Reading Miscellany

70757~Cafe-Mocha-PostersWhen I first conceived of the Summer School the Book Group to which many of those who attend also belong didn’t have an August meeting.  In fact, this was one of the reasons that the Summer School was established.  However, for the past two or three years this hasn’t been the case and so when the week chosen is early in the month, as it is this year, it can cause quite a build up of what I think of as ‘necessary’ reading.  As a result these past few days I have been alternating between Hermione Lee’s biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, (prep for leading the discussion on The Bookshop), Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (for the Book Group), Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookshop and, as an easy to pick up and put down read for the evenings, The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell.

Bythell’s book proved to be one of a small number of works that I have encountered over my reading life where the narrative voice is so emphatic I find myself embracing its characteristics in my own speaking and writing.  The first time that this happened (and perhaps the strongest) was with Jane Eyre.  For days I didn’t dare set pen to paper for fear it would appear as if I was attempting a pastiche or, even worse, that I was setting myself up as the next Charlotte Brontë.  Of course, where Bythell is concerned this just meant that I became grumpier and grumpier as the week went on.  I suppose if the majority of your custom comes from passing trade you can afford occasionally to be rude to those who are particularly annoying. If they are unlikely ever again to cross your threshold perhaps it doesn’t matter. However, as someone who was brought up in a small corner shop where every customer was a cherished regular, I cringed at some of his comments.  He complains about how little money he takes, but at times I wasn’t surprised.  Not that this stopped me enjoying the book.  Like most avid readers, I am a sucker for books about books.  Inevitably there is the comfortable feeling that you are in the company of someone of like mind and there is always the possibility that you will come away with a list of titles to add to the one that you already tout around with you wherever you go in the hope that you will stumble across a precious new volume.

In respect of looking for new books, while I may not have a nearby independent bookshop, I have discovered that there is a large used bookstore, Sedgeberrow Books, about twenty miles away in Pershore. Does anyone know it?  And if so, can you recommend a decent nearby tearoom?  As far as I’m concerned I can’t do one without the other but the reviews of local establishments are not encouraging, reasonable food but very poor customer service.  Perhaps they have all been reading Bythell?

11 thoughts on “Reading Miscellany

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings August 5, 2018 / 2:40 pm

    LOL! I’m keen to read the Blythell, but I empathise with what you say. Part of my job involves dealing with kids’ parents face to face or on the phone, and however annoyed I might be I am unfailingly nice! I can’t say I’d find myself returning to a bookshop with a crabby owner!


    • Café Society August 5, 2018 / 8:14 pm

      Some of the things he’s asked are quite banal, but you have to put up with that. Rudeness on the part of customers is another matter, but even then I don’t see that rudeness in return is called for.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A Life in Books August 5, 2018 / 3:06 pm

    I’ve been toying with the idea of reading the Blythell which sounds like a bookselling Fawlty Towers. Entertaining but I imagine it becomes a little wearing after a while.


    • Café Society August 5, 2018 / 8:18 pm

      I enjoyed it Susan, but that was because of the book element. I’m not sure I would ever have the nerve to set foot in the shop for fear I did something to annoy the proprietor.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeanne August 5, 2018 / 5:43 pm

    I didn’t enjoy reading Exit West. It’s an interesting idea, but I found the way the author told the story dull.


    • Café Society August 5, 2018 / 8:21 pm

      Have you read his previous novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist? I’m hoping that one of the things we will discuss tomorrow is the way in which he positions his narrator. It is unusual (although different) in both. Here I think it very much distances the reader from the events and perhaps that is what you were picking up on, Jeanne.


      • Jeanne August 15, 2018 / 2:31 pm

        I have not read anything else by this author. And yes, I think you’re right about how he distances the reader from the events. If I had written about the book I might have figured out why I found the way it’s told so dull!


  4. Liz August 7, 2018 / 8:51 am

    I had mixed feelings about Exit West. An interesting premise and an important topic, but perhaps a tad convoluted? I will be interested to hear what you think in due course. I am definitely with you in loving books about books. One of my favourites is 84 Charing Cross Road and I am currently enjoying Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living. 🙂


    • Café Society August 20, 2018 / 1:19 pm

      I haven’t come across Books for Living so I’m off to explore that now. Exit West proved to be that rare thing, a book that everyone in the group enjoyed. We could have done with you there to add some balance.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Laila@BigReadingLife August 7, 2018 / 7:18 pm

    I have the Blythell book on my bedside shelf right now. I don’t know when I’ll get to it but hopefully soon – it’s a library copy! I did love Exit West but I’ve not read anything else by him yet. Mr. Penumbra’s was fun but I thought the end was a bit messy.


    • Café Society August 20, 2018 / 1:22 pm

      More people enjoyed Mr Penumbra than I thought would be the case. I really wanted to include it because I think it makes the point that it is what is in the book which is important, not the means by which you read that content. The old illuminated scroll producers got as upset about the printing press as Bythell does about Kindle.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Café Society Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s