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

Monday, 23 November 2015

Liz Berry - two new poems

If you heard Liz Berry read at this year's poetry festival you would have heard these two new poems - and if you didn't you can read them!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Woodstock Poetry Festival 2015 - comments

I am starting to plan next year's poetry festival - it will be our fifth - so if you have any particular requests do send them in and I will see what can be arranged. In the meantime, here are a few of the responses we had to this year's festival. Many thanks to all the poets who came, and to the many customers and poetry lovers who came together in such large and appreciative numbers to make an audience.

Customer and audience comments:
'May I congratulate you on a very successful poetry festival, and thank you for all your work in organising and running the readings...I enjoyed the festival enormously, some excellent poets and very rewarding readings.'

'Thank you for such a wonderful programme recently at the Festival - I thought Tony Harrison especially was a treasure of a reading and am so glad to have had the chance to hear him, and in a pulpit!'

'I look forward to next years festival.' 

'This was my first poetry festival and I loved it. Hope to come again next year.'

' ...the most successful Woodstock Poetry festival ever. I was extremely impressed by Katrina Porteous, and of course it was thrilling to hear Don Paterson. In fact all the readings I went to were hugely enjoyable...It is very exciting to have such a scintillating poetry event on the doorstep.'

'Thank you for the best weekend I’ve had for years. You chose a brilliant collection of poets and all seemed to go so smoothly. Delicious food. Wonderful atmosphere. I’m so grateful. With love, and thanks to your supporting team,'

'Just to say how good I thought the Festival and how well chosen and organised. Thanks to all.' 

'The festival was amazing! Especially Tony Harrison, Elaine Feinstein and Katrina Porteous - please bring them back'

'I meant to write at once to thank you and congratulate you on yet another brilliantly successful festival. Apart from the sheer quality of the poets reading, one thing that worked really well was being able to just step next door for some of those wonderful cakes and teas poured so charmingly by Molly. It was great not having to go outside, but to be able to keep on talking about the poetry and indeed to some of the poets and then just slip seamlessly back into the hall for the next treat...We were all bowled over by Tony Harrison so it would be great if he came back.'

'Many congratulations on the Poetry Festival - the huge amount of organisation required was very much well worthwhile.  I greatly enjoyed the Harrison reading in particular.'

'I think you created something absolutely amazing over the weekend'

'...I congratulate you on the success of the Poetry Festival with its combination of new and established poets. We thoroughly enjoyed every session we attended, and were only sorry that we weren't free to go to every one of them. And the final gathering in the Social Club was a delight!'

Messages from the performers:
Katrina Porteous: 'You've done something really extraordinary, to bring all those poets and poetry-lovers together. It as a triumph. To have done this at a time when things could not be tougher for poets OR for independent bookshops is nothing less than miraculous. You are amazing! Many, many congratulations!
     'I know how hard you and your team of volunteers worked to make it all happen. I hope that you were able to enjoy the weekend, in spite of all that effort. It was certainly great fun for the participants. I wasn't exaggerating when I said that last years' Woodstock Poetry Festival was the highpoint of my year. This year's has been every bit as good -- perhaps even better. How wonderful to hear Kathleen Jamie and Tony Harrison! Such different styles, but both of them real stars. Great to have the chance to present 'Horse', and to perform alongside Helen Mort and Alan Buckley, to such a warm and receptive audience. Lovely to meet up with so many friends from last year. And such an honour to launch Shorelines. It really is the most beautiful book. Fabulous that we could hear three of the other contributors read, too. That gave it even more of a sense of occasion.' 

Alan Buckley: 'Thank you again for all your hard work organising and promoting the festival, it's very heartening to see poets reading to large and appreciative audiences...Seeing Tony Harrison read was definitely one of the poetry highlights of the year for me, so glad you were able to book him for the festival.' (See here for a recent interview with Tony Harrison)

Nick Hooper: 'A wonderful audience' 

Helen Mort: 'Thanks for having us and for organising such a superb festival. The Tony Harrison reading will stay with me forever, it really was a rare moment... extremely inspiring. A masterclass on how to write and how to read.' 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Venues for Woodstock Poetry Festival 2015

All but two of the readings for this year's Woodstock Poetry Festival will be held upstairs in Woodstock Town Hall (there is a chair lift and disabled access but please warn us if you need to use this). Tony Harrison's reading on Sunday 15th November is held in St Mary Magdalene Church, the parish church near the Town Hall, and the final event of the festival - the evening of Irish music and poetry - is in Woodstock Social Club. The social club is much larger than it looks from the road - not just a lovely Georgian house, it extends a long way at the back and beyond the bar is the ballroom where the music and readings are being held.

