Monday 15th June 2020
Who doesn’t love a visit to a good bookshop? As Mary Ann Shaffer indicates in the quote above it’s so easy to come away with more books than you went in for, having browsed the central displays and the 3 for 2 stands.
Over the years, bookshops have reinvented themselves, from places to browse overstuffed dusty shelves (see stereotypes portrayed in TV shows/films) to warm and welcoming environments where you can relax with coffee and cake as you consider which books to take home with you. Sometimes you can even peruse whilst sipping cocktails (Maison Assouline on Piccadilly allows you to cast an eye over their exclusive merchandise whilst downing a Manhattan).
Read more about where you can mix books with other pleasures at Best Bookshop Cafes in London
Having seen a slight downturn in their fortunes at the start of the 21st century, bookshops have remained unbowed and have come back fighting. Several chain bookstores have opened new branches in towns where they’d previously closed them, others have been refurbished and given a light and airy feel, sometimes with the occasional coffee shop added.
But what about the independent bookstore?
The mantra in recent years for many local independent shops is ‘use us or lose us’. Where once stood greengrocers, butchers and record stores now stand charity shops, vape retailers and mobile phone ‘warehouses’ – with the added option to buy much of what you need online.
Independent bookshops had been no less affected by this but something started to change over the last couple of years. The unknown vector of coronavirus 2020 may yet have a negative impact but, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, in 2018 bookstores bucked the downward trend of shop closures with a net increase of 18 new stores (overall the UK lost 1,772 shops in all categories). The trade body for bookshops, the Booksellers Association reported an increase in membership for the second year in a row.
The Booksellers Association is behind the Books Are My Bag campaign that was launched in 2013. It comprises Bookshop Day (held in October) and the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards where the longlisted books are chosen by just booksellers and voted for by their book loving customers. To advertise the campaign, over a million snazzy BAMB tote bags have been handed out to people so far to show their love for their local bookshop.
Independent Bookshop Week is also part of this campaign. It will run 20th-27th June and is organised by the Booksellers Association to celebrate the love for the independent bookshop. In previous years, each individual bookshop would have organised a slew of activities to entice in new customers and to entertain the old. For now though, the one fixture that’s firmly in place is the Independent Bookshop Week Book Awards. This is still going ahead and the winners will be announced on Friday 26th June. You can check out the shortlist here IBW – Indie Book Awards.
Remember the ‘added option to buy online’ that was mentioned earlier? Hive.co.uk is the online arm of the independent bookshop. As with any shop (online or physical), you can search, browse and buy books (and a few other items). It’s no different from other platforms where you can buy books from the comfort of your own armchair but the difference with this website is that for each book that you buy, your local independent bookshop will get a small percentage.
And there are very good reasons why you should want your local bookshops to be successful.
Deborah says “I am very lucky to have an independent bookshop on my high street. Not only is Haslemere Bookshop an independent it truly is a family affair. Ian Rowley took over the business in 2014, his wife Cathy is a bookseller, alongside Sue Adsett and her daughter Emily, who manages the shop. After giving the shop a new lease of life, it was triumphantly crowned Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2016 for the SouthEast region by The Bookseller. And it is easy to see why. It may sound a cliche but it really is at the heart of the community. As well as having excellent customer service from their friendly and knowledgeable staff, they regularly host author events and run a book club. On World Book Day, bookshop staff visit local schools distributing the free books to pupils. They are charitable too – donating to local causes like the Hunter Centre which supports people with dementia.
Following the Black Lives Matter movement and the anti-racism demonstrations over the last week, they have compiled a list of recommended reads and they are donating 10% of the sales of these books to the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. The coronavirus pandemic has of course had an impact on their business but they have still been there for their customers during this time – quickly building a website and taking email and telephone orders for books and delivering for free in the local area. I hope I will soon be back to browse the shelves but for now I will order online, admire their wonderful window displays and connect with them on social media.”
