Tag Archives: books

Bath’s Best Bookshops

One of the (many) things I love most about Bath is its wealth of fantastic bookshops. I wanted to share four of my favourites with you here. I popped into all these bookshops on my most recent trip to Bath and, as a result, came back to London staggering under the weight of a stuffed suitcase!

1/ Topping & Company Booksellers

Topping & Company Booksellers is my favourite bookshop in Bath that sells new books. A well-curated selection of beautiful books stretches floor to ceiling in this delightful shop, so that tall ladders are needed to access the top shelves. The staff are friendly and helpful, and plenty of events are offered throughout the year, as well as a regular fiction reading group.

What seals the deal for me is that complimentary tea (beautifully presented on a tray with teacups, teapot, milk jug and biscuits) is offered to those shopping. I very much enjoyed drinking a cup of the refreshing brew as I decided what I wanted to purchase (in the end, I went for a lovely Christmas anthology).

2/ George Bayntun

When I lived in New York as a child, my Mum would sometimes order secondhand children books for me from the UK. I acquired many vintage Chalet School and Abbey Girl books as Christmas and birthday presents in this way over the years, and I still own the majority of my collection. One of the British bookshops my Mum would order from was George Bayntun in Bath, a bookshop that specialises bookbinding and rare first editions, but which also has a fantastic range of more affordable secondhand books.

I was so excited to visit the bookshop in person in October, and it was just as beautiful as I could have imagined. George Bayntun is housed in an old Victorian building, and the large upstairs is beautiful with its impressive bookcases, wooden floors and exposed plaster walls. There’s still an excellent range of vintage school stories in the basement, as well as plenty of other treasures, so do make sure to visit if you’re ever in the area (George Bayntun is conveniently located very close to the train station).

On my last visit, I came away with three gorgeous 1940s editions of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice (you can see them here).

3/ Mr B’s Emporium Bookshop

Another delightful bookshop selling new books in Bath is Mr B’s. Twice named as the UK’s best independent bookshop, this place is a labyrinth of delights for bibliophiles. Rooms filled with books sprawl upstairs and down, and there are comfy chairs to sink into and deliberate over what to purchase.

Apparently, Mr B’s was first dreamed up by two honeymooners – Nic and Juliette – who, after visiting The Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, decided that perhaps they should give up being lawyers and open a bookshop instead. Mr B’s Emporium Bookshop opened in Bath in 2006 and became an instant hit.

I was particularly impressed by the fabulous children’s section, which – along with lots of wonderful books – featured imaginative displays and fun, quirky details (I loved the books piled high in a bathtub!).

4/ Bath Old Books

Whenever I’m in Bath, I like to a pay a visit to Bath Old Books, located in the beautiful Margaret’s Buildings, very close to the Royal Crescent. The bookshop is tiny (though do remember to check out the basement too), but has a lovely selection of secondhand books. I’ve found a few treasures there, including a charmingly illustrated copy of English country lore.

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Next time you’re in Bath, I definitely encourage you to check out at least one of these charming bookshops (and do remember to bring a large suitcase…).

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to read A Spontaneous Afternoon in Bath.

Tea & Tattle | Ann Mah Discusses The Lost Vintage

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This week on Tea & Tattle, I’m joined by the journalist and author, Ann Mah, to discuss Ann’s bestselling book, The Lost Vintage. Having grown up in America, Ann developed a love for France from a young age, and she now splits her time between Washington DC and Paris. Her memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating, describes the year Ann spent travelling through France and sampling different regional dishes of the country.

Ann Mah

I read Ann’s latest novel, The Lost Vintage, before my trip to Burgundy earlier in October. It was the perfect book for the occasion, as it’s set in Burgundy and tells the story of Kate, a wine expert who is studying for the Master of Wine exam. Kate travels from California to Burgundy to stay with her French relatives who own a vineyard, so she can brush up on her knowledge of Burgundian wines.

