Category Archives: Book Spree

A London Bookshop Crawl (and Why I Bought The Books I Did)…

I mentioned at the end of my literary London post on Thursday that I was very excited as I was off on a bookshop crawl around some of London with Gavin of Gav Reads and formerly my co-host on The Readers. Well we have done it, in fact we did it for most of Friday afternoon and I thought I would share it all with you because come on, let’s face it, we all love going on a really good bookshop. Even the rain in North West and Central London couldn’t put Gav and I off our strides (well once we found a shop selling umbrella’s) as we both took our wallets and some gift cards out for a battering…

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Now what the rain did put off was me taking any actual pictures of the outside of the bookshops because it was honestly pretty grey, bleak and a little bit dire outside, which only made these book havens all the better, so I didn’t take any pictures of them from the front so fingers crossed I can bring them all to life. I didn’t take any pictures inside either as I always think people will think I am taking a picture with my phone to go and buy it on some evil website cheaper, which is frankly unforgivable. Anyway…

First up was Foyles flagship store on Charing Cross Road where I had a meeting before and so seemed like the best meeting point. If you haven’t been to Foyles flagship store before you must, it is six stories of books, books and more books from childrens on the lower ground to textbooks on the fourth and everything in between, from fiction to music, magazines to plays, the list is endless. You can see it all here. Admittedly Gav and I had been in the day before and I had spotted my first purchase in advance, Scholastique Mukasonga’s Our Lady of the Nile which is currently on the The International Dublin Literary Award shortlist and stood out a mile because I had never heard of it before, so naturally it was the one I most wanted to read and had to be mine…

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We then headed in the mild drizzle to the tube as I had planned that we would head over to Notting Hill to three bookshops which I had never visited before but had heard all sorts of marvellous things about. The first was Book and Kitchen on All Saints Road which Jen Campbell has mentioned quite a few times on her vlog. We arrived, after having found a belated umbrella shop) rather like drowned rats but were instantly made to feel welcome by the staff and encouraged to get downstairs and get a coffee, in the really homely cafe, to shelter from the rain. We were both advised on specialist coffee’s depending on our caffeine tastes/requirements (Gav’s wanted something like rocket fuel, my request was more mild) before being given a guide that downstairs was children’s, young adult, travel, non fiction, coffee, food and crockery and upstairs was fiction, all of it has the wonderful feeling of being in someones home and being allowed to peruse their shelves and then buy one or two of their favourite books, it’s really lovely. We both left with grins on our faces and a book each in our hand’s. Gavin bought Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun from newly established Cassava Republic Press which was recommended to us both highly and with such enthusiasm I nearly bought one too, as I had it at home already I went for The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi…

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This is a book I have been hankering after for a while as I am going away with my friends Polly, Michelle and Dom to Cardiff next month for a weekend away and we like to read a book together set in or with links to where we are. The Hiding Place  tells the story of the six daughters of a Maltese family growing up in Cardiff through the eyes of the youngest, Dolores. Sounds really interesting and I had not yet got my copy so fate stepped in.

After a fond farewell from all the staff at Book and Kitchen we headed to Lutyens & Rubinstein on Kensington Park Road which is both a book shop and a literary agency in one building, Gav and I were secretly hoping to get scouted. As soon as I walked through the door I felt like I was back in America as the store has that feel of culture curated high fashion literature, if that makes any sense. What I loved here was that once you go down into the ground floor all the paperbacks there are a mixture of fiction and non fiction. Initially this threw me slightly but I was won over by the end as because it is a smallish collection of books (its a few thousand I am guessing so not that small) I was more engaged in the non fiction books than I might be elsewhere, which is why I left with a book that (peer pressure alert) Kim has reviewed on Reading Matters, Helen Garner’s This House of Grief which is a tale of a murder trial. I have a small grim fascination for true crime but I like it to be really well written and having read Helen Garner’s novel The Spare Room I have no doubt this is going to blow my socks off.

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We then took a small tour of Holland Park as we headed to Daunts, erm, Holland Park branch. I am a fan of Daunts and have visited the Marylebone store many a time, where you can find fiction by country as well as by author, which is rather exciting. There is the same sort of feel in Holland Park though it is more non fiction by country and fiction in author order. I already had my mind set on a few possibilities as I wanted to get a Daunts Books book in Daunts Books. Sounds confusing but really it is just me taking a long winded approach to saying they publish their own books. I mulled a few options before settling on K J Orr’s short story collection Light Box which I have been seeing lots of pictures of on social media, which as we all know is one of the best places to get a recommendation to head to a book store to buy.

