The Narcissism Bit

Thanks for checking out The Matilda Project! If you’re curious about the person behind the ranting, this is my potted bio.

When I was a kid I had no friends because while the other children were playing tag or football or hide-and-seek I was sitting in the corner reading a book and wishing they’d be quieter. Don’t feel sorry for me; I was perfectly happy.

Reading has been a central part of my life since before I can remember. Long before I learned how to read, my parents took turns reading to me every night before bed and thus was born a lifelong love of paper books, words and stories. I am, I must admit, a bit of a book snob. But I’m not too bad. I think if you’re reading and getting lost in a story and it’s making you happy and making you think then I have absolutely no right to judge you for what book it is that makes you feel that way. I’m just glad you feel it. But personally, I only settle for the really good stuff.

I love everything from a classic Victorian romp with far too many characters to the rewarding challenge of a modernist doorstep, through to magical realism. I firmly believe that you can tell everything you need to know about a person by looking at their bookshelf. In the places of honour on mine, you’ll find Willa Cather, Salman Rushdie, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, Angela Carter, William Faulkner, Charles Dickens, Doris Lessing, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and Ali Smith.

I’m a bit of Luddite; my ‘actual phone’ is a Nokia 1800. Nevertheless, I do make a point of following (in the original sense of the word, not the Twit one) some important goings-on that have to do with all things bookish. Β So, in addition to my book-hunting escapades I’ll occasionally post about bookselling news and literary prizes and events as well.

I’m told I have an unfortunate habit of making my point and then continuing to talk after I should really stop. Β With that in mind, so long and happy reading.

77 responses to “The Narcissism Bit

  1. I think you could have kept going here and kept us all interested πŸ™‚ I start a job in a bookshop on monday that seems to straddle the sultry charm of second-hand and the seriousness of the big-shop money maker- Any tips? Have you been to Hausman’s by King’s Cross? That was a favourite back in London!

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  2. Thanks! I’m so jealous of anyone working in bookshops; I loved my time working in one, even if it wasn’t a cosy charming secondhand one! I met some of the greatest people there and learned so much about writing and publishing. The only real tip I can give is try not to laugh when customers ask you for books by Jane Eyre or say that someone told them to get “this book…I think it’s brown”… And funnily enough, I live right near King’s Cross! Haven’t spent much time in Hausman’s but I know it and have popped in now and then. May have to write about it some time soon with your recommendation! x

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  3. Hello again! I see you are a Faulkner fan! Read most of his work in undergrad. What have you like so far?

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    • I certainly am! I’m actually writing my MA dissertation on The Sound and the Fury right now; I think it’s his masterpiece and one of the best novels I’ve ever read. I also love Absalom, Absalom! and As I Lay Dying. Always love a chance to talk about Faulkner since so many people steer clear of him!

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      • Wonderful! I would like to read it! Are you on Twitter?

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      • Thanks. that’s really nice! At this point I need all the moral support I can get as I start my research. Sadly (I guess?) I’m not on Twitter; I’m trying to keep the technology to an absolute minimum…and whining about it on my blog, ironically… πŸ™‚

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      • Moral support coming your way!

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  4. I’m loving flicking around your book shop wanderings, have you ever been to Shakespeare & Co in Paris? Its a great pokey little English-language book store opposite Notre Dame, writers can sleep there for free as well!

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    • Thanks, glad you enjoy them! I have indeed been to Shakespeare & Co! I am absolutely obsessed with most of the modernists, particularly Joyce and Eliot, but also DH Lawrence, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound so it was always going to be on my Paris must-see list. I’ve got a friend who lives in Paris and I went to visit her about a year ago. She kept telling me about this “small little English bookshop” she wanted me to go to and it never occurred to me that her secret place was in fact Shakespeare and Co., so I had a good laugh and then a very long wander through when I found out where she was leading me. I guess if you live in Paris, it just blends right in on the Left Bank that you don’t even think about it, but for a visitor, it’s pretty much paradise! Didn’t realise writers could sleep there for free though! Do bloggers count…? πŸ˜‰ x

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      • Haha, maybe! If you track down the documentary ‘Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man’ http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt0476588/ it tells you all about writers sleeping there. I think Allen Ginsberg may have slept there when he was starting out. have you read A moveable Feast by Hemmingway, he talks about Shakespeare and Co quite a bit in it. When I was there they stamped my copy for me! Have you written a post on Shakespeare and Co I’d love to read it!

