2020 End of Year Review

Title: 2020

Summary: A bit of a mess.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1/5

Review: January 1st is the anniversary of when I started this blog. January 1st 2021 marks Marvel at Words’ eighth birthday. It has been tradition on the blog to mark the occasion and start the year with an end of year survey, going over the books I’ve read and bookish accomplishments over the last 12 months. Thing is, 2020 was a bit of a mess, all told—I’m sure everyone reading this can relate—and I just… didn’t read books.

I can’t really articulate why I didn’t read books. I was just not in the mindset for it. I didn’t even manage to finish a book before things really started kicking off with the virus and lockdown, let alone in the midst of it all. I just found it impossible to fully let the real world go and immerse myself into the fictional world on the page. I started several books, but didn’t get very far with them at all before abandoning them.

My one saving grace was Northern Lights and its audiobook. The one, single book I read in 2020. But even that took me an immense amount of time to get through, compared with how long it has taken me to read books in the past. I listened to one or two chapters a week, mostly while also occupied with pages in a sweary colouring book. Although I did finish it, in many ways it still felt like a chore.

I didn’t buy very many books at all in 2020 either, which means there will be no 2020 book buying analysis coming. I bought a staggeringly grand total of five books in 2020. Even with that low number, as I only read one book, my to-read pile has continued—albeit slowly—to grow.

While there is not much bookish-related activity to look back on in 2020, I thought it would be good to set some bookish intentions for 2021. I refuse to continue to not read books. Books are things that have brought me so much joy in the past, and I am determined to reclaim that. While I cannot force the reading mojo upon myself, I will do what I can to encourage it, rather than giving up on it altogether. And so my intentions are simple and few:

Read six books – I set myself what I thought was the low-low goal of 12 books in 2020. One a month, I though. Easy peasy, I thought. Six books in 2021 feels like a mountain compared to the one book I did manage in 2020. But it’s a mountain I am motivated to climb. I am putting no pressure on myself as to what kind of books or the speed at which I should be reading them. I want the focus to be on enjoying the act of reading, rather than the number or variety of books.

Write six stories – This is a complementary goal to the reading. If I’m not feeling in the right mood to read, perhaps I can feel motivated to write. So, six stories. As short and silly and pointless as they want to be. Because as much as I want to read words, I want to be making them as well. And I want to share them here. As with the reading, I’m putting no pressure on myself. These stories can be about anything, as as short or as long as the muse makes them.

That’s it. Those are my intentions. Minimal, low-pressure, and hopefully high-fun. Because that’s my intention for 2021… to find the joy in things again.

Audiobooks: Awesome or Awful?

Audiobooks: Awesome or Awful?I tried an audiobook once, years ago. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the voices the narrator put on for the characters. I didn’t like the emphasis he used in sentences. It was all just wrong. I quickly gave up and never bothered again. Five minutes of one audiobook and I decided I didn’t like any of them.

But then.

This year I haven’t yet been able to finish a book. I’ve started several, but just… can’t… finish them. Turns out 2020 is messing with my mind too much and I haven’t been motivated or focused enough to actually want to read much.

So, I thought about audiobooks again. I thought about the fact I’d dismissed them outright, years ago, after trying and not getting on with one. I thought about the fact the one audiobook I tried was a book I was already very familiar with. I thought, what’s the harm in trying again?

I ended up choosing a book I had tried to read many, many years ago, but hadn’t read more than a chapter. I chose a book I recently watched and enjoyed the television adaptation of. I chose a book I didn’t really have any investment in or strong feelings on.

I’m just over halfway through and I’m actually enjoying it!

While I listen I usually cook, or wash pots, or do some colouring in. It’s actually really therapeutic. I will definitely be finishing this series via audiobook, and am looking forward to finding more audiobooks that work for me in the future!

Now the thing that annoys me about audiobooks is that amazon has the market cornered via audible, with so many books recorded exclusively for them. I am not an amazon fan, and avoid the company as much as possible. Wordery is my favoured alternative, along with local independent book shops.

