Bookstores: may cause heartache


While in Grasmere, we made the mistake of going into Sam Read‘s bookstore. This was a mistake because I wanted to buy everything. Sam Read is one of those achingly wonderful bookshops with books packed into every corner, stuffed into racks and alcoves, and stacked loose above the rows on the shelves. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have strayed beyond the fiction section in any bookstore, but my daughter Dora loves books (current favourite: Six Dinner Sid) and being read to, so I’ve started looking at the children’s section as well. And oh, my; children’s books are simply sumptuous. The quality of illustration and storytelling is just stunning – browsing those shelves was like a treasure chest of my own childhood, a feast of imagination, all dragons and goblins and tunnels and talking dogs. I could have stayed all day to drink in the artwork alone.

I buy almost all my books from charity shops, because I can rarely afford them new. A well-made, well-written book is a real treat for me. I want to hug them close and read them carefully and show them to friends. The one which really stole my heart was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd. I’ve only discovered Patrick Ness quite recently, having been blown away by The Knife Of Never Letting Go (I’ll race through the rest of the Chaos Walking trilogy once I’ve tracked down the second part – the third book already sits on my shelves, waiting…). I love his writing – and he quoted on the jacket of Ali Shaw‘s Girl With Glass Feet, so he knows what he’s talking about.

The illustrated version of A Monster Calls is heart-stoppingly beautiful. Just look at this work by Jim Kay:

Illustration from A Monster Calls


I covet this book more than I’ve coveted any book for years – but I didn’t buy it. I bought Cumbrian Folk Tales by Grasmere legend and master storyteller Taffy Thomas. I could only afford one book, and Taffy’s was the reason we’d gone into Sam Read’s in the first place. I’m truly delighted I bought Cumbrian Folk Tales, and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in Taffy’s take on local mythology, but I walked away from A Monster Calls with unbearable reluctance. Still – it’s my birthday in July. Fingers crossed.

Bookstores should carry warnings: may cause heartache…

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