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I Hate Bookshops and Libraries

Monday, 29 March 2010

I hate bookshops and libraries ... but I also love them. Does anyone else get that? On the one hand, there are all these wonderful books in there, rows and rows of them, each one an enticing invite into a whole new world. I want to read every single one of them. There and then.

On the other hand, there are all these published books in there - all of them so witty, enthralling, fascinating and moving. Such clever ideas. Such pretty covers. And the killer is, mine isn't - yet - one of them. Sometimes, each published book sitting there so smugly is like an arrow to the heart ...

Do you ever open books at random, read a section and think, ooh that's beautifully done : vivid, engrossing, way better than anything I've written? I do that all the time and always wish I hadn't. Sometimes a simple trip to a bookshop is just torture. A torture that, thankfully, buying/borrowing a good book or two generally assuages.

But, bookshops and libraries? Hate them. Can't keep away from them either.

While we're on the subject, it's pretty clear that there are more books out there than any of us could ever read in our lifetimes. Unless they hurry up and sort out immortality soon (come on scientists, now would be a good time). But I can never decide if this is a happy thought or a sad one. What do you think? On the one hand, I'll never run out of books to read. On the other hand, I just know I'll die with that pile of unread books sitting next to my bed ...


  1. Hi

    I love libraries cos they're free and you can really find some hidden gems in them. I don't like that you do find a book you want to read that's been so well thumbed or worse some cad has torn pages off and defaced!

    I love bookshops cos the books are all shiny and new. I don't like it so much when I have to pay for them! LOL!

    I like the thought of expiring surrounded by a ton of unread books with a scribbled note beside me saying "it's all too much".


    Take care

  2. My local library is fantastic really - reserve books online then just swan by and pick them up. Marvellous!

  3. My local library is a magnificent coverted chapel, and the children love it. But mostly I find public libraries airless, stuffy and unhealthy places to be. Bookshops frustrate me because their stock is so limited in range.

    It's interesting, because only the other day I was thinking (as an un-published novelist) just how comforting I find published books to be. If they're any good, that is. reading a bad book that only found its way into print because the author is well known do annoy me.

    I forget where, but I read somewhere that Coleridge was the last (famous) person who could aspire to read everything in print in English.

  4. There was a time when I couldn't go into either one. Yes, each book like an arrow to the heart-- exactly. However, thankful to report that I am no longer jealous and am making up for lost time by reading 2 or 3 books a week. Like the old days. It's wonderful. I am so in love with books. And one day your book will be there.

  5. There aren't any independent bookshops in my area, and I find chain book shops really quite depressing, because they feel increasingly like supermarkets (I guess I'm thinking of Waterstones 3 for 1 offer in particular - somehow when I use this I never get around to reading the third book). It feels too much like selling tins of beans - I always come away feeling uninspired :S

    But I love libraries (public and academic). I love how varied the books are as material objects - the way you can see all the different chronological trends in covers and typefaces - and I love the ease of obtaining out of print books. Our local library has online reservations too, which I make use of all the time.

    My office is shared with an academic collection of children's books and I find it quite a spur to productivity. All those tattered editions feel much more friendly and supportive than the shiny new ones competing for attention on the high street!

  6. Thomas,

    You're obviously a glass-half-full sort of person! I do know what you mean though - any sufficiently large bookshop/library does reassure me because I think, well, all these people got published ...

    That's quite a thought re: Coleridge. It's a good thing, obviously, that you couldn't do this now. Ah, but there's always going to be that wonderful read you never get around to ...

  7. Karen,

    That's the spirit. I love books, too, and read avidly. When I was a boy I sometimes did nothing but read (and, probably, eat) the whole day through. One day I'll get back to that.

  8. Kate,

    Thanks for the comment. I know what you mean about big book shops, but I do find it hard not to be seduced! New books! Coffee! Must have ...

    I do also like borrowing books from the library and wondering who all the other people were who read it before me. I'm sure some books could tell quite a story (umm, in addition to their, you know, actual story).

  9. I love both...
    I love the allure of a great bookshop with lots of lovely gleaming new books to choose from. There is just something about a stack of unread books that hooks me right in to parting with my hard earned cash!

    What I love best about libraries is picking up a book and looking at the last date it was taken out! There is no better pleasure for me than reading a book that hasn't been taken out of the library since the mid-eighties or something! I love it!!

  10. I feel like that when I page through books. I love them, can't live without them, and stress that I will never write anything as beautiful as whatever the last book I read was.

    I too have the love hate relationship with bookstores. Now that you have pointed out the fact, I will have a pile of unread books beside my deathbed, which had not occurred to this point, I will forever stress on that too!! Thank you so ever much!!! LOL!

  11. Kaitie,

    ... which sounds like the set-up for a lovely little short story!

  12. Ann,

    Oh dear, sorry about that. What worries me is which book is on the bottom of the pile. I add ones to the top and take them off to read again and never get near the bottom!

  13. The one I hate is picking up a random book and noticing some tiny detail that I'd really have wanted to use myself some day! :)

  14. hampshireflyer,

    Yes, I know that one too. Best pretend you never read it!

  15. I love them both. I spent my childhood in the local library, exhausting its supply much too early. Growing up in East Germany left me with a massive deficit where the masterworks of the last century are concerned. I'm still catching up. Sometimes books were so scarce, my mum bartered butcher's favours to get her hands on good ones for us.

    I do love a bookshop with atmosphere, but growing up in a place where books were as tightly controlled as everything else, I delight in seeing books for sale anywhere someone might feel like buying one.

    As a child I wanted to read all of Jules Verne's books before I died because my mum always gave me a new one for my birthday, linking the two inseperably in my mind. Today I just grab any minute I can to read. So many, many great books to read, so many more to come...

    Btw, bottom of my pile is "Larkrise to Candleford". I feel guilty about it, that's why I remember but it might just be one I have to let go. 130 pages of novel and less than one page of dialogue in total...

  16. Hi Lost,

    Thanks for the comment. Interesting that Lark Rise is on the bottom of your pile. Perhaps there's a blog post in that - asking what books are on the bottom of other people's book piles.


I'd love to know what you think.