Would you like to know how to save your local bookstore? You might wonder what that has got to do with a zero waste lifestyle, but actually quite a lot. Our indie bookstores are in big trouble, due to the dominance of Amazon, which can afford to massively discount books below the RRP. But you can walk to a bookstore, and just buy a book and take it home package-free or in a paper bag. If ordering from the big online bookstores, often that means plastic and other unnecessary packaging. Even if it’s just cardboard, you can just carry a book from your local indie shop under your arm, to go read under a tree.
In Oregon, Powell’s is often cited as the best indie bookstore in the world. It’s huge (like a small town), but Borders it isn’t. It sells used and new books, it has its own affiliate program to rival Amazon, and the people who work there are real book nerds. The third generation owner says there are around a million books (and they don’t have ‘weird customers’, as everyone in Portland is a bit odd). She says if she were not running Powell’s, she would probably be working in a library.
Bookindy is a free app to download. Browse on Amazon. Find a book, then get free delivery to your indie bookstore. It uses the technology of Amazon – to support your indie bookstore instead! If you shop online, Blackwell’s is good as is Bookshop (recently launched in both the UK and US). If you’re a blogger, both companies run affiliate programs.
Books to Buy at Indie Bookstores
- Seven Types of People You Find in Bookshops is by a Scottish indie bookseller who details his 20 years of people-watching. If you’re a lover of the eccentric and think that Amazon’s domination is making everybody sad, this is the book for you. Step inside to meet the crafty Antiquarian, the shy and retiring book browser and the gormless (yet strangely likeable) shop assistant Hugo. The author spends his free time shooting Amazon Kindles in the wild!
- Bookshop Tours of Britain is a slow-travel guide around the nation, from bookshop to bookshop. Take 18 bookshop tours, visiting beaches, castles, coal mines, whiskey distilleries along the way, with a bit of bird-watching, hiking and canoeing thrown in. The book journeys from the Jurassic Coast, over the mountains of Wales, through England’s industrial heartland, up to the Scottish Highlands and back down through the Norfolk Broads and into London.
- The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is the story of a couple in the US (one originally from Scotland) who as Amazon Kindle was taking off, decided to take off to the mountains, and set up a second-hand bookstore. Knowing nothing about running a bookstore, all they had was themselves, their animals and a real love of books. Everything thought they were mad. But not only did they succeed, but they created something else: a community.
- How to Resist Amazon (and Why) is by the owner of a US indie bookstore, an open letter to Jeff Bezos, asking people to join his peaceful process to take back power: ‘Small business owners are led to believe that if their idea is good enough, they can grow their business and create more jobs. Maybe we can talk over pie and coffee at Ladybird Diner across the street, my treat. I’d love to show around a vibrant community anchored by small businesses’.
Support Our Indie Publishers
So many books sold today are just churned out by the big publishers, which leaves the indie publishers wanting. But it’s often the indie publishers that publish the best books. Most also run on a tight shoestring. Obviously some big publishers sometimes publish good books, and sometimes small indie publishers print dud books. But overall you’re going to find better books by going to the small guys.
Another issue is environmentalism. Many of the smaller publishers choose to print on recycled paper, and although they may have less glossy pictures, they tend to go in smaller print runs. A lot of the smaller publishers are really nice, like a hand made bar of soap (not as perfect around the edges, but feels nicer!) A few good indie publishers in England are:
- The History Press offers a nice little line of books focusing on local areas. From a potted history of Somerset to local shops in Bristol and architecture of the Cotswolds, there is something to suit everyone. Find a short history of the Fens and a book exploring the rivers of Cornwall. They publish nice local guides like The Little Book of Suffolk.
- Fairlight Books is a nice new little publishing company. It has already published guides on how to write and market a book, along with a guide to Britain’s indie bookstores and even a book to mend a broken heart.
- Countryside Books offers really nice little walking guides by county. They are grouped by pub walks, dog-friendly walks, tea room walks etc. Just look up where you live or are visiting. Very affordable and personal. Countryside Dog Walks also publish nice regional guides.
- Pocket Mountains offers nice walking guides, often focusing on books that offer 40 coast and mountain walks. With beautiful illustrated covers, these also cover Scotland.
- Saraband publishes award-winning books on environmentalism and nature. This is a platform for often overlooked authors.
- Little Toller Books (named after a river valley in Dorset) recently was named one of England’s best small publishers. It publishes some of the best indie books on nature, publishing books on nature and rural life. They picked up on the talent of Dara McAnulty, who won the Wainwright Prize for nature writing for his debut book Diary of a Young Naturalist.
