Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath

Visiting Bath, I was told about an amazing bookshop that my daughter had visited on a previous visit to Bath. 

It took a while to find it, as she couldn’t quite remember the exact location, and she doesn’t know Bath that well. Eventually we found it. 

Topping & Company Booksellers use to be on The Paragon, but in December 2021 after fourteen years they moved to the old Friends Meeting House on York Street.

I had never been here or seen it before.

It was an amazing bookshop with three levels and lots of books.

Ladders for climbing the tall bookcases and (in theory) complimentary tea and coffee.

You could spend all day in there.

Lots of books.

Out the back is a historic house.

Certainly will be returning here, the next time I visit Bath.

The Woman in Black

I saw the Woman in Black (the play) at the Grand Opera House in York in the late 1980s. It scared the hell out of me back then. The marketing for the play only mentioned the two male actors, as we left the theatre, we were checking windows as we went home.

I bought Susan Hill’s book that year and I couldn’t bring myself to not just read it, but I couldn’t even it have it on my bookshelf, it would give me the shivers, the hairs on the back of my neck would rise.

Even now just talking about the Woman in Black, gives me the chills, walking in London earlier this year I passed the Fortune Theatre on Drury Lane and they were showing The Woman in Black.

At that point I felt scared…

The Woman in Black

Don’t buy the book….

Four Books I have read

Here are four books I have read, which I have enjoyed and would recommend to others. I have obviously read more than four books and these books are very different so you may enjoy one but not another. Sometimes I think the context of both time and place can make a book for me.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was a book that I started about four times, but it was only when I was sitting on the beach on the island of Zante, one of the Ionian islands of which Kefalonia is another, that I actually read and finished the book. I then re-read it the following year on a holiday to Kefalonia, which was an even better read than the first time. I think that being “there” soaking up the culture and the atmosphere, made the book and the story more real. So what is the book about, well through the novel is a love story, between an Italian Captain and a Kefalonian girl. Surrounding them is war, conflict, revolution, personal disasters and natural ones too. It isn’t just about the island, which is in many ways a character in itself, the story also reaches the centre of Rome and the horrible madness of that time.

Shoeless Joe

Shoeless Joe

I am not really a sports story person, and especially not an American sports story person. However back in the late 1980s I was introduced by an American to Baseball movies and as well as a story like Bull Durham, I also watched Field of Dreams, which I loved. When I found it was based on a book, Shoeless Joe, I decided to buy an read it. Though I love the film, I think the book is much better, it is darker and more realistic, well how realistic can a ghost story be. The story is about a journey, a personal journey that brings in dead baseball players, failed baseball players and family. It is a sad, yet uplifting. I think for me that being introduced to this kind of book by an American made all the difference to my expectations about the book. I seriously doubt I would have bought it or read it without that introduction. If you build it he will come.

Sharpe’s Eagle

Sharpe’s Eagle

The first version of Sharpe’s Eagle I read was the condensed version in Readers’ Digest. It was only later after watching Sean Bean in the ITV adaptation that I went out and bought the actual book. I then followed this up with every other book in the series. What I do like about Cornwall’s writing is how much is based on historical evidence and fact, to which he then weaves in the character of Richard Sharpe. The stories bring to light the massive class differences that existed at that time, the soldiers were common working men, whilst the officers were (upper class) gentlemen, who saw themselves as superior to the “lads” they believed they led and controlled. Cornwell doesn’t hide the horrors and atrocities that occurred during the Peninsular War by both sides and the suffering of the local Spanish and Portuguese populations on whose land the war between the two great powers of Britain and France was being fought.

Joe Steele

Joe Steele

Harry Turtledove takes the concept of what would happen if the parents of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin had moved the United States before Joe was born. In Turtledove’s alternative timeline, his name is changed from Georgian Stalin to Steele, and Joe Steele becomes a US political and eventually US president. This is a tyrannical America where the president is depicted as having the soul of a tyrant, with Stalin’s real-world career mirrored by actions taken by Steele. Reading this at the same time Trump was running for President it was quite a scary book. Could the US elect a tyrant? Would they be happy to elect a tyrant? In the book not only do they elect Joe Steele, they love Joe Steele and everything he stands for. Even with executions, purges, camps and secret police, the American people see Joe Steele making American great again. The parallels with the real world were remarkable and I do see this book as a warning about what can happen when the rhetoric of elections is based on fear and scaremongering.

So those our four books I have read, what have you been reading?

Elementary my dear Watson

I have visited Baker Street for work on a quite a few occasions for work, but on my most recent visit I was quite surprised to see Sherlock Holmes looking down on me quite close to the tube station.

Sherlock Holmes

I’ve not noticed him before, most of the time I am trying to avoid the crowds outside Madam Tussauds. Though I think a more realistic Holmes and Watson would be fun. Though a bit of a fan of Sherlock Holmes books, TV and films, I have never bothered to visit 221b Baker Street, in the main as I believe it is not a real address and is in fact a bank!

Illustrated Harry Potter

If your reason for not buying (or reading) the Harry Potter books was, there wasn’t enough pictures, then you will be pleased to hear that there are now new fully illustrated versions of the books.

Harry Potter

All seven books will be made available. The first is the first one… and Amazon have it for half price.

