What I did with a £20 book budget … and another £5 …

Since I started my career break I have had to rein in my book shopping and so, knowing a resolution to buy no books wouldn’t work, I promised myself that I would only buy exceptional bargains and used out of print books.

The exceptional bargains rule allowed me to buy three of the new Mary Stewart reissues in The Works last week.

My mother used to read a lot of Mary Stewart and I always suspected that I would like her too, but her books seemed to disappear for a very long time. I’m delighted to see these reissues, and very pleased to see that the library has bought copies of a few more of them. I have one on order already.

And the used out of print books rule allowed me to visit Bookmark, the last secondhand bookshop still trading in the town, when I was in Falmouth earlier in the week.

It is a lovely shop with a wonderful stock and well worth a visit if you are ever in that part of Cornwall.

I could have spent a fortune but I set myself a £20 budget. I spent it all, and though I regretfully left some lovely titles behind, I was happy to came home with some real gems.

I read Shadow of a Lady by Holly Roth last week for the letter R in my Crime Fiction alphabet last weekend, and I liked it more than enough to want to track down more of her books. I found two: The Content Assignment and The Sleeper.

Both plots look intriguing, and I am very impressed that one opens in the first person and the other in the third and that they both read beautifully.

I recognised the name Helen McCloy, as I already have one of her novels sitting unread in a bookcase. The title Two-Thirds of a Ghost intrigued me and the synopsis spoke of parlour-games at a publisher’s party. Sold!

John Dickson Carr is one of those authors I’ve been thinking I really must try for quite some time now. I didn’t recognise the title, The Demoniacs, but when I picked the book up I discovered that it was a historical mystery, set in London in 1757. The opening, on a post-chaise travelling from Southwark towards London Bridge, read beautifully and so I had to hang on to this one.

And then, moving from the crime fiction shelves to general fiction, there was Ivy Compton-Burnett. I have a few of her books sitting unread, but not A Family and a Fortune. And this was such a lovely numbered Penguin edition, in grey rather than the more usual orange for general fiction, and again the opening reads so well …

I spotted a row of five books by A A Milne, published by Meuthen & Co in the 1930s. Very pretty little hardback editions with an impression of the author’s signature on the front cover. I already have a couple of books by E H Young in the same format. I left The Red House Mystery behind – it’s a lovely book and I already have a very noce modern edition. I reluctantly left the volumes of journalism and Punch articles, as I know that the library has at least one of them in stock. But Mr Pim Passes By looked so perfect that I couldn’t possibly leave it behind.

Here’s the first paragraph:

“Tell me what a man has for breakfast, and I will tell you what he is like,” as George Marsden used to say, though whether it was his own, or whether he was quoting from that other great thinker, Podbury, I cannot tell you. But the observation would come out periodically; as, for instance, when Dinah had declined a second go of marmalade, or a weaker vessel among his guests had refused to let him help her to one of those nice kidneys …

Had I been restricted to one book, this would have been that one.

And finally there was something that I so rarely find these days: a Virago Modern Classic that I don’t already have in my collection. I hadn’t particularly looked for Hackenfeller’s Ape by Brigid Brophy because I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book about apes and a scientist, but I remembered Verity writing about it positively and it was there in front of me …

And that was it – a book budget well spent!

12 responses

  1. I like your book buying rules – exceptional bargains and used out of print books sounds much easier to apply than the rule I’m currently trying to follow – read 6 of my TBRs before buying 1 book.

  2. Budgeting for books is the only way I manage not to go completely over the top. I’ve always known that if I ever tried to put an absolute stop on my buying (and the same is true for theatre tickets and CDs) I would never be able to keep to my resolution, so I build all three into my yearly budget. However, I also have what my mother called a ‘fiddle purse’. If anything doesn’t cost as much as I’ve budgeted for then the excess goes into the ‘Fiddle purse’ and I can spend it on whatever I want to. That’s where my exceptional bargains come from.

  3. I have a montly book budget as well! At the moment it’s mostly going on used Folio Society books, which is actually a great way of buying books without adding too many to my TBR pile because of their (relatively) higher cost, although they’re still bargains second hand. Of course, I’ve been making up for this by trading in books at the Notting Hill Book Exchange, so it isn’t going entirely to plan.

    Mr Pim Passes by sounds like a lovely book. I’ll have to look out for that one. Enjoy your purchases!

  4. Somehow it’s even more of a treat when you haven’t been buying books to give yourself a budget. I had £40 for my birthday and it took me 6 weeks to spend it as I was agonising about it so much as we have no spare pennies either at the moment! Hackenfeller’s Ape is such an untypical VMC, it’s short so shouldn’t take too long – will be interested to hear what you make fo it.

    PS: I love the sound of Annie’s fiddle purse!

  5. What a lovely selection of books. Mr Pim sounds particularly charming.
    How wonderful that The Works are stocking the Mary Stewarts! I picked up a few du Mauriers and Pyms that way and it makes it so much easier on the wallet… and does the heart good to see such beautiful editions on your shelves.

  6. Three of my favourite Mary Stewart books – I think you are in for a treat!
    Airs Above the Ground was the first I read, drawn by the involvement of the Spanish Riding School and I was hooked from there on.
    Having recently re-discovered some of my collection, I am pleased to say that they read just as well to me now as they did over thirty years ago!

  7. Excellent selections on such a budget, Jane! I’m particularly excited about the re-issues of Mary Stewart. What a treat….and a tease!! I just purchased (and loved!) 4 of her titles over the past few months under the Chicago Review Press imprint which aren’t nearly as pretty. Harumph!

  8. I’m so annoyed that The Works has closed down in my town. I’m going to try the nearest one for Mary Stewart. I’m supposed to be on a book buying ban, but you know what it’s like! Your Falmouth bookshop sounds wonderful, there are so few left now, but it’s a bit far for me to go – about 650 miles.

  9. I love it whenever I see that someone has managed to buy some vintage Penguins for a few dollars, and obviously I love it even more when I manage it myself. They are becoming harder to find; the prices are becoming ridiculous. Hope you enjoy reading yours.

  10. Pingback: BooksPlease » Blog Archive » I bought a book …

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