My week in books – wrapped up

*I’m a bookseller again!*

The bookshop where I work opened its doors to the public on Monday after many long weeks of lockdown. It’s been an incredible and surreal experience; on the one hand I’m now talking to my regulars through a Perspex screen, which takes some getting used to, but on the other, the beautiful comments we’ve had from customers who are over the moon to have their local bookshop back have been overwhelming. It’s easy to forget how much of an impact books can have on people’s lives, and this week I’ve felt honoured to play a small part in that.

All this has meant it’s been an unusually lean week for reading and writing – after over two months of being furloughed returning to a full-time job has proved to be quite draining, and my evenings have mostly been about cobbling together some dinner, pulling on my pyjamas and being dead to the world before it’s even completely dark. However, there have been a couple of bookish highlights!

*Book purchases*

I’ve limited myself to just two this week:

  • Bone China by Laura Purcell – I’ve never read any of her novels before, but she’s a name that keeps popping up across a number of book blogs I follow, and I decided it was time to give her a try. I’ve been in the mood for a bit of creepiness lately (see my recent posts on M R James and Melmoth) and this continues the theme.
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – honestly, I’ve seen sooooo many good reviews of this one! I loved the synopsis and whereas it usually takes a lot to tempt me into splurging on a hardback, this was one temptation I couldn’t resist.

*Mission accomplished (otherwise known as books finished this week)*

Just the one book finished this week, but it’s a good ‘un: The Last Protector by the always fabulous Andrew Taylor. If you’re a fan of C J Sansom, S J Parris or similar historical crime authors then this is one series you have to try. Review will be up on the blog shortly!

I promise I will try my best to up the blogging again next week, but in the meantime, thanks for reading and see you back on This Girl’s Book Room soon!

My week in books – wrapped up

It’s been quite a hectic week in the world of This Girl’s Book Room, and one packed to the rafters with books as usual.

*Back in the bookshop*

After more than two long months of lockdown I was finally back in my beloved bookshop this week, prepping for our opening on Monday. I’m not going to lie, it was very surreal getting the place kitted out with till screens, sanitiser stations and one way signage but with it all in place I now feel strangely calm, happy we’ve done all we can to make the place safe. It’s going to be a very different type of bookselling environment we’re all going back into and I have very mixed feelings about it if I’m honest; but one thing I can say with certainty is I know huge numbers of our customers are going to be delighted to have their book haven back, albeit in a somewhat different form.

*Bookpost*

You’d be hard pushed to find many things more exciting than coming home to find a parcel of books on your doorstep and I had two this week – yay! The latest books to join the Book Room collection are:

  • Little by Edward Carey – I’ve had my eye on this for months and never got round to it, but after a friend’s recommendation (during a socially-distanced iced latte) I decided to pull my finger out and order a copy.
  • Cutting it Short by Bohumil Hrabal – I stumbled across a review of this book on the brilliant Vishy’s Blog and there was just something about his description of it that caught my imagination; I’m really looking forward to giving it a try.
  • The Cat and the City by Nick Bradley – almost every time I’ve been on Twitter over the past fortnight I’ve seen someone raving about this book. If you’re a regular visitor to my blog you’ll know I’ve been reading a fair amount of Japanese fiction lately, so the idea of a cat wandering around Tokyo linking the stories of its diverse inhabitants sounded purrrrr-fect (sorry.)

*Currently Reading*

I’ve just started a book I purchased a few weeks ago: The Descent of Man by the awesome human being that is Grayson Perry. I’ve not got far yet, but already his perspective on male privilege and the social damage caused by centuries-old conventions of masculinity is a real breath of fresh air.

Hope you’ve had as many great books in your life this week as I have! Happy reading.

Six Degrees of Separation – this month’s journey in 6 books

The Six Degrees of Separation challenge has got to be one of the most fun things I’ve discovered while running my book blog. It’s hosted by Books are my favourite and best and it’s really easy to join in. Each month, the hosts choose a different book as a starting point and you simply have to create a chain of six books, with each one connected in some way to the one before. The link could be a shared theme or setting, or something more personal, such as another book recommended by the same friend. It’s fascinating to see how different each person’s chain looks; if you want to check out some other bloggers’ connections, have a look at the 6 Degrees page on the host’s blog, or follow the #6Degrees hashtag on Twitter. Even better, have a go yourself, post the link to your blog on the 6 Degrees comments section and join the conversation!

