Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Top 10!

We’ve been running a survey where we asked our customers to name their 5 favourite books of all time (in no particular order). We had thousands of replies and we’re really grateful to all of you who took the time to vote. From all your choices we can now reveal the Top 50 most popular books.

First of all a recap on numbers 50-11

11 One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
12 Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
13 Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
14 Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
15 Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
16 Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
17 1984 by George Orwell
18 Road by Cormac McCarthy
19 Middlemarch by George Eliot
20 Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
21 Persuasion by Jane Austen
22 Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
23 Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
24 Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
25 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
26 Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
27 Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
28 Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
29 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
30 Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
31 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
32 Book Thief by Markus Zusak
33 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
34 Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
35 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
36 Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
37 Color Purple by Alice Walker
38 Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
39 Bone People by Keri Hulme
40 Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon
41 Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
42 Life of Pi by Yan Martel
43 Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
44 We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
45 Shipping News by Annie L Proulx
46 Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck
47 Tess of the D'Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
48 Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
49 Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
50 Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Now here's the Top 10

10 Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
9 Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
8 God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
7 Secret History by Donna Tartt
6 Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
5 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
4 Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
3 Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
2 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
1 Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

There are 29 men and 21 women in the list, and every book on the list is a work of fiction. There have been a number of similar polls in the last ten years in the UK, most notably The BBCs Big Read and Waterstone’s Books of the Century. Lord of the Rings topped both of these surveys too, so it’s clearly a book that the public love.

Where's Harry Potter? Well it was a bit of a surprise to us too. Even if you add all the votes together for each of the HP books, they don't manage to squeeze into the top 50.
Obviously 2 years is a long time in the world of books. Stephenie Meyer is the latest sensation and unsurprisingly made the top 10. It was a similar scenario ten years ago, when Waterstones did their Books of the Century poll. Trainspotting had just hit the cinemas and the book was the must have title at the time. I think it made it into the Top 10 in that poll, and (although it's a good book) I suspect it wouldn't score quite so highly now. It didn't bother our chart anyway.

We really enjoyed putting this together and hope you find it as thought provoking as we do.

Now, what are we going to do next....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Top 50 - Numbers 20-11

We're getting to the business end of the chart now. Here are the books that just missed out on a Top 10 slot.

20. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
19. Middlemarch by George Eliot
18. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
17. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
16. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
15. Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
14. Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
13. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
12. Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Still, we have no non-fiction in the list, thanks to Joe at the Bristol Prize for picking up on that.
So all that's left to do is tell you the Top 10 books, as voted for by friends, customers, colleagues and anyone else who knows us.
You'll have to wait until tomorrow...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Top 50 - Numbers 30-21

So here's the third installment of the big countdown, which takes us through the halfway mark and into the bit... well, the bit that comes after the halfway mark. Here they are beginning in traditional numerical fashion with:

30. Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
29. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
28. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
27. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
26. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
25. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
24. Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
23. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
22. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
21. Persuasion by Jane Austen

Join us at about this time tomorrow for the next stage, which will no doubt involve the numbers 20-11, hope to see you here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Top 50 - Numbers 40-31

We're slowly climbing up the chart and today we creep into the Top 40. So without further ado here are the next ten most popular books as voted for by you

40. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
39. The Bone People by Keri HulmeNot many people know of this book and the few i do know, haven't really enjoyed it, but for some reason, i loved it. It just spoke to me. I wish more people would like this book, as much as i do. It did after all, win the Booker prize. (Toni Sessa)
38. Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
37. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
36. Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
35. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
34. Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
32. Book Thief by Markus Zusak
31. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

So there we are. Tomorrow, numbers 30-21.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top 50 - numbers 50-41

here's part 1 of the Big Green Bookshop favourite books of all time list. I shall expand on this when I get more time, but let's just cut to the chase shall we

50. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waughany book about a dying breed of aristocrats that can melt the heart of a Socialist Worker is worth a punt (Kate Bayley)
49. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

48. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
47. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardythe first time I realised 'classic' didn't have to mean 'boring'. Tessa Ware
46. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
45. Shipping News by Annie L ProulxProux is a great writer and draws an unforgettable picture with a sense of love in the bleak hopelessness of life.(Caroline Johnson-Marshall
44. We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
43. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
42. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
41. Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Tomorrow (earlier than this) I shall announce numbers 40-31, and later on tonight i'll put a bit more detail behind the votes....

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Big Green Bookshop Top 50

For the last 92 days we've been asking, begging, bothering, encouraging and persuading you all to send us a list of your 5 favourite books of all time (in no particular order). Thankfully, loads of you did as you were asked and we are now able to add up all the (thousands) of votes to find the 50 most popular books, as voted for by you.

The BBC did something similar to this in 2003 and looking at their list, it's interesting to see what's not being voted for now. You'll be amazed at some of the books that aren't in our Top 50. We're also very pleasantly surprised about some of the brilliant titles that have found their way into our list. Titles that are unlikely to have made it into a national poll.

