Wednesday, November 28, 2007

the rest is silence?

As I'm not really one for writing I've done one piece to stand as handout,blog or poster- this is what we are handing out in the store...

“A beautiful little bookshop’

The Pan Bookshop – A Personal Note of Thanks from the Staff

You may have heard the sad news that The Pan Bookshop is to shut up shop at the end of January. The shop will be a great loss to many – not least to our customers for whom Pan had become part of their lives, authors local, national and international, the publishing and media worlds who have supported us and of course the staff who are now thinking ‘what next’.

We wanted to thank everyone who has supported the shop. We will all miss you all and the books, the reps, the building (well, not the staffroom or toilet- have you seen them!!), the coming in everyday to work at a place you enjoy being in and know is appreciated. At 5 years I’m still a newcomer to the store and I wish I’d been here for some of it’s earlier, rich, history such as readings
from Raymond Carver, Philip Roth delivering his manuscript upstairs or the time when, allegedly, a former manager spread-eagled herself across the door and refused to let anyone leave until they’d purchased something- now that’s bookselling!

There are three questions that I have been asked a lot over the last few days and wanted to provide an answer to. Can it be saved? What are we (the staff) going to do? And, what can our customers do?

I’m afraid that, as it is, The Pan Bookshop cannot be saved. Our overheads really are very, very large and decisions have been made which I do not think will be reversed.

Just two days after our news, however, we learnt Waterstone’s Old Brompton Road would also be closing. A double blow to many customers who used both shops but also, perhaps, the creation of a new opportunity.
The departure of two shops within about a quarter of mile of each other does open up opportunities and some of us have begun to look for possible sites and benefactors.

If you would like to write something about us. We would be pleased to hear your comments, reactions, memories, etc. It makes us feel better, part of a community and I hope it helps the person leaving the comment to express their feelings.
It would also serve to underline the very real community backing that this store does have, something that may be useful to us in the future.

We will put all of these messages onto our blog, the address is . If people prefer to send to our e-mail the address for that is or please feel free to write a message, memory etc. onto this piece of paper, hand it back to us, and we will copy it onto our blog.
But the blog is not just to look back – we’ve also had some interesting suggestions as to ‘what next’. If you are interested in keeping an independent retail presence in the area and have specific suggestions or ideas about potential shop sites that may be available please feel free to let us know. The phone number is 0207 373 4997 and speak to me, Julian

Finally, to everyone who has ever supported us as a customer or author or who has worked here- in the words of an immortal Pan author from the, sadly, not to be immortal Pan Bookshop.
‘So long, and thanks for all the fish.’

I've got to fill up the space somehow

double oops.
I really should have written something here beforehand about our news, it's just that as it's probably one of the least viewed blogs in the western world (my fault, I don't keep it up to date enough and can't write for toffees) there seemed other, more important, things to do.

Anyway- I'm now in the situation where any posting will come up next to the previous post titled 'Congratulations' which I feel is just wrong hence me burbling away and wasting some space.

whistle, tap toe, time passing, I know- I always meant to write about the London Book Fair-
now our previous boss, Richard Charkin was something of an anti Bookfair person as he often mentioned in his blog from various parts of the globe. Maybe it was because Richard was (is) the head of a big publisher and saw a very global picture whereby even The London Bookfair could be viewed as parochial.
As a London bookseller I loved it, for the last 3 years I've gone to the Independent Publishers Group stand where they organised 'speed dating' meetings between booksellers and small publishers, publishers whose books are normally shown by reps who carry multiple lists and with the best will in the world can not do justice to everything they carry. Here at the IPG meetings a publisher had 10 minutes to tell a bookseller about books they really loved.
It was at one of these meetings where I met Emma and Snowbooks and was the first person to give her an order (I was very enthusiastic about her Virginia Woolf and Jerome K Jerome reprints- which we did very well with but it took our, then, fiction expert Glen to spot that the real gem was Robert Finn's 'Adept' which we sold loads of). The next year I met Mark Crick and, I think, his mum with his brilliant Kafka's Soup which I was also the first person to give an order for and was so enthusiastic we managed to get the launch party for the shop and over 100 sales later this was obviously a morning well spent. This year I met Gallic Press, a new venture specializing in translating French historical crime novels- we put both their debut titles into our window and did very well. I also met Kenilworth Press and realised we should have been working together for years and their window was very successful too. And it wasn't just the little guys like me that pitched up for these meetings, this year I met Kes, one of the main Amazon buyers, there- ok not so good for the booksellers but good news for the small publishers.
I know I would have found out about all of these books anyway but I think it's a good thing that small publishers have a chance to meet booksellers and think that, maybe, large publishers might try it too.

anyway- I think I've filled that space up now.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


oops- over 2 weeks without a post
As mentioned before this post is mostly written at home where the computer has been constantly hogged by my very busy civil servant partner. Trying to do anything at work has been tricky as this is the big month of selling books at launches. We've been to Max Hastings, Ken Follet, Simon Sebag Montefiore (twice) John O'Farrell, John Simpson (twice) and a Gyles Brandreth event with Piers Brendon and AA Gill still to come as well as selling bocks at the ever interesting Battle of Ideas.
but it's not all about glamour, last night I could have gone to the Booker parties but, sadly, my diary just said- 'pick up kids.' Embarrassingly this was not due to Kirsty having important civil servant things to do- she was at Crystal Palace High Street having a massage- now I'm not sure if this just further underlines my already impeccable new man credentials or just goes to show what a crap negotiator I am.
It does, however, bring me on nicely to the ManBooker- and congratulations to Anne Enright. I must admit that I have not read any of her novels but they do always look intestring and there is no doubt that she can write- I glean this information from her book 'Making Babies' possibly the best and certainly the best written book on becoming a mother.

Monday, October 01, 2007

what's in our windows (and an apology)

There is or should be soon a new feature on our website. It's called 'what's in our windows'- ok so the title errs on the side of boredom but the site is still in development. The idea is that the window books are so new that even we haven't read them yet- as opposed to the 'recommends' where we have, all of them. This does involve a certain amount of guesswork and reliance on the publisher being honest about the contents for my little reviews but I hope they give an idea of the books in question. The aim is just to highlight around 10 titles a month and that they should run from the well known to the quixotic.
The last time I mentioned the site I didn't give the address- this was particularly remiss as we can not easily be found via Google or other search engines (still in development), but the address is the easy to remember

our windows today..

The Age of Conversation
Benedetta Craveri
Who says the art of conversation is dead ?
Fascinating social and cultural survey of the French Salon, with its contribution to the Age of Enlightenment.

Graham Greene: A Life in Letters
edited by Richard Greene
Wonderful collection of correspondence spanning seven decades. Essential reading

Shakespeare’s Wife, Germaine Greer
Much has been written about
Stratford’s Bard, yet little about his family life. Greer’s fascinating research into Ann Shakespeare’s life further enlarges upon the roles and position of Elizabethan women.

Mummy ?
By Sendak, Yorinks and Reinhart
What a great pop-up book for kid’s !!! Sendak and friends at their most inventive.

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
Epic novel with Howard Roark at its
Centre, in his battle against the establishment to build on his own terms.
An unashamed celebration of Capitalism in the pursuit of excellence.

David Golder, Irène Némirovsky
Grim but beautifully wrought character
study of a businessman, whose ambition and greed exact a harsh price on his failing health. Very moving.

Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable
Life of Gertrude Bell, Georgina Bell
Who doesn’t want to be a polymath (even an archaeologist)? Excellent account of an extraordinary woman who lived life on her own terms.

God’s Architect:
Pugin and the Age of Romantic
Britain, Rosemary Hill
The first authoritative biography on Pugin for seventy years. Hill’s research illuminates the importance of this pioneer of British Romanticism.

1080 recipes
Simone and Ines Ortega
It is truly beautiful, looking at the inside you realise why Phaidon are one of our finest Art publishers and reading the recipes you realise why this has been Spain's best-selling cookbook for over 30 years.

The Golden Age of Couture
Paris and London 1947-57
Edited by Claire Wilcox
Accompanies the exhibition at the V&A. Sumptuous.

and now the apology..

Reading the Bloomsbury party entry it seems a little churlish, moaning about the food and the use of the word ‘bothered’. All I can say is that it was written under extreme circumstances (a brute of a hangover). I also completely accept that, as Stuart has pointed out, the condition of inebriation is not caused by lack of food but by the (willing) consumption of alcohol. Also any party that consists of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, meeting old friends some of whom I have not seen for a decade, dancing (albeit in, possibly embarrassing but fun circumstances) and saying goodbye to your host at 1.30am, is a pretty good party. Thank you Bloomsbury.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

modern retail methods

something of a first at the Pan Bookshop this week- we're doing a three for two promotion. According to some of our staff that means that the Vandals are just across the river and civilization will collapse any minute. I don't know, I don't think we can constantly say these things don't work and that our customers do not want them without doing the most basic research and trying some. It is, however, rare to find a promotion where we can come close to matching the price of the big boys and so if price is an issue we still won't get the sale. Also I am not really a fan of discounting it really only seems to lead to inflated recommended prices . We often sell books at launch parties and are asked if the book is discounted but if you don't think the book is worth it's full price at it's launch party- when is it worth it's full price!
That said I am always willing to try something new and those nice people at Random House- well their nice rep, Peter- came along and offered me a spiffing deal on their fabulous PG Wodehouse hardbacks and this I now pass on to our customers.
Buy 2 of any of the very excellent PG Wodehouse hardbacks from Everyman and you will get a third completely free. Who knows, if it works it could catch on.


modern retail methods

Friday, September 28, 2007

what's in a name

I've been sent a letter- apparently Thomson Learning has changed its name. It is now CENGAGE Learning. wow.
''The new name is based on being at the 'centre of engagement' for learning worldwide.''
''We hope you'll agree that the name Cengage Learning reflects our commitment to promoting engagement and improving results for all our customers.''

is it just me or.......

