Monday, 30 July 2012

'books don't just go with you - they take you to places you've never been.'


Today was my first day off in a quite a long time, so M and I went for a walk across Highgate, over Hampstead Heath, and down to Belsize Park. It was lovely, but also tinged with sadness because we stopped by England's Lane Books to wave farewell. They are closing tomorrow. England's Lane is a beautiful bookshop, which was kind enough to host the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops book launch back in April. Times are tough for bookshops all over, in fact times are tough for high street shops in general, and it isn't helped by rising parking charges, and charity shops popping up left, right and centre. Not to mention every time I hear this in my bookshop: 'No, not now; we'll buy it online when we get home,' a little part of me dies inside.

So. Along with the farewell, I bought a couple of Amelie Nothomb books. I love her, and I'd like to share that. I think the way she writes is just beautiful.  

'How appropriate that the one definition of the Japanese character for my name was "rain."... My rainy childhood thrived in Japan like a fish in water.
Tired of my unending passion for my element, Nishio-san would finally call to me, "Out of the lake! You'll dissolve!"
Too late. I had dissolved long before.'
 - The Character of Rain

I'm going to be giving away 'The Character of Rain' and 'Loving Sabotage' in this blog post. This is in the hope that the winners of the books will like what they read, and go out to a bookshop and buy more of her books, or any book for that matter!

This is for the love of books, and bookshops everywhere. Let's work hard to stop bookshops closing.

“What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul.” - Neil Gaiman. 

Everyone who replies to this post by 15th August will be put into the draw for the books, and two winners will be selected at random. I'll ship anywhere in the world.  


42 comments:

  1. What a beautiful quote! So very fitting for this rainy summer, really inspired me to try to read some of her books.

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  2. Aye to all of this. When we moved down from Edinburgh to our little town in Herts last year the thing that made me very sad was that our new town doesn't have a bookshop. How can a town of 20,000 people with about a dozen schools not have a lovely little indie bookstore?

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  3. So sad to read another bookshop's gone. Why can't we be like Iceland? Bookshops open late at night full of buzz and everyone reads.

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  4. Glad you enjoyed your walk on the heath, but so sad to hear that England's Lane Bookshop is closing. So many of these lovely bookshops have gone. Amazon may be chaep but it doesn't have a nice chat about and recommend something quite different to one's usual choices! And you can't smell books on Amazon or say weird things in a bookshop! I have not come across this author before but will check her books out - or maybe even win one.

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  5. Another lovely post Jen - thank you! I must admit I haven't read any of her work - a situation to be remedied ASAP!
    So sad to hear of another bookshop closing but not that surprising: in Tesco recently I saw hardbacks on sale at between 30 - 50% of their cover price - who can compete with that? Appalling!

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  6. I'd not heard of her before, love the quote you've posted though so I'll have to check her out. Sad to hear of another lovely indie closing. There are none near me either, I order from bookshops online, but it's not the same as browsing with that lovely book smell!

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  7. I love that quote! I'd love to win this. I work at a small bookshop, I will always support them :)

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  8. I know our local indie is struggling - and it has changed since the new owner took it on and become more like any other bookshop rather than keeping its unique and quirky character. The indie in the shopping centre a few kms down the road changed hands when Angus and Robertson went bust and then closed. I know of two more which are also struggling. It is sad. I feel guilty when I buy on line but the problem here is that I can order on line and have a book in about two weeks. If I order from my indie it can be quite literally twice the price and take five or six months to arrive. So, I buy books if they are already in the shop or they are things I do not need to read immediately - anything else yes, sadly, I now buy on line. (But Weird Things has sold well in the shop!)

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  9. I have to admit I don't know much about the Australian bookshop system. If it's difficult to get hold of a book in Australian bookshops, there's always the option of contacting a bookshop in the UK and getting them to send books straight to you, which would be just as quick as ordering online.

