Welcome to The Woodstock Bookshop

The shop opened in May 2008 and is on the main road in Woodstock, just next to the bus stop. We can supply most books to order by the next day and have several thousand books in stock: to order books ring or email the shop. We have a large selection of children's books and are happy to advise and recommend. We can also supply second-hand and out-of-print titles. We offer discounts for school orders and for book clubs and have a free local delivery service.

We were on the regional shortlist for Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2009, 2013 and 2017, and listed in the Independent's Top 50 UK Bookshops.

are both suspended during the pandemic. We hope to start again as soon as it is safe to do so.

The bookshop started and runs Woodstock Poetry Festival, a completely independent festival that has now been running for 8 years.

The Woodstock Literature Society also holds an excellent series of monthly talks - do visit their website for further details.

Twitter: @WoodstockBooks

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Power Cuts

Many apologies if you have tried to ring us recently and not had an answer. There have been several power cuts affecting our shop and various other businesses in Woodstock including Hampers, The King's Arms and the Post Office - each time the electricity has been off for a couple of hours until someone from SEB puts in a new fuse. This means that if you ring the shop it sounds as if the phone is ringing in the shop but in fact it isn't. Hopefully it will all be sorted out soon.
A huge thank you to all our customers this year for your continued enthusiastic book-buying - happy new year to you!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Philip Pullman on reading

Thank goodness for Philip Pullman! There is something in today's Telegraph saying how he 'criticised teachers for the “painful” way they tore stories apart to try to reveal what they “really mean”. 
'The result is pupils who end up hating the books, he said. Instead of being drilled and quizzed about them, children should be given time to enjoy the stories.
'When you read a book, “you should get magic from it”, he said. “There should be plenty of books and plenty of time, and teachers should leave children alone.
'“Sometimes a book will not make its full impact known to us until 20 or 30 years later”.'
For the full article see here.
I am sure it's the reason most people hate poetry. You read a poem at school, and before you've even had time to look back over it again the teacher is asking what you think it's really 'about'. So the poem can't simply be itself, it has to be about something. It is not a blend of sounds you enjoy for their own sake and gradually come to understand, often at some level that goes beyond mere 'comprehension', but something a bit like one of those highly annoying wooden three-dimensional puzzles - you take it apart piece by piece and all you are left with is a heap of wooden shapes. 
I remember when I was seven we 'did' The Silver Chair at school. CS Lewis was my favourite author at the time, I had read most of the books and was in love with Narnia (I came to The Last Battle a little later and hated it with as much passion as I had loved the other books - I felt I had been duped, along with the Pevensey children - that a land I had loved for itself was now only to be loved because it was an image of the true, everlasting land - I was furious with the author for playing such an underhand trick and never forgave him). Those lessons were a torment - first, the idea that something I loved, a private land or so I had thought, was part of school, which I certainly didn't love. We read the book round the class, in turn, so you had to endure parts where people stumbled through the words and the slowness was almost unbearable. I don't know whether some people discovered the magic of CS Lewis through that book in that class. But I spent the lessons with my ears blocked, furious at the trespass taking place.
Of course, it can sometimes be fun to look at books together. You can think about characters or turns of plot and it can all lead to some interesting discussions. Luckily, books resist interpretations. And not all teachers pull things apart - many encourage children to share the pleasure they experience in reading and don't insist everything should be 'understood'. 

Friday, 7 December 2012


E-reader Demand Slumps

E-book readers sales are taking a pummelling from tablets. IDC, a market watcher, reckons some 19.9 million dedicated e-readers will have shipped in 2012 - 28.2 per cent fewer than were shifted in 2011

Interesting to read that this morning. I have long felt that tablets are what people will use, if they are not going to read a paper book. It would be fascinating to be able to look back on this period of change five years hence and be able to see clearly what is rather blurry and muddled as we live through it. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Richard Ford in Woodstock

It was a great evening though it didn't get off to the greatest of starts. I went to collect Richard Ford from Charlbury station and discovered the train was delayed because of floods near Oxford. Some forty minutes later it arrived - me very jittery, thinking of the hall full of people waiting in Woodstock; Richard very calm, saying he'd been reading a book and that there was no sense in worrying about things if you couldn't do anything (I put 'a book' deliberately, as he said that and said he didn't like kindles - a nice thing for a bookseller to hear).

