So over the last few years, my book haul philosophy for bookstores has been to look at what the bookstore itself has curated and foregrounded, and just pick up anything that seems interesting on the spot (within a set budget). This is because it’s NICE and refreshing, to have books catch my eye which weren’t predicted by an Amazon algorithm. (I love and hate you, Amazon algorithm. You know too much. You definitely shape my reading too much.)
I try not to get bogged down by wishlists I already have on the go, or books I need for work, because – that’s what bookdepository.com is for. If I really need it, I’ll get it at some point. In the meantime, the fun part about physical bookstores is their own philosophy, ethos and passion for books. Which comes through in the books chosen for display, and how they’re displayed!
Daunt Books is on a really pretty street in Marylebone! It’s famous for curating books according to country, and having loads of travel reads. Here’s a picture.
And these are the books I got!
So, from top to bottom:
1. Nathanael West’s Miss Lonelyhearts
This just had a really fun cover. I thought it might be a graphic novel, but it’s not. I love advice columns, and a book written in the early twentieth century in Great Depression NY about an advice columnist sounded awesome! The book jacket tells me West was friends with Fitzgerald.
2. Tom Hodgkinson’s Business for Bohemians
I got this because my sister is always telling me that I’m too fluffy and creative to be business-minded. “You creative artistes,” she sniffs at me. I mean, I think I’m pretty pragmatic as artistes go, but this memoir about a writer going into business looked funny, and when I flicked through, a couple of lines made me laugh, so yay!
3. ed. Cate Malek and Mateo Hoke, Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation
There was another collection of Palestinian narratives arranged according to historical incident, but it looked more academic than this one. A few things to note: the Palestinian stuff in the bookstore was shelved under “Levant”, whereas Israel got its own section. The maps being sold by the store also had Israel but not Palestine.
4. Noah Hawley, Before the Fall
A new thriller! Looks like Gone Girl + Girl on a Train but in male hero form, on a plane. The tall bookseller at the cashier, who reminded me tremendously of a colleague who can also come off as super snooty but is really very sweet, lit up at this one and said in the most upper class accent you can imagine, “This one is very good.”
I had a moment of dissonance from the words and the accent. Anyway, this looks like the perfect plane read.
5. Eva Kurniawan’s Man Tiger
So I have Kurniawan’s Beauty is a Wound, but haven’t gotten past the first page. I’ve heard this Man Booker nominee is gooood and it came up during a forum a couple of weeks ago, so here goes!
6. Fredrik Backman, Britt-Marie Was Here
A Man Called Ove was THE quintessential plane read – heart-warming, authentic, easy. Another book about a crotchety but golden-hearted geriatric finding a new lease on life? Yes please!
7. Leo Tolstoy, A Confession
“Where there is life, there is faith.” Well, I had to pick that one up right? I’d just been having a days-long text conversation with a friend on faith, talks with God, personal growth, etc, and this short book, it occurred to me, might be more palatable than Tolstoy’s other stuff (ANNA KARENINA I’M LOOKING AT YOU). Plus, it’s super short, might be a nice cheat way to hit my monthly reading target.
8. Trevor Noah, Born a Crime
I’m really drawn to South African narratives, I like Trevor Noah on the Daily Show, and I like memoirs by comedians, generally. I did ask if this was out in paperback yet because LUGGAGE SPACE COME ON but it’s not, till Sept. Well all right then.
9. HELLO pack of small cards because come on, you have to buy ONE frivolous, nonsense stationery thing when you go in a bookstore.
Tall Snooty Colleague-Doppelganger gave me a free cloth tote (he even let me pick a colour! I chose dark green, the colour of scholarship and the forest. I was tempted by navy blue, the colour of seriousness, but green won out.) that the website tells me is worth 10GBP to carry my loot around in. It was comfy and light and sturdy and I appreciated it very much because I ended up walking 10km and going to a wildlife photography exhibition with my haul. I didn’t even feel it.
To cap things off, here is a non-book, but very pretty cafe just around the corner from Daunt. Spring in London! (Is very cold and deceptively sunny and my fingers are already frozen from typing this.)