Reading Spa No. 8 (or possibly 9)…

The Delightful Mr F, as long time readers will know, is delightful in many a way, but he has a particular knack with present buying. His complete understanding and appreciation of my book addiction knows no bounds, and he happily supports my literary cravings by giving me Mr B’s Reading Spas at least once per year. I have lost count on how many I have had*, but it doesn’t matter, each one is as different as the last, and all are marvellous. 

The Delightful Mr F and I pottered up the M4 in good time last Friday to have a pre-reading spa breakfast at Rosarios. After a little wander around the town we headed back to Mr B’s where The Delightful Mr F left me with in the capable hands of Ed. My favourite part of the spa is talking with one of the Mr B’s team about what I have read, what they have read, the latest books, recent discoveries and new favourites. Due to The Important Things, I hadn’t read as much as I normally have by this point in the year, nevertheless we had a good chat about The Vegetarian by Han KangStoner by John Williams (more of that later) and the rather dark nature of my recent reading**. I was then left with a few books to look at, and a very nice chocolate brownie as Ed headed off to find me some more reading material. 

I hadn’t asked for anything in particular, and Ed bought back a lovely eclectic mix of dark, unusual, feel good and classic books for me to choose from. I bought the lot***.  So here they are, have you read any of these?

Books from Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights
Books from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

You can find them on the Mr B’s webshop if you fancy getting copies yourself, and of course they will be reviewed here in due course. I’m particularly looking forward to The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage which Ed tells me is better than Stoner. Better?! Well that’s a lot to live up to.  City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett is one I would never have looked at on my own, and I have a feeling my open up a whole new genre for me to explore. 

A Reading Spa at Mr B’s is one of life’s pleasures as far as I am concerned, and so, see if you can get yourself down to Bath for a natter with one of Team B. Your book joy will spilleth over.  

 

* Mr B – do you know? Is it 8 or 9?

** Not dark for a reason, they were just short books and I couldn’t face anything longer than about 200 pages. 

*** I always do, I have no willpower, and a strong husband to help me carry them back to the car. 

 

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Black Friday – No thanks, I prefer Civilised Saturday!

I really dislike Black Friday. I think it is an ugly display of human greed, and particularly just now, when there are so many more important things in the world. I cringe when I see people brawling over a flat screen TV. That’s why I smiled when I saw that the Books Are My Bag Campaign are running a Civilised Saturday event. Participating bookshops are inviting book lovers to visit and browse the shelves whilst having a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake. 

A few of the bookshops taking part are (taken from the Books Are My Bag Press release):

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·       Burway Books, Church Stretton:  Mince pies (incl gluten free), mulled wine, art and singing.

·       Southcart Books, Walsall: A “sophisticated soiree” with food and drink and readings from 10 poets.

·       Owl and Pyramid: Owl Christmas decoration craft session for children, story time, tea and cake and canapes for adults.

·       Book-ish, Crickhowell: With the help of the local Glanusk Estate is bringing a touch of Downton Abbey to the high street. A Butler on the door offering prosecco and canapes and a correct posture ‘book walking’ competition.

·       Wenlock Books: Prosecco, free gift-matching service and gift-wrapping service plus a very civilised afternoon tea, with pots of Assam, freshly brewed coffee and a selection of winter-themed cupcakes and some mellow music from one of our favourite local musicians.

·       The Book Centre: Storytelling, Face painting, In Store Treasure hunt, and Author Book Signing.

This all sounds really rather wonderful doesn’t it? I’d love to know if any of you manage to make it to an event. Let me know!

Breakfast and Books in Bath

A bath full of Books at Mr B's Emporium
A bath full of Books at Mr B’s Emporium

Well, what a lovely day The Delightful Mr F and I have had in Bath. Bath is always a winner when it  comes to mooching about, eating nice food, drinking coffee and buying books, but today was especially nice. 

We left Fennell Towers early, aiming to have breakfast in Bath. A few months ago The Delightful Mr F had discovered a lovely cafe, Rosarios, which served good coffee and we decided to have breakfast there. It was wonderful. We had poached eggs on potato cakes with smoked salmon and avocado. If the photo of that doesn’t make you drool, then I don’t know what will. The cafe is just super, full of delicious fresh food, and a lovely friendly atmosphere. It would be a great place to take a book and linger over one of their lovely cakes. 

