A Trip to the Bookbarn…

While I was in Somerset, having a lovely time with Our Vicar, Our Vicar’s Wife, and little Sherpa, we managed to fit in a trip to the Bookbarn.  If you’ve not heard about it, it’s an enormous secondhand bookshop in north Somerset, claiming to have a million books.  Many of these are online, and you have to search for those in the shop on the world’s slowest computer, but thousands of others are available for browsing – at £1 each!  I never come away empty-handed, and on Tuesday I came away with twenty books.  That includes four which I bought in a charity shop in Wells, which we went to afterwards.  Never let it be said that I keep my purchases silent – here they are!  Please do let me know if you’ve read any, got any, would like any, or have any thoughts at all!

I’ll go through them from the bottom of the left pile upwards…

Remembering Leacock: an oral history
A book about Stephen Leacock that I didn’t know about?  Yes please!  This one seems to be interviews with people that knew the great Canadian humorist.

42nd Street
I’m off to see the musical on the 30th, and I stumbled across the screenplay.

Two by Two by David Garnett
I’ve read surprisingly little by David Garnett, considering Lady Into Fox was a fundamental book for my doctoral thesis, but now I can add another title to the pile – I couldn’t resist Noah’s Ark for a theme.

Our Stage and Its Critics by E.F.S.
I can never resist an early twentieth-century book about the theatre… This one was published in 1910, so is unlikely to include anything about authors I know and love, but I’m still excited.

The Oliviers by Felix Barker
See above… but this time about Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh!

A Cornish Childhood by A.L. Rowse
Slightly Foxed Editions have made me fall in love with childhood memoirs, particularly those which take place in beautiful locations.  Enough said.

Tobit Transplanted by Stella Benson
I ummed and ahhed over an expensive copy of this a while ago, so a £1 copy was a lovely find!  After loving I Pose earlier in the year, it’s nice to have another Benson ready and waiting.

What Next? by Denis Mackail
Every bookshopping trip should have one best find, shouldn’t it?  The one you grab and feel like the whole thing was worthwhile.  And this was mine – like everyone else, I love Greenery Street, and I’m eager to read some more Mackail and see what else he has up his sleeve.

Mysterious book…
This one is a gift, which I have cunningly doctored to hide the title…

(from the bottom of the right-hand pile)

Awakenings by Oliver Sacks
I lost my copy of this at some point – either lent to someone and forgotten, or under some floorboards somewhere.  So, hurrah for finding a copy in a charity shop!

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
It’s almost odd that I haven’t bought this before, since I enjoy Bryson’s writing. Couldn’t say no to a 30p copy.

Pilgrimage I by Dorothy Richardson
To be honest, I can’t say I’m super excited about embarking on those notoriously difficult stream-of-consciousness novel (there are 12 or so more volumes after this one), but… well, it feels like the right sort of thing to have on the shelf.

Bindle by Herbert Jenkins
Some nice serendipity – it’s no secret that I adored Patricia Brent, Spinster, and a few of you said Bindle was just as great.  Now it’s mine, all mine!

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
I thought The World I Live In was brilliant and revelatory, and have been meaning to read her earlier, more famous, book about living without sight or sound.

Every Good Dead by Dorothy Whipple
How could I resist a copy of a Whipple novel with a cover as gloriously awful as this?

Strange Gardens by Michael Quint
One day I will read a French book that I like.  Will it be this one?  Maybe…

The Setons by O. Douglas
I thought Pink Sugar was great, so… well, you’re probably sensing a theme in this post!

From A College Window by A.C. Benson
One of the Benson dynasty (E.F. and all that, though no relation to Stella, so far as I’m aware) wrote a book of essays about life, while looking out of a window at Magdalen College.  Another no-brainer, so far as I’m concerned.

So, there you have it!  And would you believe it… I’m off book buying tomorrow too.  A long fast has been broken.  Over to you – thoughts?

41 thoughts on “A Trip to the Bookbarn…

  • March 21, 2014 at 11:12 pm
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    As if talking to you at the Penguin bloggers' evening didn't already make me want to visit the Bookbarn again, now this post definitely does! I particularly like the look of the Dorothy Whipple. Only one problem for me – where to store them all? Do you have your own mini-bookbarn somewhere?

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    • March 22, 2014 at 7:27 am
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      YES!!!! And it will be undergoing its quinquennial structural survey & inspection this week…gulp

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:50 pm
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      You'd love it! It's not as good as it used to be, but it's still a trove. But, yes, most of my books are still in the rectory barn!

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  • March 22, 2014 at 12:43 am
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    Hi Simon, I'm very envious of your visit to the Bookbarn. I must remember to look it out when we're next over Somerset way. I spent a few minutes with my neck craned at the start of your post, trying to read the book titles, and then I clicked one space further down… and there was all the information I needed! I'm sure you'll enjoy reading them all!

    People keep telling me they cannot leave comments on my blog either, or join it, and I have tried in vain to join other blogs for a couple of weeks and just get the error message to try again later. So frustrating, isn't it? I reported it but it's like throwing a message in a bottle out to sea!

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:51 pm
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      Hi Jane – you must make sure to factor it into your next visit. And hope your eyes weren't too damaged by looking at the image :)

      I've given up hoping for Blogger to work perfectly, but it definitely gets better now and then… compared to 2007 Blogger, certainly!

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  • March 22, 2014 at 12:51 am
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    The Helen Keller book is inspiring. I read it years ago. I also like the book about the theatre from early 20th century. Aside to this, you have written about Slightly Foxed for so long I finally subscribed to their magazine and my first copy came and it truly is beautiful. Worth the money to send to Australia. Bill Bryson is touring Australia and I would love to see him but like everyone they never come to Tasmania. Enjoy the finds.

