Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas bestsellers 2012

A quick thank you to everyone who gave us fantastic support in the run-up to Christmas - and lovely to see so many of you in last few days.

As 2012 draws to a close, we thought you might like to see which titles did well in Mostly Books over the Christmas period. As usual, they bear no relation to the charts...(but if they did, what's an independent bookseller for, mmm?)

For fairness, this list has been stripped of any titles that corresponded to a Christmas event we did. If these were included Ben Goldacre's 'Bad Pharma' and Mark Forsyth's 'Horologicon' and 'Etymologicon' would be runaway winners.

These books had to duke it out with all the other titles, selling in 1s and 2s from the tables and shelves...

So, in reverse order...

#20 - Dominion - CJ Sansom
#19 - Klutz Gotcha Gadgets
#18 - 1000 QI Facts to Blow Your Socks Off
#17 - Calebs Crossing - Geraldine Brooks
#16 - Diary of a Wimpy Kid - The Third Wheel - Jeff Kinney
#15 - Oxfordshire Calendar
#14 - Best of Matt 2012
#13 - Ratburger - David Walliams
#12 - Moleskine Pocket Weekly 12-month Diary
#11 - On The Map - Simon Garfield
#10 - Running My Life - Seb Coe
#9 - Usborne Sticker Christmas Cards
#8 - How To Hide a Lion - Helen Stephens
#7 - Patrick Leigh Fermor: an adventure - Artemis Cooper
#6 - Bring Up The Bodies - Hilary Mantel
#5 - Operation Bunny - Sally Gardner
#4 -  Bee In A Cathedral - Joel Levy
#3 - One Dog and His Boy - Eva Ibbotson
#2 - The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
#1 - Wenceslas - Carol Ann Duffy

Wishing you a prosperous 2013 from everyone here at Mostly Books...

Friday, December 21, 2012

3 4 Friday: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times and Happy Christmas

No matter how you plan it, this time of year always gets a bit 'hairy' (to use a technical retail term) with a combination of large numbers of people coming in for very specific and important purchases, and inevitable bottlenecks occurring. Our lovely little shop, which for large parts of the year gets variously described as beautiful or bijou, just seems a bit too small. Our careful stock selection and planning inevitable suffers one of two 'Christmas casualties' when a book is plucked from relative obscurity to become the big world-of-mouth hit after a storming performance by the author on 'Start The Week'.

(This year there have been relatively few of these - although it was a bit touch and go for a few days with the 'The Moomins and the Great Flood'...a fine book, and somewhat apt given the weather plus it's that date).

This time of year can be described as 'the best of times' the worst of times'. The best, because of course it is lovely to see the shop full of people, and our recommendations going down well. The worst, because pretty much all our best supporters and friends come into the shop, and we often race around like mad things with no time to catch up and ask about family. So it goes.

(In fact, my own particular brand of excitedly-arm-waving, over-caffeinated bookselling can cross a line at this time of year. I know this when customers back away at the slightly sleep-deprived yet manic chap in front of them. It's a fine line between a graceful dance around the shop, being friendly and effortlessly pulling recommendations from the shelf and someone slightly unhinged invading the old personal space...)

It's been quite a year for us, six and a bit years down the line. The book industry continues to change at a bewildering pace. But the future of the book as artifact and repository of knowledge seems to be secure. Whilst we have been very proud of our Angry Robot Clonefiles tie-up this year (and there will be more developments to come in 2013) we are also justly proud of continuing to do events, and place the physical book into people's hands to enjoy.

We've loved our events this year - highlights being Ben Goldacre at the Oxford Union, Frances Hardinge at St Nicolas Primary, Cressida Cowell at Kennington and the launch of MG Harris' final Joshua Files (very appropriate given its Mayan-shennanigans). We have plans for more in the new year...

One development that we've definitely noticed in recent months is - even from hardened digital readers - the ability to take a break from reading off a screen is something that seems to be increasingly valued. We feel the book will continue to take a twin-track approach, and the future will be both in print and on the screen. But we certainly recommend that you use a good book to drop off the grid for a while and give your head a break from the 24/7 digital onslaught...

For anyone we've not really spoken to this holiday season, thank you from all of us here at Mostly Books for your incredible support which allows us not only to survive, but thrive and still excited about running the shop. For everyone who dips into the babbling brooks that are our social media of blog, newsletter, Facebook and Twitter - we appreciate the support too.

So what is our final '3 4 Friday' of the year? Simply a Merry Christmas for you and your family, a happy and prosperous 2013 - and a gentle request that in all you do next year, make time for books.

Friday, December 14, 2012

3 4 Friday: Bees, Bangs and Barely Imagined Beings

"Science does not know its debt to imagination." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Abingdon sits in the middle of a science triangle: Culham to the East, Harwell and Diamond to the West and of course Oxford to the North (where there may be one of two scientists working). So this week's '3 4 Friday' #FridayReads sees a pick of our favourite science and natural history books of the year - which we feel would satisfy anyone curious about daring discoveries and big ideas...


