An Ode To Waterstones

As I sit here waiting for my tan to dry (an epic saga - partly tanned my legs, then ran out of St Moriz, partly tanned the rest of me, then ran out of St Tropez and am now what can only be described as 'ombré'), I thought I would write a bit about books. Specifically, bookshops. Specifically, Waterstones. My favourite shop to while away the hours in by a million miles, without a hint of competition.
Last week, I wrote a post about spending a full day in York. I mentioned that I spent a fair bit of time in Waterstones; I didn't mention quite how much. I was in that wonderful book-infused bubble for at least a good two hours. It is for this reason that I cannot go book shopping with anyone else, and must instead embark on a solo pilgrimage (page-grimage.. nope? okay), purely because anyone else would most likely have resorted to snoozing in a corner by the time I'm ready to leave.

Normally, if I realised I had spent two hours in one shop I would be a) amazed and b) maybe kind of annoyed with myself for wasting so much time. With Waterstones, however, it's a whole other story. I would even go so far as to say I would happily move in and just live there permanently, reading books all day every day and sustaining myself with the in-house (in-shop?) café. Time to stop daydreaming about this, I'm getting carried away and also a bit sad at the fact that it will never be a thing. Such woes.

Anyway, my visit on this occasion was to spend the rest of a book token (wahoo!) that had been hermit-crabbing in my purse for the best part of a year. Remembering about this recluse token really did upgrade a good day to a very great one. As always, I was hit by the aroma of freshly-printed joy on stepping inside and, as always, I was instantly surrounded by books that I would very much like to buy/own/read/read/probably read again a few more times.

There are two key areas of a bookshop that I will spend my time (and money) in - general A-Z fiction, and cookbooks. Since I know that I am capable of spending inordinate amounts of time reading fiction blurbs in particular, I decided to head first for the recipe books, and save the true black hole time warpy bit that is home to the fiction books for later.

I was vaguely on the hunt for a good nutrition book, rather than a recipe book, which I could just read and learn from, so naturally in looking for this I flicked through pretty much every single book on every single shelf. Yes, including the ones I already own. I have no idea why. I had heard very good things about Madeleine Shaw's Get the Glow book, but I couldn't see it anywhere and was becoming more and more enamoured with every single book in the whole section. UNTIL, that is, I spotted it on a separate display table. Celebration time. This book is exactly what I was looking for. It has a big section at the beginning with detailed but accessible explanations of all things nutritiony, and then stacks and stacks of wholesome, healthy recipes all with drool-inducing pictures.

It's moments like this that remind me I could never be the type of person to use a Kindle (or any sort of non-tree reading device). I am too infatuated with the actual browsing experience and the smell of newly printed books and being able to open at a random page to get a taste (ha) of what is inside. I like having a stack of books to read and I like seeing them go from crisp and brand new to spine-crinkled and worn and enjoyed. For me, a big part of choosing books is judging them by their cover. In case you haven't noticed, book covers are really cool. There are endless possibilities for what they can look like and eye-catching ones do draw you in, whether you try not to judge on the cover or not. For the same reason, book shopping online is just not the same as in a physical bookshop at all. Yes, you'll often be able to find things for cheaper on Amazon or wherever, which can be mightily useful if you don't want to lug a big hefty tome around and instead want it delivered directly to you, but the actual choosing of books is nowhere near as fun and enjoyable. End book-obsessed rant.

Post-recipe browsing, I headed downstairs, where I would stay for a very considerable length of time. After a great deal of deliberation and shortlisting which books to buy and then liaising with Mum to check that we didn't have any of them already (we had a lot of them already), I chose four to spend my voucher on and a couple more bargain ones to get from Amazon.

The four I bought were all part of a 'buy one get one half price' deal, making them average out at £6 each, which seemed very reasonable. Two of them are by authors I have already read and know I love, so I was confident I would like them even before reading what they were about, and having a look at the blurbs just confirmed this.

The first of these is Us by David Nicholls, who wrote the immensely popular One Day. I read One Day poolside when on holiday and was completely captivated by it from the moment I picked it up, although I have avoided the film after hearing endless complaints about Anne Hathaway's apparently less than accurate Yorkshire accent (a shame, as I generally really like Anne Hathaway). In a way, though, I think this is better as I like being left with my own version of how the story went and what the characters look like and all the other details, rather than having it shown to me. Us is about a couple who, after twenty years of marriage, seem to be heading along different paths. Douglas decides that the way to fix the situation and gain the respect of their teenage son is to organise "the holiday of a lifetime". The blurb finishes with a fate-tempting "What could possibly go wrong?", and reviews are extremely favourable. Safe to say, I'm very much looking forward to this one.

The next is The Red House by Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Admittedly, it is years since I read that, but I do remember thoroughly enjoying it, so I'm fairly certain I'll be able to say the same of The Red House. This one is about a brother and sister who have never got on trying to patch things up between their respective families following the death of their mother. Their solution is to go on a joint Welsh holiday, but over the course of the week it soon becomes clear that all they thought was true was not necessarily so. The reviews of this are fantastic, ranging from "shockingly well-observed" to "terrifyingly talented" and "a tremendous pleasure" - high praise indeed.

The third is Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, winner of the Costa Novel Award 2013. This "triumphant" and "dazzling" book centres around the idea that you could live your life again and again until you get it right. The blurb doesn't give away a great deal other than this innovative concept, but the sparkling reviews dotted all over the cover speak for themselves. There are too many sky-high compliments to write them all, but all I can say is that they certainly did their job of encouraging me to give this one a try. It's quite a sizeable book, which I'm glad about as I can see myself not wanting it to end. (Although really I feel that way about pretty much every book I read.)

And finally, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It was the glowing reviews that made me pick this one up - "exuberantly life-affirming", "sublime", and "compulsively readable" as a taster of just a few of the credits this book has earned. Simsion's debut novel, it follows a "handsome thirty-nine-year-old geneticist" who has never been lucky enough to score a second date. In order to rectify this, he devises The Wife Project, which will supposedly help him find his ideal life partner. His plan, however, is thrown off course when he encounters "the world's most incompatible woman", who causes chaos in his very non-chaotic life. Not only does the plot appeal to me, I am also extremely intrigued by the lobster on the front cover, so will be very interested to discover its relevance to what promises to be a very good read.

Whew. And that's my lot. Well, that's the ones I bought in person, anyway - Get the Glow and a couple others have already arrived at home so I'm very much looking forward to returning to my homeland to delve into them too, and to cook heaps and heaps and HEAPS of wholesome recipes. Honestly, I went back to Waterstones for another browse yesterday and had a look through that one again and am yet to stumble upon a recipe in there that I actually wouldn't make.

I'll be following these up with reviews when I've finished reading them (and overcome the emotional turmoil that inevitably follows closing the back cover of any good book), so stay tuned for that!

Also, thank you to all the new people (and old regulars!) who have visited my blog - I never expected this much this fast so it has been a lovely surprise! You are all stars.

*All photos in this post are mine. If you wish to use any, please ask my permission and credit me!*


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