If anyone has any audiobook recommendations—books you think work well or even better as audiobooks—please let me know.

And more than that, if anyone knows of any decent alternative to audible, I am desperate to hear about them! I’d love for my library to go digital, but alas, currently I am still left putting compact discs on hold.

2019 End of Year Book Survey

The first day of the year is the anniversary of this little old blog, and today it turns seven years old. I’ve always posted this survey as a way of marking the occasion and feeling proud of another book blogging year in the bag.

In 2019 I had big ambitions, but didn’t stretch far enough for them. That’s fine. I didn’t give up on things completely, and instead I put my focus in other places. I read 22 books, six of which were short comic books. I wasn’t hugely active in the bookish community this year. So removed a few more questions from this survey than usual, because it seemed easier than fumbling for answers I just don’t have.

Thanks, as always, to The Perpetual Page-Turner for hosting this annual shindig. Drop me a comment below and let me know if you’ve done this survey too!

2019 Reading Stats

Number of books read: 22
Number of re-reads: 1
Genre read most: Science fiction just pipped it with 10, but fantasy was a close second with 8. Or we could just say SF&F with 18?

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2019?
A lot of strong contenders this year. Lots of fours stars. But there were only a could of books I gave five stars to, so the title of “best” has to go to The Motherless Oven.

Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
Sadly, Record of a Spaceborn Few. Still a lovely book in many ways, but I didn’t have the all consuming love for it that I had for the first two in the series.

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Maybe House of Many Ways, because I’d been a little disappointed with Castle in the Air and so had put off reading it, but it was wonderful!

Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?
I didn’t really push any books on people this year, though my partner finally started the Wayfairs series and has devoured them, so I’m quite chuffed about that.

Best series you started in 2019? Best sequel of 2019? Best series ender of 2019?
Started: The Motherless Oven, obviously.
Sequel: The Ask and the Answer. I can’t believe how quickly I read that.
Ender: The Wheel of Osheim. Gosh, I still miss Jalan and Snorri so much.

Favourite new author you discovered in 2019?
Probably B. Mure. I was captivated by Ismyre and can’t wait to read the next two books in the series later this year.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I think I stayed pretty firmly within my comfort zone this year, with only two outliers. Of those two, I preferred Little Fires Everywhere.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
The Shining. Because even though I’ve read it before, I couldn’t get enough of it. I put it down, but only for a short reprieve from the tension!

Book you read in 2019 that you would be most likely to re-read next year?
As a rule, i’m not one for re-reading books. But if I had to revisit one of them, I’d have to choose Ismyre for its quiet, beautiful, calmness.

Favourite cover of a book you read in 2019?
If this book gets no much other love from me, it will certainly get the best cover… it’s the reason I bought it, after all! No Matter the Wreckage.

Most memorable character of 2019?
A tough one. There were some wonderful characters, but no one stands out and says, “Pick me!” But i’m going to pick Charmain from House of Many Ways, because she was fun, and lovely, and stubborn.

Most beautifully written book read in 2019?
Definitely Ismyre. It’s beautiful visually, but the story is also beautifully soft and quiet and wonderful.

Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2019?
Hmm. The Motherless Oven was definitely a thought-provoking series, trying (if you want) to figure out the deeper, hidden meanings behind the seemingly random parts of the world.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2019 to finally read?
Has to be Doctor Sleep. I bought it as soon as it came out in paperback, but it wasn’t until I saw the trailer for the film in October that I thought, “Shit, I should read that!”

Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2019?
I can’t decide—it’s a tie:

Everyone’s lost. Any direction will take you where you’re going. You just have to hope that’s where you want to be.

Mark Lawrence – The Wheel of Osheim

What was better – a constant safeness that never grew and never changed, or a life of reaching, building, striving, even though you knew you’d never be completely satisfied?

Becky Chambers – Record of a Spaceborn Few

Shortest and longest book you read in 2019?
Shortest: The Goddess Mode comics, which were about 20-30 pages each.
Longest: The Wheel of Osheim at 672 pages.

