Have you ever gone into a (book)store looking for one thing, and coming out with something COMPLETELY unexpected?
Yeah, I know you have. I do it, too. In fact, over the last few weeks, both in London and back home, I’ve done that multiple times.
Let’s start in London, the most amazing city in the world, shall we?
When we went to London, my other half and I had one book goal each. His was to find the final 3 Harry Potter books in their original paperback covers. He’s got the first 4, but those were a gift from his dad before the rest of the series had been released. Obviously, it’s fairly hard to get those covers across the Atlantic. Mine was to find a book called The Shakespeare Secret, which I’d bought at the Globe Theatre on my last trip to London 5 years ago but had somehow (sadly) lost during moving trips. I’d searched and searched for the book in American bookstores, but to no avail.
So we went to London on a mission.
Ultimately, the mission was… half successful. I was victorious, he came home empty-handed, due to the stocking of newer editions.
How did it all happen? I’m glad you asked…
It was really hard to pass by the first few bookshops I saw during the initial days. We waited until later in the trip, after we’d done a lot of touristy things, to go into the bookstores as to not lose HOURS at the outset of the trip. Overall, it was a sound strategy on our parts.
The first store that we went into that sprung its book collection on me though, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It was a random design-y type store that had a cafe in the back. But in my face, there was almost the entire collection of Penguin Hardcover Classics with the amazing designs staring me in the face.
Look at those beauties! How am I supposed to say no? Amazingly, I did. We had a long day of walking ahead of us, and it was a little rainy, and I didn’t want to ruin them. So we left, empty handed.
A few days into our trip, we arrived at the first planned bookstore trip to (the original) Daunt Books, and I fell in loooooooooove. Three floors, this shop has everything you could ever want in a bookstore. It’s got it’s niche (travel books) without leaving any of the important things out. It had a wonderful selection of fiction and classics. While there, I stared and stared at the Penguin Hardcover Classic version of The Odyssey (see about, back center). I picked it up and never put it down. My first impulse of the day. The second was a gorgeous hardcover version of The Great Gatsby – which we desperately needed because we somehow didn’t have a copy of the book!
Rather than impulse, I wanted to classify it as necessary, but we all know I’d be semi-lying.
My third impulse of the day came from the contemporary fiction section. There, sitting on a table, was a gorgeous light blue cover with a drawing of an elephant. And really, that’s all I needed. Then I read the title (The Architect’s Apprentice) and the synopsis and knew it had to be mine.
All in all, it was a pretty wonderful, impulsive experience! I also bought my sister a gift she hasn’t received yet so I can’t spoil what it is. And the best part? THEY GAVE ME A TOTE BAG. Not some plastic bag. A TOTE. FOR ME. TO USE. Love you, Daunt Books.
After our trip to Daunt, we took a morning to journey to the Waterstones flagship store in Piccadilly Circus. I was CERTAIN they would have The Shakespeare Secret there. Unfortunately, they didn’t. I checked regular fiction. I checked crime. Finally, I went to the thriller section as a last (but slightly obviously looking back) resort. Again, no luck. But! They did have a copy of its sequel, The Shakespeare Curse! I didn’t even know that existed! Obviously, that was impulse buy number 4. I can’t get the books in the US, so it would’ve been foolish to leave without it.
Because Waterstones partially failed me, I had to journey down the road to Hatchard’s, one of London’s oldest bookstores., having been founded in the 1700s. I was pretty excited. While Waterstones is amazing and grand – it had SIX FLOORS – Hatchard’s felt like the perfect place to curl up with a great book in a big, comfy chair by candlelight. Hatchard’s had ONE copy of my book – now it was up to me to find it. I searched through Crime without luck. I couldn’t even find their thriller section, if it existed. Finally, I went back to good old fiction, despite my many failures there before. We went for the C’s and searched for Carrel. I was giving up, but our friend Natasha pushed on. AND THEN. THERE. RIGHT ON THE SHELF. One glorious copy of The Shakespeare Secret. I could’ve cried.
The funniest part? The book is only good and enjoyable. It’s not great. It’s not phenomenal. It’s just a fun book to read. I’d spent close to 3 years searching for it, and finally, it was mine again.
That was the only bookstore I went to without an impulse buy. Instead, I made a purposeful purchase, and boy was it worth it!
So we left for London with 6 books and came home with 11. Honestly, I think it’s reasonable, and I’ve appreciated the support generated from the question on my last post!
When we got home, however, we made another bookish impulse buy. But more on that in another post…