The Christmas displays are out and I’ve had a nosy at what they’re promoting front and centre in the Euston WH Smith…
And it is all about the memoirs! This is the main promo table as you come in. I know some of this is likely to be paid placement but it still sort of fascinates me that a Korean book in translation has made this table. It has also reminded me that I own I Want To Die But I Want to Eat Tteokpokki and should get around to reading it!
And the other big thing is that a) Bono has a book out and b) it’s half price. Everything else in here was pretty much as I was expecting, with all the usual suspects from my recent bookshop trips, but Bono was new, by the door and explains why he popped up on an NPR podcast in my feed at the weekend (I didn’t listen).
Did I do a sweep of the supermarket book selection when I was in Essex last week. Of course I did. Was it super weird that the Sainsbury’s I used to shop in was knocked down a decade ago and there’s a completely new one a little bit across and they’ve completely rearranged all the roads at the retail park I used to go to on the way home from work? Absolutely. Did I feel really old? Yes. Did I also recreate my old commute by playing the music I used to have in my CD player back then? Ummmm. Does this mean I have had There Once Was A Man from The Pajama Game stuck in my head for more than a week? Yes.
Let’s start with the Christmas memoirs – which is basically what the hardback section is at the moment – including the Richard E Grant I read on holiday and the Alan Rickman that I’m torn about whether I want to read or not – although to be fair there’s also the Big Name Fiction, including the Michael Ball that I’m reading at the moment.
That mix of celeb Christmas book and other stuff sort of carries on in this one – which isn’t even the adjacent case but I’m going with it. I mean the organisation of this is all not great – but here’s a couple of my favourite books of the year again – Lessons in Chemistry and Murder Before Evensong – but also Carrie Soto which I really need to finish… and then the new Rukmini Iyer cookbook which is on my Christmas list!
I’m including this one because it has The Dead Romantics in it, which is one of my favourite books from this month, but also a much older Trisha Ashley in what I think must be at least it’s second rerelease/rejacketing because it was a rerelease when I bought it back in my later post-Colchester Essex era.
And finally here’s the paperback fiction and the rest of the cookbooks. Love on the Brain, Book Lovers and Malibu Rising would all make good Christmas present books – if (like me) you don’t buy only Christmas themed books for festive gifts.
And that’s your lot today. I leave you with the only video I could find of Kelli O’Hara and Harry Connick doing There Once Was A Man, which isn’t the same as the cast recording version as it’s much more jazzy, but it is still excellent.
The other thing that happens when I go on holiday, is that I have a look in the bookshops there to see what I can spot in translation – so for an extra treat this week, here are my Sicilian spots!
Super easy to start with – here’s former BotW The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood and Netflix sensation (that I’m currently working my way through) Heartstopper. I haven’t read the Elena Armas – but she’s another of the TikTok/BookTok authors – this one is The Spanish Love Deception.
Next up we have a string of former Books of the Week – starting with T J Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea, which I recommended to someone only last week. I also spotted the newest Klune adult novel as well – which reminded me that I really need to get hold of that at some point. I must keep an eye open next time I’m in Foyles/a big Waterstones.
Then we have Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston which a friend messaged me about the other day to say how much he was enjoying it – which meant I was able to recommend a whole bunch of other books to him on an if you like… then this basis. And you can also see One Last Stop nestled next to it – which as I mentioned on Wednesday is 99p this month.
Then we have Christina Lauren’s The Unhoneymooners, which I think is the first time I’ve spotted one of their books on holiday, but you know me, I forget things. I’ve written a lot about Christina Lauren – but this one is in their sweet spot for me – a fake relationship romance that doesn’t have the pranks/meanness issues that I have with say Dating You/Hating you.
And finally this is the one that I keep seeing but haven’t read yet – What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli (Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda) and Adam Silvera. The second book in this series is in the Kindle offers this month, but you know me and reading sequels before the original. I don’t like it and I won’t do it and I won’t suggest you do it either. Anyway, this is suddenly everywhere – I saw both of them in Foyles when I was in there the other month, but ended up buying Piglettes instead – and now it’s coming up in my suggestions on goodreads and amazon. It must be a sign right?