This month’s starting book is Normal People by Sally Rooney. Now, I’m fully expecting there to be universal outrage at what I’m going to say next, but I tried this and absolutely hated it, giving up on it pretty quickly and remaining to this day completely mystified as to why so many people loved it so much! Safest then to brush that one under the carpet and move rapidly on to my 6 degrees…..

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

I moved on to this book via a very simple connection: the fact that Sally Rooney and Maggie O’Farrell both hail from Ireland (ok, one from the Republic of Ireland and one from Northern Ireland but I hope you’ll allow me that as I was struggling to get off the ground!) I loooooove Maggie O’Farrell and it was a tough choice between this and This Must be the Place; having plumped for this one though, I next moved on to

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

I only finished reading The Makioka Sisters a few weeks ago, and adored it. Like The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, the relationship between sisters is fundamental to the plot and forms the heart of the novel. From here it’s a very small hop to another Japanese novel:

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicleby Haruki Murakami

Out of all the Japanese novels I could have chosen to form my next connection, I picked this one because it’s another book that’s recently been reissued by Vintage in the same series as The Makioka Sisters. This series comprises 5 Japanese classics, all with gorgeous new cover illustrations – if you haven’t seen them yet, do have a look next time you’re in your local bookshop. I have to confess (again) I didn’t particularly enjoy The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; however, when I started working as a bookseller in the early 2000s, it was on a list of recommendations given to me by my new colleagues of contemporary fiction every bookseller should read! Up to that point I was very much a classics girl, but it was some of the books from this list that got me into the hitherto alien world of modern fiction. I’ve never looked back. Another one from that list – but one that blew my socks off – was

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I don’t know many people who haven’t read this, but if you’re one of them – make it your next read! It’s a sinister story of death, betrayal and fracturing friendships among a clique of elite students at an American university. A very similar set of characters is to be found in…..

The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood

….only this time the action is set in England, at Cambridge University. Again, it features a privileged group of young intellectuals, over whom the precocious – and increasingly erratic – Eden Bellwether holds sway. It’s uncomfortable, unsettling and also really enjoyable. And it brings me to my final link in this month’s 6 degrees of separation:

All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison

It’s an award that links these final two books: both were nominated for the EU Prize for Literature. Benjamin Wood didn’t win, but All Among the Barley was the UK winner last year. It’s been on my TBR pile for quite a while; someone told me in passing that it was a really heartbreaking read, and quite honestly I don’t feel up for that right now!

I really hope you enjoyed my 6 degrees! You’ve got a whole month to join in if you’d like to; I for one would love to see what you come up with.

Thanks for reading.

A calm and quiet Wednesday

Somehow blogging doesn’t seem like the appropriate thing to do this week. When you’ve witnessed such distressing scenes as have been broadcast into our homes over the last few days, suddenly my opinions on the book I’m reading seem not just unimportant, but almost insulting to everyone who’s out there fighting battles with which I, through the luck of my socially privileged position, will never have to contend . My head feels crammed to breaking point, the pent up feelings that have gradually been building during the weeks of isolation finally pushed to breaking point by the despair of witnessing man’s inhumanity to man – I don’t know about you, but sometimes it simply feels like to much misery, too much grief, too much injustice to even begin to comprehend.

I will be back of course, because reading is not only escapism but an opportunity to listen, to learn and to broaden our understanding if we use it in the right way. But for tonight, I’m going to sit and watch the light fade from the sky, and I’m going to breathe, and contemplate, and refocus. It’s about trying to find that balance between wrapping ourselves in the comfort blanket of the things we love, and looking outside of our bubble to witness – and not only witness but intellectually explore – the parts of life we may wish we didn’t have to see.

Thank you for reading: the books will be back very soon. In the meantime I wish you a peaceful Wednesday.

Weekend Book Haul!

haul

Happy Saturday everyone!  Very much hope you’re managing to find some reading time this weekend.  I’m massively excited about my latest book haul (I think this is now the 6th book delivery since the start of lockdown but I’m losing track!) – expect to hear me talking about these beauties over the coming weeks….