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      • Sounds like a cool film, I’ll check it out! And yeah, love a Moveable Feast, such an interesting book. I haven’t written about this bookshop I’m afraid as I haven’t been to Paris in ages and wasn’t so riled up about bookshops that I felt the need to start a blog the last time I was there. Next time though, without a doubt! x

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      • jamahistory

        You should read a book called Books, Baguettes and Bebugs by Jeremy Mercer – he was a crime journalist in Canada and became afraid for his life so fled to Paris and stayed in Shakespeare and Co. It’s sadly reprinting with no date, but I’m sure you could find a copy in any number of the brilliant second-hand shops you frequent.
        Thanks for following my blog btw πŸ™‚
        Amelia
        p.s. I work in a chain bookshop, but not one of the massive ones!

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      • Awesome, thanks for the tip!!

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  5. I’m glad to have found your blog, and I really like your writing.

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  6. Hi Emily, I’ve only recently come across your blog and I’ve really enjoyed reading so far! I’m also a Canadian living in London, and I really had never considered how many and how interesting the bookshops around the city are. I can see that you mainly write about book shops, but I have nominated you to participate in The Works ‘On the Road Reading Moments’ competition – I thought with your enthusiasm for books, you must have some great memorable moments!

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  7. Hey Emily, I recently came across Persphone books online, looks like a really interesting concept and I was kicking myself for being too many thousands of miles away to check out their store. And then I thought of you! So if you get the time, or have the interest I’d love to hear your thoughts on this little place on Lamb’s Conduit Street-http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/about-us/

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    • You know I’ve never been into Persephone Books, but have always wanted to. I’ve been meaning to visit and write about it for ages and now I guess I have a reason! I’ll try to visit asap! Thanks!

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  8. Wow, you also wrote my life books story. following you.

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  9. Hi Emily, i’ve just stumbled upon your blog and it has made me fall in love with Books and with London all over again πŸ™‚ if you ever fancy meeting up in London i would love to take you to a few wordy haunts on my hitlist, love Grace (of http://www.goodphat.wordpress.com) xxx

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  10. ps persephone book store is the one i was talking about !

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  11. Hey Emily! I nominated you for the Liebster Award because I think your blog is the coolest!!! The info is in the link below, and let me know if you have any questions!!!!! -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    http://loveatfirstbook.com/2012/12/14/you-like-me-you-really-like-me-part-1/

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  12. Hi Emily. What an excellent site you have here. Although I’m one of those who have e-published (shush!), I can still appreciate old-fashioned books and good old bookshops like the ones you describe. Your search and diligent recording are appreciated.

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  13. nice blog! i enjoy reading your posts πŸ™‚

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  14. I attended the same high school as Atwood and she became my first celebrity interview when I was 17, for the high school paper I started. She had just published Surfacing, which we had studied and was on our exam, and I considered asking her for some great insights I could use. No such luck.

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  15. I haven’t read Calvino yet. Where should I start?

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    • ‘If on a Winter’s Night A Traveller’ is my all-time favourite, but his book of short stories ‘Dangerous Loves’ is also a really good into to his style. Enjoy!

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  16. Emily:
    Thanks so much for visiting Bookshelf: for the intellectually curious — a sort of virtual bookstore. Managing a private library of over 6,000 books, I have shopped in more than my share of the bookstore of the world. Your site features bookstores that every bibliophile cherishes — although, sadly, most are endangered species in the world of mobile devices. I often muse if future generations will even know what a bookstore is or what one looks like. Or understand the feeling of browsing through narrow book-filled aisles, with the smell of paper and ink, hoping to come across some amazing literary treasure that you can own and take home and place on your own bookshelf. All we can do is keep the faith alive, and continue writing about why books and literature matters.

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  17. Do visit Topping & CO Booksellers of Ely and Bath – a dream come true. And free coffee.

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  18. Ah, bliss to have discovered your beautiful blog. Thank you for visiting Worthy Books & Things, which in my imagination will grow up to be a quaint old bookshop, but in reality had to settle for being born a blog. Perhaps someday…
    I am not too far from Toronto and loved reading your posts on a few of the bookstores there. I now have a virtual treasure map of new favorite places to visit on my next trip to TO. Thank you.
    Your blog reminds me exactly of a delightful trip to a newly discovered (independant) bookstore- for obvious reasons. I had the same flutter of excitement and kinship as I poked around in your library of posts.
    I look forward to reading more from you.
    Una-Melina

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  19. I chose Human Resources and Coaching as a career but I would have been just as happy as a librarian or in a small book shop. I would love to go to work each day and try to get someone to read their next journey.

    Love that I have found your blog.

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  20. Emily,

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Your blog is great – old bookstores & public libraries are two of my favorite places in the world!