Anyway the big thing I noticed this holiday was how many of the english translation books are now keeping their English cover art in their translated editions – this might be an italian thing that’s been going on a while, but it definitely wasn’t how it’s been in Spain when I’ve been looking there both before and after the pandemic – or in France last time I was there (which was pre-pandemic times). So I will keep an eye next time we go anywhere to see if this is now A Thing.
We’ve been on holiday – so of course this means I’ve got some more airport bookshop pix to report for all of you who like to leave your holiday book purchases to the last minute and want to see what you might be able to pick up.
Lets start with the chart – because the number one book is one half of my purchases at the airport! I’ve written about how much I like Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series, but as I said yesterday, if you haven’t already read the first two, don’t start on book three!
Next up is the new non fiction shelf which has the other half of my Buy 1 get 1 Half Price offer – Richard E Grant’s memoir. There’s also the Edward Enninful autobiography which I read the other week, and the Lucy Worsley Agatha Christie biography that I have waiting on the pile.
But the record goes to this one: the latest TJR, which you all know I’m still reading, but also Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Lessons in Chemistry, Murder Before Evensong and Twist of the Knife (the latest Hawthorn mystery). All of which adds up to the fact that it’s getting increasingly hard for me to buy books at the airport, because all the stuff that is in my wheelhouse is stuff that I’ve already read or bought! This is good news for my poor long suffering partner, who puts up with my huge piles of books and hardly ever rolls his eyes at my acquisitions, but slightly less good for me!
I was staying at a different hostel to usual last week, so took the opportunity to make a visit to the big Piccadilly Waterstones as I walked down to the Palace on my way home. I’ve mostly focused here on the stuff you don’t find in a normal sized bookshop!
Firstly, they have one of the biggest selections of British Library Crime Classics outside of the British Library’s own bookshop. Not only was there this table downstairs, but there was another one in the crime section upstairs. I only had a small bag with me (and no space in my suitcase for more than one book) so I managed to resist, but I did add a much more to the list of books I want to read. I’m going back for them…
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this table, because it has so many books I’ve already read or have waiting to be read on it! Obviously there’s the latestVinyl Detective, but also several Nicola Upsons. I still haven’t read the book of Holding, but as mentioned, I really enjoyed the TV series. Then there’s a nice Albert Campion, a Maisie Dobbs, Death and Croissants that I read last year, a recent Hamish MacBeth that I haven’t read yet and the new Frances Brody standalone book and A Spoonful of Murder that I have waiting on the pile to read. On the other side there is a Peter Wimsey, an Agatha Raisin that I’ve actually read, a Grantchester novel, one of the Ian Samson County murder novels and Death on the Nile. It’s basically a table tailor made for my crime fiction reading interests. I have added Death in August and The Room of the Dead to the want to read like!
I’ve written plenty about Persephone Books too, but again this is the largest selection I’ve seen in the wild – including some of my favourites: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, A House in the Country and The Young Pretenders.
And finally, it’s a long time since I saw a big Romance section and this was a wonderfully big one. This is just two bookshelves of it – there were about eight more and I had a ball – spotting stuff in the wild I’ve only seen as ebooks and seeing some old friends too. Genuinely I had a lovely time and it was a bright spot in a somber week in London.
I had a bit of a wander around Tottenham Court Road Waterstones on Wednesday, and I have thoughts…
Firstly, I liked the window. It’s tempting. I’ve obviously read A Fatal Crossing, but I think that’s it and a lot of the stuff there looks tempting. And it’s bright and varied and I can get on board with that.
I’m doing better on the YA table – here’s The Agathas in the flesh, and I’ve read The Gravity of Us and The Fault in Our Stars (more fool me). And there are a few things here that tempt me – but also remind me about my tbr- I want to read the first Aristotle and Dante book and I have one of the Inheritance Games books on the kindle pile.
More guilt on the fiction table – Lincoln Highway is on the Kindle TBR too. But I have at least read The Christie Affair lo. I keep picking up and thinking about Diary of a Void, but I’m not sure my brain is in the right place for it at the moment!