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ow my head hurts

so that was the Bloomsbury 21st birthday party.
I have to say the combination of not going out much, as much free wine as you can be bothered to queue for and being a hungry non meat eater at an event where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall provides much of the food is a heady one.
After being part of only about 10 people among around 400 actually watching the excellent Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (I can't believe that such a thunderous version of Psycho Killer will ever be played before such a large group of rational people to so little response ever again) then meeting up with my first ever Bloomsbury rep (I still remember the craft list),
the guy I gave my first ever order to (the legendary Barry from Penguin- now Bloomsbury),
after getting lost on the way home (never take a short cut when you're drunk), my trousers splitting, inappropriate (and, I'm pretty sure, just down right bad) dancing as well as catching up with, amongst others, the ever magnificent Mathew late of Deansgate now Manchester University press, the biggest surprise of the night was finding out that Richard Charkin had left Macmillan for Bloomsbury (actually the inappropriate dancing may still be the biggest surprise)

Richard seems to have copped a lot of flak from the book blogging world-quite a lot of it simply for being good at what he did. From here it seems he did an impeccable job of taking Macmillan and specially the magazines and academic side of it, through to where we are in the 'digital revolution'. More relevant to the shop (for those that don't know, the Pan Bookshop is owned by Macmillan, Richard was CEO until yesterday) is that Richard lives just around the corner from us and although there must have been times when he must have been bursting to say something he never interfered with the shop. I think we have about 3 books that we might not have had if our overall boss didn't shop here regularly (RSC Shakespeare which was borderline but maybe proximity of it's publisher got 4 onto the table rather than just one copy on the shelf and this was a margin issue rather than anything to do with the quality of the book- I also have 2 copies of the new Macmillan Advanced Learners Dictionary as I did want to show Richard that we actually got a better deal from the wholesaler rather than Palgrave- the academic wing of Macmillan- who are part of the same company as us!)
So farewell Richard, I think he is going to be a pretty tough act to follow and I'm sure Macmillan will miss him but I hope we'll still see him at Pan

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


ok- having mentioned that retailers tend to write about our strange customers it's probably only fair to hold ones own hand up when committing a shopping faux pas myself

last weekend, with a spare half-hour at Crystal Palace high street I nipped into the local antique/flea market. I had little time and went with two objectives- a cheap toy and a particular record. Arran had just left Woolworth's sans tears after we had bought a present for his mate whose party it was later that day- this I considered as a result worthy of reward. Anyway first stall we get to loads of great plastic toys in perfect nick for £2 each. Hooray. After a short time we agree on the Blue Power Ranger with excellent morphing abilities rather than the (my favorite, very excellent Thunderbird 2). We paid and as we were leaving I said to Arran to say 'Thank you' and the very nice lady who ran the stall said that he had, I then said something like 'I meant to you' or 'I meant for you' and Arran mumbled a 'thank you' as did the lady.
I then had to negotiate some steps and stuff with the buggy and got to the record stall where, right at the front of 'H' was the very record, Hawkwind 'Space Ritual', I was after- for £10 (I'd sold it for £30 about 25 tears ago when I was on the dole!) Flushed with my success I did not think about the buying of the toy until I got to the library where I was meeting my partner.
I began to get worried, had that been a surprised expression? Was there strange body language? Had that been an inappropriate 'Thank you?' as I knew that he had already said it to me. I am now convinced that the very nice, very helpful lady at the toy stall thought that when I asked Arran to say, 'thank you' to her she interpreted my comment as requesting her to say 'thank you' to Arran! How mortifying is that? Over half an hour had passed, I did not really think I could return and find out- I think I've over analysed but what if I haven't? How can I go back?

p.s A very good toy a third of the price of less good ones brand new- and the very double vinyl album I'm after for a tenner- all in 30 minutes at my local highstreet- how about that?- remember kids- the internet- it's not everything.

Monday, September 24, 2007

what's the story morning glory

well, that was the most exhilarating ride I've had into work for sometime. Mind you as I was going down the 40mph plus hill (not at 40mph I hasten to add) into west Norwood I was thinking, rather wistfully, of Adam at Crockatt and Powell and the extra breaking capability of the fixed wheeled bicycle (I was also wondering which definition of 'waterproof' my jacket manufacturers were using- not one I know.)

Anyway- speaking, as we were, of audio books brings us nicely onto the subject of spoken word radio. Obviously the top dog is Radio 4 and one of the many jewels in it's crown is the glory that is Sunday morning- has a piece of scheduling ever so fitted it's day of the week (I guess at this point if you're not a fan of the Archers or Desert Island discs you would probably say no- but keep reading anyway) There is, however, a new(ish) kid on the block and their, early, Sunday morning is a thing of rare beauty. I've been listening to Oneword radio since getting my first DAB radio about a year ago- it's worth checking out as probably the best book orientated station available but it's only recently that I have been listening at 7.30 am on a Sunday, which is a shame as I have missed out. At this time you can hear the Classic serial- so far I've heard gems such as the Naxos Canterbury Tales and The Inferno at the moment it is Remembrance of Things Past. The cadences of Prousts sentences perfectly suit a Sunday morning (as well as blocking out the Transformers/power rangers/batman etc coming from the next room). I've never actually checked how long the programme goes on for- it seems to last for ages- but in a good way.
The true genius that is the Oneword Sunday is, however, only about to be revealed. What would you follow Proust , Dante or Chaucer with? I'm sure there are plenty of great suggestions but I'd bet none of you would think of following them with a Mills and Boon title. Oneword do and it works. The current one seems to be called 'Wife against her will' by Sarah Craven, in the space of a few weeks I have moved from incredulity and rushing for the preset buttons to quite looking forward to this piece of fluff.
Honestly Proust and pulp, it really is the best Sunday morning out there.

Friday, September 21, 2007


A pretty regular item on bookshop, and I guess most retailer, blogs is the strange customer enquiry.
My winner on the ‘What data were they possibly basing that question on’ scale is probably ‘do you sell hats?’ I like it best as, while not being spectacular, it is so wildly off the wall. The subject of this post, however, is slightly different and was bought to mind when I mentioned the Question of Upbringing audio yesterday.

The other day a customer came in and asked for a few books, they were for a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and were pretty good books, a customer to be proud of (that sounds really patronising but I’m just scene setting here)
Coming back from the politics section where we had just collected, I think, Looming Tower, we walked past the talking books section- at this point my customer stops and says something like ‘oh my God!.’ Now, I quite like my audio section I think it’s pretty good but even I know it has its limits and would never suspect that it could, quite literally, take someone’s breath away. As it turned out it was not the quality of the section that so impressed it was its very existence. My customer did not know that there were such things as books on tape and was quite delighted to find that there were. I explained that some were abridged, some- obviously I suppose, unabridged and some dramatised. The customer explained that she was ‘a bit behind the times.’
I in no way wish to say the customer was strange but this was one of the oddest exchanges I’ve had in a bookshop- it still seems inconceivable that someone who obviously knows their way around the book world did not know of the existence of books on tape.

I thought it best not to mention cd’s or mp3 players

Thursday, September 20, 2007

dance to the music of time

I've just sold, for the first time in a while, 'A Question of Upbringing', the first of the 'Dance to the Music of Time' novels. In fact, I've sold a few- a mixture of the customer asking for it and me recommending it. One of these recommends I'm particularly pleased with as it was to our most prolific buyer of modern fiction. Stuck for an idea- especially as this customer has read more 21st century novels than I, or indeed most booksellers, have, I decided to try suggesting something a bit different. I shouldn't have been worried as this customer likes good writing and Dance to the Music.. drips with quality prose but being the first in a 12 bock sequence about the life and times of narrator Nicholas Jenkins 'A Question of Upbringing' is a public school/campus novel (and, I think, one of the weakest in the series) and I was not at all sure that this would appeal to my customer. Also it has become fashionable to decry Powell as dated and just too posh, in my view neither accusation holds but when you hear something so often you wonder what other people may think, it is a tricky thing recommending books, after all someone is going to give over a few hours of their life to your suggestion- I take it seriously.
Anyway- said customer perused the book for a while, bought it and the next day two of her friends came in to pick up the next 3 in the sequence she loved it so much.

By coincidence my partner picked up a copy of the audio version read by Simon Callow. Even in this abridged form its quality stands out-a fairly random example, Jenkins on unexpectedly meeting someone from his old school
'....there was still a kind of exotic drabness about his appearance that seemed to mark him out from the rest of mankind.'
'He also retained his accusing manner, which seemed to suggest that he suspected people of trying to worm out of him important information which he was not, on the whole, prepared to divulge at so cheap a price as that offered.'

I haven't even mentioned richness of characters such as X. Trapnel the greatcoat wearing, sword stick carrying budding genius or Kenneth Widmerpool the subject of the above descriptions and one of the great malicious presences in English literature or that the 12 books become a history of London from about 1920 until 1970 and within these books are several excellent war novels.

