In this week’s Miscellany, an interesting debate on charity v secondhand shops, a progress report on the LOTR readalong, and some new arrivals at Gaskell Towers …

Something which caught my eye at the weekend was a post by Scott Pack at Me & My Big Mouth on a big debate topic about charities edging out proper secondhand bookshops. This is a debate that has been going for some time. Apparently second-hand dealers have shut up shop in Oxford due to the success of the Oxfam bookshop for instance.  However that pesky Susan Hill upped the ante with her article in the Spectator Blog. Please, do read them both and make up your own mind.

What do I think?

Well – Abingdon where I live currently supports six+ charity shops, two wonderful independent bookshops, a WH Smith + Tesco – we don’t have a dedicated secondhand bookshop – but do have a library too.  That makes a huge number of places to get books for all budgets in just a small town.  So far they all co-exist with each other – although WH Smith has only been in place literally next door to ‘The Bookstore’ since just before Christmas. Personally, I always prefer to shop in our local independents where possible.  However as charity shops go, I almost exclusively support, by buying from and donating to (gift aiding my donations), our local children’s hospice shop – Helen & Douglas House. I know families who have used it, and a nurse friend works there.  Although they now have over twenty shops in Oxfordshire, our local one has a large turnover of good quality books at fair prices, and I know where my money’s going; that reassures me more than anything else.  

Wherever else I go, I find it hard to walk past a bookshop – of whatever variety, but I have noticed less second-hand bookshops, (I’ve never been to Hay). But then I buy online too – and the second-hand market appears to be thriving there – is that where they’ve all gone then?

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Now to the LOTR Readlong.  This month we embarked on the book proper with The Fellowship of the Ring.  Claire at The Literary Omnivore is hosting this month, if you want to check others’ progress.

It definitely feels like the real thing after the narration of the Hobbit, however we’re eased in gently with some Hobbit history, before we meet them.  Gandalf turns up and  Frodo finds out about his burden, then thinks about it until almost winter before setting off on the epic journey. 

Once they’re out of the sphere of their world though, they soon get lost and have to be rescued by Tom Bombadil (twice).  Bombadil, who represents nature is a kind of Green Man, and is only really interested in maintaining the land’s status quo, and is jolly boring, boringly jolly, so it’s a relief when they get to Bree and meet Strider … (aaah!  Aragorn – sigh …).  Then they’re dodging the black riders and having a long, hard journey until they reach Rivendell – which is like a five star hotel with all the facilities.

One thing the film did, was to enlarge the few women’s parts in the story – much was made of the romance between Aragorn and Arwen, Elrond’s daughter.  I probably never really noticed it on previous readings, and it doesn’t get many lines here, but I was sensitised to it by the film and was glad to spot them this time. 

So things are starting to hot up, and I was really beginning to enjoy it all once again and looking forward, (with some trepidation knowing what happens) to the second half and beyond. A wrap-up post on LOTR Book 1 will follow nearer the end of the month.

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Finally, some recent additions to the TBR mountains…

    The Still Point by Amy Sackville. I fell in love with the cover instantly. It starts in the Arctic a hundred years ago when an explorer goes missing. Then a hundred years later his great-grand-niece is sorting out the family home and the inherited clutter from the fated expedition and a discovery gives her cause to review her knowledge of her ancestor’s relationships and her own. I can’t wait to read this one.
    Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes. I’d have bought this book eventually anyway, but Simon’s championing of it led me to order the hardback and I’m looking forward to diving into it soon.
    Troubadour by Mary Hoffman. Another book with a lovely cover, this is a historical novel for YA/adults featuring a young noblewoman who runs away with a troubador to escape marriage. Set in the Cathar region of southern France during the Crusades, this was recommended to me my Mark at Mostly Books.

    The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston. One of the Not The TV Book Group choices for March. I’m looking forward towards being able to join in the discussions – my copy of the first book for last week didn’t arrive in time. On Sunday 21st Feb the group will be discussing one of my top books from 2009 The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw, hosted over at Savidge Reads – see you there I hope.
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