Barter Books!

I’m back!  Hope you had a good week – I was dashing all over the place, from the south coast to the northern reaches of England (so, er, the distance some of you pop out for milk, in the larger countries of this world) speaking at a conference and attending my very lovely friend Lorna’s wedding.  Best day ever!  But of a more literary nature, I paid a visit to Barter Books in Alnwick (pronounced Annick).  Lots of friends and family had told me that it’s brilliant, and it was unlikely that I’d be in the area again for a while – so I went to visit.

Barter Books is inside an old railway station and is also famed for re-discovering the Keep Calm and Carry On posters (you can read more about them here).  The inside is quite wonderful – not only is it capacious, it has a mural of many authors, and a model railway going around the top of the bookshelves (which you should be able to see in the third photo below.)  Here are some selected photos…

But what you really want to know, of course, is how I have broken my Lenten fast with a haul of books!  Here is what I got: (as always – comments, please!)

A Case of Human Bondage – Beverley Nichols
Although I have a stack of Nichols’ books unread, this might be the first I end up reading.  It’s about W. Somerset Maugham, and a response to his apparent character assassination of his wife.  Sounds very strange, and an enticing literary spat.

Three To See The King – Magnus Mills
I’ve enjoyed the two Mills books I’ve read, to differing extents, but this one went onto my list when I read Kim’s review of it.

Mr. Pim Passes By – A.A. Milne
I already have this in a collection, but I spotted the acting edition of the play, and thought it would be fun to have a copy of it – complete with notes from someone who played Mr. Pim himself.

Make Me An Offer – Wolf Mankowitz
I read this novella about antiques a while ago, and thought it was great, but didn’t have a copy.  Now I have a signed one!

All Done From Memory – Osbert Lancaster
Looks like fun – words and images from one of the best cartoonists, and one of my favourite periods.

A Way of Life, Like Any Other – Darcy O’Brien
I probably would have picked this up anyway, because I love a NYRB edition with a fab cover, but I also vaguely remembered reading a review of it somewhere… probably Thomas’s.

Recovery – Stephen Benatar
When I Was Otherwise – Stephen Benatar
The Man on the Bridge – Stephen Benatar
Like quite a few bloggers, I read and much admired Stephen Benatar’s Wish Her Safe at Home, and couldn’t resist picking up three of his novels cheaply.  And signed, no less, although I rather get the impression than it would be more difficult to find copies of these novels which weren’t signed.

The Ha-Ha – Jennifer Dawson
Someone recommend this… who?  You?  I have a weakness for Virago Modern Classics about mental fragility, and this one even won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (hmm.. maybe that could be my challenge next year?  Read the JTBM prizewinners?)

The Odd Women – George Gissing
At least half the people who pop by here have recommended I read this, not least Darlene, and now I’m one step closer!

43 thoughts on “Barter Books!

  • April 16, 2012 at 12:52 am
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    Ah, book heaven. Thanks for sharing these lovely photos.

    Fantastic haul you snagged there! I've only read The Odd Women, which I found to be utterly fascinating. The Jennifer Dawson has a brilliant title. I'm intrigued.

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm
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      I can't quite see how it relates to the plot yet, but I will find out one day!

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  • April 16, 2012 at 2:40 am
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    Barter Books looks truly delightful! Love the idea of a railway station being converted into a bookshop. Or museum. Or anything, for that matter. :)
    I thought Beverley Nichols only wrote about cats and gardens, so this one you've got about Somerset Maugham is really something new. And I really like the covers for the Stephan Benatar books!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm
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      Yes! Hurrah for converted stations.

      And I was surprised to see Nichols in this context – surprised and intrigued :)

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  • April 16, 2012 at 3:32 am
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    I've only read Odd Women but it's wonderful. I love the Virago edition too, gorgeous painting on the cover. I can see the fast is well & truly over then?!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm
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      oh my yes! I've bought a few online too, and just off to get the new Dodie Smith reprints…

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  • April 16, 2012 at 4:09 am
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    The more I hear about Barter Books, the more I long to visit it for myself! I will definitely need to fit it in on a future holiday.