We are serving tea and cakes between afternoon events and wine on Friday evening - with sandwiches between Friday's readings as there will not be time between the readings to have supper. Woodstock Social club has a bar where you can buy your own drinks.

Most talks and readings last up to an hour - there will be time after Tony Harrison's reading to have something quick to eat in town before going on to the social club for 8pm but you might have to order it in advance...

We are not able to use Woodstock Methodist Church this year as it has building work going on at the back.

Please ring if you would like any further information about the festival.

Friday to Sunday, 13 - 15 November 2015

7 pm Don Paterson & Kei Miller. Kei Miller's recent book won the 2014 Forward Prize; Don Paterson's new collection is 40 Sonnets: £8 to include wine and sandwiches.

8.30 pm Sarah Howe, Choman Hardi & Liz Berry. A very welcome return by Liz Berry, reading new work, with Kurdish poet Choman Hardi's second collection Considering the Woman, and Sarah Howe's debut Loop of Jade. £8

2.30 pm Patrick McGuinness & Rian Evans discuss the work of Rian's father, John Ormond, whose Collected Poems was published this year. £8

4 pm Elaine Feinstein & Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards won the Costa Poetry Prize for his first collection; Elaine Feinstein's latest collection is Portaits: both explore people - family, friends and heroes (super and literary...). £8

6 pm Kathleen Jamie reading from The Bonniest Companie - her first poetry collection since The Overhaul - a visionary response to the past year in Scotland. £8

7.30 pm Katrina Porteous reads from her own work and launches Shorelines, the third anthology edited by Janie Hextall and Barbara McNaught. We invite you to celebrate Shorelines and the new edition of Washing Lines with wine and sandwiches.

2 pm Jenny Lewis introduces Sarah Watkinson, Catherine Faulds, Jennie Carr and Lyn Thornton from the Poet's House, Oxford, followed by tea and an open mic session (please contact us to book a slot). £5

4 pm Poetry in Performance £8
Katrina Porteous, Horse – inspired by the Uffington White Horse, this poem with electronic music by Peter Zinovieff was commissioned by Radio 3 and is performed live by Katrina Porteous, whose recitals are inspirational and mesmeric. It lasts 28 minutes. There is a limited edition of the poem, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill who also provided the cover art for Kathleen Jamie's new book.
There will be a short interval followed by
Helen Mort & Alan Buckley, 'The Body Beautiful' - questions, observations and challenges about our bodies and how we live through them (approx. 45 minutes).

6 pm Tony Harrison, winner of this year's David Cohen Prize for literature.
'slangy, rooted, erudite, rhythmic, Harrison is a titan among poets, a unique Yorkshire brand of Auden, Byron, Brecht and Kipling with a slug of Roman satire' – Boyd Tonkin, Independent
Tony Harrison has written and directed his plays for the National Theatre and abroad, and also created film-poems for TV and cinema: 'I believe that, maybe, poetry, the word at its most eloquent, is one medium which could concentrate our attention on our worst experiences without leaving us with the feeling, as other media can, that life in this century has had its affirmative spirit burnt out.' Recently the London Review of Books published Polygons. This is a rare chance to hear him read: carpe diem! £10

8pm Bernard O'Donoghue & Tom Paulin, with Irish traditional singer Mick Henry and guitarist Nick Hooper.  Back by request, traditional Irish singing and music, with recent poems by Bernard O'Donoghue and readings by Tom Paulin. Woodstock Social Club: drinks are available at the bar. £8

All readings except the final event are held upstairs in Woodstock Town Hall
Festival ticket giving entry to all events - £50. Children & students half price
Tea and cakes are included in the price of all afternoon events
Tickets and information: 01993 812760

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Tom Drury

Have you come across Tom Drury yet? The End of Vandalism was one of my favourite books this year, and now the excellent Old Street publishers have produced Pacific, the third of the Grouse County books - can't wait to read it. See an interesting article about Drury here.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Don Paterson & Sarah Howe on TS Eliot Prize shortlist

The short list for this year’s TS Eliot Prize has just been announced, and two of the poets reading at this year's Woodstock Poetry Festival are among those chosen – Don Paterson and Sarah Howe. Judges were Kei Miller (also reading, with Don Paterson, on Friday 13 November), Ahren Warner and Pascale Petit (chair). 

