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On Small Bookstores And Random Books

A photo of the interior of Daunt Books in London

Something that I absolutely love, nowadays (I’ll get to that in a minute), is going into a small bookstore, in other words not a chain store that is most likely to hold only recent and famous novels, and buy random books. There was an offer on in a store I visited a few weeks ago, a 3 for 2, but I hadn’t realised it; and having picked up two books of interest had no idea what else I should choose.

Because that was always the problem I used to have with small bookstores – you’d rarely recognise any of the titles or authors. My parents may have found it interesting but I always assumed it was an element of their generation and left them to browse while I day-dreamed about bigger stores, better books, and, as I got older, no books at all.

My two choices were The Luminous Life Of Lilly Aphrodite which I’ve been wanting to read ever since it came out, a bargain at £3.99, and Lisa See’s biography of her family tree, On Gold Mountain. You may have noticed that I reviewed See’s Peony In Love not long ago. Well that was a book I’d had for a long time and finally got to reading it because of the biography, I felt I was in no position to read On Gold Mountain if I’d not read her fiction work. Of course it was only after finishing the fiction that I found out I’d read them in reverse order anyway despite my good intentions.

When I got to the counter and was told I should pick up another book because it was free I wandered round the piles of books on tables, looking for something that would hold my attention while knowledgeable of the fact that my boyfriend had already been waiting around for me to finish browsing the first time. I finally came across a small book, and although I can’t say the cover drew me in the fact that it was a small book overcome by the mighty mass of two other piles on either side, caught my interest. “Certainly” I thought it read. I took this as a sign I was meant to have it.

Later, on reading the title again without a towering shadow of books obscuring it, I found it to be called Certainty, by Madeleine Thien. I’ve never heard of it, but the blurb sounds interesting. It’s a few years old which means it has the benefit of not having been reviewed lately. There’s something about this discovery that makes me feel happy. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ll tell you one thing now though, even if I end up disliking it I will definitely be making a completely random purchase again.


Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

April 24, 2010, 1:04 pm

I haven’t heard of Certainty either – I look forward to finding out if it was a good buy!

I loved Lily Aphrodite and have heard wonderful things about See, so those are two great buyes – enjoy your new books!


April 26, 2010, 12:42 am

I love small and personal any kind of store: book, clothes, food, artisan…our town has become overrun with chains, and I can hardly bear it! We have far too many Talbots, Red Lobsters, etc. so I can relate to your affinity for the quaint.

I bought Certainty awhile ago, when I heard it won a Canadian award for the best first novel. My mother read it first, she has more time than I, and she loved it. So, it should be very, very good!

Charlie: That’s good to hear. Yes, chains are becoming overwhelming. In many ways I love it as you know that if you go somewhere else you can find things you like easily and they will be the same – but then is that such a good thing? It persuades us to not try new things or experience different cultures.



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