Thursday 23 April 2015

Not quite the deal I'd expected

Tonight, I'm headed to Margate to take part in a World Book Night celebration with my favourite book club, Bee's Bookshare.

I have no idea what the evening will hold (other than a very long drive home), but I do know I'll get to take part in lots of lovely booky conversation, see old and new friends, and enjoy something out of the ordinary in honour of the special day. However, not content with spending one night celebrating, last night I also went to a World Book Night Eve-ent, hosted by a sister bookshare in Deal.

Without digressing too much from my bookshop focus, bookshares break away from the usual format of book clubs in that everyone reads something different, talks about it, and then leaves it on the table to share with another reader - no one ever goes home with the book they arrived with. It's a great way to spend a night talking books without having to try and find a title everyone is willing to read.

Why am I telling you about these book groups? Because last night's event is the reason I found myself taking a day off work to discover what bookshops the Kent seaside town of Deal had to offer.

Typically, my first discovery when arriving in Deal was that the bookshop I'd planned to visit had closed half an hour earlier. The imaginatively-named Books, on the High Street, appeared to be a secondhand bookshop of the old style, complete with orange film sun protecter pulled down in the window, but more than that I couldn't tell you. Next time I'll have less of a lie-in.

Feeling slightly dejected, I wandered around trying to decide how to recover the situation when I found myself in the company of Andy Miller, whose latest book is published in paperback today. Andy was in town for the same reason as me, only he had been invited as the special guest. Suddenly I had company, and we all know it's much more fun exploring a strange place with a friend*.

I'm not going to witter on about our explorations of the town, but they included an indie music shop and, eventually, a bookshop. It wasn't quite where I'd anticipated going but I honestly can't find fault with where we ended up: the local Oxfam Bookshop.

A compact little shop towards the other end of the High Street to Books, my first thought upon entering was to wonder if this was actually a new bookshop because of how untouched many of the books looked. There's also a lot of stock. To the left stretches a wall of general fiction, to the right is crime and thrillers, and sci fi. All the usual non-fiction genres can be found in between or upstairs, which is a surprisingly large area and even includes a section for antiquarian books.

Back among the fiction, I found Andy choosing a Barbara Pym and ended up drawn to the writer myself, meaning I stood and dithered over which of her books to buy, while Andy got chatting at the till. It was interesting listen, getting a feel for the friendliness and taking my time over my book choice - I went with Barbara's Some Tame Gazelle, while he bought A Glass of Blessings.

Leaving the shop, we continued our wanderings before heading to the bookshare at 81 Beach Street, where I'm sure I don't need to tell you lots of book-related banter ensued, including a fascinating talk about books and reading.

All in all, this meant I came home with my bookshop purchase; a World Book Night title, Charity Norman's After the Fall (which will soon be passed on); and, of course, The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller.

My afternoon hadn't gone at all as I'd expected, but good company, a late bookshop find and an evening of food, friends and books meant I still got a good deal**.

168 High Street, Deal, Kent, CT14 6BQ
Tel: 01304 368662

Oxfam Bookshop Deal
5 High Street, Deal, Kent, CT14 7AA
Tel: 01304 364752

*If I've talked to you on Twitter I consider you my friend.
**I make no apologies for the shamefully obvious puns.

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