Bookish thoughts

Book-ish, Crickhowell

You may remember that I made a conscious effort to resist acquiring books new to me for as long as possible, bearing in mind the many, many unread titles that I already had teetering on my shelves.

As we’re now a quarter of the way through 2020, you bibliophiles out there may (or, more likely, may not) be wondering how well I’m resisting.

The brief answer is, not bad, as I’ll explain. But I’m now in a quandary.

First, the progress. I’ve been eking out acquisitions with a generous gift token from the local choral society for piano accompanying services rendered. I exchanged most of the token’s value for a biography, a hardback graphic novel, my first Moomin book, an academic study and a volume of Oscar Wilde sayings, all from the local indie bookshop Book-ish.

That left me with a few pennies so, this being the centenary of Agatha Christie’s first Poirot novel, I used up the residue and added some cash to get The Mysterious Affair at Styles. What’s a bit of loose change to a booklover? ‘S’not really cheating, right? Resolution intact.

But now comes the quandary. Indie bookshops mostly thrive on customers coming into the premises to browse and handle and choose books to purchase. The UK government’s tardy response to Covid-19 has finally put a stop to what are seen at non-essential outlets remaining open: so shops supplying food for the stomach are fine, food for the mind aren’t; pharmacies for bodily health pass the test, but not those for mental health.

People like me have over many years indulged in an apparent panic-buying of books for a crisis just like this. (It’s called tsundoku, for those of you who don’t indulge!) But for independent retailers it’s potentially a financial and personal disaster to be told to close until further notice. How can they survive without customers buying their wares?

Here’s what some bookshops like Book-ish are doing, if they haven’t already done so: they’re putting their entire stock online and encouraging regular customers to order from them rather than the global giants. If we want to see a local indie still on our High Street after all this is over we need to be virtual customers.

So the quandary over my resolution evaporates like morning mist: with a light heart I shall ditch one good intention for another: I will be helping to keep a local business afloat while feeding my mind.

Maybe you have a local business in the same position?


At this month’s end I’ve also come to an end of three events. For March Magics I’ve read two Diana Wynne Jones novels and one Terry Pratchett; for Reading Ireland Month I’ve read two Irish authors, Oscar Wilde and Eleanor Fitzsimons; and for the Wales Readathon I’ve finished a collection of tales by Daniel Morden and celebrated a certain Welsh indie bookshop.

Also, by a certain stretch, Diana Wynne Jones (whose father Richard Aneurin Jones, was Welsh, and who had many Welsh relatives) could be regarded as ‘from’ the Principality, though born in England, and so I’ve included two of her titles in my Readathon.

And, even though I haven’t completed a review yet, I’ve also finished the brilliant The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo, herself resident in Wales for four decades and married to a Welsh man, thus stilling qualms about not participating in Dewithon as much as I wanted to!

36 thoughts on “Bookish thoughts

  1. We’re in a similar position here–not just local bookshops but everything other than groceries, pharmacies, and such essentials are shut, and I can understand it given the spread rates. People will be hit I know, small businesses more than others–difficult choice either way.

    From your reads, Tom’s Midnight Garden is one that I really need to get to soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To add to their cash flow woes independent businesses here have a mountain of paperwork to climb to apply for financial assistance and a long delay before that may even arrive. The years of dismantling citizenry support by a government with neoliberal tendencies has been cruelly exposed by a global disaster but I fear the citizenry as a whole will be unable to recognise where the blame lies, to our collective detriment.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Your new resolution is an excellent one Chris. Unfortunately I don’t have an independent close enough to me to do this but am hoping that HIVE may be back online at some point soon. This leaves me with no excuse, now I simply must explore the tottering pile in front of my bookshelf!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There was clearly method in our madness, Anne, when we indulged our predilection for tsundoku! Yet there are so many authors as well as bookshops and publishers that need supporting — how to resolve the quandary becomes a very personal decision.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. piotrek

    You raise an important question!

    There are some indie bookshops in Krakow, and they are in danger. The City temporarily waived the rent for them, but it might not be enough. I… gave up on brick and mortar bookshops, largely, as I’m bound to spend even more there than on the internet. I’m buying mostly food these days (and paint, and new lamps, but that’s another story), and cooking at home.

    I was thinking about ordering some food from struggling eateries–many started delivering, and it would be a shame to see them go. Bookshops… I’m not in a position to buy more books now, maybe as gifts… gotta think about it 🙂

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    1. In a world gone mad what are we to do? I can see your difficulties, Piotrek, with slightly different situations from my privileged one of a bookshop to hand. (The paint and lamps … you intrigue me!)