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By this point we were quite hungry from all the perusing and headed back to town for a pizza and then a wander around Waterstones Piccadilly, because we both had Waterstones gift cards which were burning holes in our pockets. Thank you to my lovely team at work, who got me some vouchers for my birthday, I came away with these five gems.

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Waterstone’s Piccadilly is probably has one of my favourite laid out fiction sections as they have it by genre and by author but also by imprints and so you can find some wonderful indie imprints shelve or on display. This is why I left with the Penguin Modern Classic edition of François Mauriac’s Thérèse Desqueyroux, which I don’t even mind having a film cover because its a stunner; the Australian classic and newly reissued The Man Who Loved Children, by Christina Stead which is from a new imprint Apollo (part of Head of Zeus) as well as Will Eaves new book The Inevitable Gift Shop from indie imprint CB editions. I hadn’t heard of the Mauriac, the cover won me then the dark blurb sealed the deal. I saw Stead’s novel (which is HUGE) discussed on The ABC Book Club ages ago and it divided the panel so much I have been meaning to get it since and this edition is STUNNING. Will Eaves is my favourite author that I have never read. We all have those don’t we an author we just know we will love for some gut/supernatural/bizzare/random reason.

I also bought two books by authors I have read and loved. Beryl Bainbridge I discovered a while back and have read many books of, I have always wanted to read Harriet Said as it is set down the road from me in Formby and apparently there is frolicking in the sand dunes. Graham Swift is new to me after reading the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Mothering Sunday earlier this year. There was a Swift display and Shuttlecock appealed because it deals with the ‘dead crime unit’ which won me over the moment I read it. So I managed quite a haul there.

This was when Gav and I said goodbye as he had a train to run for. I headed off to catch my bus  after a marvelous day and as I did realised I hadn’t bought Catherine Hall a thank you card for letting me stay, so I had to get one and which shop is my bus stop outside… Foyles. Somehow as I was in stationery I remembered I wanted to get Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me, a book written as a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Coates recapitulates the American history of violence against black people and the incommensurate policing of black youth. I saw this all over the place in the States and like a dafty didn’t buy it so made sure I went and found it, as I did I passed another apt book I just couldn’t help getting too…

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Bookshelf by Lydia Pyne, part of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury. How could I not take a book about bookshelves of the bookshelf to take home to mine, all about bookshelves? It would have been a crime not to and don’t you pretend otherwise. I then hurried away from town and anywhere too close to anymore stores, feeling very happy with my loot.

What do you make of the books I bought and the reasons for buying them? What makes you buy a book? Which books have you bought recently AND have you read any of my purchases and if so what did you make of them? I would love to know answers to all those questions. Right, best do some reading…

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Books All Over The Underground (They Made Me Do It)

I am down in big London at the moment, which is becoming my second home at the moment, for lots of meetings. What has been lovely to see as I have dashed here, there and everywhere from meeting to meeting is how many adverts there are for books, and not just your usual suspects – you know the big dark thrillers aimed at men or the bright pink ones aimed at women commuters. Okay, maybe I am being slightly harsh, however the ones I have seen have shown books for the joys we know they are; a gift that keeps on giving, a lovely present someone will really get joy from, etc.

So well done Foyles…

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And well done The Folio Society…

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I blame you both for the amount of books that I have bought so far on this trip. I think I need to take shares in Foyles the way I am going. Though I actually popped into Persephone Books yesterday and had a wonderful shopping splurge, one of which was a gift for my lovely pal Polly who I met for lunch. Bookshops eh? I can’t be stopped.

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What is the latest book you bought for yourself and for someone else? I would love to know, because I am a nosey so and so.

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And I’m Back…

Though not quite back in the land of the living I am not far off, I don’t think. Jet lag has hit rather heavily since my return flight on which I got no sleep, so I spent all of Monday in an over tired fog. Yesterday was sorting everything out day after a corking twelve and a half hour sleep, which involved lots of shopping (because it was my first new job pay day, I bought one book which wasn’t even for me) and then sorting out of my luggage and loot. Here is my final collection of book haul from America… 

I think I did quite well with this nineteen strong haul! There’s some brilliant bargains, some random risks, some US only published chances, some gems I didn’t expect and two books I was bursting to buy. All in all a grand old haul. I will be telling you about them all over the next weeks, months and possibly years. Ha. I also came home to a small, select and brilliant bundle of parcels…

Today I have been back to work which has been a small effort as I have felt I have been behind a screen watching everything at a distance (my team were all so lovely to me about it) and at once point I thought I was seeing things at one meeting…

I wasn’t. I was just having a meeting that involved a Dalek. As you do. Can you see why I love my job?!? Now I am super shattered and am watching the semi final of the Great British Bake Off before going to bed with a book that probably going to terrify me more than any episode of Dr Who…

So what have you all been up to? What are you reading? What’s new? Let me know, or I will weep and being as overtired as I am that is quite likely!!!!

