IT WAS SO EPIC IT NEEDED A HUGE PHOTO. Soooo, we picked Hanna up at the station, and Mum dropped us off a tiny bit closer to town so we wouldn't have as far to walk before we hit the centre. Our first stop was Caffè Nero, where we gathered our strength over hot chocolate and chai latte, talked books (mostly ranting about ones we HAVEN'T liked recently, which is always fun), and got ready for the bookish goodness to come!
Our first stop was the precinct at the bottom end of town, home to a Bargain Book Time remainder bookshop. Normally I can only find one or two books I'm interested in, if that, but with longer to browse and an extra pair of eyes to help find the good stuff? I found SEVEN books. A good start, indeed. I already have the first Dexter book by Jeff Lindsay, but I bought cute little copies of the next three - Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter in the Dark and Dexter by Design - in a 3-for-£5 deal. Once I've read a couple I can finally borrow my sister's box set and start the TV series! I found A Year in the Woods: The Diary of a Forest Ranger by Colin Elford and The World According to Mimi Smartypants in neat little hardcover editions for £1.50 each on a kind of 'random books' shelf. I've already read Mimi Smartypants, way back when we first opened the shop, and found it hilarious, so I'm happy to have the chance to reread that one! Aaaand then there was the 'these books are £1 each for no reason' shelf, which added a final two books to the pile, both food-related: Full English: A Journey Through the British and Their Food by Tom Parker Bowles and The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict by William Leith. I'd never heard of that one but it had big slices of buttery toast on the cover and I couldn't resist. I got all seven of these books for £10, when to buy them new at RRP would have cost over £65. Amazing...
Just around the corner from there is a little British Heart Foundation shop - the same one I visited last time I went book buying - where we spent a good twenty minutes arguing about bad books. Namely, Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander. For some reason I'd wishlisted it, but as soon as Hanna started talking about I remembered her review and hissed, "Oh my god, it's THAT BOOK?" It was only £2.50 so I bought it anyway, just so we'd have something else to rant about together next time! Hanna scared the girl on the desk (ANOTHER ELEANOR!) by threatening to come back and force her to read it too, because we'd been talking about it so much in the shop that she'd joined the conversation. AAAAANYWAY, I also found a copy of Calamity Jane, still in its cellophane wrap, for £3.99, and had to buy that too. It was one of my favourite movies as a kid, I still know all the songs, and I've had I Can Do Without You inexplicably stuck in my head all week. It was obviously meant to be. Our last stop of the day - another BHF at the top of town - didn't yield any books because they were in the middle of reshuffling them - but I DID find another DVD, a copy of The Sapphires for £2.99, which should be fun!
Anyway, back to the book shopping. While we were down at the bottom end of town we decided to sneak The Big One in before we stopped for another drink, and hit Waterstones. It's not a huge shop or anything, but Hanna had vouchers to spend and I was just... well, ready to shop like a maniac... so we did just fine! I'd saved a bit of money in advance, so I'd already decided to just go for it. It was rather liberating, walking around just chucking stuff in my basket! In the end the only one I'd planned to buy but didn't was Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, which was mysteriously missing from its little stand on the fiction shelves. I knew it HAD been there, because I saw it last time and there was a staff recommendation card underneath. I'd clearly been pipped to the post by a devious reader... All became clear when we got to the desk, where LO AND BEHOLD. What's that I spied being slipped into Hanna's bag? I actually yelled across to the next till, "YOU! YOU STOLE MY BOOK!" Like I'd just unmasked a villain in an episode of Scooby Doo. Great smugness ensued, because I'd hit nonfiction first and missed my chance! Dammit...
ANYWAY, it didn't matter too much in the end, because when I counted up there were already ten books in my basket! I think I outdid myself this time... The first book into the basket was The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, a Japanese autistic boy who wrote this series of questions and answers at just thirteen years old, to talk about autism from the inside. It was translated by David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida, and has had quite a lot of publicity here recently. It sounds wonderful, and although I'd probably have waited for a paperback the hardback was on offer for £7.99 anyway. A little further along the health/science/'smart thinking' shelves, I spotted Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm than Good by James Davies, another book I've heard excellent things about and really wanted to read given my experience with the mental health service over the years. I picked up Dawn of the Dumb: Dispatches from the Idiotic Frontline by Charlie Brooker, a follow-up to Screen Burn, the book of hilarious TV columns I'm currently halfway through, in the television and film section. Then I veered into natural history where I basketed Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach by Jean Sprackland, which has been on my wishlist ever since I spotted it on a 'best of 2012' list - maybe on The Guardian Online? One of those lists that asks authors and eminent figures to pick their favourites, anyway. And so to the YA section, where I picked up It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. It was on the Buy One Get One Half Price tables last time, but I'd missed my chance there. It's high up my wishlist though, so I bought it anyway! I'd like to see the film sometime too.
From there I meandered back through the various fiction sections to the front tables. I struggled to find the books I wanted in the biography and general fiction sections, but I did find the new edition of The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty in the horror section. We used to have a very regular customer and friend called Paul who recommended this as one of his favourite novels - he rereads it every year - so I've almost bought it once or twice before. With my current horror kick for R.I.P. VIII it seemed like a good time to cave and grab a copy! A table groaning with sci-fi and fantasy highlights yielded Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and Redshirts by John Scalzi, which Katie mentioned recently as being completely hilarious and brilliant. Yet another book for my 'maybe to take on holiday next week' pile, which became a running joke by the end of the day because it's currently running at about 70 books... Picking a sensible number, with a good mix for the week, is always the hardest yet most fun part of the holiday packing process! Aaaand finally I hit the BOGOHP tables at the front of the shop, where I picked up Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre (which has been on my wishlist since before the original trade paperback came out!) and Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks, which should be interesting. Between this lot I filled one stamped loyalty card - and got a £10 gift card to spend next time for my trouble - and half filled another, which was quite satisfying! LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTIES!
