A trip to Oxfam Books, Dorking

I do like Dorking, and there appeared to be a freshness to the place following recent rain. Since I was last here a few months ago, the high street appears to have a few more empty shops, but it’s still a very pleasant, small town. Today’s visit by train was to donate around ten books to the Oxfam Bookshop (and to pick up another three!). Probably over three-quarters of the books I read end up here. I only keep those I flag as highly recommended, the rest are donated to Oxfam Books. A coffee and date-slice in the Two Many Cooks coffee shop rounded off a nice morning.

Library book

My local library is quite small but I can usually manage to find something interesting. Today was no exception – two science books (my daughter would approve of The Knowledge, which is subtitled How to Rebuild Our World After an Apocalypse!), a novel about football and an American crime novel.

Frédéric Dard

Whilst on a short holiday in Aldeburgh I bought three paperbacks from the excellent The Aldeburgh Bookshop. I’ve just read, in no time at all, the short (160 pages), 1952 thriller, The King of Fools by French author Frédéric Dard. It’s a charming read. At the back of the novel there’s an interesting potted history of the author’s life. I checked out the publisher’s website and found that they have a bundle of 4 of his novels for a mere £20.

A visit to the library

The libraries are open again and there are the necessary Covid precautions – masks, a one-way system and an ID registration. I must have been there three-quarters of an hour yet I was the only visitor. After several circuits of the shelves I was almost resigned to coming away with nothing but then a flurry of possibly interesting reads appeared. In addition, the library was disposing of copies of Matt Haig’s Midnight Library, leftovers from World Book Day. Well thank you very much, I’ll have one!

Claude Shannon

I’m currently reading “The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation” by Jon Gertner. It’s a Christmas present from my Berlin son and what a great choice it was! Bell Labs became an enormous laboratory for developing ideas and inventions at the start of the communication, information and technology industries we now take for granted. This book tells the history of Bell Labs and the leading engineers, scientists and managers.

Claude Shannon was one of those scientists and who has become known as ‘ the father of information technology’. I have a vague recollection of hearing about his work whilst I was studying for a computer science course. Now, some 50 years later, he appears in this very readable history of Bell Labs. Brilliant man that he was, it’s prompted me to look for a biography, and “A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age” by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman has been well reviewed.

The biography is now on order from Postscript Books, a new mail-order company to me and which had the best price. I’ve added them to my menu of Links / Amazon alternatives. Their About page says “Most of our books are publishers’ overstocks and backlist titles…..Postscript has developed over the last 30 years, starting in south-west London in 1987 and then moving to south Devon in 2011“. An interesting business to find.


The bookshops are open!

The shackles have been relaxed a little and the shops have reopened, including Waterstones the bookshop – yay!

I’ve just finished reading my 100th book of the year so what better way to reward myself than a little restocking. Three very different non-fiction books – a true crime, an autobiography and some history/politics.

I’m currently reading Dictators, by Frank Dikötter. It’s an examination of eight twentieth-century dictators. Fascinating stuff with astonishing parallels with the personality of the current American president. It’s enthused me to make an effort to read more history.

My local high street was heaving, due no doubt to the relaxing of the Covid restrictions as well as being not-long-to Christmas. And with Debenhams about to shut, the scavengers were out looking for a bargain.