So come on- having failed to ignite a moo min revolution, although someone did get me a very nice Moomin mouse mat from Finland- Let's start a Dance to the Music of Time revival.

Monday, September 17, 2007

top 20

I've just sent off our current bestsellers to John who helps on our website- a slightly stalled project as we have managed to miss eachother over most of the summer, ho hum, anyway I thought I might as well post it here too.

Pan bestsellers Sunday 16th September
Top 20- no particular order

Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson
A best seller for us partly because we sold the book at her launch but also because the story of how 2,000,000 women survived without men after the first world war is a fascinating one.

Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane
MacFarlane’s previous book, ‘Mountains of the Mind’ is a meditation on mountaineering - its history and literature. His new subject is more defined but no less challenging. In ‘The Wild Places’ Robert Macfarlane is searching for the wildness that remains in the British Isles. His writing is beautiful his subject fascinating but even without all that the book would probably be worth it for the suggested reading list alone!

Hardens London
Zagat London
Two hardy perennials, constantly battling out year after year, vieing to suggest which restaurant you should visit- always amongst our bestsellers, much loved reference books of our customers. Hardens seems to be favoured by Brits, Zagats favoured by the Americans

Uncommon reader by Alan Bennett
I hate to use the phrase ‘much loved’ in consecutive capsule reviews but if I didn’t I’d have to use the phrase ‘national treasure’ which would be a greater sin. ‘Much loved’ he may be but Alan Bennett is a talented writer and this is meant to be one of his best- according to Geoffrey (our crime buyer so he should know) it has an ‘absolutely brilliant ending’

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Probably does not need me to say anything about it- one of the favourites to win the ManBooker this year, lovely cover- we’ve sold a lot of it

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
It’s about Shakespeare, it’s by Bill Bryson, get your signed copies here.

Atonement by Ian McEwan
The author will probably hate this phrase but, the book of the film. Atonement sold loads when it first came out as a new hardback and loads more as a new paperback- sadly, reading, is a minority interest- a point driven home each time even a successful book is made into a popular film and sales rise accordingly.

Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The long awaited second novel from the author of ‘The Kite Runner.’ A recent trade blog pointed out the importance of independent bookshops in the world of booksales- i.e. not much- about 5% of some, unnamed bestseller. Trade legend (albeit one promulgated by small shops) has it that we are still vital as a ground for breaking new authors and the Kite Runner is often cited as an example of this- it would be interesting to know if the figures bore this out. Certainly I got the impression that when we were stocking it in 10’s and 20’s (it’s been our bestselling book of the last few years) the chains were barely keeping it face out but that said, they still may have shifted an awful lot more copies than us.

The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters edited by Charlotte Mosley
We have signed copies and if you know the Pan Bookshop you will know why we were very excited to see this published and why it is in our window. If you do not know the Pan Bookshop this is one type of book that defines us – although there are many others.

Jamie at home by Jamie Oliver
We do not, normally, do terribly well with television related titles but cookery books seem to flout this particular rule and here is the latest exception.. I have not really kept up with his most recent books but certainly the recipes in the early ones all worked and he seems a nice bloke- not something that can be said of all cookery books and writers (and before anyone thinks that’s a pop at Ramsey- his recipes are meant to be amongst the best and he’s always been as nice as pie whenever I’ve met him.) I also like the fact he grows his climbing beans over an arch- as we do at home (mind you, we do it through lack of space but I’m sure the effect is just the same)

Exit Music by Ian Rankin
The final Rebus novel. I don’t want to say anything really as whatever I put down might be construed as giving the ending away. I’ll just say I finished it at about 2.00am in the morning with Hawkwind on as background music (yes, you read that correctly) and a nice glass of red wine.

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book
Does what it says on the cover. Another of our annual favourites.

Blair Years by Alastair Campbell
This has been in our window since publication, by allrights it should be out by now but, firstly, we have to have somewhere to put the signed stock (we got a lot signed but it was worth it) and, secondly, judging from the sales our customers are not bored with it yet so neither should we be. And this from the safest Conservative seat in the country.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Another ManBooker contender- we also have a sneaking liking for this one as we sold the books at this launch party too, plus, everyone I know who’s read it thinks it’s fab.

The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls by Rosemary Davidson and Sarah Vine
The controversial reply to the hugely successful Dangerous Book for Boys. Many people have complained about it being too girly but it does have tips on how to fall out of a tree so it can’t be all bad.

Restless by William Boyd
Some, many, of our customers think that William Boyd is the best storyteller of his generation. ‘Restless’ is set in Paris, 1939, features a beautiful 28 year-old Russian émigré and should provide the perfect setting for Boyd’s talents.

Hotel de Dream by Edmund White
Edmund White is best known for his non-fiction and his autobiographical novels so this is a sort of departure although a real person, the author Stephen Crane, is at its centre. In Hotel de Dream the imagined author is dictating a new story to his wife, leading White’s publishers to describe the book as ‘a deftly layered novel of longing, both gay and straight.’

Dancing with the Bear: A Serial Entrepreneur goes East by Roger Shashoua
Where a local author of ours (at least he said he was- reading how he promoted his previous book in the opening chapter of this one I’m not sure I really want to test the veracity of this claim) gives us the ‘inside track to making mega-millions in Russia.’ I only took the book as we had done so well with his brothers (at least he said he was…) and I wanted to stay in with him- I also said that although the cover was fine for ‘mass market shops’ it would not go down well here- anyway, we’ve had it 5 weeks and it’s been in our bestsellers for the last 4.

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
Extremely successful in the Arab world this novel had quite a reputation to live up to when translated into English. Set in a grand old building on a street whose glories were some time ago ‘The Yacoubian Building’ seeks to portray all the social strata of modern Cairo. Pitched somewhere between the Tales of the City and A Fine Balance (now, if you know me you’ll know these are pretty important novels for me) it lacks the sheer playfulness and outrageous use of coincidence to remove any plot obstacle of the former and, I’m afraid it has to be said, brilliance of the latter but retains both novels compelling description of what it is to like live in a modern city. Very fascinating, very enjoyable.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

things you probably shouldn't do coming back from holiday

first day back from hols- a late shift, here at the Pan Bookshop that means 2.00pm till 10.00pm- this was my choice as it would provide a lie-in after the holiday and a gentle easing in back to work. I'm generally home by 11.00 - 11.15pm sometimes in bed by 12.00. Other times I'm not too tired but am very hungry as I was this Monday- also, as straight off my bike, not really in the mood to read- tele seemed a good idea- there wasn't anything on so I hunt around my dvd's and video's and for some bizarre reason decide that the documentary about the making of L.A. Confidential that comes with the video would be perfect- it would have been if I'd left it there but, of course, I couldn't. The film and making of bit run to over 2 hours, I'd started watching it at 11.45.
Trouble is due to illness I end up double-shifting on Tuesday. Get home at 11.15pm but decide that after a 13 hour day what I really need to do is read the new Rebus novel for 2 hours then fall asleep on the sofa but only until my son wakes me at about 1.45am.
Stupidly I am on a late again on Wednesday so miss the football, the only place for me to see the goals is the sky sports channel on Freeview- they don't show it straight away- when they do I'm out of the room and miss one of the goals- I decide to hang on as it will soon be around again- I wake up at about 2.00am on the sofa.

Now, I'm not complaining this was all my own work and a good film, a new book and some fine football are great reasons for staying up till you drop but what you probably shouldn't do coming back from holiday, aside from averaging 4.5 hours sleep per night, is forget that, no longer being on holiday, your partners parents are also no longer with you. If you have kids- you'll know what I mean.

(I should say that kirsty was, very sensibly, asleep by about 11.30 each evening.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

belgium is a foreign country, they do things differently there ...part 2

for vast swathes of my working life 'would you like a bag?' has been a rhetorical question. It has now become a moral dilemma- I can see some of my customers squirm as they feel they are being put to some kind of test. Not asking or assuming one way or the other is often just as bad- not wanting to put my customers through such hoops- what should a poor bookseller do?
Well, at my local Bruges supermarket it is all sorted out- no dilemma, no squirming- just no bags. You're not offered them, you can't ask for them- they're not there.
Our need for asking for bags was, anyway, almost redundant for two reasons- firstly, we took a rucksack (11 out of 10 smug points) and, secondly, (and this is where Bruges really has turned out to be surprisingly different to beloved old blighty) this pretty small, local supermarket took no cheques and no credit cards except AMERICAN EXPRESS how weird is that (if you're a retailer-pretty weird, if you're not- it may not interest you so much!) and we only just scraped the cash together.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

holiday reading........

my last holiday- only a short while ago, one week in Maldon in Essex- consisted of get up around 6.00-6.30 explain to Arran - (4 years old and knows what he wants)-that no, there is no television set here. The next couple of hours are spent playing with him having the family breakfast then going to the swing park, water park, bouncy castles, giant pirate ship climbing frame, really big swing park, walking along the river, giant sand pit etc etc (Maldon does have a shed load of things for a 4 year old to do!). Then lunch before Lara (one year old- doesn't know what she wants unless it is food, drink, clean nappy or, and this is quite cute, a hug) implodes/explodes. Then we're back to the swing park/water park etc etc then tea, then kids to bed, then cook our tea, talk about the day then read until fall asleep- approx 25 minutes! It was a great holiday but I've realised holiday reading as I knew it left my life pretty much when the second child entered it.
I had been pretty pleased that I'd actually finished the Harry Potter (which I enjoyed, and thought she'd made a pretty good fist of ending the series in a satisfying way, a not especially common occurrance in books or tv) and Damned United by David Peace (highly recommended- almost like James Ellroy died and almost went to football heaven but landed in Leeds circa 1974 and this is his report back) but reading other bookshop holiday blogs I now hang my head in shame.