Isabella – Alison Weir

I caught up with a really interesting BBC4 documentary on iPlayer a few days ago exploring the nature of power and hierarchy in the Middle Ages.  Queen Isabella got a very brief mention, but it was enough to make me keen to find out more about her.  I love Alison Weir’s history books so this was the obvious choice; she crams in a huge amount of detail and analysis, but in such a readable way it’s easily accessible even if you have no prior knowledge of the period or people in question.

Flights – Olga Tokarczuk

Earlier this week I was chatting to Princess and Pages about Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by the same author, and I mentioned that I’d deliberately not read Flights because of a couple of fellow booksellers saying they’d been disappointed by it in comparison.  Following our conversation I’ve been converted (this is why I love book bloggers so much!) and am really looking forward to giving it a try; I think it’s going to be very different in tone and format from Drive Your Plow, but I’m going in with an optimistic frame of mind.

The Descent of Man – Grayson Perry

This one’s been on my radar for absolutely ages, but it took the brilliant Grayson Perry’s Art School on Channel 4 (is anyone else loving this as much as I am?) to remind me to finally buy it.  I’ve read a number of books looking at gender and society from a female perspective, and I can’t think of anyone better than Perry to provide a thoughtful balance.

Thanks for reading as ever, stay well and stay smiling.

Related posts: My Top 5 Reads of 2020

Japanese journeys

A few days ago I came across a blog post by Amy from Curiouser and Curiouser talking about the books she’d been reading as part of the 2020 Japanese literature challenge, hosted by Meredith at Dolce Bellezza.  The idea was to read and review fiction originally written in Japanese between January and March this year – sadly, I’m a bit late to the party as regards taking part in the challenge, but I hope both bloggers will forgive me for using it as inspiration to share some of the Japanese novels I’ve been reading over the past few months.  When I started thinking about it I realised there were quite a few!  Here are some of the ones that have intrigued me the most….

The Forest of Wool and Steel – Natsu Miyashita

forest wool

This novel tells the story of a young piano tuner and his lifelong quest to master his craft.  Not a virtuoso player himself, he nonetheless has an astonishingly acute ear for the different tones and styles in which his clients play, and sees it as his calling to tune each piano according to the unique needs of its pianist.  He develops a particular fascination with a pair of twins, Kazune and Yuni, both young prodigies but both completely different in the way they communicate through their music, and it’s this relationship dynamic that provides the novel’s backbone.  I really loved it; it was such an unusual subject matter, and even during the more emotionally intense moments the writing maintained an air of poise and gentleness in  keeping with the finesse of the music that it described with so much colour.

A Midsummer’s Equation – Keigo Higashino

equation

I’m not a huge crime person, but I do love Keigo Higashino’s crime thrillers.  His characters are always utterly believable and very well rounded compared to some thrillers I’ve read where the supporting cast is pretty two-dimensional.  This is one of the books that features his recurring character, the physicist Yukawa – a slightly unlikely-sounding protagonist but one who nevertheless has a natural instinct for investigation and crime-solving.  The Devotion of Suspect X is still my favourite of Higashino’s novels so far I think (although it’s a close call) but this is still extremely enjoyable, and the story has an interesting – and relevant – environmental theme running through it, as naturalists and environmental campaigners go head to head with a development company hoping to gain a foothold in a fading coastal resort town, with inevitably fatal results!  Even if you don’t think you’re a crime fan, I would definitely urge you to pick up one of Higashino’s books and give it a try.

Dandelions – Yasunari Kawabata

dandelions

Honestly, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed this book, but I’ve decided to include it here because, if nothing else, it’s memorable for its strange plot and surreal atmosphere.  A fun read it may not be, but it sticks in your head afterwards nevertheless.  The story centres around a young woman who has developed selective blindness; in the beginning, she found a ping-pong ball disappeared inexplicably from view, and now she is unable to see her fiancé.  The book begins as her fiancé and mother leave the asylum in which the girl has been placed, and follows them over the subsequent day and night as they discuss her mysterious affliction.  That’s pretty much it in terms of plot: the whole book is essentially a conversation between two people with sometimes coinciding and sometimes conflicting ideas of what this bizarre occurrence means.  I’m sure there’s some thought-provoking philosophical stuff buried amid the peculiarity, but I found it hard to engage with and finished the book feeling I’d probably missed the point.  If you want to try something unusual though (and short – it’s only 132 pages, although even that felt long at times!) then there’s weirdness here in spades.

