Bookish banquet in Hythe

What’s a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon? Browsing second-hand bookshops. How to improve it? Mix in a couple of a friends and top it all off with lunch in the sun.


As any bibliophile should be able to do, I can spend a very long time in a bookshop, but even more so if it’s a second-hand shop. The finds are more varied, the editions less likely to have film tie-in covers (a particular bugbear of mine) and most of them don’t have children’s play areas like many high street chains do.

  • Rule #1 for book shop browsing with friends: take people who won’t ask to leave 10 minutes after you’ve got there. My personal advice: take fellow English teachers with you, especially those who know your favourite authors so they can point out suggestions for you.


The weather was glorious, so it’s a big shame I didn’t take any photos beyond the book stall we visited. It’s run by a lovely lady (whom I assumed is the eponymous Brenda from the name of the stall: Brenda Books); she seemed genuinely pleased to have customers who clearly love books as much as she does. For such a small space, it is wonderful how many books from numerous genres she has managed to cram onto her shelves. One of my friends pointed out that some of the shelves were stacked two deep; it would take a long time to discover all of the treasure hidden here. Probably best to go back for another visit…


At one point I was genuinely overwhelmed with the choices I had: stacks of Wodehouse, Muriel Spark, crime fiction, Christie, Penguin paperbacks. There were also a few fair Folio Society editions in brilliant condition. Heaven.

The spoils I came away with? I managed to be quite restrained and limited myself to three books. A first edition of Cat’s Eye 20170311_204637by Atwood for my collection (not sure how many I have now), an(other) Agatha Christie and a(nother) green Penguin paperback.

Some might argue I need to broaden my horizons, but I have ultimate favourites and buying another of those makes me happy.

So happy in fact, that when buying books I have this stupid grin on my face:


And to top it all off, I came home to a new pair of beautiful book earrings:


‘People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.’

I think I may have to add Brenda’s Books to my Favourite Bookshops Around The World page


Booking my weekend, like a boss

I love autumn. I love autumn more than summer – by a mile. The colours, the smells, the cosy food and the layers of clothing I can wear when the weather turns sour. Heaven. Even more heavenly: when it’s cold and windy outside, curling up inside with a long book – or a film about a bookshop, with a lot of autumn/winter scenes. (Nora Ephron fans, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

Not only did I manage to find a copy of this cosy Tom Hanks’ film (in a town with a paucity of DVD stockists), but I came home with a tidy pile of books. All for a tidy price.
First up was my local library. I only had intentions of checking out an Agatha Christie – I had forgotten to take a book out with me – but not only did I get my Poirot, I found the sale shelves to be very fruitful.

I got the three above for only £1.20. I ❤ my local library! It may not be big, nor beautiful, but every place needs a brick box that offers books for free (or very little money). Incidentally, my first edition of The Curious Incident was bought from a Bristol library sale, several years ago. However, fellow book lovers will know that in the great cycle of Book Karma, you don’t always get back the books you loan out. Never mind – a hardback for 50p ain’t bad!

Next up was a supermarket chain (I won’t name it; there’s no chance they need the publicity) that I had zero intentions of buying books from. Wrong again. This year has been a little bit of a Karin Slaughter revival for me; after reading a couple of hers years ago, I had never gone back. I’ve read 3 more so far this year.

Found it amusing I didn’t need approval to buy these from the self-service till, but did for the PG-rated You’ve Got Mail.

They were only £1.99 each, so frankly saying “No” would have been rude. If you piss off the Book Gods, who knows when you’ll next pick up a bargain? Better not to risk it…

So a fabulous book-filled Saturday, all done sporting my latest beauty: an enamel badge. They seem to be everywhere at the moment, so my purchase has unwittingly placed me in a trend (for once) and I happen to think this one is gorgeous.

Time to settle down to Tom and Meg, under a blanket, with a cup of Earl Grey.

Beautiful Book Prints

I’m a sucker for anything related to books, as previous blog posts (and anyone who knows me) will attest. So when I came across yet another Etsy seller who was just begging for my money, I had to write about it.

I have seen similar ideas before, many of which are far out of my price range, but are definitely affordable, along with being strikingly beautiful. Hurrah! A win-win.


While I paced softly on, the last sound I expected to hear in so still a region, a laugh, struck my ears.”

Even looking at that pictures makes me want to read the book again… (This is the problem with literary-themed lovelies; they cause time-consuming divergences into big books!)

How about a Sherlock Holmes print to tide you over until the next series hits our TV screens…?


Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for the last.

The seller also has some colour prints of different topics and styles, my personal favourite being:


My copy of the image doesn’t let you zoom in that far, but the titles of the Penguin books are parodies of existing texts (a little cheeky touch I quite like).

Bristol day #6: The Harbourside Market

This was not a new experience for me – I’ve been on plenty of previous occasions and enjoyed it, but I felt that it was worthy of a post due to how fantastic the book stall is now.

Whilst in my memory it was a fine stop to make for a little browsing of secondhand paperbacks, it was nothing spectacular. Now, however, it’s got one of the best collections of Penguin Classics I’ve come across: look at the picture below – 6 big boxes full.