Here is the full short list:

Tracey Herd, Not in this World
Selima Hill, Jutland
Rebecca Perry, Beauty/Beauty – all published by Bloodaxe
Tim Liardet, The World Before Snow
Les Murray, Waiting for the Past – both published by Carcanet
Mark Doty, Deep Lane (Cape)
Sarah Howe, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus)
Sean O’Brien, The Beautiful Librarians (Picador)
Don Paterson, 40 Sonnets (Faber)
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Penguin)

Pascale Petit is chair of the judges, with Kei Miller and Ahren Warner. 

Prize readings take place in London on 10 January – an extraordinary event, usually packed, in the Festival Hall.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Downloading books

'So MANY books... I'd just like to be able to download them straight in to my head,' - Saturday afternoon customer, to her husband on leaving the shop (she didn't buy any books).

Friday, 16 October 2015

Margaret Macmillan's talk postponed till February 2016

Professor Margaret Macmillan's talk about her forthcoming book, History's People: Personalities and the Past, has been postponed because the book publication has been delayed until February 2016. She will now be giving a talk in Woodstock Methodist Church on Tuesday 23 February 2016 at 7pm.

Margaret MacMillan

Professor Macmillan, Master of St Antony's College Oxford is a leading interpreter of the First World War (The War That Ended Peace) and also author of The Uses and Abuses of History: 'If there are common themes in my research and writing they are, first, international relations as encounters between peoples as much as between governments and leaders and, second, the attempt to find the balance between the great forces in history, whether social, economic or ideological, and the individuals who, at key moments, can play a part in shaping events.'  

Gerald Seymour pays a visit

Author Gerald Seymour pictured with Merle.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Tony Harrison interviewed by Simon Armitage

There was an interesting interview with Tony Harrison a few days ago - you can watch it  here if you missed it. He is, as Simon Armitage says at the start of the interview, 'one of Britain's leading poets and dramatists' and we are very honoured that he is coming to read in Woodstock as part of the poetry festival this year. His reading is on Sunday November 15 at 6pm in St Mary Magdalene Church, Woodstock - please note change of venue. Entry £10 - students half price. Ring or email the shop for tickets - advance booking is essential...

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Lila - Shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Writing 2015

Here is the shortlist:

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Her Birth by Rebecca Goss
Redeployment by Phil Klay
A Man In Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard 
Lila by Marilynne Robinson
Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker

The prize, which is run by the University of Warwick, is an international and cross-disciplinary award, open to any genre or form of writing. The theme for this year's prize is 'Instinct'.

It's an interesting list and I am very pleased to see Lila on it - I can't begin to understand why this year's Booker failed to include it on the shortlist as everyone here thought it was the best novel by far on the longlist. I also find prizes like this and the Costa that pit books of totally different genres against each other hard to fathom. And 'instinct' - very broad as a theme! Still, anything that brings more attention to a book...

There is a fascinating interview between Marilynne Robinson and Barack Obama here.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Henning Mankell

So very sad to hear Henning Mankell has died of cancer. He visited Woodstock in 2011 to give a BBC World Book Club discussion - see  here - and the church was packed. He had such grace and charisma and energy. Strange that so energetic a man should have invented Wallender, whose life ran along more circumscribed lines. If you have only seen the TV programmes do read the books in his honour.

“I have always made my choices and lived despite them, whether they were right or wrong. I have never been like a dry leaf that someone threw into the stream and which randomly ends up anywhere downstream. I dare to turn around now and look back, because I see that I have not botched my life. The unique thing about life is that you must account for the choices you make. You can never take a step back and redo it. It does not mean that I’m finished. Death, when it comes, interferes always in the living things that are going on.” 

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Thursday, 3 September 2015

Woodstock Poetry Festival 2015: 13 - 15 November

Please contact the bookshop for full details of the poetry festival - the poets attending this year are listed on the right under the talks column and printed details are now available.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Patrick Gale - A Place Called Winter

Patrick Gale is coming to the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival on Friday 25 September at 6pm. He will be speaking in St Mary Magdalene Church - tickets are £12, or £10.80 for holders of a Blenheim Palace annual pass and can be bought either through the festival website here or by phone, email or in person from The Woodstock Bookshop.

