Thursday, 19 July 2018

Evil bookshops...

I love secondhand bookshops, insofar as they contain mostly old and unpopular books; but (pretty much) all new-book shops are evil places nowadays...

I used to love going into bookshops; but they become more and more oppressive to me with each year. Books are more and more like TV or Newspapers, just fully of corrupting stuff - whether that be the average novel, or the average non-fiction book of whatever category.

A random grab of a recent book from a random bookshelf with be far more than 90 percent likely to result in something nasty: deliberately nasty.

Not that bookshops are in any way exceptional, except in the reflex deference they evoke from intellectuals.

Public libraries aren't that much better; indeed it is pretty hard to tell the difference.

In sum: Good Books are either not wanted; or simply not provided - so that reading has become A Bad Thing for most people, most of the time; as can easily be seen from the average attitudes, ideas and motivations of those who read the most...


  1. I have the same impression. I used to browse new-book shops very often, almost weekly, but (business-related visits excluded) I haven't set foot in one in a decade or so. When people hear that I buy only from secondhand bookshops (and download a lot from Gutenberg and Internet Archive), the only way they can process it is to assume it's because I want to save money!

  2. I agree. A trip to Waterstone's often leaves me feeling nauseous. It seems to me that new bookshops (as opposed to second hand) are becoming very politically/ideologically driven. That's what the mark of a good book is these days - the extent to which it lionises the current orthodoxies. This is a situation that seems very acute in the children's section. So many of the titles carry ideological messages. Lewis's Narnia books are much harder to find than they were say 20 years ago as well, They're still in stock, just hidden away under 'L'. Never on display. Not that I've seen for a very long time anyway.
    I've not seen a Narnia book in a public library for ages, I should also add. Both in the UK and in Australia. I think the people who work in libraries these days tend to hold similar political and cultural views, and this is refiected in their choice of books. It's the kids who lose out though. I would have lost out massively 40 years ago if libraries/bookshops were like they are now. As for thr grown ups, well, thank goodness for the Internet!

  3. In the USA, "bookshops" (especially the big chain, Barnes & Noble) has, over time, decreased the amount of space for selling books, and increased the space used to sell "other stuff" like toys, games, movies, music CDs, and the coffee shop. Most of the books they do sell are aimed at women; romances and vampire novels, etc. The number of serious, interesting books is relatively small.

    Similarly, as the local public library, space for internet browsing has increased at the expense of books, and the selection of books they do have is generally uninteresting.

    The good news is that used books have never been more readily accessible thanks to Amazon, eBay, and Via Libri.

  4. Glad to have some endorsement!

    I first formulated this insight a couple of years ago when in Blackwell's, Oxford; which is presumably one of the great bookshops in the world* - and certainly has more highbrow books than anywhere else I've been.

    The general experience was of being harangued from all-sides by hundreds of Guardian (newspaper)-reading social scientists, pontificating arrogantly and tendentiously on every subject under the sun! The effect was actually worst in the massive academic book section - although this should not have been surprising.

    And all my favourite secondhand bookshops in Oxford had closed.

    (*It may be that Foyle's in London may have had more books, when I went about 35 years ago, but it was so appallingly organised that there was no way of knowing).

  5. "So appallingly organized". Yes, that is the disadvantage, at times. Though if one has leisure, it can be rewarding to browse around and suddenly come across a treasure, seemingly at random.

  6. I should mention that there seems to be a general trend towards books that can be displayed on a coffee table or sideways on the shelf to prominently announce one's socio-political affiliations. These books are not designed to be convenient to actually read, they are bulky and awkward in the hand.

    It may be dismissed as a bias, but it remains my observation that there is a sharp disconnect between the modern/post-modern world-view and the ability to read at length and consider in depth what one reads.

    That is to say, it is certainly expected that the vapid and shallow ideologies should first infest the vulgar media of video, and last overwhelm the bookshop. But I have a moderately heartening view that this is mostly because bookshops have been taken over by people who would rather pretend to be literate than actually read anything.

    But maybe it should be entirely disheartening that I should say such a thing is moderately heartening.

  7. @Chip - That is certainly true in secondhand bookshops shops. Foyles was, however, had the books displayed by publisher (if I recall) rather than by subject matter; which seemed merely lazy. (I presume that was how the books were delivered, in batches from publishers.)

    @CCL - "These books are not designed to be convenient to actually read," A mystery to me was 'Dreams' memoir published under BHO's name; which apparently was bought by millions, but seemingly read by hardly anybody - indeed, they even failed to read the subtitle.

  8. There is also the trend to spoil Religion sections in bookshops/libraries by having lots of books by 'new atheists' decrying religion.

  9. @CCL - My parents and their friends called some books "coffee table books" when I was little, and they meant nothing disparaging. Art history and landscape photography and other pictorial subjects are best served in a large format. It's a market niche that has been less badly hurt than most others by the ascendancy of electronic distractions, hence the seemingly growing prominence of coffee table books as fewer people buy books just to read.

  10. @John - It's interesting that the academic field of Religious Studies is built upon the assumption that *all* religions are *wrong*, in their core claims.

  11. I have no problem with a book that is actually intended to be opened and perused because the content is interesting. But such are increasingly rare in the current market.

  12. John Fitzgerald, you can look up the American Library Association and see what its political-social leanings are. Which is to say: you are right, about the US at least.

    WJT -- Yes! One's typical new- book store is a place to avoid. But it's never been easier to get hold of good used books, whether via or the like, and from, etc. For example, one can look at a list of the old Everyman's Library offerings, and then check, where many of these are likely to be available.

    Perhaps of interest:

    Dale Nelson

  13. This piece

    might also be of interest -- might encourage some library- or used book source-poking.

    Mrs. Sandeman's book would, I think, appeal to some Albion Awakening folk.

    Dale Nelson