So, you’ve finished a book, and it was really great and everything, but…hmm, what’s next? Something your friend recommended? Hey, why not – good idea. Or maybe another book by the same author? Well, except there are all these other writers out there whose books you haven’t read yet. You know – Sally Something. William Whatsit. Him. Or her with the hair, who won that award. Tom Thingy, who apparently does very funny school visits. Yeah. Or maybe just go on Amazon and see what the Internet suggests. After all, IT KNOWS WHAT’S IN YOUR HEAD. It can see it all.
…You can travel twelve hundred miles and stumble upon a tiny village beside a fjord that just happens to be crammed with second-hand books, as I did a couple of weeks ago.
I can recommend this approach (OK, not necessarily the 1200 miles part!) Being bookish types, you are no doubt all familiar with Hay-on-Wye, its brilliant annual bookfest, and its incredible array of second-hand bookshops, stalls, etc. Maybe you’ve also been to one or other of Britain’s other two Book Towns – the hilariously named Wigtown in Scotland, or Sedbergh in Yorkshire. Or maybe you’ve been to one elsewhere: there are seventeen of them altogether so far, which you can see on this map. But I bet you haven’t been to Fjærland, Norway. It has a population of just 300 but there are books everywhere. There is one café: crammed with books. The Tourist Information Centre is really a bookshop that also provides local info. And the one road running through the village is lined with places selling books, with or without a bookseller present.
Of course, most of the books are in Norwegian, but we found plenty of English books too:
What I love about this is the randomness of it. The Patrick White book you see above was my choice; I haven’t read it yet, because I want to suggest it for my reading group. I have never read a book by Patrick White. It’s about time I did. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973, yet his books are practically all out of print, which seems a shame. Writers go out of fashion, same as handbags and lampshades.
SO: I have a challenge for all you GHB folk: get yourself to a second-hand bookshop, and see if you can discover a writer you didn’t know you loved. At the very least, you’ll have fun looking; at best you might just make a great discovery. Maybe you’ll even be instrumental in spreading the word about some out-of-fashion writer, and helping to get them back in print! Or perhaps you’ve already made a discovery like this you’d like to tell me about?