    Of your haul, the one that really stands out to me (unsurprisingly) is the actor's copy of Mr Pim. Notes of any kind are part of what makes used book so wonderful but I think this is more exciting than usual because of the intensely personal relationship an actor has with a play he's performing. What a lucky find!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm
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      I know, lovely find, isn't it? I will probably re-read it accordingly :)

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  • April 16, 2012 at 4:42 am
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    what an excellent reason to convert a railway station! and the books you found sound each one better than the other – I'll quickly check which of these fit into my century…

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  • April 16, 2012 at 5:20 am
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    So jealous you've been to Barter Books!! I first found out about it through "Keep Calm and Carry On," but LOVE the idea of it being an old train station.

    Regarding your book choice, I've only read "The Odd Women." I literally threw it across the room when I finished haha.

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  • April 16, 2012 at 6:59 am
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    What a fabulous book shop – and what an interesting haul of books.Happy reading!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm
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      I love that the bookshop is famous enough to be signposted by the council!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:18 pm
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      The atmosphere is definitely the main point of attraction, above and beyond the stock.

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  • April 16, 2012 at 9:32 am
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    Barter Books looks like heaven! And it looks like you've got some great books. I have a copy of The Odd Women I've been meaning to read…and I'm interested to see what you think of the Magnus Mills book. His books always sound so strange, in a good way.

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm
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      Yes, definitely strange – I keep thinking there will be one which I love beyond all others, so I keep hunting. I did really like All Quiet on the Orient Express, but I didn't quite love it.

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  • April 16, 2012 at 9:59 am
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    That bookshop looks amazing, Simon. Love the little train, too!

    Hope you enjoy the Mills' book!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm
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      Thanks for the recommendation – albeit one you wrote long before I knew what a book blog was!

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  • April 16, 2012 at 10:35 am
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    I enjoyed The Ha-Ha but it was a long time ago so may not have been from me that you picked up the recommendation. It's good though! And another vote from me for The Odd Woman!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm
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      Oo, possibly. Or maybe the LT group.

      Everyone in the world seems to have read The Odd Women!

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  • April 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm
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    Wow, this bookshop looks wonderful! I'll keep it in mind if I'm ever that way.

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm
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      I can't imagine any bibliophile not loving the atmosphere – hope you get a chance to go there.

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  • April 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm
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    Oh Simon, The Odd Women has to be one of my favourite reads of all time and lucky you finding that edition! Don't you just love crossing the threshold of a previously unvisited bookshop? And best wishes to the bride and groom!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm
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      The anticipation of an unknown bookshop is divine, isn't it!

      Bride and groom were very happy indeed, and it was one of the loveliest days of my life too!

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  • April 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm
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    What a find! I still have yet to read 'Wish her Safe at Home' which I first discovered on your blog..shame on me! Seems right up my street. How fortunate you found his others!

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    • April 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm
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      I'll forgive you ;) But I do think it would appeal to you – the heroine is a real treat, in an unbalanced and eccentric way!

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  • April 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm
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    Think you'll enjoy "The Odd Women". That bookshop looks fabulous – jealous :)

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  • April 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm
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    The HaHa – great book – i may even have mentioned it you but I suspect others have as well.
    Make Me An Offer – Love It!

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  • April 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm
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    I was looking up something completely unrelated to your post (about U/non-U)and Mitford's essay about The English Aristocracy. I noticed that the 1956 Harper edition of _Noblesse oblige; an enquiry into the identifiable characteristics of the English aristocracy_ was illustrated by Osbert Lancaster AND the introduction was by good old Russell Lynes of high,middle,low-brow fame.

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  • April 19, 2012 at 10:51 am
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    That bookshop looks amazing. One of my favourite books as a kid was The Wickedest Witch by Beverley Nichols but for some reason I never picked up anything else by him. I didn't even realise he was a man until recently! I'll keep an eye out for your review of A Case of Human Bondage.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 8:07 pm
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    I love Barter Books, we were there just before Easter. I almost picked up that copy of 'The Odd Women' but I got side tracked by other books! Did you try the buffet? The cake is wonderful.

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  • April 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm
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    So jealous that you have so many lovely places so close together — I just realized that England is the size of Maine. Texas is almost 800 miles in each direction. It takes forever to get anywhere her and a lot of it is really boring, not to mention hot.

    I also have a copy of The Odd Women, I was planning to read it in June or July for the Victorian Celebration hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey. Glad to hear so many people are recommending it!

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  • May 11, 2012 at 9:27 am
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    I have The Odd Women in the TBR maybe we could do a read-a-long or something of that in the autumn? I have always fancied reading it and could do with a further nudge (just have to get the Summmer Book Club out the way first).

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