There is a child here in the shop, unhappy because there are no Star Wars books left for him. But his sister has found The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the orange one, and he is also uncomfortable with her success. He says that he has read all of those books anyway.

She says: Booooom!

She has found The Search for Wondla. He says: oh that!  He needs to be dismissive. She answers: Oh Booooom!

Now she has two books and he has none. He asks me for I Am Number Four, I understand the urgency, but I don’t have it. He looks quickly at his sister but she is absorbed, kneeling on the floor with A Day in The Life of a Roman Child…he walks over and says: I know that book.

She doesn’t answer.

He is scanning the shelves and table, quickly, needing a discovery.

On the windowsill, he finds The Hobbit, facing outward, easily missed.

He lifts it off the windowsill and onto himself, against his chest, not breathing, holding it as children will when they find something of diabolical value. It is a paperback edition, a large one in poor condition, illustrated, the dragon on the front stirring in a nest of boiling jewels.

His sister has noted his silence and gazes over at him suddenly. He says: I’m getting this. He has one shoulder raised against her, protecting the dragon.

Their mother returns, she hurries them along, pleased that they have chosen, pleased with her own books, not seeing theirs, missing the acute joy, encouraging their libraries as she also builds her own.



My friend wrote me a note.


My friend, who is too full of joy, wrote me a note:

Hi Kerry again. When you choose the glass beads for the bookmark with the bronze clock please make it rich, with a Gothic and Medieval feel to it like when you enter the Medieval Churches in Europe and are confronted by the wonderful stain glass windows that glitter and shimmer as the windows catches the light. May you please revise now already and make 2 bookmarks now and not one, thanks, love Sharon.

Sharon is from Singapore and everything she reads and writes and talks about is full of joy. She comes and goes, spilling books and happiness carelessly and everywhere.


The Small Pottery Bird


An old lady came in and showed me a little pottery bird she had just bought in a second hand shop. It was not a beautiful bird. She handled the small pottery bird like this; she tipped it forward and stroked the beak. Then she tipped it over and examined the flat plate of the underneath. Then she outlined the dents of the wings with her thumbs and looked at it with such delight I thought it might come alive. I could now see that it was a beautiful bird. She fitted the bird into one hand and looked at its eyes. She told me it was the nicest thing she had ever seen. Then she bought a copy of Ring of Bright Water and said goodbye.

The topsoil of our personalities is nothing….. Anais Nin


When visitors come through my door I like to see their faces. This is because their faces reflect instantly that like it here and will default to expressions of such delighted confusion that they often cannot answer my greeting ( unless I comment on the weather; this always provokes a mixed response of approval and outrage ).

Then they will begin hunting or browsing and they never complain about the books that are too low to see or too high to reach. I can recognise the start of recognition when they see something beloved. Also the astonishment when a title, long searched for actually turns up.

Children are captured by the moment, and can seize something new and risky, can make fast choices or fast rejections. Adult readers can be more suspicious, not wanting to be ambushed into a dull choice, worrying about books at home still not read and stung uneasily by the words must read on the jackets…

Some are enticed by colours and covers, size or weight. Others go strictly by lists. Some buy piles, some purchase nothing. Some confess to owning a kindle.

Some apologise that the book trade is not what it used to be.

Many read titles aloud, some laugh out loud and some are just silent the whole time. Many tell me who the book is for and why. Many ask me to replace their books because the dog got their only copy, the red wine got their only copy, some prick borrowed and never returned their only copy. Some are retrieving books and stories from their past and making them part of their future. It is fabulous.

Visitors who are clearly fatigued or unwell cannot help it that some of their real self will leak out, shine out, fall out when they speak of the books they are reading or have read and have loved very much. I don’t think they mean for this to happen.

But books read and loved keep themselves anchored to small pools of joy that stay intact, seemingly for ever.

And if layers of time continue to congeal over them, as they will (sediment over sediment), the instant a book is sighted and recognised, the memory is relit, refitted and emerges again, shouldering through the clinging and wearying topsoil that we so unwittingly collect…