Thursday, October 13, 2016

A silver tongue and a monster imagination: Paula Harrison, Robyn Silver and The Midnight Chimes

Paula gets the 'rock star' treatment from the children!
A girl who is born on the stroke of midnight and inherits the power to see what no-one else can see – that the world is full of monsters! – is the gripping premise behind Paula Harrison’s latest book, ‘Robyn Silver the Midnight Chimes’.

Paula Harrison visited Dunmore School and Rush Common School in Abingdon to talk about her book and the inspiration behind it. 

Robyn Silver come from a large family and is well-known for being clumsy – but sometimes she isn’t just making a mess sweeping cobwebs, she is actually fighting monsters - but no-one else in her family can see.

When Robyn’s school moves to a big spooky house in the town, Robyn teams up with two other friends from school, Aiden and Nora, also born on the stroke of midnight and realises she is not alone in seeing all sorts of invisible creatures.

A horrifying 'Blug' was just one of many extremely
scary monsters hatched by the children!
They team together to learn fighting skills in secret, but the biggest threat comes not from an invisible monster, but from a monster who has learned to become visible.

Paula said her favourite part of writing the book was dreaming up the monsters and these are brilliantly brought to life by illustrator Renée Kurilla, who also did the compelling bold jacket.

Paula is a good friend of Mostly Books, having visited the shop for the launch of her mega-selling Rescue Princess series, and also involved in the Nosy Crow takeover of the shop back in 2013.

The children at both Abingdon schools enthusiastically joined in creating their own monsters, giving them everything from superpowers to stilettos and inventing mixed-up monsters that would give everyone a scare if they found one hiding under the bed.

The second in the Robyn Silver series is due next year and is perfect for young fantasy readers.

Paula Harrison is best known for the Rescue Princess series for younger readers, as well as the Red Moon Rising series (about an ordinary girl who discovers she has faerie powers) but said she had always wanted to write a book about monsters.

But where in Paula's brain do these monsters come from. We thought we'd better ask a few more questions...

Five questions with...Paula Harrison's Writing Life

1. What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on the next Robyn Silver story, a yet untitled, which will be out in June, and I am working on another series for younger readers which is based on the idea of the Prince and the Pauper where two girls look identical but are from very different backgrounds. They get involved in lots of mysteries.

2. What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
Just do your own thing.

3. What is the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?
The best thing is you can make anything into a story. The worst thing is too many ideas and too little time.

4. Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, snack or other essential thing you need before you start work?
I have certain music I play that matches the mood of the characters and I play that beforehand. Then I sit down at 8.30 and work until lunch and then go for a walk and then work until the children return from school. I do tend to stride around the room trying to solve a problem, so it probably does not look very productive.

5. What was your biggest breakthrough?
Having my first rescue princess book picked up off the slush pile by Nosy Crow!

Thank you so much to Paula for travelling to Abingdon, and to both schools for making her so welcome. We've have some fantastic reviews already in the shop from children who've read 'The Midnight Chimes', so if you want to discover more about Paul and her other books, we'd love to see you!

Friday, September 30, 2016

In space no-one can hear you eat chocolate: five questions with Cas Lester

Last Thursday we were delighted to support a visit to Our Lady's Abingdon by children's author Cas Lester, author of the 'Harvey Drew' space stories, 'Nixie the Bad, Bad Fairy' and, most recently, 'Wilfred the (Un)Wise'.

Cas spoke to children from five different schools over three separate sessions throughout the day (itself an achievement!) and explained her journey to becoming an author, and where the ideas for her stories came from.

The children were fascinated to learn Cas started her career as a children's author after an incredibly successful career making children's TV drama for CBBC (including 'The Story of Tracy Beaker').

Her first book, 'Harvey Drew and the Bin Men from Outer Space' is a madcap story about an ordinary school boy who - via a malfunctioning app and an intergalactic communications screw-up - becomes Captain of the Toxic Spew and its stroppy, bickering, pizza-obsessed crew, and a very bad-tempered central computer. Thanks to some remarkably similar experiences managing a school football team (!) Harvey soon starts to take control of this bunch of alien misfits. (Via lots of space-based, rubbish-related, seriously smelly adventures, obv). 