Anyway- the second part of our holidays begin tomorrow- a week in Bruge but this time the Grandparents are coming, so with babysitters on tap I'm going to tempt fate and take 3 books- although I may have to take/buy a forth as I've done that dumb thing where I'm 3/4 through a book (Jason Goodwin's The Janissary Tree- absolutely brilliant depiction of 19th cent. Istanbul but I'm not to sure about the 'whodunnit' aspect, which is pretty much what the reviews had led me to believe so hurrah for them) so it's going to be dead weight after my first bath/escape to coffee house(did I say coffee house-I think I meant bar)/ lie-in etc but is too good to leave behind. I'm also taking the book that's rapidly turning into book of the year- Catherine O'Flynn 'What was lost' partly as I dipped into it and it looks fab and partly as it's setting- a shopping mall, is- I guess- the antithesis of Bruge (like most people I always used to take something that had a relationship to my destination but I've gone the other way- partly after carrying Perfect Storm to a house on the coast of Arran for Christmas, on the boat crossing to Ibizia, a desolate stretch of Suffolk shoreline and the Cape of Good Hope and still never reading the bleeding thing- I don't expect I will now). Also Storm and Conquest by Stephan Taylor about the battle for the Indian Ocean 1809- it may not be everyone's cup of tea but if you're a Patrick O'Brian fan- and I am- the Mauritius campaign was the setting for one of his best books.

wish me luck

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

feeling lucky

bizarrely I find as I get older I'm getting more superstitious. I, rather stupidly when on a bike, salute magpies, I don't tend to walk under ladders, I never open an umbrella indoors nor put shoes on a table and I don't much like the new isbn configuration (international standard book number, the figures by the bar code that uniquely identifies any book- has now added a further 3 numbers to it's previous 10!), it's odd, however, that on days when I do come by train I don't really mind travelling on the one that best suits getting me here for 2.00pm- the 13.13)
Anyway, the weirdest manifestation of all this was herons. Now, I'm a fan of herons and over the last few years I've got into the habit of taking a 'longcut' into work so that I can cycle through Battersea Park or along the embankment, I slow right down and just enjoy the view and the proximity to trees and water but what always makes me happiest (as I've said before) is seeing herons. This being happy at seeing herons gradually worked its way to becoming - Hah, I've seen a heron- it's going to be a good day' which then even more disfunctionally morphed into 'oh no, I didn't see a heron today - it's going to be a bad day' this led to ridiculous interior monologues over whether certain routes could reasonably be expected to provide a view of a heron and therefore counted.
Although it could, quite reasonably, be taken that all this is proof that I am going mad I chose to take it as a sign of an overactive imagination and mind that had got bored cycling down the south circular for the 1,000th time and resolved to think about other stuff instead- or, even better, to pay more attention the road.
despite all that, however, I was very pleased to see 3 herons looking especially fine in the early morning sun, along the Thames embankment on my way to work this morning- I don't think it will make my day any luckier but it makes my morning much richer.


Friday, August 24, 2007

sense of proportion

I know this post is a tad late but I think the point still holds...this was posted on the Richard Charkin blog just after the Harry Potter 7 launch- the author is Seth Godin ('holds an MBA from Stanford, and was called "the Ultimate Entrepreneur for the Information Age" by Business Week.'- actually, he does have the credentials and sales records to back this up)

'By now, the Harry Potter hype machine has told you all about the pre-shipped copies, the scanned book and the spoilers. No doubt it'll sell a few copies, and no doubt the reported $20 million on security (not to mention fedex expense) was both useful and ineffective.
The interesting thing for me is how the Net changes what it means for something to be a secret. Five hundred year old technology (books) is just too slow for the Net. The act of printing, storing and shipping millions of books takes too long for a secret to ever be in a book again.
My solution? A hybrid. Publish the first edition of the book without the last three chapters. Take your time, save the $20 million. Every purchaser then gets access (hey, everyone gets access) to the last three chapters on launch day.
Books are souvenirs. No one is going to read Potter online, even if it's free. Holding and owning the book, remembering when and how you got it... that's what you're paying for. Books are great at holding memories. They're lousy at keeping secrets.'

now, I finished it by, about the Wednesday after publication- during that time I listened to a fair number of news programes and went to 2 children's parties where a lot of adults were standing around desperate to have something to talk about- my partner finished it by the following Wednesday- she is a civil servant and is glued to her computer most of the day and for a ridiculously large amount of her time at home as she does extra work, my neighbour, a teacher read it by the Wednesday too, my friend, a Psychology professor was also reading it the last time I spoke to him, two colleagues are reading it at the moment, one works in two different book stores and the other works three days a week but listens to the radio a great deal and reads the guardian everyday. A large number of my customers have also or are in the process of reading it.

and what do we all have in common

none of us, absolutelty none of us, knew the ending.

I'm not trying to sound like a Luddite here- just keepng that sense of proportion- if you did not go directly looking for the ending it was pretty easy to avoid (and if you were looking for the ending- why not just open the end of the book)
I admit I got caught out on The Half-Blood Prince but that was because some idiot (who shall remain nameless but is an ex-member of staff, currently resides in Bath and has just done a guest spot on this blog!) followed a link saying it would tell you who dies in the next Harry Potter duh! not content with this being the solitary activity it should have been he called my name as I was passing and I could not fail to see the image on the screen and it did spoil my enjoyment of the book but it was exceptional circumstances and could have been avoided.

Anyway, I guess my point is that yes the future is arriving like an express train etc etc but when it come to wants rather than needs and we are talking about, for want of a better word, hobbies- what you do to fill up your spare time as opposed to work or just the retrieving of information (important, I know) then just about anything you do is a minority pursuit. I like the idea of books being repositries of memories but they can still hold their secrets too.

(ps I know a recent survey said 75% of adults use facebook or another social networking site, now, I heard this on the Today programme and if there is anything Today is poor at it is giving an idea of the questions asked or samples used for 'a survey'- the last time I heard them give this information it was just after they told us that, something like, 95% of nurses were dissattisdfied with their job but the question was, again-, something like, 'could anything be done to improve your job?' Well the only surprise there is that some people did answer in the negative. Ok now I sound like a holocaust or global warming denier(which i am not) but I think, as said at the top of the page, the point stands.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

another tony wilson memory

This is probably the second, sort of, obituary in the last five posts- what's going on!

but Tony Wilson was important to me for a few reasons- so bear with me- I'll do Harry Potter and holiday reading tomorrow.

Tony Wilson was the biggest single reason I left Billericay, Essex and the south of England and went to Manchester- (although the fact the university -almost uniquely- didn't require an O level in a foreign language to do do an English degree helped enormously too)
why, because So It Goes was the best music programme I'd ever seen- in a whole list of great moments I think I finally decided I wanted to be Mancunian after Wilson, walking towards the camera says something like- I'm often asked what punk will sound like in 20 years and I play them this- and Magazine came on doing Shot by both Sides (although it could have been motorcade- this was a long time ago)- and how prescient was that?

I also love the fact that everything involved with Factory records had a catalog number- so while the mighty Temptation is Fac63, Fac61 is the lawsuit with the equally brilliant and important Martin Hannett

Tony Wilson also got me to read Proust- after the Alain de Botton event for How Proust can change your Life at the shop I was at Tony Wilson was in the staffroom telling anyone who would listen- which I think was only me at that point- he was being quite loud- that everyone should read Proust and that actually it was very funny in places. It was, and as in so many other things Tony was right and my tribute to Anthony H Wilson will be to, finally, finish it!!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

View from Bath

I've been meaning to blog all week...
Mix together laziness, procrastination and generally having little or no spare time to do all the things I'm meant to be doing - and that it took me two days to remember how to log in - has meant that I've left this till the last possible minute. And I also don't think that I've got anything interesting to say...
It's just over four months ago that I left Pan to work at the Topping Bookshop in Bath. The shop opened just over three months ago. It has been incredibly hard work, and I think that we still have quite a way to go. But yesterday felt like a turning poing : we were busy, we had nice customers and I felt - for the first time - that everything was sort of coming together. We had books that customers wanted; the customers themselves were all really nice. I suppose I had that rare feeling of happiness.
This is not to say that things are perfect. Far from it. But it doesn't feel like the uphill struggle that it did four months ago. This may be connected to the fact that I also no longer have an hour's walk uphill at the end of the day (having moved to five minutes away from the shop).
My colleagues - Kathleen, Vincent, Mark, Robert, Robert & Louise are also nice people to work with. I suppose that's true of most booksellers anyway. We're all vaguely like-minded souls who aren't exactly doing this for the wealth of Midas.
And it's exciting to be at the start of something. Sebastian Faulks did the first reading here, and in a way opened the shop. And we have a great line-up of authors for the autumn, including:
Alan Bennett
Ian Botham
Jonathan Coe
Sophie Dahl
Germaine Greer
Robert Harris
Terry Pratchett
Ian Rankin
And that's just for the Bath bookshop. The Ely bookshop has Robert MacFarlane, Alexander McCall Smith, Paul Merton...
To see the whole list, have a gander at our website :
Until next time...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

it's a god awful small affair...

this was always going to be the title of this blog- as I'm going on holiday and have managed to secure the services of a guest blogger- his identity was to remain a mystery but I was going to tell you that the title of his blog would be 'Life on Bath' and then ask 'can you guess who it is yet?' good joke eh? even though it's one I've used before.

