"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Lovely Lovely Books

So today has been World Book Day, a celebration of books and reading. I love books, lovely, lovely books. I’d like to read more than I do but most of my reading is done in bed before I go to sleep. Unless it’s totally engrossing (like my current read Gene Cernan’s “The Last Man On The Moon” which is an enthralling read) I usually only manage a few pages before I get sleepy. So things like “Moby Dick”, “Homer’s Odyssey” and “On The Origin Of Species” although they were great books, they were a bit weighty and heavy going in places. Still, I persevered with all three of them and I’m glad I did.

But when you get a real meaty page turner it’s one of life’s great delights. “Carter Beats The Devil” by Glen David Gold was one of those. A total joy to read, I finished it in no time. Again, I was reading in bed but as each chapter came to an end it just prompted me to continue into the next one. I was reading till 3am some nights. Jonathan Coe’s “What A Carve Up” was also another favourite that I devoured. Anyway, I won’t list all my favourites but you get the idea, I love books.

I really love a trawl through a bookshop too, particularly since the demise of the independent record shop, the bookshop has become my favourite waste of time. I believe that if you’re going to read a book you should have a lovely copy of it to hold in your hands. Turning a page ought to be a pleasurable experience. Small, hard back books are a joy in themselves. I’ve bought a few over the years and I get pleasure just from looking at them on the shelf as well as picking them up and reading them. Here’s a few of mine.

New, books like those above can be expensive which is where the second hand bookshop comes in. Ah, the second hand bookshop, a treasure trove of “wonderful things”. Like a dogs home for the printed word, each lost book awaits a new owner to love and take care of them.

Have you noticed that second hand bookshops or market stalls are often run by misanthropic, grey haired old men, as dusty and musky as the books they sell? There used to be one like that in St Nick’s market in Bristol. He’s gone now and there’s a much nicer person there with a good range of books. I once worked at a very strange place called the Book Barn. It was like entering the twilight zone. The bloke that ran that wasn’t the most pleasant person I’ve ever worked for. I think they lose themselves in their books somehow, maybe because books are easier to deal with that real live people. Let’s be honest, they do have a point but you can’t cut yourself off from the entire world just because of the idiots out there.

Anyway, I digress. Lovely, lovely books. If there’s one thing better than an aimless wonder through a bookshop, it’s going into one with a purpose; the thrill of the chase! It’s something I used to get with music but these days its books. I’m currently on the lookout for a nice copy of “The Letters of Pliny the Younger”. Don’t ask why, it’s just something I want to read. I’m in no hurry either. It’s a great excuse for going into every charity shop and bookshop in the area, or better still a new area, a day out in a strange town. Having that particular thing to keep an eye out for adds extra spice to the experience. I know you are out there somewhere Pliny and I will track you down, but I hope it’s not for a while yet.

I’m also constantly on the lookout for space books. Look, you’ve got your thing I’m sure, this is my thing, so stop judging me. I found this quite brilliant space book in an Oxfam bookshop (second hand books and the money goes to charity, its win win).

It’s by a guy called Alan Lawrie and it’s everything there is to know about the Saturn 1 and 1B rockets. Not the Saturn Vs you understand, not the ones that got men to the moon, no this is the precursor to that rocket. It’s “The Complete Manufacturing and Test Records” and comes with a DVD of documents and movies, presumably of the rockets blasting off. It lists every engine made, its manufacturing number, dates, tables, summaries, photos...frankly if there is anything you want to know about the Saturn 1 or 1B rocket it will be in this book. I may never read it all the way through but just having it on the shelf with the other space books is a delight. And Mr Lawrie has written other books about Apollo including one about the Saturn Vs, so that gives me something else to keep an eye out for. Wonderful!

I’m looking for a job right now and working in a second hand bookshop would be ideal. I’m not grey haired (well not totally) and am not completely misanthropic just yet but there’s still time. Any offers?
Suggested reading: “Carter Beats the Devil” by Glen David Gold

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