Breakfast at Rosarios in Bath
Breakfast at Rosarios in Bath

After fuelling ourselves for the day ahead, we hit the bookshops. Bath has three wonderful bookshops, but I am sure you can imagine where we ended up…

Yep, we went to Mr B’s, where we saw most of the Mr B’s gang. I found a lovely stack of books to take home with me. I can’t think of a single instance where I have visited Mr B’s and come away empty handed. I feel it was a particularly strong haul this time. 

The Subprimes by Karl Taro Greenfeld looks particularly interesting and Meadowland by John Lewis-Stemple looks a delight. Of course, I had to buy the new Pratchett book. 

So, there we have it. A lovely day out with good food, good books and good company. May the Bank Holiday weather do its worst. I have books to read, so I am happy!

Bookshop Memories

I was looking through some old photos the other day, and it started me thinking about bookshop visits when I was a child. I was always a reader and much of my pocket money was spent on books. This was a time pre-MrB’s (I know it is hard to imagine, but stick with me). Thankfully it was a time when bookshops were aplenty and I had three main ones that I would visit. 

The first was a small bookshop in the village of Chipping Sodbury. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was a lovely little shop, and the children’s section was at the back. I can remember very clearly buying Haphazard House by Mary Wesley there. JK Rowling was born in the town and lived locally as a small child. I wonder if she was taken there too?

The next shop I remember was a huge WHSmith in Broadmead in Bristol. I am not sure if it still there, but it was huge, or at least I remember it being so. They had a large children’s section and I used to sit on the floor to look at the books. I bought all of the Malory Towers books there, which I still have. When I checked the price, they were £1.25 each! I can also remember spending a whole £9.99 on a box set of Narnia books, which I still have. I had saved for them, and it seemed like a huge fortune at the time. 

George's Bookshop, Bristol, 1936
George’s Bookshop, Bristol, 1936

Finally was the special treat bookshop. Georges on Park Street in Bristol had several stores, being opposite Bristol University it had a couple of academic bookshops, one with maps in I seem to remember, but it was the main shop which I loved.  I may be misremembering, but I think it had four floors, full of every book you can imagine, and a huge children’s section.  We didn’t go often as it wasn’t in a part of Bristol we regularly visited, but I was taken as a special treat around my birthday. I still have many of the books I bought there, including an encylopedia of British birds, and another one on butterflies and moths. 

I can remember feeling as though I had entered a treasure trove, and the non-fiction was a revelation. Beautiful, glossy books on subjects which made my mind race and wonder and most importantly think. The shop is still there, although it is much smaller now. 

When I left home I lived in Scotland for a while, where I met the Delightful Mr F. I shared a flat with some other students, and that flat was above a bookshop. We were all working on an industrial work experience placement, and I when my first pay packet arrived in my bank account, I went out and bought a coat (it was Scotland and winter was coming) and the Gold Bat by PG Wodehouse. A sensible use of my new found income, don’t you think?

Do you have fond memories of a childhood bookshop? I am sure that Mr B’s is filling that slot for many children in Bath. 

Something better comes along…

So, I spent two hours on Sunday afternoon writing today’s post about all the lovely books published on Super Thursday. Then, for reasons unknown, it disappeared. Completely. I attempted to resurrect it, but with no joy, so I abandoned the idea and read Awful Auntie by David Walliams instead. 

I had assumed that there wouldn’t be a Tuesday post this week, but what do you know, but Mr B’s announces that they are branching out into publishing. Read all about it here. What a great name for a company! Fox, Finch & Tepper. Doesn’t it sound wonderfully  literary? It summons up all sorts of ideas. A Dickensian firm of solicitors or a magical sweetshop from Terry Pratchett. Most of all, it sounds very “Mr B’s”.

This is such wonderful news. You know how much I love Mr B’s and the team there. They are knowledgeable, and clever and lovely people in fact, all round good eggs. They deserve to be successful, I wish them all the best for this project. I for one will be straight down to Bath to buy their first publications. 

Well, who’d have thought it?

The Delightful Mr B's in Bath - The best bookshop in all the world.
The Delightful Mr B’s in Bath – The best bookshop in all the world.