'A Bee in a Cathedral' by Joel Levy is a brilliant concept executed flawlessly. Published in conjunction with The Science Museum, Levy uses everyday objects and experiences to explain the unbelievably massive, the inconceivably tiny and the unfathomably complex. An attractive book that covers 100 basic scientific concepts through analogies, it is an accessible and engaging read. (The 'Bee in a Cathedral' incidentally proves a great analogy for the space inside an atom...)


In 'The Science Magpie' Simon Flynn invites you to expand your knowledge as you view the history of the Earth on the face of a clock, witness the Big Bang, tremble at the power of the Richter scale and learn how to measure the speed of light in your kitchen. This treasure trove of scientific facts and curiosities is the perfect dip-in-and-out book, as you skip through time with Darwin's note on the pros and cons of marriage, take part in an 1858 Cambridge exam, and meet the African schoolboy with a scientific puzzle named after him.


Finally: from Axolotl to Zebrafish, Casper Henderson's 'Book of Barely Imagined Beings' is a natural history gem. In it, Casper introduces a world of barely imagined beings: real creatures that are often stranger and more astonishing than fiction. Ranging from the depths of the ocean to the most arid corners of the earth, Caspar Henderson captures the beauty and bizarreness of the many living forms we thought we knew and some we could never have contemplated.

Of course, we have our own treasure trove of books on science and natural history - come in for advice on everything from science books for the very young to the discovery of the Higgs Bosun...

Friday, December 07, 2012

3 4 Friday - gifts for children that are more than a book

At this time of year we try to make Mostly Books a haven of tranquility, inspiration and helpful advice (try and guess which one of those three doesn't always come off) but sometimes when choosing a gift for children, a book isn't quite enough. So for today's '3 4 Friday' #fridayreads - here's three gifts that are a bit more than a book.

Playbook Farm’ is a delightful gift for all pre-school children – six pop-up storybooks unfold and transform into a 3D farmyard landscape play-mat with cut-out cardboard animals and farm vehicles.

You often hear people talking about a book being an opening to another world. This is the definitely the case with this really imaginative offering from Nosy Crow (they are doing a pirate playbook for next year - can't wait!)

This is great for sharing at playtime, and at the moment you can see the folded out farm in our Christmas window. Alternatively, watch this fantastic video put together by those shrewd dudes at Nosy Crow:



A Julia Donaldson animation on the telly is fast becoming a Christmas Day tradition, and this year the animation is ‘Room on the Broom’.

After the Gruffalo, this story of a motley crew of animals hitching an increasingly shaky ride with a Witch is a firm favourite amongst fans, and - newly arrived this week - we have some *gorgeous* plush figures of the stars of 'Room on the Broom': the Witch, the Cat and the utterly adorable (in our opinion!) Dragon – come and fall in love with them in our children’s room...


(Come on, admit it. Aren't they GREAT?)

Finally – any budding artists and illustrators to buy for? ‘Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ is a great activity idea by the doyens of kids crafty books, Klutz.

The book comes with all you need to get drawing popular characters from 'The Clone Wars' including drawing tips and tricks from the pros, trace and sketch picture of characters and even comes with the pens and pencils you need to get started.

"Take a look, you must."

(As always, please, please ask us if you need any advice buying for children (of all ages)...and why not take a look at another idea for children: getting them a books throughout the year subscription?)

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Kid's Lit Quiz Heats 2012

The Kid's Lit Quiz Oxfordshire/Berkshire Heat took place last Friday at Saint Gregory the Great Catholic School in Oxford. Thirty-five teams from twenty-three schools battling it out to see who went through to the UK final in Coventry on December 6th - and from there to the world finals in Durban, South Africa next year.
To provide moral support - and test themselves against the teams - fourteen children's authors took part, offered up prizes and questions - and signed books throughout the event.
Many of our favourite children's authors were there, including (out of shot on left) Susie Day, Marie Louise Jensen, Sally Nicholls, and (from left to right in the photo above) Julia Golding, Michelle Harrison, Lucy Coats, Linda Newbery, MG Harris, Dennis Hamley and Richard Knight. The man in the hat incidentally is the legendary Kid's Lit quizmaster Wayne Mills.

(Richard's own experience of the quiz can be found here)

Quite a formidable line-up...with so many schools to co-ordinate between, and a tight schedule, the event is organised with military precision. We were there to support the authors with a bookstall - with a percentage of sales going towards costs of running the quiz:


The quiz was closely fought for more than two hours, but the teams emerging victorious were:

1st: Cherwell School 
2nd: Oxford High School #2
3rd: Abingdon School #1 (Yay! Go Abingdon!)

Think there was only a point or two in it...

Despite the time pressures, I did manage to catch up with several authors - and as always I'm struck by the sheer effort, hard work and creativity (from a business point of view) going on in what is a fast-changing and challenging environment in which to be an author. Many authors are embracing the digital world, and using the opportunity to do different things and experiment with publishing direct to eReaders - whilst still retaining a commitment to the physical book (and independent bookshops, it must be said).

(As an example, take a look at Michelle Harrison launching her own website Tickey End with merchandise inspired by objects adorning her 13 Treasures series. How cool is that?)

A big thank you to co-ordinator Jacky Atkinson for the opportunity to be a part of this global event - take a look here for more details about the Kid's Lit Quiz...