To an audience of over 250 children, Cas explained the very real problem of space junk, bringing with her plenty of objects imagined lost in space and led the children through a raucous quiz on their space knowledge that got them thinking about the very real challenges of waste in space (not to mention trying to do a 'Number 2' in low-earth orbit...yes, exactly)

Cas also spoke about her latest books. In 'Wilfred the (un)Wise', a young magician from the middle ages who gets pitched forward in time. He has to team up with a young girl in the 21st century, who has set her heart on learning cool street magic. Between them can they pull off magic good enough to get Wilf back to his own time?

Troublesome magic is also the theme of Cas's series for younger readers, the first of which is 'Nixie the Bad, Bad Fairy'. Nixie is no ordinary fairy - she's usually slightly grubby, she's often naughty and she has a very mischievous wand. Nixie's adventures are perfect for anyone just learning to read independently.

Cas is a local author and works brilliantly with all sorts of schools, introducing readers to her wonderfully imaginative, chaotic stories.

This was the first time we had a chance to be up close and personal, so Nicki Thornton grabbed the chance to find out all about the hugely talented and hard-working Cas and her writing life...

Five questions with...Cas Lester's Writing Life

1. What are you working on at the moment?

That is quite hard because I’m not supposed to talk about it. It’s a story about a rather different friendship and it is coming out with Piccadilly next August, but it’s a top secret project so I can’t say any more!

2. What is the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?

Don’t give up.

3. What is the best thing and the worst thing about being a children’s writer?

The worst thing about being any sort of writer is you are doing it on your own and you can be quite isolated. But the best thing about being a children’s writer is that you go out and do lots of events and you meet all the lovely children and it’s wonderful to have that great contact with your readership.

4. Do you have a writer’s survival kit, eg a place, snack or other essential thing you need before you start work?

Chocolate, space and a dog. 

For the first time I actually have an office and my dog will come and lie down next to me, which is very settling. Then after a while she will sigh and jump up and go and get my walking boot. I used to be able to work anywhere and can cope with noise except for two things I can’t work through – a child crying and a single fly buzzing.

(Cas also confessed to a drawer full of chocolate - the dangers of being interviewed with your daughter present).

5. What was your biggest breakthrough?

I don’t know if there was a moment when I thought I can now talk about myself as a children’s writer. It wasn’t my first book or even the first time I signed a book because when you first become a published children’s author you feel that you are really a fraud. But I think it might have been when I heard I had only sold one less book than Brian Blessed at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival.

Friday, September 23, 2016

We are all made of stars - the best science, space and physics books for Autumn 2016

"Make no small plans.  Dream no small dreams." - George Ellery Hale"

The 200-inch Hale Telescope at Palomar
This week, as part of Our Lady's Abingdon Reading Week, we had the opportunity to support an evening screening of the film 'Star Men'.

It's a poignant, thought-provoking documentary which sees four ageing astronomers - all British, each involved in some of the biggest breakthroughs in astronomy over the past fifty years - recreating a roadtrip and hike they made in 1960, against a backdrop of ponderings on their own mortality, humanity and the secrets to friendship and success.

After the screening, there was a talk from Becky Smethurst, astrophysicist at Oxford University, and one of the team behind Galaxy Zoo, or the spectacular success of crowdsourced public help in classifying galaxies and breakthrough discoveries in everything from supermassive blackholes to the dominant direction in which galaxies spin throughout the universe.

With our love for space and science at Mostly Books, we needed no excuse to put together a bookstall at the event, and gives us a chance today to tell you about some of the new books out this Autumn which we think will stimulate the mind and send your imagination soaring...

'Homo Deus' - Yuval Noah Harari
Anyone who has come into the shop in the last couple of years will have had a copy of 'Sapiens' by Yuval Noah Harari pressed into their hands. There aren't many books that get universally recommended in our shop, we think everyone deserves personalised recommendations, but with 'Sapiens' (like 'The Martian' or 'Pride and Prejudice') we make an exception: everyone should read. It featured in Mark's essay on 'How Reading Shapes Our Realities' and is no less than the epic story of our species. But the ending finished on a bit of a cliffhanger - what's going to happen next to our species?