Tokyo Ueno Station – Yu Miri

tokyo

It was the stylish cover art that first drew me to this book, but the inside was just as fabulous.  It’s narrated by a ghost – although if that sounds too much like a gimmick, don’t let it put you off; the effect is so subtle that it becomes simply the tale of a man looking back on his life and watching a familiar world warp, change and disappear.  It’s a delicate and skillful combination of the tragically sad and exquisitely beautiful, as the narrator takes us through his experiences of love, death, homelessness, friendship and loneliness, all against backdrop of a changing Japan that feels like a living, breathing character in its own right.  I think if I had to pick one out of all the books I’ve talked about in this post, this would be the one I’d recommend you read.

Thanks for reading – I’d love to here about any Japanese fiction you’ve read recently, or if you’ve read any of these, what did you think?

 

My May Reading List

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I know from reading the blogs and tweets of my book-loving friends that I’m not the only one struggling to concentrate on reading (or anything much) at the moment.  It’s not that the tempting titles aren’t there, but there’s simply so much chaos, stress and confusion going on in what’s become an almost unrecognisable world that it can’t help but filter its way into everyone’s minds and hearts, whether we’ve been personally touched by the current tragedy or not.  On the days when I do feel inclined to pick up a book, however, they’ve come to my rescue as they always do and taken me to a far more manageable place, if only for a while.  So although May has got off to a bit of a slow start, over the next few weeks I’m going to make a concerted effort to take time away from the news and social media, and just relax with my paperback friends.  If you’re in need of some inspiration yourself, here are my picks for this month.

A Map of the Damage – Sophia Tobin

I’ve been a fan of this author since I read her first book, The Silversmith’s Wife, so I was crazily excited when I saw that her latest was about to be released in paperback.  I started reading it a few days ago and it’s already made me cry, made me angry and got me utterly hooked – so a good start then!

The Makioka Sisters – Junichiro Tanizaki

Another bookseller recommended this to me, calling it “the Japanese Little Women” and my word it’s lived up to the comparison so far!  Told almost entirely from a female perspective, it’s a real cultural eye-opener, shedding light on the expectations, conventions and disappointments of marriage among the more privileged elements of pre-war Japanese society.  I’m loving it so much, at the moment it looks set to be a contender for one of my books of the year so far.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – Carlo Rovelli

I read Reality is Not What it Seems last year and was surprised how much I enjoyed it (and also, I’m not going to lie, a little bit chuffed how much I managed to grasp) so decided to give this one a go.  To be fair, any understanding I gleaned from the aforementioned title was entirely down to the author’s skill at conveying complex concepts in an accessible way rather than any innate scientific instinct on my part, so I’m very much hoping he pulls off the same trick with this one.

Collected Ghost Stories – M R James

I’m utterly useless when it comes to ghost stories, horror films or anything remotely spooky, and I usually avoid them like the plague, knowing if I don’t I’ll be sleeping with the light on for at least a week afterwards.  My sister gave me her spare copy of the book this week (with a warning that at least two of the stories are guaranteed to freak me out completely), and I very bravely started tackling it this afternoon.  I have to say, sitting under a tree in the sunshine it didn’t seem that bad, but we’ll have to wait and see how I feel about it when darkness falls…..

What’s on your TBR pile this May?  Anything you’ve started reading that you’re particularly enjoying?  As always, please do share your comments!

 

Six Degrees of Separation – a journey in 6 books!

Something new on This Girl’s Book Room today! The Six Degrees of Separation meme is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best and it’s really easy to join in. Each month you get given a book as a starting point, and from there you create a chain of 6 more books, each with a link to the previous one. The connection can be anything you like – it can be related to the book itself, such as a theme or setting, or something more personal, such as another book you read on the same holiday or that was recommended by the same friend. This month was the first time I’ve taken part and honestly, I had so so much fun rifling through the bookshelves to make my book chain! If you fancy having a go, you can leave a link to your 6 Degrees blog post in the comments section over on Kate’s page here, and you can join in on Twitter too using the hashtag #6Degrees. So without further ado, here are my 6 degrees of separation.

