Tag Archives: buying books

How I Read

I saw this great post on the blog of writer Callum McLaughlin the other day, and thought: hmm. There’s a good idea! So, I decided to follow suit and answer the questions posed about how and what I read. I waffle on about how and what I write often enough on here!

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc

How do you find out about new books to read?

Social media, a lot of the time. I follow whackloads of writers on Twitter who are always talking about books (naturally enough), whether their own or those of people they know, and I’m usually hovering over their shoulder, taking notes. I also love walking into bookshops and simply seeing what grabs my eye – and/or allowing knowledgeable and helpful booksellers to guide me! – but in general I’m just open, at all times, to picking up bookish vibes. I’m constantly on the lookout for new suggestions, and I’m always sniffing out new possibilities. It sort of comes naturally.

How did you get into reading?

I literally don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t read. My parents tell me I was reading by the age of two – not books, as such, but I was able to pick up on words and put sounds together, which meant I was a huge hit at family parties and suchlike. (‘Dance, monkey! Dance!’) My parents read to me from my earliest days and our house was always filled with books; I don’t think the importance of making books available to children can be overstated. My brother and I are both big readers, even now, despite the fact that neither of our parents are actually all that into reading. They supported our literacy with a passion, but neither of them really read for pleasure – which is interesting!

How has your taste in books changed as you’ve grown older?

Not by a lot, truth be told! I am an omnivorous reader, and I have always been. I read books which were probably deemed ‘inappropriate’ at a young age (usually without my parents’ knowledge or involvement!), on a wide variety of topics, and I’ve never censored my own reading. I love all sorts of fiction with the exception of romance novels, which I never really warmed to (though I did try them, in my teens) and I’m making an active effort to read more non-fiction. That’s probably the only real change in recent years, actually – I’m trying to expand my repertoire by reading non-fiction, which has an entirely different feeling and power to fiction. I love children’s books, of course, but I always have.

How often do you buy books?

Not as often as I’d like. When I worked as a bookseller, of course, most of my pay packet went on ordering books for myself – this, I feel, is a common problem among booksellers! It’s so tempting, as a book addict, to simply chuck a few tomes into the order basket for yourself at the end of a particularly slow day, just so you feel justified in placing the order. Now that I don’t have that job any more, I find it’s harder to buy books. I don’t buy online, and I don’t have an e-reader (phooey!) and never will, so I’m dependent on my occasional travels to nearby towns to visit bookshops in the flesh. This doesn’t happen enough. (I’m not sure my husband would agree!)

My happy place... Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

My happy place…
Photo Credit: un.2vue via Compfight cc

How did you get into Booktubing/book blogging?

I’m not a Booktuber (whatever that is!) but I blog about books and writing and reading because it’s what I love to do more than anything else in the world. I think about little else but books, plots, stories, characters, creating worlds and people and situations, and when I’m not writing my own, I’m reading the visions of others. I blog about books because, basically, I know very little about anything else!

How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

Violently, usually. I have been known to slap books shut and fling them on the ground if I don’t get on with how they end! I’m told I mutter when I’m reading if I don’t like what’s happening, whereas I’m deathly silent – and totally focused – if I love what’s going on in the book. I don’t ever ‘assassinate’ books in public, or post (really, truly) nasty things about them, no matter how much they annoy me, but my nearest and dearest hear all about exactly how disappointing the book was, and I’m lucky that they put up with me so readily! Books are important to me, you see. When they end badly, it makes me mad.

And I’m a bit like the big green guy with the purple pants when I get mad.

How often have you taken a sneaky look at the back page of a book to see if it’s a happy ending?

Goodness me. I never do this. The very idea! *looks about, shiftily* One thing I do do, however, is read a book’s acknowledgements first, which are sometimes printed at the back of the book. If they are, then occasionally my eye will stray to the last few lines, but I’ve normally forgotten them by the time I actually get to the end, so there’s no harm done. Right? Right.

Thanks to Callum for the great post, and the inspiration! If anyone wants to take up these questions on their own blog, do let me know. I’m nosy. I’d love to know what your reading habits are like. It’s all in the name of scientific research!