The vineyards that inspired The Lost Vintage

Whilst there, Kate discovers a hidden room within the family’s cellar, full of priceless bottles of wine that were hidden from the Nazis during WW2. But Kate also uncovers some disturbing information about her family – could one of her ancestors have collaborated with the Nazis? The Lost Vintage is a gripping book full of beautiful descriptions of the Burgundian countryside, as well as fascinating information about French food, wine and history.

The Town Hall in Meursault, where much of Ann’s novel is set.

In today’s discussion, Ann tells about the inspiration behind the book and why she become so fascinated by France’s history during WW2. It’s a brilliant discussion that’s sure to please any Francophone.

The Lost Vintage Giveaway!

I’m so delighted to say that Ann Mah is very kindly giving away some copies of The Lost Vintage to four lucky Tea & Tattle listeners (two in the USA and two in the UK). To enter to win, simply:

1/ Follow Ann Mah on instagram: @annmahnet.

2/ Follow me on my books-only instagram account: @mirandasbookcase.

3/ Like the above photo of The Lost Vintage on my instagram feed and add a comment, tagging a friend who you think would enjoy the book too.

4/ Make sure your instagram profile is public so the entry requirements can be checked.

The giveaway is for USA and UK residents only, and the winner will be announced on 6th November. Good luck!

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea and Tattle | 10 Books to Read in the Autumn

Tea and Tattle | 10 Books to Read in the Autumn

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

This Friday, instead of the usual Tea Reads, I’m bringing you a special Tea & Tattle episode, where I’m catching up on the latest news, chatting about some of my recent Jump for Joys and cultural recommendations, and also sharing a list of books that I think are perfect to read in the autumn.

I hope you have a relaxing weekend ahead of you, and that listening to this Tea & Tattle helps to make it just that bit cosier!

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea Reads: A Visit From the Sea by Robert Louis Stevenson

Listen to the latest Tea & Reads here.

My Tea Read choice for this Friday is a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson called A Visit From the Sea. I’ve been inspired by my trip to Penzance (I’ll be travelling to Cornwall as this Tea Reads episode airs) to choose this poem, as there’s a fun connection between Robert Louis Stevenson and a Cornish pub in the area. Have a listen to the episode to find out more!

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea Reads | Claxton by Mark Cocker

Tea Reads | Claxton by Mark Cocker

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle here.

The Tea Read for this Friday is an extract from Mark Cocker’s nature journal, Claxton. In 2001, Mark Cocker moved to Claxton, a small village in Norfolk, and there he began journalling his observations of the plants and wild life surrounding his home. Mark Cocker writes about nature in astonishingly beautiful prose, and he has a wonderful knack for noticing those small wonders that make our everyday lives so precious.

For today’s episode, I’m discussing an extract from Cocker’s late September entires, which I think perfectly sums up this transitional month between summer and autumn.

Tea & Tattle is also available to listen to on iTunes and stitcher.

Tea Reads | On Rapture by Nora Ephron

Tea Reads | On Rapture by Nora Ephron

Listen to the latest Tea Reads here.

Today’s Tea Reads is a fantastic essay by Nora Ephron on the pleasure of getting truly immersed in a book. Entitled ‘On Rapture,’ this essay appears in the compilation of Ephron’s work, The Most of Nora Ephron.

I always think of Nora Ephron in the autumn, as one of my early fall rituals is to rewatch two of her classic films: When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail. I thought, then, that it would be appropriate to choose an example of her intelligent, witty writing for this week’s Tea Reads. ‘On Rapture’ is sure to spark appreciative recognition in every bookish soul!

You can also listen to this episode on iTunes and Stitcher

On My Bookshelf | Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp

On My Bookshelf | Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp

I’d heard good things about Margery Sharp’s books for years, so I was thrilled when my Dad treated me to four of her recently republished titles. It was hard to pick one to read first, but I settled for Cluny Brown, not least because I thought ‘Cluny’ a rather marvellous name for a heroine. And a delightful heroine Cluny proves to be….