This month’s starting book is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’ve never read it, so I thought I’d use the fact that it won the Pulitzer Prize to take me to my next title, which is…..

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This is one of my all time favourite books! Like The Road, it also won the Pullitzer Prize a few years ago, and is set primarily in France during the Second World War. The Paris setting inspired me to go for my next choice, which is….

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper

This novel follows the lives of a group of residents in a Paris apartment block; however, beyond the personal stories of love and loss, it also deals with the wider themes of culture and belonging, in particular in relation to the growing anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic feeling festering behind the closed doors of Number 37 and across the city. This notion of culture clash, and of being treated as an outsider in your home country leads me to….

The Immigrant by Manju Kapur

This tells the story of a woman from India who moves to Canada following an arranged marriage. It’s a brilliant, although often quite sad, story of feeling torn between two opposing cultures and identities. I took the book’s theme of moving across the world to start a new life to take me to my next choice….

The Colour by Rose Tremain

This tells the story of a couple who emigrate from England to New Zealand in the hope of making their fortune from the goldrush that gripped the country in the nineteenth century. From here, there was only really one book that I could pick next!

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

This is also set in goldrush New Zealand; I found it a pretty challenging read I have to admit, in terms of its length and also its labyrinth of plots and characters, but it was certainly highly rated, and went on to win the Man Booker Prize. Which brings me neatly to my last book….

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

Once I got as far as The Luminaries I knew another Booker prize winner would give me a nice long list of titles to choose from – but which one? In the end, I simply decided to go for one I’d really enjoyed, and this was it.

So there we are – from The Road to The Sea, The Sea in 6 books! Please do comment and let me know if you’ve taken part; it’s really fascinating to see which direction everyone takes and where they end up!

My top 5 reads of 2020

top 5 2020

Back in 2018 I started keeping a log of all the books I read over the course of a year (the old fashioned way, with a notebook and pen, naturally!)  It came about partly out of a desire to count how many books I actually got through in 12 months – not as many, incidentally, as I would have guessed before I started keeping score – but also because when you’re on a continuous reading cycle I find it can be really hard to recall what you were reading even a few weeks earlier, so absorbed do you become in the latest book pile.  With current events playing havoc with perceptions of time (I barely even know what day of the week it is anymore) I suddenly felt the urge to get my notebook out this morning, in the hope that looking back over this year’s reading would drag me back into some kind of meaningful mental timeframe.  Not entirely sure the strategy worked, but what it did make me realise was how many great books I’ve already enjoyed this year; of course, because I only returned to my blog a couple of weeks ago after quite a long time away, that means a whole host of fantastic recommends I haven’t yet shared!  So I thought it would be fun to do a run down of my top 5 reads of 2020 so far, and here they are – in no particular order (that was too hard!)

Chernobyl – Serhii Plokhy

I found this book via quite a surprising recommendation, from someone I would never have imagined enjoying a book on this topic.  I have to admit I’d looked at it previously and assumed (with little reason and completely unfairly it turns out) that it would be quite dry, but following my friend’s enthusiasm decided to give it a go.  And I have to say, it absolutely blew me away.  Its analysis of the tragic event and the politics surrounding it was absolutely forensic in its detail, yet it remained constantly gripping right to the end, when the disaster itself was receding into the past but the political machinations were far from over.  Be warned, it will make you furious, and also incredulous that any state could disregard the lives of its citizens so rashly in order to maintain a political advantage; but I do believe it needs to be read, if only in order to understand what corruption and deceit institutions are capable of.

Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez

Another book that will leave you absolutely enraged (I realised while writing this there’s a definite theme emerging!), this time about how women have not only been short-changed by societies across the world, but actively put at risk and in the most extreme cases, effectively killed by assumptions that normality = masculinity.  The book hinges on the idea that since pretty much the dawn of civilisation, a male-dominated society has equated humankind with mankind, leading to a blank space where women’s data should be, with horrendously discriminatory results.  From crash test dummies that are based exclusively on the male physique to pharmaceutical companies that run all-male tests leading to drugs that are less effective – or even harmful – to the female body, the pervasive nature of this absence of women will shock and horrify you.  Read it, then get all your friends of all genders to read it – I honestly believe this is one of the most important messages I’ve come across in any book over recent years.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead – Olga Tokarczuk

