Waterstones Piccadilly: where’s the worlds biggest bookshop?

Waterstones Piccadilly!  So … well, so many books. There is difficult to say anything else, except that any store that has four or five floors of books is a store where I’d be happy to live.

It was also here that I was reminded of one of the great things with this UK bookshop-tour: talking to booksellers about their own favourite recommendation.

This is how the conversation usually goes:
Me: “I am only allowed to buy one book, so can you recommend one to me?”
Them: “What do you like?”
Me: “Anything” (quite true)
Them; “What was the last book you read?” (excellent question to find out about taste! Mine right now: Enchanted April)
Me: “Don’t worry about me. Give me something that you‘ve read and loved.”
And either they immediately head ot to two or three or possibly four books, all of them interesting, or they say something like this, slightly apologetic:”Well … it’s fiction you’re after, right? I’m more into non-fiction/childrens book/young adult”
“Anything is fine.”

And then you can just relax and enjoy the passion with which they speak about their favourites, the brilliant books they’ve read. In Waterstones Piccadilly the conversation (non-fiction), e.g., went something like this:

“Oh, where is it… it’s absolutely brilliant. This one is also very good, of course, but … no, wait, here it is. Oh! No, I changed my mind. This one instead. I read it in one evening, and then passed it along to a friend who did the same. Definitely this one.”

Her recommendation: Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz

“It’s based on a true story; concerns an important topic, and reads like an international thriller.”

If you have nothing to do for an evening or a weekend, I highly recommend visiting your locan bookshop, ask the person behind the till for anything he or she has personally loved, and just buy it. Allow yourself to be surpriced. And enchanted.

I think I also shocked Louise a little bit, with the wild abandon with which I books. I walked in there, saw I book, picked it up from the table, and a minute later decided to buy it, happily breaking my one-book-rule yet another time.

“So you had wanted to buy that for some time?” Louise asked.
“What? No, we just got here.”
“But you’ve read about it before?”
“So you just walked up to it and decided to buy it?”
“Eh, yes?”

First of all: it’s title was Arsenic for Tea. Secondly, the cover looked nice. Thirdly, it mentioned Agatha Christie and cosy crime on the cover, in a shameless bid to make readers like me think: “Well, who doesn’t need some arsenic for tea and some quiet, cosy killings? Not like any of those modern murders, no, simple, traditional Brittish ones.”

And it obviously works.

Mastering Brittish weather conversations

Some seven days into my epic, 44 UK bookshops-trip, I think I have finally got the hang of Brittish weather conversations. The secret is to open with a smile, a nod and a simple “good evening”/”good morning”/tentative “hello” and then wait for them  to initiate it. I failed to grasp this important point in London. If you open the conversation yourself, with a remark about the rain or the snow, you very much risk sounding like a foreigner critizing their weather. If you wait for them to say something about it, you seem like a visitor with a remarkable insight into the Brittish weather by simply agreeing with everything they say.

“Horrible weather, isn’t it”
“Yes, but at least yesterday was lovely.”
“A bit cold though, but you’re right, sunshine is better than rain even if it is a bit chilly.”
“Quite so.”
“They say it might snow today.”
“Yes, that does seem likely.”

“Great day for it, isn’t it?”
“Yes, so lovely to get to see the sun. In February, too.”
“Almost forgotten it existed, eh, right, love?”

“Raining again, eh?”
“Yes, I really should have gotten an umbrella.”
“Ha, not from here, are you?”

One man even went so far as to show me the weather forecast on his phone, confirming the likelihood of snow, which I think shows that I’m making great progess in my conversations about the weather.

Brighton: Jane Austen cannot have visited City Books

Brighton for me is the place where Lydia Bennet got into trouble. Jane Austen did not like Brighton. She once wrote in a letter to Cassandra: “I assure you that I dread the idea of going to Brighton as much as you do, but I am not without hopes that something may happen to prevent it”. And then: “Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin already to find my morals corrupted.”

Well, all I can say is that she obviously never visited City Books. It is a charming bookshop in a charming town (perhaps more so now that the Prince Regent is no longer here), regularly organizing literary events and in general selling great books.

Their recommendation: We were liars by e. lockhart. I also got a lovely postcard to be able to write them and tell them what I thought about it, although I think I’ll have to get a Swedish one to do that, because I’m definitely not sending this postcard back to them.

Definitely not parting with this postcard.

Village Books: why people ever leave Dulwich is a mystery

It quickly became even more incomprehensible why people ever left Dulwich for something as dull as skiing, when they have not one, but two, absolutely lovely bookshops. Louise and I walked a very short bit, and visited awardwinning Village Books.

Their recommendation: The Devil in the Marshalsea. And I got a Books are my bag-bag. Such a great campaign.

Dulwich books: tea, cake and excellent books

I defy anyone to visit Dulwich books and not fall immediately in love with it. Louise and the cab driver talked about house prices on the way there, proving in a very reassuring way that certain topics are certainly universal, and then we arrived, on a sunny afternoon, to a shop that was quiet and warm and welcomming. “It’s mid-term, most people are away skiing.”

When they can visit their bookshop! What fools! But that of course only meant more tea and cake for me.

Their recommendation? Shotgun lovesongs. But since we also talked about books that were brilliant but difficult to recommend, I had to buy one of those as well. Louise understood.

Life is always sunny in a bookshop
My book! In an English bookshop! (although not out until June, but still!)