Friday 29 April 2011


Whilst at home (I am now back in Oxford) I had a day heading off to the Bookbarn, and then onto Bristol to see my brother. It left me with a deep distrust of Bristol's road systems, especially those lanes which lead exclusively into multi-storey car parks. But the Bookbarn part, and the brother part, were great fun.

For those not in the know, the Bookbarn is a huge warehouse of books out in the middle of nowhere in Somerset. It used to be all open to the public - now they are increasingly shutting off stock for internet buying, which is a shame. You used to have to choose to only look at authors beginning with C, for example, because that would take the best part of an hour. Now they have a relatively small fiction section - but I say relatively, because the amount on view is still about five times the size of most bookshops. AND, for a bonus, the books are only £1 each. And there's a huge unsorted section, which made for fun scouring...

I met up with two members of my online book group, Carol and Diney, who also live in the West Country, and they did not disappoint. Between us we bought 76 books. These are my kind of people.... anyway, 31 of those purchases were mine, and I'm not the sorta guy who buys books and keeps quiet about them. So... here goes with all the books I added to my shelves (and yes, the rearrange left plenty of room for them):

These aren't going to be in the order of the photograph, I'm afraid, since I took the photo a day or so ago, and I am now at some distance from all the books! My eyes are hurting now, after typing everything out, and everytime I count the books in the list and in the picture they come to different totals. But I know I bought 31...

- Confessions of a Story-Teller: short stories by Paul Gallico
- The Small Miracle by Paul Gallico
- Ludmilla, and The Lonely by Paul Gallico
- The Adventures of Hirm Holliday by Paul Gallico
Paul Gallico certainly seems to have been prolific! I left some behind, but these were the ones which most appealed. Since he seems to have covered the spectrum from fey to very dark, I'm going to have to tread carefully, I think...

- A Village in a Valley by Beverley Nichols
I keep stockpiling Nichols books, and have still read none...

- Four Years at the Old Vic 1929-1933 by Harcourt Williams
- The Theatre Since 1900 by J.C. Trewin
One of my interests is theatrical history, especially in the first half of the 20th century. I was a bit overwhelmed by the three bookcases labelled 'Theatre', and plucked these more or less at random... but they do look fascinating.

- Nonsense Novels by Stephen Leacock
I haven't mentioned Leacock much on my blog, but I adored his writings in 2002 (when I read eight or so) and must revisit. I picked this up intending to give it to someone, but delightfully (for me!) it seems to be one of the few Leacock books I didn't already have.

- Countries of the Mind: Essays in Literary Criticism by J. Middleton Murry
Aka Mr. Katherine Mansfield. I loved his collection Pencillings a few years ago.

- Dreams in War Time: A Faithful Record by E.M. Martin
This pretty, deckled-edge little book was too peculiar to leave behind. It is what it says - someone has written down their dreams during WW2. I love bizarre little finds, and this could be really interesting.

- Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
I don't know why I know about this novel, but I do... or, rather, I know about its existence. Anyone?

- Letters to a Sister by Rose Macaulay
You probably know my fondness for Macaulay, and I've previously enjoyed her letters to a priest who was a friend of hers - I hadn't realised this collection existed, and it was definitely a bargain.

- After the Stroke: a journal by May Sarton
As it sounds, it's an autobiographical book about life after a stroke.

- Summer in February by Jonathan Smith
Carol told me this was great, and I believe her :)

- The Dud Avacado by Elaine Dundy
Excellent condition Virago Modern Classic for £1? Yes please.

- The Love Child by Edith Olivier
This lovely first edition I bought to give to someone else

- Star Quality by Noel Coward
Coward short stories: why not?

- The New Immortality by J.W. Dunne

This one is for my research - Dunne wrote some strange metaphysical books which are quoted by one or two of my authors...

- Conversations in Ebury Street by George Moore
Back in 2004 I read a quotation from this about Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, with which I completely concurred (i.e. that it's brilliantly formed) and I've been hoping to stumble across an affordable copy ever since. Looks to be one long conversational ramble - lovely!

- My American by Stella Gibbons
Still only read the delectable Cold Comfort Farm (and I'm excited about the Vintage reprints of her novels coming out soon!) but always worth having more in store...

- Her Book by Daisy Ashford

Basically everything she wrote except The Young Visiters [sic] - should be fun.

- The Unspeakable Skipton by Pamela Hansford Johnson
In my head, The Unbearable Bassington and The Unspeakable Skipton have always gone hand-in-hand. Somehow loving the former has made me want to try the latter - I have previously loved one PHJ novel and disliked another, so who knows with this one?

- The Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg by Louis Bromfield
- Mrs. Parkington by Louis Bromfield

Rachel (Book Snob) and her enthusiasm for this author has made me intrigued...

- The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
I adored this novel last year, but had read a library copy - this was definitely one I wanted to have for myself.

- The Ginger Griffin by Ann Bridge
Just read Illyrian Spring (that Rachel again...) and loved it, will review soon, have more ready to read!

- Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse
You can never have too much Wodehouse: FACT.

- Wonderful Clouds by Francoise Sagan
After enjoying Bonjour Tristesse, I wanted to try more. So pleased to have found another author I enjoy who writes exclusively short books!

- A Summer Bird-Cage by Margaret Drabble
Another author I'm stockpiling, despite having read nothing by her...

- The Abbess of Crewe by Muriel Spark
Since I seem to have bought something by Spark everytime I post about recent purchases (she was apparently indefatiguable) it seems an appropriate book to finish with.

