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Books by Post!

Woo hoo! Every day this week the postman has delivered a book (or books), thanks to my lovely Mother, who gave me some money when I was staying with her last week, and told me to treat myself – so I bought novels which, hopefully, will be a treat to read, and I shall have them to enjoy for ever!
The problem, of course, is what to buy. I’m never any good at making decisions and I don’t whether to buy titles I know I love because I’ve borrowed them from the library or from friends, or whether to opt for new volumes on the wish list. And I was really tempted to splurge on some brand new Persephones, or to browse round Waterstones in Birmingham, or visit some other bookish town for the day and just see what takes my fancy.
Sadly there is no book shop in Tamworth. Can you imagine that? Even The Works (which isn’t a proper bookshop at all, though you can pick up the occasional goodie if you search hard), closed down. So, on the rare occasions I’m let loose in a book store and have cash to spare I’m like a child in a sweet shop and indulge in what can only be described as the literary equivalent of a deprived dieter’s binge eating session . 

Anyway, as I generally do, I plumped for second-hand rather than new, because it means the books are cheaper, and you get more of them! Shallow, I know, but I’ve always been attracted by quantity rather than quality, but whittling down that extensive wish list was well-nigh impossible – and my purchases haven’t made any impact on it all. I spent an evening trawling through Amazon and AbeBooks to see what was available, and in the end based my choices on the fact that books must be published by Persephone or Virago, and they should be ‘paired’  in some way. Well, it narrowed the field a bit…

So, what have I got? There’s a lovely Virago Modern Classic selection of short stories by Sylvia Townsend-Warner, which is in fabulous condition, and looks as if it has never been read. And I bought Mr Fortune’s Maggot AND I’d already spotted an old VMC of After The Death of Don Juan (not pictured) which I haven’t read yet so, as you can see, I’ve developed a bit of a passion for STW’s work. And I really want a copy of the letters between her and William Maxwell, and a decent biography – can anyone out there recommend one? Please!
There’s a nice copy of Angela Thirkell’s Wild Strawberries, because I enjoyed High Rising and Cheerfulness Breaks In so much, and to go with that Greenery Street by her brother Denis McKail, because it sounds as if I would like it, and at the moment I seem to be hooked on novels from the 20s and 30s. Surprisingly, the McKail arrived with its bookmark intact, which was very pleasing.
 I’ve had my open for Agnes Jekyll’s Kitchen Essays for ages, and I’ve already had a quick look through, and it’s quite enchanting. I love cookery books and people’s thoughts about food and ingredients. I paired it with Few Eggs and No Oranges, the wartime diaries of Vere Hodgson, because both authors seem to write from a very personal point of view.
Finally, I snapped up Miss Buncle’s Book, by DE Stevenson, which has been at the top of my wanted catalogue since I read Mrs Tim, plus I’m part-way into Amberwell, which was another Oxfam buy.
I’m quite pleased with my selection. I know I’ve played safe by choosing things I’m fairly sure I will like, and perhaps I should have been more adventurous, but I can try out new things at the library, and books are meant o be enjoyed, so what’s the point in buying something by an author I don’t usually like, or in genre I don’t connect with?
And I didn’t spend all my money – I’m spreading it out, so I have something to look forward to over the next few months, and I can get half a dozen or so at a time. That means I can acquire my own copies of some Mollie Panter-Browne, along with more Tove Janssen, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Whittle and Elizabeth Taylor. And I want to read Patience, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, Miss Ranskill Comes Home, The Fortnight in September, and some adult work from Noel Streatfeald and Richmal Crompton and all sorts of other things… the list is endless.
And I can plan some days out, by train, because I get so het up about driving. First a return trip to Oxford, for a tour of the Bodleian and its Magical Books exhibition, and I can browse around the second-hand bookshops, and enjoy tea and cake somewhere. And I want to go to Worcester, because King John is buried there, and I was brought up in Egham, which is where Runnymede is, where Magna Carta was signed – and there must be book shops in Worcester. And there are places in Birmingham connected to JRR Tolkien, and the Johnson Birthplace in Lichfield, is always interesting, the museum at Nuneaton has a lot about Gorge Eliot.
I am such a lucky girl to be able to treat myself to books and trips, and I’ve sent Mum a copy of Pickwick Papers, as a small thank you, as she had to get rid of her hardback editions of Dickens when she moved because a) she didn’t have room for them, and b) the print was not easy to read. It may not sound much of a pressie, but she was pleased.
If any of you have any recommendations for books you think I might enjoy, please let me know – and the same goes if you know anywhere with good bookshops or literary links that’s near Birmingham and doesn’t involve me using the M42!  And I’d love to hear your ideas about the benefits of buying new or used books – I know some people have really strong views about wanting to support small independent bookstores.
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Author:

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

12 thoughts on “Books by Post!

  1. I love the anticipation of waiting for books to arrive! With used vs. new, it seems that for those of us who enjoy older books, we don't have much choice but to buy used, since so many wonderful books are now out of print. (I do not like print on demand books myself.) It's the best of both worlds when the small independents sell used books, to my mind!

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  2. What lovely books. I've read quite a few of them & have some tbr. I have a later Virago edition of the STW stories but I'd rather have yours! Claire Harman wrote an excellent biography of STW & also edited her diaries.
    I prefer new books & I'm so glad that lots of early 20th century writers are being reprinted now. If I can get very clean, untouched second hand books, that's ok but doesn't often happen… Ebooks are also great as many older authors have been republished digitally by Bello & Bloomsbury.

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  3. I agree, it's a lovely feeling waiting for books to be delivered, and this has been such a treat – I tend to buy in local charity shops, which means I'm very dependent on what I see, but usually I am very lucky in finding books I want to read.

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  4. Lyn, they are all in really good condition – they look as if they have been left on shelves, and have obviously not been read and read, so I guess the previous owners didn't love them! Thanks for the STW biography recommendation: I'll see if my library can get it for me, if not I may buy it!

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  5. Though I love my hardcover copy of the STW selected stories, which comes in a lovely shade of turquoise, I must say that the VMC copy you've got there looks amazing! It does feel great when one manages to find a second hand book that is in pristine condition. Such great value for money! Do keep the treats coming (for yourself, and for us as we take peeks at them!) 🙂

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  6. They were all in fantastic condition, which pleased me, because you can't always be certain what they will be like. I'm trying to divide the Wish List into things I want to buy, and things I want to read if I can find them at the library!

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  7. Michelle, the cover shows Nature Morte a la Guitare, by Leon se Smet. I love those old green VMCs – I have been known to buy them purely on the strength of the cover, even when I don'#t like the author or suspect the book is not really my thing!

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  8. Isn't it strange that we know what books/authors we want to read – until we have the money there to actually buy them! I go through the same thoughts as you and it takes me ages to decide. I go for a mixture of new and secondhand.

    I think you're so lucky to be able to spread out buying the books and it makes it extra special by going to different places in your search. I like to support the independent bookshops and I've found some secondhand suppliers through ABE Books and then go to the individual sellers websites to buy the books where possible. We have a book exchange system locally too, which is great.

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  9. Seem to have missed some comments on the blog Margaret. Sorry! I do find it difficult to compile a 'shopping list' of books – it's such a different process to those times when you spot something you want and just have to get it, there and then! And yes, I like to use individual, independent sellers when I can.

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