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

Friday, 24 May 2013

Will Self and bookshop readings

A slightly lugubrious article by Will Self in the Telegraph, in which he says, 'Nowadays the bookshop reading is largely a thing of the past', due to the massive number of festivals throughout the country. Also to the closure of all the 'cosy little bookshops' who made recommendations and, occasionally, held readings. We are not all gone. I run a 'cosy little bookshop' and we hold readings, either in the bookshop itself or just across the road in the Methodist Church. There are at least five other thriving independent bookshops within a radius of 20 miles of Woodstock and most of them hold readings too. You shouldn't believe everything you read in the national press. Even in London there are independent bookshops - Sandoe's, Lutyens & Rubinstein, Books for Cooks, to name my favourites. And Daunt's, of course. 

It is true that people now come into the shop and say, 'Oh! A bookshop!' as though they had just stumbled on a draper's shop or some other Victorian curiosity. I don't like being seen as a bizarre survival from a previous era, brave and foolhardy, eccentrically out of touch with how the rest of the world is living. The people who exclaim over discovering the shop rarely buy books. They wander round marvelling; they ask me, sympathetically, how on earth I manage to survive (Amazon isn't mentioned, it's the elephant in the shop). Occasionally they pick up a book and say, 'Have I read this?' (people with Kindles often don't remember what they've read).  

A bookshop reading is nearly always organised by the shop because they are passionate about the book. I don't do readings for publishers, to promote an author they want to push. I do them for the authors and for the shop. The book we sold most of last year wasn't Wolf Hall but Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, a book that all the people who work here loved and therefore recommended to anyone in search of a really good read. 

As Will Self concludes, 'the real relationship between a reader and a writer will always be consummated between the leaves of a book'. This is very true. But it can often be started by a bookshop.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Don Paterson 2014

A great evening in Woodstock Methodist Church yesterday evening with Don Paterson who read from the about-to-be-published paperback edition of his Selected Poems and also from recent unpublished poems he tried out on us as he liked the 'lugubrious acoustics' of the church. He has promised to return to Woodstock in 2014 when the new poems are published - all sonnets.

He described sonnets as 'a square on the page' and talked about the inevitability of a sonnet. If it were abolished, within a few days it would be back. The constraints of rhyme and metre lead to unexpected words, unrehearsed thoughts - a poem the author might not fully understand.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Andres Neuman

To Oxford yesterday for an event with the Spanish faculty, a discussion of Andras Neuman's book Traveller of the Century. Both translators were there.
Neuman spent his early years in Argentina and then went to live in Grenada - 'For me, having the doubt of who I am is part of my identity...That had some consequences in my writing because I don't trust my mother tongue...' People assume, he said, 'there must be a true identity and a false identity - but I don't feel like that. Depending on when or where I am I speak with an Argentinian or a Spanish accent.'
'Conflicts are the basis of literature...the style is the result of trying to solve the conflict.' He talked of the different between what he termed 'common' and 'neutral' Spanish - his aim was to produce something common rather than bland.
'To be a writer is a failure for me because I wanted to be a football player.' But when he was 10 he broke both knees at once and had to spend a whole year without football - reading and writing. He had records of books, too - he would read the printed version while listening to the record, and both his parents are musicians: 'I maybe keep the habit of approaching words through the ear.'
'I need to write to not kill myself - I need to publish a book to get rid of it so I can start a new one.'
Of Traveller of the Century: 'It started with the fantasy of telling the stories of two characters in the Schubert songs, the Winterreise...The novel was supposed to be a short novel...telling the meeting of a young traveller and an old street musician - two points of view, two ages. I thought it would be fun to start the novel where the music ends... The world appeared around this original scene.'
He spoke of the effect of modern transport: 'For the first time we were faster than nature, and that changed your idea of time and space...All the book is an attempt to translate the nineteenth century questions into a twentieth century language.'
Nick Caistor, one of the two translators, spoke about translating the book: 'It's not a historical novel, it's today's reflections on the nineteenth century.' The conversations are deliberately punctuated in an unusual way, with brackets - 'I want the effect of zapping,' said Andres - modern speech is fast, people constantly interrupt each other.
Neuman on translating: 'You need to retranslate classics constantly because translations get old, as we do. The best translations last half a century...' He translated romantic poems for the book: 'I wish I could have stolen more (from existing translations) but I couldn't because of the register. What I could steal was the interpretation.'
'If you don't write poetry in your own language maybe it's hard to translate poetry...You don't need to be a novelist to translate a novel in a way good way.'
He loves Cynthis Ozick's movels, and Richard Ford, Flannery O'Connor - and Helen Garner's The Spare Room.
About his method of writing: 'I take notes about the characters many times before starting the novel...like a psychoanalyst in front of an empty chair, and step by step the body appears... I change my plans constantly - they start to perform their own way...I took notes for two years before starting to write the novel.'
'If you are all the time one character the other will seem stupid...I try to distribute my opinion among different characters.'
When asked whether he thought there was any great novel on sport he was slightly stumped: '...a good book about sport is (Richard Ford's) The Sportswriter....about possible metaphors for life in sport.' and Ring Lardner's stories he described as 'really brilliant'...'A good fiction about sport shouldn't talk in a straight way about sport..'
Finally - I went up to him at the end to ask whether he would sign some copies of the book for stock. He looked at me - should he write a dedication? I was slightly confused. No, a signature would do. A dedication, he thought, might be more interesting. And so he did, he wrote three dedications to the future readers of those books:
'To you, unknown citizen of this invented place. Welcome.'
'To the curious next traveller who opens this land. Welcome.'
'and to the next traveller of this uncertain land. Be very welcome'
While he was signing we discussed language - why it is that 'To the curious next traveller who open this land' is perfectly correct but could never have been written by an English person. Read the book, travellers...

