Somerset Trip & Bookbarn Haul and Overhauls

Last week we managed a few days’ holiday in Somerset – our first trip away from home in over seven months (the last one was to Hay-on-Wye). Though only an hour and a half from where we live, it felt like a world away. We were very lucky with the weather, too. We wandered the quiet nature reserves of the Avalon Marshes, toured Glastonbury and Wells (the smallest cathedral city in the UK; alas, we missed the limited cathedral opening hours, but had a nice walk around the outside and saw a plaque marking where Elizabeth Goudge lived), and climbed Glastonbury Tor and Ebber Gorge. Not wanting to chance any pubs, we ate daytime meals outdoors at a few cafés and brought posh supermarket takeaways with us to heat up in the Airbnb kitchen for dinners.

(Photos by Chris Foster)

I read from lots of different books on the trip, but my most appropriate selection was Skylarks with Rosie, Stephen Moss’s diary of the coronavirus spring experienced in Somerset. By coincidence, my husband saw Moss (a mentor of his; we’ve met him a number of times before) filming at Ham Wall when he went back there early one morning!

On the last day, we drove back via Bookbarn International, a favourite secondhand bookshop of mine. Below is my book haul from the trip: the top five were from a Little Free Library we found in a bus shelter in the delightfully named town of Queen Camel and the bottom stack was from Bookbarn, which was looking well stocked after the lockdown. I was particularly pleased to find books by Amy Bloom, Sue Miller, and Jane Smiley, authors you don’t come across so often in the UK. Some of the LFL books have rather hideous covers, but it’s the inside that counts, yes?

 

Overhaul of Previous Trips’ Purchases

This was our seventh trip to Bookbarn since June 2013. I don’t seem to have any photos of that first visit, but for all the rest I have at least one book haul photo.

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’ve bought at Bookbarn over the years and how much I still have left to read.

 

Date: July 2015

Number of books bought: 8 [the Allen and Cobbett are reference books for my husband]

  • Read: 7
  • No longer owned: 2 (I resold the Fitzgerald and Levy)
  • Remaining unread: 1 (Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz – so I took it with me on the Somerset trip and have read the first 50 pages so far.)

This is a very good showing for me! I suppose I did have nearly six years to get through them all. I’ve done less well on the other years’ hauls…

 

Date: July 2016

Number of books bought: 10

  • Had read already: 1 (Rachman)
  • Read since: 4
  • No longer owned: 1 (Irving’s early work hasn’t been to my taste, so after my husband read The Water-Method Man, I donated it; its only virtue in my eyes is that the main character is called “Bogus Trumper”)
  • Remaining unread: 4 (Chatwin, Coe, McCarthy, O’Hanlon)

 

Date: December 2016

Number of books bought: 13 (the two pictured at left were from another shop)

  • Read: 6
  • DNFed and gave away: 3 (Lurie, Smith, Wheen)
  • Remaining unread: 4 (Barnes, Ellman biography, Godwin, Mantel)

 

Date: October 2017 (multiple photos in this post)

Number of books bought: 15

  • Read: 5
  • Skimmed: 1 (McCarthy)
  • DNFed: 1 (McNeillie)
  • Remaining unread: 8! (I have a bad habit of letting biographies sit around unread)

 

Date: February 2020

Number of books bought: 14

  • Had read already: 2
  • Skimmed: 2
  • Started reading but set aside: 2, so…
  • Remaining unread: 10!

 

To encourage myself to get to more of these previous acquisitions, I’ve added six of them to my bedside stack.

37 responses

  1. I’m glad you managed to get away, Rebecca, and enjoyed such lovely weather, too. I know the area quite well – day trip territory for us! Excellent book haul, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We could have done it all as day trips (we have done to Bath before), but staying away from home made it felt like a proper holiday. The weather was better than we could have hoped for! Any prospect of you getting away soon?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We have a week in London planned but, very optimistically, we’re booked into an aparthotel from 17th May. It all depends on the data!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A magnificent haul! But is there room for so much as a bed, or a kitchen sink in your house?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s more room than you might think in a two-bed terrace! We have books in most of the rooms and in the hallway. It helps that at least three or four of the bookcases are double-stacked. I reckon I could still fit another case or two in if I really tried 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So long as you don’t need to swing a cat ….

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    2. He insinuates himself into every available space 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Should have gone to Ebber Gorge last time I was in that area, and one day I’ll visit the Bookbarn. They were offering shares a while ago, and I was interested, but it was such a faff to get them that I didn’t pursue it, but it would have been nice to ‘own’ a shelf or two theoretically.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’d enjoy a trip to Bookbarn. I’d forgotten about the shares. They’re always coming up with new ventures … I’ll have more to say about one of those soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a lot of book-hauling! Our little community of 700 has two Little Free Libraries and I get a lot of good novels, old and new, from them. Your getaway sounded really nice–cathedral grounds tours followed by lunch outside is my idea of heaven (and I’m a big Amy Bloom fan!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my neighborhood we’ve been fundraising to build a proper LFL on a little patch of ground down the street from me and put in a bench and tree and some landscaping. I’ve offered to curate the library when the time comes, lest it get taken over by tattered volumes that never turn over. I’ve found some gems in neighborhood giveaway boxes over the past year or so.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How wonderful! A bench and landscaping will make it so nice for readers to come and visit! One of our LFL “curators” is a retired librarian, who tries to keep a good mix in there, including some kids’ books. You’ll be a fantastic curator–yeah, you don’t want a bunch of coffee-stained Nora Roberts paperbacks in there (or whatever the English equivalent is!).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha ha, plenty of Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel in the public library here, but probably the closest equivalent I can think of to your scenario is Maeve Binchy. We used to have stacks of her books come into the free bookshop, and hardly anyone taking them away again.

