… in which I am reminded why I love library sales!


And also the local charity shops, of course. I *have* been diligently taking books to donate every week I can recently, as many as I can carry (and this week’s pile was particularly heavy). However, that hasn’t stopped the incoming volumes, and I suspect the ratio of out to in is only keeping the amount of books in the house static 😦

Nevertheless, this week’s finds were particularly lovely! The first came from the Samaritans Book Cave, where I mostly donate:



I used to read a *lot* of sci-fi/fantasy in my youth, but have tended to drift away from it. But it’s been rather calling to me, and I never did read McCaffrey, so I thought I would give this a whirl. I think it’s one of her more famous titles, plus it has a lovely vintage cover! 🙂

Next up was a call into the Oxfam, who were having a buy one, get one half price promotion on all their fiction:

wildwood hatchett

Another Nigel Williams title – yay! And no, I don’t know why Wildwood was shelved with fiction either, but I came home with these two for less than £3 which has to be good. Roger Deakin seems to get plaudits everywhere so I’m looking forward to this.

And finally I had to return a library book, so it would have been rude not to check out their summer book sale, especially as this nice Hesperus volume screamed at me while I passed:


And it cost – 20p…..

I now have three lovely Francoise Sagan volumes, all different editions and all lovely in their own way@


I reviewed Bonjour Tristesse here a while back, and I recently read A Certain Smile, which I will eventually get round to reviewing. Sagan’s an intriguing writer, capturing very much her time and her age in the first two books I’ve read – I’ll be interested to see what her other works bring!

So some nice (and very reasonably priced!) finds! It’s a shame libraries can’t hold on to all their stock, but it does work to my advantage sometimes… 😉


Serendipity strikes again!


I missed out on my usual visit to charity shops last weekend as we had to hop off to Leicester to fetch home Youngest Child for the summer (and say a fleeting hello to Middle and Eldest Child). However, I decided I *would* donate a few more big books today so of course I had to cast an eye over the shelves in the Samaritan’s Book Cave just to see if there was anything of interest. And indeed there was…


I’ve been on the look out for more of Williams’ books since loving his “Two and Half Men in a Boat” recently – in particular any of the Wimbledon Poisoner series. So although I’m going off collected omnibus volumes, the three books in one for £1 was impossible to resist. The books have seen a bit of wear and water, I think, but will be fine as a reading copy!

And in the Oxfam, this caught my eye:


Not that I’m really *collecting* these vintage Penguin poetry collections or anything (ahem!) – but this looked intriguing and too good to miss. There’s an amazing array of poets included and I’m going to try to train myself to dip into things like this, instead of thinking I have to read them all the way through!

So – five chunksters out and two in (I’m counting the Williams as one!)

socialist poison

But I think I will try to improve the ratio a little more in future….

Jolly boating weather…..


Two and A Half Men in a Boat by Nigel Williams

There’s nothing like stumbling on a random book in a charity shop which turns out to be a great read! But that was the case with this lovely volume that I picked up last month in the Oxfam. Nigel Williams is known for working for the BBC and probably best as a writer for his “Wimbledon Poisoner” series of books. However, the title of this one caught my eye – I’m a sucker for “Three Men in a Boat” and anything spinning off from it (to the extent of watching silly TV shows where men mess about in boats in homage to Jerome, and even reading Connie Willis’ “To Say Nothing of the Dog”). So it went without saying that I would want to read Nigel Williams’ 1990 take on the concept.


The book opens with Nigel being terrified by a visit from Inland Revenue men (who come across more like the Gestapo or the Cheka). Traumatised by the whole experience, he mopes nervously around the house until one of his sons (no doubt fed up with his behaviour) suggests he takes a trip up the river. But who should he take along? After much debating, Nigel settles on JP, an extremely competent traveller and filmmaker, who thinks nothing of popping up Everest and is no doubt going to be ideal for any emergency. The third man is more difficult – Nigel settles on Alan (presumably Yentob, who I believe was his boss at the BBC at the time); however, Alan is a man so important and indispensable that he is committed for about a year ahead and has to have meetings about having meetings. What chance is there of JP and Nigel getting past his barrage of secretaries and pinning him down to a few days on a boat?

