September and October

It’s always lovely to see the leaves turn. The evolution from green to orange, the chilling of the air and the gentle watts of woodsmoke all help to put us in mind of cosy nights. The seasons give definition to the year of bookselling as it does anything else. There’s always a clear demarcation between summer reading and autumn reading. The tastes alter, the classics come out, the piles rise to coincide with the shorter days and longer nights which, if you ask me, are designed for reading.

This autumn du Maurier returns as a firm favourite. I suppose the opening passages in which we see Mary Yellan travel across the bleak, windswept moor, is the perfect accompaniment to these rather desolate evenings. The idea of arriving at Jamaica Inn certainly calls for hot chocolate and toast. The tempest of Rebecca, the rain and wind in the bay, the chilling presence of Mrs Danvers has us hiding under the duvet.

The Brontes, too, are popular though the lovelier folio or roughed-up preloved copies are favourites for the Christmas period. Something with history or atmosphere is required. Wuthering Heights has that Cornish moor mood about it of course though what’s to really enjoy is the wildness of the characters and the brutal consequences.

On the more contemporary side of things we have Susan Hill who seems designed for the gloomy nights and ghostly festive mood of October. Her Woman in Black was designed just for the modern drawing room and celebrates the Victorian ghost story with gusto. But her detective series really cements her ability to turn her hand to anything atmospheric. Simon Serrailler is up there with the best. I also loved her Mrs de Winter, her response, and sequel, to Rebecca. She’s a very clever writer.

Happy Autumn 🍂

How book-tall are you?

It’s always nice to have something interactive in the shop: a quotation to read and on which to reflect, a book Christmas tree to get you in the festive mindset or, for a month now, a wall chart showing the heights of various authors and literary characters. I’ve got to say, this chart has been a real winner. We’ve had a fantastic response to it from the tall and not so tall among our customers or those just passing by.

It’s fair to say that most of our visitors are Hercule Poirots and Jane Austens. But there have been some Sir Conan Doyles and Matildas too. We’ve yet to have a Dracula 🧛‍♂️ pay us a visit.

I’ll admit that though a good deal of Googling was carried out, some of the heights are slightly inaccurate or the fruit of my imagination. Just how tall is White Fang? Answers on a postcard please.

At 5″11 I’m Nabokov, just a hair’s breadth from Tolkien and Hemingway. Given a preference, I would have chosen Sylvia Plath of course!

Some wonderful reads 📚

There are some books which stay with you for days, months or decades. Here are a few of my long term loves:

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Bloody Chamber and other stories by Angela Carter

Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Shakespeare’s Sonnets

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

How to be Good by Nick Hornby

One Summer by Bill Bryson

War Crimes for the home by Liz Jensen

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

These excellent books have stayed with me for years. If you’ve not read Birdsong then you must. Immediately. It will terrify you, make you cry and make you glad to be living in these times. For some light relief you must try Hornby for his lighthearted take on morality and doing our bit for the world. Liz Jensen deserves a post simply to focus on the fact that she is wonderfully original and every book is entirely different to the one before. In this book her narrator’s voice is real and I want to be her friend. Iris Murdoch will always fascinate. She asks the big questions within enthralling narratives populated with multi-dimensional characters.

I could go on but I have customers in the shop and must attend to my duties. See you soon!

Summertime and book buying is easy

The summer has given us perfect reading weather: go-outside-and-read and stay-in-and-read. To help you read in all weathers we are providing a 50p or 3 for £1 sale. This attractive offer should assist you in the ultimate goal of reading around the clock in all weathers.

Of course, the better weather allows us to carboot for ‘new’ and ultimately fascinating stock which can’t be found anywhere else. I’ve been very lucky, too, to come across some lovely new people wishing to part with their book collections which of course brings you lovely items of interest.

We have just had the annual Shrewsbury Flower Show which coaxes out-of- towners to come and stay for a couple of days and sample the wonderful shops of Shrewsbury. This weekend we met lovely show-goers who were very complimentary about the town.

I’m going to pop the kettle on now and make a coffee. Nothing goes with reading better than a hot cup of something and maybe a doughnut. Well, maybe knowing your book was 50p bargain.

How is reading good for me?

As we say in the shop, books are broccoli for the brain. By this we mean that they are good for you. It’s a playful analogy meant to raise a smile but it’s also a topic I discuss regularly with customers. Why do we read? Is it only because it’s another way to be entertained, or can reading really be good for you?

On a personal note, I read predominantly for entertainment; I like a good yarn as much as the next book-fan (or knitter). My current favourite is Kathy Reichs, known for her ‘Bones’ series. I get a kick out of her ability to draw for her readers authentically the anthropology world. I like Dr Brennan’s ability to analyse human remains, to detect when she wants to, and endanger her life in every book. I’ve read them in a random manner and enjoyed every single one. I highly recommend them. They make me feel excited, tense, relieved and satisfied and above all, I look forward to bedtime so I can carry on the story. The style is familiar now; I know what will make the character angry, thrilled, upset or cause a huge ‘eye roll’. These well-crafted thriller mysteries are just the tonic after a stressful day. No matter what happens on my average week, chances are that Dr Brennan will be having a more stressful and exciting week than me. I, and millions of other readers, welcome this escapism. However, they don’t stay long with me as I race through them like Tempe’s brain through a problem. When they are finished, I’m reaching for the next one.

Having established a daily reading routine, I find it’s having a powerful influence on my wellbeing, health, physical and mental. The reduction in stress alone, by putting time aside to visit Charlotte or Montreal, is substantial.

It’s official. Books do me good. Overall, I’m happy to have my daily dose of broccoli for the brain.