In Praise of Booksellers

Yesterday, I had to go into Dublin city for the day to attend to some business, but – of course – when I’m in the capital I always make time to visit a bookshop or two. This is partly because Dublin has some gorgeous bookshops, but also because, where I live, buying (or even seeing) books is tough. (Unless you’re standing in my living room, which is wallpapered with the things, but you know, I trust, what I mean). In my sleepy town we have one supermarket which has a small selection of new books, though it’s growing all the time – particularly its kidlit section, which is fantastic – but I have qualms about buying books from supermarkets. Call it once-a-bookseller-always-a-bookseller guilt about margins and profits, if you like, but that’s the reality.

Anyway. So. I’m in Dublin. I’m in the comfortable surroudings of one of my favourite bookshops, a place I’ve known and loved for well over fifteen years. I feel at peace. Blood pressure lowered, heart-rate calm, all that jazz. The scent of paper soothing my senses. The quiet buzz of bookish commerce making me feel right at home. The gut-wrenching reality of only having so much money, and a ‘to-buy’ list as long as my arm, and knowing I can only choose one book. One. So it has to be a good ‘un.

I love this stuff.

Photo Credit: Ric e Ette via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ric e Ette via Compfight cc

I eventually made my choice, and approached the register to pay for my purchases. (Yes. Purchases. So I bought two books. One wasn’t for me, though, so you can keep your collective wigs on, thanks very much). I happily queued behind a customer who was there with his small daughter, buying books and bookmarks and generally having a fine old time, and when I got to the till the bookseller – who is a lady I’ve often talked to before in this particular bookshop – appraised my choices.

‘Have they read the first book in this series?’ she asked me, holding up the book I’d bought for myself, which is indeed a sequel.

I smiled at her. ‘It’s for me,’ I said. ‘And yes, I have!’

And that started a long, fascinating and fabulous conversation about books, bookshops, writing, book groups, YA and children’s literature (and how good it is right now), King Arthur and how he pops up everywhere, books we’ve recently read which we loved, and ones we didn’t love so much, books which become incredibly successful (sometimes inexplicably), and ended in the bookseller giving me a personal recommendation for a book series she feels I’d love, and which she wants me to check out as soon as possible. I was glad to take her advice because she is, undeniably, a lady wot knows her onions when it comes to books. She’s the kind of bookseller who makes me glad that I, in my heart and soul, am also a bookseller, even though I ‘only’ worked in an academic bookshop where these sorts of conversations with customers weren’t a daily reality (but I treasured them when they did happen). She’s the sort of bookseller who makes shopping for books an absolute joy, and the sort of person with whom I love to be met when I want to make a bookish purchase. Expert in her field, knowledgeable about many genres of literature outside her own, excellent at spotting the sort of book a customer would like and finding just the right story to slot into their life, enthusiastic and happy to talk and full of the joy of reading, she has always made my trips to her shop hugely enjoyable. I don’t know her name, but that doesn’t even matter. We are of one type, she and I.

And she’s not an algorithm, recommending books based on previous internet searches. She’s not a machine which doesn’t understand it when you want a different edition, or a different cover, or when you have a detailed question, or when you simply want to talk about how amazing a book is. She’s a human being with a brain and a mighty aptitude for her field of expertise, a charming person who makes buying books even more pleasurable than it is already, who greets you and chats and makes you feel special and valued – and not just because she’s programmed to. Because she wants to, and she’s doing a job she loves, and she’s damn good at it. She’s one of the reasons why I hope bookshops are never allowed to wither and die, and why I hope, very sincerely, that there will always be enough people shopping for books offline to keep booksellers like this lady in work, encouraging readers and writers alike, championing books and making spot-on recommendations, and just making people’s lives brighter simply by existing. This recent article gave me hope for the future, and I hope the claims it makes are accurate.

I want to thank this bookseller, and all booksellers who love and cherish the work they do, and all bookshops. Just – thanks. For being yourselves. You’ll always have a friend in me.