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  21. Emily, I just re-read this and enjoyed it again. Your last paragraph makes me smile because people often say the same about me!

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  22. I was also the kid in the corner reading a book πŸ™‚

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  23. Thank you for liking my recent post. I’m a bibliophile as well, and enjoy nothing more than walking into a nice used bookstore and coming out with way more than I intended to purchase. Reading is my life.

    Don’t worry, I also have a similar habit of continuing to talk, or in this case write, long after I make my point! Lol

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  24. Hi Emily,
    thank you for liking my post and leading me here. I share your passion for books, libraries and bookstores. I used to work in one of the big bookstores as well and even though it was a dream come true, I did enjoy more volunteering at one of the small charity bookstores (Oxfam) on my days off. There is something about the smell of second hand books and in the feeling of not knowing what kind of treasure you will come across next.

    Ilona

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  25. This is so wonderful, and the part about Rob Ford made me laugh (I too watched in horror from this side of the pond while that was happening, eesh). I’m lucky enough to have a library right beside my flat, which serves the dual purpose of keeping my belongings light while I’m over here and saving me from having to buy another bookshelf (let’s see how long I can hold out). Can’t wait to read more, and happy hunting!

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  26. Bookshop job = Dream come true, I would be so unproductive if I worked around books πŸ™‚

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  27. Love your title for the “about” page. Brilliant. And working in a bookstore? What a dream job. πŸ™‚

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  28. Love the blog, and have been telling my friends about it too. Browsing through a bookshop has been a special treat for me ever since I was a child. There’s just something about being surrounded by all those books – all those different worlds to explore and lose myself in. It’s wonderful. BTW, I tried reading ‘If on a winter’s night a traveller’ but didn’t get very far. Should I persevere?

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    • Thanks! So glad you like it and I really appreciate that you’ve been spreading the word – how nice of you! Completely agree with everything you said about bookshops too!

      Because of how much I love Calvino, I want to say ‘Yes! Persevere! He’s brilliant!’ and I really do mean that. But the beginning sets the tone for the rest of the book quite well, so if reading the first chapters was torture, it’s not going to change much. His short stories are slightly more manageable though and just as crazy and whimsical. ‘Difficult Loves’ or any of the ‘Cosmicomics’ are amazing!

      I’ve looked at your blog too loads of times and really like it! I thought I was following you but just realised I wasn’t – solving that right now!

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  29. I’m so excited to have found your blog. Finally, someone who loves the smell of old pages just as much as I do. I’m getting too excited just thinking about books, anywho really glad to find your blog. Good luck and have fun with your book/shop hunting!

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  30. Pingback: The noblest of pursuits… | (Roughly) Daily

  31. Hi Emily, thanks for stopping by my blog and for the follow. I especially appreciate it as I was sure I’d clicked “follow” on your blog in the past but it appears I hadn’t – I have now rectified this situation! I really enjoy your posts.

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  32. I’m really enjoying reading your blog; searching and lingering in bookshops must be one of life’s greatest pleasures (for a certain kind of person at least). Although a Dubliner, I was fortunate to work in a great second-hand/antiquarian bookstore in London many years ago- John Adrian Books in Cecil Court. A great place, sadly long gone- reading your posts reminds me of happy times there. All the best, and thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to your future posts eagerly.

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  33. Hi

    I have nominated you for the sunshine award as I enjoy your blog on a regular basis. I do not know if you accept awards, but I very much hope that you will. I will not be offended if you do not though.

    For the rules see my post http://julianfroment.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/another-sunshine-award/

    Congratulations.

    Julian

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  34. I am nominating you for a Sunshine Blogger Award! Thanks for the sunshine! http://550wordsorless.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/and-the-winners-are/

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  35. Emily, thanks so much for liking my post! I love what I’ve read of your blog so far and can’t wait to read more. If you ever make it to Charlottesville, VA, USA, you should stop by Heartwood Books. The man in the shop can tell you what’s special about every edition of every book in the store, which is no small feat because there are thousands. I’m sure you get tons of suggestions about tons of wonderful book stores, so this is my contribution to what I’m sure is a long, long list!

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    • I do indeed have a massive list of bookshops all over the world I’m told I have to go to and I will one day find my way to every single one, I swear it! Thanks for the heads-up and the comment! x

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  36. Hi Emily,
    Just an invitation for you to revisit the Alibi Library blogpage which has mentioned your blog (in omage) in several of its last posts. I hope you appreciate our much more humble contribution to the reading world. Just to add that yours is my favourite blog in the whole wide world!

    Keep up the great work!

    Mr Archibald Lib & Sr Ignatius Rary, esq.