And here’s Alison reminiscing about a lost bookshop “I was a regular visitor to the Murder One bookshop on Charring Cross Road in my younger days when I worked in London. I would often walk over there before heading off to find the train home. I discovered many new authors – there were a lot of US imports that you wouldn’t find in the large chains – and quite often the owner of the shop would make recommendations based on the books I was already buying. He was a very good salesman but he also knew his stock inside out. One day, I was in there browsing when the man next to me started to take the books off the shelf, whilst chatting to the store owner. One by one he signed the inside page and returned them back to the shelf. To say I was a little surprised is an understatement. I have to confess I’d never read any of his books at that point but I’m now such a fan of Ian Rankin that I really wished I’d bought one of those signed copies. The shop is now long gone unfortunately – a victim of high London rents and an increase in the use of online booksellers for those no longer hard to find US imports”.
June is audiobook month – a chance to reflect on the wonders of modern technology delivering your most beloved stories to your ears.
Deborah says “as a keen reader of print I had never really entertained the idea of audiobooks. I have a Kindle but I still prefer a book I can hold in my hands, pass on to someone else or place on my bookshelf and hope that one day my daughter will pick it up and enjoy it too. I love a visit to a bookshop – or a library – to browse the shelves and make my selections. But since lockdown and those shelves not being available I turned to the online offerings of Surrey Library services and discovered you could borrow ebooks and audiobooks for free. There were lots of new titles on offer so I downloaded an audiobook to try. I went for what I considered an easy listen – Marian Keyes’ latest book. Out on my daily exercise – a walk or a run – I put in my ear buds and pressed play. Then when preparing dinner I’d listen to it and it would make a change from listening to the radio. I quickly finished the Keyes book and moved on to a thriller – just be careful who has their ear pressed up at the kitchen door when you are listening to a particularly tense scene – my 8 year old was asking awkward questions at the dinner table! Next up is Normal People by Sally Rooney – this is getting excellent reviews for its tv adaptation so am keen to see what all the fuss is about.”
Librarians in books
Librarians do feature in books. Quite a few of them.
The first character that came to mind when researching books that feature librarians as major players was Rye Pomona. Probably not the best example of a good citizen but certainly an interesting character.
She featured in two of Reginald Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe books in the 90s. In the first, Dialogues of the Dead, she was introduced as a possible suspect/witness in the crimes of the serial killer, ‘The Wordman’. Rye formed a beautiful romance with one of the DCs, ‘Bowler’ Hat. Yorkshire’s finest detective duo did their investigating and decided who had committed the crimes, only to see the unfortunate ‘murderer’ subsequently die. End of story.
Or maybe not. It was only in the closing chapter that the reader – but not the detectives – discovered that Rye the Librarian was in fact the killer and her story was concluded in the follow up book, Death’s Jest-Book.
But there are much more sympathetic librarians out there. Take a look at Roald Dahl’s Matilda for example. Mrs Phelps is in charge of Matilda’s local library. She is the first adult (not related to Matilda) who sees her incredible reading abilities, and witnesses her reading all the children’s stories before moving on to the novels of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and other grown up authors. And she’s only 4 years old (Matilda, not Mrs Phelps).
Here are a few more titles to consider…
Black Stories Matter
Please Note, this section is an opinion piece – is not intended to suggest any political views, nor do we mean to cause offence or portray any negative ideas towards this situation.
As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the country and the world, many people have been gathering and circulating resources to undo and unlearn racism. Sarah from our LRC has been looking at books which could help with our understanding of some of the current events. To quote Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This slideshow is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.
YA Hay Winner
A few weeks ago, we mentioned that the physical Hay Festival was cancelled this year, taking instead a schedule of events online. The YA Book Prize 2020 that would normally have been presented at the Festival has now been awarded to Juno Dawson for her novel Meat Market. Here’s what the book’s about.
“Jana Novak’s history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she’s uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she’s unexpectedly scouted and catapulted into superstardom.
But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.