In 'Homo Deus' Harari sets off to find out, along the way taking in a variety of post-apocalyptic and frankly frightening scenarios, mostly involving the end of the world as a whimper rather than a bang, with a few spectacular Jeff Bezos-style winners, but the vast majority not losers as such, but managed, monitored, little more than biochemical systems plugged into a global network relieving boredom in ever more immersive virtual-reality fictions to save our fragile mental states.

If all this sounds depressing, it isn't. Harari offers plenty of 'it doesn't have to be that way' alternatives which actually makes this book surprisingly upbeat and inspiring. After all, the big thing about the future is that it hasn't happened yet.

'The Origin of (almost) Everything' - New Scientist
Where did the Earth come from? Or the Universe for that matter. In fact, where does 'matter' come from? Where does anything come from?

New Scientist deputy editor Graham Lawton and illustrator Jennifer Daniel try - with the aid of a few scientists and 13.7 billion years of universal history - to tell you about the origins of almost everything. After starting with some of the big stuff, they go into more human-scale things such as the origin of oil, human emotions, cities and alcohol, and stuff from post-it notes to the QWERTY keyboard.

Informative and surprising, and topped off with a great foreward by Prof Stephen Hawking, this book entertains and educates in equal amounts and it's been produced in a gorgeous hardback that we think works for anyone young or old. And you do need to know this stuff. After all, as legendary astronomer Carl Sagan once said, 'if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe'.

'Seven Brief Lessons on Physics' - Carlo Rovelli
A lot of people run screaming from maths and physics, which is a shame, because if you are not too bothered by the maths equations and instead focus on the concepts, you can discover some of the truly wonderful and weird theories about how the universe works. Rovelli's small (78 page) book will not take you long to get through, but you'll definitely feel more comfortable with some of the biggest ideas in modern physics. He is a masterful science communicator, and the effect is an armchair chat with someone who's overriding goal is to prove that you are way smarter than you think you are.

This was a big hit in the shop when it came out in a gorgeous paperback last year, and now available in an equally lovingly-produced paperback.

'The Darkest Dark' - Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers
Astronaut Tim Peake visited Harwell this week, but he would be the first to admit that the rock star of the astronaut world is 'Chris Hadfield', the guy who made space cool again, with his tweets from the International Space Station, and his in-orbit rendition of 'Space Oddity' becoming one of the most-watched videos in history.

In this, his first book for children, Chris tells the story of a young boy who is scared of the dark, but through watching real astronauts on the Moon, discovers that there are places in the universe darker yet more exciting. It's a pitch-perfect, heartwarming story about facing fears and following dreams - even when they are slightly scary.

The illustrations - from Toronto illustrators Eric and Terry Fan - are both cute and adorable, and the whole story is based on Chris’ own childhood. Children (and adults) can read about this softly-spoken, inspirational man and realise that we can all face our fears, and end up doing whatever we want to.

'The Story of Astronomy and Space' - Louie Stowell
Few people do space better than Usborne, and we're huge fans of author Louie Stowell. We've a big selection of Usborne's space books at the moment, but we've picked out her 'Story of Astronomy and Space' which we love.

It's the history of spaceflight told in a masterful storytelling experience, packed with scientific facts about the solar system, comets, the Big Bang theory, telescopes and space exploration. Complex ideas are easy and fun, and there's also star charts, a glossary, and an astronomy timeline.

Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure - Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman
We love this book - simple as. The 60s-style retro illustrations are a joy, the content is perfectly thought-out and presented.

Professor Astrocat is a brave and engaging guide, together with his mouse companion, as he explains all kinds of complex ideas from energy and gravity to what atoms are made of. The result is a brilliant primer for children of all ages, and a sneaky pleasure for anyone who likes original and beautifully produced books.

To infinity and beyond! If you've any space books you'd like to share, tweet them to us - or post something on the blog.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Learning loss, reading sabbaticals and no shoes - it's the 'Back to School' special

Around this time in August, every year for the last ten years, we prepare a big 'back to school' display in the shop. Usually it's a mix of 'first day back at school' titles along with a variety of dictionaries and books to help with handwriting, maths and spelling.

This year, we want to do something a bit different.

OK, OK, so my writing skills are a little rusty...
See below for more about FowlLanguage
If you are a parent - possibly a grandparent, and indeed anyone who's been looking after children for the summer - I'm sure the start of the holiday began with ambitious plans. Plenty of activities interspersed with regular writing, reading and maths exercises to keep that schoolwork fresh in the mind and ticking over.