Book that shocked you the most?
Even That Wildest Hope, because it was very weird, and I love that shit; I never knew what to expect!

OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!)?
I have to choose Todd and Viola from The Ask and the Answer. It’s not necessarily a romantic relationship, but their connection, trust, and belief in each other is unshakable and I love them for it.

Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year?
Jalan and Snorri in The Liar’s Key and The Wheel of Osheim, obviously. BFFs for liiiiiife!

Favourite book you read in 2019 from an author you’ve read previously?
Rocannon’s World, because Ursula le Guin is flawless.

Best book you read in 2019 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else?
The Goddess Mode series. My partner bought them for himself as they were released and he thought i’d enjoy them… which… yeah, I did.

Best 2019 debut you read?
Not sure how many debuts I did read, but the best has to be Even That Wildest Hope, because I love to read something different!

Best world building/most vivid setting you read this year?
The will always be Becky Chambers, and this year that’s Record of a Spaceborn Few. While I didn’t love it as much as previous books, that wasn’t for lack of incredible world building.

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
I’ll say Women of Wonder, because it was great to read female-written science fiction short stories, and because in there were some aspects that haven’t dated well, but it was almost more interesting for that.

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2019?
Oh, The Ask and the Answer, no question. Sobbed my heart out a couple of times.

Hidden gem of the year?
Ismyre. It’s just. So. Freaking. Lovely.

Book that crushed your soul?
No Matter the Wreckage crushed the part of my soul that wants to fall in love with poetry…

Most unique book you read in 2019?
Most certainly Even that Wildest Hope. It was like nothing I’d ever read before, and while I didn’t love every story in the collection, every story stayed with me in some way.

Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Okay, I’ll say Goddess Mode, because we got them individually as they were released and they are full of adverts and urgh.

Blogging Life

Favourite post you wrote in 2019?
My Book vs Film post about The Shining, because I had a lot of fun with that, putting my film degree to some use, finally!

Favourite bookish related photo you took in 2019?
Another tie, because I really love both of these photos so much… Little Fires Everywhere and House of Many Ways:

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
Mid-year I got a new job which freed up some time for me, and I really wanted to use that to do more with my blog. But I felt the pressure a little too much, as well as taking on other commitments, and if anything I’ve actually done less with my blog. Which is disappointing, but on wards and upwards.

Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
By views: The Wheel of Osheim
By comments: Record of a Spaceborm Few

Post you wished got a little more love?
Book vs Film: The Shining, because I enjoyed writing it and I want to make it into a series.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
My Goodreads reading challenge, but that’s it.

Looking Ahead

One book you didn’t get to in 2019 but will be your number one priority in 2020?
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and Sea of Dust by Robert C Cargill have been near the top of my to-read pile for ages, but kept getting pushed down in favour of other books, so I’m going to try to actually read them this year!

Book you are most anticipating for 2020?
Can’t wait to get a paperback copy of To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers when it’s released in April.

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2020?
Just write more. I wrote very few non-review posts in 2019, which is fine, but I want to pick them back up again 2020.

Finding Time

Time is something most people wish they had more of. The wonderful things we imagine we’d do if only we had more time. But we’re always too busy with work, kids, commitments.

Yet we make time for some things. As a book lover, I make time to read. As a blogger, I make time to write. Sometimes making the time is easier than others, but it’s always time I want to make.

I will go to bed an hour early to lay there reading my book. I’ll read on the bus to work. I’ll read on my lunch break. When all the household chores are done I’ll spend an evening on my laptop, writing a book review. If plans get cancelled or I find myself with a free Sunday afternoon, I’ll sit with my notebook, planning out a blog post.

Sometimes, when I’ve had a busy day or a stressful week, I can’t find the energy. Instead I’ll just want to watch a comedy show or an action film with my partner while eating chocolate and snuggling the cat.

And that’s fine.

But when it’s hard to find the time and energy to read and write I’m often left feeling guilty that I don’t manage to. When I set aside the time, but end up down a youtube hole watching empty house tours and Marvel fan theories instead.

