From Ripping Yarns Bookshop, Highgate
I’ve spent the past week working on a new blog that has been going quite well so far, it’s called One Book on the Shelf. You see I have decided to attempt to visit every bookshop in London and write about it. I’ve had a lot of fun so far, and thought that those of you who follow my adventures on here may find it interesting.
I’ll continue to use this blog when I write about anything not related to bookshops.
Other people's words.
‘If one has not the imagination to create characters, to knit plots, it does no good to jot down fragments of life and conversation, for alone they are disjointed and meaningless’
Sylvia Plath | The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962
For a long time when reading a book, I would just underline quotes I enjoyed and savour them for a few moments before moving on. Once at university I realised this was a real shame, I had taken to writing out the quotes I needed for essays and seminars from books I had taken out of the library, so why not the words of the writers I loved? And, since I never need an excuse to buy a new notebook, I decided to begin my book of other people’s words. Continue reading
Word on the Water.
There is nothing I would rather do on a sunny day than go for a walk along the Regent’s Canal. It is one of the few places in London where it is socially acceptable to amble (just keep an ear out for the bells of passing bikes); couple that with the calming effect of the still water; the glacial pace of the passing narrow boats; the wave of nostalgia from a childhood spent watching Rosie and Jim and the promise of a roast dinner at the Crown and Goose in Camden and I believe you have the perfect Sunday. With the opening of the Word on the Water Book Barge, a walk along the Regent’s Canal has just become even better. Continue reading
At around 6 o’clock on a weekday evening, London goes crazy. I have only lived here for a month or so but I realised quite quickly that it’s best to avoid 6pm. The streets are not safe, they are filled with a stampede of people who will walk right through you to make sure they get home in time for their dinner. It’s even worse underground, that is, if you can even make it underground. The entrances to tube stations grind to a halt as men in suits clog the ticket barriers and the streets outside.
This post from Virago about the lack of strong heroines for young girls in film and television compared to those in children’s literature made me think about which characters I looked up to when I was a child. Like a lot of little girls I had my fair share of Barbie dolls and loved Disney princesses, but I was also a tomboy who insisted on having my hair cut short and wearing boys’ clothes. Of course I was too young to question the apparent dichotomy between the two, unlike now where my heart is torn between the feminist literature on my bookshelves and the pretty dresses in my wardrobe, but I digress.
As a near insatiable reader in my formative years, a few of my favourite childhood heroines sprang immediately to mind:
Matilda by Roald Dahl
'By the time she was three, Matilda had taught herself to read by studying newspapers and magazines that lay around the house'
On the beach
Is there anything quite as charming as a day spent at the seaside?
Well, yes, as it turns out there is: an evening at the seaside.
And forget about trendy Brighton or fancy St. Ives; for me the seaside means only one place and that is the faded glory of my hometown Llandudno. Continue reading
Now, Britain likes to think of itself as the calm, sensible and intelligent uncle to the over-excitable, dumb-downed ADD child that is America and if you spend your time in the U.S. sat in gaudy motels watching cable TV, you would continue to have this same self-satisfied view of our across the pond neighbour, but unfortunately you could not be more wrong. Take a few steps away from any commercial centre in an American city and it seems as though you are literally falling over exciting, independently run stores, including those shops that are near-mythical on the UK high street, the independent book shop.
Working as a children’s bookseller, I have long suspected that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the US might actually love its books. Most American children’s books are neigh on works of art and the range of subject matter puts the UK publishing industry to shame.
- A couple of examples of great American children’s books.
Of course, it isn’t all perfect and I’m not claiming that the US doesn’t have all the problems that the UK book market does (of which there is a great summary here). Amazon is ubiquitous and Kindles are everywhere, I watched bemused as a teen girl in the airport spent an entire 2 hour delay browsing the kindle store, lamenting to her mother that there was nothing good to read.
On my travels along the East and West coast of America, I visited many bookstores, and I’ll grant you not all of them were great, but the fact remained that they were there. Unless you are very lucky, you don’t have any independent or second-hand bookshops in your local British town, much less a Barter Books or a Toppings, but if you ever find yourself in the land of the free, here are a few of my favourites: Continue reading