We were absolutely delighted to spend World Book Night with the Friends of Notting Hill Preparatory School Library. The school has been raising funds to completely re-vamp their library, including getting lots of new books.
We had great fun choosing the books for them, and we’re looking forward to helping more schools (and hotels, private homes, boats…) with their libraries in future.
In the ongoing tradition of photographing our bags whenever they are in exotic locales, here is J’s bag at Masada in Israel, where she’s attending the Jerusalem Book Fair.
As grey and horrid as it is outside (and we’re promised snow soon), there are always a few things that cheer up January at L&R.
The first thing is of course a fabulous new selection of paperbacks for our table – including some of our favourite new books of the last year: Alys Always, Gone Girl and HHhH are just a small taste of the books we’re recommending to liven up jaded post-festive palates.
And for your actual jaded post-festive palate, January sees the return of our wonderful home-made, award winning marmalade. Last year our marmalade won a gold award at the Marmalade Awards, which we’re pleased to note are sponsored by Paddington Bear. It really is one of our most delicious preserves, and always in high demand, so pop in and collect your jar soon!
The Soft City (AKA Daniel Speight) spent this morning installing a BookBlock in our window.
Dan’s bespoke illustrations of buildings are printed onto reclaimed books to create a really beautiful, and unique piece of art.
The BookBlock in our window is Lower Marsh Street, and costs £399. Dan will also produce BookBlocks on commission, so do ask us if you’re interested in having your own street, or house recreated.
Jane Finigan has been making paperweights out of found objects for us since we first opened.
She has just produced a beautiful new set of weights with the alphabet on them, made out of a set of playing cards she found in a junk shop.
Jane can also make bespoke paperweights, so it’s always worth asking if you’ve a particular person in mind but you can’t see the right design.
The paperweights are £25 each.
We are so delighted that the brilliant illustrator Serge Seidlitz has produced a series of limited edition prints exclusively for the bookshop.
Like his amazing Bookshelf print these prints are hand silk-screened and then sympathetically framed.
They look so lovely as a set that we’ve found it hard to pick our favourites – the whale? The pens and pencils? The bottle of L&R’s natural remedy? We love them all.
They’re £100 each.
Hallowe’en has been T’s favourite festival for many a year, even more so since Neil Gaiman suggested the idea of All Hallow’s Read, as a book-giving holiday. So she’s been making a big fuss of the most terrifying time of the year this week.
We’ve got a shop-full of spooky books, and a gorgeously orange window, and we’re feeling exceptionally seasonal.
And any little monsters who come past the shop in costume before 6pm on the night itself are welcome to pop in for a small treat.
Claire, our shop manager, reads more books in a week than most people manage in a year, so she’s edited her holiday reading to share the essentials:
For my holiday, I went no further than home in South London and my favourite armchair by the fire (it was cold and grey the week I was off).
I decided my week off should not involve proofs but books I had been meaning to read. I started with GAUDY NIGHT by Dorothy L Sayers, which for some reason I’ve never read although I have read most of the others. Inexplicable as this is definitely her best; a lovely mystery set in an Oxford Ladies College full of eccentric female scholars involving the wonderful Harriet Vane and her perfect ongoing unsentimental romance with Peter Wimsey.
This was followed by A WOMAN IN BERLIN which I’ve been meaning to read since it was first published millions of years ago. It is an extraordinary account of the lives lived by the women of Berlin, and one anonymous woman in particular who kept a diary of the days following the fall of Berlin and the occupation by the Russian soldiers. It is the harrowing story of how these people lived and the lengths they were forced to go to survive.
Betty Miller’s ON THE SIDE OF ANGELS provided a completely different account of wartime life, this time in a Cotswold village but again throwing light on how women’s lives were affected, in this case two very different sisters. Despite it’s awful cover, it’s a great book, emphasising again how differently and vividly those who have lived through the experience write about it.
