grate, about marvellous books be it from publishers, other bloggers (admittedly I don’t read as many blogs as I would like and have a group of five or six I visit regularly, which I might talk about in due course) and other book lovers tweeting from the rooftops about great books. Offline is a trickier beast and after watching my new spending habits (for I am back buying books in a big way thanks to my new job) recently I discovered in the last few weeks it is through three main channels…
1. Friends, select ones.
You might think that everyone I know is bonkers about books, you would we wrong. In actual fact most of my friends are either lovely ladies in Liverpool or beardy boys who like picking up other beardy boys more than picking up a good book. However within these groups and with a select few in London there are some true book nerds that I trust BUT only a handful. Polly, Eric, Catherine, Kerry, Simon, Gavin, Kim, Kate, Rob, Uli and Nina you all know you are indeed these folk. Yet I don’t buy everything that they recommend, it takes an almost squeal/squee like moment of bookish joy to get me to purchase something. This did happen just two weeks ago when staying with Catherine Hall and she raved and raved about a book I had never heard of, Ben Byrne’s Fire Flowers, to the point where when I fell in Foyles later that day I had to find it and buy it – and lucky me it was a signed copy so felt like fate
2. Bookshops, select ones.
This sounds really obvious but the best place in the world to find books that aren’t libraries are bookshops. When I am less flush a library is the ideal place, though the titles tend to be more obvious (though the same could be said for some lazy bookshops) in these to reach the reading mass market. However when I am better off nothing beats a good mooch around a bookshop. I say mooch because, and here I might sound like a right wally but hey ho, I tend to move away from the charts as I want something a bit different. Staff recommendation sections are brilliant for this, and also a really good way of judging a bookshop. Ha! I had never heard of Anne Garreta’s Sphinx (all about the fluidity of sexuality and sounds brilliantly quirky) or the publisher Deep Vellum Publishing but having been to Foyles a lot of late (because I seem to be in London every week at the mo for a day or two, which is nice if train tiring) I have my sights on getting many more of.
3. Random Chats, select ones.
I always find it fascinating and delightful when you strike up a conversation that leads to someone waxing lyrical about a book or author when you least expect it. This can happen here, there and everywhere. You could be anywhere and the conversation starts on something else and then you are somehow chatting about books. (I remember having a very long and lovely conversation about Toni Morrison on a train journey to Manchester from London.) This happened most recently when I was booking a work trip, to Stylist Live, with my boss and we saw Nina Stibbe was going to be on. My boss loves her and enthused about her so much I wanted to read both Nina’s books right there and then, as it was I forgot them both and bought Love Nina on the day to be signed. I love those random moments. I will judge my boss on the book though, that always happens on these random recommendations – though to be fair I think I am going to love, erm, Love Nina as I love the premise and the author is ruddy lovely too (it shouldn’t matter but it does!)
So those are how I find my best recommendations outside the interweb, selectively. I mean come on, who doesn’t love a book recommendation that is enthused, passionate and a little bit different? It is how I hope I am with books and is lovely when you find something a bit off the tracks. What about all of you, where do you get your best bookish recommendations in the real world?