Tag Archives: Sue Townsend

129. A Night At The Bookshop…

129. A Night At The Bookshop…

Waterstones, which boasts the largest bookshop in Europe (as I was informed by staff when I spent the night outside it recently to meet Haruki Murakami), recently turned a potential publicity nightmare into a publicity dream with some slick marketing.

When an American tourist popped to the upper floor of the Trafalgar Square branch of the chain, he came down to discover he was locked in.

Rather than roll around naked covered in all of the books, or make the coolest book-fort ever, he tweeted about it until he was released.

The fool.


Waterstones quickly teamed up with Air B ‘n’ B to offer ten lucky readers the chance to spend the night in their flagship Piccadilly shop overnight, with inflatable mattresses, celebrity guests and, of course, tea to keep them company.

For some reason, a friend of mine thought this might interest me and posted the details on my Facebook page.

All potential lock-ins had to do was to answer the question:

“…what book you would read if you were to spend the night in a bookshop, and why.”


This is, obviously, an impossible question to answer. To obvious, and hundreds of others will have answered the same. Too obscure, and you will look like you are showing off. Anything about bookshops is out, of course, and after hours of trying to think of a single book which might stand out and get me picked, I decided to do what the best students have been doing since time immemorial, and answer a different question instead: what bookS I would read!

Here is my answer: what would yours be?

“If I were to spend the night in a bookshop, I would (not wasting time sleeping for a minute, of course), do my best to read a book from each formative stage of my (reading) life so far, and finish (around coffee o’clock in the morning) with a book I have always wanted to read but never gotten around to, these being in order: my childhood (and current all-time) favourite, ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de St.Exupéry; my pre-teen years passion, ‘The Worst Witch‘ by Jill Murphy; my teenage companion in pain, ‘The Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4′ by the much missed Sue Townsend; my high school graphic novel-discovery days staple ‘The Sandman‘ by Neil Gaiman; my university-days, tongue-tapping go-to ‘Lolita‘ by Vladimir Nabakov; a selection of short stories, possibly ‘Fictions, by Jorge Luis Borges to represent my (ongoing) world-travelling days; and I would finish, if there were any minutes left in the day (night?), by reading a book of poetry, a promise I often make to myself and rarely fulfil, maybe ‘The Waste Land‘ by T.S.Eliot, (with Whitman’sLeaves of Grass‘ as a potential substitute, should I somehow finish them all.)”


PS In case you’re wondering, I didn’t win. I probably should have answered the question and taken my chances. Maybe they didn’t believe I could have read all of those books in one night, but they obviously don’t know me: if I don’t sleep on overnight flights in order to watch as many movies as possible, I certainly wouldn’t be sleeping if I got to spend the night in Europe’s largest bookshop!

Since I wasn’t in the country at the time of the sleepover, not winning was probably a good thing. Although if you think I wouldn’t have paid whatever it cost to fly back to London for the night to spend the night in a book shop, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to this blog…

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in BOOKS


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54. The Year In (Book) Review…

54. The Year In (Book) Review…

My 2012 In Books

302 books bought, approximately 156 books read, in 4 countries, on 3 continents.

Not a bad year’s ‘work’ for a bibliophile.

I began this blog just over a year ago for several reasons. Partly a place to save and record my favourites quotes, partly a way of sharing my opinions of books with friends and strangers, and partly a way to keep track of my reading habits over time. Given the latter, the first blog entry of 2013 seemed an ideal time to look back over the calendar year and summarise my year in books.

Unfortunately, when I looked back over the past 12 months of blogs, I found that whereas I had been keeping a methodical list of Books Bought since Day 1, the practice of doing the same for Books Read only began in July, meaning that whereas I can say with relative certainty that I purchased a moderately ridiculous 302 books in 2012, (the equivalent of more than one every weekday), I had to extrapolate the quantity of books read from the fact that I got through 78 of the papery pleasures in 6 months.

I am therefore claiming an approximately 2:1 purchase to reading ratio, although given the fact that many of the books bought were presents to be given, and an embarrassing amount were books I already owned and had forgotten about or just felt like buying in a nicer edition, I think the ratio may be quite a lot higher than that.


I wrote 45 blogs in 2012 which were seen by 2,719 viewers, or 7.66 readers per day, (I’m presuming the .66 were children). Apparently, plenty of you had nothing to do on January 22nd, as that was my record viewing day with 73 hits, although I’m sure we can beat that this year. I jazzed things up a bit by figuring out how to include photos in my post, and you were treated to 176 of them, with plenty more to come this year, (not to mention video links!).

Most rewarding for me was the fact that readers came from an amazing 66 different countries, with the UK, US and Japan taking top three spots, (although I expect Guatemala to catch up in the coming months).

Highlights of the year included meeting childhood heroes Michael Rosen and Sue Townsend, and adult heroes Jonathan Safron Foer and Salman Rushdie, at the 2012 Hay Literature Festival and 2012 London Jewish Book Week, (Rushdie will almost certainly be the first review of 2013 next week, having just finished his incredible autobiography ‘Joseph Anton‘), not to mention actually getting to have the briefest possible chat with the charming J.K.Rowling. Technologically, a milestone occurred when author and UK journalist Luke Harding rewteeted my review of his critique of Russia, ‘Mafia State,’ which led to me not only gaining a few more readers, both within Russia and with Russian interests, but also learning what a retweet is.

I discovered new authors, from A.A.Gill to Geoff Dyer to Tibor Fischer, and cemented relationships with favourites, from Alain de Botton to anything produced by the fine folk at McSweeney’s. In a sharing sense, as well as spreading my bookish thoughts with all of you on the interweb, I was thrilled to be chosen to physically distribute books, (in this case, the excellent ‘The Damned Utd.‘ by David Peace), when I got to take part in the incredible international event which is World Book Night.


For the sake of completeness, here is my list of Books Bought and Read in December 2012, and it provides a bit of a shock, (to me, if not to you): for the first time all year, (and, come to think of it, possibly all lifetime), I didn’t buy a single book. Not one. Not even a pamphlet.

True, I am living in the middle of nowhere in Central America with a shelf-full of great books to get through, but even I wasn’t expecting that. The fact that I ‘only’ read seven I put down to the unfortunate circumstance of having a job at the moment, one which saw me running a fairly popular bar a mere week after arriving in Guatemala, but now that I’ve learned how to do that, there should be plenty of time to beat that target of 156 books read this year.

Come join me on that adventure.


Books Bought, December 2012


Books Read, December 2012

Born To Run,’ Christopher McDougall

Comet In Moominland,’ Tove Jansson

Joseph Anton,’ Salman Rushdie

Dr.Tatiana’s Sex Advice To All Creation,’ Olivia Judson

Maldicíon Eterna A Quien Lea Estas Páginas,’ (‘Eternal Curse On The Reader Of These Pages‘), Manuel Puig

Don’t Eat This Book,’ Morgan Spurlock

Hope: a tragedy,’ Shalom Auslander


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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in BOOKS


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