Recently, though, a large chunk of time has opened up for me. I’ve gone from working five days a week down to three. Two whole days a week to embrace and use how I want. And I want to write.

Giving myself the evenings to have guilt-free what-ever-I-feel-like time, I want to make the most of the two seven hours days I’ve suddenly found myself with. I have other hobbies and goals I hope to achieve with some of that time, but a large chunk I want to spend focused on reading and writing and embracing the enjoyment I get from that.

Largely, I’m making this post as a way to hold myself publicly accountable. I can’t waste this time I’ve given myself. I won’t allow it.

It’s time.

2018 End of Year Book Survey

Today, January 1st, is six years since I created this blog of mine. It never ceases to amaze me that I’ve kept it going consistently over all that time. Every book I’ve read, reviewed here for my own posterity and, hopefully, others’ enjoyment. I always mark the occasion with this end of year survey, and my previous years have been 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017… that list will become unmanageable in a few more years.

As I’m sure most people are aware, this survey was created and is hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner, and as usual, I’ve stuck to only the relevant questions for me, my reading life, and my blogging style.

Please do leave me a comment if you’ve read any of these books, to recommend any blogs or bookish folks to follow, and to link me up to your own survey! Hello 2019—let’s do this!

2018 Reading Stats

Number of books read: 21
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre read most: Science fiction (surprising exactly no-one), closely followed by horror and (surprising at least myself) contemporary.

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2018?
I have to choose Places in the Darkness, because it’s one of my favourite authors writing my very favourite genre. How was I not going to absolutely freaking love this book?

Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more but didn’t?
Oh, without a shadow of a doubt The City of Mirrors. After five-star loving the first two books in the series, and even after having heard not-great things about the third, I still went in with high hopes. Safe to say those hopes were obliterated.

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Has to be Milk and Honey. As someone who wants to love poetry, but often finds it difficult, I was so, so happy to find I absolutely adored this book with a fiery passion.

Book you “pushed” the most people to read (and they did)?
I definitely prodded a couple of people into reading The Boy on the Bridge, which is good, because that book is brilliant.

Best series you started in 2018? Best sequel of 2018? Best series ender of 2018?
Started… probably The Prince of Fools, the first in The Red Queen’s War series, because I always forget just how much I unabashedly love Mark Lawrence’s effortlessly hilarious and casually genius writing.
Sequel… I’ll have to say The Word for World is Forrest, even if it did take me several bloody years to get around to it—it was worth the wait!
And I think the only series I finished was with The City of Mirrors, so it unfortunately wins by default.

Favourite new author you discovered in 2018?
I think i’ll have to say Celeste Ng, because I was just blown away by Everything I Never Told You and I can’t wait to get cracking on Little Fires Everywhere.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
The Princess Diarist was way out of my comfort zone, because I don’t think I’ve ever read a straight up memoir before… only more diary/anecdotal/story type memoirs. But it was great, especially buddy-reading it with a friend.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
A few strong contenders for this one, but I’m going to choose The Knife of Never Letting Go. Almost every chapter ended with an enticing hook into the next and the chapters were short enough that it was so easy to just… keep going.

Book you read in 2018 that you would be most likely to re-read next year?
Definitely The Outward Urge, and simply because I’m contemplating my second Wyndham-themed tattoo!

Favourite cover of a book you read in 2018?
Oh, so many great covers this year! However, the one that stands out, with my love of simplicity, artwork, and negative space, is Milk and Honey.

Most memorable character of 2018?
I’m going to cheat a little and say the trio of characters—Antonia, Katherine, and Kitty—from Three, because technically they all began as the same person…

Most beautifully written book read in 2018?
Face. Not only is the storytelling and concept beautiful, but so is the art work.

Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2018?
Hmm, I always struggle with this question. Let’s go with Banthology, because not only are the stories well-told and fantastically written, they reflect and represent genuine struggles and political issues.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2018 to finally read?
Don’t know, really, but I guess The Knife of Never Letting Go has been on my shelf for a while.

Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2018?
Having read through my favourite quotes on my tumblr, there were several wonderful and meaningful ones I could choose… but instead I’m going with the one that makes me laugh the most.

Malcolm was bored by the conversation and excused himself to search for something to steal. Finding nothing, he moved to the kitchen to replenish his vodka. He located the bottle in the freezer; just beside this was a hefty, flesh-coloured, frost-coated dildo. He stared at it a moment, then poured himself a vodka and returned to the dining room. Soon Mme Reynard excused herself to use the bathroom; in a controlled voice, Malcolm told Frances, “Go look in the freezer.”

Patrick deWitt – French Exit

Shortest and longest book you read in 2018?
Shortest: Banthology at 70 pages
Longest: The City of Mirrors at 761 pages

Book that shocked you the most?
Maybe Horrorstor, because I didn’t expect it to be so funny, but also so genuinely creepy—and still really good!

OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!)?
Romantic relationships were really not at all the focus of any of the books I read this year and I am super chuffed with that!

Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year?
Okay, this one will have to be a tie between unlikely travel and adventure companions Jalan and Snorri in Prince of Fools, and the magnificent mother/son duo Frances and Malcolm in French Exit.

Favourite book you read in 2018 from an author you’ve read previously?
Quite a flipping few! As I chose it as my favourite book of the year, I suppose I should go with Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre.

Best book you read in 2018 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else?
I’d seen The Vegetarian all over instragram, and after being vegetarian for over 15 years (before becoming vegan) the peer pressure broke me and I picked it up. Worth it, though!

Best 2018 debut you read?
Undoubtedly Everything I Never Told You. I didn’t know what to expect from the book, and it was freaking fantastic.

Best world building/most vivid setting you read this year?
Despite other issues I had with the book, the world and setting in Station Eleven was fascinating and unique and I would read more stories in this world in an instance.

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most FUN to read?
Oh, has it be Instruction Manual for Swallowing. A collection of wonderful and bizarre short stories that were just a joy to spend some time in.

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2018?
I just counted and at least seven books made me cry. So, there’s that. Most memorable was probably The Twelve, as it managed to get me invested in a group of people in a historic timeline that I knew would all die.

Hidden gem of the year?
Three—no where near enough people will have read it. It’s really a wonderful book, in concept and writing.

Book that crushed your soul?
Ha. The City of Mirrors, because I had bloody loooooved the first two books in the series, and then that was a flaming pile of shite in comparison.

Most unique book you read in 2018?
For sure it’s Horrorstor. I’ve never read anything like that before, and it is surprisingly very well executed. The details of the actual book and how IKEA-catalogue like it is are incredible.

Book that made you the most mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
The Princess Diarist, because it turns out Harrison Ford is a massive wanker.

Blogging Life

New favourite book blog/bookstagram/youtube channel you discovered in 2018?
I’ll be honest, I’ve been pretty bad at the social aspect of blogging this year (not that I was great at it in years previous)… so I really don’t have one. Link me some I should check out in the comments, please?

Favourite post you wrote in 2018?
Stories: Short & Sweet, because I love short stories, but I know a lot of people don’t. I wanted to share why I love them, how they’re different to novels, and what makes them so unique and fantastic.

Favourite bookish related photo you took in 2018?
First place goes to this one of The Word for World is Forest:

But an honourable mention has to go to this one of Face (with thanks to my partner for taking the photo and lining it up so flipping perfectly!):

Best bookish event that you participated in?
Sort of my own event/blog series, but I’ve loved visiting and documenting the bookshops of cities I visit. So far I’ve done Brighton and Edinburgh, and I have a Cardiff one to write and post. It brings an extra level of enjoyment from and reason to visit bookshops (other than buying more books!).

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2018?
Oh dear, as simple and flustering as it is… when Christopher Brookmyre liked and retweeted my review of Places in the Darkness.

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
The social aspect. I find it very difficult to find the time to read and comment on as many other blogs and photos as I would like, especially when I’m already scraping together the time to read, review, and write posts myself. I don’t know how other bloggers manage it.

