Book purchasesTBR list

The Joy of Stocking The Bookshelves

After months of restraint forced upon me by Covid regulations, the wheels have came off my book-buying wagon.

Back in early March when I met up with three bloggers in a Cardiff bookstore, I had no idea that would be the last time for six months that I’d walk through the door of a bookshop. If I’d only known, I would have spent more time browsing the shelves instead of walking out with just one book: my reserved copy of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and The Light.

The closure of physical bookshops didn’t stop my buying books of course.

Like so many book lovers around the world, I relied on on-line purchases throughout this crisis. Local independent bookshops in Wales, like Book-ish at Crickhowell and Griffin Books in Penarth did a fantastic job, keeping me (and my parents) supplied as best they could even when supplies from warehouses got delayed and launch dates were postponed. But on-line shopping simply can’t compare favourably with the real deal. If you know what you want, on line ordering is super-efficient. But if you’re in the mood to be surprised, then it’s not a great experience. You can’t browse, pick up books at random just because the cover attracts the eye, and sample some of the pages. There’s no buzz and no thrill of discovery.

But now shops have been re-opened I’ve ventured into a bookshop for the first time. It was a strange experience, what we’re all coming to think of as the new normal. The atmosphere was so subdued with very few customers (I counted 4 including myself), check out staff behind protective screens and “closed’ signs on the cafe. It wasn’t an atmosphere conducive to browsing unfortunately. So I didn’t linger for long, just enough time to pick up three debut novels: Burnt Sugar by  Avni Doshi (shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize); The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare (shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020) and The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Nzelu Okechukwu bought purely because it’s set partly in Pune, India where I spent a few days in 2014.

A few other books have managed to sneak into the house in recent weeks.

From a little free library that has just opened in my village I picked up a lovely Oxford World Classics edition of The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Brown and Family Matters by Nina Bawden. I’ve read a few of her novels so far and she impressed me with her insight into family dynamics.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of a discounted offer from Salt Publishing. So have ended up with The Litten Path by James Clarke. It’s a debut work set in a mining community and is described by Salt as “Grimly honest and tender, tough and lyrical, comic and painful, it is about class friction, the clash between the urban and the rural.” You by Phil Whittaker deals with a scenario that’s become sadly very common: the estrangement of a parent and child following a marital breakup. Whittaker tells the story of a father whose teenage daughter cut him out of her life after he left her mother. Now he is hoping to effect a reconciliation.

Also added to the bookshelves are two new publications that I’d ordered immediately I heard about them. The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn is a follow up to her wonderful memoir The Salt Path in which Raynor and her husband Winn, walked a 600+ mile coastal path after they were made homeless. The new book finds them living on an old cider farm as a result of a generous stranger. In Two Minds by Alis Hawkins is the third in her historical fiction series set in Wales, featuring the coroner Harry Probert-Lloyd. I loved the first book in the series, None So Blind for its evocation of 19th century rural Wales. Now I just have to decide whether to read the new one or go back to book number 2 which is also awaiting my attention.

The post has also brought me three novels that I won in a giveaway with Dome Press. The only one I’d heard of previously is Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce which features a female lawyer who takes on the case of a woman accused of murder. Tangerine by Christine Morgan grabbed my attention when I saw it described as a novel of obsession and control played out in the medinas and backstreets of 1950s Tangier; a blend of Highsmith and du Maurier. Both of these sounds good choices for dark winter nights. The Last Day by Andrew Hunter Murray, is going to challenge me to read outside my normal reading zone. It’s a dystopian tale that imagines a world where as a result of a solar catastrophe earth’s rotation has come to a full stop. One half of the globe is now permanently sunlit, the other half trapped in an endless night.

What I haven’t mentioned are the ten e-books I bought; the product of over-enthusiastic late-night clicking. I should really try to curb this habit because I rarely get around to reading electronically these days.

The result of all this buying is that my TBR has shot up again. If I can exercise some restraint for the remainder of the year it should stay below the end of 2019 level. But if it doesn’t, I’m not going to fret about it when the very act of buying can bring so much pleasure (plus give some badly needed income to booksellers and authors).

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

36 thoughts on “The Joy of Stocking The Bookshelves

  • I loved The Girl with the Louding Voice and hope you enjoy it. And I’m also looking forward to getting the Raynor Winn. Unfortunately, due to Past Me neglecting to learn to drive, I would have to walk 4 miles each way or get a bus each way to get to a new bookshop, although I have been in our Oxfam Books, which did slake a thirst for book buying, when it reopened, and will need to go in again to buy some Secret Santa books.