I read them many years ago now, I found the first few books quite lightweight and actually didn’t read them until the films started to come out.. I did enjoy the later darker books which had more depth.

Looking over the samples, I am not sure how much these illustrated versions add to the originals, but I suspect if you are a Harry Potter fan, a completists, you will buy these copies to go alongside the different print versions you already have…

These versions are also available as digital versions from iBooks. These Enhanced Editions include J.K. Rowling’s full original text, with animations, beautiful artwork and interactions, bringing the unforgettable moments from the stories to life.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Cinematic Advent Calendar #15 – Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Now it has to be said that I was never a fan of Tolkien’s writing. Now I also know that this will upset a few people as he is well loved by many. I had read a fair few of Tolkien’s novels, but I didn’t like them, in the main as Tolkien loved to be overly descriptive of stuff in his novels. I always felt it left little to the imagination.

When I first hard that Peter Jackson was going to make three films to cover the three books of Lord of the Rings I was intrigued, but not overly excited or impressed.

I think the big difference between this film and other films was that this was a film that was promoted heavily using the web. There was lots of online video and stills from the making of the film. This it has to be said did spark a little excitement.

I did wonder how Peter Jackson was going to make this film, complete with hobbits, dwarves and elves. In the end with a combination of special effects, forced perspective and CGI I did feel he was very successful in creating a magical and fantastical world.

Though I had read the book, it was a fair few years before seeing the film and as a result I knew the book was about a ring, but didn’t remember much more. Jackson created an incredible feat, this was an exciting, thrilling film with lots of superb action sequences.

I also really liked the camaraderie and relationship explored between the four hobbits. The phrase “second breakfast” is now a standard saying in our house. During the course of this film we see the friendships grow and develop and this follows on in the next two films.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

I remember coming out of the cinema, wanting to not only see the film again, but also wanting to see parts two and three immediately. In the end I had to wait for the sequels and of course the Hobbit (in some ways the prequel) is now out in cinemas. I did buy the extended Director cuts of the three films and this was something I remember as been very different experience to DVDs I had bought before with deleted scenes as extras. These deleted scenes were integrated into the films complete with special effects and music. In many ways I prefer the extended films, even though they are much longer than the original cut. Having said that the experience of seeing these films in the cinema is much more preferable than watching it on the small screen at home. One of the reasons I have called this a cinematic advent calendar, is that many of these films are cinematic and to really appreciate them you need to see them in the cinema. This is of course is not easy and usually impossible, as cinemas rarely show stuff that has been out before.

Out of the three Lord of the RIngs films, I have put the first one as my choice for the calendar. I do think that the other films are very good, what they didn’t have was that impact the first one had, which is why I have chosen The Fellowship of the Ring for the calendar. I did enjoy Return of the King, this was an incredible visual feast, likewise The Two Towers has many incredible elements within it. However they did follow the first film and the impact of that first film shouldn’t be ignored.

So what of the books, well I’ve not read them again (yet), but have recently re-read the Hobbit and I’ll be honest and say I did appreciate it much more having seen the Peter Jackson films, I think he added to the worlds of Tolkien and in my mind that has to be a good thing.

Download Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring from iTunes.

Get Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring at Amazon.

Reading about Steve Jobs

I have been thinking about buying the recently published Steve Jobs biography (or maybe asking for it for Christmas).

From bestselling author Walter Isaacson comes the landmark biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography, Isaacson provides an extraordinary account of Jobs’ professional and personal life. Drawn from three years of exclusive and unprecedented interviews Isaacson has conducted with Jobs as well as extensive interviews with Jobs’ family members, key colleagues from Apple and its competitors, Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography is the definitive portrait of the greatest innovator of his generation.

When I started work in my current job I was interviewed for the staff magazine and was asked which three people I would have round for dinner, I think I had alongside Steve Jobs was Terry Pratchett and Captain Blackadder. Though having since then read various articles on Steve, he may have been a visionary with regard to consumer electronics, when it came down to dinner conversation, he didn’t really do that small talk thing.

One thing is which format do I go for, well if it’s for Christmas then I’ll probably go with the hardback, which has a RRP of £25 but is just £12.50 on Amazon. If I am buying it myself then I may go with the Kindle edition… The Kindle version is £12.99!

Now I know that the Kindle price includes VAT at 20% so the “actual” like for like price is £10.83, but even so, you would think that Amazon would price the Kindle version lower than the print version. I sometimes wonder if Amazon think that consumers see the Kindle version as a luxury version of the book and therefore deserving of a higher price. Then I think it probably is nothing to do with Amazon whatsoever and it’s all down to the publishers who want to set prices (and probably earn more from the print version than they do the Kindle version).

I will probably go with the print edition as I can either then sell it on, once I have read it, give it away to someone after I have read it, or keep it on the shelf!

Expecto PotterNoMore

Those of you who are fans of that Harry Potter will probably have heard of Pottermore, a site created by J K Rowling to tell more of the back story behind Harry Potter. The site is scheduled to go live in October.

It was possible to get early access and I happened to be in the right place at the right time to get an account.

Today the site went live for early access and though I got in quite early, unfortunately the site has been unable since then to cope with the access and has fallen over…

Teething issues…