Most popular post this year on your blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
By views: Edinburgh Bookshops, by comments: On Giving Up.

Post you wished got a little more love?
Fifty Shades of Blackout Poetry, because it was so much fun, and I would love to know what other people made of it, and to see other people’s blackout poetry creations!

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Is it a discovery if it’s something I’ve discovered I enjoy doing? Let’s say yes. Because this year was the first time I really bothered posting about my blog on instragram. I’ve been a bookstagrammer for a few years now (amongst my other photos—mine’s an eclectic account!), but hadn’t really bothered to promote my blog there. For whatever reason, that changed this year. And I really love taking photos of the books I’ve read to post there and share my thoughts on them.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Only my goodreads reading goal. Which seems to go down each year, but for me, so long as I read 20 books or more, I’ll be satisfied.

Looking Ahead

One book you didn’t get go in 2018 but will be your number ome priority in 2019?
The second book in the Red Queen’s War trilogy—The Liar’s Key. I meant to get to it this year, but it’s going to be my first book of 2019 and I can’t wait!

Book you are most anticipating for 2019?
Anything written and released by Patrick deWitt, Becky Chambers, Christopher Brookmyre, Rupi Kaur…

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2019?
Setting up some sort of posting schedule. I’m ruminating on it currently, but I’d like to have one to help keep me organised and motivated. I also want to include posting my own short stories in that schedule… eep.

Write or Wrong?

A brand new pristine book—it needs to be kept that way, right? No breaking the spine, no dog-earring corners, no staining the pages, and certainly no writing in it!

But… why?

I mean, I get it. I used to feel exactly the same way. Books are precious and should be preserved. We take pride in our books, how they look, and how much we love them.

Thing is, it’s not the books themselves that are important—it’s the words they contain.

I have always been one to read and reread certain lines and passages in books that—for a variety of reasons—stood out to me. Maybe they struck a chord with me, maybe they amused me just so, maybe they were just perfectly constructed, or maybe they were a wonderful bit of character development. Whatever the reason I loved it, I would stop and read it several times over to absorb a little of the magic and just truly appreciate the writing.

This habit has since evolved.

When I started blogging, I also started properly recording the quotes that caught my fancy. I started pausing in my reading to type them up and post them on my tumblr. I love being able to scroll through the quotes I’ve shared and re-read them at my leisure, or search for specific quotes and from particular books.

This did cause problems, though; I didn’t always like having to stop reading in order to type up and share the quotes. I tried various methods to get around this. I’d wait until the end of a chapter to go back and find them… except I’d get caught up in the story and forget. I’d take a photo of the quote to sort out later… except then I’d take dozens of photos of my cat and the quote would get lost amongst the adorableness. I’d dog-ear pages (don’t shoot me!) to go back to… except by that time I’d’ve finished the book and couldn’t remember or find the specific quote on the page.

No. The best method that worked—and continues to work—is writing in my god damn books. Underlining a line or two, or marking the margin of a particular passage. It’s so much easier to flick back to them, they are clearly denoted, and the act of marking them also marks a memory in my mind to go back and type them up.

I did start with pencil, but it only took a single occasion of not having one handy for me to progress to pen. Really, I like the idea of re-reading a book and seeing all the parts that struck me previously—will they still resonate with me? And the idea of sharing the book with someone else—wondering what they will think of the parts I’ve highlighted.

I’m sure as I continue to deface my books I’ll evolve into leaving more little notes and thoughts and doodles. I look forward to that natural progression.

Because for me, a pristine book is an admired object, but a worn, annotated book is a story the reader has truly engaged with, taken from, and left something of themselves behind in.

That’s what reading is for me. Not a perfect ornament on a shelf, but fully absorbing the words and concepts contained within.

Feel free to leave a comment expressing your shock and despair at my graffiti practises, or share with me your own way of annotating books!

