Bex can be blamed for many an empty bookworm pocket and this time the bookshop crawl hit the beautiful city of Oxford. I got up early yesterday morning, laden with books to give away and came back even more laden! The first stop was Waterstones where everyone checked in and I got a much needed coffee. I did have a list of about 30 books which I had planned to stick to when choosing but this soon went out the window. I collected The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley off Bex as I had bought this from her Ninja Book Box online shop previously.
One thing I have learned, is that if you’re shopping for non-fiction, it’s more useful to know what category it will be in rather than the author. Anyway, after much going up and down stairs, I picked up One of Us is Lying* by Karen M. McManus, Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle and Inferior* by Angela Saini.
Our next stop was a little Oxfam bookshop. Oxford actually has two of these and some of the group who got separated went to the other one. There was an obscure non-fiction book about cod (yes, cod) that has been on my wishlist for years but I did ask myself if I would really read it any time soon, and therefore left it behind. I did spy a copy of Our Endless Numbered Days and managed to convince someone to buy it.
As we gathered outside Oxfam, the storm clouds were gathering. We were huddled across the road from the Oxford University Press Bookshop hiding from torrential downpour. We made a run for it and disturbed the decorum of the shop somewhat as we piled, rather soggily, through the door. However we were welcomed very kindly by Joseph who offered us drinks, cookies and a goodie bag (mine contained a proof of Perfect Prey by Helen Fields).
The shop, unsurprisingly, stocks books published by OUP and, like many Oxford bookshops, was a bit Tardis like, with many levels at the back of the shop. I hadn’t added anything from OUP onto my list but I did find a little book about Philip K. Dick; The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick by Kyle Arnold. Whilst queuing to pay, I spotted Living with the Living Dead by Greg Garrett, which sounds like my kind of academic analysis! The OUP Bookshop kindly gave us a 10% discount and free tote bag with our purchases.
Next stop lunch! Atomic Pizza is a themed restaurant, the outside covered in comics and the inside full of geek culture from the 80s, with a soundtrack to match. I especially liked the My Little Pony garland around the bar area (with actual vintage MLPs). A lot of us had the Messy Jessie burger, me included, which was yummy and much needed by this point.
After an unscheduled stop to stare in the window of a board game shop (great games but steep prices) we all bundled into Inky Fingers. I did have quite a list of comics and graphic novels but I couldn’t find any of them. They did have a good selection of first volumes so it’s a good place to find a new series, but I was after more second volumes and a few more niche books (some of which I could have got in Waterstones which is a bit annoying, next time I’ll buy them the first place I see them). In the end I picked out a comic I’d been reading about earlier on the train, Frostbite by Joshua Williamson and Jason Alexander.
The next stop was the highlight of the day for me. Blackwell’s bookshop dates back to 1879 and we were given a fascinating guided tour. When the shop ran out of room, the Blackwells decided to dig down and in 1966 the Norrington Room was opened. This is an amazing space, the largest single room selling books and has around 3 miles of books if you were to line them all up! I could have bought so many books in this part of the shop, their non-fiction selection is amazing.
We were also shown some of their rare books, including their most expensive tome, Shakespeare’s 4th Folio (complete with a typo on Hamlet) at £85,000! We also saw a first edition signed Grapes of Wrath at £17,500 and a beautiful copy of The Hobbit illustrated by Moomin creator Tove Jansson. Unfortunately this has never been published in English and we all want to know why not?! However in 2016 a calendar was published with the illustrations so there is a chance to own them in some form.
Whilst I was waiting for the tour I bought four books, three from the 3 for 2 offer that was on a good portion of the stock. I bought two dog related non-fiction titles. What the Dog Knows by Cat Warren and Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. I finally found a copy of The Zoo* by Isobel Charman, which is about the history of London Zoo. The third book in the offer I picked up was Dramarama* by E. Lockhart which will tide me over until her new book is out.
There were two more stops on the tour after Blackwell’s but I had a heavy bag of books already, things were starting to ache and I wanted to get home at a reasonable time. So I missed Albion Beatnik and Last Bookshop (and ice cream, apparently). Thank you Bex for organising another great day! If you’d like to join a future bookshop crawl (usually London in February and a roaming one in the summer) then make sure you’re following @NinjaBookBox.
Books marked with * were actually on my list.