Getting myself out of a reading rut….

While there is nothing wrong at all in finding something you like to do and sticking to it, it does tend to narrow your options – and in turn narrow your mind…..or I should say it doesn’t help you to expand your mind.

I love to travel, love photography and love to read. So to become sort of addicted to travel writing…..travelogues and travel guides….or the pictorial splendor of glossy photography books was an easy trap to fall into. It’s what I like, so what’s wrong with that?

Spoken like a true addict right?

It’s funny sometimes how you stumble across something, apparently by chance, that just happens to provide another view – another option. And it seems to happen right at the time that you need it.

I’m not sure exactly how I came across “The Bookshop – Wigtown” – it may have been a YouTube suggested channel, I’m really not sure. But here was a guy – Shaun Bythell who ran a bookshop – the biggest second hand bookshop in Scotland. He was explaining how, when sales of books were at a low ebb and he had a glut of books of all types, he decided to start “the Random Book Club”.  Customers would sign up to receive one book every month, mailed to their door…..but it would be a book selected at random . It could be fact or fiction, poetry even. The Random Book Club has, against the odds, been a great success and he has been inundated with emails from people wanting to join. The on-line recruitment campaign was so successful that he’s now spending more time than he initially expected to, selecting and mailing out a hundred and fifty books each month. It was getting too popular so he decided to cap it at 150 members.

I didn’t sign up with the Random Book Club, but it did spark an idea.

I didn’t, and indeed still don’t, have much in the way of spare cash – or any cash if I’m completely honest – to spend on books, so decided to have a rummage around the charity shops/thrift shops/Op shops (depending on what you call them in your part of the world). I’d go into a shop and spying the books in a book case at the far end of the shop I’d pick 2 numbers…..say 3 and 8…..and I’d select the book which occupied the 8th space from the left, on the 3rd shelf – regardless of what it was. I repeated this on other book cases and in other stores, until I had amassed an interesting pile of a dozen or so books (for the grand total of less than ten dollars). OK I admit that one of them turned out to be a travel book…..but the rest were a mix of novels, biographies and other non-fiction that for the most part I wouldn’t usually read.

I’m slowly reading my way through them…..and will share my thoughts on each book in another post…or posts. The main thing is though – I have been entertained and I have learned things that I otherwise wouldn’t have done, had I stayed with my usual travel or photo books. AND it has made me more willing to deliberately browse the shelves of new and used books and to expand my library further – much to my wife’s displeasure.

I’m not sticking religiously to my random pile of books though. I am also reading other purchased books and library books in between including several books by the Australian writer (now residing in Paris) – John Baxter – who I will do an in depth post on later and I have recently finished Shaun Bythell’s book “The Diary of a Bookseller” and am half way through Jessica Fox’s book “Three Things You Need To Know About Rockets”. More on both these books in future posts.

My long suffering wife thinks that I already have too many books….and in all honesty I probably do. Although my taste in genres has changed over the years since I first became interested in books at primary school……as an adult, I’ve gone through detective and crime novels…..Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon, Shaun Hutson and other “supernatural” authors….my beloved travel writers, particularly Bill Bryson…..the classics…..art and photography….gardening and D.I.Y. etc etc. I rarely get rid of any of them. So they gather dust on any of my six book cases or languish, discarded, unloved and hoping to be rediscovered, in any number of banana boxes in my garage. I’ve even considered opening a “pop-up” second hand book store in a tent on my front lawn to off load a few books and give me a much needed cash-flow……to buy more books of course.

I could call it “Intent books – for books within tent“…..

Hmmmm. Certainly something to think about.

DSCF7254

Above – my dozen random books.

Advertisements

Featherston Booktown is now official.

I’m very pleased to report that as of October 2nd 2018 the small, lower north island, New Zealand town of Featherston has become a full member of the International Organisation of Booktowns (IOB). This makes Featherston the first Booktown in New Zealand and the 22nd Booktown internationally.

A Booktown is a small rural town or village in which second–hand and antiquarian bookshops are concentrated. Most Booktowns have developed in villages of historic interest or of scenic beauty. They have usually had a hard time economically and have turned to the Booktown idea in a bid to turn around the economic downturn.

Gunnel Ottersten, President of the IOB said: ”The IOB has observed with great interest the successful growth of Featherston Booktown over the last four years. The Featherston Booktown Board of Trustees and the Featherston community have done a fantastic job taking Featherston Booktown forward to its current impressive stage – and the IOB voted unanimously to make Featherston Booktown a full member of the IOB.’

Peter Biggs, Chair of the Featherston Booktown Board of Trustees said that the whole of Featherston had been behind them 100% in their bid to become a Booktown and it is a proud moment to finally achieve their goal.  It will also give Featherston the opportunity to promote itself internationally as a Booktown and add significant value and innovation to all of the other Booktowns around the world.

Featherston is currently home to six bookshops and now it has become officially accepted into the family of the IOB, could well attract more potential booksellers.

The concept of the Booktown was initiated by Richard Booth in Hay–on–Wye in Wales. Hay has a population of only 1500 people, yet is home to around two dozen bookshops. In comparison, the population of Featherston is over two thousand so the potential to add more bookshops is not simply pie in the sky.

Booktowns have proved extremely popular with book lovers and tourists alike overseas. The Hay–on–Wye Literature Festival now attracts over 80,000 visitors across ten days in May-June every year. A phenomenal number when the usual population size is considered.

Similarly, Scotland’s Booktown, Wigtown – population of less than one thousand people, yet around a dozen bookshops, have benefited increasingly over the 20 years since being hailed as Scotland’s Booktown. The 10 day festival held in 2017 was said to have generated over 3 million UK Pounds. This years is just finishing and figures are expected to be up on last year.

I was in Featherston at the end of August this year to attend an authors event at which Wigtown’s unofficial Booktown Champion Shaun Bythell – owner of Scotland’s biggest second hand bookshop – was promoting his own book “The Diary of a Bookseller”. The book takes a look at a typical year in the life of a bookseller (Shaun) – recording the daily and often humorous exchanges between himself, his staff and customers.

I loved the book, met the writer and found him to be a charming, witty and intelligent human being, with the voice of a 1950’s BBC presenter, a very casual sense of fashion style bordering on “op-shop” and a mop-top of unruly orange hair. He’s a very likable sort of guy – self depreciating, yet confident. The event received an audience of over a hundred and twenty people eager to meet the man and to listen to readings from the book, listen to rib-tickling tales of book-shop life and to take part in a question and answer time. Bear in mind that this was on a cold winter Monday evening in a tiny rural town. The weekend before, he had been in Auckland and had a smaller audience. It goes to show that Featherston is ready to step up in literary circles.

Featherstons next literary festival runs from 9th to 12th of May 2019. I for one will make sure it’s on my calendar. Achieving the title of Booktown along with the upcoming festival and other events throughout the year should help to put Featherston firmly on the tourist map.

CSC_0031usethis

Above photo – the writer (on the left) with author Shaun Bythell