Last night I was at my local indie bookshop and spiritual home Mostly Books for an event to celebrate Independent Booksellers Week. Each year the IBW people commission an essay to be sold as a little booklet only in indie bookshops. Previous authors have been Julian Barnes and Ann Patchett.
Mark Forsyth, author of The Etymologicon, The Horologicon and Elements of Eloquence, and blogger at The Inky Fool, who has been to Abingdon a couple of times before (see a previous report here) has written this year’s essay entitled The Unknown Unknown after Donald Rumsfeld’s famous quote. It’s about the joy of discovering books that you didn’t know you wanted to read when browsing in bookshops amongst other ‘state of the book’ discussions.
I have two extra copies of this great essay, which Mark kindly signed for me, to giveaway – details at the bottom of the post.
Mark (left) is on tour throughout IBW, and last night came to Abingdon to talk to us. The previous night he’d been at a big event at the new Foyles ‘The Great Bookshop Debate’.
Mark and Mark from the bookshop started off the evening talking about the essay and its main theme of ‘Discoverability’ – it’s difficult to google or search amazon for books you’re not aware of – but walk into a bookshop and you’ll find all those books you didn’t know about and didn’t know you wanted to read – it’s the joy of browsing. He told us how this very afternoon he found a book in a bookshop that he didn’t know he wanted – Peter Rabbit in hieroglyphics!
They talked about how the publishing industry appears to think the physical book is ‘doomed!’ (in Dad’s Army pronounciation of course), but Forsyth thinks they are whingeing a bit and it’s not as bad as all that. Actually it’s going alright he said, especially when you think about how the younger generation are communicating in text – you have to craft a text or tweet. He thinks the world is getting more literate in this respect. Also, surprisingly, he said that ‘e-books have made books beautiful again.’ Publishers are working harder on covers etc to attract readers of physical books. He’s also not a fan of bookshops turning into coffee shops with a few books – people have to pick up the books to discover they want them. Forsyth is a very engaging and refreshingly honest speaker which made for good conversation.
Browsing in the bookshop after the talk, I did find an ‘unknown unknown’ book that I just had to buy … In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge (trans from the German by Anthea Bell). Which brings me to the…
* * * * * GIVEAWAY * * * * *
It was a lovely evening and I bought two extra copies of Mark’s essay to give away to you lot, which he kindly signed for me. These are limited editions and can only be bought in UK indie bookshops. I will happily send them worldwide. You have until UK tea-time on Wednesday.
To go into the draw, please tell me about the last ‘unknown unknown’ book that you purchased (preferably in an independent bookshop – and give the shop a plug).
* * * * *
To explore further on Amazon, please click below:
The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase by Mark Forsyth. Icon books 2013. 224 pages, hardback.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit (transcribed into Egyptian Hieroglyphic script) by Beatrix Potter.
In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge. Faber paperback.
8 thoughts on “Celebrating IBW with the Inky Fool & a Giveaway”
This sounds like such a fun evening, and I really like what was said. I don’t think the physical book is going anywhere, and I agree that books are getting lovelier and appreciate that a lot. I’d love to get put in the draw. My favourite indie is at Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast (just called the Aldeburgh bookshop). Last time I was there, I picked up Ben MacIntyre’s non-fiction book about James Bond, and a thriller by Julian Crouch, neither of which I’d heard of before going in. It’s a little treasure trove!
I am so envious of you having a nearby independent. We have none left in the Birmingham area now and the nearest two (both well over an hours drive away) are both up for sale with no guarantee that they will remains bookshops. My best unknown unknown (which was not my last but the one that had the greatest influence on me) was May Sarton’s autobiographical work ‘Journal of a Solitude’ which I bought in The Silver Moon bookshop in the Charing Cross road. Alas, another independent that has bitten the dust.
Oh, I do wish I had a local indy – I would snap this up! The last unknown unknown I stumbled across was in Foyles – which is a lovely place to be anyway! It was “That Awful Mess on the Via Marulana” by Carlo Emilio Gadda and several things caught my eye – it was a NYRB book; it had an introduction by Italo Calvino; and it was translated by his excellent translator. I would never have come across it had Foyles not had a lovely display of NYRB books – so much to be appreciated!
Like Alex I rue the loss of independent bookshops – when I lived in Salisbury many years ago there must have been a dozen. And I remember the lovely Silver Moon bookshop too – I used to spend many a happy hour in their, browsing the books and have tea and cake in the downstairs cafe. *sigh*
I found Is This The End of the Book? How appropriate is that? At my local wonderful Kew Bookshop (actually my local local is the Sheen Bookshop and there’s also the Barnes Bookshop : three wonderful Indy bookshops in SW London).
I love book stores. Sadly they are going the way of the dinosaur around here. Browsing a while back in my local, Mary Ryan Book Shop, I found “Chopin, the Reluctant Romantic” by Jeremy Siepmann. Not a book I would have stumbled upon except that the chippy behind the counter was reading it. (A music major.)
What a nice evening that sounds. The only independent bookshop I have visited here in France is Shakespeare and Company in Paris, last year, but I didn’t buy anything. My favourite in England is Broadhursts in Southport, which used be to local for me. Four floors of books, new and used, a roaring fire in the winter, and books wrapped for you in brown paper and string. It’s a few years since I was there, and can’t remember what I bought, so can’t enter the draw, but happy to give them a plug.
“Memoirs of a Midget” by Walter de la Mare purchased from Liskeard Bookshop the week before last. While aware of de la Mare’s poetry, this work was a complete surprise to me. The prose is unquestionably elegant and it is a slightly bizarre tale of isolation. But a little gem for all that. To quote Rebecca West (and who wouldn’t?) “One of the strangest and most enchanting works of fiction ever written.”
I purchased this with “A view of the harbour” by Elizabeth Taylor, and a used copy of “All aboard for Ararat” by H G Wells.
I’m 50 miles from my nearest indy which meant I couldn’t get to one this week to pick up the lovely unknown unknown you’re offering here. Last time I was at Daunt’s Books in London though (a mere 387 miles away) a copy of Dubravka Ugresic’s Europe in Sepia forced itself on me! You know how that goes …