X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House Culture House Daily

A New Year’s resolution worth keeping: support bookshops instead of Amazon

30 December 2015

9:00 AM

30 December 2015

9:00 AM

Every day in the run up to Christmas, sometimes several times a day, the front doorbell rang with a parcel for one of my five sets of neighbours. Each time, I ran down six flights of stairs to scribble a hieroglyph for the man from the Royal Mail.

It has not been a season of ding-dongs-merrily-on-high, but of the ping of text messages – ‘A delivery coming today. Could you bear to…?’ – and the insistent buzz of the door. I regret revealing at the last residents’ meeting that I worked from home.

None of the parcels were for me. This time last year, I made a New Year’s resolution to give up my appalling Amazon habit. What with one-click ordering it had become fantasy shopping, clicking on Penguins as if they were penny sweets. I was spending hundreds of unthinking pounds – and never visiting the bookshops I claimed to cherish.

[Alt-Text]


And I have stuck to it. With only one shameful lapse, I have bought my books in bookshops. What a joy it has been.

Had I bought my books online this year, I would never have learnt that the most shop-lifted books at Waterstones Notting Hill Gate were Yotam Ottolenghi’s. One conspiratorial bookseller revealed, as she returned from the stock room with a copy of the chef’s Jerusalem, that they were keeping Ottolenghi under lock and key. She had a hunch the books were being sold off a barrow in Portobello market. So great is the ardour for za’atar, tahini and charred okra in this part of London, it has sparked a local crime wave.

I am indebted, meanwhile, to the bookshop owner in Oxfordshire, who, observing that I had bought rather a lot of Virginia Woolf lately, suggested I might try something more uplifting. He was right. Weeks of reading Woolf’s diaries and letters had left me gloomy.  He sent me away with Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. Fizzy grog and buttered eggs did me a world of good. An internet algorithm can only direct you to more of the same; it cannot anticipate that four Karl Ove Knausgaards have left you in glum, naval-gazing spirits and recommend a course of anti-depressant Trollope.

And nor does the internet enthuse about its favourite title by clutching the paperback to its chest, as one young man at Daunt on Marylebone High Street did. Pressing the book – Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net – to his Fair Isle jumper he advised that while he was ‘devoted’ to her first novel, it was not ‘quintessential’ Iris Murdoch. For that I needed The Sea, The Sea the most ‘Iris Murdoch, Iris Murdoch’ of her novels. It was a lovely bit of phrase-making.

It is the pleasure of lines of conversation eavesdropped in bookshops that has fully turned me against online book shopping. In Winchester, on the last night of term, I found myself in P & G Wells, the bookshop next to the college. Scholars, clever and bumptious, were queuing to cash in their book tokens awarded for top marks. The phrase they all used, announcing their winnings to the bookseller, was that they had ‘raised books.’ This, an old boy explained, was ‘awarded by a div don to the best man in each half.’ It might have been another language. Chaperoning parents understood, and beamed.

I bought a copy of Diana Athill’s Alive, Alive Oh! and fervently hoped that if I am alive, alive oh, as she is, at 97, I will still be buying my Christmas books from proper shops with oak fronts and bevelled glass windows.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close