Sunday, 8 January 2017

#21: Bookshop

Loud orange and pink Penguin book spines line the walls in Granada’s Metro bookshop like jars of sweets. And I did feel like a child in a sweet shop when I was there a few weeks ago, with a strong hungry impulse to take away and gobble up the contents of some of those jars. This is partly because it is the best selection of English language books I have seen yet in a shop in Andalusia, but also partly because bookshops are such nice places. Why is this? What do they give us that Amazon does not?

I suppose there is a more personal impulse behind the selection – someone has chosen those books both for their contents and appearance. So Metro had at least two editions of Alice in Wonderland, (one a lavishly-illustrated hardback), a good range of classics and other very well-chosen books – some on Spain, e.g. Giles Tremlett’s Ghosts of Spain and Gerald Brenan’s South from Granada, and some not, e.g. James Bowen’s A Street Cat Named Bob (flicked through it – seemed down-to-earth and good, despite the sugary film posters). And of course a third of a tabletop covered with Bob Dylan’s works, complete with ‘winner of the Nobel Prize for literature’ stickers.

It’s also a more sensual experience, of course, than browsing online – I particularly liked the flowery bookmarks hidden in the Penguins, and the velvety, glinting covers of some of the hardbacks. But most of all I think bookshop offers a different space – a cared for, curated (overused word, I know) space which, if the assistants are not over-attentive, you can linger in for as long as you want. Museums are sometimes called ‘dream spaces’; I would say the same for bookshops.

So what did I come away with? Oliver Sacks’s Seeing Voices, about sign language, which I tried not to eat all at once. I found the book fascinating, particularly the initial chapters; I had never realised that sign language had its own grammar and vocabulary – I thought it was a sign ‘translation’ of spoken language. There were some things I disagreed with; for example Sacks talks up sign language at the expense of spoken language (why not value both equally?), saying that with sign language ‘narrative is no longer linear and prosaic’ – well, neither is spoken language always prosaic, and think of all the non-linear elements added with gestures, intonation and so on. Anyway, I’m digressing – the book cost €13.50, surprisingly about half as much as on Amazon for a new copy, but twice as much as a good quality second-hand copy. No contest financially (if you don’t want a brand-new copy) but for a refreshing, even memorable, experience the bookshop wins hands down.
Bookshelf photo © Metro bookshop, Granada


  1. I can see that I will enjoy dipping into your blog! BTW, have you looked at the selection of books in Acompalia (the hospice charity) in Lanjarón? There were a few classics and some interesting biographies last time I was in there.

    1. No – I hadn't heard of it. Thanks for flagging it up – I think I've more or less been through second-hand book collections in Orgiva (Association de Mujeres etc).