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  • All three debut novels you mentioned are high on my reading list – I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Reading has kept me going through so much of this year; I don’t think book-buying can ever be a truly bad habit!

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    • Good to hear of someone who has found reading helping them get through this current crisis in the world. Usually what I’m hearing is the opposite, that people have struggled to concentrate.

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  • Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Love a good book haul! Forget about restraint, I reckon. 2020 has been such a dump-truck of a year, we should take our joy where we can get it (and if that’s in a big stack of books, all the better). Enjoy!

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    • That’s true, besides which, since I’m not going out, I’m not spending money on make up, perfume, clothes or holidays….

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  • I’ve also had very little book buying/reading restraint during the COVID months. I am a member of three bookclubs that have already finalized there 2021 reading list. I am already well into our March 2021 secitons. Someone please stop me now! ๐Ÿ˜€

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    • Oh that book club is far too organised! We haven’t even picked our December book. If you read that far ahead I’d be sure to have forgotten what the book is about by the time I get to the relevant meeting

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  • “a blend of Highsmith and du Maurier”: Sign me up! Plus I see some great combinations here if you participate in the monthly 6 Degrees of Separation: (1) The Litten Path and The Salt Path; (2) Blood Orange and Tangerine. Thanks for sharing the joy of replenishing the book shelves.

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    • You’re a star, solving my 6 degrees chain for me already ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • I actually think you’ve been very restrained! I enjoyed Blood Orange very much – a really intelligent thriller.

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    • I’d heard of it some time ago and thought it sounded good but then forgot all about it.

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  • I’m afraid I’ve been exercising no restraint at all during lockdown when it comes to books. As I couldn’t browse in person, I’ve resorted to ordering from indie publishers and via Hive mainly. The book arrivals *have* brought comfort, but the TBR is now rather scary…

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    • What is Hive? I’m asking with a lot of nervousness because do I really want any more temptation ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • They’re a mail order book service which supports the high street. You can buy here: http://www.hive.co.uk Postage is free in the UK, prices usually the same or less than Amazon, and with every purchase you can choose a local bricks and mortar store to benefit. They got books to me during the height of the pandemic, so I have a lot of time for them….

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        • Well this sounds tremendous. I like the idea of supporting the local indie store at the same time.

        • Me too. I made the big switch to them early in lockdown, and the bulk of my new book purchasing comes from them or direct from the publishers!

  • Interesting collection. Will look up The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Nzelu Okechukwu ….because of Pune .

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  • I totally agree with you: nothing compares to book browsing in a real bookstore. It’s something you can’t do online.

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    • That means, I think, that lesser known authors will miss out because people don’t know about them to put their info into a search tool and gravitate instead towards the well-known authors

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  • I’ve read The Girl with the Louding Voice and thought it was terrific:)

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    • I’d never heard of it before but read a few pages last night and must admit it did sound good

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    • Sadly they are not mine! I’m too embarrassed by the mess of my own bookshelves to include a photo ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • I agree whole heartedly…we need to support booksellers. I can’t begin to explain how much pleasure I get from picking up new books. The feel, the smell, the anticipation. I’m glad you’re doing your part! ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜…

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    • I’m going to have to wait a while before I can make a return visit – Wales is going into a full lockdown again on Friday so only “essential” shops allowed to open. Don’t politicians realise how essential books are???

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  • Thereโ€™s no substitute for browsing in a bookstore filled with like minded reading people! The simple joys we once took for granted. You have a great list of possibilities here! I hope you love Louding Voice as much as I did! Itโ€™s in the running alongside Hamnet and Transcendent Kingdom for best of the year on my list!

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    • Louding Voice as good as Hamnet? Oh boy, I need to move it up the reading list in that case.

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      • Well… of course they are very different but EACH MADE AN EMOTIONAL IMPACT!!! Enjoy! Iโ€™m eager to read your reviews!

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  • Nice to think that when we were packaging books for Book-ish during the first lockdown I may have inadvertently wrapped and/or addressed books to you. Hope you’ll manage the next fortnight alright…

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    • You’ll have to start slipping little messages into packages from now on. You know the kind of thing “carefully packaged by XYZ”…

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      • We did our stint in the first lockdown, making up 750 parcels on a voluntary basis — it’s somebody else’s chance now! ๐Ÿ™‚

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        • That’s a lot of packing. I’d have found it so tempting to read the blurbs on everything I was packing. So productivity might not have been that great….

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