The Bookshop Band & The June–July Outlook

The Bookshop Band played in an Oxfordshire village 35 minutes’ drive from us yesterday evening. I’ve now seen them four times; I don’t think that quite qualifies me as a groupie, though I do count them among my favorite artists and own their complete discography.

The small church provided great acoustics and an intimate setting, and the set list was a fun mixture of old and new. All of their songs are based on literature: When they were the house band at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, they would write two songs based on an author’s new book on the very day that s/he would be making an appearance at the shop in the evening. A combination of slow reading and procrastination, I suppose. You’d never believe it, though, because their songs are intricate and thoughtful, often pulling out moments and ideas from books (at least the ones I’ve read) that never would have occurred to me.

Here’s what they played last night, and which books the songs were based on:


  1. “Once Upon a Time” – For a radio commission they crafted this compilation of first lines from various books.
  2. “Cackling Farts” – A day-in-the-life song featuring archaic vocabulary words from Mark Forsyth’s The Horologicon.
  3. “You Make the Best Plans, Thomas” – Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (one of my absolute favorites of their songs).
  4. “Why I Travel This Way” – Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal (I have heard this live once before, but it’s never been recorded).
  5. “Petroc and the Lights” – Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition (which reminds me that I really need to read it soon!).
  6. “Dirty Word” – A brand-new song based on Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; it stemmed from their recent commission to write about banned books for the V&A.
  7. “How Not to Woo a Woman” – Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (it must be a band favorite as they’ve played it every time I’ve seen them).
  8. “Curious and Curiouser” – Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
  9. “Sanctuary” – A new song they wrote for the launch event at the Bodleian Library for Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1).
  10. “Room for Three” – The other song they wrote for the Pullman event
  11. “We Are the Foxes” – Ned Beauman’s Glow.
  12. “Edge of the World” – Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James.
  13. “Faith in Weather” – The only one not based on a book; this was inspired by a Central European folktale about seven ravens (another of my absolute favorites).
  14. “Thirteen Chairs” – Dave Shelton’s Thirteen Chairs (another one they’ve played every time I’ve seen them).


I’m always impressed by Ben and Beth’s musicianship (guitars, ukuleles, cello, harmonium and more), and I also admire how they’ve continued touring intensively despite being new parents. They’re currently on the road for two months, and one-year-old Molly simply comes along for the ride!

A gorgeous sunset as we left the gig last night.


It’ll be a busy week on the blog. I have posts planned for every day through Saturday thanks to Library Checkout, the Iris Murdoch readalong, and various features reflecting on the first half of the year and looking ahead to the second half.

It turns out I’ll be in America for three weeks of July helping my parents pack and move, so I may have to slow down on the 20 Books of Summer challenge, and will almost certainly have to substitute in some books I have in storage over there. (I’m pondering fiction by Laurie Colwin, Hester Kaplan, Antonya Nelson and Julie Orringer; and nonfiction by Joan Anderson, Haven Kimmel and Sarah Vowell.) I have a few books lined up to review for their July release dates, but it’ll be a light month overall.

14 responses

  1. I like seeing mention of the Murdoch readalong, hooray! I must catch the Bookshop Band at some point. And good luck for July, hope you get some rest and you-time, and it will be interesting to catch up with some of your other-side-of-the-ocean books, I assume.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s fun that you have a whole other set of books across the ocean! The Bookshop Band sounds like a fun time. And that was a lovely sunset indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fun … but also overwhelming. I looked into getting all my stuff (about 25 small boxes of books plus 5 larger boxes of mementoes) shipped overseas, but the cost was prohibitive, so all I can do is bring things back a little at a time by paying for an extra suitcase on upcoming flights. My dad is willing to store everything for me in the meantime.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Carolyn Anthony | Reply


    Sent from my iPhone



  4. Ohh, good luck with the July trip. Sounds rather intense!


    1. Thanks. It’s definitely going to be hard work and not a vacation! But I’m lucky that I have the kind of schedule that allows me to do such things at late notice, and it feels important to help my parents and to say goodbye to the house and my hometown.


      1. My mum and I were talking about this, on her last trip to the UK: how “visiting family” and “going on holiday” are NOT the same thing…


    2. Very true. Especially this time when there’s so much that has to be done.


  5. Annabel (gaskella) | Reply

    I wish I’d known about this, I’d have come.


    1. Oh darn, I didn’t think about how close it might have been to you! I think it was a fairly last-minute booking, and I only heard about it because I’m signed up to their Bandsintown alerts.


      1. Annabel (gaskella)

        I’d love to hear them … one day. 🙂


    2. Even though they now live in Wigtown, Scotland, they seem to be touring the South fairly often, so I’m sure your paths will cross soon enough!


  6. This band sounds like so much fun! I don’t often go to music concerts, but I’d go to this one. And, I think, 4 attendances and owning their entire discology might qualify you as a groupie. 😉

    I hope you have a good time on your trip home, even though it sounds like you will also be working hard!


    1. Ok then, I’m proud to be called a groupie 🙂

      I’ll at least get to see family and some friends sooner than Christmas, so that’s nice.

      Liked by 1 person

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