He read the first two chapters of Canada and then answered questions, and I wish I had a better memory or had taped things. But I don't and didn't. He talked about why he called the book Canada ('I love the way the word sounds and this way it gets to be on every page'), about book titles in general, pointing out that Tender is the Night doesn't bear much relation to the book but is a perfect title and saying that he'd only once been talked out of a title he wanted by an editor and had regretted it ever since (and yes, he did say which title and I do remember it but you should have been there...)

He talked about travelling around from small town to small town as a teenager, living on his own and how he managed that. About what a disappointment it could be to meet writers (it wasn't). As you can see from the picture below, there was a long queue of people after the talk waiting to meet him and have books signed: he was very courteous and charming and behaved as though he had all the time in the world for everyone - very kind, when he had to get back to London that evening.

I would like to thank Jeremy Treglown - and Holly Treglown and Charles Stainsby (whose birthday it was) - who between them made the whole thing possible.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Post Poetry Festival

A huge thank you to everyone who came along and supported our first Woodstock Poetry Festival - authors and audience alike. It went very well -

Above: the queue waiting to talk to Gillian Clarke following her reading

Below: David Harsent chatting to Jenny Hammond following the reading

A rather blurry picture of Bernard O'Donoghue reading at the lectern:

Friday, 16 November 2012

Richard Ford in Woodstock

Richard Ford is coming to Woodstock Methodist Church on 27th November at 7pm to talk about Canada (for full details of this talk see earlier post of 14 July). This talk is almost full - has Richard Ford ever spoken in Woodstock before?! If you would like to come please book in advance.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Maurice Sendak on ebooks

What a cheerful way to start the day. I thought I was a Luddite - I am, I know I am - but this is real Grumpy Old Man stuff. This is his opinion of ebooks:

I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book. A book is a book is a book. I know that’s terribly old-fashioned. I’m old, and when I’m gone they’ll probably try to make my books on all these things, but I’m going to fight it like hell. 

For the rest of the interview, equally and divertingly grumpy, see here.

Friday, 26 October 2012

More poetry...

For more information about poetry readings in and around Oxford see the Oxford Stanza 2 site, here. Bernard O'Donoghue and Jane Draycott are also taking part in conversations with psychotherapists at the Friends Meeting House in St Giles, Oxford - see here .

Poetry and Jazz at the Albion Beatnik

Dennis Harrison at the Albion Beatnik bookshop on Walton Street, Jericho, has organised the most extraordinary month of nightly poetry and jazz events during November, with some of the same poets who are reading at the Woodstock Festival and many who aren't. The list of readings is too long to print in full but if you click here you should go through to their website. If you haven't been to the bookshop yet, you should - he has an excellent selection of unusual books and also serves tea, coffee and cakes. His opening hours are rather more evening than ours - usually 11-11 - and he always has good jazz playing.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Gillian Clarke's Ice on the TS Eliot Prize shortlist

The shortlist has just been announced for the TS Eliot Prize - Ice, by Gillian Clarke, is among the selected titles. Gillian Clarke is reading from Ice at Woodstock Poetry Festival on Saturday 10th November at 6.30pm.
The Death of King Arthur by Simon Armitage (Faber)
Bee Journal  by Sean Borodale (Jonathan Cape)
Ice by Gillian Clarke (Carcanet)
The World’s Two Smallest Humans by Julia Copus (Faber)
The Dark Film by Paul Farley (Picador)
P L A C E by Jorie Graham (Carcanet)
The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie (Picador)
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds (Jonathan Cape)
The Havocs  by Jacob Polley (Picador)
Burying the Wren by Deryn Rees-Jones (Seren)
Carol Ann Duffy is chair of the judging panel; Michael Longley and David Morley are also judging the prize.
The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on 14th January 2013, when the winner will be presented with a cheque for £15,000, donated by Mrs Valerie Eliot. The shortlisted poets will each receive £1,000.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Poetry festival details