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Don Paterson Reading May 22 Woodstock

We have just arranged for Don Paterson to come to Woodstock and give a reading on 22 May at 7pm in Woodstock Methodist Church. He has been in Oxford this term, as Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of Comparative Literature at St Anne's College Oxford, where he gave a series of four lectures on different aspects of poetry. This will be a reading of his own poems - his Selected Poems is about to be published in paperback by Faber and there should be advance copies available.

Don Paterson is a wonderful poet - for information about him see his website, here.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Katherine Rundell - Rooftoppers

This is one of the photos shown by Katherine at a talk she gave to some Year 7 pupils at Oxford High School on Friday - her study at All Soul's, with a tightrope in the foreground. Inspired by Philippe Petit's high wire walk between the twin towers in 1974, she tried to teach herself to walk the tightrope as a child and broke so many bones her parents finally sent her to tightrope classes. She gets up very early to write, and starts the day by walking the tightrope because it wakes you up: 'It makes your blood tingle,' she says...Which makes my going for a walk with the dog every morning seem very tame! 'I've always wanted to be up high,' she said.

She started writing her first book, Girl Savage, the day after her 21st birthday - 'What could be easier than writing about your pet monkey?' Also at 21, she won a fellowship at All Soul's in Oxford - 'Everyone there is about 70; their moustaches trail in the wine.' One of the fellows told her that there is a secret way up on to the roof, and so at night she escaped up there - 'At 2am you are the only person awake. It's the closest you feel to being magic.' Her second book, Rooftoppers, is partly inspired by those night-time outings and is about a child who sets out to find her mother: 'Mothers are maybe the best thing in the world.'

Katherine told the girls her rules for being a writer:

1. Read!
Books that she loved when she was younger are
Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones
Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
What Katy Did, Susan Coolidge
Journey to the River Sea, Eva Ibbotson
2. If you're good at something, acknowledge it and celebrate it. Don't underplay what you can do. She saw that as a particularly female thing - apologising in advance for everything.
3. Write about what you know.
4. Be firm with yourself. It's always going to be hard to be a writer - but you have to remember that this is what you want to do, you are doing what you most want to do. 'When you try to avoid writing remind yourself you are doing what you wanted since you were four. It keeps you going...To keep going you need stamina and grit.' She described tying herself to the chair, to make sure she stayed there and didn't get up..
A story, she said, is like a dream - you have to think - what if? She took a page and divided it into four sections - Character, Place, First Sentence and What if? 'Ideas are quick to come if you kick them around a bit,' she said. And 'never give up on being curious - it's where the exciting things are.'

Comments from the girls:

‘I thought she was very funny and you could definitely tell she was very passionate about what she did and enjoyed writing.  I really liked it when she said that she tied herself to her chair with her boot laces to remind herself why she was there,  when it got tough.’

‘One of my favourite stories that she told was of her climbing up the walls and towers of All Souls College in Oxford.  It seemed so exciting to be up that high in the depth of the night, all alone with the world at your fingertips.’

‘It was really funny - when she shared her wish to go to the South Pole and someone asked her ‘Why?’ she replied ‘Who doesn’t?’ in a shocked but casual voice.’

‘I felt very inspired to never give up.’

‘She is SO COOL!  I wish I had lived in Zimbabwe…I really want to be like her.  No, hang on, I want to BE her!  She is so random and awesome that she is like a character in a book.’

Rooftoppers has been shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize!

Posy Simmonds May 10th Woodstock Town Hall

We had a great evening at Woodstock Town Hall on Friday 10th May to celebrate the shop's 5th birthday. Posy Simmonds gave a talk on 'Making Faces', showing us how she built up characters and then how she plans the comic strips and books. It was magical watching her draw on the screen - and extraordinary to see how much research and preparation goes into everything she does. The photos are slightly dark but give some idea of the atmosphere... We finished the evening with wine and chat - and my mother fainted, which led to a dramatic entry by two very efficient and yellow-clad paramedics from an ambulance - she is absolutely fine, thank goodness...