Throughout the week we'll be counting down from 50-1, revealing 50-41 tomorrow, 40-31 on Wednesday, 30-21 on Thursday, 20-11 on Friday. We'll then announce the top 10 on Saturday, when all the Top 50 will be on display in the Big Green Bookshop.
We'll also announce the winnner of the competition on Saturday. That lucky person will win their choice of 20 of the Big Green Bookshop Top 50. What a prize!

Without giving too much away I'll tease you all with a few titles that got votes but didn't quite make it into TBGB's Top 50.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons!
Watchmen by Alan Moore!!
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson!!!
Viz Book of Crap Jokes!
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov!!

Right, that's enough. You'll haver to wait until tomorrow...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Greg Stekelman's 5 Favourite Books of all time (in no particular order)

As this is the last chance for you to send us your favourite books, I thought i'd ask Greg Stekelman if he'd share his top 5 (in no particular order).

And he kindly agreed.


Of course, I don’t really have five favourite books. Like most people I have quite a few books I quite like, and this vague list changes fairly often. Generally speaking, as soon as I say a book is my favourite, I stop reading it.

The Book of Sand, by Jorge Luis Borges.
Borges was a 20th Century Argentine writer most famous for his short stories. Influenced by everyone from Eastern philosophers to GK Chesterton and Edgar Allen Poe, his stories are a curious mixture of the gothic and the intellectual. A lot of his stories explore secret worlds, or secret identities, and that always intrigued me. More importantly, he’s Argentine, and my father is from Argentina, so I’ve always felt a strange form of kinship with Borges. When he’s writing about Buenos Aires, it feels like my own secret playground. No world he writes about seems as magical and exotic as the streets of Corrientes or Callao. His most famous book is probably Labyrinths, which is a very good introduction to his work, but I’ve plumped for The Book of Sand, which is just as good and contains The Other, a fantastic little story about a young and elderly Borges encountering each other on a bench in Cambridge.

Long Goodbye – by Raymond Chandler
Both my parents read Chandler – in fact I think that Raymond Chandler is the only novelist my father has ever read – so I grew up with the books lying around. When I hit my mid-teens I started reading them all, and The Long Goodbye struck me as the best of his Phillip Marlowe writing. Like lots of Chandler, it’s an exercise in style over content, in that the plot is always the same (the woman is always the villain. I think Chandler had a few issues) but the writing itself is breathtaking. The story revolves around Marlowe’s friendship with a charming drunk named Terry Lennox, whose apparent death sets off a chain of disastrous events. The prose; slack, laconic, staccato, whatever other cliché you wish to apply, is stunning. The dialogue is raw and heavy with portent. It is infinitely quotable. It is very good. Ignore all the film adaptations. They are mostly crap.

For Esme, with Love and Squalor – by JD Salinger
JD Salinger is, of course, best known for The Catcher in the Rye, which I read once as a teenager and disliked. Many of you may well have had similar experiences. Don’t let this put you off as Salinger’s short stories, mostly centered around the Glass family, are beautiful. If you like the films of Wes Anderson or the music of Belle and Sebastian, you will quickly fall in love with Salinger. Written in the early 1950’s, For Esme, with Love and Squalor (known in the US as Nine Stories) concerns itself with the lives of various members of the Glass family. There is something incredibly modern and yet sickly sentimental about this flawed, intelligent, morose, witty, wisecracking family. The central character is most often Seymour Glass, a sweet, sensitive young man who is unable to cope with normal life after witnessing the horrors of World War II. The eponymous short story For Esme… deals with an army officer (known only as Sergeant X) and his relationship with a young English girl named Esmé, whom he befriends in England and whose presence somehow enables him to survive the rigours of war. It’s a story I often return to.

The Dark is Rising – by Susan Cooper
There are few books that have as much power as the books you read when you’re young. And like lots of kids, I grew up reading fantasy novels: Ursula le Guin, CS Lewis, Alan Garner… anything to do with magic, monsters or King Arthur. I remember one week I was ill and my mother bought me Over Sea, Under Stone, the first in a five-book fantasy series. I enjoyed it, without thinking it was particularly great. Nevertheless, I bought the second book, The Dark is Rising. I loved it. I read it over and over. I obsessed over it. On his eleventh birthday, the young protagonist, Will Stanton, discovers he is an Old One, an agent of The Light, destined to fight against the powers of The Dark. I remember my own disappointment when I awoke on my eleventh birthday and discovered I had no amazing new magical powers. Still, I’ve come to terms with that.
I still have my copy of The Dark is Rising (complete with strange typo where one of the character’s names changes from Mary to Margaret). It has been read 40 or 50 times and is falling apart. Books are one of the few items where neglect is a sign of affection.

A Year in the Life of TheManWhoFellAsleep – by Greg Stekelman
I wasn’t going to include this, but Simon said I should, and who am I to ignore Simon? This is my first novel – based on writing originally on my website. I’m terrible at summarizing my own work, so let’s call it a surreal, dark diary covering a year in the life of a fantastical character in north London. It is a celebration of both the cripplingly banal and the magically improbable. It has talking polar bears, Justin Timberlake, jokes, poems and interstellar porn. It’s available exclusively through The Big Green Bookshop. You should buy it.

Thanks Greg.

there's still time to vote, so don't be shy. You could win 20 books.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Almost Christmas. How did that happen?

When should a bookshop put up it decorations? The answer is next week.
When should a bookshop order it's Xmas Cards? The answer is yesterday.
When should a bookshop order it's Christmas books? the answer is last week and then maybe a few more this week and then another check next week.
When should a bookshop do its Christmas window? um, next week.
When should bookshops check they have enough bags and till roll to last through xmas? Look, stop asking all these questions OK.

although lots of shops start their christmasses in September, we prefer to wait until the floods start and Children in Need is on the TV. This is a start of the traditional Big Green Bookshop Christmas, and we hope you understand.

The reason we do all our book ordering and stuff in November is because we are poor, and in the booktrade you have to pay for the stuff you buy at the end of the following month from when you bought it. So if we'd bought all our books in September, we'd have had to pay for them in October (not really the time when I do my Christmas shopping). So by buying everything in November, we can then screw are eyes shut really tight and cross our fingers in the hope that we sell lots of books over christmas, so that we can afford to pay for it all.

The other reason for slight tardiness is that we've been a bit busy lately, what with trying to organise loads of events, having 20 school classes coming in to do buy books for a fine fine thing called the Reading Challenge (a Council funded scheme in which kids are 'challenged' to read six books), as well as all the other bookshop stuff that we do, like sell books.

We're also coming towards the end of our 5 Favourite Books of all time (in no particular order) survey that we've been running. The final day for you to vote is this Sunday, and we've had loads and loads of your entries. But we'd love more, so feel free to send in your top 5. You could win 20 books!

Two events next week

Utter! poetry and Andrew Blackman, author of award winning On the Holloway Road.

Two events the following week.

Wine Adventurer Francis Gimblett and the launch of a new (and the only) history of Tottenham.

Then it'll be christmas i'd imagine, and we can all relax.

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Bookshop Newsletter

Click on the pictures and they will go big.

It took 4 hours and 34 minutes to do.
It is good though.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

A Right Stitch Up and a baby update.

One of Katie's friend's Candice is a regular Stitch and Bitch London, a fine group of knitting mad people who encourage this fine craft (they also like a bit of crochet too). Slightly inspired by her, we introduced a knitting day at the Big Green Bookshop, which meets on the first Sunday of each month, for tea cake and knitting (1.00pm till 3.00pm).
Anyway, this is a preamble for showing you this wonderful present that she knitted Freya.

Look, it's a Mermaid.

Oh, hang on a minute..what's going on Freya?

She's no mermaid, she's a human being...with pants (also removable, but we'll spare her blushes)

Either way, Freya loves her.

Candice got the idea (and pattern I presume) from a book called 'Knitted Babes', and added her own little bit of magic to it.
Isn't it brilliant.

Freya's 16 months now and baby number 2 will be arriving sometime towards the end of February. Being a dad is the best job in the world, even better than having your own bookshop (which is hard to beat). Sleep is over rated anyway.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

So, we had a chat with Jacqueline Wilson

In the glamour of Wood Green we often bump into world famous authors. Wood Green, being the most cosmopolitan area in the capital, we rub shoulders with all the stars. It's just like that. And so we had a chat with Jacqueline Wilson, who is the magical queen of real life kids fiction.
We couldn't believe that she hadn't given us her top five favourite books of all time (in no particular order), so after a little persuasion, here we are.
Just to remind you, these are Jacqueline Wilson's fave books of all time (in no particular order)

Adult top five
1 The Collected short stories of Katherine Mansfield
2 Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre
3 Charles Dickens Great Expectations
4 Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar
5 Anne Tyler The Accidental Tourist

Childrens' top five
1 Noel Streatfield Ballet Shoes
2 Louisa M Alcott Little Women
3 Susan Coolidge What Katy Did
4 Francess Hodgeson Burnett A Little Princess
5 E Nesbitt The Railway Children

Now, if you're reading this and you're thinking 'eh?', you should probably
a. Decide what your 5 favourite books of all time (in no particular order) are.
b. email us at with those 5 books
c. wait unti December 1st, whe you could win 20 books.

hey, what's the worst that could happen.

There's other things, but i've worked for about 75 hours this week and i'm a little tired, so please forgive my lack of blog.


Monday, November 02, 2009


Here at the Big Green Bookshop our perspicaciousness often even astounds us. The proof books idea is going remarkably well, and our Booker book group was bloomin' marvellous. Despite having larks along the way, we do try to do exciting new stuff too.

And so ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to our latest and most exciting plan to take over the world of bookselling (We're comin' to get you Amazon. It might take a couple of months, but I know you're looking over your shoulder).
We've teamed up with the wonderful Gallic Books in a pioneering and groundbreaking way, that I don't think has ever been done before. No, really.
Independent Bookshops have always struggled to find ways to work effectively with publishers, and despite the publishers efforts (offering extra money off books for example), nothing has really stuck.
So we want to change that, and so do Gallic Books. They are a brilliant company who publish english language editions of the finest modern french literature. We sell lots of their books already, like The Suicide Shop and The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and we thought it would be a good idea to look at ways of making the most of this in order to let our customers know just how good they are.
So we had a chat with Jane and Ali for Gallic, and we've kind of adopted each other, so to speak. We love their books already (and so do a lot of our customers) , and so we've agreed to give them a higher profile in the shop. We'll review at least one of their books on the blog and on the website each month and we're giving them a special page on our website .
In return, all sales that go through Gallic Books website will be fulfilled by us. We're also the venue of choice for any author event or launch the Gallic hold, and we're also in a position to now offer free postage and packing on all Gallic Books ordered online or over the phone to the shop.
There's other bits and bobs too, but esentially that's it.
What we're both hoping to achieve is that more people get the chance to enjoy the wonderful books that Gallic are publishing. They really are a superb publisher and we're sure that if you haven't tried one of their titles yet, you'll be very pleasantly suprised when you do.

Not only that, but to celebrate this new partnership, we're running a competition. Everyone who buys any of Gallic Books titles from the bookshop or online between now and the new year will be entered into a draw for a chance to win two return tickets on Eurostar to Paris.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Here's what you're reading right now

Sunday night at 11.15pm. This is no time to start a blog. But nevertheless, this is exactly what i'm doing.
There are a few things to talk about, so as it's late, i'll be brief.

1. Sam Enthoven is a brilliant writer of kids books involving chaos, demons, kung fu and extreme destruction. His two previous books The Black Tattoo and Tim Defender of the Earth are big news in the world of The Big Green Bookshop, and Sam is a superstar of epic proportions. He's also one of a group of eight authors who have actually been trapped by monsters, and are being held by them in a cave somewhere fairly unpleasant I expect.
These authors have had to write on the trapped by monsters website to avoid being eaten or even worse belched on by these hideous beasts. Sam, who has obviously been misbehaving recently has beeen forced by the monsters to write an exclusive short story on the website. It's called Jethro's Ace of Hearts and it's being serialised over the next 13 days. ( Update. Sam has managed to get a message to me via a well trained earwig to let me know that the 13 part story is being posted on a twice weekly schedule, and not every day. This'll add to the suspense....) The story's been illustrated by the equally naughty David Melling.

Sam's an amazing storyteller and I would urge you to keep popping back to the website to enjoy the true hooror that is undoubtably going to unfold over the next 12 days. As Sam would no doubt say 'Bwah-ha. Bwah-ha-ha-ha! Bwah-HAAA-HAAAAA-HAAAAAAA-HAAAcough-choke-burst-gurgle-thunk'

2. A bit more horror here. Last night I read The Kill Crew by Joseph D'Lacey. This is a novella that's been published by Stonegarden, and has taken an age to finally become available in the UK...naughty Stonegarden.
Joseph's previous books Meat and Garbage Man are frickin' brilliant. They both show what an incredible storyteller he is in very different ways. I have to say I preferred Meat to Garbage Man, but the latter had moments of such incredible imagery and power and I was moved by both books.
I've been so looking forward to Kill Crew, and I really wasn't disappointed. It's the story centred around Sherri, one of a dwindling group of around 200 survivors of an unknown plague that's turned the rest of the population into a zombie like state. These 'surviviors' are holed up in protected block of houses, and each night a patrol of seven of them(The Kill Crew) head out to try and reduce the number of zombies that are out there in the best way possible. By blowing their heads off. It soon becomes clear that these zombies aren't going away and Sherri has to make a choice about how she's going to survive.
There's enough zombie shoot em up action to keep the schlock horror fans happy, but it's the emotional side of the story that is (once again) the most powerful aspect in Joseph's writing. This could have been all '28 days later', but you fininshed the story with a real feeling for the main characters in the book and also you questioned what you would do in the situation that these tragic character found themselves in.
This book isn't available in many places, but seeing as we're now offering FREE POSTAGE AND PACKING on our website, this might be the best way to go.

3. Three is a secret, but all will be revealed in a day or two (hopefully one). But it's all quite exiting.