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I’ve Had Visitors…

I have just had the joy of my mother and my little brother coming to visit for a few days and it has been really, really lovely. The weather was amazing and so we headed to Crosby and Anthony Gormley’s statue (see below) as well as going to Formby which I had completely forgotten was where my Great Uncle Len and Great Aunty Betty used to live, and so where my mother spent quite a few summer holidays visiting as a girl. We had gone to see if we could see any red squirrels and after a serious bit of hunting we did in deed see… one. Yes, just the one but still one was better than none.

My mother, some random man and I

My mother, some random man and I

Of course my mother being my mother, there was a huge amount of book chat that went on. In fact at one point my mother said ‘I am so sorry but with all these books on all these shelves I find it very difficult to talk about anything else without staring at the shelves and talking about what I have and hadn’t read.’ It is at moment’s like this that I know we are really family, ha. I also managed some rather good book shopping as in Formby we played, with my brother and The Beard (whose mother met my mother for the first time this trip, eek) of course, the Charity Shop Challenge – who could get the best gift for someone else, chosen from a hat, for just a fiver! We all did very well, though I did most well at finding these bargains for myself…

Bargain book haul!

Bargain book haul!

It has been a wonderful few days. There is nothing quite like some quality time with family and fresh air, or indeed a cheeky charity shop haul, especially when you get some real gems. None of these were more than £2. I am thrilled with all of the above and they will feed my current need for some older fiction between my contemporary reads. What have you been up to recently? Got any book bargains at all? Have you read any of the books that I managed to get my hands on?

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Bear With…

Oh dear. This blogging malarkey. What has happened to it and I? The last few weeks have been a little bit bonkers (new job, the Green Carnation Prize 2014) and so when I have finished at work the last thing I have been feeling like doing is blogging.

I have appallingly, and more gallingly, been really slow on the uptake with reading, though I can report that this has recently suddenly come full force and I have a weekend of it planned (while the Beard is off working) this weekend and I am so excited.

The blogging will probably return in full this weekend too as I have been doing lots of thinking about it which always a good sign. Another good sign is that I have been binge bulk buying lots of exciting books (sometimes you need a new book – or three – you’ve chosen and are raring to read to get you back in the swing) which I have added to this very evening on the way home…

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So lots to be talking about soon! Though as I will be discussing tomorrow the end of the year is approaching scarily fast which always sends me into a book panic, more tomorrow. In the meantime what have you lovely lot been reading? Any gossip? And do keep your latest purchases or borrowings coming in, my bank balance hates it but I blooming love it!

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Second Hand Book Binge

There is always something nice about going to small towns or villages and having a good old nosey through their second hand book or charity shops looking for a bargain or two. I have noticed that in the bigger cities you tend to get more of the modern or contemporary books whilst in the towns and villages there is a wider range of treats to be had. This seemed the case when I extended a trip to do some shopping for Gran, as she had guests so wasn’t just left on her own, and I managed to pop to see what I could find in Matlock. Alas I didn’t find any Persephone books, as I was secretly hoping, but I did come away with all of these…

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I do like to read true crime now and again, though actually not as much as I think I do in my own head, and ‘The Killing of Julia Wallace’ by John Gannon seemed like the ideal find. Apparently this was ‘Liverpool’s most enigmatic and brutal murder’ that has remained unsolved since it happened in 1931. Now living so near Liverpool, on the Wirral, I have seen this book in lots of the ‘local interest’ sections of bookshops and so I snapped it up (with that ‘ooh I have a bargain’ feeling) there and then.

I had never heard of Tadeusz Borowski or his book ‘This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen’ but when I saw this Penguin Twentieth Century Classic that was partly what made me buy it. This book is actually a selection of accounts from Borowski himself from his time in Auschwitz as well as other people who survived and indeed those who didn’t but he witnessed or learnt the stories of. I have a feeling it is going to be a rather difficult read but one that I think I should experience if you know what I mean.