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  10. [indie bookshops in the UK can usually get books in store within 24-48 hours]

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  11. From one bookseller to another, thank you for this beautiful blog post. And don't worry about entering me in the give away, the passage you quoted has made me want to go to my local independent bookstore and ask if they have or can order it (I work for a large bookstore and still want my local independent to thrive).

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  12. Bookshops closing are so sad. When I worked in a bookshop I remember someone actually asking me if they could have a refund if they found the book cheaper on Amazon. Like we are Tescos or something. But on the other hand there is a beautiful hard back coffee table book I want at the moment and my local bookshop is selling it at £40 and Amazon at £25. When it is like that even someone who loves bookshops can be tempted.

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  13. In the past 3 years Amazon have made $7billion and not paid any tax.... bookshops not only interact with communities, get authors into schools and help children read, they also help pay to staff hospitals etc because they do pay tax.

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  14. We are very lucky in Bath as one independent bookstore took over from a chain to be the official bookseller for the Bath Literature Festival.

    Plus we have other highly successful independent bookshops which are supported by the public, university students, various writers including haiku poets such as myself.

    fresh start
    all my childhood
    in book covers

    Alan Summers
    Publications credits: Asahi Shimbun (Japan 2011)

    If you are a writer in an anthology, help by suggesting a booklaunch for the independent bookshop.

    I'm planning another haiku booklaunch, and remember the last one fondly because it was so packed I had to move the editors upstairs for health and safety reasons. :-0

    Alan

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  15. Hi Alan, I went to Bath recently and visited Mr. B's, Toppings and one of the antiquarian bookshops. They said they're all doing well at the moment, as they have the full support of the community which is just fantastic. Their sales are going strong. Now, if only everywhere could be like that!

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  16. Isn't it sad when a favourite bookshop goes away/under. I'm not convinced that it is inevitable, but I surely do not know the 'secret sauce' to avoid it.

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  17. In some European countries, bookshops are protected by the government. In France, for instance, discounting is banned. So, books are the same price whether you buy them online, in a chain, an independent or a supermarket. It's fantastic, and I so wish we had that here.

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    1. Agreed! It might take customers a while to get used to it, but I reckon evening the playing field a little is (very sadly) the only way a lot of people are ever going to really appreciate their local indie bookstores again.

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  18. that is terrible! the best way to discover new books and authors is to wander about in a bookshop. . you can never get that feeling from an online store.

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  19. We're down to a decent Waterstone's and the usual WHS here in Tunbridge Wells - we have no independents left apart from the lovely ancient Hall's second hand bookshop, despite our pretensions to culture! A nice surprise is the commitment of our Oxfam bookshop who run poetry readings and bookgroups, and generally try really hard. I still miss the idiosyncratic selection of books in the shop I worked in as a teenager - even the rows of military history picked solely for the friends of the retired army man in charge of us all. (It was my job to dust them every Saturday morning.)

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  20. Lovely post, just a shame, the circumstances. Every year I go to France and every year I buy a Nothomb in French and and spend a week reading 10 pages badly.

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  21. Hi Jen,

    It was Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights that was packed over three floors full of haiku enthusiasts. I've also led haiku and renga workshops there too. They are a tourist attraction in their own right, and often people come down/across to Bath to get their books and therapies at Mr B's. Great dog too! :-)

    The booklaunch will be at the equally amazing Oldfield Park Bookshop in Bath (Oldfield Park) owned by Harry Wainwright: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2006/may/22/bestukbookshops

    But I'd love to do another haiku event at Mr B's, and Toppings do brilliant events too.

    It's down to extremely long hard hours, enthusiasm, and sheer grit, and character.

    I rarely go into chains because often they are characterless, and have proven in some cases, that they are not interested in literary festivals beyond getting their name out, although I'm sure there are exceptions.

    Alan

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  22. I almost cried reading that. Bookshops should go on forever.

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  23. I almost cried reading this. The comments are just as sad and beautiful. Bookshops should go on forever.