So how did that go? That good, huh?

Teachers refer to the hiatus in schoolwork over the Summer as 'Summer Learning Loss'. Yep, it's a thing (it even has its own Wikipedia page). But before moral panic sets in about what you might or might not have done better over the holidays, here are the Mostly Books top tips to make sure the start of school is a positive experience for everyone (including you).

1. Don't panic

There is still at least a whole week left - and possibly longer - before school starts, and to be honest schools are well aware of the situation and tend to ease children back into the whole learning thing. Don't beat yourself up about it.

"Atomic weights?
Isn't this graduate stuff???"
At the same time, don't pass the buck completely to the school. There are definitely things you can do now that will have a huge impact on the start of school. Remember, this isn't just about the start of school, this is about getting into the swing of good study habits for the first few weeks of the year.

Here are a few (small) ideas from the shop that we reckon can make a (big) difference over the coming weeks. And of course, you can always come in and ask for our advice as well!

2. Starting school - get excited

You may have had a blast when you were at school - or hated every minute of it. But there's often little you can do to control your own children's reaction to starting school, but the best thing is get excited with a child ahead of school starting.

And a book can help.

Along with a few of our favourites such Usborne's 'First Experiences' series, or 'Topsy and Tim Start School', we love Sam Lloyd's 'First Day at Bug School', Sam was the creative force behind 'Calm Down Boris' and this a funny' delightful books about a bug's first day at school down the bottom of the garden is both a fun story, but creates a space to discuss any anxieties your child might be having ahead of the big day.

A few weeks ago, we had a special visit from Hugless Douglas, and you can bet he has a whole load of ideas of how to survive little school. As well as a brand new Hugless Douglas 'Numbers' book, we recommend taking a look at 'Hugless Douglas Goes to Little School'.

3. Maths and Writing Skills

There are some imaginative and fun activity books to help children with their reading and writing. We've got a big range of early reading and writing books for little ones, including the Letts animal-themed series 'Wild About' which includes books on counting, writing, reading for ages 3 up to 8.

But we have been particularly impressed with Scholastic, who took characters from the Star Wars universe and created a whole series of workbooks for KS1 and KS2. Whether its lightsaber poems, Yoda's wisdom on verbs or learning along with the young Ewoks, this might just be a great way of channeling your child's obsession with Star Wars ahead of school!

All of these titles tend to be around the £5 mark, so our suggestion on how to boost excitement? Give your little one a budget to come in and choose a book for starting school from our table...

4. Book v Gadget - getting that reading back on track

Whether you have a bookwork or a reluctant reader, there is easily enough time between now and the start of school to read a whole book. Don't think so? We can help.

"The best minds of my generation are
thinking about how to make [children]
click ads" - Jeff Hammerbacher
Years ago, reading was often something that children did when they got bored. That doesn't really happen nowadays. There is always something they can turn to - often a phone, gadget or game - and reading does require a lot more effort.

You need to create some space and give a story the chance to put hooks into the imagination.

Over the past few years, we've banged the drum for starting a reading group with whoever lives in your house.

Here's our cut out and keep 5 step plan to starting a family reading group.

We think you should do this anyway throughout the year, but for this coming week, how to pull your kids off the gadgets and get them giving a book a try?

Firstly, try 'no electronics' periods. Get everyone to stack their devices in one place for at least one hour whilst reading takes place (this works great for mealtime too - we tried it recently at a restaurant, and the effect was nothing short of revolutionary, as it's often adults who are the worst offenders with checking their mobile phones!).

We also recommend Noel Janis-Norton's advice for getting co-operation with your children on any new task - and we really recommend you read 'Calmer Easier Happier Screen-Time' for a great plan to turn electronic devices from a battleground into a positive experience for everyone.

5. Keep it short

Next, find a book that is going to have the best possible chance of getting finished. It's no use giving them a 'classic' of 400 pages if they are out of the habit of reading. Again, give them a budget and bring them in to choose their own book - but allow them a lot of leeway in terms of the book they choose - we often recommend Barrington Stoke titles which are fabulous, page-turning stories by some of our best writers, but are short and help build momentum in getting reading back on track.

