White Spines by Nicholas Royle

5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

He begins the book on a trip to see two authors, to get them to sign a set of books that are due to be despatched to bookshops soon In between visits he has time to stop in Norwich. He is there to visit an Oxfam bookshop too. This is not your two for a pound charity shop, these are priced at £4 and upwards, but the shop is well laid out and the people running it know what they have and what the value of each book is. He scours the shelves looking for literary treasure and there it is Nomad by Mary Anne Fitzgerald a 1994 edition in a Picador paperback. It is a book that he is sure he will never read, but it is the thrill of finding one that he is sure he has never owned before.

It’s not hoarding if it is books, so the saying goes, but there is probably is an element of truth in there…

When does an interest become a passion and then in turn become an obsession? I am not sure, but in White Spines, Nicholas Royle takes use through the threshold of each of these limits. He is passionate about the paperback Picador books that were published between the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. They were predominately fiction, but all the books they published were some non-fiction; I know I have several travel books in the series.

But this is much more than a catalogue of all the Picadors that fit his criteria or a list of books that he has or is seeking to acquire, rather it is a trip down his literary memories, of where he found a particular edition or the time that he first read the book or was passed it by someone else. He has a thing about books that have the presence of a previous owner, a receipt that was used as a bookmark, an inscription in the front to the person receiving it as a gift or very occasionally a signed copy. These are his favourites as he feels like a custodian of the book.

This is a wonderful collection of memories about the books, where they were bought from and his favourite bookshops to find them in. I loved this book and I think that I have found a kindred spirit in Royle. Not only do I like to read, but I also like to find and collect books in second-hand book shops and charity shops. I collect books too, Royle has a thing for Picador White spines as well as some of the King Penguins, whereas my failing is collecting books by Little Toller and Eland as well as other travel and natural history books. It is a lovely hobby to have, books do furnish a room after all, but space is quite often an issue…

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8 Comments

  1. Dorothy ~Jane McLachlan ~ Wortley

    Thank You. Added to ” wish – List ” and he sounds like a good person to have a coffee and a book chat with.
    Considering I correspond with several bookshop owners who are on the look out for specific volumes for me.
    Many Thanks for this review.
    Happy Reading!

    • Paul

      I hope you enjoy it when you get a copy.

      • Dorothy ~Jane McLachlan ~ Wortley

        Managed to get a copy today! In a teeny Independent Bookshop I haven’t managed to in 18 months. Happy is an understatement.

        • Paul

          I hope that you enjoy it, D-J

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings

    “I think that I have found a kindred spirit in Royle.” That’s exactly how I felt! He really captured what it is to be a book collector and book obsessive – a wonderful book!!

    • Paul

      Isn’t it. It does feel borderline obsession at points though…

  3. Liz Dexter

    Saving your review of course for when I’ve read my copy!

    • Paul

      I await your comments with interest!

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