Sadly the title of this blog much more accurately refers to the Pan Bookshop Summer Extravaganza. probably the best event I've ever put on- with better marketing and better PR than we've ever done before but sadly also probably the worst attended event I've ever organized. The authors outnumbered the staff- good but the staff outnumbered the customers- bad.

Why it went so catastrophically wrong I'm not too sure- maybe it was the weather, certainly we were heading to our worst Friday of the year before the Harry Potter sales and so was the cafe next door.

I don't know- I don't want to give up on doing readings but I think I'll go back to just the one or two authors and charge for tickets- at least you're forewarned of impending disaster!!

the Harry Potter event went quite well although I don't think I'd have people partying inside the store again- it's more fun, and easier to control and run the competitions with everyone outside- plus not everyone got to hear the competitions and there were some good haiku's which I rather stupidly overlooked to write down and 3 good Wyrd Sisters songs- the winner singing 'goodbye Dumbledore' to the tune of, you've guessed it. It was a shame, after all their work and nerve, the competitors deserved a bigger audience and more of their attention.

Anyway for holiday reading Damned United, Harry Potter (oops there's my literary pants showing) and The Officer's Prey, a historical crime novel set during Napoleon's march to Moscow and translated from the French, which I've been looking forward to reading for some time and expect it to be big at the Pan Bookshop. Mind you- I thought that about the Summer Extravaganza....

enjoy the mystery blogger

Friday, July 20, 2007

friday the big day part 4 of 4

OK- even I, someone who spent 18 years of their life in Manchester and has 'done' rain, am impressed by what's going on outside. That is rain.

Anyway all the afternoon activities as previewed in yesterdays blog will still be going on- so brave that rain and come on down. Also- as mentioned yesterday- simon sebag montifore cannot make 7.00pm anymore but will still be here from 6.00pm until about 7.15. The rest of the evening really gets underway around 7.00pm with a galaxy of eminent historians, Michael Cady with advice on how to get published, Isabel Losada who can talk about anything and, change of plan again, Judy Krey from the New Kadampa Tradition will be here to chat with anyone about being Buddhist.

this all winds up around 9.00pm and we get the store ready for our Pre potter Party- guests, entertainment, competitions and fun from 10.00m onwards- first come, first served though we can fit quite a few people in the shop but with this rain we may all have to squeeze up a bit!

See you all here.

On a different note and one that adds some perspective to the day, Chris Dunn died last week. I don't suppose any of you have heard of Chris Dunn but he would have described himself as an author, although, in truth, he could probably more accurately be described in a Anthony Powell kind of way as 'something in the city.'
The first time I met Chris he managed to wind me up to an absolutely exceptional level. We were having a library reading group comes to the bookstore day. Chris came, was obviously not a member but when he announced he was a published author the effect was electrifying- everyone wanted to know what he did, his life style and when he said he had sold 100's of books around here (Old Brompton road) everyone wanted to see them. My stock as bookshop manager plummeted as it was apparent that not only did we not have any of these books in but i'd obviously not heard of such a successful local author- how could that be. Chris then mentioned the name of his publisher- it was a vanity publisher. To this day I still think it is to my credit (and to his detriment!) that neither of us mentioned that Chris was only a published author because he had paid for them to be published.
Anyway- years pass and our paths cross again and we get on pretty well- I read one of these books, the first in a series of 12- guess what it's good, not really my genre but I enjoyed it and could guarantee that it was better than many action/thrillers that come out each month. I gave a copy to one of my reps who I knew liked thrillers- he thought it was great- he's now read 7 of them. We tried to get editors at publishers interested, after all between the rep and I we had over 50 years experience in bookselling- i don't think we even managed to get an editor to read it.
Over several, very enjoyable, lunches Chris would keep me informed about how near his books were to being made into series but I never knew whether to believe him, there was always more than a touch of the Walter Mitty's about Chris. I'm not saying these books are great literature and neither would Chris, actually, that's proably not true- Chris would claim they were great literature and I think they may have been his biggest love. He never doubted them and never doubted that if he could just get that one lucky break they'd have been huge. I tend to agree. But there you go- that's the world of books and he accepted that.
But I wish he could have lived to have seen them published by a major publisher and, better yet, with a TV tie-in jacket.
There's no real point to this entry but just to say goodbye to Chris- I and the Pan bookshop will miss him.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

friday the big day parts 2&3 of 4

I really should have kept up-to-date here but it has been very frantic.

it turns out we are to be the venue of choice for the sky news Pre Potter party- now, I think this is a good thing, and at the very least anyone coming to buy the Harry Potter here (i.e my customers) will now get even more fun, food and frolics than they were going to before and, believe me the fun, food and frolics was going to be pretty tip top anyway. But as someone almost entirely made up of cliches I have to say 'he who sups with the devil should use a long spoon-(I can also say 'he who forgets history is destined to repeat it,' ' never assume it just makes an ass of u and me'- I could go on) and I don't just mean sky here but all TV. Then a big chunk of me says, just grow up, stop being such a cynic, relax and have fun. And this is what I intend to do- please come along and join me.


in the afternoon childrens stories for under 5's including Emma Chichester-Clarke

5.00pm Caroline Lawrence, who always does a fantastic reading of her ancient Roman mysteries including props and costumns.

5.30pm Dianne Hofmeyr- from Rome we go to Egypt but I think Dianne is unsure about the costumn bit!

6.00pm- a change of plan, Simon Sebag Montefiore has to go early but will be here from 6.00pm until 7.00- hopefully a little later otherwise I'll try and get Andrew Roberts to say something rude about him.

see you tomorrow

Monday, July 16, 2007

friday- the big day pt 1 of 4

only a few days to go and hey- we've got the biggest event the shop's seen for ages.
the first part of the day from about 10.00am to 11.30am is for the under fives and just for fun- fun with bubbles, fun with foam and fun with fabrics - if you don't know Klutz books come and have a look at some of the best and most original children's activity books around; if you do know them come and have a look anyway. There'll be sample and display packs to road test and you'll know it's all happening as I'll be outside blowing the biggest bubbles this side of Upton Park and disrupting the traffic (but in a hopefully innocent and charming fashion!).

p.s. on a completely different note can I just say that this is shaping up to be the best Tour de France for years- congratulations to Rasmussen for taking the last stage by the scruff of it's neck and taking the yellow jersey but Kloeden's pulling along of Vinokourov for the sake of the team and his it's leader but to the detriment of his own chances of winning will be one of the most remarkable moments in sport this year. if all you know of the tour is the colour and razzmatazz that passed through London last weekend well, that was fun but there is so much more to it. It's the closest event sport has to the unfolding of 'a good book'- plot, sub plot,false leads and strong lead characters, low deeds and high drama, only Test Match cricket comes close to providing an event so endlessly fascinating, if you haven't yet -immerse yourself now, you won't regret it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

new arrivals at the pan bookshop ball- well, fair, well party

ok, for most of my 20 or so years selling books I have spent the vast majority of them wishing to read more non-fiction. Indeed if I have ever had such a thing as a new years resolution it would have been to read more non-fiction. That's easy you say- just pick up a book and read it, except, I just could never get my head around it, whatever I picked up, however interesting never seemed as interesting as the next hot novel or classic I that I really wanted to read. Then about 4 years ago I came to the Pan Bookshop and Robert Topping, in his wisdom, gave me the History section as my fiefdom (this may seem strange- why would a manager give a section to someone to run who not only had read no books from that section but freely confessed to being actually unable to do so- this was not unprecedented when I joined the Topster in Manchester he put me in the language section even though I'm dyslexic- can barely manage my own tongue and was almost thrown out of university for not having an equivalent of a foreign language O level- an exam I finally passed but found infinitely more difficult than my English literature and Philosophy degree- I don't know how Robert has taught his children to swim but it would probably be better not to ask.)
Anyway, this seemed just the spur I needed and of I set off in my autodidactic way to read through the OUP history of Britain, all of it, starting at volume one (of about, I think, 19 all of which i have in hardback and a very impressive sight they make too.) four years later I am up to number 4 and making no clear headway- I'm afraid the good editors at Oxford did not really have readers like me in mind when assembling their great work- especially the one about the movement of pots.
I'm pretty middlebrow - I read Ballard rather than Burroughs and listen to Waits rather than Beefheart- what I needed was a filter. What I picked up was Rubicon; an absolutely brilliant history of Rome - one of the reviews claimed it as a 'history book for our times' i.e. readable and it does a fantastic job of telling the story of the fall of the Roman republic and was exactly what I needed. I didn't look back, Rifles, the history of the Normans in Sicily, histories of London all these went tumbling past my bedside table and I had been right all along- I do feel this is where I belong and now I find it difficult to choose to read a novel and quite soon I think I'll be ready to mount a major assault on the OUP history of Britain again- even the one about the movement of pots.
Anyway- I'm pleased to announce that Tom Holland will also be at our store on Friday 20th July to help celebrate History books in general and particularly how many fine ones have been written this year (and by local authors to boot.)