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:53 pm
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      So pleased that you've got into Slightly Foxed – my quarterly arrived through the post this morning, so I'm gonna have to sit back with it soon.

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  • March 22, 2014 at 2:29 am
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    Hah. I loved the picture you posted of that pretty little cottage in Hay you liked, but this last 20 books simply won't fit…

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  • March 22, 2014 at 3:56 am
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    Wow! What a good day's work. I'm excited for you about the Mackail, the book about Stephen Leacock, and Bindle. And the Whipple cover is hilarious.

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:53 pm
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      I thought you might be excited about the Mackail! I have to say that I'm very excited about giving that one a go, and it'll be featuring in my century of books, I feel pretty sure.

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  • March 22, 2014 at 8:01 am
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    You did really well! The only one I've read is the Bill Bryson book, which I enjoyed very much – to see ourselves as others see us!

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:55 pm
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      I loved Watching the English so much that I have high hopes of loving this one too – since I love the Bryson books I have read, I expect I will :)

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  • March 22, 2014 at 8:41 am
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    I'm envious re. the Dorothy Whipple, Simon (the text rather than the cover!) –I tried to find a copy of Every Good Deed online (through abebooks) and the only one listed was £75! I think you got a bargain there!

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  • March 22, 2014 at 10:56 am
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    Why would a professional book seller let the Whipple go for a pound?
    I also tried to find a copy but it is £75 or nothing.
    It is a 100 page novella but still worthy.

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    • March 22, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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      There are still some bargains to be had: Ebay 2013

      VINTAGE DOROTHY WHIPPLE EVERY GOOD DEED PAPER BACK

      “Some wear to edges of book”
      Ended:
      20 Mar, 2013 19:40:08 GMT
      Winning bid:
      £2.19
      [ 2 bids ]

      Keep looking!

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:56 pm
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      It obviously appears occasionally, but the Whipple fans online swoop in :)

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:57 pm
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      Haha! Almost worth a trip from Oxfordshire… A bloggers meet-up there would be so fun!

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  • March 22, 2014 at 1:06 pm
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    I love Bill Bryson's books and my notes on Notes from a Small Island remind me that parts of it made me laugh out loud. If I remember correctly, his description of leaving a pub late one night had me rolling on the floor.

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:57 pm
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      Thanks Joan, that's something very fun to look forward to, then :)

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  • March 22, 2014 at 6:29 pm
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    I enjoyed Notes from a Small Island, and loved The Setons, as I do most of O. Douglas's work. But my main reason for posting is to say that my grandfather was at grammar school with A.L. Rowse! They kept at least vaguely in touch; in one of Grandad's diaries there is mention of a visit to ALR in Oxford or Cambridge, I forget which. And my Gran had certainly met him; when he failed to recognise her in a railway carriage, she called him "the rudest man she'd ever met" – though not to his face!

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:58 pm
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      Oh, how funny! I will definitely keep that in mind while I read, that's hilarious. I can't work out where I know the name from…

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  • March 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm
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    Oh, there's nothing like vicarious book-buying. And vicarious book-buying is nothing like ACTUALLY buying them, but I'm happy to enjoy your purchases with you, Simon.

    Today I popped into a second-handish bookshop in downtown Toronto and found Alice Munro's first collection of stories, Dance of the Happy Shades, which I read a few decades ago. Only $2. So I'm happy. I input it into my book-buying spreadsheet and saw to my horror this is only the SECOND book I've bought this year.

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    • March 29, 2014 at 7:59 pm
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      Well done on the Munro, but Susan – only two books this year?? I think you need to step it up, pronto! Come over to Somerset :)

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  • March 23, 2014 at 3:40 am
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    Hello Simon, have you ever thought of dedicating a post to famously bad writers? I have just become interested in Amanda (McKittrick) Ros, an 'authoress' (as she styled herself) who has to be read to be believed. Cheers, Erik

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    • March 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm
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      What a good idea, Erik! I don't know if Marie Corelli falls in that category, but I've often been tempted to see what she's like…

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    • April 8, 2014 at 11:41 pm
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      She certainly does, Simon: I am about to start The Sorrows of Satan myself … Best, Erik

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    • March 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm
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      Isn't it amazing! I imagine it also gives away a big plot point…?

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  • March 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm
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    There's a "Bookbarn" in Connecticut that I've been to. It's an actual barn, way out in the words. You have to drive down a gravel road to get to it. I'm sure it's got well over a million books in it, too. But, sad to say, I walked away empty handed when I visited it. Turns out, storing books in an actual barn is not really a very good idea.

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    • March 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm
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      Gosh, that sounds rather more authentic than the barn I went to – and not a good thing for the books! How sad…

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    • March 29, 2014 at 8:01 pm
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      That's encouraging, Tanya! I do have another book by Richardson that I might read first – something about blood on the dining room table, maybe? – as a gateway.

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  • March 24, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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    Ah, the Bookbarn. Happy memories! As I think we discussed once, Simon, it's even closer to my house than it is to yours and it was a formative part of my teenage years. My dad used it as motivation to get me doing driving practice – "Let's drive there and back". About ten years ago it was a massive treasure-trove, but since they closed off most of the barn and turned it into a primarily internet-focused company, I don't find so much there any more, which makes me incredibly sad. But I'm delighted that you're still finding bargains. Maybe I should go back and try again. Do they have new stock still coming in for the £1 section?

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    • March 29, 2014 at 8:02 pm
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      Oh yes, Sarah, we did didn't we! I think I first went in 2004, and you're right, it was much more of a treasure trove.

      They do have new stock coming – I always go to the unsorted section, because I think that's where it goes to before they weed out the stuff they can sell for more.

      Reply

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