Bookshop Visit--Trident Booksellers & Cafe

There are not a lot of bookshops near my home. Actually, there are not any bookshops near my home. The nearest Barnes & Noble is about 45 minutes away and that is about as good as it gets. So, when I realized that I would be in Boston a few times a month I started compiling a list of bookshops I absolutely had to visit. I am making unbelievably slow progress in conquering this list because my time is not my own when I am in Boston but last week I managed to check one more bookshop off my list.

A kind person on Instagram suggested I visit Trident Booksellers & Cafe. When, through the vagaries of Boston traffic, I ended up arriving at my destination an hour early I knew this was the time. I mapped the location and started power walking in the heat to the store on Newbury Street. After one small detour, when Google maps thought it was a good idea to walk me through a back alley, I finally arrived.

The cafe looked very nice. There was seating outside as well as upstairs and on the main floor. With only one hour to get there, look around, and get back to where I needed to be I wasn't able to try it but hopefully, I will be back. My Instagram source speaks highly of the granola.

The store seemed to have a little bit of everything. There was a small children's section, a gift section, and all the usual categories. They had spinning racks of Dover Thrift Classics scattered throughout the store. I was tempted by a number of things, including these mugs which I am deeply regretting leaving behind now that I am home.

I was determined to buy something. I have decided it is my moral obligation to make a purchase from any independent bookstore I enter. (How is that for book buying justification?) I didn't have time for my usual dithering which might have been a good thing. This is what I bought.

I have been meaning to read Harman's biography of Bronte for a while now. Also, I think I need a shirt, or maybe a tote bag, that says "Eat, Sleep, Read." All the essentials of life covered right there. After my purchase, it was time to hurry through the heat back to my destination. I arrived slightly breathless and overheated but very happy with my latest bookshop excursion. Now to decide which bookshop is next on my list...

Book Purchases

book Norman Collins

I started pulling books off my shelves in order to write this post, (or more accurately, pulling books off the piles in front of my shelves) and  I realized that I have been on a bit of a non-fiction book buying binge. Of the eight books I am mentioning here only two are fiction. One is pictured above, Bond Street Story by Norman Collins. I read London Belongs To Me by the same author last year and greatly enjoyed it.  Here is my review. I have been meaning to read something else by him so I am happy with this purchase, especially since the book arrived with such an awesome dust jacket. When you buy books online you are never quite sure what they will look like when they arrive so it is a pleasant surprise when they are pretty as well as readable.


The next two books were recommended by a kind reader. The Grand Tours of Katherine Wilmot is just what it sounds like, the journals of travels through Russia and France in the very early 1800s. The blurb on the front describes Katherine as "clever, witty, and curious" so it should be fascinating. The other recommendation was The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay. Macaulay is an author who is familiar to me but I have never read this. It "tells the story of an eccentric party of English who set off for Turkey to explore the possibility of establishing a religious mission there." As one does.

books Nella Last

I have been meaning to buy Nella Last in the 1950s for a while. I have read the other two books in the series and loved them. I don't know why I never bought this but I have remedied that problem. I am hoping to get to it soon. Hopefully, before my book stacks overwhelm my house and I  completely forget what I own. I also bought A Life in Secrets-The Story of Vera Atkins and the Lost Agents of SOE. I think I just stumbled across this in a list of WWII non-fiction. It is the account of Atkins' "search through the chaos of Allied-occupied Germany to establish the fate of the agents." It sounds fascinating even if a bit harrowing.

books London history

I enjoy reading books that tell me all about how people lived in a different time period. I want to know how they dressed, what they ate, what their everyday life was like. If those books are about life in England, then all the better. I bought Dr. Johnson's London by Liza Picard. It is subtitled "coffee-houses and climbing boys, medicine, toothpaste and gin, poverty and press-gangs, freakshows and female education." I am hoping it lives up to my expectations especially since I bought a second book by Picard, Victorian London--The Life of a City 1840-1870. 

books diarists

My last book purchase is The Assassin's Cloak--An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists. I love reading diaries, they are such a perfect glimpse into a world and thoughts of the past. This is taken day by day through the course of a year. Each day has a few short entries from different people and different time periods. I am considering trying to read it a day at a time starting with the new year. Does anyone think I can be that organized?  I have my doubts.

Baggu backpack

And last of all, and not a book though it will be used for carrying books, I bought a new backpack and I love it. I wanted something to carry my camera and books on my excursions over the summer. I had a crossbody bag but it would swing forward and get in my way every time I would crouch down to take a photo. I think this will work much better and, besides, it just makes me happy so I am showing it to you. It does make a change from my many, many tote bags.