The key to a stellar collection though, is not just the amount. It’s also about the variety of titles (bestsellers and more obscure names), having a mixture of covers (utilitarian and iconic) and the condition (the older the better, but not completely falling apart) of the books. This book stall hits all these requirements, hard.

A little snapshot of the poetry section.

Putting the books in individual plastic bags is brilliant – it means they even stay beautiful once they get put in my bag.

Every time I came across a title I was considering buying, I took a picture; I thought it would help me whittle down my list of possibilities. In the end I had to stop because the other browsers were giving me funny looks. I can’t resist sharing them here, though.
But first, the lucky three books that got to come home with me:

I believe it’s a very old Bristolian law which dictates that a purchase of books must be followed by a purchase of beer.

The Bell Jar and Mockingbird are two of my all-time favourites but these covers are new for my shelves. Ever since watching ‘Faulks on Fiction’ The End of the Affair has been on my ever-expanding to-read list.

When paying for them I got into a conversation with the two guys who run the book stall. One of them was lamenting the sale of their Plath as he’s fond of the cover. As I was putting the books in my bag, he noticed my Christie Penguin Classics bag and we ended up talking about buying T-shirts from Out Of Print. (Another reason for this stall being my new favourite place for book buying: a lovely chance to nerd out.)

I left a very happy customer 🙂 I just wish the market wasn’t only there at the weekend – although my bank balance probably doesn’t share that feeling.

And now, it’s time for the highlights reel:

Happy birthday Emily

Today marks the 198th anniversary of Emily Brontë’s birth. She’s best known for Wuthering Heights, her only novel, and for unknowingly inspiring a Kate Bush classic. (However my personal preference is for the Kate Bash creation.)

On my many browsing trips (so far) around Bristol’s bookshops, I’ve seen a plethora of beautifully bound books (post of my favourites to be compiled). On this brief post, however, I will only include one, in honour of Emily.

Who’s pretty? Yes, it’s you. I bet you know how pretty you are.

I particularly like this one because it’s a clear contrast to the dark and money covers this novel is usually suited and booted in.

Bristol day #1: Arnos Vale Cemetery

One of the many free green places in the city you can explore, yet I have to hold my hands up and admit that I’ve never been before today. Why? Simply never been in this area of the city with time on my hands.

One of the main things you notice about this place as you approach is how loud it is. The cemetery was established in 1837 and clearly the loving relatives of the decreased wouldn’t have expected them to be resting “peacefully” alongside a main road. Now right next to one of the main arteries flowing between Bristol and Bath, the roar of the traffic is constant. Before I had ventured very far I was doubting how much the din could subside. I’m happy to say I was somewhat incorrect about how persistent the noise would be. It is marvellous what trees and overgrowth can do.

The feeling of walking through rows, patches and hillocks of tumbledown, old and crumbling gravestones was one of overwhelming peace, but also humility. The vast array of names, ages and dates displaying which much-missed individuals lay beneath the expensive stones was remarkable. Some relatives had gone to the trouble to have the cause of death inscribed. This was quickly what became a mini obsession for me and during my journey I spotted those who died during the Battle of the Somme, the Second World War, someone who tried extinguishing a fire at a soap works factory, a man who perished due to an illness on board a ship in Africa and someone who had only a few hours’ illness. It was also surprising how many families wanted the residence of the deceased given.

The scraps of information given on monuments of varying shapes, sizes, designs (and costs) boldly juxtaposed with a glaringly obvious fact: the plants did not discriminate in whose graves they overtook and helped to demolish. In the end, after we’re gone, the earth doesn’t care who we once were. Life must go on.

I have seen on maps how much space the cemetery covered, but it still seemed bigger than my expectations. At one point I was overwhelmed with choices for which narrow path to take off the main route, but some of them were clearly too overgrown to allow for a full exploration. That was another element which stood out: money.

I previously mentioned the cemetery is free to explore, but there is a suggested donation fee and signs dotted throughout the area reminding you of the fact it receives no state funding and relies on charitable donations for its upkeep. As I learnt during my wander, the Victorians leased the grave sites for 125 years and after that, there is no dedicated source of money to keep the graves maintained.

That said, I was surprised to notice how many graves in the wilder areas still showed signs of recent visitors, with flowers (some real, some fake) and pieces of paper bearing religious mottos.

The picture below is not one such example; it didn’t feel right to photograph those graves.

It was nice to see I wasn’t the only visitor on a warm, but slightly grey, day. There were clear locals, dog walkers and runners, but also others who seemed, like me, to be exploring for the first time. There is a proper visitors’ centre and a cafe – surely not many cemeteries can boast that – but I generally stayed away as much as possible, as I could hear the high-pitched voices of children.

The verdict? Definitely worth a ramble.

Back in Bristol

For two weeks, anyway. Being the selfless friend that I am, I have agreed to look after a friend’s house and cat while she and her husband go tootling around in their car for a couple of weeks.

Due to not having bags of money to chuck around in an expensive city, I have to make the most of my time in slightly different ways to previous visits, but I am looking forward to it.