Laced with a merciless dose of pitch-black humour, this novel bares its teeth and goes for the throat of Polish society.  Patriarchal authority figures, blood sports enthusiasts, the institutions of law and order that ostensibly work for the greater good of society while marginalising those who fall outside the “boys’ club” of politics and business – none are safe from this stinging literary attack.  This superb novel has minutely realised characters, and follows a series of macabre events that will leave you caught somewhere between laughter and revulsion; it’s memorable, stylish and completely different.  Apparently it caused an uproar in Poland when it was published, which possibly shows how acutely on-point the satire was….

The Five – Hallie Rubenhold

For decades our ghoulish obsession with Jack the Ripper, in particular the titillating spin that’s been attached repeatedly to his crimes by the accepted mythology around his victims being prostitutes, has completely overshadowed one crucial fact: those he killed were all real people who had a story of their own before they came to be notable in history merely as dead bodies.  In this book, Hallie Rubenhold gives these women back their voices, and in doing so dismantles many of the lurid assumptions that have surrounded them for so long.  In keeping with the theme of my favourite books of 2020, yes, it will make you a little angry – every single one of these women were let down by a society that left no room for a woman to survive and make a life for herself without a man by her side on which to depend.  But it will also make you extremely sad, and yet grateful to the author for putting these victims back into the spotlight as living people, rather than corpses on a street corner.

Austerlitz – W G Sebald

Since I read this back in February I’ve been recommending it to tons of people; it’s one of those novels that’s so unique it sticks in your mind long after the last page.  It’s unusual in that it masquerades as a true story, even to the point where it includes photographs that purport to be of places and people connected to the main characters.  It’s so convincing that while you’re reading part of you starts to wonder if indeed these people are in fact real and this truly is a biography.  That’s not the case, but it is a thoroughly authentic exploration of suffering and loss, and what that does to the psyche over many decades.  The background to Austerlitz’s story is the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews around the time of the Second World War; however, the inevitable fate of his family and the horrific situation from which he managed to escape are only hinted at.  The sadness is somehow more powerful for being so opaque; it’s a truly affecting novel, mighty in its quietude and subtlety.

Which have been your favourite books of 2020 so far?  Do comment and let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

Why we will always need bookshops….

Picture1I was beyond excited last week when the first of three book parcels arrived on my doorstep.  Working in a bookshop, I’m lucky enough never to have any need to order my books online, but I have to admit there was an undeniable sense of anticipation knowing what longed-for items lay within.  I’ve watched a few unboxing videos now and then, and as an enthusiastic proponent of hands-on high street shopping I confess they’ve always left me a little bit underwhelmed; but having experienced the warm, fuzzy glow of seeing the big black W on my post office delivery, I feel a bit more like I get it.  Will this be anywhere near the happiness of stepping back into a bookshop again when these dreadful times are over, however?  I somehow doubt it.

Since we closed our doors my fellow booksellers and I have been struck, and quite moved, by the affection that’s come our way from the local community.  There have been posts and messages online telling us how much we are missed.  A couple of my colleagues have been stopped (at a safe distance let me reassure you) while out walking by customers who want to tell us how much they loved coming into our shop and how they long to be able to return.  I’ve even seen an amazing piece of artwork posted online that was done by someone sitting in our café prior to the lockdown and which depicts various groups of people relaxing with a coffee or browsing the shelves in the background.

All this is proof, if any were needed, of the genuine emotional connection that exists between a community and its bookshop.  It’s so much more than a convenient place in which money is handed over in exchange for goods; it’s an ark of knowledge, artistry and ideas, and a space in which any book lover can wax lyrical to like-minded individuals about a shared passion.  It’s a cornucopia of reading pleasure in which you can get a recommendation from a person, not an algorithm.  It can be a safe haven for the anxious or the lonely, or a place that inspires children to embark on a lifetime of reading.  It’s an outing to look forward to when you unwrap those book vouchers on your birthday, and a place to make and meet friends – or even, if you’re lucky, come face to face with your favourite author.

No cardboard box on the doorstep can ever compete with all that.  I very much hope that there are enough people out there in agreement with me to ensure those bookshops that survive these difficult months will be there for many years to come.