“Books assemble here as if planted in a garden”

Michael Sinclair shares his experience of Bookseller Crow’s Book Club, and nominates his pick of the books read.

If itʼs possible to have a bookshop with a feeling of unselfconsciousness about it, then, this is the place. The exterior and interior combined in such a way as to give a sense of freedom, in a natural way, say as for a garden – thatʼs Bookseller Crow. Books quietly arrive and assemble here as if planted in a garden, all the books given this privacy akin to plants within a walled garden. Everything there is solely about variety and the joy of reading unencumbered by the promotion attached to main stream booksellers. Every book sitting quietly, waiting to be picked up. And I think it has to be said that this laid back non-interventionist feeling, everything for the best of reasons – this garden – fosters in every best sense, the book club.

On the first Wednesday of every month when the closed notice goes up there is the book club, cosily surrounded by a womb of books. The quietness of books assembled all around is a comfort, and for anyone who enjoys reading, who needs to read, this is the place to be. An opportunity to listen and share with others the privacy of having read. Easily said, but less easily done, and for that to work well a place needs to be special. My pick of our reads this year is among Muriel Sparkʼs ʻThe Ballard of Peckham Ryeʼ, Per Pettersonʼs ʻOut Stealing Horsesʼ and Mohsin Hamidʼs ʻHow to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asiaʼ. Hamidʼs engaging and wonderfully observed and witty ʻself helpʼ manual, Per Pettersonʼs profound, muted and intensely private exploration of the inner self, and Muriel Sparkʼs insightful, and cuttingly intelligent take on, well, what really cannot be anything else but our behavior. and ……..Iʼll go for Muriel Spark.

The Ballad of Peckham Rye

by Muriel Spark

The Ballad of Peckham Rye-Muriel Spark

£8.99 Penguin Paperback
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Being a South Londoner and having memories of the area and time when she wrote this book gives it a known past for me, redolent with memory. In the writing there is both a feeling of the headmistress and puppeteer. Giving orders whilst at the same time controlling, and I get the feeling she would not have suffered fools gladly. No ambling, stripped to the bone, books short, and like a dart she seems to find the bullseye. There is absolutely nothing to take away or add in her writing. As a child on the bedroom carpet enacts a war with toy soldiers, so does Spark make her characters perform in this book, looking down on them; a puppeteer controlling a puppet. One could almost imagine a ʻroll callʼ of the characters before they appear in language . She makes them do what she wants, and with unwavering intent. The main protagonist in this story, arguably, has the skill of every confidence trickster, but ultimately as Spark has it, cruelly, disassembles those around him as a child would pick the wings off a fly! A ghastly fascination in seeing what they can do, so simply, with such effect. A fascination with the ease which they have to convince and control others. Metaphorically, this book could be applied to many levels in our lives when people want to get something from others, successfully or otherwise, sometimes to their own detriment. Sadly, and often, there are no winners.