Thursday, 10 December 2009

In which our narrator spends rather a lot of time in bookshops

It's now a fortnight (three weeks?) since Borders went into administration, and the Oxford branch is rapidly losing stock. It was always a bit bright and brash to be a British bookshop, but I'm going to miss it all the same. I used to love it particularly as an undergraduate, when at about half past nine I could think 'oh dear, I don't have anything to read in bed', nip out and spend a happy twenty minutes browsing the shelves. It lost some charm over the course of the last decade, as the closing time reduced to nine, then to eight. Although, of course, until two years ago I was living in a little rural town, rather than a massive city, so had no access to it whatever the time of night.

The thing is, bookshops make me happy. Whenever I'm feeling a bit down, I go bookshopping. I don't even have to buy anything, although often I do. I just feel at home there.

Today I have been to practically every bookshop in Oxford. I went to Borders, but felt that it was virtually impossible to find anything except by complete chance, and also that strangely many things were more expensive than previously... I went to Waterstones, in a passing through kind of a way, and to Blackwell's where I bought one book as a Christmas present but it was in a three for two so I bought two more that I wanted, restrained myself from buying another couple that I thought looked good, and which turned out to be the same price on Amazon, so I may have to go back. I dropped into Oxfam Books on Turl Street, where I didn't buy anything, but then I did buy three books from Oxfam Books on St Giles on Tuesday.

Then I came home and went by car into Headington, one of Oxford's satellite residential areas, home of the Headington Shark, and also home to about a hundred charity shops, including not one but two Cancer Research shops, one on each side of the road... From various places here I acquired a handful of Christopher Isherwood books, some PG Wodehouse, and a couple of other things. I came home to find an Amazon delivery (Christmas presents) had been chucked over the back fence, but since it hadn't rained, the books were undamaged despite their dissolved packaging. I may have rather gone overboard on the book buying today. But, to paraphrase, if it makes me happy, it can't be that ba-a-aa-ad. And between the three for two and the charity shops, it wasn't that expensive either. So here's to time in bookshops, and the calming whispers of a million books :)

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