Library Books & London

She would need flannel pajamas more covers if she lived here.

She would need flannel pajamas & more covers if she lived here.

It is 3 degrees.

I should go to the gym.

Instead, I am sitting in bed under 30 pounds or so of flannel sheets, blankets, comforters, quilts, and two cats.  When I get up to make a cup of tea, it is strenuous to get out from under the covers.  It equals, say, 5 minutes on the elliptical.

In weather like this, I love reading in bed.  Not any old thing. Library books.

Meaning books I like to read but will never buy.

I thought about walking to the library in several layers of modish coats, a muffler, ski mask,  and mittens, but I emailed my husband instead.

“Will you pick up mysteries by Robert Barnard for me?  Thanx!”  (I didn’t really write “thanx.”  I am making fun of the culture.)

My husband has a car and often stops by the library.  He picks up dozens of books for me.

When I go through a “library book” phase, I binge on good pop books. The thing about library books is that they’re “lite.”

Sometimes I want Golden Age mysteries. Sometimes I want out-of-print science fiction books by Pamela Sargent.

I have read and enjoyed Robert Barnard’s mysteries over the years, but I can’t remember which I’ve read.  I’m pretty sure I’ve read all the ones with “death” in the title.   Death of a Mystery Writer, Death of a Literary Widow, etc.

I convey this to him via email.

Hours later, he comes home with a stack.  “I got all the newest ones.  He’s written about 100.”

And here I am in bed, delighted with Barnard’s engrossing novel, A Murder in Mayfair, which my husband picked out because I am going to London, and Mayfair is in London… and that’s all we know about Mayfair and London.  Certainly I take note when the narrator goes to a Chinese restaurant near King’s Cross station, and the neighborhood is full of prostitutes.  He hopes it will change when the new British Library opens.  (Did it?)  “Don’t eat Chinese alone at King’s Cross,” I mentally note.   My guidebook already described the area as dicey.  But it’s not in Mayfair, is it?

It is going to be a bookish holiday. I don’t want to see the Changing of the Guards, the Tower of London, or Westminster Abbey.  I am much more interested in books, bookstores, and literary tours, and gasped when I realized that if only I had booked my vacation earlier I could have heard A. S. Byatt on March 1 at the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival.

What a pity I won’t be there!

But there are doubtless other literary events, and I have booked one ticket for a reading, which  I may or may not go to, depending on whether I feel like getting on the train, and I very well may not.  (I may be doing my laundry that day and reading a book by the author instead.)  There  is something so charmingly boring about a good literary event.  Growing up in Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature,  prepared me for all manner of literary boredom.

And now excuse me, but having written 568 very silly words, I must go finish my library book.

And please tell me about your favorite library binge books and your favorite literary festivals.

6 thoughts on “Library Books & London

  1. My library book binges are usually to stop me buying – if I think I have discovered a new author or want to explore someone’s work, I order them all out of the library. I usually end up taking them back unread, but at least it stops me spending…… 🙂


  2. Karen, that is the way to do it. The library is such a luxury, but it doesn’t have all the books I want. It’s a pity they don’t call me up every time they want to discard a book: I could tell them to keep it.:)


  3. If I were going to London now, I would only be hitting all the thrift shops for books. And Persephone, of course. A friend told me there used to be a shop just for Viragos. I would probably go to the War Museum since I’ve always read WW1 and 2 books. As for book festivals, the only ones I’ve been to are The National in D.C. and the Brooklyn Book Festival. .
    On Saturday I’m going with my librarian friend to Philadelphia for the ALA midwinter conference where I plan to load up a suitcase with ARCs while he’s busy doing librarian things. I love libraries and I do read a lot of library books.


  4. The ALA sounds like fun! And I really should go to the Wash Book Festival, because it is such a manageable city. I’ve gone to the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville and highly recommend it if you like Southern writers.


  5. ’m currently on a Georgette Heyer binge – have had some work-related problems this week, so the last thing I want to read before falling asleep is my “proper” book (Anna Karenina, because I’m at a part where everything’s going wrong for Anna). So Heyer it is! I binge on her books about once a year, and keep reading until I’ve had enough muslins and curricles. I also love a binge on Golden Age detective fiction! My local bookshop has a section called “Cosy Crime,” which could equally well be called “Books for Binges” – everything from Patricia Wentworth to Alexander McCall Smith. Finally, my other favourite author for a binge is Mary Stewart. I LOVE her books, particularly the ones set in Greece. You get all the thrills and romance as well as a travel book! Her work has all been reprinted recently, so I hope she’ll gain some new fans; I don’t know anyone else who reads her. Perhaps the BBC will dramatise one of her books – they’d make great serials.


  6. Catherine, a Georgette Heyer binge sounds fun! I have collected a few in the last year (they’ve been reissued by Sourcebooks here) but haven’t found the perfect occasion to read one. I’m sure Heyer would make a perfect substitute for Robert Barnard. I’ve been wondering if I should read Alexander McCall Smith. And I love Mary Stewart. She is better, in my opinion, than Daphne du Maurier!


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