Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Pleasure of Random Books

I've been a fan of choosing random books by authors new to me ever since reading several great novels from cruise ship libraries - in fact I make a point of avoiding authors I already know while on holiday. However, at home I generally make a more considered choice, either authors I love or new books that appeal in some way.

Then on our latest visits to areas around our new home, I came across two excellent little bookshops that I will certainly revisit occasionally. The first was in historic Queensferry, where we managed to explore more of this interesting place which sits at one end of the Forth Railway Bridge. The bookshop is right at the other end of the narrow, cobbled main street and I vaguely remembered seeing it once before when visiting from a holiday in Fife.

The Ferry Fair Bookshop is one of those fascinating little second hand shops that contains a great selection of fiction and non-fiction, and everything else in print. It's a great idea as it's run as a charity, providing funds for the annual Ferry Fair Festival. Book lovers can leave a donation for any books chosen and can donate their own books to the shop. There is usually an interesting volunteer to chat to while browsing, if nothing appeals that day. I resisted taking any books this time but I'll need to make sure to give away some more of mine before visiting again!

The other, more traditional little bookshop is in Linlithgow, another town rich with history, not least because Mary Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow Palace. I'll write more about the history another time, when I've had more chance to explore. On this occasion, I was looking out for the bookshop as I knew it had a good reputation. It pulled me right in, especially when I saw it was called Far from the Madding Crowd (a Thomas Hardy book I like), then I noticed it had been awarded the title of best little bookshop in Scotland!

I didn't have enough time to devote to serious browsing on this occasion, and husband would have run out of patience eventually even though he liked it too, but what a great shop. I immediately felt at home and will certainly return. What did catch my eye, however, was something I've never come across before. In front of the desk was a large basket filled with brown paper-wrapped books. Some were hardback, some paperback and the only clue to what lay beneath the brown paper was a hand-written snippet of blurb on the front.

How exciting! All the hardbacks were one price and the paperbacks another, regardless of size. Of course, I had to buy one. I've never been so intrigued at choosing a random book before and it was such fun reading the blurbs. The blurb is usually more important to me anyway so I didn't mind in the least not seeing the cover or author's name. I do agree with the friendly girl at the desk that many people probably choose books by their cover, especially one as pretty as this.

I handed over the very reasonable cost and chose my book, excited to keep the anticipation going until we got home. I was not disappointed. The blurb immediately drew me in and I loved the cover when it was revealed. I haven't heard of the author (Denis Thériault) and the story, The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, is set in Montreal - unusual, but it happens to be a place we've visited. So this is an experiment I'm keen to repeat sometime. I'm greatly enjoying the story and the little Haiku scattered throughout the pages are an added bonus as it's a poetry form I love.

Only problem now? I definitely have to keep an eye on how many new books I bring into the house, now that most of the boxes I brought with me have been emptied and the contents are on my new bookshelves! I have been warned...



Patsy said...

It can be hard to pick up a random book, but I remind myself that all my favourite authors were once unknown to me and I might well discover a new favourite.

Hope you're settling in well to your new home.

Teresa Ashby said...

What lovely bookshops, Rosemary. The Ferry Fair shop looks so interesting. And I love that idea of the wrapped books. The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman sounds intriguing.

Joanna said...

What gorgeous bookshops, Rosemary! And the wrapped books are a lovely idea - yours looks like a lovely choice. I love discovering new authors, partly for the pure joy of reading, but also because they so often give fresh inspiration for my own writing as well.
I visited Linlithgow Palace many years ago and will very much look forward to knowing about abut the history of Linlithgow.
How hard it is to resist new books. I made a vow not to buy any more until I'd caught up with my pile, but seem to have acquired four new ones this week... xxx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

We are indeed - thanks, Patsy.

It's certainly an intriguing read, Teresa, and one I probably would never have read otherwise!

I think you're right about getting fresh inspiration, Joanna - the book I chose is completely different from any I've read before and I am enjoying it! The palace is mostly a ruin now but atmospheric and full of history.

Carolb said...

They look lovely bookshops Rosemary. You will obviously have many future visits to come. :-)

I get around the husband and browsing old books issue by buying him a book that I know he'll like, and surprisingly I don't get any nagging about the time taken. ;)

Wendy's Writing said...

I love the idea of the book in the brown envelope. How exciting that must have been to rip it open! Hope you enjoy reading it.

Julia Thorley said...

I love the brown wrapping idea - like a lucky dip for grown-ups!