- YPD Books is based in York, and publishes mostly self-published books that you can buy direct, so the author gets more money. Many are printed from their own self-publishing firm (so rather than pay thousands to a dodgy firm, authors instead pay money to them to print small runs, then keep the profits for everything they sell).
- Unbound is a crowdfunding platform that sells books that people have pooled money to publish. So the book has to be pretty good before it even goes to print. Paul Kingsnorth’s novel The Wake was published this way, and ended up being nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Funders get little rewards in return, like first edition signed copies.
Read books shortlisted for the Rubery Book Awards. This is like the Booker Prize but for small independent publishers. This international award has reputable judges to encourage creative writing by self-published and indie presses. The Wainwright Prize is regarded as one of the best nature book prizes to win. Their site lists all the present winners and finalists, if you want some good reading fodder.
How to Write & Publish a Book
How to write & publish a book may be a good idea, if you have a wonderful book but fail to find a publisher. Don’t spend a lot of money on doing this, as most people lose their life savings, most books don’t sell well. But there is good advice around for aspiring writers.
- How to Be Published is a lovely guide to publish your book, which covers all the basics. Published (nicely done) by an indie publisher in England, it gives an unbiased guide to the pros and cons of self-publishing (versus traditional publishing) along with other options.
- Lynn’s other book How to Market Your Book is also helpful. These days, most writers are expected to help promote their book, which can fill some introvert scribblers with dread. This book has interviews with writers who give advice how to market without gimmicks, and also includes an overview of book marketing tips.
- Restored 316 eBook Template uses free Canva software. It takes a couple of hours to learn, but then for around £30, you create a gorgeous e-book without need for Photoshop or designers. Swap out colours to suit your brand and use simple drag-and-drop to add images. Includes 4 cover variations and 20 unique pages (including author, table of contents, chapters headings & copyright).
- If you have a great book but no money, you could try Unbound. This is a crowdfunding platform where if your idea is good enough, others fund publication and receive something in return (a first edition, dinner with the author etc). Paul Kingsnorth did this for his book The Wake, and was nominated for The Booker Prize.
- It’s best to avoid self-publishing unless you have lots of money to lose, as most books don’t sell. But if you are confident that you are going to self-publish, YPS Publishing (Yorkshire) is one of the best. You have to pay to have them print in short runs, but then you keep all the profits, and they can sell items in their own bookstore or arrange wholesale distribution.
The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen
The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen is a beautiful account of the letters and correspondence of one of England’s favourite writers. This handsome celebration is illustrated with portraits, facsimile letters, topographical engravings and fashion plates, all helping to bring to life, the world that Jane Austen inhabited.
With accompanying commentary, the letters are separated into six periods of Jane’s life from 1796 (when she was 20) until 1817, the year of her death. The celebrate her talent for expressing exactly what she perceived, and the letters are also arranged around visual themes including:
- The Hampshire countryside
- Social life in Bath
- Social life in London
- Domestic pursuits
- Paying visits
About the Author
Penelope Hughes-Hallett was born in Steventon in Hampshire, the same village where Jane Austen was born. She lectured in English Literature for Oxford University Department of External Studies, with a special interest in 19th century children’s literature. She also assisted Valerie Eliot in editing TS Eliot’s letters, before her death in 2010.
A Fresh Look at Jane Austen
If you want books to get lost in, try Jane Austen. Although she published her novels anonymously (to help them get published, during a time when women were not usually writers), she used her income to finance her family (including a disabled brother). She never married, though she had romances (apparently she rejected one proposal as he would lose his inheritance and the other man suddenly died before he could marry her). She died just 41, just a year after getting ill from a mysterious disorder (now believed to be Addison’s disease).
This series of books all have different editors, but all are huge Jane Austen fans. The books retain authenticity, but have a fresh re-telling to appeal to younger readers (or people who don’t think they are interested in literature, save watching Mr Darcy on TV). And they also have lovely black-and-white illustrations by Eglantine Ceulemans.
- Northanger Abbey is the story of Catherine Morland, who loves nothing more than reading a romantic novel, but as one of 10 children she doesn’t have much time for reading or romance. When she is 17, her wealthy neighbours invite her to spend the winter season with them in Bath – to experience balls, the theatre and other social delights. She makes friends with the passionate Isabella, and dances with a handsome man called Henry. It seems all her dreams are coming true. But real life doesn’t always play out like a novel. And Catherine will have to overcome many hurdles, to find her happy ending.
- ‘Emma‘ is the story of Emma Woodhouse, who is pretty, clever and rich. And sees no reason why she would ever need to get married. But she loves matchmaking for her neighbours, despite the advice of her friend Mr Knightley, who warns her against meddling. Her latest success (the wedding of her governess) makes her certain that she can find the right match for anyone. Can her success continue? Or will best laid plans unravel – as they always seem to do?
- Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, who age 19, follows the wishes of her father, and turned down the proposal of the man she loved – a naval officer called Frederick Wentworth. Years later, he returns from his time at sea – and Anne dares to hope that their paths might cross once more. But of course true love is bumpy at best – will Anne and Frederick ever be reunited?
- Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price, one of nine children from a very poor family. So when a distant relative offers to take her in (giving her the opportunity to grow up wealthy and comfortable), her parents jump at the chance. But money does not always bring happiness. Fanny struggles to settle into her new home, where the family are very cold to her. Her only friend among them is Edmund, who tries his best to help her be happy. But as she grows up, Fanny realises that Edmund is the most important person in her life. But will he ever see her more than the timid little girl, from many years before?
- Sense and Sensibility is the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. When their father dies, they are forced to leave their home behind, and move far away to a tiny cottage. Their lives look set to change forever, in ways neither had expected. Elinor must leave behind the man she loves, whereas Marianne falls for their charming (but entirely unsuitable) new neighbour. The sisters will need each other’s support, to find happiness. But will they ever find the right balance of sense and sensibility?
- Pride and Prejudice is the story of Elizabeth Bennett, the second eldest in a family of five daughters. Although their mother is keen to seem them all married to wealthy man, Elizabeth is determined to marry for love. At a ball, she meets Mr Darcy (who she believes to be proud and haughty). But perhaps there is more that first meets the eye..
If you would like to tour England but personal circumstances means you are unable, these books can take you exploring instead. So sit back in your favourite armchair (or find a nice shady sit spot in the garden), make some homemade lemonade (or grab a cuppa) and learn about the country you live in. As always, support your local indie bookstore (if you don’t have one, all these books link to Blackwell’s, a fab indie bookstore).
- The January Man is the story of a year of walks, inspired by a song. Christopher Somerville walks the British Isles: every month, season and region. From winter floodlands of the River Severn to lambs of Nidderdale, from towering seabird cliffs on the Scottish Shetland Isles to the oaks of Sherwood Forest in Autumn. He describes the history, wildlife, landscapes and people, lanes & old paths.
- Notes from a Small Island is by American writer Bill Bryson, who returned to the US from Yorkshire for a few years, travelling around England beforehand. He loves a country that produces place names like Farleigh Wallop and Shellow Bowells, and say ‘ooh lovely’ at the sight of a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits. The Road to Little Dribbling catches up 20 years on, following the ‘Bryson Line’ from Bognor Regis.
- One Man and His Bike is the story of Mike Carter, who cycled to the office, and kept on going, embarking on a 5000 mile journey around the entire British coast. He encountered drunken priests, drag queens and gnome sanctuaries, and found a spirit of kindness and generosity to convince him that Britain was anything but broken.
- Around the Coast in 80 Days takes you to seaside spots from Liverpool up to Scotland, down the east coast, across the shores in the south, up through Wales and back to the northwest of England. Calling in at Blackpool, Brighton and Newquay.
- Wonderland takes you around Britain, to meet blackbirds, beavers and beetles, to tawny owls, natterjack toads and lemon slugs. From encounters with curious black redstarts (which winter on our rocky coasts) to tiny green snowdrop shoots. Where days start with hawker dragonflies, drowsy bumblebees & deer in Richmond Park in the autumn mist: and end with glow-worms.
- Footnotes: A Journey Around Britain follows Peter Fiennes (in the footsteps of 12 inspirational writers) to walk our country, peering through the lens of the past. The journey starts in Enid Blyton’s childhood home of Dorset, and ends on the train that took Charles Dickens to his final resting place in Westminster Abbey.
The Frayed Atlantic Edge is a historian’s journey from Shetland to the Channel. Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize and collective winner of the Highland Book Prize, nature writer David Gange kayaked the weather-ravaged coasts of Atlantic Britain and Ireland from north to south – every cove, sound, inlet and island. The idea was to travel slowly and close to the water. using small boats to examine more in detail these wonderful coasts.
Paddling alone in sun and storms, he comes across dozens of whales and countless seabirds, and experiences a Shetland summer (do they have such a thing?!), a Scottish winter and an Irish spring, before reaching Wales and Cornwall. Sitting low in the water, he describes in prose and loving detail the experience of kayaking and coastal discoveries.
About the Author
David Gange is senior lecturer in history at Birmingham University, who likes to encourage his students to use built and natural environments, to understand how past people lived.
Ali Smith’s Seasonal Reading Quartet of books, is a delight. By one of our finest writers, you now have good reading material, all year round.