If you like stories of Rome or even just good storytelling be sure to be here for Caroline Lawrence. That she is one of our best children's writers is beyond doubt but take my word for it that age is no factor in enjoying her excellent series of adventures. Caroline Lawrence will be here at 5.00pm the same day reading from and asking questions about her Roman Mysteries series.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

signed Alastair Campbell

just a quick note today, not, I'm afraid, very exciting unless you happpen to be interested in these two specific events but, hey, that may be excitement for two more demographic groups than usual.

Firstly we are getting signed Alastair Campbell stock but are not really sure how many- I'm holding out for 'a lot' but these things are not always in our hands. They will be available July 18th p.m. (sorry, couldn't resist). If you are interested it may be worth reserving a copy, any personalised messages would have to be paid for in advance.

secondly- I'm sorry but due to a clash of dates we will no longer be having a talk on being Buddhist by Tharpa books on July 20th but if you are interested in the subject do please still come as Isabel Losada is certainly worth talking to and has quite a lot to say on the subject especially her meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Look at that- in two paragraphs and two days we've gone from Alastair Campbell to the Dalai Lama- bookselling eh? It's not dull you know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

a big thank you to liz hurley

Elizabeth Hurley was doing the 'My London' spot in the ES Magazine this week and in the 'home comforts' section she says she loves bath oils and books and that she goes to the The Pan Bookshop on Fulham Road!
I'm pretty happy about this as she also namechecks Luigi's, the italian deli acrosss the way and that's pretty cool company to keep.
thank you Liz.

p.s go to Jo Malones on Sloane Street for the bath oils


Sunday, July 08, 2007

summer fair and harry potter day

Hi Everyone,
I know that most of you will, by now, know that the next and final Harry Potter goes on sale at various stores around the country at midnight Friday 20th July.

Well, I hope I see you all there as our queue has always been- and will be again- one of the most enjoyable to be in: competitions, refreshments and voting- yep, you all have to do some work but will be fun, I promise you. So reserve your copy and design your fancy dress, rehearse your song or intuit your haiku (see bottom of this e-mail for explanation).

Secondly, the reason, obviously, just about everyone knows this is because of the huge amount of coverage that a new Harry Potter generates- there will be more written about this book than any other this year but in the wake of that will be much that is about books and bookshops in general and we thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of this so the day of Friday 20th July has become a Pan Bookshop Summer Fair.
There will be events and activities throughout the day. For me the highlight is where we try to get the world record for how many history writers you can fit into a small corner of a bookshop, indeed we have so many eminent historians visiting us that a new collective noun has to be coined (do you coin a noun- or just a phrase? and there’s probably already one anyway) but this has been an extraordinarily good year for history books and I felt we should celebrate it,

Anyway, if you can, please come along to our summer fair, there really are some fantastic things to do and some excellent, eminent,informative and entertaining authors to meet.

This is the itinerary


A summer extravaganza on the day of the Harry Potter Midnight Launch
A one day festival of, entertainment, education, fun, frolics and fancy dress
And the Best Harry Potter Queue in Town

9am: Shop opens

10am to 12noon: Play with the book fun for pre-school children with Klutz activities and Hodder Fairy Wings

2pm to 4pm: Hear the Book - pre school story time readers including Emma Chichester-Clarke

5pm to 6pm: Hear the Author - celebrate end of term with Diane Hofmeyer and Caroline Lawrence

7pm to 9pm: Meet the Author - eminent historians Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Andrew Roberts,
Kate Williams, Adam Zamoyski, Patrick Bishop, and Alison Weir will be discussing their
work, signing their books and celebrating 2007 as a vintage year for their literary genre

Being Buddhist - a short talk from Tharpa Books

How to Get Published - advice from Michael Cady (bring your first page and
covering letter)

Men, Being Buddhist, and Getting Published - Isabel Losada with advice on all three!

9pm to 10pm: Music - some light blues to finish the day [tbc]

10pm: Shop Closes

11.30pm: Harry Potter Queue - refreshments for all and 3 separate competitions
1 Fancy Dress
2 Harry Potter Haiku
3 Sing a Song of Weird Sisters - sing 4 - 8 lines of a song you think the Weird Sisters
might like to perform to any tune you choose, musical accompaniment at your discretion

Winners judged by the audience: bear in mind you have to parade that fancy dress, recite that haiku and sing that song before your fellow queue members
The Prizes - 1 prize for each competition - will be a deluxe copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows awarded by Hedwig - or, at least an owl that looks very much like him, although maybe a little taller.

Midnight: Pan Bookshop re-opens and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows goes on sale
(at full cover price)

Saturday 21 July: 9am to 10am Hedwig will deliver the book to those unable to make the midnight event

For further details please contact the store.

venue: The Pan Bookshop times: 10 am to 10pm.... then 11.30PM to last customer standing!

158 Fulham Road
London SW10 9PR nearest tubes: South Kensington & Gloucester Road
buses: 14, 414, 211, 345

Contact: the manager Julian Rafot 020 7373 4997

Monday, June 25, 2007

hope for us all

all day yesterday I'd meant to write something sensitive and literary- interesting yet humorous but each time I got to the keyboard all I could think of was how amazing the Stooges were at Glastonbury Saturday night.
Over the years I've seen hours and hours of footage from the festival occaisionally it's been exciting, often it's interesting but probably more of it has been disappointing.
But the Stooges and forget their age for a minute, were magnificent-- the best performance I've ever seen from Glastonbury on the telly, until they ran out of steam a bit towards the end, they were absolutely riveting. Forget the stage invasion where Iggy instigated more chaos than has probably been seen at the last 4 or 5 festivals put together. The sound was amazing- the most exciting thing I've seen on telly this year.
And they're in their bloody sixties- I'm 45 with a 3.5year old and a 9 month old when they are 18 and 15 I still want to be able to go to gigs with them- It never occurred to me that I stiil might make it to the mosh pit! I've gotta go- press-ups and a bullworker await.

p.s gossip were pretty awesome too.

Friday, June 22, 2007

the customer is always....

blimey, reading that last post how pooterish do I sound? Although in this case it was not entirely my fault- I was writing it at about 9.55pm and intending to put a joke in about the fact that we had just started considering charging for windows. (This is true- I've got someone in at the moment whose experience is in larger and more formal stores to cast a fresh eye over the place- I don't think we will but who knows??- probably a bad time to start now!))
I failed in my whole set joke up, tell joke scheme as I got quite a long call from a customer and it just so happens that the phone call reflected a little on other work we are doing at the shop at the moment- namely a staff questionnaire/suggestion box come survey about how we could improve thing a bit. One of the themes is customer service and on one of the sheets in the staffroom (god how frightening does this sound- the stairwell to our staffroom looks like an asylum) I've mentioned that 2 of our regular customers have found us to be a bit grumpy sometimes of late. It's actually an observation I, sort of, agree with.
But only 'sort of'' and only sometimes; in fact- very rarely.
Back to the phone call and I hope this customer doesn't mind me mentioning this-she was very nice and, I think, so was I. She asked for a book that we had in stock, then asked if it was the paperback- I said I didn't think so, she said Amazon have it. I said I'd look it up and no, sadly, we didn't have it- now, our system does do one really neat trick-from the stock card at the touch of one button we can find if any wholesalers have a title in stock, they didn't. I was now a little surprised and said I'd check Books-in-print to she if the title was available- again to be told that Amazon have it, I asked if she was sure there was an actual on hand figure, again to be told that Amazon had it listed- now trying to learn from my girlfriend that when someone does not really understand what I say I shouldn't just repeat it - I explained that Amazon have a number of titles on their screens which are not yet published , as indeed, do we. I was then told that the customer had not rung me up 'to be given a lecture on how to use Amazon', to be followed by- about a second later- oh, they haven't got it, it's not published yet. Now, I didn't bat an eye over this and took a reservation for the hardback and placed an order for different book too so was happy with the whole transaction.
But- although I am quite capable of being hectoring, lecturing short tempered and rude, I was pretty sure I had been none of these things this time and my colleague- one of the most mild mannered people I have ever met and who has put up with me when I have been hectoring, lecturing etc etc also assured me I hadn't been. I'm pretty sure that if you tell a cabbie they've gone the wrong way, a chef that they've overcooked the pastry or, heavens forbid, tell a publisher that their jackets are lousy (actually they do often listen) you'll get a reaction but on this side of the till we have to grin and bear it. It doesn't normally bother me, I love working at a till in a bookshop and occasionally people don't appreciate you, what's the big- but sometimes you do feel that you're getting judged just a little unfairly.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

all publicity etc etc

I've just had my first (I say first, that may be a bit of an assumption) customer in who has sworn never to enter Waterstone's again, she feels completely betrayed by the whole windowgate / christmas catalogue expose. It wasn't so much the fact that positioning was being paid for- she understands that retailers are here to make money but really that so much effort was put into it to make these look like genuine choices.
While it is, obviously, not true that there is no such thing as bad publicity it is a pretty safe bet that media exposure will generally do you nothing but good but some real damage seems to have been done here. Mind you, we don't know how many people woke up, heard the news, realised that what they had been missing these past few days was a good book and found themselves in the chain whose name had been planted into their heads that morning

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

good to be back

as the more sharp sighted of you will have noticed, nothing much has been posted on this site for a while, the principle reason being that I normally do this at home (due to pressure of work. ridicule of colleagues etc.)- we're currently upgrading our computer at home, going all wireless and broadband, as you will no doubt guess that means our system completely conked out for a bit, well, quite a bit actually. By the time I came to accept the relatively simple fact that I'd better do this at work I had a/. got used to not doing it- very easy and b/. forgotten Sabers's easy to remember code words- even easier. By the time I'd gotten round to asking Saber (much lamented ex member of staff now residing in Bath) I think he'd forgotten them too. Oh well, we're back on track now.

