My Hatchards Addiction

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.)