I will, of course, be visiting all my favourite literary places (largely bookshops). However, I will also be:

  • exploring the free places I have never been before,
  • attempting to find the perfect coffee,
  • reading for pleasure – always an exciting hobby for a teacher,
  • and (as this post attests) reigniting my love for blogging.

Three books have made the trip across England with me:

  1. The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (already halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it).
  2. The Hollow by Agatha Christie (needs no explanation).
  3. Broken by Karin Slaughter (recently read Genesis by her and it reminded me of why I like her thrillers).

I am hoping to pick up some bargains in charity bookshops; rarely do they let me in this part of the country. In particular, I am hoping to add to my collection of To Kill A Mockingbird books. After recently reading a post on Bookriot about someone’s hoard of The Catcher in the Rye editions, I am on the lookout for interesting editions of my own all-time favourite.

For documenting my time and capturing those blindingly brilliant moments, I only have my trusty phone, but I don’t think the photo in this post is too bad – taken during a trip last August. I am not so delusional that I don’t think the weather will be somewhat of a barrier to my grand plans – this is England in the summertime, after all – therefore much of my reading will be done indoors, glumly staring out of rain-spattered windows.

Yet, when those windows are in Bristol, I don’t seem to mind…

All I want for Christmas (is a sack load of bookish booty)

The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner and I am already feeling festive. One of my favourite pre-Christmas activities is searching the internet for the book-themed gifts I would love to find wrapped under the tree, addressed to me. Most of the time, I don’t even bother to tell friends or family about the delights I want; for me, looking is all part of the fun.

Below are some of the best gifts I have found so far, but as there are 38 days until Christmas, I’m sure I’ll stumble across more gems.

Who doesn’t enjoy a little whimsy with their books? This print is cute, whilst being a simple design. Look how smug that cat is… I have personally never built a book fort. A fort yes, but for some reason I have never stocked it with books. Shame on me.

Build Your Book Fort!

Out Of Print Clothing have already provided me with two of my most beloved T-shirts, but I already have my eye on several more, including this Frankenstein number:

Some people might take a peek at my jewellery stash and be so incredibly incorrect as to claim that I already have enough. Morons. With the popularity of the new adaptation of Sherlock still very high, 221B Baker Street swag is everywhere (quite a lot of it is terrible though, let’s be honest) but this necklace is a little different; it’s not often this quote is used:

Sherlock Necklace Sherlock Holmes Necklace Literary Quote Necklace Literary Jewellery Book Lover Gift for Bibliophile

Look. At. This. Ohh so pretty… *dribbling slightly* Honestly, I’d be happy to just own the book, but I also know that having it as a place in which I can store other books = win.

Taking another look at all of these has made me question my policy of secrecy. Maybe I should be sharing this link with my nearest and dearest…

B2 Boutique Hotel, Zurich

Ever since Callum found this place online, we decided we needed to visit. There are a lot of fancy hotels in the world, but not that many of them have fantastic displays of books.


We had a late lunch here (unfortunately at Zurich prices) but it was good food and nice coffee. There were hardly any other diners so it was lovely and quiet – although one couple had snagged what is clearly the best seat in the place; you can see it in the picture below, on the left-hand edge of the photo. Bastards. Putting my seat envy aside, I can really see the appeal of sitting here in the afternoon and escaping into a good book.


We spoke to our waitress about the hotel and the library; on the site of a former brewery, it’s still relatively new, and judging from the amount of guests we saw that day, not yet the busiest place to stay in the city – which in my opinion, is a plus point.


The hotel’s website describes the library as:

…the centrepiece of the hotel. With over 33,000 books, it is an inviting place to read, lose yourself in a good book, experience history at first hand and meet new people

Personally, I would have liked the space to be a little more enclosed; the entire lobby space is very open and you see into the library area from the moment you enter the hotel, but closing it off would lose this impact and I understand that. Additionally, guests can also borrow the books when they stay at the hotel, but I’m assuming you need to be a pretty good reader of German to get the full benefit.


If you’re thinking the light fixtures look a little familiar, that’s because they’re repurposed Grolsch bottles. Personally, I’m not a fan, but at least it’s an innovative way of recycling and adds to the uniqueness of the hotel. I can’t vouch for the quality of the hotel rooms, but library is nice place to relax, the food is tasty and the toilets were fancy – cotton hand towels, not paper like commoners use.

Bookish parting presents

It’s been a long time since my last post – roughly two months. Oops. Work has been dominating my life recently, but as my last day draws ever closer I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel! This week brought some lovely surprise presents my way and a lot of them were books/book-related which is always guaranteed to make me happy.


I feel the title of ‘bossy’ is very undeserved!

I was especially pleased to get a book lamp as I’ve had my eye on them for quite a while but the high price has always put me off, so I’m glad there’s a benefit to being prudent and patient – eventually someone lovely will buy your object of desire for you 🙂


Taking my new toy for a test drive!


Love this! Just need to decide where it should be pinned…

I hope to be better with my posts in the coming weeks as I have three books reviews to write and post! Busy, busy, busy…