A Charity Shop Haul

I’ve fallen in love with second hand books recently. There’s only one dedicated second hand bookshop in my area, but most of the local charity shops boast at least a couple of shelves of paperbacks. While I’m still waiting for my staff discount to kick in, I’m hesitant to buy new, full price books, and I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainability and whether it is responsible, both financially and environmentally, of buying and collecting books. On top of this, I do tend to damage books when I read them, by cracking the spines and making notes in the margins, so I’m really not bothered about them being in pristine condition when they come into my possession. If anything, I kind of love it when you can see that someone has loved a book, battered it by carrying it around, dogeared pages and cracked the spines.

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
I listened to this on audiobook when it first came out, and loved it so much that I wanted to own a paper copy. I’m always a little hesitant to buy books that I’ve listened to on audiobook or read as ebooks at full price, given that I’ve already paid for them once, so whenever I spot a favourite second hand, I tend to nab them. It’s a funny, honest, informative memoir of Bryony Gordon’s experience of OCD and depression, and the eating disorder and alopecia and drug use that her mental illness led to. I would definitely recommend it, especially if you have people in your life who are dealing with mental health issues, as I found that it gave me a lot of insight into what they might be going through (although obviously everyone’s experience is different).

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This is a hugely popular, beloved book which had somehow completely passed me by until a couple of months ago, but it sounds fun and interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel by a Spanish author before, so I’m looking forward to it.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
This is one of those books that was everywhere when it came out, and those are always easy to find in charity shops. It’s about a woman who keeps dying and being reborn – although presumably there is more plot going on than just that. I’m not necessarily planning on reading this in the immediate future, but I do want to read it eventually and for a pound, I could hardly say no.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Another one that I am the last person alive not to have read. That’s a theme of this haul to be honest. This is the American edition, which I actually prefer to the current British version. It also has a note in the front from someone giving it as a Christmas gift, which can be part of the fun of second hand books.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
People have been talking about Mohsin Hamid’s newest novel, Exit West, all over the place recently, which has reminded me that I have never read his Man Booker shortlisted novel. I believe that it’s written as a single sustained monologue from a young Pakistani man, telling his life story to an American tourist. The structure sounds a lot like Albert Camus’s The Fall, which I studied and loved in my final year of undergraduate.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xialou Guo
To be honest, this wouldn’t have been of any particular interest to me, but for one detail. It’s the story of a young Chinese woman who moves to England for a year with the aim of improving her English, and falls in love with an older, British man. The detail that piqued my interest was that it is written, to begin with, in stilted, broken English, which improves as the narrator spends more time in the UK and her English improves. I love those kinds of linguistic experiments, and I’m interested to see what the effect will be.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
I don’t actually know a huge amount about this book, just that it’s about a hostage situation in a South American country, that there is an opera singer involved somehow and that most of the hostages are international diplomats. This edition is the now out of print Harper Perennial edition, which had these lovely pastel foil spines and line drawings on the cover. Another thing that I love about charity shops is that sometimes you can just stumble across hard to find editions, and while I wanted this specific edition, I wasn’t going to go out of my way to find it.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I think you can even see in the photo that this copy is super, super bent out of shape – the spine is basically at a 45 degree angle from where it should be. Whoever read this book before me absolutely tore it apart, but I’m already half way through it and it’s not affecting my reading experience, so who cares? It’s a retelling of the myth of Achilles, narrated by his companion and best friend, Patroclus, who I believe does appear in Homer’s Iliad (I think it’s the Iliad, but it could be the Odyssey – my knowledge of classics is appalling), but in a minor way. Until I bought it and read the blurb properly, I didn’t realise that it’s a love story between the two characters, and so far it’s beautifully written.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I’ll be honest, I haven’t really heard many people whose taste I would say is close to mine rave about this book, and I slightly suspect it might be a bit shit. But it sounds fun and easy, and I’d like to give it a try. I’m more willing to give books I’m not totally sure about a try if I can get them cheap in a charity shop, and sometimes those can turn out to be great reads.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is my last of Adichie’s novels, and in a way I don’t want to read it because then I’ll have nothing left. It’s set during the Biafran War of the 1960’s, and is about a group of characters living through this era. I assume that this, like her other novels, will bring together the personal and the political, and I’m fully expecting to love it.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
I know literally nothing about this book, other than that it’s about a brother and sister. Literally, that’s it, and the blurb is one of those vague, unhelpful ones. I’ve already heard good things about her upcoming novel, Tin Man, so I thought I would give her writing a try before that comes out.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
Last years Bailey’s Prize winner has been followed by a sequel in the last couple of months, which I read the blurb for without realising that it was a sequel. It sounded interesting, but I did realise that I was going to need to read The Glorious Heresies first. I’m glad I picked it up in a charity shop, because it’s been given a way less cool new cover recently, and I wanted this aggressively fluorescent orange one.