Originally published in 1944, Cluny Brown is set in the inter war years and follows the humorous exploits of the eponymous Cluny. The trouble with Cluny, the heroine’s long-suffering Uncle Arn decides, is that she doesn’t know her place. Content with his life as a plumber with a steady business, Uncle Arn  is shocked by his niece’s extravagant behaviour. Cluny saves up to take herself to tea at the Ritz,  accepts invitations to cocktail parties, spends all day in bed eating nothing but oranges, and is admired by an array of men, despite being (in Uncle Arn’s bewildered opinion) ‘nothing to look at.’

Cluny is the classic jolie laide – her unconventional looks and happy-go-lucky nature make sure she’s noticed wherever she goes, and she sparks  interest both upstairs and downstairs at Friars Carmel, the grand house in Devonshire where her Uncle insists she takes a job as a parlour maid. It’s not only her striking physical appearance that sets Cluny apart, however, but also her endearing personality. Cluny has an active, enquiring mind and an independent spirit that isn’t easily cowed. At a time when social classes were rigidly distinct, even Cluny’s employers can’t help but treat her as an equal. Cluny’s search for where she truly belongs ultimately leads her to take a leap of faith and leave her homeland behind, as she becomes the woman she was destined to be.

Margery Sharp’s gently ironic humour and understanding of human foibles add depth to her writing and make for memorable characters. Indeed, there are many besides Cluny who are loveable in this book. I have a particular soft spot for Sir Henry Carmel, the quintessential English country squire, whose penchant for writing extremely dull letters to far-flung acquaintances across the globe had me chuckling:

As his physical powers declined, making hunting impossible, Sir Henry had taken to the pen; all over the world the friends of his youth began to receive very long, very dull letters from him. To Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Singapore, Australia, India, New Zealand and the Bermudas – Sir Henry’s epistles went forth ; for he never considered it worth while to write to any one nearer at hand. So the letters took a long time to get there, and the replies even longer to get back, and all the news was out of date; and this gave his correspondence a peculiar timeless quality which was very soothing.

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Cluny Brown is a light-hearted, quick read that is perfect for those who love P.G. Wodehouse and Nancy Mitford. Now, to decide which Sharp I should read next….

Tea & Tattle | A Chat With Kate Morton

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle episode here.

Today on Tea & Tattle, I’m so delighted to be joined by one of my favourite authors, Kate Morton, to discuss Kate’s new book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

Originally from Australia, Kate now lives in London with her family, and her books have been number one bestsellers all over the world. The Clockmaker’s Daughter is due out in the UK on the 20th of September, but I read an advance copy of it a few months ago, and it was definitely the highlight of my summer reads. I know Tea & Tattle listeners will love it too!

Kate Morton, photographed by Davin Patterson.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is an incredible story that spans the Victorian era to the present day. A mystery lies at the heart of the tale: one summer in 1862, a young woman called Birdie Bell is invited to a gathering of artists at Birchwood Manor, a beautiful house in the English countryside. Everything seems idyllic, until one terrible day changes Birdie’s life forever. What are the true events of what happened that summer? The Clockmaker’s Daughter weaves several narratives and time periods together to uncover the secret hidden at Birchwood Manor for so many years.

In today’s discussion, Kate tells me about some of the inspiration behind her book, why, as a writer, she’s so fascinated by time, details about her writing process and so much more.

You can also listen to the podcast on iTunes (iphone users) or stitcher (android users).

Tea Reads | The Four Suspects by Agatha Christie

Listen to the latest Tea Reads here.

For the first Tea Reads of the Autumn Season, I’ve chosen a perfect cosy mystery. The Four Suspects by Agatha Christie is one of my favourite Miss Marple short stories. I always think of it this time of year when dahlias are in bloom all over the UK, because Miss Marple solves the mystery partly because of her knowledge of the different varieties of dahlias.

The Four Suspects shows Christie at her very best, with all her classic hallmarks:
a seemingly impossible conundrum, baffled professionals and a quietly confident amateur sleuth, complete with her knitting needles.

Happy Listening!