Woodstock Poetry Festival has attracted a wide variety of poets - below is the list of poets appearing under the heading New Libertines with Dan Holloway on Saturday 10th November at 8.30pm:

Sian S Rathore, editor in chief of Sadcore Dadwave
Paul Askew, editor of Ferment Magazine
Anna Hobson, poetry MC for Oxford Pride and Oxford International Women's Festival
Anna McCrory, President of Oxford University Poetry Society
Kate Walton, Warwick Words slam champiom
Anna Percy, host of Stirred Poetry
James Purcell Webster, the king of text poetry
Laila Sumpton, Keats house
Tina Sederholm, 2010 Oxford Hammer and Tongue slam champion
Fay Roberts, host of Hammer and Tongue Cambridge and Allographic
Claire Trevien, Salt Modern Voices and editor-in-chief of Sabotage Reviews
Pat Winslow, published by Templar Poetry

What a line-up! I heard some of them at the Chipping Norton Festival last summer and they are a very gifted group.

There is a piece in this week's Oxford Mail about the Woodstock Poetry Festival here.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Woodstock Poetry Festival 9-11 November

Woodstock Poetry Festival
Friday 9 - Sunday 11 November 2012
We are delighted to announce our first Woodstock Poetry Festival. Several excellent poets are coming to read their work here, three of whom will be reading from new collections - and there will also be the chance to meet two very different local poetry groups. 

We would like people to come to as many events as possible and make a weekend of it in Woodstock so we are offering a Festival ticket covering all the events on Saturday and Sunday. This will cost £20 and must be booked in advance, at the latest by David Harsent's reading on Saturday (each event can also be booked individually). If you present your Festival ticket to any of the Woodstock pubs and restaurants listed below  you will receive a 10% discount on meals (so long as they are booked in advance) and drinks.

Friday's event has to be booked separately as it is being held at St Edward's School in Oxford.
Students can attend all readings free of charge.

Friday 9 November, St Edwards School, Oxford
7.30pm Sam Willetts and Robin Robertson (£8)

Sam Willetts' first poetry collection, New Light For the Old Dark, was shortlisted for several awards including the Forward Prize, the Costa Prize and the TS Eliot Prize.


 Robin Robertson is Sam Willetts' publisher at Jonathan Cape. He was brought up on the north-east coast of Scotland. Apart from translations of Medea and the Bacchae, he has also written free versions of the poetry of Nobel Prizewinner Tomas Tranströmer. He has published four previous collections of poetry and has received the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and all three Forward Prizes. His new book, published early next year, is Hill of Doors.
Saturday 10 November, Woodstock Methodist Church
4pm David Harsent (£8)

David Harsent has published ten poetry collections. The most recent, Night, was Poetry Book Society Choice for Spring 2011 and won the Griffin International Poetry Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the Forward Prize (Best Collection), the TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Prize. He has just published In Secret: Versions of Yannis Ritsos (Enitharmon Press), translations of one of Greece's finest poets.

6.30pm Gillian Clarke (£8)

 We are very pleased to welcome back Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales and winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010. She has published many poetry collections, the last three of which have all been Poetry Book Society Recommendations. Last time she came to Woodstock she launched Washing Lines, the collection of poems edited by Janie Hextall and Barbara McNaught. This evening she will be reading from her new book, Ice.

8.30pm New Libertines (£4)
The New Libertines bring together performance poets from Oxford, the UK and beyond. The show, which encompasses a wide range of styles and subjects from surrealism to fin de siecle France, from the Beat to underground Berlin, has played to full houses and critical acclaim at venues across the UK (full details and reviews at http://eightcuts.com).

Sunday 11 November, Woodstock Methodist Church
4 pm Kirtlington Poetry Group, (£4)
Kirtlington Poetry group is an independent group of poetry lovers, drawn mostly from the local village of Kirtlington, who have been meeting every month since about 2004 to discuss poetry and to contribute their own work for appreciation and scrutiny.

