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).
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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.