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Posts Tagged ‘book shops’

Oxford book shopping

oxford

I had the nicest day in Oxford yesterday. Liz and I were meeting up with Elaine a friend from the Librarything Virago group who was visiting the UK from her home in Chicago and spending the last few days of her trip in Oxford. We were also able to meet up with Simon for a short time before he zipped off on a train himself. It really was my kind of day – 3 cafes and three bookshops, lots of chat, pizza Express and a train journey.

Some of you may just have noticed that I like original green Virago modern classics, I also like buying books – well it’s something of an addiction. I knew from experience that Oxford book shops are pretty great, and they seem to have a fair few Virago Modern Classics, which I have begun to collect again, after having stopped myself collecting them twenty years ago when I had moved to a tiny flat. Now I live in a fairly average sized two bedroomed terraced house, thankfully I live alone – because I fear this Virago collecting may take over every bit of available space I have.
Here is what I bought:

2013-08-19 22.35.22Song of the Lark – Willa Cather (to replace a kindle version)
Full House – Molly Keane
The Rising Tide – Molly Keane (which upon arriving home I discovered I already had – yes in original Virago green – oops)
Young Entry – Molly Keane
Liana – Martha Gelhorn
All Passion Spent – Vita Sackville West
The Edwardians – Vita Sackville West
A Sea Grape tree – Rosamond Lehmann (to replace a modern Virago)
Beyond the Glass – Antonia White

Two non VMC’s I bought as if the above were not enough –
Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker and
Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald – which I was distressed to find recently I no longer had a copy of.

2013-08-20 00.08.41So useless am I – I can’t remember the names of the bookshops we visited – but one was the Oxfam bookshop on St. Giles, and the second was next door to the lovely cafe where we had lunch called The Nose bag – and I highly recommend the Nose Bag – I had a delicious smoked mackeral pate and salad with a lovely pot of tea.  The third book shop – had both second hand and new books and is where I bought the one brand new book of my haul Miss Hargreaves  – only as it had a slightly damaged cover I was able to haggle the price a bit – getting it for £6 instead of £7.99. I’m proud to say that  my new book buying resloutions are firmly in place. I am also going to (rather rashly) promise that I won’t buy any more books – for a long long time – honest!!

I have said before that my TBR has reached critical mass – which to me means I have more books on it than I could read in 1 year –I’m not sure what comes after critical mass but I think I may have reached it. The pictured TBR of course does not include the 50 books on my kindle.
What do you think they would say if I rang into work and said I couldn’t go anymore because I have too many books to read but could they still please pay me? Yeah thought so.

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bookshops

Now there is something about a bookshop isn’t there? – but if you are anything like me you buy a lot of books online. I sort of miss book shopping in actaul bookshops.

Yesterday I read a blog post by ALifeinBooks – which really made me think. The post – which I really want you all to go and read if you haven’t already – is about Amazon. We nearly all use Amazon – I have used them a lot for years, have spent a fortune there over the years I fully admit. Amazon lead the marketplace – but there are plenty of alternatives for book buying addicts. I also use other online stores – often as happy with used books I especially like awesomebooks and abebooks. I have also bought new books from Penguin’s online store before now – and it was pointed out to me yesterday that WH smith’s online store often has books priced at a similar level as Amazon. As a Persephone books fan I would never buy a Persephone book from Amazon I would always buy direct from Persephone.

kindle2Some of the things raised in AlifeinBook’s post I already knew about – a few of the things were an unpleasant revelation. I’m not sure I am any longer that comfortable being a customer of Amazon – and I have been a good customer for a very long time – but for a while (since the whole tax thing was revealed) I have felt less happy about them. So I have decided to only continue to use Amazon for kindle books – and I don’t buy that many as so many of the ebooks I download are free books – when I buy new physical books I will find other places to buy them from. I actually don’t at all like the fact that I am obliged to use Amazon whether I want to or not for ebooks – ok so I can download free books from manybooks.net and girlebooks, but if I want to download something I will have to pay for I have to use Amazon. Fine. However if ever (god forbid) my kindle breaks –I will replace it with another ereader.