However, with a reluctant Lurcher called Badger in tow, JP and Nigel set off – and it’s telling that Badger attaches himself firmly to JP, despite being owned by Nigel, as he obviously recognises which of them would be the superior man in a crisis! However, the main issue initially is their lack of experience at rowing and the physical toll it takes them as they make their way up the Thames. There are run-ins with modern youth, angry lock-keepers and publicans who don’t like dogs. JP proves himself to be more than competent at just about everything, Nigel meditates on the ethics of being towed versus sticking to rowing, Alan makes a flying visit accompanied by a mass of friends and contacts plus Nigel’s family and a giant picnic, and eventually the group become Three Men and row on to their finishing point.

On the way, there’s space for plenty of musing on the way the world has changed since Jerome’s time and the need to get away from the hectic modern pace, gadgets, phones, answering machines etc. It struck me how much stronger than need would be now, with most younger people permanently attached to their phones or whatever mobile gadget they carry, and how this book, written in the 1990s and featuring the most basic of modern technology, is even more relevant today.

Cleverly woven into the book is a lot of background information about Jerome K. Jerome, his life and work, and the critical reception he had at the time. Much of this was new to me, and it seems that Jerome just wanted to be taken seriously as a writer. I wonder how he would have felt about being remembered for a humorous work? (although I have to say that I feel “Three Men” is much more than that, and has a lot of say about the human condition).

nigel williams

There is in “Two and a Half Men”, of course, plenty of humour. Williams is a very funny writer, and I think the opening chapters were some of the wittiest I’ve read for a long time – in the form of real laugh-out-loud writing. There were a lot of laughs in the latter parts of the book, but also some philosophising too (which matches the original book very cleverly). I liked Williams’ extensive use of footnotes too, which were funny and informative at the same time; and one chapter consisted of a single sentence plus several pages of footnote where he paid tribute to his wife’s amazing picnic which was more like a professional buffet served at the side of a river.

The original “Three Men and a Boat” was about the need at that time to escape from the everyday and the rat-race; and although the trappings and the technology around us have changed dramatically, the basic need to escape has not. We humans still long for the simple life and a gentle trip up a river messing about on a boat. Williams’ book manages to be funny and profound at the same time, much like the original, and it was pure joy from start to finish!

Seven out, two in (well, two and half really….)


… which is quite apt, given one of the titles of the book!

Yes, the gradual weeding out of unwanted volumes continues and today I took another seven off to donate. I’m actually finding it relatively unpainful so far, although I haven’t yet got onto the books which it will be an emotional wrench to part with. But I figured if I keep taking in a few at a time they will gradually thin out to the ones I *must* keep, and seven fairly large book is all I could carry.

I think bringing back two and a half in return is a reasonable ratio, and these are they:

two and a half

I *had* planned to buy the half a book – the Cavafy Little Black Classic – as his name keeps cropping up and then I read this excellent post about his poetry, and figured I could commit 80p to discovering his work! But the other two were charity shop finds.

“The President’s Hat” is by an author I’d never heard of, but it’s from what appears to be a small press (that’s good),  is in a nice edition with French flaps (even better) and sounds funny and intriguing (so just right for me!)

As for the Nigel Williams – again, he’s an author I keep circling, thinking I really should read “The Wimbledon Poisoner”. This, however, is non fiction – an attempt in the 1990s to recreate “Three Men in a Boat” (for which I’m a sucker) and the first page was funny enough to get me snatching the book up (and being quite surprised that it was only 99p).

I feel happy enough buying these as I’m sure they’re books I’ll actually read (in fact, I’ve already finished the Williams one though I have such a backlog it’ll be weeks till I review it…). And the ratio of in to out is still good, no?? 🙂

%d bloggers like this: