At the end of May, we drove down to Hay-on-Wye – a quaint market town on the Welsh/English border that is notable for its bookshops. Why, I hear you ask? Cos, for their less than two thousand inhabitants, there is over twenty bookshops! Often crowned ‘the town of books’, it’s been on my list for forever. We picked a nice weekend in May to go (in hopes of sun, lol jk) as we decided to do a combination trip of endless book perusing with intervals of camping and hiking in Brecon Beacons National Park. The week I planned to go just happened to also be the world renowned Hay Literary Festival. Serendipity! We decided to risk the crowds, invited my dad who loves a book, and headed down.
The festival itself was really cool. The festival bookshop, don’t even get me started, huge. It’s free for anyone to enter the site and then you just buy tickets for individual events. We decided to see a Q&A with Anna Burns, the award-winning author of Milkman. She had such a quirky, amusing manner and read her book extracts with such animation it actually really helped me understand the novel’s tone. We also saw Stephen Fry. He was due to read a couple of extracts from his books Mythos and Heroes but instead decided to do a reading from the third book he is currently writing in the series, unbeknownst to his publishers! The real treat to that event was the outstanding illustrator Chris Riddell was there live-illustrating the session! He was very impressive and hilarious.
On another day, we went for a walk at Henrhyd Falls which was a bit treacherous from the recent rain but completely picturesque and tranquil. Easily satisfied my hiking fix. Also visited the town of Brecon which was quiet and cute. Had a lovely vegan daal in an indie coffee shop there!
Hay, the town, was just lovely. It was everything you want from a small market town. It had a couple of delicious food places with great veggie options, and more importantly it had a cosy little pub, The Blue Boar, that became our local for the weekend. The atmosphere was electric with booklovers visiting from far and wide. But enough of all that, on to the bookshops!
They were everything I hoped and more.
We grabbed a little map of the book tour that most shops carry and got on our way. The second we saw a book in the display window we were in there. There was such a variety of genres, I was in heaven. There was an entire poetry shop where I wanted to purchase every single book. There was a bookshop called Murder and Mayhem which, you guessed it, was entirely crime-based. There was a bookshop with all sorts of old editions of my favourite modern classics. I found an edition of 1984 that was truly magical to find. There, simply, was too many to mention. My favourite booksellers included Addyman Books (and their Annexe), Richard Booth’s Bookshop, The Poetry Bookshop and Green Ink Booksellers.
I completely shattered my 2019 book buying system cos I just could not contain myself. I came home with fourteen books.. My five gifts from Danny (that I won from reading the entire Mistborn Trilogy in April) and nine from myself! Oops. Here’s a quick book haul, one line about each though or we’ll be here forever, kids!
Animal – Sara Pascoe
A recommendation from my mate. Quite scientific so far, as well as funny.
Felicity – Mary Oliver
Read Blue Horses and needed to devour more Oliver, especially a love poem collection!
#MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology – Ed. Deborah Alma
Speaks for itself: brave, boss women who I’d like to learn from.
Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher
A very self-depricating, endearing memoir.
The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf
Quoted it in my dissertation, liberally. Yet to read it.
Emma – Jane Austen
The last to complete my Austen’s. Needed the old black Penguin Classics editions as a rule.
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
An edition that’s very special to me, to match some of my mums favourite books from her collection.
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Just have been meaning to read it. We all know the story.
The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Ditto. Also had a boss cover.
The Sonnets – William Shakespeare
Wanted for ages, found in an edition I enjoy. (Running theme?)
Peril At End House – Agatha Christie
Continuing my Christie journey with another Poirot!
After Dark – Haruki Murakami
Constantly hear about Murakami and haven’t read him! This one sounds mysterious and mad.
Pachinko – Min Jin Lee
When purchased was Our Shared Shelf’s pick of the month.
Silence – Erling Kagge
A little cute one Danny picked up that I know nothing about. Honing mindfulness skills I think!
All in all, a fabulous weekend. Cannot recommend Hay enough. Will be going back ASAP.
Come Alive – The Greatest Showman Soundtrack (Me and Danny had this album playing in the car all weekend. Also books make me come alive so that’s a nice little coincidence isn’t it?)