The story of author Robin Ince’s odyssey, visiting one hundred independent bookshops in one hundred days.
Robin Ince is impossible to categorize. He co-hosts the Radio Four show ‘The Infinite Mikey Cage’, he writes books, he does stand up, and likes a nice cup of tea.
We actually have a few things in common. I like buying books, he likes buying books. However, I don’t have the time to read all the books I buy and get stressed out about it. Robin buys far more books than me and reads far more books than me. But I get the impression that some of the books he buys, he only buys them for one particular paragraph and does not stress in the slightest about having too many books. Although he does sneak some of them into his home, so his wife does not see them all.
Something we almost have in common is the fact that he has cut down on alcohol because it gets in the way of reading. I have considered this but I’m not quite at that stage in my life yet. I am at the stage in life where I can appreciate a nice slice of cake though, and this is something Robin does in abundance throughout this book.
If you are hoping for a detailed guide to one hundred independent books shops, you will be disappointed. This isn’t that book. It is a mixture of travel writing, reflections on books that Robin has bought and a peek inside his mind.
His journey is a mixture of business and pleasure. At each of the shops he does a Q and A and signs copies of his (then) latest book ‘The Importance of Being Interested – Adventures in Scientific Curiosity’. Not only does he end up buying books in the shops where he is trying to sell his, he also makes time to trawl through the other book shops in the area looking for books he ‘needs’.
He doesn’t just recount the books he buys on this journey, but visits to Oxfam shops or Oxford inspired memories of his favourite book he has bought in an Oxfam shop or, indeed, Oxford. Spotting two Chihuahuas in the street prompts memories of a woman he once knew that kept two Chihuahuas tucked in her bra.
In short, he just takes a can opener to his head and pours out all his thoughts. Fortunately, his overactive brain has absorbed the prose within the many books he has read, meaning his meandering ramblings are both eloquent and witty.
An A-Z of bookshops it is not, but I have learned that there are bookshops in Pontypridd and Cardiff I did not know exist; I have discovered that there is an annual Crickhowell Literary Festival, and before I was a quarter of the way through I was already ordering one of the books he talks about – ‘Do Miners Read Dickens: The Origins and Progress of the South Wales Miners’ Library’.
Whilst I love reading, I sometimes find my self flagging when trying get through I book I know I want to read but am finding it a little dry. Then I decide to start another, but again struggle to find the enthusiasm. It is as if my reading muscles have seized up. I generally find the cure is to limber up my reading muscles by devouring something that is light-hearted and a joy to read. Perhaps two such books. Once the muscles are flexed, I can then return to that book I was struggling with and fly through it.
Mr Ince has helped me flex those reading muscles. I have picked it up whenever I have two minutes spare and I’m now ready to smash that book I was struggling with – although I might go for another page turner first. Thank you Mr Ince.