Complete shocked - and happy! - to see that The Bookshop Book made it onto Buzzfeed's list of '26 of the Greatest Book Dedications You'll Ever Read.' It's in pretty good company! You can see them all over here.
I've been excited about the release of A Song for Issy Bradley for a long time. To be honest, I've been looking forward to reading more from Carys after devouring her short story collection Sweet Homea couple of years ago. She's is a fantastic writer - and a bloody lovely person - and I'm so chuffed that her novel is being recognised in the press and on the radio for the fabulous book it is. It was published yesterday.
I read A Song For Issy Bradley on a train, which may have been a mistake because I cried quite a bit. However, this book is not just a little bit heart-breaking, it's also beautifully written, and sweet, and funny. It's the story of the Bradley family and how they cope when their youngest, Issy, dies of meningitis. She was only four: It is the story of Ian Bradley—husband, father, math teacher, and Mormon bishop—and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife, Claire, her lonely wait for a sign from God, and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with tragedy.
And it is the story of their children: sixteen-year-old Zippy, experiencing the throes of first love; cynical fourteen-year-old Al, who would rather play soccer than read the Book of Mormon; and seven-year-old Jacob, whose faith is bigger than a mustard seed—probably bigger than a toffee candy, he thinks—and which he’s planning to use to mend his broken family with a miracle.
This may sound like it's a book about religion, but it's not, and it may sound like it's a book about death, and it isn't really that either. Carys has written a beautiful novel about family, love, loss, hope, growing-up... it's all manner of things and it's a wonderful, wonderful read. I urge to go out and find a copy; it's one of the best books I've read this year. Just one word of advice: don't read it on a train. Read it tucked up somewhere cosy, and let it carry you away.
I'm running a free online poetry workshop with The Poetry School, called 'Half-remembered Things.' We'll be exploring memories, dialect and twisted tales. All the details are over at this link here. Places are limited, so if you'd like to sign up then please do so asap. :) xx
The project is simple: "Leave a voicemail about a book you've loved and a story you've lived." Call Me Ishmael is a beautiful project, collecting all types of stories, and stories about stories... it's wonderful. You can find it over here:
This entry in particular really got to me.
(If you're viewing this in an email, click here to see the video)
Michael McEntee, owner of The Big Comfy Bookshop, is bucking trends tremendously by moving from being an online only bookshop to a REAL, AWESOME bricks and mortar bookshop. Hurray! He needs a bit of help, though. If you fancy giving him a hand, you can follow this link or give it a share. I'm sure he'd love you for it. xx
Having finished copy-edits, yesterday I went to check out the new flagship Foyles on Charing Cross Road. Wild rumours have been flying around the industry for over a year about this new 'future bookshop.' When they closed down their old main branch ten years ago, booksellers cut the shelves up into tiny pieces and these were tied up with ribbon, labelled 'souvenirs!,' and dotted around the tills: Take a piece of Foyles home with you! I have a rather large soft spot for Foyles, and there are a lot of amusing stories about their history in The Bookshop Book - including a tale about a bookseller who, way back when, used to bring her pet parrot to work (before being asked not to after it attacked one of the customers).
The new branch is pretty beautiful (and no pet parrots in sight). It's full of light, with an atrium that allows you to see all the floors. I think I spent an hour in there, wandering around the fiction and children's section. There's still work going on, and more sections will be opened by authors over the coming weeks. It's all very promising, though. Authors will be running literary tours of London from the bookshop, and there's a large event space and gallery on the upper floors, too. There are a few photos over here.
Did I leave empty handed? Pfft. Don't be silly. I stumbled across a copy of Alice Hoffman's Museum of Extraordinary Things.
It's about old American circuses, fake mermaids and freak shows - all things I'm a little bit obsessed with. As I started reading it on the tube home, I discovered that the main character has syndactyly/ectrodactyly, just like me. Clearly this book has my name written all over it. See, not to be cheesy - I speak only the truth: bookshops unite customers with lost pieces of themselves. So thanks, Foyles, you shiny thing. I look forward to spending many more hours browsing your shelves.
Jen Campbell is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling 'Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops' series, and 'The Bookshop Book.' She's also an award-winning poet and short story writer. Her poetry collection 'The Hungry Ghost Festival' is published by The Rialto and she is currently writing a short story collection. She runs a Booktube channel over at youtube.com/jenvcampbell
OUT NOW (click for details) signed copies
From the oldest bookshop in the world, to the smallest you could imagine, The Bookshop Book examines the history of books, talks to authors about their favourite places, and looks at over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents (sadly, we’ve yet to build a bookshop down in the South Pole). The Bookshop Book is a love letter to bookshops all around the world.