I love bookstores ... even in the age of Amazon. And there is none I love more than London's Hatchards, on Piccadilly, est. 1797). I made my annual Christmas pilgrimage there this afternoon (I added a day to my voyage from Dubai to Boston expressly & solely to go to Hatchards) ... and emptied my backpack in anticipation. Ha! I ended up expressing a big box home. And also ended up with a $900 book bill, high even by my standards. (I'd brought a list, thanks to the Economist's best books of 2004 selections, but put it aside for unfettered binging in short order.) The only thing I missed—by just one day—is the Christmas authors' night. The British literary establishment, fiction and non-fiction, attends, sit patiently at little tables scattered all about the 4 floors of books, and sign and personalize their works. (I stumbled on this remarkable event a couple of years ago.) My special treat—yes, for myself—is N.A.M. Rodger's The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain, 1649-1815, recipient of rave reviews. It weighs in at 907 pages, but yes, Susan, I am including it in my carry-on, bad back notwithstanding.
Once again ... THANK YOU, MOM PETERS! She made me the marrow-sucking, reading-maniac I am today. Nothing contributes more to my personal and professional well-being. The thought crossed my mind that I'd happily spend the rest of my life in a condo above Hatchards, slipping down to exchange books at a second's notice.
(On a controversial-to-some note-from-the-stacks, I picked up a wonderful member of the delightful Penguin Books' Great Ideas series: Charles Darwin's On Natural Selection. This little extract from The Origin of Species is 4-inches X 6-inches, and runs 117 pages. I plan to carry it with me permanently, as a Totem, along with the likes of my books on Breathing. One reason is to underscore my devotion to science and progress ... and express to myself my abiding dismay that so many millions of my fellow citizens are unconvinced of evolutionary theory. I guess it turns out that my generic disposition toward tolerance has limits.)