1) ‘with all faults’, by David Low
An unexciting autobiographical account of running a second-hand bookshop in Charing Cross Road in the middle of last century. Lots of anecdotes of people I have never heard of before, or am not awfully interested in, with the one exception of Michael Foot, who I see has written to today’s Guardian to point out that he is not dead yet.
But it does make you think how much the British and Irish books trade seems to have changed in the last fifteen years, since the rise of Waterstone’s/Dillon’s. There were three or four decent independent bookshops, and a vast number of good second-hand ones, in the Belfast of my youth. Now the two branches of Waterstone’s have captured the market for new books, apart from the University Books Shop, whose fiction stock was rather unimpressive last time I looked in. The second-hand shops still seem to be in fine shape though.
David Low writes with affection of Bowes & Bowes at 1 Trinity Street Cambridge, now of course swallowed by Cambridge University Press (I think); and of Deighton, Bell, now (alas) Laura Ashley. And of Dublin’s Hodges Figgis, and Greene’s, back in the old days. I suspect it’s easier to get a decent variety of books on the high street and via the internet than it ever has been, but I regret the loss of individuality. (There is a flip side: he mentions only one bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, and complains about how much effort it is to get there, just for the one shop.)
He tries to explain in the preface why this book was published in Tehran, but doesn’t really succeed.