Tag Archives: Waterstones

Goodbye John Humphries, James Naughtie, Sarah Montague et al…..Hello Madeleine Miller And All Who Will Follow Her!……….

……….I’ve spent the early part of the week commuting into the city – not the norm for me – and as a result I’ll be starting a new job at the end of next month. While going in and out on the train and the Tube this week, I’ve been reading ‘The Song Of Achilles’ by Madeleine Miller (it’s brilliant by the way!).

Normally I go to work by car and so my early mornings are spent with the Today Programme on Radio 4 – and have been for about 10 years! But from August I’m going to be swopping the car for the commute into London to work – and among the things I’m most looking forward to are reading every day on the way in and the way back, making homeward bound detours to Waterstones in Oxford Street or to Foyles at Charing Cross or to the many independent bookshops all over the city, and I’m looking forward to having the chance to go to author talks in the early evenings in venues across the city.

Reading On London Underground

For the last few days I’ve been struck by just how many people read while commuting – the trains and tubes are full of people with their nose in a book or a Kindle! Among the books I saw were Chad Harbach’s “The Art Of Fielding” (in my TBR pile), Ian McEwan’s “Saturday” (liked it but not the best of his stuff!), William Boyd’s “Restless” (another in my TBR pile), Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” (not my thing really!) and Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit From The Goon Squad” (I didn’t like this at all though I know others who loved it). Obviously I’ve no idea what those who had Kindle’s were reading – although I have to admit that each time I saw someone with a Kindle my brain pondered “Do they look like they are reading Fifty Shades????????!’. Bizarre I know – even more bizarre was I thought some of them were – prejudice in overdrive I fear!!!!

My favourite though was the woman I saw at Liverpool Street still reading, book in front of her face, weaving from the train platform, across the station concourse and down onto the Central Line – she put her book down only to swipe her Oyster card – apart from that she was on a kind of automatic pilot and it was up to everyone else at rush hour to swerve and weave out of her way! I had to admire her sense of direction, her disregard for the rest of the commuting world and above all her obvious passion and enjoyment of her book! (Couldn’t see what it was – might she have been a Fifty Shades reader?!?!?!)

I’m looking forward to the commute by train and tube – although I’ll have hassles like everyone else, it’ll allow me to use the journey time to indulge in something I love – reading more and more books! At the moment, the car journeys are ok when you’re moving – but let’s be honest around the M25 and London ‘traffic’ and ‘moving’ are almost contradictory terms!!! Once I’m stationary, it always seems like such an awful waste of precious time!

However, while I won’t miss the traffic jams, I’ll miss the Today programme on Radio 4 – or at least large parts of it (I’ll still listen in over hurried breakfast and getting dressed if I can!). It’s one of the things that I think define me as “getting older” – my family prefer Christian O’Connell on Absolute Radio  in the mornings – and I admit any time I listen in I think he’s hilarious. Twenty years ago he’d have been my morning radio choice without a doubt – but now I’m fifty and I’ve got grey hair and my knees creak, I feel at home with Radio 4! (Sorry to any fellow R4 listeners who are offended by the implication that we’re mostly getting on in years!).

Radio 4 Today Programme Presenters
John Humphries – The Best Voice On Radio Sarah Montague – and my favourite Scotsman, James Naughtie

But nothing beats listening to the Today programme to start the day – I look forward to John Humphries baiting and devouring politicians and their egos for his breakfast, I could listen to Sarah Montague’s fabulous voice reading the telephone directory aloud, I love the spark and energy of Evan Davies, the measured deep tones of Justin Webb, and above all I think James Naughtie is wonderful – whether it’s politics or the arts or just the weather, he’s bright, intelligent, engaging and always sounds like he’s enjoying whatever he’s doing! If he and Alex Salmond were put in charge of the Scotland football team, we might win the World Cup!

Though I’ll miss them, I now have more time than ever to spend reading. Which is just as well, as my To Be Read shelf has never been longer (in fact it’s no longer a shelf – it’s now more like two and a half shelves!) and my What Next list would use up every penny I earn if I was to buy everything on it! As my start date is still about a month away I don’t know what will be my first book to mark my new commute – if anyone has a suggestion for something apt or just plain fantastic, let me know!

While I can predict I’ll read more than ever, I’m certain that for as long as my commuting goes on, I don’t think you’ll ever see me doing this!

Reading Fifty Shades of Grey

Anger, fear, aggression… the dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny………

………..Well no sooner have I succumbed to the Dark Side, than Waterstones, my favourite High Street shop (in fact the ONLY High Street shop I like!) has followed suit and gone over to the Dark Side too!

About 10 days ago, I wrote here in a post-cum-confession that I’d finally succumbed to the Dark Side and was now in possession of a Kindle. As I said in that post, even though my reasoning was maximising my reading time, and therefore my reading pleasure, I still felt very uncomfortable in taking ownership of a Kindle. And even though I had rational reasons about using time and the ease of taking books on holiday, deep down it felt like a bit of a dirty, grubby little act on my part – somehow I felt I’d betrayed books and everything bookish!

Then a couple of days ago the news filtered through of the commercial deal between Waterstones and Amazon – and suddently it seemed that Yoda’s words above had taken on the most prophetic of rings!

I was initially very surprised at the news, and now, having had a couple of days to consider it, I have to say I remain pretty concerned. I really do like Waterstones and I desperately want it to survive alongside the independent bookshops I love. I’m often struck by the impersonal feel of the bookshelves in my local Tesco – it leaves me cold and I studiously avoid buying there or at any other supermarket. There is for me a fundamental difference between buying a book as a function and buying a book as an experience – you can get the former in Tesco but you sure as hell don’t get the latter! Old-fashioned I might be, but I loathe the idea of reducing the joy of buying books to an experience on a par with buying milk!!

One of the things I like most about Waterstones is the variation between stores and the ways in which they reflect different situations – I guess that’s partly about the people who shop in a particular branch and the people who work in it. But it means that I go to certain stores because I’m more at ease in one than another. I’d hate Waterstones to lose this policy of individuality for different stores when it gets into a commercial bed with a behemoth like Amazon. I’ve read many of the articles in the past few days, noting the seeming about-face by James Daunt at Waterstones from his initial view of Amazon as “a ruthless money-making devil” to now talking of the partnership as “truly exciting”. To be honest I think it’s one of those things where we’ll have to wait and see what happens – I hope that Daunt will be right and that it’ll strengthen Waterstones.

On the news of their deal becoming public, one of the Waterstones stores ran a very funny and clever on-line Twitter poll to choose their new enemy from a list of five candidates – Tesco, Sainsbury, WH Smith, B and Q and Dreams (every poll needs a spoof candidate – although only the Liberal Democrats tend to be outvoted by them!). The winner, was Tesco and I tend to think the voting public are right. And yet, perhaps, the real enemy for Waterstones is the one they’ve just invited in – a bit like in Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came To Tea – will the Kindle be a benevolent friendly tiger or ravenous beast?!! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm – jury’s out I guess!

And as for Yoda’s prophecy about the implications for my destiny having let the Dark Side in, well following on from my own capitulation and that of Waterstones to the all-consuming attraction of the Kindle, yesterday when I was walking the dog and reading Beryl Bainbridge via the Dark Side at the same time, further evidence emerged that now Mother Nature can’t resist reading the Kindle either!