Phew! Quite a haul, and came in at only £31. As always, comments on books you've read, want to read, or have never heard of...

(p.s. HAPPY ROYAL WEDDING DAY! So exciting...)


  1. We, too, are very much looking forward the "the wedding" Will set the table tonight and have an English breakfast.
    I am excited for you and you incredible finds.
    Enjoy reading and filing them away in your organized bookshelves

  2. If you haven't read Psmith yet, you're in for such a treat! It's a toss-up between him and Uncle Fred for my favorite PGW character.

  3. The Dud Avocado is one of my go-to-get-happy comfort reads. Sally-Jay Gorce, the heroine, just roars off the page at you. I'm envious that you get to read it for the first time.

  4. At one pound per book how on earth do people have the will power not to buy and buy and buy? This looks a marvellous haul. Other than the Gallico I haven't heard of the others so I am taking notes.

  5. You may know about Sinclair Lewis in general. He was the first American novelist to get a Nobel. Probably his most famous is Main Street with Elmer Gantry, Arrowsmith and Babbitt tying for second in his list. His books capture a time and attitude in America that are satire and serious at the same time. I love Lewis. I think you might like this one.

  6. That one about dreams in WWII sounds like such a find! Fascinating and very odd.

  7. What a wonderful haul! You've fallen on the Project 24 wagon with a great thump, haven't you?! I do envy you the Macaulay letters. The Muriel Spark isvery good although I read it a long time ago. Kate (who you helped with the Illyrian Spring song) recommended Ginger Griffin to me so I'll be interested to see what you think of it. Carol & Diney were obviously the right people to visit the Bookbarn with. Can't wait to hear what they bought.

  8. Good grief. I've never read any of these but it sounds like an amazing haul.

  9. Are the two you missed were the books we found still lying on the back seat of the car - overlooked in the dark?
    Diney Costeloe's 'The Ashgrove' and 'Death's Dark Vale'
    And may I borrow 'After the Stroke'please... for obvious reasons? (not medical!)

  10. What wedding?

    I have not read any of your book haul except (possibly) the Spark. Since I can't remember I sadly can't provide any useful information. I am assuming your existing tbr pile has only a couple of copies left in it ;-)

  11. Two things - 1) The Abbess of Crewe is a wonderful little book, and 2) Margaret Drabble is simply wonderful; read her asap! :)

  12. Another successful outing at Bookbarn, well done you!

    My daughter and I are enjoying the festivities. Red, white and blue balloons decorate the family room and we even made some bunting. But we're desperately in need of a nap since we had to wake up at 3:30 am to see everything!

  13. I am so pesky aren't I? WHAT a haul and you're going to love Louis Bromfield, I promise.

    This Bookbarn sounds amazing! I shall be making a beeline when I'm back in England!

    Hope you're enjoying the day - they need people like you to balance out the miserable gits like me who are being smugly indifferent to the whole shebang!

  14. My 4 kids and I were up at 3am to begin wedding-watching. Dh supplied our breakfast with food from an English bakery in town (I didn't know it was here). We all stood and sang God Save the Queen with the rest of the congregation - the music was fantastic.
    Ah yes, and as for your book haul - I would call that an appropriately "royal" haul! :) Happy reading to you...I'm feeling the need for a nap.

  15. Great haul! Totally agree about PG Wodehouse. I enjoyed Paul Gallico's Jenny and I think I've read others... I LOVE Beverley Nicholls and have several of his books, picked up over the years. They're a very old fashioned kind of cosy book. I hope you enjoy Village in a Valley. It, along with his other books, is sitting on my bedroom bookshelf with the other cosy-books-for-when-you're-ill-in-bed, but you don 't need to wait to have flu to enjoy them! Wish I lived closer to the Bookbarn...

  16. oh wow, funnily enough my brother lives in Bristol too so I will make a trip there next time I'm visiting him!

  17. Beverley Nichols is laugh out loud funny. You will love!

  18. Helen, Darlene, Susan - Glad you all prepared for and watched the Royal Wedding, I loved it so much!

    Lisa May - I've read Psmith Journalist, but not this one... must read more PGW, they never disappoint.

    Sarah - a few people I know who share my taste really didn't like this, so I've been put off for years... but recently I've been hearing better things, and yours is the most enthusiastic mini-review yet! Thanks.

    Mystica - the weight of my basket held me back more than self-restraint, I must confess!

    Thomas - maybe that's what it is... hmm...

    Cat - I know! So strange. But I love strange little books like this...

    Lyn - did you ever doubt that I'd fall hard?? Carol and Diney were perfect shopping companions - they're (almost) as bad as me!

    Harriet - Good grief is a very apt response!

    Mum - no, they were from Diney so didn't count... I wonder which ones I missed... or left in the car park! After the Stroke is now under S on the biography shelves (on landing) - help yourself!

    Peter - watch it, no treason here please! And I think you're probably not assuming that ;)

    Dan - oh I must read Drabble, I must! I will soon, promise...

    Rachel - very pesky ;) You'll have to take a trip to Bookbarn (with me!) They're currently moving loads of things to house everything together (they emailed me after this appeared!) so I'm not sure how long it will be in what state...

    Penny - I did start a Nichols once, but it obviously wasn't the right time for me - got sidetracked immediately. One day...

    Jessica - aha, a good excuse! Hope you negotiate the roads better than I did...

    Kim - thanks for further encouragement! I must just read some...

  19. I'd like to read The Good Earth, too. So many book bloggers say how good it is, I will look out for a copy.


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