Here’s my problem though. All the non fiction is one giant section (see above) and adult fiction is lumped together. How am I meant to serendipitously happen across a book that will appeal to me I want to read if it’s all in one big lump? I go to bookshops to happen across stuff that the algorithm isn’t going to tell me about. Sometimes that means spotting a shelf talker for something but more often it means going to the section for the genre that I’m interested in and seeing what’s being put out on the table in front or has been turned to be front facing or is shelved with something I like. Alphabetical for all fiction just doesn’t work for me.
In the end I came away without buying – the two that tempted me were the Muriel Spark and the Sybille Bedford but they’re both classics and so I’ll see them again, and what I really wanted was to happen across something new and under the radar. Hey ho. I suppose I saved some money…
Firstly, I’m sure the Birmingham Waterstones used to be in a charming old building – that used to be a bank or something like that. But the building I thought it was is now an Apple store and so I’m doubting myself. Anyway the current Waterstones is near the Bullring and I had a little wander on Friday to see what they’re promoting and displaying.
Let’s start with the big display as you come in – which has Jessie Burtons – old and new, the new Juno Dawson book , the Richard Coles that I wrote about the other week and the latest book in a thriller series that is clearly going to be too scary and violent for me!
On the other side, we’ve got the non-fiction selections – I haven’t read any of them, but I’ve got The Premonitions Bureau on the Kindle, as I thought it might appeal to the part of me that enjoyed The Haunting of Alma Fielding the other year. Then there’s Clubland, which I hadn’t heard of, but which is a history of working men’s clubs in the UK and which sounds interesting, although my to read pile is so huge that I can wait for it! I hadn’t come across The Escape Artist either, but that also sounds interesting- about the first Jewish man to break out of Auschwitz and tried to warn the world about what was going on there. Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before is a mental health toolkit type book which again sounds interesting and Cry of the Kalahari is presumably there because the film of Where the Crawdad’s Sing has just come out and it’s by Delia Owens and her husband about their life in Africa (and which there have been a number of articles about recently).
A number of books I have written about previously have now made it to the buy one get one half price table – notably Fatal Crossing and The Man Who Died Twice. I’m also somewhat intrigued by the Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series – A Three Dog Problem is the second one, but I’ve been looking out for the first at the library.
The non fiction table was where I spotted a few more things – I’ve got the hardback version of JudithMackrell‘s Going With The Boys, which I really need to get to because I’ve enjoyed her other group biographies (hence my purchase!). I hadn’t heard of Oh What A Lovely Century before – but Roderic Fenwick Owen’s edited Diaries sound right up my street – born in 1921, he went to Eton and Oxford, survived the Second World War and then became a travel writer. The blurb promises that he experienced Nazi Germany and the Pentagon during the Cold War and met people like Jackson Pollack and Sean Connery. He was also attracted to men at a time when it was still illegal in many places. The few pages I read were interesting enough that I nearly bought it – except that it’s a chunky old thing and I didn’t want to have to carry it around in my handback getting battered for the rest of the day. I will be watching out for it.
And there we are – a rare bookshop trip where I didn’t buy anything – but still managed to add a few more books to the list…
The other reason for last week’s longer reading list is revealed – I have been on a little holiday! And as that involved going through an airport, I took some pictures of the book selection for those of you who are heading out on a trip soon and want to see what your airport choices might be so you can save space in your baggage – on the way out at least!
I was quite disappointed with the new this week shelf – too much Stephen King and self help, not enough fiction and some of the fiction is the paper back release of hardbacks – like Circus of Wonders.
And this is the shelf where I usually make at least one of my purchases – the airport exclusives! Except this time I had sort of scuppered myself because I already had Murder Before Evensong and Lessons in Chemistry in hardback at home! I’ve finished them both now and can (and will!) recommend them! I got a bit excited about the Anthony Horowitz, until I realised it was a Bond Continuation and not a new Hawthorn, but there’s also the latest Marian Keys and Beth O’Leary for you if you don’t want to wait for the paperbacks.
This is the non fiction shelf, which I was a little disappointed by, although I’m not sure what I was hoping would be there – just that I usually end up getting some interesting non-fiction from this shelf – like Traitor King – but not this time!
