Richard and Judy, the librarians of Britain

That’s it. I’ve had enough of bookshops. I used to enjoy browsing through them a few years ago, looking up new authors as well as “staple diet” writers who I’ve enjoyed. But the shopping experience in today’s bookshops is overwhelmingly tacky and, well, just overwhelming. Most stores seem to have these tables, with titles piled high, underneath a sign: “our favourites this month” and inevitably there are at least two copies of Paolo Coelho’s wistful musings, and other authors (all of whom seem to share the title of “genius”…) writing about abused Russian alcoholics and Ukranian tractors.

I couldn’t see anything new or particularly exciting, so meandered over to fiction – not my favourite place. And there, emblazoned in yellow and pink and other sickly garish colours, was a stand suggesting five or six books as recommended by Richard and Judy. Good God alive.

Has society plummeted to such literary-ignorant depths that we have to rely on an overpaid, smug TV couple as our national librarians? I only looked at one title – it had a blue cover and, yes, I liked the picture – and, rather inevitably, it was all about a widower and how he’s coping. No surprise there then. I’m not here to judge the quality or writing of the books’ authors – I’m sure they’re very good books – but why the hell are we relying on two celebrities to help us choose what to read? One man’s favourite is another man’s draught excluder.

I very nearly ventured over to the sports section to read a cricket book (spit). Fortunately I found something, after an hour trying to avoid all the arrows and signs and posters demanding I buy THIS book and THAT one: London Pub Reviews by Paul Ewen, a New Zealander who’s written of his experiences and the people he’s come across in some of the capital’s pubs. Perhaps an odd choice for a trip to India, where I’m off to tomorrow, but at least it’s not on Dickhead and Booby’s list…

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