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.

Getting rid of books

Not being able to browse bookshops, I’m getting my reading material by downloading e-books from the library and by re-reading books from my shelves. Once read I would normally hang on to a book only if it’s received my ‘highly recommended’ stamp of approval or, exceptionally, a ‘recommended’ one. But with the passage of time the shelves are bursting and I’ve decided that any book I re-read I will dispose of. There may be exceptions.

It’s too much hassle to try to resell books online and too little money to be gained so I take books to my local Oxfam Books. A book given to a charity can often be sold several times over since there’s a strong likelihood that books bought from a charity shop will be donated back to the same shop. This is clearly good for the charity, though less good for the author of the book. I don’t know whether that should bother me.