The funny thing is, over the last month, while cycling in to work, I've probably had more blog ideas than while we were regularly posting but I suppose that this is as predictable as upgraded computers being worse than they were pre improvement

Anyway, back to the title of the blog, I'm not referring to the blog itself or, indeed to top 70's pop tune by a dodgy pop star. It actually refers to something I'd hoped to see but didn't think I would- a seventh Tales of the City novel, 'Michael Toliver Lives' and the job I'm looking forward to most today is to put it in the window.

I loved these chronicles of San Francisco life, they are as much a part of my 'eighties and early 'nineties as anything i can think of. And when the TV series came out the pubs of Manchester must have taken a fierce dip in profits as they were denuded of booksellers. Mind you, they probably made most of it back again as we all went in the next night to talk about what we'd seen. Having recently watched them again it is with some sadness that I have to report that I do not think they have aged well but the same cannot be said for the books.
Their magazine origins ensure a tight plot with plenty of cliffhangers and they are so much of their time that I don't think they will ever date. Indeed, aging well is, I now think, the prime theme of the sequence. The books are often dismissed as just pieces of fluff- well, apart from what is so bad about that, top class fluff is probably one of the hardest things to write- this also ignores the later books as the younger characters pass into their thirties and forties and, essentially, grow-up and many of them grow old or ill and not just how you deal with aging but how you deal with mortality becomes a prime concern

Maupin has said that this new novel is 'not a continuation of Tales of the City' but it does include just about every character you would expect. The focus is, obviously, on Mouse, or Michael Tolliver as, just about, everyone now knows him. How much of that focus is now on Maupin himself is another question. Unlike many authors who do their semi-autobiographical novel at the beginning of their careers Maupin's later novels seem to be increasingly about him, and here we seem to see one of his most famous characters complete a process begun over 18 years ago and completely morph into his creator. It would be interesting to know how much of Michael Tolliver has seeped into Maupin.

Not a lot happens in the new book, but enough to make the two people I lent the proof to cry, and it is a sad, elegiac book but, like the others, hopeful in the end. I, like the others, loved it, recommend it and have now written too much about it.


Monday, April 23, 2007

william, it was really nothing

well, Sunday came and went and with it our first proper story time and it was certainly a learning experience. There weren't a lot of people- well, to be honest, one child and his dad and while we're being honest I should probably point out that they were here by accident!
Ho hum, but William (and his dad) certainly tried to be a good audience- he listened, he said he'd join in but one page into the first story a more basic instinct took over. 'Room on a broom' began ok but William didn't care for the cat, the plait or the hat- once he saw the cape his Superman fetish became unstoppable- I had lost my audience. I suppose a top-notch storyteller could have recovered from this and if the story had been a basic rhyme scheme maybe I could have managed but Julia Donaldson's rhythms are flawless and, I'm afraid, beyond my ad libbing skills. Anyway, once the conversation turned to Superman and all the tiresome stuff about witches and wolves was forgotten William proved to be a delightful conversationalist and I had a great half hour with him (and his dad) although I think he may have been a bit nervous about me!

The conclusions I've drawn from this is that Sunday afternoon is probably not the best time to be doing a story time. If one or both parents work then maybe standing in a shop listening to someone struggle through a story they've already read to their kids 27 times might not be everyones idea of quality time. Whereas, if you are looking after a child by yourself all day five days a week even with the best will in the world another option is always a good thing. I still like the idea of Sunday readings- the family go out for a nice lunch together and then come to their local bookstore- but I think we'll pick a weekday too- probably Monday or Tuesday.
If anyone has any ideas or if any schools wish to come along please let me know and we'll try and accommodate everyone


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

story time

well last Sunday I had a practice session for what I hope will be a regular event- the Sunday afternoon story-time at the Pan Bookshop. I am still hoping that we can do something with oneword radio and Paul Blezzard but I think that even if that happens that would be for older children- Sunday is for picture flats.
I didn't promote last Sunday very heavily as for the practice run I did not want too many people there- well that worked! Anyway between myself and Jane, who works here Sundays and was an excellent stand-in child, we concluded that 3 stories was about right for an easy half-hour session with time for lots of joining in. Also that I should probably go a little slower, this may be tricky as you can take the boy out of Essex (and even send him to Manchester for 18 years) but you can't ever really take the Essex out of the boy- we like to mangle our vowels and we like to do it at speed! Bear with us though as there'll, hopefully, be a second reader in May, and she can act!
We'll try and do one old favourite, one not so well known and one that's just come out and we'll probably knock a pound off any that are bought on the Sunday. We'll also provide some orange juice (sugar free, of course!)
I hope people can make it- fixing a time is quite tricky and I am open to any other suggestions,
3'0 clock in the afternoon would suit my family the way my two kids work but I realise that may not apply to everyone.
Obviously the idea is to get people into the shop and buy books but it'll only work if the whole thing is fun- everyone that comes to our Harry Potter midnight openings seems to enjoy themselves and that is the atmosphere I'm hoping to get here.

see you Sunday

Sunday, April 08, 2007


As a history reader and, especially, as a buyer I thought that the most annoying reviews were those where the reviewer shows little interest in the book they are, allegedly, discussing but chooses, rather, to use the occasion of a review to demonstrate their own- presumably- remarkable knowledge of the subject. I have seen this time and again from books about the Greeks to tomes pontificating on the end of the last century. Oddly enough it seems that medievalists are the most prone to this irritating habit- but that may be because I read more of their reviews.
I generally assume it is because so many historians live in such small communities that when the shaft of light created by a request from a Books Editor to write for a paper that sells to non specialists comes shining in they rise from their desks blinking and cannot believe their fortune that they now have a platform and cannot resist the urge to shout to the world everything that they know about a subject that they have devoted their entire lives to. On the other hand, I know that historians are very busy people and maybe this is a good way of covering up the fact that they have only read the first and last chapters, looked at the contents list and laughed at the photographs. Either way I can't really blame them- except it does not help me to decide how many of the reviewed book I should stock or give me a clever thing to say about it to potential customers without me having to go to the bother of reading said book.

Anyway, I'm wrong- I'd forgotten about the really, really irritating fiction review. Looking at one for a book I was going to read I came across this- I will massively paraphrase to protect the guilty and so as not to spoil it for others...'A lives alone but finds that B has done a terrible thing. A once had an affair with B but had been responsible for a tragedy in her life'....
the next line of the review is 'The shocking revelation of this secret gradually emerges.' !!!!!
well it bloody doesn't now, does it?
I'll still read the book but how annoying is that? And just to show that this isn't a rhetorical question I'll give it a 9 out of 10.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Looking at this weeks Sunday Times hardback fiction bestsellers chart it is no surprise to find that Ian McEwan has a new book out, 'Chesil Beach' and it goes straight into the top 10. I am slightly surprised, however, to find that we, The Pan Bookshop with your help, have- according to Nielsen Bookscan- sold over 2.5% of the total sales. How cool is that.
This euphoria was somewhat diminished when I realised that the book isn't actually published yet and we may not be on a level playing field with some other shops, i.e they may not have received any stock yet. But even so- 2.5% of the national sales.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I took a half-day yesterday, sadly it wasn't required and I ended up leaving an hour late at 6.00pm. the occasion was that Robert Topping was taking me out to lunch, and anyone who knows him will tell you that it is a wise man who takes a half-day after a lunch with Robert.
Anyway, to no great surprise, I was stood up. I didn't mind as Robert is busy setting up his much anticipated new store in Bath. It's quite fun to be involved in all this, if only very tangentially- losing a member of staff to the new shop, losing my hoped for replacement for said member of staff to said bookshop and going to lunch with the most talked about bookseller of the moment- even at this distance I feel some of the excitement and a small tinge of envy.

except that today I got to cycle in through the parks in the sunshine- stopping at the lake and looking at the sedge (apparently) of herons opposite the Barbara Hepworth at Battersea Park (this is my current favourite view in London, they're nesting and I will never tire of looking at herons standing up on the top of tall trees). I arrive at work where 150 signed copies of 'On Chesil Beach' need to be put in the window after Ian McEwans visit yesterday- 'speed date' two reps who, for quite acceptable reasons, needed to be out of here asap- order the copies of 'Rites of Peace: the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna' (probably the history book I am most looking forward to this year) for when we sell it at the launch party- get the 'kit bags' ready for selling Marina Lewycka's new novel 'Two Caravans' tomorrow night- get given a proof of Armistead Maupin's 'Michael Tolliver Lives' which I'm extremely happy about and just as I come in from lunch I even get to tell a famous TV critic that I thought he had been a bit hard on Shaun the Sheep. Phew, and I've still got 3 hours of my shift left.

Excitement, they don't know the meaning of the word.


