BLOG POST: Eyes on the Prize

At this  time of year, we have a gaggle of students popping into the shop, each clutching one of our tokens, which they’ve been awarded as a school prize.  We like to play a little game here at Red Lion Books by trying to guess what subject the student won their prize for, based on the book they’ve chosen. Occasionally we get it right and feel very smug about ourselves, but the most interesting occasions are when the book is a proper leftfield choice. One that appears to be getting a lot of traction at the moment, and here’s where the politics bit comes in again, is Machievelli’s The Prince.
It doesn’t matter if you won it for DT or Geography or even Art, it appears Machievelli is very now among Gen Zs.  I’m hoping it has something to do with the current situation in Westminster rather than it being a TikTok trend or being inspired by the various underhand machinations of the Love Island contestants. But then it hasn’t just been philosophy, the students have also been picking up sports biographies, nature writing, and even cookery books – perhaps rather sensibly getting ready for university later in the year.  At a time when the Gen Zs are getting a bit of a rough ride, it’s rather heart warming, from an old Gen X’s point of view, that this generation are as equally, if not more so, well read. We certainly didn’t have the genre YA  (Young Adult) in my day and titles like Heartstopper, It Ends With Us and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series of books – but then we also didn’t have Netflix!
….but who cares if it’s a telly tie-in; they’re buying books and coming into our High Street shop to do it, and long may that reign. I’ve certainly never bought as many books for my son as I have in recent months. A brief dalliance with Murakami led to Mishima, and then Camus. I even recommended Murakami’s Norwegian Wood to an old college friend of mine, who weeks later phoned me up to thank me.
Don’t thank me,” I confessed, “Thank my 16 year-old son.”
There’s a lot we can learn from our children, especially in these technological advanced times, but I also like the fact they keep an open mind and ear when it comes to us old ‘uns. As the students have bimbled around the shop, I’ve enjoyed introducing them to new titles and been subsequently delighted when they’ve picked them.  Bimble, by the way, is a new word that was introduced to me by Margaret here at the shop, proving that everyday really is an education. I like it so much, I will be using quite a lot from now on – sorry kids.
Neil Jones – July 2022