Patrick Gale has spoken here twice before and is an excellent and very engaging speaker. A Place Called Winter is partly based on the life of his great grandfather and tells the story of a man finding a new life in a new land: 'his most powerfully moving novel yet' - Paul Burston, Independent

Monday, 13 July 2015

Nick Hooper guitar CD

If you came to the Irish evening at the poetry festival last year with Bernard O'Donoghue and singer Mick Henry you will have heard guitarist Nick Hooper play some lovely solos during the programme. He has just made a CD of those and other Irish tunes - his Derry Hornpipe is guaranteed to make you dance and we have some copies of the CD for sale at £10 each. They are performing again this year, with the very welcome addition of poet Tom Paulin, closing the fourth Woodstock Poetry Festival on Sunday 15th November.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Will Cohu drops in

Yesterday, the final day of Independent Booksellers' Week, Merle was fetching a copy of Will Cohu's book from the office for a customer when who should pop in to the shop but ... Will Cohu!

We don't always time things so neatly...

Friday, 26 June 2015

Julia Blackburn's talk

I can't think of a better way of celebrating our seven years of running The Woodstock Bookshop than the talk given by Julia Blackburn in Woodstock Town Hall on Wednesday. Her book, Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske is beguiling and wonderful and if you missed her speak about it have a look here and here. As I sat listening to Julia describe and read from the book, and go on to talk very movingly of her husband's death and her own need to carry on working and writing, I felt so lucky to have been able to open and run the bookshop and to have had such extraordinary writers here to talk. 

Julia Blackburn in her pond garden. 'The nature of my grief is that I miss him terribly, but...There was no unfinished business between us. And that, I think, makes for a quietness in the head'

(Julia Blackburn in her garden and, below, at home)

Julia Blackburn at home. 'I d like to talk a bit about death. People should talk about it. People have said to me

A huge thank you to all our customers for making this all possible.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Edmund de Waal - The White Road

Yesterday I went with a group of booksellers to Edmund de Waal's studio for tea (he served the most delicious cakes) and a tour of the studio. He talked to us about The White Road: A Pilgrimage of Sorts, the book he has written about porcelain, coming out in September. And he made two pots for us while we stood handling the little lumps of slightly damp, almost floury porcelain clay he had given us, and marvelled: a bowl and a jar appeared, each of which sat briefly on the wheel glowing almost like a mirage before he wired it off and crumpled it back into a clump of porcelain clay. There is little more magical than watching someone make a bowl on a wheel - using, as he pointed out, nothing but clay, a small knife, a piece of wood and a length of wire. You can see him in the photo below - I am the headless person in the middle.

I am reading the book - a beautifully written and at times very funny account of his journey to discover many aspects of porcelain - the places where it began, the people who invented it, a journey of inspiration and obsession, the most wonderful book. If you liked The Hare with Amber Eyes you will almost certainly love this. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Congratulations to Patrick McGuinness!

Other People's Countries has won the Wales Book of the Year! It is out in paperback - read it...

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Wales Book of the Year shortlist

Many congratulations to Carys Davies, Patrick McGuinness and Jonathan Edwards, all of whom are on the shortlist for different categories of this year's Wales Book of the Year - see here. Carys came and read here from her excellent short story collection earlier this year:

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We have repeatedly enthused about Other People's Countries, just available in paperback:

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and you will be able to hear Jonathan Edwards for yourselves if you come to his reading with Elaine Feinstein at our poetry festival in November:

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

James Patterson grant for The Woodstock Bookshop

The lovely James Patterson has been giving money to independent booksellers here and in the States, to promote children's reading and encourage booksellers to keep going in these times of ebooks and other difficulties. He is a great champion of books and reading - see here - and we have just heard that the bookshop is to receive a grant enabling us to continue and develop our schools visits and to have a new carpet for the shop's 7th birthday! We will post before and after pictures - the new carpet is being fitted this Friday. There are huge holes as you come in to the shop, a testimony to the number of feet that have walked here since we opened. We are very grateful for those feet, very grateful for the holes - without all the feet we wouldn't be here, about to start our eighth year of trading in Woodstock. Thank you all so much for visiting the shop and for buying your books here.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Frances Leviston and Helen Mort

Frances (left) and Helen after their reading in The Crown, Woodstock, held last night in conjunction with Tower Poetry.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Julia Blackburn talk on Threads: 24th June

We have rearranged Julia Blackburn's talk about Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske for Wednesday 24 June. It will start at 7pm and is being held upstairs in the splendid Assembly Room at Woodstock Town Hall.

