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!

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.


John D MacDonald

In my twenties (or was it thirties?) I read many of the American crime/ thriller novels of Ross Macdonald and John D MacDonald. Both authors are highly regarded and I remember much enjoying the books.

Decades later, on one of my occasional clear-outs, I disposed of their books and those of other authors. I remember thinking twice about getting rid of the John D MacDonald books because they had such fabulous covers. Interestingly I’ve started following a blog devoted to his book covers, and it was this that’s motivated me to re-read some of the two authors’ books. I’m sure the image on the right is from the range I had once owned but I can’t find images of the other books in that range.

I’ve only managed to find two ebooks by RM or JDM at my local on-line library. RM’s The Dark Tunnel was one of his early novels – and it shows! Absolutely terrible, though it won’t stop me looking out for his later works. However, JDM’s Nightmare in Pink is a superb read.


Getting books during covid

In these difficult times I’ve been getting my reading material from different sources:

  • Re-reading books from my shelves
  • ebooks downloaded from my local library
  • Blackwell’s online bookshop

Today I ventured into our local Waterstones and came away with three books. I can’t say that wearing a mask for the length of time it takes me to browse is a pleasant experience, but it was fine. And it’s good to be back in a bookshop again!

As an aside I wasn’t sure whether I should use ‘ebook’ or ‘e-book’ in the text, but after looking up “E-book, ebook, eBook” on Grammarist, I decided to go with ‘ebook’.


The Martin Beck novels

So far this month I’ve re-read from my shelves three Swedish police procedurals by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö. They wrote ten altogether and they are so good I’ve ordered the other seven! I’ll space them out so that I don’t get tired of them.

The main character in all the novels is Martin Beck and we very much enjoyed the TV series Beck which was based on the novels. Interestingly, though Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö plotted and researched the stories together, they wrote alternate chapters.

In the meantime I’ve just finished reading The Offing, by Benjamin Myers. It’s set around the lovely, Yorkshire fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. An old man looks back to 1946 when, as a 16-year-old boy, he set off for an adventure and stumbles across an eccentric, older woman. A really lovely read. I’ll certainly look out for other novels by the same author.

I’m currently reading A Dry White Season, by André Brink. Set in apartheid South Africa, this is a step outside my usual fiction comfort zone and, so far so good.