I truly believe in finding and appreciating the small things that make every day just that little bit more beautiful or happier. This can be the smell of something delicious baking in the oven, a few peaceful moments to enjoy a cup of tea in the morning, or spending some time in a bookshop packed full with more books than I could ever read. My boyfriend and I often arrange to meet in town after work, for a bookshop date. Nothing works better to cheer up an ordinary day and add a bit of magic to everyday routine.
We are very lucky to have many delightful bookshops in Oxford, but Blackwell’s is my favourite for our bookshop dates. It first opened in 1879 and it hosts more than 125,000 books spread over four floors. Doesn’t that sound dreamy? There is really something for everyone here. I usually navigate to the modern fiction section (I love to read the little cards with staff recommendations to discover new gems), while my boyfriend tries to find a worthy follow-up to Edmund Crispin’s novels in the crime section (does anyone have any suggestions?), which is starting to seem like an impossible task. We find each other again at the poetry corner or, unsurprisingly for anyone who knows us, by the P.G. Wodehouse shelves.
Then, we head downstairs to the Norrington room which boasts 3 miles of books! Because we are nerds, we tend to spend quite a bit of time in the maths, physics and computing section. I really like their selection of popular science books (great gifts for friends who ask me “so, what did you do your PhD in?”). No visit is complete without a browse of the travel shelves. This feeds our wanderlust and has often inspired our travels.
I am usually not able to resist the lovely and quirky stationery bits and bobs. Inevitably, Alice in Wonderland notecards or a new notebook with a floral cover will find their way into my purchases. I love the feeling I get when I leave the bookshop with my new books. I think it’s the potential that they’ll introduce me to new worlds, new ideas, and new favourite people (fictional or otherwise) that does it. Buying books is up there with buying new shoes on the happiness scale, I reckon.
‘When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.’
— Desiderius Erasmus
These bookshop dates really do put a smile on my face and they are such a lovely activity. There’s always a book that will spark a memory or an idea and lead to real conversation that veers away from work and little daily struggles. We end up returning home feeling optimistic (because if all else fails, at least we will be well-read) and refreshed. On a dull Tuesday this is all I can really ask for.