Edinburgh Bookshops

Whenever I travel, one of the most important things I do is research and plan a little bookshop itinerary. Earlier this year I wrote about all the bookshops I visited while I was on holiday in Brighton. When I spent a few days in Edinburgh at the end of July, it was only inevitable that i’d do the same thing again.

Edinburgh was lovely, with some (very welcome!) rain and cooler weather, delicious vegan food, great craft beer, and wonderful old buildings and architecture. There were also a boat load of bookshops! So many, that I couldn’t get to them all in the three full days I was there. But here’s a run down of the ones I did get to.

My first stop, and one of the few I really wanted to get to, was Lighthouse Bookshop. This is a radical bookshop selling all sorts including politics, history, fiction, travel, and more. The shop is light, bright, and airy. All the books were fascinating to browse and I could have spent a while there. I left feeling motivated and upbeat—with three new books!

Next door to Lighthouse is Deadhead Comics, which on the day we stopped by didn’t open on time. Talking to the person in Lighthouse, we were told the owner is actually who the character Bernard Black is based on. We decided to photo and run, not waiting for it to open—I didn’t want to meet him and ruin the illusion.

Next up was Till’s Bookshop. This is a one-room secondhand bookshop and it’s just lovely. That perfect old-and-friendly vibe, with so many great books packed into one room. I thought I was done, but managed to swiftly snatch up another book on my way to the till!

I thought I was going to miss Main Point Books, as google has the wrong opening hours, but thankfully I made it. Another single room, this time with piles of books all higgledy piggledy. It felt like a treasure hunt, searching through all the books. I didn’t get anything here, but enjoyed the rummage all the same.

Edinburgh Books (not to be mistaken for The Edinburgh Bookshop) is around the corner from Main Point. I loved this one a lot. There were old and new books, side-by-side on shelves reaching all the way up to the very high ceilings—this shop has step ladders. There were also several beautiful special edition hardbacks that tempted me, but I resisted. If there’d been any of my most favourite books i’d’ve snapped them up without hesitation. There was also the intimidating presence of a large bull’s head…

Across the road and down the street from Edinburgh Books is Armchair Books. This one was, for me, the quintessential bookshop. Narrow aisles, crammed bookshelves, weaving up and down the entire space of the shop. I had to limit myself to only properly looking at the sci-fi section, or I literally would have been there all day. There was a disappointing lack of armchairs, though.

The single bookshop I didn’t want to miss out on was Transreal. (Though I very nearly did; thankfully google was once again wrong on the opening hours.) Transreal specialises in science fiction and fantasy books, and it was wondrous. I looked at every book on every shelf, and then did another lap of the whole shop. I had expected it to be dark and claustrophobic—moody and eerie. Instead, it was as light, airy, and welcoming as Lighthouse. I loved it. I limited myself to a single book, though I was tempted with many!

I find all Oxfam bookshops have a similar vibe, and Edinburgh’s one was no exception. I love a good Oxfam bookshop—they never fail to have something of interest. I left with a couple of books.

I haven’t been in many Amnesty bookshops, but this one was large and well-stocked. Spacious, it was lovely to wander and browse the books lying face up on tables and filed neatly on the large shelves. After turning down a gorgeous copy of Vonnegut’s Siren’s of Titan in Armchair because I already have a copy, I saw the same beautiful edition here—in better condition and at a lower price. I felt it was the universe telling me I should definitely buy it, and who am I to say no to the universe?

Being a cat guardian I couldn’t not poke my head into the Cat’s Protection charity shop, and while not exclusively a bookshop, I did find an interesting-sounding Margaret Atwood book for a measly £2!

There was also a Barnardos bookshop, which i’d never come across before. Of course I popped in, though didn’t find anything to bring home.

There were at least three or four bookshops a little further from the city centre that I didn’t manage to get to, so i’ll definitely have to have a trip back in the future to tick them off my list. But all told, between my partner and I, we came home with 21 books. Not too shabby.

Have you been to any of these bookshops? Do you know of any towns or cities with a great selection of independent bookshops? I need ideas for my next bookish holiday destination!