Six Degrees of Separation is a meme hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best. It works like this: each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six others to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the titles on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.
This month Kate’s offered us a wildcard – starting with a book with which we’d ended a previous chain. I decided to stick with last month’s Susan Hill’s Howard’s End Is on the Landing about the author’s year of reading the books on her shelves rather than buying any new ones. With that as my starting point I’ve indulged myself with a chain linking six books about books and bookselling.
Coincidentally, I’d posted a review of Cathy Rentzenbrink’s Dear Reader the day before November’s Six Degrees. Subtitled The Comfort and Joy of Books, Rentzenbrink’s delightfully bookish memoir is woven through with her reading and includes lots of pleasing anecdotes from her bookselling days.
Rentzenbrink worked for Hatchards as a bookseller, no doubt encountering a similarly posh clientele to Hilary, decades before, working in the book department of Everyman’s, a thinly disguised Selfridges, in Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford’s hugely enjoyable novel, Business as Usual.
Sheridan Hay’s The Secret of Lost Things is set in the Arcade, a rambling New York bookshop – suspiciously like the legendary Strand – staffed by a bunch of eccentrics who are joined by eighteen-year-old Rosemary, fresh from Tasmania. When she opens a letter offering a ‘lost’ Melville manuscript the fun begins in this enjoyable yarn of thwarted love and literary detection.
New York is also the setting for much of Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which playfully meshes the old reading world with new technology in a quirky edge-of-your-seat story of bookish folk. Apologies for trotting this one out yet again but it’s one of my favourites.
Booksellers on a mission also put in an appearance in Charlie Hill’s Books when an independent bookseller witnesses the sudden death of a woman reading book by a vacuous bestselling author. As Spontaneous Neural Atrophy Syndrome spreads, a psychologist seeks his help in investigating the phenomenon. Liberally scattered with book titles, authors’ names and in-jokes, Books is both very silly and very funny.
Hill’s humour put me in mind of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, in which literary detective Thursday Next is determined to get a whole series of characters back on their rightful pages, literally entering into the text to do so. One of those books that has you constantly sniggering, annoying everyone within earshot
This month’s Six Degrees has taken me from a year’s book-buying ban to disappearing into the pages of a novel by way of several bookshops. Part of the fun of this meme is comparing the very different routes other bloggers take from each month’s starting point. If you’re interested, you can follow it on Twitter with the hashtag #6Degrees, check out the links over at Kate’s blog or perhaps even join in.