- Autumn is the first book of the series by Booker-nominated writer Ali Smith. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this is an inventive novel. Daniel is a century old. Elizabeth (born in 1984) has her eye on the future. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness.
- Winter. It’s bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer’s leaves? Gone. The world shrinks. The sap sinks. But winter makes things visible. Life matches up to the toughest of seasons. In this second novel, Ali casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory & warmth. Its taproots deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter. It’s the season that teaches us survival.
- Spring tells the impossible tale of an impossible time: What unites Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Beethoven, the past, the present, the cardinal directions, a man mourning lost times and a woman trapped in modern times? Spring. The great connective. The time we’re living in is changing nature. Hope springs eternal.
- Summer is the unmissable finale of a quartet of seasonal books. Sacha knows the world is in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble. Meanwhile the world’s in meltdown. This is a story of people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they are strangers. What do people who think they’ve got nothing in common, have in common? Summer.
There are few writers on the world stage who are producing fiction this offbeat and alluring. The New York Times
One of the rarest creatures in the world: a really fearless novelist. Chicago Tribune
Luminously beautiful…A novel of great ferocity, tenderness, righteous anger and generosity of spirit that you feel Dickens would have recognised..The Observer
About the Author
Ali Smith was born in Inverness and lives in Cambridge. Her books have been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and Orange Prize.
Music Break: Summertime
England is fortunate in that we have 4 beautiful seasons (we actually have more, but that’s for another day). So rather than be unhappy when there is a cold winter’s day, get creative and think of all the wonderful things you can do, to appreciate this lovely season. Winter is the time when we get the least daylight. But at least we get some. In Scandinavia, some people have developed ‘reindeer vision’ to see in the dark, because at certain times, they get no daylight at all.
These books to read on winter days, are ideal when it’s cold and rainy or snowy outside, and you need some good sofa or armchair books to while away the winter nights.
Did you know that those winter snow globes contain toxic antifreeze? If they smash, they could be lethal to pets and harmful to children. Bin responsibly, and don’t buy them.
Wintering is a beautifully written book that reviewer Elizabeth Gilbert writes is ‘every bit as beautiful and healing as the season itself’. Katherine recounts her own year-long journey through winter, sparked by a sudden illness in her family that plunged her into a time of uncertainty and seclusion. When life felt most frozen, she managed to find strength and inspiration from the wintering experiences of others, and the transformations that nature makes to survive. This beautiful memoir teaches us to draw from the healing powers of the natural world and to embrace the winters of our own lives.
Wintering is the story of how Stephen Rutt and his partner moved to a house in Dumfries, and as they settled into their new home, thousands of pink-footed geese were arriving on Solway Firth from the Arctic Circle, to make it their winter home. And so begins this extraordinary odyssey. From his new home in the north to the further afield wide open spaces of the South, Stephen traces the lives and habits of five of the most common species of goose in the UK. With an expert eye and clear elegant prose, he paints perfect portraits of these large, startling and co-operative birds.
Winter. It’s bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone. The shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The summer’s leaves? Gone. The world shrinks. The sap sinks. But winter makes things visible. Life matches up to the toughest of seasons. In this second novel, Ali casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory & warmth. Its taproots deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter. It’s the season that teaches us survival.
The Nature of Winter by Scottish author Jim Crumley looks at the dark days of wild storms and the glistening stillness of winter landscapes in beautiful Scotland. He bears witness to golden eagles, red deer and even whales, as they battle weather affected by climate change. In the snow, Jim discovers ancient footsteps that lead him to reflect on his journey of writing about nature.
Things to Do in Winter
- Roast a pan of winter vegetables
- Go for a nice winter’s walk. Read how to keep safe in snow & ice.
- See the post on where to find a sustainable winter coat.
- Sit by a real fire in a local pub and snuggle
- Read a nice book (by the fire, see below for suggestions)
- Enjoy a glass of mulled wine, or spiced cider
- Bake a homemade pie.
- Or make a fruit pie with vegan custard.
- Have a nice warm bath.
- Make a warming mug of hot chocolate
- Watch It’s a Wonderful Life
- Make homemade soup.
A Year in the Wild is a beautiful book by artist Helen Ahpornsiri, which The Guardian calls ‘a meditative wonder through the seasons’. Watch this artist transform petals, leaves and seeds into bounding hares, swooping swallows and fluttering butterflies. The hardback edition has a different cover:
Helen’s book Beneath the Waves takes a journey through the oceans, made entirely from silky seaweeds, feathery algae and bright coastal blooms, turned into playful penguins, scuttling crabs and schools of silvery sharks. Again, the hardback edition has a different cover.