Bookshop Bliss

Waterstones PiccadillyI passed an absorbing couple of hours yesterday mooching round Waterstones in Piccadilly, in the heart of London.

Apparently now Europe’s biggest bookshop, Waterstones Piccadilly is a paradise for the reader.  Its five floors are an abundance of every kind of book from any genre you care to think of, categorised both systematically and creatively, and topped and tailed with comfy areas to kick-back with a drink and a bite to eat.

I headed straight for Fiction on the first floor.  Bypassing the helpful shopping baskets (I didn’t see them) I was soon loaded with armfuls of paperbacks.  I’m an avid audiobooker, but if I’ve enjoyed listening to a book, I need to own the paper too (I blogged about this a while back, here). Consequently, I keep a running list of books I need to buy, simply so I can go back through them and enjoy them… differently, and of course, possess them, in real leaf-through-the-pages format, as nature and the publishing world intended.

So I picked up three from my listened-and-enjoyed list:

  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach – an eclectic group of oldies retire to India
  • A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth – dark but comic, about a deliciously weird, damaged girl
  • Smut by Alan Bennett – two unseemly short stories in Bennett’s inimitable style (narrated for audio by the author himself)

But it didn’t end there.  With the able and enthusiastic assistance of the… um… assistants, I tracked down another five from my must-read list.

  • Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Red House by Mark Haddon
  • May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Yes, I know I’m arriving at one or two of these a little late in the day, but there’s just so much reading one woman can do.  Especially when the thing she most wants to do with her spare time is… write.

I read all over the genre geography.  I enjoy the kind of books which fall into what’s variously called  lit-lite (yuk!), accessible literary, crossover or even, I saw the other day, ‘Richard & Judy’.  I particularly enjoy edgier psychological suspense – that’s what I’m writing, after all.  I’m not into romance, historical or sci-fi, but I meander around the fringes of crime/police procedural, thrillers, chick-lit and full-blown literary as the mood takes me.

I get leads from Goodreads and I buy loads from Amazon as it’s convenient – who can argue with that?  But an afternoon in a bookshop is an indulgence and I loved every minute of it, especially being so warmly and professionally served by people who really, properly know their books.

Grammar purists like me bemoan the demise of that apparently outdated possessive apostrophe, flushed away from Waterstones’ (ha!) branding as of last year, for reasons of… practicality.   But given the pleasure quotient of a meander around their floors, it seems churlish to dwell.

I had lunch with a friend, took my time over a coffee and dreamed.  I’ll be back again, to shop.  But just maybe, one day, I’ll be back there to do a reading and a bit of meet-the-author.  How’s that for a star to shoot for?

20 thoughts on “Bookshop Bliss

    1. Strangely, I haven’t seen the movie, although with the cast list, I imagine it’s very good. The book is whimsical and as an audiobook, it certainly worked very well. That’s why I needed to own the paper 🙂

    1. I have a nice local Waterstones but Piccadilly is in a different league. The only thing that stopped me buying more was the thought of dragging it all home on the tube!

  1. Wish we had something like Waterstones here – B&N is about the closest. And I do hope you enjoy Poisonwood. After several re-readings it remains in my top 5.

    1. I’ve enjoyed the B&N ambience on trips to the US, but it’s hard to go into a bookshop and not buy – small suitcases and airline baggage allowances always stood in the way of reckless literary abandon. The Waterstones’ sales assistant was equally as enthusiastic about Poisonwood – I’m looking forward to it.

  2. This puts me in mind of 84 Charing Cross Road, a favorite movie and book. I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying. I work in a library, and go home with stacks of books, I especially enjoy audio versions. I love Goodreads, it’s great fun and a good way to keep track of what you’ve read. Lastly, how DOES one fine time to read and write. It’s an ongoing delimma. Great post.

    1. Thank you! To write, one must, must read, but time is always the challenge. That’s how I came to audiobooks, as a way of covering more ground. At first, I listened to books from genres I wanted some exposure to, but didn’t feel I could make the time to read. Now, I listen widely because I find the narration often enhances the experience. I always have at least three books on the go – a paperback (great for curling up on the sofa), a soft/Kindle edition (compact, for travel) and an audiobook (morning hair-and-make-up time and car journeys).

      1. Exactly, I’m currently listening to an E-audiobook called Shadowy Horses, by Joanna Kearsley ( reader, Sally Armstrong). The reader bounces between English, Irish, and Scottish accents with ease and it’s a thing to behold, or listen to. I always have two or three books going at once too, just have to make sure it’s different genres.

  3. Thank you for writing about it, that used to be my ‘local’ bookshop when I worked on Piccadilly. I never managed to make it to the Tube station without a quick wander inside. It is perhaps ore mainstream, not as quirky as Foyles or Heffers (in Cambridge) or Blackwell’s (in Oxford, has resolutely kept its apostrophe), but the richness of its offerings on so many floors! Plus a cafe/restaurant/bar on the top floor with a view over the roofs of London. What’s not to like?

    1. I’d be in trouble if I walked past Waterstones Piccadilly every day! The way they group and display books on the ground floor is particularly appealing, but it’s the Fiction floor that would exert its pull. As you say, what’s not to like?

    2. I loved that secondhand bookshop in Oxford on the corner of Park End Street. Haven’t been there for years, but it was a very tall building, with bare dusty floorboards and ancient leather sofas. The bloke at the desk by the door didn’t care if you lay about for hours and just read, read, read. It was there I discovered that Kidnapped had a sequel. I’d completely forgotten about that place until I read your post. Thanks. PS Does anybody else think the Poisonwood Bible is quite similar to the Mosquito Coast?

      1. I’m happy to have revived your memory of what sounds like a wonderful old bookshop. Poisonwood is warming up nicely – I’m intrigued to see how it will go as the family impose themselves upon their unsettling new world.

        1. I’m glad I read it, but I’m not sure I’d want to read it again. Although I probably wouldn’t need to as it just imprinted itself on my brain, and I still find myself about some of the issues she raised.

  4. I do love a good audiobook and the narrator can make all the difference. Despite having read them many times, I have listened to To Kill a Mockingbird read by Sissy Spacek and The Old Man and the Sea read by Donald Sutherland. Wonderful pairings. Great post!

    1. I agree. Some narrators are just ‘right’ for certain stories. Then there are those voices which are so exquisite, you’d listen to them reading the shipping forecast. I enjoyed ‘Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy far more then I expected because of the narration by Saul Reichlin. And Tom Hollander reading JKR’s ‘The Casual Vacancy’ was another auditory treat.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful day to me. Have not been able to do that in years. Live in the country now and the biggest book store is about 30 miles away. But it appears you had a great day. nice piece.

    1. Despite living within a few miles of Central London, I venture into its chaos only rarely (I envy your living in the country). This time in particular, I was richly rewarded.

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