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  24. Those books sound lovely! As does the walk. We are getting quite a bit of rain this afternoon in Toronto.

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  25. Like others, I hadn't heard of this author before, but I'll be beetling off to the lovely Yellow Lighted Bookshop in Nailsworth to put an order in. It is so sad when a bookshop closes. I grew up in East Kent where we had two branches of the wonderful Albion Bookshop - one in Cliftonville, the other in Canterbury - both tiny with books in piles all over the floor. They would never have passed health and safety regs! I particularly loved the Canterbury branch in Mercery Lane near the Cathedral as it had such atmosphere - Edmund de Waal mentions it in "The Hare with Amber Eyes". When I last went there a couple of years ago the building was swathed in scaffolding and being 'redeveloped' into who knows what (please not a Subway). I imagine a similar fate befell the other shop too. So happy memories, but not the experience I had hoped to share with my sons.

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  26. Hi Jen - just discovered you. Great blog! I'm an independent online bookseller (aspiring to bricks and mortar eventually) and we struggle in much the same way.I've heard several people coming out with similar nonsense - getting the browsing experience in the small independent then going home and buying online - it's heartbreaking...

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  27. Glad you rescued those books! The quote is definitely appropriate for the rainy English weather I've been experiencing my first year in England. :)

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  28. It's only been recently I've heard of Amelie, but The Character of Rain is on my to-read list.

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  29. What you say about people browsing in store & buying online is painfully true. I have taken to browsing online & going to local bookshops to purchase.

    Regardless of whether I win or not, I will be buying Amelie Northomb's books; she sounds a delightful author.

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    1. I do that too! I take a perverse pleasure in keeping a wishlist on Amazon but then buying most of those titles in the indie bookshop down the road (or going to the library...) :P

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  30. Amelie sounds like an author I would like to read, I love good, thought-provoking writing! I don't visit very often but that's due to so much going on in London right now!!
    Cheers
    belleek

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  31. So sad to hear of another bookshop closing down... We, too, have been hit by a nasty spate of 'we can probably get it cheaper on Amazon later' comments, and its companion, 'Oh no, I don't need anything from here - I've got my Kindle now.' :(

    On a nicer note, these books sound wonderful! I've never read Amelie Northomb before, but I'll be adding her to my wishlist on the double! (You know, to buy from an actual bookshop...)

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  32. Sd news. We need more places in the world that smell like old books.

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  33. What a wonderful thing to do! It is such a shame highstreet shops are closing. Here I am certainly feeling that the over saturation of charity shops is having a serious affect :/

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  34. Like the quote does resonate! My name is leaf

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  35. Jen, I'd first like to belatedly thank you for the Post Card. It certainly put a smile on my face when I found it in the mailbox. It truly is a shame that bookstores all over are closing. I hate to admit that I'm part of the problem, but in my defense, there isn't a good local bookstore in my town. I do visit and support http://www.inkwoodbooks.com/ when I'm in their neighborhood. Speaking of neighborhoods, I'm going to be in London in mid October. I hope to find you minding the store as I would like to pick up a copy of "Weird things customers say in bookshops".

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  36. Jen,
    First off a belated thank you for the poetry post card. It certainly made me smile when I opened the mailbox. It is a sad day when an independent bookstore closes. I like to frequent http://www.inkwoodbooks.com/ when I'm in their neighborhood. Speaking of neighborhoods, I will be in London in October, I hope to find you minding the store as I wish to pick up a copy of "Weird things customers say in bookshops" from you.

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  37. I'm so glad I stumbled upon you. I enjoy your thoughts on your blog and your twitter, and one of my dreams is to work in/own a bookshop of my own.

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  38. Waited until after the giveaway deadline to comment because I already own these books but I wanted to say I love Amelie Nothomb and am glad you are sharing her fabulousness with the world.

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  39. Thanks so everyone for entering - the winners (picked at random) were OrigamiGirl and Rebekah. x

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