Book Talk | Three Summer Reading Suggestions

Summer Reading Suggestions

For me, one of summer’s truest delights has always been the additional reading time. Nothing beats a seat in the shade with a tall glass of lemonade (or perhaps something a little stronger…) and a page-turning novel. When I was young, I took enormous pleasure in deciding what stack of books I’d read during my school-free days, and now I teach part-time I still get to take advantage of the summer holidays to knock off as many books from my TBR pile as possible.

Here are some recent reads of mine that I think would make excellent choices for the summer, whether you’re enjoying lazy evenings in the garden or need a good book for a plane.

1/ The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Described as ‘Sliding Doors set in a bookshop,’ this debut novel by Cynthia Swanson instantly caught my attention. The Bookseller is set in Denver in the 1960s and is told from the perspective of Kitty Miller, a 30-something spinster who runs a bookshop with her best friend from high-school. One night, Kitty goes to sleep and wakes up to find herself in an alternate reality, where she’s living the life she always thought she wanted: married to a caring husband with piercing blue eyes and the mother of three young children. Every time she goes to sleep, Kitty dreams about this new version of herself, who knows how to cook and buys much more expensive (if rather dull) clothes.

Kitty discovers that Lars, the man she married in her dream world, is the same man who stood her up on a blind date several years ago. In real life, she finds out that Lars had died suddenly before meeting her, and her dream life shows her the path she might have taken had he lived. Kitty gets more and more drawn into her imaginary world, only to discover that her seemingly perfect other life may be far less idyllic than first appears….

The Bookseller kept me gripped right to the end, and I enjoyed its satisfying plot twist. I loved the period details, especially the descriptions of the books Kitty enjoys reading and that she stocks in her shop. This book would make an excellent light, entertaining read for a long journey. I’ve now bought a copy of Cynthia Swanson’s recently published second novel, The Glass Forest, and can’t wait to read that too.

2/ An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I talked about An American Marriage on a recent Tea & Tattle Podcast episode, and I highly recommend adding it to your summer reading pile. Jones’ novel describes what happens to a newly wed black American couple, after the husband is arrested and wrongfully imprisoned for rape.

An American Marriage is told from the perspective of three main narrators: husband and wife Roy and Celestial and Celestial’s best friend, Andre, who’s been in love with her for years. The triangular love plot lies at the heart of the story, which deftly examines the themes of racial prejudice, familial ties, professional and creative ambition and the societal expectations of women.

I loved Jones’ full-bodied, finely honed prose  and her tender understanding of people’s struggles, desires and failings. None of her characters are perfect, or indeed wholly likeable, which makes them all the more human and ultimately endearing. It’s easy to see why An American Marriage has been a firm favourite on the New York Times bestseller list, and it would make a great choice for your next holiday read.

3/ The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark apparently thought The Driver’s Seat her best novel, which made me very curious to read it. The book is extremely slim, so I was able to read almost all of it on a long-ish tube journey. The Driver’s Seat is a disturbing story about a character hellbent on one of the most self-destructive holidays ever imagined.

Having burst into a fit of hysteria at work, the book’s protagonist, Lise – neither young nor old, neither pretty nor plain – gets the afternoon off and goes shopping to prepare for her holiday in Italy (the destination is never specifically named, but it’s most likely Rome). She chooses an outfit of wildly clashing colours, the first of many insanity-tinged decisions she makes within the following few hours she remains alive….

In The Driver’s Seat, Muriel Spark inverts all the traditional elements of a murder mystery. The reader is aware almost from the beginning that Lise will be murdered, but Lise is no ordinary victim. It is hard, indeed, to attach the word ‘victim’ to Lise, and her engineering of events forces the reader to an uncomfortable consideration of the fine line between Lise’s complicity in her end and the horrific victimisation of her death. Reading this book feels rather like experiencing a psychedelic nightmare, but I can assure you it’s a story you’ll never forget.

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You can keep up with my book recommendations on my books-only Instagram account, @mirandasbookcase