Some of our favourite new titles: 'The OMG Blog by Karen McCombie' and 'Monster Slayer' by Brian Patten and illustrated by Chris Riddell. But come in and have a look at the range.

6. Tap into their interests

Is your child into something like cars or cooking? Find a story that appeals! We love 'The Secret Cooking Club' by Laurel Remington.

Scarlett has no life - she fears that her Mum will ridicule anything she says or does on her blog, but when the old lady next door has a fall she discovers that sometimes being a friend is more important. As her secret cooking club grows so does her circle of friends. It's a lovely story about friends and family and what holds them together.

Would your child rather be shooting zombies than reading about baking? Don't worry - there's a book for that. Curtis Jobling's 'Monster Hunter' features Max Helsing, descended from a long line of monster hunters, who does a pretty good job of keeping up a schoolwork by day, whilst keeping his town safe from demons, ghouls and the occasional mummy by night.

That is, until he turns thirteen and discovers he's been cursed by an ancient vampire who wants him dead - at any cost. To save the world - and his life - Max must rely on his wise-cracking best friend, cantankerous mentor, computer genius neighbour, and brand-new puppy...

Here's a few ideas - we have many, many more. Whether it's revision guides, dictionaries, reading lists for school or universiity - we're here to help. Come on in to the shop and let's get to work!

(And that cartoon at the start? It's from the brilliant Fowl Language comic strip, possibly the funniest comic about the realities of 21st century parenting we know from Brian Gordon. There's a collection of his comics now available in the shop, and trust us - you'll laugh out loud :-)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Time-Travelers, Watchmakers and Sunlit Nights: Ten top reads for the Summer

Looking for some satisfying, independent-minded, hand-selected Summer Reading? Then here are ten top reads for the Summer as selected by all of us at Mostly Books. Hopefully this will give you a few ideas for your next favourite read, particularly as some of favourite books of the last few months are new out in paperback.

And of course - come in for personal recommendations at any time!

In 'Beside Myself' by Ann Morgan, Helen and Ellie are identical twins: Helen is the leader and Ellie the follower. Until they decide to swap places: just for fun, and just for one day. But Ellie refuses to swap back. And so begins a nightmare from which Helen cannot wake up... 

This is much more than just an intriguing book on the nature of identity, it's actually a sensitive, accomplished and really gripping debut and a thoroughly engaging story. Constantly surprising, you find yourself desperate to discover how the story ends, with a twist that is brilliantly done and entirely satisfying. We think Ann Morgan is definitely an author to watch.

'Even Dogs In The Wild' is Ian Rankin's latest John Rebus thriller, and after 'retiring' Rebus a few years ago, and dabbling with other characters in Rebus' world, Rankin offers us a fantastic return to form - and a cracking thriller in which Rebus must join forces with DI Siobhan Clarke to stop a killer striking again.

Rankin's mastery of plot and characterization is complete, and Rebus's world is complex, brilliantly drawn, and utterly compelling.

The best holiday reads utterly transport you to places exotic and strange, and after the blistering temperatures of earlier this week, we recommend reading 'The Sunlit Night' by debut novelist Rebecca Dinerstein. Two very different people - one fleeing heartbreak, one looking to bury his father - meet on an archipelago in the Norwegian Sea, a hundred miles north of the Artic Circle.

Beautifully written, with a real sense of place, yet quirky, unashamedly romantic and hugely satisfying.

'The Immortals' by SE Lister is one of Julia's picks this Summer - published at the end of 2015, but new out in paperback. And get that cover!

When Rosa gets tired of living through 1945 again and again, she escapes from her parents and begins a rollercoaster ride back and forward through time and meets many strange and wonderful characters.There are so many effortless layers to Lister's writing that it allows the story to meander from one era to another. Can any human live, ever really live without a home and is a life spent without roots or relationships any real sort of life?

If Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Quarter of novels has you hungry for more translated Italian fiction, we recommend you look at 'I'm Not Scared', originally published in 2001 by novelist Niccolò Ammaniti (and made into a film of the same name).

A classic contemporary thriller, it follows the story of nine-year-old Michele Amitrano, who makes a discovery in a dilapidated farmhouse so momentous, he dare not tell a soul - something that will have profound consequences on him and the world around him.

