Weekend Miscellany

It’s been a busy week – but now I have half term – although nothing planned, as my daughter is revising and has her Duke Of Edinburgh Bronze expedition next weekend. I ought to start work on the summer edition of the school magazine, but it’s also a time for catching up with blogging. So here’s a miscellany of my bookish week:

Firstly, a huge thanks to Vintage Books (and Will Rycroft) for picking my name out of the hat to win their latest newsletter competition. It was all about writers who have worked for the New Yorker and their links to another author who was editor of the magazine for a long while. My prize was a set of Vintage classics by that editor – William (Keepers) Maxwell.


I must admit I’ve never read Maxwell, and before I looked him up to enter the competition I had never heard of him! He had a long life, being born in 1908, dying in 2000, and appears to have had an equally long writing career. Will tells me I’m in for a treat, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in… But which to read first?

  • They Came Like Swallows (1937) is a family drama
  • All the Days and Nights (1965) is an anthology of short stories
  • The Folded Leaf (1945) is a coming of age tale set in 1920s Chicago
  • So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980) is about jealous farmers in rural Illinois
  • Time Will Darken It (1948) turn of the century Illinois
  • The Chateau (1961) An American couple holiday in France.

I’m drawn to The Chateau or The Folded Leaf, but do tell me if you’d particularly recommend any of the others.

* * * * *

Secondly, it’s time for a little non-fiction Shiny Linkiness…

All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher

All I Know NowThis book is part memoir, part advice guide from the young star of Les Miserables who is also a Youtube vlogger and younger sister of Tom from McFly.

Aimed squarely at the teenaged girl market, I snaffled a proof copy to write a ‘Mum’s-eye review’ of it for Shiny New Books – it’s stuffed full of relentlessly cheerful good advice from an obviously lovely girl who wants to be your ‘honorary big sister’. Unlike Zoella and co, Carrie has only herself to plug, and she makes it clear that hard work is required, but tells it with a lot of good humour whilst trying to be a comfort too. If you have a younger teenaged daughter, buy it for her and get in her good books!

Click here to read my full review.

Naked at the Albert Hall by Tracey Thorn

naked at the albert hall Tracey Thorn is back with another book which allows her to explore in detail one area which didn’t fit in the first book, specifically the art of singing.

She serves us up an enticing mixture which includes snatches of memoir, interviews with other singers, singers in literature, the mechanics of singing, ruminations on what it means and its power. She also talks frankly about her stage fright, which has prevented her singing live now for many years.

As with her brilliant memoir Bedsit Disco Queen, this volume is shot through with wit and wonder; she writes beautifully and I really enjoyed reading in her company again.

Click here to read my full review.

Shiny New Books now has an affiliate link to The Book Depository, so if you want to find out more you can click through at the bottom of my full reviews. SNBks remains totally independent though, the affiliate account is just to help pay for the webhosting.

* * * * *

mostly_booksThirdly, I was shocked to find out this week that the owners of my favourite bookshop – the amazing Mostly Books in Abingdon – have put the business on the market, so they can concentrate on their kids and other things. The good news is that they’re not in a particular hurry and are hoping to sell to the right kind of person.  Could I?….

Despite having no experience of proper retail or bookselling, I do have ideas, and have always had a dream of owning a bookshop. I can’t afford to buy it outright without downsizing my house, which I wasn’t planning to do until my daughter goes to university. But, if I had a business partner, that would give half the financial risk, double the ideas, the ability to have holidays and not necessarily work six or seven days a week. Anyone interested?


18 thoughts on “Weekend Miscellany

  1. Oh I recall the time of the Duke of Edinbugh Awards – I did bronze & silver when I was 30 years younger, fitter & slimmer!

    As to the bookstore I would if I lived your way – from Devon it is too much of commute.

  2. Oh, you are in for such a treat with William Maxwell – one of my favourite writers. If I had to choose I’d go for So Long, See You Tomorrow.

    Keep us all posted on possible bookselling plans, won’t you.

  3. Oooh, if only I could join in the bookshop adventure, Annabel. I’m afraid the commute from Geneva is even greater, though. No, I’d never heard of William Maxwell either – let’s see what treats are in store for you.

  4. What a fabulous collection from Vintage! I’m especially interested in the Chicago and rural farms in Illinois books, as that is my homeland area. And, the reason why indolent open the bookshop with you, though believe me, I am sorely tempted! xo

  5. Well done on the Maxwells – I’ve never read him but he sounds fascinating. As for the bookshop – wow! I hope you find a business partner – it would be fun to hear about your adventures running the place. And good luck to your daughter – it’s a stressful time of year for all exam-sitters…

  6. I loved So Long, See You Tomorrow and wrote about it in Booklog for Charlotte in 2011. I hadn’t thought of reading more William Maxwell, but think I will head to the library for another one, thanks to your good fortune.

  7. Oh, another Tracey Thorn! Great!
    What an interesting opportunity with the bookshop – I do hope something opportune comes your way…

  8. I haven’t read Maxwell, but I’ve read so much praise for his work. Your bookshop idea sounds wonderful, and I really hope there’s someone a little loser to Oxford who thinks the same. Our local bookshop was ticking over nicely when the owners retired, but the new owners have taken it to another level. I wish the same for yours.

  9. I read They Came Like Swallows for Cornflower’s Book Group in 2008. I didn’t particularly warm to it though I was pretty much a lone voice in that respect.

    Regarding your potential bookshop venture, perhaps there is a crowdfunding opportunity here? However think very carefully about buying a bookshop as I have seen so many excellent, busy places close down in the last decade that I would be extremely cautious about purchasing one even if I had all the money to hand.

  10. I loved The Chateau, but then I really love William Maxwell and think you can’t go wrong whichever you choose. I am absolutely rubbish at being drawn from a hat – I don’t think I’ve ever won anything that way, but I remember you winning all the shortlisted books for the Whitbread or something. You’ve got the lucky touch! Maybe that’s exactly what you need to run a bookshop too? I wish I could join you – if I lived closer, I would.

  11. I suggest you read They Came Like Swallows and So long, See You Tomorrow as a pair as they have much the same theme, yet treated so differently. ‘Swallows’ was written early in his career and ‘So Long..’ was written at the end and the development of his ability is quite remarkable. ‘So Long’ is one of the finest novels I’ve read – indeed, it’s the only book that once finished I turned immediately back to the beginning and read it all through again.

  12. Am I just a teeny bit envious about those fabulous books you won? Of course I am, I love the Vintage collections. Hope yiu find someone to join you in the book shop adventure. It’s tempting but rather difficult to see myself doing from my home in Wales.

  13. We all love Maxwell! What a lovely prize. His writing is so beautiful, from the ones I’ve read. I’d recommend They Came Like Swallows – I have to confess that I’ve had slightly less luck with his longer books (Time Will Darken It and The Chateau), but need to re-read or something.

  14. Congrats on winning all those books! Lovely 😀

    I’ve been aware of Carrie Hope Fletcher for a while, I don’t think I want to read her book, but she seems like such a lovely, lovely person.

  15. I can feel a Maxwell fest coming on. Thanks for all your supportive comments. Owning a bookshop is probably a dream, but I am going to explore it more before making a decision!

Comments are closed.