Jana is an ordinary girl from a south London estate, lifted to unimaginable heights. But the further you rise, the more devastating your fall…”
Sounds like this should be a welcome addition to our LRC
Men’s Health Awareness Week, 15th-21st June
Glenn, one of our Library Assistants, volunteered to do a little research this week on the #menshealthweek campaign. You can view his presentation here.
The theme for Men’s Health Week 2020 is “Take Action on Covid-19”. It’s unsurprising that organisers have decided to look at how to prevent this virus doing more damage than it already has.
Their focus is on:
Wrong Trousers Day, 19th June
Just before we (virtually) disappeared for our half term break, another of our Library Assistants, Sian emailed the rest of the team.
“Hello guys! Over half term, please could you all have a think and a look to see if you have any weird, loud, funky, strange looking trousers or leggings tucked away in your wardrobes, drawers, suitcases and cupboards. I would like you to try on whatever strange trousers you have and get someone to take a photo of you, or you can take a photo yourself waist down, if you don’t want your face to be in it. I will then put the photos together and use them in my Wrong Trousers display”.
Wrong Trousers Day is now an annual event with donations being sought as part of The Grand Appeal which is raising funds for the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity.
Deaf Blind Awareness Week, 21st-27th June
Each year, Deafblind UK and other organisations use this week to raise awareness of dual sensory loss and they aim to continue the work pioneered by Helen Keller to inspire those living with deafblindness.
Library Assistant Sarah has taken a look at the work of Deafblind UK and at the life of Helen Keller.
Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh
Contains swearing, violence and reference to child abuse!!!!!
Despite the warning, this is a great book that makes you not want to put it down. Mikey tells his story as it was and doesn’t make it pretty. It is the story of a boy who went against all gypsy ways. He tells how he works hard against all odds to live his life away from his gypsy upbringing.
Such a harrowing story that makes you keep reading as you just want to know if it gets better. However, he tells his story with humour and Mikey fills your every thought until you can read the next chapter to see what happens.
– Tanya H
A huge thank you to all those sending in reviews. Any College member can submit a book review. The more the merrier! Simply fill out this form.
”Must Read” Booklists
There was a lovely tweet from RHUL Library this week.
“Here’s our list of books that you must read in your lifetime:
We love to recommend books and offer suggestions – but should we be telling people what they really, really should have read? Almost certainly not.
However, despite the title of the article below containing the words “must read” it’s an interesting list. It’s full of books about books – about people who love books, about book clubs that talk about books, about bookshops and bookshop owners, about book thieves, about…well, anything you can think of that involves books.
So whilst you’re choosing what book you would like to read, have a little look at the ones on this list. Not because you really must read them. Simply just because.
It doesn’t look as if theatres are going to be opening any time soon. We have been quite fortunate that many companies have allowed filmed recordings of their live productions to be streamed whilst we have been unable to get our cultural fix outside the home. But how are we to get any new productions? There are so many actors and directors wanting to put together new shows but social distancing rules do present a multitude of difficulties.
The Old Vic in London have come up with a plan however. They are going ahead with a series of socially distanced performances and readings – all on stage, and are streaming them for a fee – your ticket price – to a limited audience (basically the theatre’s seating capacity). It sounds like a step in the right direction and you can read more about it here.
A good old fashioned cup of tea
There are so many issues and events in the UK right now that are proving to be very divisive. However, there is one snippet on Twitter this week that, in the space of 31 seconds, united the country. If you love your cuppa in the morning and are easily offended by anything involving tea, microwaves and half a pound of sugar, then I suggest you don’t view this.
If you do accidentally stumble on it, then please be rest assured. Louis Theroux has the perfect antidote. There may not be a china mug on hand but at least there’s also not a microwave.
Looking for PSHE resources? Then look no further than Issues Online.
Issues online is an interactive resource containing images, graphs, infographics, videos, glossaries and thousands of articles to help students understand information covering a wide range of PSHE subjects and social issues.
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