Monday, March 26, 2007

re last post

several people have asked how was Saber's leaving do and I know others are curious- well Stuart managed to be 2 hours late for work and although I arrived for 9.30 start (just) by lunch time I was reduced to my no. 1 fallback hangover cure i.e 2 solpadine plus hair of the dog- I guess it was an ok night. (Hanway street was certainly involved)

I did the CD but have forgotten the running order so Saber, if you're reading this could you post the track list.
Also, if we're lucky, Saber might show us the real 'last post' which I know runs to about 4,000 words but haven't seen- so if we all wish very hard......

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Last Post

This is my last blog post. I have realy enjoyed working at the Pan Bookshop. This is possibly the only time that I've left a place of work and been quite sad to do so. I'll miss the customers, my colleagues - who, like almost everybody else in the book industry, are really nice - and a whole bunch of other things. How do you quantify what's really special about one bookshop and not another?

This blog was much much longer ( I wrote it last night more than a little tipsy) but the gist is I will really miss the shop. I've had a happy four years here. I'm off to Bath in a few days. If you're ever down, do look me up.



Monday, March 19, 2007

Things I Will Miss part 2

I'm going to miss one of the biggest talks we've ever sold books at this Wednesday - the day after I finish work.
Jeffery Archer & Frank Moloney will be talking about their new book The Gospel According to Judas, a fictional account of the story of Jesus as retold by Judas' son Benjamin. While I suspect that much, if not most of the publicity has focused on Jeffrey Archer's part in this, it's really worth bearing in mind that this is a joint collobaration between him and Frank Moloney - one of the world's leading Biblical scholars. I suppose (the book is embargoed until the publication date of 20th March) this book is that rare combination of biblical scholarship mixed with storytelling.
If anyone is interested in going to this, and seeing the Pan Bookshop selling books at Westminster Cathedral this Wednesday, please contact


Saturday, March 17, 2007


the new very small and imperfectly formed Pan Bookshop film section finally took form today.
It really is just a few DVD's that I like and hope will sell but will nudge customers into realizing that we can order most films for them for collection next day.

Two main reasons for finally getting around to it are firstly the arrival of 'An Inconvenient truth' at a decent price at our suppliers- we've done well with the book and it seems an obvious idea to sell the film too.
The second reason is maybe more important- the arrival of 'Shoah' on DVD. It has come out more than once in discussions with customers that I don't generally approve of most of the holocaust industry but I do think that everybody should read 'If this is a Man' by Primo Levi and if you have the stomach and curiosity for more you should watch Shoah. Nine and a half hours of testimony hewn from eyewitnesses by Claude Lanzman. Everyman is here as these are the stories of the victims, the perpetrators and the bystanders. Everyone of us could have been any one of them- these are not special people, they could have come from anywhere and their stories are a part of who and what we are.
I can't really convey the power of this film but I used to collect folk stories: after seeing Shoah I stopped, there just didn't seem to be anything more to say


Friday, March 16, 2007

what are things coming to..

the other day someone asked me for the poetry of A.A. Milne. I was already helping someone but all I was doing was looking for the definition of a supposed Scottish word recollected from memory: that fact that none of the large Chambers, the shorter Oxford or the enormous google had heard of the word had not diminished my customers enthusiasm one jot (you get a lot of days like this and it does add to the fun) meant that another customer was like a lifeline.
I take new customer to children's, her eyebrows raise- I show her 'and now we are six' they positively arch. she has just seen a film- in it was a poem but an adult poem, old customer now wants to try a different spelling of Scottish word- I have to go back, calling saber over to help with the film/poem enquiry I once again open the Chambers dictionary.

[I'm temporarily taking over the story here - saber]
About 5 minutes later, I work out that it's a poem by e.e. cummings called- "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in" -by googling various permutations. I'm feeling really quite pleased with myself. We have several editions of e.e. cumming's poetry. I show them to the customer. My favourite edition is the Complete Poems, 1904-1962 which is over a thousand pages. The customer likes the look of it as well and thinks that it would be a great Valentine's present. I'm thinking fantastic, we've sold a £35 poetry book to someone who will really appreciate it. I look up the poem in the index, go to page 766.
Guess what.
It's not there.
Some numpty has ripped out that page.
I'm fuming.
Really angry.
It doesn't take that much effort to google anything nowadays and to print it out. It's just plain vandalism.
Anyway, the customer bought a paperback edition of cummings' poetry.
[back to Julian]

so there you go- they could have asked us, we probably would have printed one poem from google for them- but no.
Anyway on the off chance anyone reading this feels similarly inclined and just because it provides a good excuse to print some e.e. cummings here's the poem

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

(re copyright- I guess google could not complain and I hope Faber realise that this whole blog is just a thinly veiled advert to demonstrate that we are the type of bookshop that stocks £35 hardback poetry books)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Things I Will Miss part 1

How do people find out about books? How do booksellers find out about what's coming out? I'm not talking about the very useful reps who show us highlights (tailored to us) of new books coming out, or various publisher catalogues or even the periodic Bookseller highlights.
Blogs can be useful. I occassionally dip into Scott Pack's blog and have been spurred on to order The Key to Chintak a self-published children's novel which was in the Waterstone's top 10. Follow the original link to find out how the book got to be published (I can never tell stories properly and mangling one that's already told quite well is pointless). And one of my favourite blogs is Snowbooks' not just because it is well-written and very good-humoured, but also because you do get to see a side of publishing that you wouldn't do therwise. Occasionally James and Emma do a little mastercourse on an aspect of publishing. They're really useful. Anyway, she's just blogged about how proofs get made. After reading it, I called up and asked for one. And after reading the proof, you'll probably hear me endlessly extolling the (much-)neglected art of zombie fiction.
But I suppose my favourite way to find out about a book is when a customer comes up to the till and pays for a book I've never seen before or just given a cursory glance to. Today someone bought Michelle Knudsen's The Library Lion. And I went "that looks nice". And she started telling me about it. And then someone else went and bought another copy. I then went and had a look.
I do use hyperbole a lot. Every book I recommend is nice, fantastic etc. I know that devalues my use the absolutes. But The Library Lion is that good.
I know I'll have similar experiences in Bath, but I do like the tastes of our (I can't say that for too much longer) customers here in Chelsea. I'll miss it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

let me count the days

Last night Karen and I went to Tate Britain for the launch of Tracy Chevalier's new novel Burning Bright. It was fantastic - a great venue, gorgeous paintings, really nice people ... If it had only been just this, it woud have been a pretty good launch. What really made it stand out was Michael Horovitz's brilliant performance of Blake's Tyger, Tyger. If I can find a link to it, I will add it to this post.

Monday, March 12, 2007

milkman of human kindness

as you know we've had a couple of break-ins over the last few months, during the last one my wallet went as well. (this is possibly the only time I've left it at work in nearly two decades).
My view of humanity last week was one of a jaded, cynical middle aged man who thought the world was out to get him.
At the end of the week I remembered I'd won a bid on e-bay for a copy of 'The Wild' - a Disney animation that, possibly uniquely, my son thinks is the best film in the world. I hastily apologize for not paying and explain that although my joint card (Royal bank of Scotland take a bow 24hr service) has been replaced, after 4 days my own card (Barclay's take a step backward) hadn't arrived but I'd rather not set up a new paypal account with the joint card. I did say that I was sorry for the delay and so was my son as he was looking forward to seeing the film again.

the reply from the seller was that this was no problem, if I sent them my address they would send the film straight away and I could settle up whenever the card arrived. Wow!

So let's big it up for e-bay seller 'lazybones' as this week I see the world as one full of happy people who all want to help eachother and that anything is possible.


Friday, March 09, 2007


Saber and I have been doing this post for about two weeks now- I've yet to pursuade anyone else to join in but I'm sure they will- and from the traffic thingy we get from Yahoo more people are visiting the blog everyday. hurrah. (but still not very many- hence the lower case and no exclaimation mark my rather simple prose style would normally dictate.)
Anyway, I'd thought I'd just quickly recap as some of the most important items we did in terms of communication were on the first blog which has now fallen over the parapet.

Firstly, We are interested if anyone would like to be our owl for Harry Potter night. I have to admit that thus far we've had no takers although I thought it would be so popular in my minds eye I'd pictured a charity auction for the privlidge. Oh well- if anyone hankers after being Hedwig for a day let us know.

Secondly; we were asking about chidrens reading groups in the shop, especially a possible link with a radio station, well, we've had a few schools and a couple of authors get back to us on that so I'll keep you posted and hopefully something will be running very soon.

Also I've wondered aloud what books our politicians could usefully read, my suggestions so far being Suite Francaise for Tony Blair (great book on the civilian cost of war) and The Great Game for anyone in our defence dept.

And finally, the great Saber's leaving CD appeal was launched- suggestions required for his book related (with one or two exceptions)- compilation. So far the running order is:

New career in a New town- David Bowie (speaks for itself)
The Book Song- Fairport Convention (ditto)
Wuthering heights- Kate Bush
White rabbit- Jefferson Aeroplane
Steppenwolf- Hawkwind
Neon Bible - Arcade Fire (actually I haven't heard this yet as my copy of the album hasn't turned up! althogh sabers' did!!)
Charlote Sometimes- The Cure
Maybe This Time - From Cabaret
Catweazle- Boo Radleys (I'd never heard of , let alone heard, this but the concepts good)
Break on Through - The Doors
Suicide Underground - Air (more or less the entire plot of The Virgin Suicides in one song- sort of)
It's the end of the world as we know it (but I feel fine)- REM