Another brilliantly inventive debut is Natasha Pulley's 'The Watchmaker of Filigree Street' which combines shades of Nick Harkaway, David Mitchell and Joseph Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' (now that's some combination!).

In a steampunkish London, a mysterious watch saves Thaniel Steepleton from a bomb which destroys Scotland yard - and then sends him on an increasingly frantic hunt for its maker. Questions of fate and destiny, as well as two remarkable female characters that Thaniel is increasingly torn between, this is a book of real ambition.

Talking of ambition, 'Arcadia' may be author Iain Pears' biggest yet. It's a story of three worlds: One present (1970s), one future and the third an invention from the mind of a writer called Henry Lytten. When these worlds collide a whole heap of trouble occurs. A schoolgirl from the nineteen seventies is mistaken for a fairy. Security officers from the future are arrested as Soviet spies and Lytten enters his own story and is worshipped as a deity. This is an eclectic mix of fantasy, history, science fiction and dystopian future which together make an engrossing read.

In 'Rembrandt's Mirror' by Kim Devereux, we are plunged into the world of legendary Dutch painter Rembrandt's later years, which were blighted by a string of personal and financial losses. This is a powerful a compelling story of the later loves of the painter's life and the clash of genius and the man inside.

The novel is steeped in Rembrandt's art; each chapter is named after, and in some way reflects, one of his paintings. The writing is laced with painterly description and art theory, giving the impression that we are looking at this world through an artist's eyes. Who can resist the charms of the Dutch Golden Age - now in a sumptuous paperback.

Want more? We reckon you should also take a look Sebastian Faulks' latest sweeping novel 'Where My Heart Used to Beat' and Edna O'Brien's story of a charismatic faith-healer on the West coast of Ireland ('The Little Red Chairs').

But come in for more recommends - because there are a whole collection of great reads out this Summer and we'd be happy to show you more!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Come and Meet Hugless Douglas!

On Tuesday 2 August, we're inviting you to come along and meet the big bear with the big heart - Hugless Douglas!

The last time Douglas visited Mostly Books we had a fantastic time, with scorching weather and hot hugs in the garden.

For anyone who came along and had fun with The Gruffalo a few weeks ago, Douglas isn't scary at all, and there will definitely be hugs all round...

This time round, Douglas gets involved with some baking, and as usual, things don't got entirely to plan.

In 'Hugless Douglas and the Great Cake Bake' the sheep are baking cakes and Douglas can't wait to try them. However, he's sure that food without honey just isn't yummy. Can he ever be tempted to try something new?

There will be cupcake-making activities from the beginning of August - and on the day itself, Hugless will be making a special guest appearance. There will also be a book signing from award-winning author and illustrator (and creator of Hugless Douglas) David Melling.

We'd really love you to come along and transform our window with some brightly decorated cupcakes. There will be activities all week, and special prizes to win on the day itself. And there may even be the odd yummy treat to try if we're really lucky...

There is no need to book - but if you'd like more details of the event, including more details on timings closer to the day, please email us.

David Melling is an author who is an incredible talent of whom Abingdon can be particularly proud. Over ten years, David has taught children how to draw Hugless Douglastold us about his writing lifeproduced masterpieces live over the Internet sat as a 'live window display' while he has worked and hosted a goblins party in Abingdon Library.

We'd love to see you on August 2 in our courtyard garden - and celebrate one of most endearing picture book characters!

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Ten years of Mostly Books - a heartfelt thank you

Ten years ago - July 1 2006 - two nervous and extremely naive booksellers opened the door to their shop, and began a journey into the unknown. It was 9am, and already sultry on what would become a scorching hot day. The street was largely empty.

One of the booksellers had met Tim Waterstone at a book event a few weeks before and had asked him "If there was one piece of advice you would give to anyone opening a bookshop, what would it be?"

"Don't do it" he said.

After all, there was already trouble brewing on the High Street, Internet shopping and supermarket dominance was already well underway in transforming how we shop. But the future looked bright, the economy was healthy. The word 'Kindle' meant "to start a fire" and hardly anyone would have a clue if you mentioned 'subprime mortgage'.

What followed has been an incredible ten years - not easy, not smooth, but the most amazing adventure with many more highs than lows. We had plans to do a series of blogs on 'ten years in bookselling', or 'the best books of the last ten years'. That's for the next few months as we enjoy our tenth year. For now, we'd just like to say 'thank you'.

