A season of beautiful books

There really is little I love more than an aesthetically pleasing book. [Those that feel that I ought to get a life should close this tab now.] Over the last couple of years I’ve waxed lyrical over Virago’s modern classics hardback collection, so it’s unsurprising that much rejoicing was had when I discovered (courtesy of the Observer magazine left on a coffee table at church) that five more were being published. Behold:

Virago Modern Classics Designer Collection – Take 2
It’s killing me that these currently have £2 off at Foyles as I cannot possibly justify buying them – but they were added to my Amazon wishlist within minutes of discovering them and Christmas isn’t that far off…
While in Foyles wrestling with book buying temptation, I stumbled upon another new collection, this time from Vintage and in paperback, but still impressive – especially if you bought all 21 of their special editions. In honour of Vintage’s 21st anniversary they’ve chosen 21 ‘iconic’ titles and re-published them in striking single colour editions. When observed en masse within a table display they’re positively scrummy and would look awesome shelved together. [Yes, I realise this would break my book organisation rules, but – shock horror – I’ve now broken it with the original Virago collection.] 
See, it’s like a rainbow of excellent literature! 

I can’t tell you how much it irrationally annoys me that many of the prettiest – e.g. the pink Time Traveller’s Wife; purple Possession; and turquoise Atonement – are books I already own. Also, how simply fantastic is it that Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is orange and Woman in Black is black? 

If such discoveries weren’t enough to make my cup of bibliophile joy runneth over, today I made a truly fabulous discovery. It was my first day in my new ‘job’ (i.e. placement within training) and my supervising vicar took me out for lunch. We got to talking about what I did for fun and I mentioned reading and the fact that I’d noticed his book collection (observed during a staff meeting in his lounge that morning) was very much along the lines of my taste in literature. He asked if I’d come across Persephone Books – indeed I had, thanks to their publication of Noel Streatfeild’s Saplings which I’d bought earlier in the year. As a result, once we’d finished eating he took me over the road to their only shop…

Oh. My. Goodness. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven! It turns out that other than their ‘classics’ collection (of which Saplings is one), all their books have the same silvery grey cover, but with utterly gorgeous patterns over the inside leaves – oh, and there are bookmarks to match! The shelves are full of piles of books, each with a little bit of blurb laid over the same patterned paper. They specialise in reprinting ‘neglected classics’, mostly by women and mostly from the first half of the 20th century. Alongside fiction are diaries and cookery books – pretty much every single one was enticing. The shop’s tiny, meaning you can see the staff of the publishing house hard at work right in front of you, alongside more piles of books and the WW2 posters that adorn the walls. I had to go back after I’d said goodbye to my vicar so that I could wallow in its beauty a little more.

The luscious shelving displays

Wouldn’t such a pile of beauties help make your life just a little bit better?

I’m really not sure that this shop being 5minutes from work (and on my route home) is a good thing. How many times do you think I can go in without buying anything and not be recognised? I highly recommend paying them a visit though – their catalogue and biannual are freely available and a short story in the latter kept me suitably entertained while locked out of the church office for nearly an hour this afternoon. (My initiation accidentally involved not being told the security code for the office door and I arrived back at the church from lunch to discover that everyone else had gone out…)

One question remains, with my life transforming itself into a manic whirlwind of non-stop activity, when will I ever get the time to read all the books I’m currently lusting after?


  1. Reading this post is going to be very bad for my bank balance!

    I’ve read Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day from the Persephone classics collection and everything about it was gorgeous.

  2. That is indeed the question: when to read them all? But I do love a beautiful book, definitely. Love the sound of the Persephone shop.

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