I went to Foyles and spent too much money: A Haul

I love Foyles. Foyles is a magical wonderland. So when I recently found myself at a loose end in Covent Garden, I thought I would wonder up Charing Cross Road to their flagship store, and take the time to really work my way through the fiction section. (Side note, I also popped into Any Amount of Books on my where there, which is a lovely second hand bookshop, but didn’t spot anything I fancied. If you’re ever in the area, they always have a surprising amount of new releases and proof copies.) The thing I love about Foyles is that they always have books that I’ve never seen anywhere else, so I always end up buying things that I’ve never heard of but look exciting.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf
So this one I had heard of, and I’ve been intending to pick it up for a while. I’m also slightly obsessed with these Vintage Classics editions, I have the Brontës and I desperately, desperately want the Russian Classics series. As far as I know, the character of Orlando starts out as an Elizabethan courtier, and ends up as a woman in the twenties. It’s supposed to be a classic of feminism and gender studies, and I picked it up for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my friend Laura and I had a conversation about gender identity maybe three or four years ago which has stayed with me, and she mentioned this as an expression of gender which she felt really rang true. Secondly, I have been meaning to read Virginia Woolf F O R E V E R and I was recently watching a Sophie Carlon video where she was talking about The Waves, which sounds incredible but she mentioned that she would say Orlando was a better starting point with Woolf.

Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal
This is one of those books I was talking about, that I come across in Foyles and buy even though I’ve never heard of them. There was a whole shelf of Bohumil Hrabal, who I have never heard of at all, so I figured I would pick up the shortest one to see if I like his writing. He’s Czech, and after reading Spaceman of Bohemia I’m really intrigued by Czech culture and history. It’s about a railway apprentice during the Second World War, and it looks at themes of heroism and humanity, I believe, although I don’t know too much about it.

Certainty by Madeleine Thien
I recently raved about Do Not Say We Have Nothing, so I was definitely interested to look into Thien’s back catalogue. This seems to have similiar themes of friendship, dislocation, and the impact of one generation on those that follow. It’s also been beautifully republished to match the new B-format paperback of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which I tragically have in the previous large paperback so they don’t match.

Trumpet by Jackie Kay
I have been meaning to buy this for ages, but I’ve never actually seen it in a shop. I thought I was going to have to get it online, but Foyles came to my rescue. It’s about a trumpeter named Joss Moody, and what happens when after his death it is discovered that he has female genitals. They read this on Banging Book Club last year, and Leena has been talking about it on her channel for a long time, so I snapped it up.

Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo
This is another one that I’ve been intending to read, but have never spotted in a bookshop, this time based on a recommendation from Simon of Savidge Reads. It’s about an Antiguan man in his seventies living in Hackney. His wife knows that he’s having an affair, but what she doesn’t realise is that the affair is with his lifelong best friend, Morris. It’s about sexuality and prejudice, and a look at the older Caribbean community in the UK. I’m so, so excited to read this.

The House in Smyrna bt Tatiana Salem Levy
This is another one that I had never heard of, about a Brazilian woman of Turkish origin who is suffering from a mysterious illness, and whose grandfather gives her the key to his childhood home in Smyrna in Turkey, and challenges her to open the door with it. She embarks on a pilgrimage, and this somehow sets off the telling of various stories: her grandfather’s emigration to Brazil, her parents’ exile in Lisbon and her own romantic history. It sounds intriguing, and I don’t know that I have ever read a Brazilian novel.

March Book Haul

So during March I was trying to get a job as a bookseller (an aim in which I have now succeeded!), which meant that I was spending a lot of time in Waterstones: enquiring about openings, giving them an application, following up, the interview… And me being me, I can’t leave a bookshop empty handed (hopefully this will no longer be the case once I’m working in one).

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The dinky little follow up to We Should All Be Feminists, I grabbed this because it was beside the till. It’s about how to raise a feminist, and I have a lot of time for Adichie’s feminism, despite the recent controversy.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
This just recently won the Costa Book Award, and the premise really drew me in. It’s about two gay soldiers in the Indian Wars and then the American Civil War, and I believe Barry was inspired to write it by his son coming out. I did actually try to start it a couple of weeks ago, but I was hungover and could not compute the language through the post-gin fog. It’s a first person narration and it’s very much in the voice of an ill-educated, Irish American soldier of the era, which I didn’t expect and needed to be a little sharper to comprehend.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
I have no idea what this is about, but I’ve only ever read Atonement and I’d like to read more McEwan. My dad bought this from our local Oxfam Bookshop but realised when he got home that he already had a copy, so gave it to me.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This is about a pair of teenagers who meet in New York on the day that one of them is due to be deported. I’ve actually already read it, and suffice to say I am hauling and simultaneously unhauling it because I don’t want to keep it.

The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan
This recently won the Costa Children’s Award, and I think it’s loosely inspired by the Northern Irish troubles. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this.

One by Sarah Crossan
I had no interest in reading this when it won the Carnegie last year, but as more and more people have talked about how good it is, I’ve gradually come around to the idea of a novel in verse about conjoined twins, which is not a description that initially appealed to me at all.

The Unaccompanied by Simon Armitage
I read Simon Armitage at school and enjoyed him, and happened to open this to a poem which really appealed to me while I was standing in the shop.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
I became obsessed with this cover a couple of months ago when it was all over my instagram feed, so I would have bought it even if the story didn’t sound fantastic. It’s about secrets and motherhood and womanhood and the way all of these things intersect with race.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
It’s a little embarrassing that I haven’t read this, and this beautiful cover was enough to make me finally decide to rectify that.

The Nix by Nathan Hill
I was planning on waiting until this came out in paperback, but I just couldn’t resist it any longer. It’s about family and politics, I think, but it’s kind of more complicated than that. I’m reading it at the moment, and it’s a tough one to describe because there are so many different things going on.