Thank you to everyone who has, over the years, helped this bookshop survive and thrive. We could not do what we do without you, but we feel incredibly blessed to have such a community of book lovers, engaged and passionate readers, and regulars who have come to be more friends than customers.

We believe bookselling is very different to almost every other form of retail. It is humbling what people share with you when they come into a bookshop: their hopes and fears, their frustrations and triumphs. We've met people who helped shape history but you wouldn't look twice if they passed you in the street. We've met a truly awesome array of inspirational authors. And there are the many hundreds of families who have given us a part of their children's future, allowing us to help them find books that they can grow with. There is no better feeling in the world than watching a small person grow in leaps in bounds - physically and intellectually - as literacy puts down deep roots and, month-by-month, you feel you have pressed fast-forward on a life blossoming in front of you.

Abingdon is an international town, a town with a long and proud history, a tradition of resilience, that sits at the heart of one of the most thriving and dynamic science communities in the world. We feel we have the most diverse customer mix anywhere, from Abingdonians who've lived here all their life, to others who choose to put down roots here from all over the world. Our country may feel like a more isolated place after recent events, but this can only be temporarily. The future belongs to people who know - and act on - a faith that more unites us than divides us. Those people tend to read books, and if a revolution is coming, we're betting it'll start in a bookshop.

Like most dynamic, outward looking towns, people do come and go. You hope it wasn't something you did or said (the deepest fear of the entrepreneur, which leaves you gasping in sweat-soaked panic at 4am). But the world of social media has allowed us to keep in touch with many ex-Abingdonians around the world.

Over the years, inevitably, often months after the event, you discover that a customer is no longer with us. It's can be heartbreaking, but it's a price you pay for sharing in a community. That is a price well worth paying.

We have so many special memories over the last ten years, it's impossible to pick just a few. But we've tried below. We'd love to hear yours.

We're holding a party tomorrow (Saturday July 2). We'd love you to come. There will be cake and champagne (the two essentials of a bookshop party). And will give us a chance to say thank you.

And if someone came up to us and asked me that question: "Would you open a bookshop?". We'd say "Are you crazy? Don't do it!". Because maybe, just maybe, if you ignore that piece of advice, you may have passed the first test in your steps to become a bookseller.

Thank you from all of us at Mostly Books.

Mark, Nicki, Karen, Julia, Imogen, Sara


Some highlights from the last ten years:

2006: Our first ever children's event (Charlie and Lola) and breaking every health and safety rule going to pack 54 people in the shop for Sophie Grigson
Some highlights from the last ten years:

2007: Sam Jordison v Didcot, Pirates take over Mostly Books, The Glastonbury of Food, and the World's Greatest Portrait Artist

2008: Raymond Blanc and the four hour signing, Martin Clunes and a dog or two, Survival Training in the Garden and celebrating winning *that* award.

2009: Susan Hill in the Roysse Room, Alan Titchmarsh, Gryff Rhys JonesAlice in Wonderland and Monsters and Muchamore

2010: BBC Oxford Bookclub, rockstar authors at Carswell SchoolDinopants at Thomas Readethe best event we ever did, Barbara Trapido, Ben Macintyrethe birth of Hugless Douglas, and Chris Bradford on World Book Day.

2011: Five questions, Frank Cottrell Boyce before the Olympics, Kennington Lit Fest, Our first Oxfordshire Book Awards, Cathy Cassidy in Didcota masterclass in dealing with the undead, John Hegley, Sentimental Amateurs.

(And of course, Jeffery Deaver and the launch of 'Carte Blanche' at the Diamond Light Source!)

2012: Ben Goldacre at the Oxford Union, from Black to Green, Clarissa explains it all, the launch of a sparkling new talent, Ann Cleeves, Bethan Roberts, the Olympic Torch goes past our windowFrances Hardinge at St Nicolas School and The Unlikely event with Harold Fry

2013: HL Dennis at OLA, exploring strange new world, Old Bear, Salley Vickers, Nosy Crow takeover, Carnegie Forum, Hot Hugs

2014: Too many to pick - but this montage gives you an idea! David Mitchell, The Gruffalo and awards aplenty!

2015: Suzanne Barton, travelling to Pluto and Caroline Lawrence!