If you happen to harbour a vague romantic notion of some day opening your own second-hand bookshop where the artistic intelligentsia would congregate to discuss highbrow matters and engage in witty badinage, then perhaps you would do well to read “What’s the best you can do?” first. It may not necessarily put you off the idea altogether, but it will certainly provide you with a sharp reality check. The book is an autobiographical account of a second-hand bookshop owner in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 90s and is a combination of straight prose mixed with numerous anecdotes of a mainly humorous, but sometimes rather poignantly sad nature. Although set against the backdrop of ‘The Troubles’, it shows how life generally went on pretty much as normal in those times, and that the experience of the second-hand bookseller is essentially universal, irrespective of circumstances or location. These recollections provide an insight into the world of used bookselling whilst simultaneously entertaining with descriptions of the often inexplicable behaviour of various characters who came through the door. The rude, the mean, and the downright stupid all make an appearance, and the eccentric is never too far away either. Bizarre situations, silly questions, and the author’s reaction to them, seriously threaten to have you chuckle out loud at times. A ‘must’ for lovers of the world of used books.
This is an autobiographical collection of anecdotes about the life of a bookseller that provides the reader with many unexpected insights into the book-dealing world. Some of the author’s reminiscences will have you laughing out loud and some will bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes. Some of his descriptions of his customers are so entertaining, the rude, the thoughtless, the eccentrics and the tightwads all get a mention, as do the kind and considerate. His bookshop was in Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, and it was a bomb that bought to an end Rowlinson’s bookstore enterprise. He explains how this event led to him becoming an online dealer and his thoughts on this manner of selling books. This little book is a must for lovers of ‘books about books’ and for those interested in the world of second-hand book selling. It will always have a home on my bookshelves.
An original, mischevious rites of passage novel which will delight fans of off-beat fiction such as ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’and ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian’. The Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women’s Book Club is THE foremost book club in Canada, no, in the world. Priding themselves on their good taste, intelligent discussions and impeccable opinions, they are a group of misfits and oddballs, living on the edge of normality. There are only two rules: what Missy says goes (ok, there is a nod to democracy but let’s be honest here) and NO BOYS. EVER. Of course, the premier book club in the world must read the first book ever written: ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’. But this monumental book leads them to break all their rules, shed members who end up missing out on EVERYTHING, and travel across the open seas to Bahrain in search of a wise man who’ll hopefully have all the answers. Original, funny, quixotic and ultimately very moving,The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal is set in a time of upheaval: the Iraq war is exploding and people across the world are marching in protest.It’s the story of a group of friends who find a family of sorts within their book group, who learn to cope with love, and the lack of it, loss, and the lack of that, and with growing up in a world that is falling apart.
Quirky doesn’t go anywhere near describing this amazing novel. I found it surreal, utterly unique, bizarre and at times perplexing but always absolutely enthralling, it kept me intrigued and entertained throughout. Having said that it did take 75 pages before I was well and truly hooked. I persevered with it because it seemed so promising from its blurb and I was pleased to discover I was right to hang on in there with it. I do feel this is destined to become a ‘Marmite’ book though. Another plus is that it’s also inspired me to read The Epic of Gilgamesh, although it by no means necessary to do so to enjoy this book.
Told in epistolary form this book is comparable to 84 Charing Cross Road but also has a charm all of its own. Set in 1946, we meet Juliet, a writer who is searching for inspiration to begin a new book. By a string of coincidences she learns about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and becomes intrigued by them. They all begin writing to each other and sharing snippets of their lives. Some of their wartime tales are of heroics; some of love, some are humorous and some are heartbreaking. Through everything that they endured they became united by a shared passion for books. Although, in fact, the book group was originally just a subterfuge to outwit the German soldiers, but became a reality as a love for books was discovered between them all. The surprise at the end is wonderfully warming and such a delight.
Mary Anne Shaffer has told a story of wartime horrors and hardships, yet kept the tone gentle and just bearable to read, without taking away the awfulness of the Nazi occupation in Guernsey. This book had me entranced from the very beginning and will stay with me for some time to come.
This wasn’t the lighthearted read that I was expecting but Gee’s writing pulled me into the lives of the characters and held me there. This is a book about life and death, bereavement, romance and of course, books. Whenever it showed signs of getting a little dark for me, Gee turned it around and lightened it up with her gentle humour. The opening pages take part in Hay on Wye, which is a Mecca for serious book lovers and immediately I was hooked. In this book we meet several characters and families whose lives are all in some way enriched by literature. Gee writes with a great sense of compassion and observation making this book a comforting read – in fact, it would make an ideal bedtime book.