The Mysterious Flame of Zaphod Beeblebrox

Ahead of next week's Booker shortlist, I've started noticing that a small number of customers have a response to the shop which can be summed up as "oh my god, there are so many books". It's as if they feel they *should* be reading them all, and consequently feel guilty that they can't keep up. I'm reminded of a particularly hideous torture device described in one of the Hitchhiker's books called "The Total Perspective Vortex" which - once strapped in - allows you to fully appreciate your place relative to the entire universe, the shock of which usually sends its victims mad (only Zaphod Beeblebrox has an ego large enough to survive the onslaught). With the sheer number of books published each month, added to the sheer number of books *ever* published, it is pointless to feel that you can read but a fraction of them. (Unless of course you are dovegreyreader, deep into her 2006 Booker-a-Thon. Mind you, I'm beginning to suspect that 'dovegreyreader' is in reality a collective of sock-knitting community nurses locked away in a devonshire farmhouse beavering away at the list, but that may just be my slightly furtive imagination). I guess 'back in the old days' (say, the 1970s) when there were 3 channels on the telly, and the paper you read was indicative of your social status (i.e. there was no real *choice* involved) it was conceivable to cover all the information bases, and keep up with the important stuff going on in the world - and that included books. Now that the world of information has fragmented into a bewildering array of media types, channels, products, etc. it's practically impossible to identify the important or relevant books coming out, much less read them all. I'm sure the blogosphere is evolving too, with a 'blogorati' of publishers, authors and media outlets, which you can track and organise into your own tailored daily newspaper. Anyway, one of the nasty secrets of opening your own bookshop is that suddenly you have less time to read. Nicki and I have thus decided that part of our professional bookseller's duty is to spend a given number of hours per week actually reading the books we sell. This includes reading outside our normal areas of expertise. So this week "I have mostly been reading" a Joanna Trollope, a literary first (for me) and the experience was not unpleasant. After Slaughterhouse 5 (purchased during my recent trip to Crockatt & Powell) and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, it was a nice, easy, inoffensive read and outside my normal comfort zone. All this reading, coupled with a sudden increase in the number of visitors (thanks to a piece in the local paper) and the strain of pulling our first events schedule together, has meant the blog has suffered. Our apologies, but expect our first events schedule to be published early next week...


  1. Ah, time to read books! Indeed you must make time, my friends; its a requirement! Here are my strategies for keeping up with reading (which is after all, one of the greatest joys I know!) Firstly, I never read newspapers; an hour or two with the Sunday papers, or even 15 minutes a day, could have been a chapter or more of the latest novel. I (nearly) always go to bed early enough to read a fair bit before falling asleep. I watch little or no television (that's hours of good reading time lost!) and I host monthly and quarterly reading groups for adults and children (8 groups in all)in the shop. In addition, I run five reading days a year, and intersperse all of this with occasional author signings, for which of course, reading the book is a prerequisite. The reading groups are probably what keep me reading the most (I can all it "work" after all), and sitting down with the groups to talk about our reading is one of the best parts of my week. And while I know this isn't an option for you guys, every now and then a Sunday will come when I settle down on my favourite settee in the bay window and just read - all day! Bliss! Another tip, always take the train for long journeys rather than the car: I do regret the hour and a half I spend in the car every day as I just don't get on with audio books, and its a serious loss of reading time; but if it's a journey that has train stations at start and finish then my eyes light up! And lastly, don't spend too much time blogging! Hours in front of the computer - we all know how addictive it is - are hours not reading. As for what I'm reading now, just finished Madame Bovary; about to start Natural Flights of the Human Mind by Clare Morrall, followed by a re-reading (for a reading day) of On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

  2. A team of community nurses? What's that!We are rapidly dwindling and soon I think I'll be doing a solo run.I am but one person albeit seemingly in many places at the same time.
    I watch virtually no TV beyond Dragon's Den and a bit of Saturday night Hills Are Alive singalong stuff and I go nowhere without a book and that includes work.What if the car broke down? Also I benefit from fully fledged children so acres of free time spreads before me on my days off and I use it to read and write, oh yes and knit!I've waited a long time for life to deal me this hand and I'm using every minute of it.Send on any books you want read:-)