And speaking of pretties, here's another one, perched at a table in Costa Coffee, looking very glamorous and making me feel hugely underdressed as usual, sipping peach iced lemonade and OH LOOK WHAT'S THAT ON YOUR KNEE YOUNG LADY?! *mumbles something about book thieves and devious wenches* I'm hoping Hanna's picture of me doesn't surface*, because she'd just told me to stop messing about with my straw like a porn actress and I was grinning like some kind of evil maniac. THANKS SWEETIE. Sooo, yes, we had to have a 'nice cool drink and some crisps and playing with all the books' break before we carried on. Because Hanna still had vouchers and WE WERE NOT DONE YET.
Our next stop was BACK in the precinct, to WH Smiths. I hadn't been in there for YEARS, but Hanna had book tokens so we went in to explore and see if they had anything else to tempt us. I think we bought three books apiece in there, and my dad sneaked up on us in the biography section which was a nice surprise! I spotted Longbourn by Jo Baker, the new novel retelling Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants. Between Hanna's Pride and Prejudice obsession and my having read an interesting review of it recently, we BOTH ended up buying copies of that one! I've nearly bought The Dinner by Herman Koch a couple of times in our local indie, so I picked that one up too. I rounded off my trio with Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie, which I think is a kind of natural history autobiographical philosophical-musings kind of book. All I know is, it was in Waterstones in the same section as Strands, and I first saw it on the same 'best of 2012' list. A bit of a gamble, but sometimes they turn out to be the best ones!
Aaaand so to The Works, where I was quite confident I wouldn't find anything, given that I'd been in a couple of weeks earlier and only bought one book. Clearly I should have thrown salt over my shoulder or touched wood or something, because this time I found FIVE. Two THANKS to Hanna, and one BECAUSE of Hanna, I'd like to add. She was the first to point out In Stitches: The Highs and Lows of Life as an A+E Doctor by Dr. Nick Edwards, which was on sale for £1. Also in the £1 sale was Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body by Armand Marie Leroi, which didn't look TOO hard-going and intrigued me so much I couldn't not buy it. On the table just behind the sales shelf was Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guin. I'd like to see the Beatty/Dunaway movie sometime, so I snapped that up for a bargainous £2.99. On the OTHER side of the table I found The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of the World's Greatest Mystifier by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, which Hanna rave reviewed only the other week, also a bargainous £2.99. Aaaand JUST as I thought I was all done, Hanna also spotted Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan. I read and enjoyed Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe back in June, and preordered the paperback for £5.49 literally two days ago... and there was the hardback for £2.99. Soooo I bought that as well, and cancelled the preorder when I got home! Another super-cheap remaindered haul, at £10.97 instead of the RRP total of over £50. Even our second-hand bookshop can't compete with that, y'know?
We had a quick peek at a book stall tucked away on a side street, but Hanna managed to drag me away before I could buy anything from there. Instead we drifted up to Oxfam - somewhere else I've not been in years but will likely visit regularly now I live so close - which is now half books, half everything else. I'd seen a couple of copies of Bronson by Charles Bronson around already - the movie cover with Tom Hardy - but Oxfam also had a non-movie cover edition and it sounds like an interesting read. Something else to fuel my current horror/crime/true crime kick! Hanna easily persuaded me to buy a pretty copy of Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. I'd never heard of it, but Hanna said she loved it, and I adored The Snow Goose when I read it a few years ago (SO MANY TEARS!), and it's super-gorgeous, and only £1.99. SOLD. Aaaaand, finally, the LAST BOOK I BOUGHT was The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. My sister has a copy and her and my stepdad have already read it, but my mum and Hannah's new boyfriend are still in line to read it before me and I heard it was great anyway so... *shrugs* By that point, I wasn't worried so much about buying JUST ONE MORE BOOK as I was concerned about whether I was actually going to make it back to the station!
But back to the station we went, lugging all our bags and huffing and puffing delightfully. Thank god it was downhill all the way. Hanna had hit her wall - I was very impressed she'd made it that far, not many people can keep up with me once I'm on a book-shopping roll! - and I couldn't carry any more books anyway! We ended up skipping the Cats Protection League and Save the Children charity shops at the top end of town, plus a ramshackle second-hand bookshop with a grumpy-looking bulldog stood square in the doorway (NO THANK YOU), because we didn't discover them in time and we were visibly flagging by that stage. So we soldiered on to the station, Hanna caught her train to Sheffield, and I took a taxi home, where I hopped straight in the shower then got off my aching feet with a huge mug of coffee and a Domino's pizza... :)
It was a bloody fantastic day - I enjoyed every minute from start to finish, it always makes my day/week/month seeing my bestest blog friends for some quality time talking about books and buying more! - and I can't wait to read some of my new babies! I still maintain that I'm going to take at least one or two of them on holiday next week... I REALLY AM. *plays in potential poolside reading pile happily* Roll on our next meet-up!
You can read Hanna's less rambly round-up of the day, complete with our shopping shenanigans and her book haul, over here!
* Since I wrote this, that photo HAS surfaced, riiiiiiight at the top of Hanna's post. MOST UNFLATTERING GRIN EVER. :)