6.30pm Jamie McKendrick, Jane Draycott and Bernard O'Donoghue, (£8)

Jamie McKendrick will be reading from his new book Out There (Faber). He has published 5 previous poetry collections, translations of Magrelli's poems and novels by Giorgio Bassani, and edited The Faber Book of 20th Century Italian Poems.

Bernard O'Donoghue has written 5 poetry collections and his Selected Poems are published by Faber; his most recent book, Farmer's Cross, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.

Jane Draycott has published several poetry collections (shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize) and a very fine translation of the 14th-century dream vision Pearl

Tickets and information: 01993 812760
Woodstock Pubs and Restaurants offering 10% discount on meals booked in advance (please contact directly):
The Feathers 
The Woodstock Arms
The Bear Hotel
The Natural Bread Company
The Punchbowl Inn

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Jenny Uglow and Anne Somerset

We are holding two talks as part of this year's Blenheim Palace Literary Festival at Woodstock: ring the bookshop to reserve tickets. For general information about this year's festival see here.

Jenny Uglow, Thursday 13 September, 6pm, Woodstock Methodist Church, £10
The Pinecone, The Story of Forgotten Romantic Sarah Losh. Sarah Losh built Wreay Church in Cumbria in 1842 - it is one of the most unusual and inspiring churches of the Victorian era. Biographer Jenny Uglow uncovers the incredible story behind the church and its builder. Losh was born into a family of wealthy Cumbrian industrialists and had a zest for progress and love of the past. She let her imagination flow in the church, which includes carvings of ammonites, scarabs and poppies; an arrow piercing the wall; a tortoise gargoyle launching itself into the air; and her signature pinecones everywhere. The Pinecone is also the story of the Losh family, friends of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and a story of village life of the time.

Jenny Uglow grew up in Cumbria. Her works include award-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell and William Hogarth. Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick won the National Arts Writers Award 2007 and A Gambling man: Charles II and the Restoration was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2010.

Anne Somerset, Saturday 15 September, 4pm, Woodstock Methodist Church, £10
Queen Anne, The Politics of Passion. Blenheim Palace and its estate is inextricably bound to the life of Queen Anne. The monarch gave the estate to her loyal and successful commander Marlborough and his wife Sarah Churchill, herself an intimate friend and confidant of the Queen. The Marlboroughs exerted great influence over Anne but the relationship turned very difficult and they were forced into exile after a final quarrel.

Product DetailsHistorian and biographer Anne Somerset describes the politics and personality clashes that surrounded the reign of Queen Anne, whose life was riven by passion, illness and intrigue.  She describes how the final break with Sarah Churchill was precipitated by Sarah’s claim that it was the Queen’s lesbian infatuation with another lady-in-waiting that had destroyed their friendship. Despite the intrigue and infighting, Anne emerges as a successful ruler who set her nation on to the path of greatness.

Anne Somerset has won acclaim for her biography of Elizabeth I. Her books also include Unnatural Murder: Poison in the Court of James I, which won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for non-fiction.

Pictures of The Woodstock Bookshop

There are some rather lovely pictures of the shop on the Penguin blog - see here...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Richard Ford in Woodstock

M Laura Antonelli / Rex Features

Novelist Richard Ford is coming to Woodstock on November 27 to give a talk about his recent book Canada. Canada is the best novel I have read all year and I also believe it is the best he has written so far. Reviews for Canada have been excellent - just to give you an idea, here are two:

'Canada is blessed with two essential strengths in equal measure — a mesmerizing story driven by authentic and fully realized characters, and a prose style so accomplished it is tempting to read each sentence two or three times before being pulled to the next... Canada is a tale of what happens when we cross certain lines and can never go back. It is an examination of the redemptive power of articulated memory, and it is a masterwork by one of our finest writers working at the top of his form.' New York Times

