THE BOOKS
I used to work in a bookshop and people would come in and they’d say, ‘I’m looking for a book’, and I’d say, ‘Fine’, and because I was young and I thought I was funny I’d say, ‘You’ve certainly come to the right place!’

‘But I don’t know what the book’s called,’ they’d say.

‘That’s OK,’ I’d say, undaunted, my helpful fingers poised over Whitaker’s big red Books In Print – which is what we used to check bibliographical information before we had computers.

‘Who’s the author?’, I’d say.

‘I don’t know,’ they’d say.

‘Right,’ I’d say. ‘Any idea what it was about at all?’

‘I think it was fiction,’ they’d say.

‘OK,’ I’d say.

‘Or maybe it was non-fiction,’ they’d say, and then they would invariably deliver a version of a line that I shall never forget and which is the most important lesson I think I ever learnt in the bookselling business – apart from the need to be tough with sales reps and polite to customers, and not the other way round.

‘You’d know it if you saw it,’ they would say. ‘It’s about this big, and it has a blue cover.’

Oh, yeah, of course, that book! Step right this way. You really want the cover to your book to suggest something like ‘Bloody Hell! This Book Is Amazing!’, or maybe, ‘Don’t Even Think of Picking Up This Book Unless You’re a Total Genius, Like Me, The Author!’ or ‘Far Out!’, or ‘Whoa, Baby!’, or ‘Come And Have a Go if You Think You’re Hard Enough!’ Something like that.

And yet most books seem to suggest, ‘Well, Yeah, This Is OK, But Don’t Get Your Hopes Up Too High. It’s a Bit Like That Book Longitude, or Something by Elmore Leonard, or Some Other Author Much More Famous and More Popular Than I Am.’

But most of us just vaguely remember the colour.

Anyway. The covers are not a reliable guide to the contents of the books, any more than your bad-breathed, pock-marked, lank-haired overweight self is a guide to the sweet, wonderful, extraordinary person you truly are.
THE COUNTY GUIDES:
THE NORFOLK MYSTERY

Love Miss Marple? Adore Holmes and Watson? Professor Morley’s guide to Norfolk is a story of bygone England; quaint villages, eccentric locals – and murder!

It is 1937 and disillusioned Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is stony broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where ‘intelligence is essential’, he applies. Thus begins Sefton’s association with Professor Swanton Morley, an omnivorous intellect.

Morley’s latest project is a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county. They start in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church’s bellrope, Morley and Sefton find themselves drawn into a rather more fiendish plot.
PAPER: AN ELEGY

'First of all, respect your paper!'
J.M.W. Turner's advice to Mary Lloyd, recollected by her in 1880, quoted in Turner Studies, vol. no. 1 (1984).

What do reading a book, smoking a cigarette, throwing confetti and voting in an election have in common? The answer, of course, is paper. PAPER: AN ELEGY builds a museum of paper and explores its paradox – its vulnerability and durability. A timely meditation on the very paper it’s printed on.

The Paper Museum is now open to vistors. It's also on Facebook.


THE TRUTH ABOUT BABIES

‘A true and beautiful book … Every new parent should have a copy for their journey through that first year.’
The Guardian.


'Funny, brave, touching and true.' Julie Myerson.


RING ROAD

‘It’s mellow, intelligent and very funny, a perfect antidote for melancholy.’
The Guardian.

‘Wonderfully vivid, easy, natural, funny and moving.’ Oliver Sacks.

‘Old Fashioned Food, Cooked the Traditional Way’ TM. Read the Bap Express!! Cookbook.

THE MOBILE LIBRARY:
THE CASE OF THE MISSING BOOKS


‘Israel is one of the most original and amusing amateur sleuths around.’
The Times.

THE MOBILE LIBRARY:
MR DIXON DISAPPEARS

‘The second in what promises to be a must-read series.’
Sunday Telegraph

Get the Mobile Library Dos and Donts and Timetable.

THE MOBILE LIBRARY:
THE DELGATES' CHOICE

'Sansom has struck a rich comic seam ... a very enjoyable series'
The Observer.

THE MOBILE LIBRARY:
THE BAD BOOK AFFAIR

'Cripplingly funny' The Independent.

'I laughed more times than I can remember over a novel for years' The Observer.

'Wonderfully Comic' Daily Mail.

THE ENTHUSIAST ALMANACK

‘Meticulously compiled and brilliantly eccentric … hilarious and .. intriguing.’
The Times.


THE ENTHUSIAST FIELD GUIDE TO POETRY

'... helps open up the possibilities of poetry and shows where the excitement is most intense […] a rare treat'.
Scamp "Steve".