The Phantom Recommends

If you don’t have a lovely, cuddly independent bookshop in your area, like The London Review Bookshop (good cakes if you’re ever in the Bloomsbury area) West End Lane Books (good contacts) or the very wonderful Daunts (fab selection and lovely architecture) – and let’s face it, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get another one now – what with the way modern publishing works, the internet and supermarkets – then what’s the next best thing?

Someone at the local Waterstones that actually gives a damn, that’s what.

Jayson has just started as the assistant manager at Greenwich Waterstones and, as a Greenwich resident, has started beefing-up the Greenwich and London section and making it much more prominent in the shop. He even tells me he’s had one book reprinted because he saw it was going out of print. He’s keen to stock excellent books about the area, and happy to hear suggestions.

I’m delighted to see this. Of course I’d like to see a lovely independent bookshop and before you remind me, yes, Maritime Books on Royal Hill is lovely – but it’s specialised – which is slightly different. So, too, are Greenwich Book Time which sells remainders and the second-hand guys at Halcyon.

Let’s get realistic here. We have someone – with clout – who’s prepared to go that extra mile for local people – and that counts for a lot in a world where chains usually just plough-along-quite-nicely-thank-you.

Now. Here’s the bit where The Phantom’s tricorn starts to strain at the band. In places where you sometimes see staff recommendations on postcards dotted around the shop, you may well start to see little “The Phantom Recommends…” postcards on some of the books – they will look like this:

They will be culled from the The Phantom Bookshelf initially (and yes, I AM slowly adding to that – but I’m doing it very unscientifically, working my way along the shelf, and it’s taking aaaages…) but I may well be doing a few specific reviews for Jayson. Needless to say, I’m not going to say I love a book if I don’t – the same rigorous Phantom standards will be applied to any reviews I write.

In the meanwhile, keep an eye out at Waterstones for a slowly-growing Greenwich section. Of course it can only ever be as large as there are books in print – and there are never enough of those, thanks to the economics of publishing (otherwise Olde Phantome’s Greenwich Almanack would have been out by now) but maybe, if a major chain is interested in stocking local books, more publishers will be prepared to take a punt at printing them.

I can only see this as a good thing. Here’s something I never thought I’d say. Go Waterstones…


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