'Canada is a superlatively good book, richly imagined and beautifully fashioned. Although it is too early to do so, one is tempted to acclaim it a masterpiece. It catches movingly the grinding loneliness at the heart of American life – of life anywhere. As the narrative makes its measured progress, the sadness steadily accumulates, a weightless silt that gets under the eyelids. The final encounter at the close of the book between Dell and Berner is one of the most tenderly drawn scenes in modern literature, and could only have been written by a writer of Richard Ford's empathy, insight and technical mastery.' John Banville, Guardian

We are already taking booking for this talk.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Three Houses, Many Lives

Gillian Tindall gave a fascinating talk on Tuesday about her recent book, focusing mainly on Taynton Vicarage (shown above) as that is the house closest to Woodstock. She had an hour or so to wander round Woodstock before the talk - which she did in spite of the rain - and managed to look at our own Rectory, built in 1982 in the garden of the old Rectory (now known as the Bishop's House) which was built by the legendary Bishop Fell of Oxford in 1686-9. She moved effortlessly from very close study of particular houses and documents to showing how these illustrate changes and events in the country as a whole and she brought individuals and whole communities alive. All her books are exceptional in that way - my favourite is Celestine, the account of a French village.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Independent Booksellers' Week

We had a great talk from Robert Macfarlane to launch Independent Booksellers' Week on Saturday (see Merle, above, who works in the shop, gamely wearing the tee-shirt supplied by Nielsen's to promote the week - and Robert, top, chatting to the long queue of people waiting to have their books signed). Robert spoke about The Wild Places, and how his walks in Dorset with Roger Deakin had influenced him (Deakin, who died a year or so ago, was the author of Waterlog, a swim round Britain, and Notes From Walnut Tree Farm) . He read from different sections of The Old Ways - this is Radio 4's Book of the Week so you can have some idea of what we enjoyed, though it is not read by the author. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Robert Macfarlane, The Old Ways

Just to whet your appetite for Saturday's talk, some of the glowing reviews of The Old Ways.

'Macfarlane's first two books, Mountains of the Mind (2003) and The Wild Places (2007), were published to huge acclaim and have achieved the status of modern classics. The Old Waysjoins up with them to form what Macfarlane calls "a loose trilogy about landscape and the human heart". That definition is striking. It takes some courage for a writer to say that his subject is "the human heart". It sounds a little old-fashioned, a little out-of-step with modern detachment. But that is part of what makes Macfarlane's voice significant. He willingly declares his love of things..The chief guiding spirit of The Old Ways is Edward Thomas, walker, nature-writer and poet, who left the "South Country" he loved and followed the chalk across the channel to northern France, where he died on the first day of the Battle of Arras. In a sense The Old Ways is an experiment in geographical biography, asking how much we can understand of another's life by inhabiting their places and following their tracks...' Alexandra Harris, the Guardian

'in The Old Ways the roads are shown to be almost indestructible, as if existing in geological rather than in human time, binding man to his past...Macfarlane brings to his books his love and knowledge of the natural world, and so cross-fertilises the rich till of his travel writing with the loam of another very English tradition of observational literature: nature writing. Macfarlane is read above all for the beauty of his prose and his wonderfully innovative and inventive way with language...he stoops with unerring accuracy on his prey – the perfect image, the most elusive metaphor – and he can write exquisitely about anywhere, even Royston. This book is as perfect as his now classic Wild Places. Maybe it is even better than that. Either way, in Macfarlane, British travel writing has a formidable new champion...' William Dalrymple, the Guardian

'...a stack of drawers, to be pulled out at random if you like, but constituting, in their immense store of memories and reflections, a grand cohesive whole, and a true link in themselves between the walker and the walk, reality and imagination...after a week’s immersion in its influence. It has made me feel that I myself am always walking some eternal track, sharing its pleasures and hardships with uncountable others, treading its immemorial footprints, linking me with all the generations of man and beast, and connecting in particular the visionary author of the book, as he unrolls his sleeping bag beneath the stars, with this bemused reviewer beside the fire at Llanystumdwy.' Jan Morris, Telegraph

'Macfarlane writes superbly'  Frances Spalding, Independent

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Independent Booksellers' Week

We are celebrating Independent Booksellers' Week this year with two talks of our own - Robert Macfarlane and Gillian Tindall (for details see opposite), bookselling at the Wootton Talks for local artist Sarah Simblet on Friday 6th July, and the launch of Harry Sidebottom's fifth book in the Warrior of Rome series on 5th July (Harry is pictured below).

