Saturday, May 28, 2016

Back from a land where people read books

A small slice of the history section at Waterstones
Piccadilly bookshop in London. The section extends
to the left beyond the frame of this photo and into
and beyond the range of the next picture. (
Photo by
Peter Rozovsky)
I trekked to Waterstones Piccadilly in London Tuesday evening to see Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Jonasson interviewed by Andy Lawrence about their work and about Icelandic crime writing in general, but I was sidetracked by the breadth and height of the store's history section.

Ragnar Jonasson and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir amid more
evidence that  England more literate than the United
States. Note the small sign immediately to Yrsa's
right. She and Ragnar spoke in a part of the store
one over from that in the photo at upper left but
still in the history section.
What you see above/left is larger than the history section of my city's big bookshop, and that's just a part of the section on British history. Other countries, regions, periods, and subjects in history occupy even more space. And Waterstones is not some egghead independent or academic bookstore, it's part of a chain.

It was a pleasure to visit a city that buys books. As a commenter who was visiting the UK at the same time wrote on Facebook:
"B&N whines about Amazon, but I can see that in the UK, they treasure printed books and brick and mortar more because the experience is so very different from the U.S."
The store also has a bar and restaurant on its fifth floor. London is not just more literate than Philadelphia, it also knows better how to show a reader a good time.

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Blogger Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Peter, I'd be happy merely looking at history sections in bookstores and libraries. I enjoy history even though my reading of the subject is infrequent.

May 28, 2016  
Blogger RR@15037 said...

I recall that Iceland was (at least in the 80s when I lived there) considered one of the most literate countries in the world in that such a large percentage of the population regularly read books. Icelandic authors in London seems like a perfect marriage of literacy.

May 28, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Prashant, history constitutes a great share of my reading, larger than crime recently. So this sprawling history section was a joy to browse. I could live in that building.

May 28, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tim, that is a good combination. I suspect the entire population of Iceland could fit comfortably in the history section at Waterstones Piccadilly.

May 28, 2016  
Blogger Rick Ollerman said...

A population that still appreciates books in their printed form--sounds like heaven, and I'm not sure I mean that as a euphemism (so I cheated and used the small 'h').

I read somewhere that not only do Icelanders read prodigiously, that something like ten percent of them actually write books. Which is a bit mind-blowing.

Still, the only Icelander I ever knew was more impressed by the availability of booze in the US and could get hammered on a shot glass. And did.

(He ran from the cops one night and when they finally got him they let him go because he said that in his country, no one pulls over for blue lights, only red.)

(And I get pulled over for not wearing a seat belt in Jersey after the last Noir @ the Bar.)

May 28, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Iceland also throws wayward bankers in jail, but I am prepared to concede the country a degree of exceptionalism because of its tiny population.

But London and, perhaps, the UK as a whole, pretty similar to the U.S., seem to have a lot more respect for books than Americans than we do. This does not mean Americans are any less literate than the English, Welsh, and Scots, of course. Americans can probably send text messages and read news online just as well as people from the UK do.

May 28, 2016  
Blogger Nan said...

I loved this post, and I especially loved reading the conversation in the comments! That story about the red and blue lights is amazing.

May 28, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I hear that Icelanders have a propensity drink long and hard on those long spring nights.

May 29, 2016  

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