Making Plans for a Return to Hay-on-Wye & A Book “Overhaul”

Somehow it’s been nearly 3.5 years since our last trip to Hay-on-Wye, the Book Town of Wales (I wrote about that April 2017 visit here). This coming weekend will be our seventh trip to Hay, one of our favorite places. We’ve booked an Airbnb in nearby English hamlet Cusop Dingle for two nights, so it’s a pretty short break, but longer than the weekend away we managed last month – reduced to only 36 hours by the cat’s poorly timed but ultimately minor one-day illness.

I’ve acquired many, many books from the free mall bookshop over the past year. (It’s now closed permanently, alas.) And I had no shortage of additional incomers during lockdown, via the unofficial Little Free Library I started and orders I placed with independent bookstores and publishers. So you could say I don’t need a book-buying trip to Hay. But 1) it’s never a question of need, is it? and 2) We want to continue to support the town, which will have been hit hard by temporary closures and by its annual literary festival being purely online this year.

I have no particular plans for what to buy this time, so will just see what takes my fancy. There are noticeably fewer bookshops than when we first started visiting Hay in 2004, but among the dozen or so remaining are some truly excellent shops like Addyman Books, the Hay Cinema Bookshop, and Booth’s Bookshop. Our best bargains last time were from the Oxfam charity shop and the honesty shelves around the castle, so those will likely be our first ports of call, and from there we’ll let whimsy be our guide. Saturday and Monday will be for wandering the town and book shopping, while Sunday will include countryside walks around Hay Bluff. We also hope to explore some eatery options we’ve not tried before.


An Overhaul of Last Trip’s Book Purchases

Simon of Stuck in a Book runs a regular blog feature he calls “The Overhaul,” where he revisits a book haul from some time ago and takes stock of what he’s read, what he still owns, etc. (here’s the most recent one). With his permission, I’m borrowing the title and format to look back at what I bought in Hay last time.

Date of haul: April 2017

Location: Hay-on-Wye

Number of books bought: 18


Had already read: (3/18)

  • How to Age by Anne Karpf
  • From Heaven Lake by Vikram Seth
  • Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds – It’s on my shelf for rereading.


Have read since then: (5/18)


BUT also read from my hubby’s pile (not pictured):


DNFed: (3/18)

  • Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee [resold]
  • We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates – Might try this one again another time.
  • Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott [given away]


Resold unread: (1/18)

  • Family and Friends by Anita Brookner – I’d added it to the Oxfam pile to make up a 5 for £1 stack, but then didn’t enjoy Booker winner Hotel du Lac enough to try another by Brookner.


Total still unread: 6

Total no longer owned: 4


This is not too bad a showing overall, though it does reveal my habit of buying books and letting them sit around for years unread. (Surely I’m not alone in this?!)

The six purchases still to read are two cat-themed anthologies for reading piecemeal, plus these four – two fiction and two non-:

  • Talking to the Dead by Helen Dunmore
  • Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller
  • Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres
  • A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks by Rory Spowers

To force myself to get to them, these are the four I’ve packed for reading in the car and while in Hay. I’m also bringing, to read on location: 1) On the Red Hill by Mike Parker, a Wainwright Prize-shortlisted memoir about life in the Welsh countryside (I’m about 40 pages into it already); and 2) Sixpence House, which I’ve read several times before and consider among my absolute favorite books; it’s Paul Collins’s memoir about finding a temporary home and work among the bookshops of Hay.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with this year’s book haul plus photos and notes on how we found the town this time around. (But first, Six Degrees of Separation will post on Saturday while I’m away.)


27 responses

  1. Of those, it’s the Andrew Miller that jumps out at me demanding to be read. Have a great weekend, and don’t buy TOO much. I can’t imagine what your house is like!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have bookcases in all the obvious places, plus tucked into some places you wouldn’t expect them, like two on the landing. I haven’t yet done something weird like put one against the footboard of a bed, though I did consider that for the spare room when a Billy bookcase got offered up for free on our community Facebook group. I think when people come into our house for the first time, they notice a) no TV and b) lots of books.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You should have seen us as we left France. We gave so many books away to the Amnesty shop that the car nearly touched the ground, and the two passengers were immured between multiple volumes and probably had difficulty breathing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the honesty bookshop and the cinema bookshop! (I picked up Donoghue’s Stir-Fry at the cinema bookshop, actually, so maybe Hay is the place to look for her backlist).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A wonderful idea! I’ll add her to my list. (I said I wasn’t going with a plan, but I do have a list in my purse of authors to keep an eye out for, just in case.) When were you last in Hay? We hope to find it bustling yet not too busy. We booked one meal for Saturday and might book Sunday lunch too.


  3. Have a great time, Rebecca. And of course I’m convinced you’ll enjoy Ingenious Pain and Talking to the Dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure I will! Both were purchased on your recommendation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Have a great time! Looking forward to your haul! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Enjoy your trip! I think the idea of tracing a previously gathered stack is fun, but I bet I wouldn’t like the results (i.e. there are so many books I’ve had for years and left unread).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was very pleased to have read 2/3 of these! The results would not be so good on other hauls…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sixpence House sounds wonderful. Enjoy the festival.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a pure joy to read. Do try it if you can find a copy.

      I’ve never been to the Hay Festival apart from this year, when it was entirely digital! In other years I think it makes up a lot of the tourist trade in the town, which is why we worry shops and restaurants will be suffering just now, and hope to help them out a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You are definitely not alone in buying books and letting them sit around for years – trust me! Enjoy your break – it sounds wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I knew I’d find some kindred spirits on that point 😉 I don’t think I have as many as in your original 746, but I might have nearly 500 unread books between here and my boxes in America.


  8. I had a cottage for a week in Hay back in the late 1980s and the bill for the books I bought came to more than the rent for the cottage for the week! The bank manager was not amused.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that story! I’m sure the rent was very reasonable in those days.


  9. Oh… Hay-on-Wye! I had best stay away next time I’m in the UK. I can’t afford it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a place of severe temptation for any bibliophile!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Have a lovely trip! I am aching to get to On the Red Hill and might try to do so soon. I would say that Hotel du Lac has always felt different from other Anita Brookners, but I can see why you discarded that one. I hope the bookshop with the £1 basement is still there, though I’m blanking on its name of course. I’ve had some crackers from the Cinema but also Bookends, even though that is all over the place (but I suppose not here). Can’t wait to see your Pile when you get back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, alas, the one with the bargain basement is gone. It used to be one of the first places we tried.


  11. You are definitely not alone in buying books and then leaving them unread for years! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha, I’ve found my kindred spirits here!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think this is a very respectable ratio of read to unread! Puts mine to shame, bought much longer ago…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was pleasantly surprised. I have not done as well on my Wigtown haul from 2018…


  13. […] and gift-receiving occasions don’t get ignored? By undertaking regular “overhauls” such as this and this, and checking there are no more than 3 unread books remaining from any one haul. If there […]


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