Harry's first book appeared shortly after the shop first opened and he has brought out a new one each year with extraordinary speed and regularity. Each launch has been the same - a bustling mix of friends, writers and publishers in the same Woodstock bar run by a friend of Harry's. Elements of Groundhog day but infinitely more enjoyable...

I am slightly uneasy about the need for an Independent Booksellers' Week - are we on the verge of extinction? I receive daily emails from various publishing and bookselling networks which range from gloomy to despairing but am happy to report that we are still flourishing.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Marilynne Robinson

I went to Blackwells yesterday evening for a talk by Marilynne Robinson, one of the very great American writers. She read from her latest book - When I was a Child I Read Books (a collection of essays) - and from a passage towards the end of Gilead. If you haven't already read Gilead I urge you to try it. You have to read it slowly, like poetry. She read it aloud beautifully and then took questions from the audience, talking about history - 'there is a sense in which our view of reality has narrowed' - and our smugness about the past, our feeling that we can do and understand things so much better now - 'we have to get behind this irrational certainty'. One phrase in particular stood out for me, when she said, 'What the culture becomes depends on what every single member of the culture does.' Read her books!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012

Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012: Appelfeld said, 'Blooms of Darkness is a work of fiction that includes my personal experience during the Second World War. I wanted to explore the darkest places of human behaviour and to show that even there, generosity and love can survive; that humanity and love can overcome cruelty and brutality.'

Blooms of Darkness is loosely based on Appelfeld's own experiences of the Holocaust as a boy, where he escaped from a prison camp. The novel is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Hugo who is taken in by Mariana, a prostitute, to keep him safe as the Second World War rages around them in the ghetto and Jewish people are sent to concentration camps.

Born in 1932 in what is now Western Ukraine, Appelfeld was deported to a labour camp at Transnistria when he was seven years old. He managed to escape, and was picked up by the Red Army in 1944, making his way to Italy and finally reaching Palestine in 1946, aged 14. These formative years have been the focus of his writing for more than 40 years, during which he has produced over 40 books which have been translated into 25 languages. While Appelfeld grew up speaking German he could not bring himself to write in it citing it as 'the language of the murderers'. Instead, he chooses to write in his 'mother language' of Hebrew which he learned to speak aged 14 and which he praises for its succinctness and biblical imagery.

The six shortlisted titles for the 2012 Prize were:
Alice by Judith Hermann, translated from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo (The Clerkenwell Press)
Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld, translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M Green (Alma Books)
Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Cindy Carter (Corsair)
From the Mouth of the Whale by Sjón, translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb (Telegram Books)
New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani, translated from the Italian by Judith Landry (Dedalus)
The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon (Harvill Secker)

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded annually to the best work of contemporary fiction in translation. The prize celebrates an exceptional work of fiction by a living author which has been translated into English from any other language and published in the United Kingdom in 2011.

It is interesting to see how different the two translation prize shortlists are: Diego Marani's New Finnish Grammar is the only book to appear on both lists. I haven't read it yet but customers who have say it is excellent. I have just read How I Lost the War and Down the Rabbit Hole, both from the Oxford-Weidenfeld shortlist - quite different but very haunting and beautifully translated.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Oxford-Weidenfeld shortlist

