Read, bought, recovered

For anyone who is interested in what I am reading/have read (or remember having read) there’s a link to Good Reads on the blog home page.

I had wanted to use these pages to keep a record of every book I bought, borrowed or came by, along with where and how. It has proved beyond me to keep up.

In an ongoing quixotic effort to prevent Amazon from pricing everyone else out of the market, I buy books from many different places – but such is the unhealthy need to get the next book, sometimes I still buy the odd thing through them and the associated ABE books.

So instead of regularly updating a log of shops, I’ve listed some of my more regular haunts and favourites below the photo, while here is the story of where my  obsession began.


Paperback fiction creeping up the stairs

More often than not I’ll buy books from one of the following – Foyles, Charing Cross Road HQ, The Bookseller Crow (my brilliant local) on Westow Hill, Crystal Palace, Skoob, underneath the Brunswick Centre.

Camden Lock Books (actually based inside Old Street Station), Emmaus Charity Shop on Knights Hill, West Norwood, Dulwich Books and Daunt’s on Marylebone High Street are also regulars.

I’ve always liked visiting Walden Books in Chalk Farm – which according to urban legend is the inspiration for Channel 4’s Black Books. I’m not so sure, but it is in many ways the archetypal second-hand bookshop: books spill out of over stuffed shelves, cheaper books on tables outside entice you in, there’s always something new to discover. And it has/had this fantastic quote on bookshops from John Cowper Powys:


A great little indy in my old neighbourhood is The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green.

As I’ve noted in this blog post – Topping & Co in Ely is one of the finest new bookshops around.

Whenever I’m lucky enough to visit New York I love to spend some time in The Strand Bookstore one of the largest independent bookshops in the US.

Other than that it depends where I am, but if there’s a bookshop nearby, I’ll have to go in.



We moved at the end of May. Now we’re in, there’s more space for more books.


The Bookseller Crow, Crystal Palace

Bring up the bodies
Hilary Mantel

Will Self & Ralph Steadman

Invisible Cities
Italio Calvino

Riverside Bookshop, Hays Galleria

The People’s Songs: The story of Modern Britain in 50 records
Stuart Maconie


A ‘quick peak’ at ABE books resulted in the following splurge:

A Good Parcel of English soil: The Metropolitan Line
Richard Mabey

The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Jane Jacobs

The Peregrine
JA Baker

Beechcomings: The Narratives of Trees
Richard Mabey


Two different lunch time visits to shops relatively near work.

Skoob, Marchmont Street, Brunswick Centre

This time left carrying:

Wild – Jay Griffiths
Selected poems of Shelley – selected by Kathleen Raine
Selected poems of Coleridge – selected by
A time of gifts – Patrick Leigh Fermor
A Northern Line Minute – The Northern Line: Penguin Underground – William Leith

Camden Lock Books, Old Street
Had been meaning to visit for ages, but hadn’t got around to it. Now working nearby so have no excuse.
It’s pleasingly packed with stock – some tottering in small piles in front of the shelves. There’s also a small, cupboard-like second-hand section out back.

Made off with:

The Secret Life of Trees – Colin Tudge
Three Sheets to the Wind
300 Bars in 13 Countries, One man’s search for the meaning of Beer – Pete Brown
Wordsworth Selected poems of Lord Byron


Skoob books

Carson McCullers, The Heart is a lonely hunter

Kilvert’s Diary

Oxfam Bookshop, Gower Street

Into the wild, Jon Krakauer

Read the first sentence, paragraph, page and was hooked. Deserves a late review post some time soon. Finished a couple of days later.

Indian Country, Peter Matthiessen

The Book Barge AUGUST 2012

The Canal
Lee Rourke

Set along a stretch of the Regent’s Canal between Islington Tunnel and the Hackney, the novel centres on two characters, between whom, in terms of action, for most of the novel nothing much happens – but this would be an entirely superficial reading. Beneath the surface, teased at in the dialogue, whole lifetimes of anger, regret and sheer boredom gnaw at the protagonists until, as if the intensity of these suppressed emotions has got too much, things finally reach boiling point, as the novel reaches a genuinely shocking, but not quite conclusive moment.

In some regards The Canal is a study of boredom, but it makes for compelling reading. Rourke’s deceptively simple style and spare prose says an awful lot with a little.

The fact that much of the action takes place within such a small and particular area adds much to the intensity of the story. Reminiscent in some ways of a Pinter play, where as much can be read into the gaps between speech or narrative as in the prose itself, the novel is packed with beautifully observed – though often awkward or even violent moments.

Where Rourke excels is in his ability to capture a very real sense of those inbetween places, or non-spaces, in our lives which we all too frequently pass through without ever properly regarding. An outstanding debut and well worth picking up and reading.

JULY 2012

Port Eliot Festival

No spare space in the car for bringing back anything we didn’t take with us, so am merely browsing in the Rough Trade tent. Don’t have any money to spare anyway.

Walk out having bought Hops and Glory by Pete Brown, who’s previous book Man Walks into a Bar (a sociable history of beer) I’d read and enjoyed a couple of years ago.

Damn. Rough Trade 1 – Me 0.

MAY 2012

Lunchtime visit to Skoob in Bloomsbury.

Vaguely looking for cheap paperback copies of Larkin collected poetry, Richard Jefferies After London and Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the mind – which I’ve read but lost. Actually bought:

Ghost and Horror Stories of Ambrose Bierce, Dover Publications, 1964.

The Spook House, Ambrose Bierce, Penguin 2009

The Illustrated Man, Ray Bradbury, HarperVoyager, 2008.

Currently Reading:

The Old Ways, Robert Macfarlane, Hamish Hamilton, 2012

Real England, Paul Kingsnorth, Portobello Books Ltd, 2009

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, Penguin, 2006


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