None of this will be easy – a quick experiment I undertook today; I looked up one of the Booker longlisted books Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson, a hardback – Amazon has it for £11.04 (kindle £7.25) WHSmith don’t have it – Waterstones have it for £12.79. Is it any wonder that Amazon have us all running back to them? If you own a Kindle as I do – you have no choice but buy ebooks from them – the ebooks sold by WHsmith and Waterstones aren’t compatible with kindle devices. However I am going to try and buy physical books from other sources – or not buy them until they hit the charity book shops. I really need to rain in my book buying – and if it is a book I must must must have – I’ll pay the extra and buy it from Waterstones or direct from places like Little Brown (for Virago books) Penguin and Persephone books (as I already do anyway). I may even go back to the lovely big Waterstones store here in Birmingham – just now and again as I’m afraid they make buying books a little expensive – but I used to love mooching around in there. I really wish there was a nice little indie bookshop here in Birmingham – but if there is one I don’t know of it. I love the charity books shops that we can find on so many high streets in this country – and have been known to seriously disgrace myself in an Oxfam book shop – squealing in delight and then tottering out under a weight of used lovelies. So as a result – I will probably be buying fewer books – and they may cost me more – but I think I might prefer to do that for the moment.

No company is perfect – they exist in order to make money – however there are ways and means – making money shouldn’t be incompatible with being decent employers and contributing fairly to the UK economy. Nothing that Amazon do is illegal – and no doubt one customer (ie me) going elsewhere will hardly hurt them – but it might give me a little satisfaction. IMAG0322

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persephonebookshop

I can’t help but think that a trip to the Persephone book shop in London deserves a whole post to itself, rather than being buried away on my book buying confessional page.
I went with three friends Liz, Gill and Helen – the four of us using complementary London Midland tickets, which was an added bonus –more money for books. We were only going for books – all those designer clothes shops? museums and tourist attractions? – no thanks –we were after books. The weather was also on our side, although still very cold, unseasonably so – we were treated to bright blue skies and bright sunshine. London always look lovely bathed in sunshine, and to have such a nice day lifted our spirits further.
anyamountbooksUpon arrival at Euston, we started out walking over to Charing Cross Road, where we had very welcome cup of tea in Foyles bookshop, before starting down the road to Any Amount of Books – a good second hand book shop. In here I found:
Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley – for only a pound, a proof copy, but seeing as it was only published about a week ago I was thrilled with this find.
The Curate in Charge – Margaret Oliphant – I already have several Mrs Oliphant TBR – but it looks delightful.
The Boat by L P Hartley – years and years ago I read The Go-between and The Heirling which I loved, but have read nothing of his since.
And a lovely green VMC of Roman Fever – short stories by Edith Wharton – someone else who I have lots already TBR.
foylesThen while Liz went to catch up with an old friend Helen, Gill and I had a lovely lunch at Bella Italia – before heading back to Foyles. Where very extravagantly I bought three books – and I rarely buy full priced books from high street stores, but when faced with VMC designer editions and a Pat Barker book I have wanted to read for ages I caved in. Ending up buying: Their Eyes were watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier both in lovely VMC designer editions and Life Class by Pat Barker.
Meeting up back up with Liz again near to Covent Garden – we walked to the beautiful Persephone shop. This was really the whole point of the day – for me at least. I bought four – three for me – and one as a birthday gift for Gill.
For myself I bought : The Exiles Return, the latest Persephone publication, An Interrupted Life: The diaries and letters of Hetty Hillesum and The Woman Novelist and other Stories. I won’t reveal what I bought for Gill – I think she knows, but we like to pretend that we have birthday secrets. I also bought three of the matching bookmarks that I was missing. Frankly if I hadn’t have had to watch the pennies – I would have bought more books. I love that shop – it’s small unassuming – but somehow perfect. persephone booksop2
While we were in the Persephone shop Liz, Gill and I (ok just Liz and I) hooted with enthusiasm over various editions, enabling our friend Helen to buy six! We also inflicted our Persephone obsession on a lovely unsuspecting American woman, who, when we left clutching our reasonably modest piles – already had quite an armful and was still browsing the shelves. I really hope she loves whatever she bought.
Next door to the Persephone shop is a nice little café. Where they sell tea in mugs – very cheaply – Gill and I had raisin toast with jam – a plateful for next to nothing. We munched away and drank our tea, happily looking over our purchases before heading off for a quick march back to Euston.
We collapsed into our train seats on a very busy commuter train, books in our hands and books at our feet – tired from a lovely day of gossip and book buying – is there I wonder, a better way of spending a day?

IMAG0202

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