      My partner has recovered from what seems to have been a mild dose of the virus and is now able to shop locally, but I have to continue self-isolating just in case — though the slight temperature I had the day before yesterday seems to have evaporated. Being on the autism spectrum I find it really hard to recognise when I’m properly ill, but I’m also open to taking time out when someone else suggests I am or even look poorly!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. piotrek

        I’m not qualified to give any advice, but do take care…

        I had a small renovation project scheduled even before all that happened, and it was too late to stop. Bookshelves are not threatened, but I had to compromise on the colours, apparently my single-guy lair was too gloomy and bunker-like 😉

        Liked by 1 person

          1. piotrek

            There will be a kind of almost-white grey in the hall, one room will be mint-green but slightly greyish, and another smoked pink…colours don’t have simple names anymore;-)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. These are the kinds of shades we have in our house, but more muted than ‘mint-green but slightly greyish’ — I’m trying to imagine this description on a colour chart, but to no avail! I think I’ve seen a spoof colour chart somewhere with Sludge Dream and Regency Vomit (but not these actual descriptors, obvs)…

              Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Chris. I admire your self sacrifice in giving up on your book-less challenge to support a local business – such heroism 😀. Seriously, it’s a great idea. Sadly, I’m not sure we have any indie book shops locally I can support. Maybe in Clifton? I’ll take a look online. Sorry to hear you and your partner have been ill. I think we had it too – no cough but definitely a dry tickle, temperature, sense of taste gone. Seem to be on the mend now though. Just mindful of the other half who’s asthmatic and always a worry with anything respiratory. At least the sun has been shining, we’ve been sowing seeds for the garden and the blossom is forming on our fruit trees. We’re very lucky. Keep safe and well and enjoy those new books! I quite fancy re reading some Christie. Let us know what you think

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your seal of approval, Lynn, much appreciated!

      I remember, for a few years last century, when in Bristol you could walk down Whiteladies Road (Clifton Bookshop, closed) past the University (Blackwell’s academic, gone) down Queen Street (Borders, soon gone), the Triangle (secondhand books, now gone), and Park Street with George’s (later taken over by Blackwell’s, then Jamie’s restaurant and now…?), Chapter & Verse, Pied Piper (the last two both gone), then, where the music shop was, Waterstone’s (now gone). There was also a discount shop, Fopp, selling records, discs and books which I think has moved elsewhere, but all that remains in this most intellectual part of the city is another brilliant Park Street discount bookshop (30% off most stuff) and Oxfam’s secondhand bookshop at the top of the hill. Still, I can spend a fortune in either, or both, of these two whenever I’m in Bristol!

      I see you had a bug, if not the bug, though glad you’re both on the mind. I can’t tell if I had something akin or was just malingering…

      But, as you say, it’s spring — officially! — and the sun is shing and the birds twittering and there have even been some bees around in our garden. Huzzah!

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      1. Such a shame so many bookshops are gone. I remember a few of these. A Bristol writer who compiles comprehensive lists of writing competitions, Chris Fielden, had been planning to open a book shop in Bristol. How he still plans to after all this is over. I guess they might get round to testing us all one day to see if we’ve had the virus. Be good to know. Supposed to be lovely weather over the weekend, so will on spring

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been ordering from my favourite independant bookshop for the same reason. When I get paid again next month, I’ll order more, or if they can’t deliver anymore, I’ll order gift vouchers. I can’t do much, but if enough of us do a little, it will all add up.

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  6. I managed to take part in Reading Ireland this month and had intended to read some Welsh books too, but anxiety induced by the current world situation meant most of my March reading plans came to nothing. I read The Snow Spider years ago and loved it, but have forgotten most of the story, so I would be interested to read your thoughts on it if you post a review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I shall indeed be posting a review sometime this month, Helen, but that’ll be after a couple of posts in a conversation with academic and blogger Nick Swarbrick at https://nicktomjoestory.news.blog/

      I think we’ve all been thrown by the current crisis, haven’t we. I distract myself with blogging but being retired I’m in a rather privileged position compared to those still having to work. And I think the anxieties have increased with the incompetent political response we have been subjected to, but that I suppose is another story.

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  7. The little bookstore in my small town just re-opened for mail orders, so I promptly put in an order for Sebastian Barry’s A Thousand Moons, which isn’t being published in the U.S. until April 21. I do have a small pile of books I haven’t read to get me through, and an enormous number of books I can re-read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not read any Barry, so shall have to research that! Good you have a bookstore where you are, I know several North American bloggers who feel bereft without one where they’re currently residing.

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  8. Heck, if you’re in a position to help, surely you have an obligation to do so? We have no bookstores nearby and no money right now, but if we did I would certainly heed the call! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really don’t *need* any more books but I certainly don’t want an independent book shop to fold so I’m going to use them to help my elderly parents who have to stay at home. Im arranging for the bookshop to send them a package every few weeks. My desire to reduce my TBR is maintained but I’m also supporting the bookshop and my parents at the same time. A triple whammy….

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yep. I have no need for more books, but we have the most wonderful used bookstore here in town, and I’ve been friends with the owners for many years. At first they went for gift certificates sold online, to be redeemed later on. Now they’re doing virtual shopping: send them a wishlist, and they’ll see if they have anything. Or, they’ll send photos of a particular shelf, or recommend something. So I copied out a long list and we’ll see if they have any. Either way, I got a gift certificate too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. During these metaphorically dark days we somehow feel the need to store up riches on bookshelves, Jean, don’t we? Mind you, that happens when we’re feeling bright and cheery too! Hope you pick up some treasures to bolster your spirits. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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