Do you enjoy non-fiction? Do you have any recommendations for me? Since, obviously, I am not buying enough books and I need to fix that.

Hello, Old Friend

Books are like memories you can hold in your hand. Sometimes picking up a book you have read before, maybe read multiple times, can transport you straight back to the person you once were and to the life you once lived. I realized this once again when I was helping my parents reorganize their bookshelves after they had new carpet installed. I come by my love of books naturally so their house is full of bookshelves, four large ones in the rooms with the new carpet. That is a lot of books and I remember many of them. These are the books of my childhood. Not all of them are children's books though my mom has an impressive collection of classic children's literature. But these are the books that were on the shelves when I was growing up.

There is the fat volume about King Tut that I paged through regularly, fascinated by the photos. There are the volumes of poetry that I dipped in and out of with only a small grasp on what the poems meant but with an endless fascination for the rhythm of the language. There are the old favorites that no house should be without, the Little House books and The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden. There is a copy of The Mean Old Mean Hyena and if you didn't read that picture book as a child well, you were missing out. It tells the story of a mean hyena (obviously) who plays endless pranks on the other animals. It has the constant refrain of

"I'm the mean old mean hyena,
there is no hyena meaner.
I'm the meanest mean hyena
that's been ever known to be.
I'm a lowdown low hyena,
such a so-and-so hyena,
Oh! I know of no hyena
nearly half as mean as me."

I loved it. My brothers and sister loved it. My kids loved it. We all can recite huge swathes of it by heart. I remember getting a huge thrill out of the absolute meanness of that hyena. Why do kids like the troublemaker?

So many of the books I could recognize by the feel and the color of the spine even when the lettering had worn off. They were books I hadn't thought of in years but as soon as I saw them I recognized them and remembered the weight of the book and the feel of the story. My Friend Flicka and the endless yearning for a horse of my own. Cheaper by the Dozen and the organized chaos of a family with twelve children. Reading Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber when I was 9 or 10 and finding it odd and fascinating and absolutely enthralling. It felt slightly scandalous, I can't remember why, and very exotic. It was set in New Orleans, after all, and what can be more exotic to a New England child? I brought it home today to reread in the hopes of finding once again that feeling of escaping to another world.

That is what books do for us. They help us escape but they help us find ourselves too. We live many different lives when we read. And whether we are reading about a mean old mean hyena or about King Tut and his tomb we are becoming a more complete person because we have added another story, another fact, another way to understand the world, to who we are.

Book Review--The Thirty-Nine Steps By John Buchan

I told the man that valets me that I was feeling pretty bad, and I got myself up to look like death. That wasn't difficult, for I'm no slouch at disguises. Then I got a corpse-you can always get a body in London if you know where to go for it.

That quote tells you all you need to know about The Thirty-Nine Steps. When reading this book you are entering a world of death, disguises, innumerable chases on car and foot, and corpses available whenever needed. It is a hey-go-mad romp across the countryside of Scotland where the hero no sooner escapes from one dangerous situation before he falls into another. No wonder this book was made into a movie. It is really made up of scenes and reading it is like having a movie unfold in your head.

Richard Hannay, the protagonist and narrator, returns to his London flat one night to encounter a desperate stranger who claims to have uncovered an anarchist plot that will impact all of Europe. Hannay shelters him while the man fakes his own death. This fake death becomes all too real when Hannay returns one day to find the man stabbed through the heart. Hannay is afraid that the murders will come after him next and that the police will suspect him of the crime. Therefore, he flees for Scotland where he intends to hide out until just before the anarchist plot is to be implemented when he will emerge, warn all of what is to come, and save the day. Things don't go according to plan. Of course. The rest of the book is made up of the aforementioned chases, disguises, and dangerous situations.

This book is frankly implausible but that is what makes it so much fun. The reader completely suspends belief and instead goes on the run with Richard Hannay. And oh, what an adventure it is. It reminded me a bit of a James Bond movie with fewer explosions (though there are some) and no beautiful women. I'll probably download and read the sequels at some point and I'll rewatch the movie. I haven't seen it in years and don't really remember it.

All in all, this was pure entertainment. It isn't the best book ever written. It doesn't make you think or teach you a lesson (other than the folly of sheltering men who are faking their own death) and the plot is full of holes. But it is written at a breakneck speed that carries you along with it.  Enjoy the ride.

This was read for my Classics Club list.