Threads is a very special book - if you liked The Hare with Amber Eyes, The Music Room, H is for Hawk or Other People's Countries you may well love it. It's the sort of book, like those, that is beautifully written, quirky and slightly uncategorisable - and all the better for that. For some recent reviews see here, and here, and here and, finally, here

We are also celebrating the start of our eighth year so the talk will mark the continued existence of The Woodstock Bookshop - it is taking place during Independent Booksellers' Week, which seems appropriate. Do come and join us - entry is £5 and wine will be served...

The Town Hall itself is a particularly suitable venue for this talk as it has seventeen wall hangings recording the history of Woodstock from the tenth to the twentieth centuries, designed to fit the Assembly Room. They were made by the Woodstock Broderers. a community textile group. Each panel was created in the design, colours and needlework style of its own period - the one below shows the Town Hall itself, built in 1766. The three huge upstairs windows are in the Assembly Room.

Woodstock wall hangings

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Truth According to Us

I have just finished reading this - it is wonderful! Every second I wasn't reading it I was wishing I could - even went to bed early to finish it. Annie Barrows is the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (she finished the book for her aunt who was dying of cancer) and I loved this book even more than that. She creates a family you want to be part of, in spite of all its dysfunctions, and characters you can believe in. Where better to spend part of your life than in these pages?

There seems to be a lot of fiction about to be published with a theme of finding friends and oneself in a small community. Or perhaps those are the proofs I have chosen to read, accidentally. The Truth... is the one I have loved most, but they are all excellent, charming, comforting - perfect books to curl up with and escape life. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is, again, a thoroughly American book set in a small town but written, oddly, by Katarina Bivald, a Swedish author who hadn't been to the States when she wrote the book. It has been a huge success in Sweden and it's easy to see why because it, too, while set in the present, harks back to an age and place where people know each other - rather like an American Archers. My third recent read is The Sunlit Night, a first novel by Rebecca Dinerstein who has previously published poetry - and it shows, too, because her prose is exquisite. In a reversal of The Readers, this novel takes the young American heroine and hero to the North of Norway and the midnight sun...

All three are published in June, in good time for the summer holidays.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Fiction in translation - PEN awards

Sixteen books 'displaying outstanding literary merit' have been awarded grants by English PEN - look out for them, and support the publishers (small publishers, in many cases) by buying them! The list is below. 

Following the poetry reading by Helen Mort and Frances Leviston on 20th April, our next talk is about translation.  Celia Hawkesworth is Emerita Senior Lecturer in Serbian and Croatian Studies, University College London. She has published numerous articles and several books on Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian literature and translated several novels including, most recently, Farewell, Cowboy by Olja Savicevic, one of Croatia's best-known writers. On Tuesday 28 April she will discuss the novel and the challenges of translation.

Farewell, Cowboy

PEN awards:
Whispering City by Sara Moliner (pseudonym), translated from Spanish by Mara Lethem 
Morning Sea by Margaret Mazzantini, translated from Italian by Ann Sarah Gagliardi 
Gone to Ground by Marie Jalowicz Simon, translated from German by Anthea Bell 
All Days Are Night by Peter Stamm, translated from German by Michael Hofmann
Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan, translated from Chinese by Helen Wang 
What Became of the White Savage by Francois Garde translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins
Syrian Notebooks by Jonathan Littell, translated from French by Charlotte Mandell
Reckless by Hasan Ali Toptas, translated from Turkish by Maureen Freely and John Angliss 
The Lights of Point-Noire by Alain Mabanckou, translated from French by Helen Stevenson Mann 
The All Saints’ Day Lovers by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated from Spanish by Anne McLean 
Now and At the Hour of Our Death by Susana Moreira Marques, translated from Portuguese by Julia Sanches
The Low Voices by Manuel Rivas, translated from Gallegan by Jonathan Dunne
The End of Eddy Belleguele by Edouard Louis, translated from French by Sam Taylor
Horse Hands by Daniel Galera, translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin 
Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrique, translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer 
Selected Poems by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from French by André Naffis-Sahely 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Threads - by Julia Blackburn

Have a look at these works by John Craske, a Norfolk fisherman who spent much of his life in a 'stuporous state'. During the periods when he could do a little, he painted and, when that became too tiring and difficult, made embroideries because he could do them lying down.

Julia Blackburn has written a wonderful, haunting book about Craske and her search for him. Her talk on May 18 has had to be postponed - we will let you know when we have another date.

For more information about Craske and the book see here.

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