A book-buying binge
I’ve had a lovely (generous) book token – a Christmas present from my fellow book-loving mother-in-law – burning a hole through the lining of my wallet and, finally, today, I flipped back to the Greedy List I made when I was shopping for presents before Christmas.
I had a sort of one-for-one list going while I was browsing – one for her…ooh, one for me (for later); one for him…ooh, two for me (alas, for later)… I’m not sure if my personal restraint came from some higher-minded sense that I was supposed to be lovingly thinking of others rather than spending money on myself at Christmas, or whether I was holding out in the hope that some items from of my list might appear in my Christmas stocking. But let’s draw a veil …
Anyway, I decided I needed some more books (to add to the already significant TBR). Maybe it’s a security thing, like being terrified of running out of loo roll, or jigsaws in a lockdown. Actually, I know exactly what it was – I did a “Watch at Home” from the Perth Festival in WA, featuring Kate Grenville talking about her latest novel A Room Made of Leaves – Grenville resists the term “historical fiction” – that explores Elizabeth Macarthur, wife of wool baron John Macarther in the earliest days of Sydney.
That’s a glib description; the book mines several more profound depths than that, and explores contemporary issues around the impact of suppressed voices, and secrets and lies, so I want to buy it, obvs. And Kate Grenville was seated, during this streamed interview, in front of a bookcase (of course) on which I could see a copy of Mick: A Life of Randolph Stow, reminding me I’ve been intending to buy …
But where to buy online where I can use my tokens? Those who know me well know that I eschew the rapacious Jeff Bezos emporium – so I wouldn’t go there, even if they did take tokens, which they don’t. But I was delighted to find bookshop.org which links to independent bookshops across the UK. You identify the affiliated bookshop you want to shop from – mine was The Grove in Ilkley – and that shop receives the profit from the sales. If you don’t identify a shop then the profits go into a pool that is distributed across the affiliated stores. How fabulous.
I also found (not for book tokens) Better World Books, where I bought several used Randolph Stows. The company was founded in America in 2003 by three students from the University of Notre Dame Indiana, and its UK website was launched in 2010 (how come I’ve never found it before?). It’s a “global e-retailer that collects and sells new and used books online matching each purchase with a book donation, Book-for-Book. Each sale generates funds for literacy and education initiatives in the UK, US, and around the world.” My online research seems to suggest it’s ethical and genuine. I got a cheery email from them saying my purchases meant that three books had been donated to literacy causes.
So – an afternoon of guilt-free shopping and several hefty parcels to look forward to.
Do you know of any other examples of online ethical book trading?
On the subject of writing, I was intrigued – and depressed – to read in this week’s Guardian that after a year in lock-down writers are still struggling to write – largely because they are missing the stimulation and inspiration that being out in the world gives them. They speak of being stultified, of pandemic fatigue. Shortly after the start of the pandemic writers were struggling largely because of anxiety, finding it hard to concentrate or find the space to write – which I explored in an earlier blog.
Why did I choose to tell you I eschew Amazon.com a few paragraphs ago? Because it’s an old-fashioned word I like. And last weekend, when I was reading the piece on Writers’ Blockdown, I was taken off, in that wonderful way that online browsing allows, as you click through, link to link, rather in the way we might once have browsed a thesaurus and ended up miles away from our original reference, to a 2015 piece on writers’ favourite lost words. I’ll leave you with it. Enjoy.