On a much lighter note, well that said its meant to have some very dark parts, next up is Patrick Gale’s ‘The Cat Sanctuary’. I picked this up for three reasons, firstly I seem to have rediscovered my love for Gale’s books after a few years absence and so want to get them all, secondly it is a tale of siblings torn apart which I always find an oddly compelling premise and thirdly because I am slightly worried I may end up becoming a crazy old cat man or turn this house into a cat sanctuary with the rate I have gained felines this year.

The next three books were all bought for the same reason… I love the authors but didn’t have copies of these books. Actually not quite true, my mother lent me her copy of Muriel Spark’s ‘The Only Problem’ and will want it back at some point so I thought I would pre-empt that. Speaking of my mother this edition of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Lady Oracle’ makes me think of her as most of my mother’s Atwood editions are these, I think now, rather brilliant bold 80’s editions. I think I have ‘The Edible Woman’ in the same cover edition too. As for ‘The White Company’, well you can never have too many short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as far as I am concerned and I loved this old edition – makes me think of what the books history might be.

Now you may be wondering why I didn’t include Susan Hill in my favourite author sweeping statement above, after all she is one of them. Yet this collection of ‘Ghost Stories’ is just that; a collection of spooky tales as selected by Susan Hill. I have to say I had no idea this book even existed but was thrilled when I spotted it and so it simply had to leave the shop with me.

Though all these books, and in particular John Gannon’s and Susan Hill’s, thrilled me as I found them I think that ‘Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Making’ was the one that had me doing a secret little jig of joy when I spied it. I thought that John Curran’s previous book on the Queen of Crime ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ was wonderful when I read it (I reviewed it almost two years to the day) and I always meant to get my hands on this latest when it came out last year. So seeing this (and this was the most expensive of my purchases) for just £2 really thrilled me. I was so excited to see it that I didn’t look at any of the other books on the shelves in the final shop as I just wanted to escape with this find. I probably looked quite shifty.

All in all, for a whopping £5.25 I don’t think I did too badly, do you? Have you read any of these and if so what did you think? What are your thoughts on second hand books? I recently shockingly discovered that Gavin doesn’t like them! Is he mad? What are the best bargains you have found? I don’t think anything beats my Persephone haul as yet.

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Chorlton Bookshop & Charity Shops Galore

A few weeks ago I went on a trip to post flyers for Bookmarked in all the places that I could think of in South Manchester. There were two particular destinations I had in mind, the Oxfam Bookshop in Didsbury (which I have been in before and almost spent silly money) and the Chorlton Bookshop which is meant to be one of the finest independent bookshops in the country. I went and got a bus day-saver, the buses up here are something else cost wise honestly, and set about my journey and eventually found my destination…

Doesn’t it look like the shop in ‘Black Books’ from the outside? As you can see there was the dreaded/thrilling words ‘book sale’ on a sandwich board outside, and just peering in the window I knew temptation would be a possible issue. I haven’t seen these publisher specific display shelves in years (the books don’t actually correspond to the publishers but I like the look)…

So in I went and was instantly smitten by the fact they had comfy chairs and a fireplace, I covertly took pictures, in what is the children’s and non-fiction section, doesn’t it have a homely feel?

It also has a really impressive selection, especially for a smaller shop, of the latest fiction which I had a gander through and saw some books I wanted, but I am being very strict and only buying books if I am desperate for them – I did want to give them some business but hopefully some of you will dash there and spend oodles on my behalf. 

So what about the charity shops, oh dear I did cave in on a few ‘must buys’. I didn’t even have anyone with me egging me on. You see rather than get the bus to Didsbury and then straight to Chorlton after Oxfam wouldn’t put my poster up (because it wasn’t part of the charity, fair enough) was then wander all down Didsbury High Street (which has lots of charity shops), then get off at Withington to visit some more, and then found lots more in Chorlton-cum-Hardy itself. Mind you out of a whopping twelve charity shops I visited I only came away with four treats…

‘The Beekeeper’s Apprentice’ by Laurie R. King because all of you who know I love Sherlock Holmes have said I should try this spin of series (and I loved the cover), ‘Curriculum Vitae’ which is Muriel Sparks autobiography of sorts so how could I not, ‘The Child That Books Built’ by Francis Spufford a book about books I have been meaning to get for ages, and finally Stella Duffy’s ‘Fresh Flesh’ which is the fourth of her five (so far) Saz Martin crime novels and one I have been hunting down for ages. Hoorah.

So what was your last charity find? Have you discovered any local independent bookstore gems?

The Chorlton Bookshop sadly doesn’t have a website but you can find it at 506, Wilbraham Road, Manchester, M21 9AW its open Monday to Saturday from 9.30 – 5.30 do pop in if you can the staff are lovely.

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