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  5. Somerset and the Levels generally were our backyard during the many years we lived in Bristol, so many of the places you mention — Wells, Ebbor Gorge, Glastonbury — are very familiar though it’s been many years since we’ve returned to these haunts. Dolebury Warren, on the western end of the Mendips proper, was one of our favourite places to walk on.

    Books: I don’t know how you manage with your rate of book consumption, but I suppose the clue is in your handle! I managed without any real book buying since Wales last went into lockdown (just two titles!) but I’m afraid I succumbed in a charity shop a day or so ago: one each of Le Carré, Magorian, Simenon and E T A Hoffman…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Although books are always making their way into the house via review copies, library loans, and new and secondhand purchases, they are also always moving on. After reading, I resell, pass on to friends, or donate lots of my books. So that helps to keep the situation under control. Still, at any point I will generally have about 400 unread books around the place.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sounds lovely! Checking in on your previous book hauls makes sense as well…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know you’re very diligent about your TBR, whereas I tend to let books sit around for years unread! This was a good reminder about some I was excited to purchase a few years ago but have mostly forgotten about since. Now that a subset has migrated to the bedside table, I hope I’ll actually read them!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very jealous of your trip and haul – lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Any travelling on the horizon for you?

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      1. That’s too bad. I hope at some point this year you’ll have some trips to look forward to. At least books provide us with endless armchair travels!

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  8. What a lovely trip – and great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And great to see a Brian Moore sneaking in there!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know anything about this one, but I’m enjoying Judith Hearne a lot, so it was a good chance to get another of his books lined up 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s nice you were able to get away for a change of scenery. The pictures of it look beautiful and so green!
    I think you’ve done really well with reading the books you’ve bought over the years. I’d hate to tally up my own progress… better not to think about it. 😉
    Those covers are priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. England is really beautiful in the spring. (Though that’s true of anywhere!)

      I’ve done reasonably well, especially on the older hauls — it was reassuring to see that the books do eventually get read.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this post! As I haven’t traveled anywhere at all since fall 2019, I love living vicariously through others’ pictures. And yours are lovely. (We are scheduled for the beach in the fall, fingers crossed.)

    Happy to see Nella Larsen in your new stack – both of those are very good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you get to take that trip. It shouldn’t be too crowded in the fall. It’s so nice to get away, even for a short time.

      I was very pleased to find the Larsen double volume — 2 books for £2 felt like a bargain!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. How lovely – really glad you were able to get away. I have not been further than five miles from my house since March 06 last year but I’m always glad to see others escaping. And a lovely haul, too! The Wendy Cope is great and I liked the Smiley.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do you have any plans to travel later in the year? UK mini breaks seem like the way to go for now, but even that offers plenty of options. Our Airbnb was self-contained and we picked up the key from a lockbox.

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      1. The problem we have I’d not having a car so we have to rely on public transport. We want to go to Dorset to see my cousins and aunty, staying in s flat, but when we’ve had our second vaccination.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah yes, that does make things more difficult. We have a car share arrangement with our neighbours. We were contemplating a longer trip to Northumberland in the summer, possibly going the longest distance by train and then renting a car, but boats to the Farne Islands seem unreliable at the moment, so we might hold off and go somewhere closer to home.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Good to hear that Book Barn was in good shape. I think they were struggling a while ago and looking for funding

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are still selling shares. I have contributed to a couple of their crowdfunding projects.

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      1. I remember seeing them on Dragon’s Den a few years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. buriedinprint | Reply

    Ohhh, I’d forgotten about your getaway; I guess it just fell into the category of fantasy in my mind. Heheh But I’m glad you were able to enjoy some bookshopping. And I always love the sound of Bookbarn. You’ve done rather well with your accumulation, overall. And of the new ones, that’s a tough Smiley to find, even in NAmerica. And I echo Laila’s enthusiasm for the Larsen. I used to have that bizarre little copy of Sapphira but passed it to a friend who has a thing for vintage paperbacks with *ahem* interesting covers after I found a dustjacketless copy for myself LOL And I”m terrible for “getting to” literary biographies; I always feel as though I should read “more” of their stuff before the bio…and it’s usually just too ambitious a plan…so it never/rarely happens. Then, last year, when I decided to simply read the Flannery O’Connor collection of letters, I ended up reading a dozen or so books…so perhaps I should stick with not reading that kind of thing…too rabbitholey?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There must be a sweet spot somewhere: if you’ve read all of an author’s books, a biography might feel superfluous; if you’ve read none or just a couple, their life story might not appeal. The last big, proper biography I managed was May Sarton’s, and it took me over a year (2018-19). In her case I’d read almost all the autobiographical material, so it was very interesting to compare how she presented her life with how Margot Peters viewed it from the outside. I’ve still not read much of Sarton’s fiction, though, so I learned a lot about her themes and characters and the inspiration for some of the novels.

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