I was going to call this the usual suspects shelf – RichardOsman, Sally Rooney, Lee Child, some duplication from the first photo… still if you haven’t read Malibu Rising, here is your chance ahead of the release of the release of Carrie Soto is Back, which is sort of connected.
And to be honest it was a very poor showing for books that I have read – but here finally we have a few more – recent recommendation Book Lovers and slightly longer ago BotW pick Educated. If I didn’t already have Beach Read and You and Me on Vacation on the Kindle, I would have been picking one of them up here I think.
And that’s your lot. I didn’t take any pictures of the tables because there was nothing else exciting there, and in case you were wondering, yes I did take advantage of the buy one get one half price – but it was for a book for Him Indoors and not for me!
One of my frequent refrains over the last two years has been that I don’t know if various books I’ve been recommending will be easy to find in bookshops or not, so being in the vicinity of Foyles earlier this week I thought I would take the opportunity to see what was around and available and write about it!
Let’s start with the pride themed window display, which is actually the last photo I took – after they chucked me out at closing time! Bad Gays getting plenty of promotion – it’s got a table inside too, and if it hadn’t been a hardback I would have probably bought it, the blurb was intriguing. But I had already decided that I only had space in my suitcase for a paperback at most, so it will have to wait.
I was delighted to find Martha Wainwright’s memoir so nice and prominent – and signed. If I’d known it was going to crop up signed, I might have waited to buy it, I’ve only ever seen her playing small venues – audiences in the low hundreds – so I had no sense of how well it was going to do or how easy it would be to get hold of so I preordered it because preorders are important. And to be fair, she signed my ticket at when I saw her live, so it’s not like I don’t have an autograph already and if I really want the book signed I can take it with me when I see her live in the summer and see what happens!
And I was also delighted to see A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, because that was another one where I couldn’t tell ahead of time whether it would get a push here. And in years gone by it probably wouldn’t have, but Bridgerton has made such a difference to Historical Romance sales in the UK. I saw my first Julia Quinn as one book in a much bigger Waterstones window display back in my Southend days more than a decade ago, and I’m so used to needing to order them in – initially in US editions, and then preordering the UK editions because they were never in shops if you went in on the off chance – that it’s still a surprise and delight to see them front facing in the main section of the store. And Lady’s Guide… also has a different style of cover to the half headless lady clutching an entirely headless gentleman and it’s variants that we’re getting on so much at the moment because that’s what the latest editions of the Bridgerton series have…
And this was the other non fiction hardback that seriously tempted me. As you can’t help but know at this point, I’ve read a lot of history books about the interwar period and Nancy Cunard is in so many of them. But I have an Anne de Courcy paperback still waiting to be read on the shelf, so I will try and be good and wait until the paperback comes out (because they get read sooner anyway) or maybe I’ll put it on the prospective Christmas book list!
And finally, I loved this display for the colours and the range of authors in it. I haven’t read any of Anthony Horowitz’s James Bond novels, but I have read several of his own series – and reviewed them too (Moonflower Murders for example). I’ve got a signed copy of the Richard Coles ordered from Big Green Books or I would have been tempted by that one too. I’ve read some Emma Straub before, but this one is sort of time travel or sliding doors-y if that makes sense, and I don’t usually do well with do-your-life-over books so I’ll wait and see on this one. The covers on the other two were just so pretty I had to pick them up and see what they are. The House with the Golden Door is the second in a planned trilogy about Pompeii so that was relatively easy for me to resist – I have a poor record on books set before 1300 let alone in the first century and when you know a volcano eruption is coming! But The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley sounds like interesting eighteenth century magical realism with an unusual setting, so it has gone on The List.
And what did I end up buying? Well I did think about keeping you in suspense until books incoming, but I’m not that mean.
I loved the cover design, and the blurb sounded right up my street – a 1920s setting and a plot around a lavender marriage so the main characters can do what they want. I hadn’t heard of it before I saw it in the display so I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for or what the reviews say. I read the first few pages in the shop but that was it because it was suddenly five minutes to closing time and I had to run to the till to pay!