A week or so back I was in London and so I pottered into one of the flagship bookshops that are around and about the place. There are several of these very large bookshops for different chains in London, and I always get a nice warm glow as I walk past, but rarely do I get the chance to go into one of them. 

On this particular day, I had an hour or so to kill, and so in I went.  I hadn’t been in for a few years, and had forgotten just how vast it is. There was every section of fiction and non-fiction you could possibly want, shelves upon shelves over several floors of books all wanting to be taken home and read. 

Fiction being my normal modus operandi, I headed there first. And stopped dead. There was so much choice I simply didn’t know where to start. hardbacks, paperbacks, classics, literary fiction, science fiction, crime, romance, *ahem* erotica, graphic novels, children’s fiction, Young Adult fiction… it went on and on and on… 

I started to wander along the shelves, but there were so many tomes that I was starting to find it hard to focus. I got out my trusty “would like to read” list and started to look for those books, but I lost interest quite quickly. The normal joy of wandering along a book shelf and finding a wanted book was lost because the wander had become a hike across the store, only to find that the next book you wanted was back on the shelf you just left. 

After a little while, I gave up and headed to the sports section to see if they stocked any good martial arts books for The Delightful Mr F. I found a couple of good ones which came home with me. 

I left feeling rather deflated. A massive shop full of books should be my idea of paradise, but the reality was a disappointment. All the booksellers were lovely, and hearing snatches of conversation, they seemed to know their stuff, but still it wasn’t quite right.  I mulled all of this over on the train coming home, and came to the realisation, that what I like, and frankly need, is a curated collection of books to choose from. I know I bang on about Mr B’s* a lot on here, but they are the best example of what I am trying to get at. The shop is a nice size, not too small, but not too big, and every book in there has been carefully selected to offer a wonderfully curated selection, which the booksellers then help the customers understand and choose from. I also find smaller independents have a cosier and friendlier feel. Reading for me is an escape, a pleasure, and a way to relax. Going to these huge shops makes it feel like a book supermarket, and I don’t really like the experience all that much.

Well, who would have thought it? I found a bookshop I wasn’t that keen on… 

 

* I have no affiliation with Mr B’s, just a very, very happy and loyal customer.

Mr B’s Reading Spa No. 6

Yes, it is true, I have now been the lucky recipient of six reading spas at Mr B’s. Number six was given to me when I left my last company by my friends and colleagues who must have got wind of my book habit, not sure how, I try to keep it under wraps. It was the best leaving present they could have given me, so thank you everyone in the office, this was a wonderful day out, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Despite the torrential rain, The Delightful Mr F drove me up the M4 to Bath, where he left me at the door of Mr B’s to be introduced to more wonderful reading matter. Having had a few spas now (I wonder if I hold the record?) Nic paired me with Libby as I haven’t had a chance to chat to her. We settled ourselves down in a couple of comfy chairs and had a really good natter about my recent reads and whether I wanted something in particular – I didn’t.  I tend to leave Team B to suggest whatever they feel is really good at the time, by leaving the field wide open I get books I truly would never have discovered. 

After the chat, Libby whet away to collect up some books and returned with a huge pile to talk through. This is my favourite part of the spa, when the Biblotherapist reappears with a towering stack of pure reading joy and I know I am about to find out about new worlds, lives and stories. Kid in a sweet shop is the phrase that springs to mind. 

Having taken me through her selections Libby left me to look through them and choose what I wanted. Inevitably, they all came home with me. This book spa yielded a particularly diverse range of books across Young Adult fiction, steam punk, Scandinavian literature and a western set in the Australian Outback. They are currently stacked on the sideboard and every time I pass them I know I am going to struggle to choose what to read first. 

So here are the new additions to the Fennell Towers library…

Doppler by Erland Loe

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (I’m particularly excited by this one)

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (Lorraine over at Biblioaddicted is waxing lyrical about this series)

Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Good For Nothing by Brandon Graham

The Burnt Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen

Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

Mr Rosenblum’s List by Natasha Solomons

The Whispering Muse by Sjon

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Ancient Sorceries and Other Chilling Tales by Algernon Blackwood

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hr Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Burial by Courtney Collins