BLOG POST: Say it with books

There’s something rather lovely leaving the shop when it’s still light. I’ll probably say the same thing when it starts to get dark, come November, when there’s the first signs of the orange street-light glow. But for now, Spring is on its way and love is very much in the air. There’s always a lot of love when it comes to working in a bookshop. You can see people punch drunk with pleasure, ambling among the shelves, wistfully looking at covers and spines promising them escapist trips to somewhere that isn’t here. Except here is where they want to be. That’s what they tell me anyway. A few precious moments in their lunch hour or after college or just passing time before their bus arrives. I’ve always thought it was rather clever of the owners (Sarah and Peter Donaldson), back in the 1980s to move Red Lion Books to a position right by a long line of stops. It would be interesting to see how many sales over the years have been made purely on the basis of the 74A being a few minutes late.
In February you might expect a bit of a bookie downturn, the lull following post Christmas book token bonanzas, but not a bit of it. The love keeps on coming, and not just those wanting to buy  a loved one a treat at this special time of year. There was an ad slogan many years ago (1918 in case you were wondering) which stated if you wanted to tell someone you loved them, you should say it with flowers, and then later de Beers got in on the ‘say it with’ bandwagon with diamonds. However, the only true way to tell someone you love them is ‘say it with a book’, although there are of course several pitfalls to that. I’m not sure the Wife would appreciate ‘American Psycho’ by Brett Easton Elis, since she is neither. That said, we’ve had a run on this book thanks to Picador’s new ‘Collection’ editions, which also includes the brilliant The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, also not appropriate, and the Line of Beauty, which since she is beautiful, I might just have got away with.
One of the perks of working in a bookshop are the advance samples you get sent before books come out. As soon as I spied Wivenhoe, the place where I grew up, I slipped it in my rucksack, took it home, and devoured it in nearly one sitting, which is pretty good for someone who cannot sit still for very long.  The other lovely thing about working in a bookshop is when authors come in, so I was properly giddy with excitement when Samuel popped by. A Wivenhoe lad himself, who now runs a bookshop in London, I’d interviewed him a few years previously when I was working at the newspaper and we had an ace time chatting about all our old Wivenhoe haunts, many of which pop up in his new book. He’s got an event here at Red Lion Books with the brilliant James Gurbutt, editor extraordinaire and pretty cool thriller writer himself, but more on that next month I think.
For now, let’s keep the love going, can we, and not just for your local indie bookshop, but for everyone, everywhere, especially in places where there’s not much light at the moment.

NEIL JONES, 26th February 2022