The shortlist for the Oxford-Weidenfeld prize has been announced: this is for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language. The shortlist has been selected by Oxford academics Rebecca Beasley, Ann Jefferson and Freya Johnston, joined by guest judge Marina Warner who is speaking here with Matthew Reynolds on Sunday 27 May with Matthew Reynolds.
  • John Ashbery for Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud (Carcanet)
  • Margaret Jull Costa for Seven Houses in France by Bernardo Atxaga (Harvill Secker)
  • Howard Curtis for How I Lost the War by Filippo Bologna (Pushkin)
  • Rosalind Harvey for Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos (And Other Stories)
  • Judith Landry for New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (Dedalus)
  • Martin McLaughlin for Into the War by Italo Calvino (Penguin)
The judges said: This year’s entry was both very strong and very numerous, with 102 books being submitted by 44 publishers. Twentieth-century history was a prominent theme, an emphasis which has carried through into our shortlist. Genre fiction, especially crime, was well represented in the entry this year; but there was hardly any drama. Finally, we wish to record our appreciation of the many interesting prefaces and introductions which helped orient our reading of the translations.
The winner will be announced on 7th June at St Anne’s College Oxford. All are welcome to attend this celebration, at which the shortlisted translators will read from their work and Marina Warner will present the prize. The event begins at 6.30pm.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Tower Poetry at the Woodstock Arms

Don Paterson (left) and Christopher Reid chatting to the audience following the reading.

The Woodstock Arms was packed with over 70 people on Friday to hear Don Paterson and Christopher Reid reading their poems. Christopher Reid (Don Paterson's former poetry editor at Faber, who publish both poets) read from A Scattering, the collection about the death of his wife, his Selected Poems and unpublished poems written for a libretto about soldiers during the First World War. We were able to get hold of advance copies of Don Paterson's Selected Poems for the event, not published by Faber until early May - this is a great book, the best possible introduction for anyone new to his works. As Christopher Reid said during the talk, Don Paterson lives in the seventeenth century and produces metaphysical poems. He also produces sonnets - his next collection will, he said, be all sonnets, and he read some unpublished sonnets to us.

We are very grateful to Tower Poetry for collaborating with us on this event: both poets were in Oxford earlier that day with local poet Peter McDonald to select the winners of the annual Tower Poetry Competition, a competition open to 16-18 year olds.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Patrick Gale

Patrick Gale (pictures above, signing books and chatting after his talk) gave such a good reading last night. He talked about how he writes, which is unusual - he lives with each character in turn, rather than writing the book consecutively. The structure of A Perfectly Good Man, his latest novel, is quite fascinating and I can't see how he manages to weave together the different characters and periods so seamlessly, into such a perfect whole. He has had very good reviews for this book - quite rightly. He is one of the most interesting writers, constantly experimenting with different ways of structuring and telling stories. To see a video of Patrick discussing the book click here

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Martin Sixsmith

Martin Sixsmith's talk on Russia on Monday was sold out - the Methodist Church was packed with over a hundred people of all ages (as you can see from the photos above, where he is signing books after the talk. The young girls are studying Russian and even had a conversation with him in Russian). He started with some Russian jokes and then spoke very movingly of how writers and musicians coped during the events of the twentieth century. The book is fascinating, highly recommended.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Martin Sixsmith in Woodstock

Martin Sixsmith will be talking about Russia on Monday March 5th at 7.30pm in Woodstock Methodist Church. Tickets £5 - please ring or email The Woodstock Bookshop to reserve a place.

Martin Sixsmith was the BBC Moscow correspondent for many years, reporting from Moscow at the end of the Cold War and this book was first published to accompany a BBC Radio 4 series marking the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Combining in-depth research with his personal experiences as a BBC Moscow correspondent, Sixsmith tells Russia's full and fascinating story from its foundation in the 10th century till today. Covering politics, music, literature and art, he explores the myths Russians have created from their history, and explains the nation's seemingly split personality as the result of influences that have divided it for centuries. Russia is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the complex political landscape of Russia and its place in the modern world:

'My aim in this book and accompanying radio series has been to put the events I witnessed into their proper historical context, to highlight the previous turning points in Russia’s history, those "moments of unruly destiny" when she could have gone either way – down the path of reform that might have made her a liberal democracy, or down the continuing path of autocracy, at times totalitarian, repressive and dictatorial.'

From 1997 to 2002 Martin Sixsmith worked for the British Government as Director of Communications and Press Secretary to Harriet Harman, Alistair Darling and Stephen Byers. He is now a writer, presenter and journalist.