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Friends of The Oxfordshire Museum

The Friends of the Oxfordshire Museum are holding three Saturday talks in addition to their usual monthly talks, to raise money for the Museum. These talks will be held at 3pm  in the Coach House at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, on 18 May, 8 June and 29 June. All 3 talks have the theme of buildings and architecture. Tockets are £6 and are available in advance from The Woodstock Bookshop.

18 May: The Day Parliament Burned Down, Caroline Shenton
Caroline Shenton, Director of the Parliamentary Archives and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society will talk about her prize-winning book (winner of the Political Book of the year 2013).

In the early evening of 16 October 1834, to the horror of bystanders, a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor, and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs. In front of hundreds of thousands of witnesses the great conflagration destroyed Parliament's glorious old buildings and their contents.

The events of that October day in 1834 were as shocking and significant to contemporaries as the death of Princess Diana was to us at the end of the 20th century - yet today this national catastrophe is a forgotten disaster, not least because Barry and Pugin's monumental new Palace of Westminster has obliterated all memory of its 800 year-old predecessor. Rumours as to the fire's cause were rife. Was it arson, terrorism, the work of foreign operatives, a kitchen accident, careless builders, or even divine judgement on politicians?

The two others talks are:
8 June: Nikolaus Pevsner - The Life, Susie Harris
29 June: Brunelleschi's Dome, Ross King

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Pink noise

I went to the second Don Paterson talk at St Anne's this week, on Silence and Noise, which concentrated on the sound of poems - 'The whole page is a sign to the reader that a poem is won from silence...The silence seems to stand for a very early time before the acquisition of language - this place of infinite connection still exists - poetry is one means by which we can still access it.'
'The medium is failure - words fail us continually.'
'Spontaneous thoughts are often the most stupid we have.'
There is Brown noise (dull, obvious); White noise (also dull but because it's incomprehensible) and Pink noise - 'an ideal balance of predictable regularity and surprise' - to demonstrate Pink noise he cited Emily Dickinson's poem, 'I started early - Took my dog'.
My notes become rather muddled and incomprehensible at points so I won't inflict more of them on you....

Blossom by blossom the spring begins

An elderly man came in last week and ordered a copy of Swinburne because, he told me, it contained two lines that he thought the most perfect description of Spring he had ever encountered and they brought tears to his eyes whenever he thought of them:

And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the Spring begins
from 'Atalanta in Calydon', chorus, 'When the Hounds of Spring', Swinburne

He stood and recited the lines and cried. Today he collected the book and recited the lines again for me.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Woodstock Literature Society talk

Another talk yesterday evening, this time given by Dr Abigail Williams for the Woodstock Literature Society which organises an excellent monthly series of talks throughout the year.The title was 'Bringing Books Home: A History of Reading as Domestic Entertainment' and the talk was both funny and fascinating. It covered not only what people read in the past but how they read it - often aloud, sections from one or more books - which led to the books often being written episodically, so it wouldn't matter if the audience hadn't read the entire book in order. Today we tend to start at the beginning and go on to the end - although several people in the audience confessed to reading the end first and working backwards, while others said they listened to Book of the Week on Radio 4 and didn't mind if they had come in part way through or skipped a session or two. The readings were usually very 'performed' and readers were encouraged to make dramatic gestures and give what we might now think of as rather stagey interpretations of the books. 'Performance' versions of novels were produced, and books with extracts from longer stories and poems, as well as jokes and riddles. It all makes our modern bookgroups seem a little tame...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Don Paterson in Oxford

Yesterday evening I went to the first of four talks Don Paterson is giving at St Anne's in the next couple of weeks as Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of European Comparative Literature. The talk was very fast and also very funny - he was discussing 'how do you get a poem from one head into another' and quoted Antonio Porchia, as translated by W.S. Merwin:
Que te he dado, lo se. Que has recibado, no lo se
which Merwin translates as 'I know what I have given you; I do not know what you have received.' He contrasted this with a more 'precise' translation and pointed out how Merwin's version is better, as it pays more attention to the natural rise and fall of words and emphasises their meaning in a way the more faithful translation doesn't - faithful, therefore, in a different way.
'Codal incompetance...is a hallmark of bad translation.'
'In poetry we are not trying to communicate accurate information.'
'We are used to meeting poems halfway...poetry is as much read in by the reader as written by the poet.'
He talked of how one could read too much into poems - 'the doors of perception are very easy to fling open and very difficult to shut again' - and of 'cryptosemia - to read signs not apparent to others'. It can be easy to develop the idea that ' meaning is something which poets deliberately and sadistically withold' and 'if you reads poetry slowly and carefully enough you will find many things that aren't there.'
'Poems of course don't really mean anything other than what we make of them.'
He talked about poems by Prynne - 'I used to call this stuff difficult. It's not, it's just bracing.'
He talked for some time about the music of poetry, the rise and fall, and how important it is for conveying meaning - 'daleks have trouble conveying irony'. 
Three more to go! There's no charge but you may have to book.