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    • Hi there! I’ve unfortunately been very absent from the wordpress community for the past couple of weeks, as I’ve been buried under a pile of writing that I have to do and left with very little time for the writing I want to do. However, it’s lovely to resurface to the sight of your lovely message. I have had a poke around the blog and am very pleased (and flattered!) to see my name floating around there. I absolutely love the series you’re doing on libraries -they are truly so important, perhaps even more so than bookshops. Consider me on board! Great to hear from you. -e

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  37. I found your blog on some circuitous route, and I think I’m going to like it here! And calling him “Mr. Charlie Dickens” is not irreverent at all – my son calls him “Chickens,” so you are in good company (he’s *that* kid too… so was I!)

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  38. Your blog is so good! I am obsessed with books too and know that hard copies can beat e-books in any sort of fighting match.
    I think I’ll be coming here often.
    Cheers!

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  39. Wonderful project – I still read the old books I get at the used book stores, the ones where you fold down the corner of the page and it breaks right off. Thanks for liking my blog, too. Oh, and couldn’t help noticing the irony: “I’m not that tech-y,” she wrote – in her blog..

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  40. You’re wonderful and so is your obsession. How I relate! I was read to constantly as a wee thing, learned to read early, got in trouble for reading under the covers with a flashlight to all hours…. you know. Worked mostly in communications and translation, so words and books are dear to me. I love the smell of real bookstores, old libraries; love the feel of books in my hands. Thanks for the like on my Cowichan Valley post, I don’t often mention bookstores but you inspire me to give indie bookstores more presence.

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  41. I love finding cool nerds like myself on the internet.

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  42. Hello Emily,

    It’s a delightful blog. I will check out more later.

    Your feeling for reading and books is moving. You may llike this Michael Silverblatt interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLcwIu2m5F8

    As for print versus digital world debate, you may like something in this post (by me)

    http://rajivthind.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/internet-and-hyperconnectivity-2/

    Okay, now I feel like a spammer. Adieu….

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  43. Thanks for following my blog. I look forward to scrolling through yours. Working in a bookshop with loads of old books… yes I could do that too. πŸ™‚
    Sisterhood across continents.

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  44. Dear Emily, as a reader of mine, I’ve nominated you for a TRIO OF AWARDS. Check this out: http://rich1698.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/i-have-been-nominated-for-a-trio-of-awards/
    Congratulations!Β 

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  45. Are you on Twitter?!

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    • Hiya! Unfortunately I’m not on twitter or facebook; blogging seemed like a good way for me to organise my thoughts (and hear from other book-lovers!) but I try to keep other social media to a minimum. Very glad you found the blog, though, and that you enjoyed it!

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      • I love your blog! It’s just that things fly by so quickly in the blog reader, and I sometimes miss them. So I will make a note to check in on you.

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      • Also, each Thurs in the US is #IndieThursday on twitter in which we celebrate independent bookstores. I just tweeted out a link to your lovely Taschen post. Cheers!

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  46. emilybooks

    Dear Emily – I’m a great fan of your blog yet have been thwarted in attempts to find a means of contacting you directly. I wondered if you might be interested in the Daunt Books Festival? http://issuu.com/dauntbooks/docs/festival_programme_online__1_ Drop me a line via EmilyBooks if so, and perhaps I can fill you in on some more info.
    Emily

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    • Hey there! I’m very glad you know and like the blog. Yours is obviously brilliant! Sorry for the delay in replying, but I’ve been neglecting the poor Matilda Project lately as other aspects of my life have been quite crazy! The Daunt festival sounds amazing though and I’d love to check it out!

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      • emilybooks

        Thanks Emily – lovely to hear of your interest in it. Hope to see you there, and drop me a line on my about page if you’d like a comp ticket to anything.

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  47. Hello Emily,

    I suppose you don’t care much about the blog awards.
    Nevertheless, I just wanted to say I named you a Liebster because I deeply appreciate your Project and your writing.

    All the best!
    Anna

    Like

  48. Hello Emily,
    I think your blog is quite simply the best thing the internet has ever produced, and I write that as a cat person.
    Thank you,
    Erica

    Like

  49. Emily,
    I’m writing a book about book towns (coming out next year with Francis Lincoln) and I wondered if I could use one of your photos please? (can’t find any contact details so apologies for this slightly roundabout way of approaching you!).
    Cheers,
    Alex

    Like

    • Hi Alex,

      Yeah, I can’t see why not! Which photo are you after? Any clever way for us to get in touch that doesn’t rely on putting email addresses online? πŸ™‚

      Like

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