Then I read WAKE IN FRIGHT by Kenneth Cook, an Australian book kindly recommended to me! Totally gripping and genuinely terrifying, it is the nightmarish tale of a poor Australian teacher who becomes trapped in a small town on his way to Sydney. His misfortune and weak will are taken advantage of and his attempts to escape are foiled at every chance. It also describes one of the most horrific hunting scenes I have ever read but remains an extraordinary read if you can manage to pick up a copy.
I did then panic about the number of proofs to be read before September and picked up the shortest, James Kelman’s MO SAID SHE WAS QUIRKY which is the life in a day and a night of a casino worker. I sort of didn’t expect to enjoy it but it worked and I did!
And finally I finished STONER by John Williams which has been one of the book highlights of my year. Originally published in the 1960s, it is set in the first half of the nineteenth century and is a moving and compassionate story of one man’s life as first a student and then a teacher at the University of Missouri, his marriage to an unstable and ultimately unknowable woman and his fallibility and self- awareness. Twice I nearly found myself in tears and I never cry over books but it is not a tiresome sentimental novel in any way.
Newly-wed Daisy took a stack of books on her honeymoon (we can’t work out how she had room for clothes in her suitcase). She’s posted about her holiday reading on her own blog, from which we present the following extract:
MRS BRIDGE by Evan S. Connell. Small but not-slight work of 1950s magic about a Kansas City Housewife, in which the protagonist does nothing at all, the overall effect of which is devastating. The perfect foil for fans of Updike. Stolen by my fella from my handbag.
THEY WERE SISTERS, by Dorothy Whipple. STUPENDOUSLY enjoyable Persephone re-issue of a novel about middle-class sisters in the north of England, written in 1943. Men! Bastards! With a very good foreword by brilliant contemporary author Celia Brayfield, whose backlist I strongly urge everyone to buy and read deliriously immediately.
THE HONOURED SOCIETY, by Norman Lewis. Lewis is the Author of Naples ‘44, and the Honoured Society is a history of the Sicillian Mafia. Fascinating about why Italy has become the country it is today, and a book you really annoy your travelling companions with by reading long passages out loud and ending them with “Isn’t that AMAZING?”
THE END OF THE AFFAIR by Graham Greene. Absolutely not one for a honeymoon, guys! Other than that, perfect, unforgettable, needs Time to Digest, warrants an immediate re-read, a work of unparalleled genius.
EAST LYNNE by Ellen Wood. Perhaps the only book to take on holiday? Perhaps the best Victorian melodrama of 700 pages involving mysterious governesses ever written? A book to make you clutch the sides and gasp “No!” and “Yes!” and “That Scoundrel!” A book to make you shush your travelling companion when he tells you that you have to get off the train/into the car/out of the bath/that everyone else has left the plane, goddammit. The very definition of a pot-boiler. Defies all attempts at academic discourse, but extremely good on crinolines, consumption and mistaken identity. Ideal in every way.
Jane has just got back from a week in Spain, where she has done nothing but read (and sunbathe), as far as we can tell. Here are her highlights:
MY COUSIN RACHEL by Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca is one of my all time favourite books and My Cousin Rachel is packed full of the same spine-tingling twists and turns and sense of mounting dread as we’re never sure who to trust. I loved it.
THE CAT’S TABLE by Michael Ondaatje
Beautifully written and completely captivating, set in the 1950s on a huge liner bound for England from Sri Lanka, Ondaatje tells the story of 11 year old Michael and his fellow passengers and perfectly captures the ambiguity of adult actions seen through a child’s eyes.
THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF ROALD DAHL
These stories withstand endless revisiting – perfect for reading in between siestas and for reading aloud. My favourite is still The Hitchhiker.
OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout
This was probably my book of the holiday. Set in a small coastal town in Maine, these seemingly unrelated portraits of the town’s inhabitants are woven together by the bossy and brusque Olive Kitteridge. The quote on the front cover says, “as perfect a novel as you will ever read” and I am inclined to agree.