Sunday, 2 May 2010

Reading independent

One of the more annoying, but fascinating trends in the book trade is to do something, or do without something, for a year. Write the book, get in the colour supps, and then go back to normal life. Recent examples include having sex every day for a year with your partner, living according to the Bible. I don’t fancy any of them, besides they have been done. The literary version is Susan Hill’s Howard’s End is on the Landing: a year of reading from home, where the author spent a year re-reading from her book collection. I thought of this in January when noting down the first books I read during the year – the first seven were all from indie presses. Right then. No book deals, or colour supps, but this year I’ll only read books from indie presses. For years I’ve banged on about indies, this time I’ll put all my book buying money where my mouth is. There will be sacrifices. Sorry, no, I have not read the new Andrea Levy, and – dammit – I was going to finally read Madam Bovary, but it is published by Penguin. And not just buying new; second hand, library and personal borrowing will only be from indies. So far I can’t say it is a hardship. There have only been two occasions when I struggled to find a book from the right type of publisher. In the WH Smith Carlisle station, the much reduced bookstock indicated that the long journey ahead would include reading every word of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Herald (“Firm’s Haulage Depot Appeal Rejected” looked an interesting story) and a dog-eared solitary New Statesman. Fortunately I remembered that White Tiger, which won the Booker Prize last year was published by Atlantic. The second time, also journey related, was trying to find an indie book in a British Heart Foundation charity shop. Well, the Bedside Guardian of 2008 seemed expensive at £2.50, but needs must. Shame it was an Olympic year but the rest of it was good. There are big indies – Verso, Bloomsbury, Faber, Granta as well as the groundlings, so I’m hardly going to be spoilt for choice. And look, Quercus has the Stieg Larssons. Nae bother. I’ll report back sometime.

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