Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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I bought The Hobbit for my girls. However I didn’t just buy it. I staged the act of buying the book for my 7- and 9-year-olds. If ever there was a religion of Book Loving People, I would probably be one of the high priestesses proclaiming to all winds what book they should read today. But since that religion hasn’t been invented yet, I treat my books with the highest respect and some deserve a little more extra attention from me. Now, The Hobbit. Is there a more sacred work of British literature? Isn’t it the start of one of the greatest adventures ever written – The Lord of The Rings? As such, The Hobbit deserved more than an Amazon mailing in a nondescript cardboard box. This is how special I made it for my girls and hopefully, they’ll remember the book as such.
Photo gallery – click to enlarge:
Daunt Books: A Special Bookstore
As I said, Amazon wouldn’t cut it to buy a special book. I needed to touch the book, flip through its pages, make sure it included the original J.R.R. Tolkien illustrations and make sure it wouldn’t be printed so small I’d need a magnifying glass to read the story to my girls. Therefore Amazon was ruled out. I could have chosen a big box cookie-cutter book chain but again, that wouldn’t have been special enough. You see what I’m getting to. I went online to find the one bookstore that would be special enough, the one bookstore that would look like a temple of books and display feet and feet of books in an airy two-story high solarium-style reading room with balcony and wooden staircase. The stuff of classic movies and Harry Potter fans.
Daunt Books is an independent chain of bookstores in London. The original store is on Marylebone High Street and self-described as “an original Edwardian bookshop with long oak galleries and graceful skylights” but they have five other branches. Coincidentally, one of them is close to my girls’ school but it wasn’t nearly as nice as the original one so I decided to hop on the tube. I called ahead of time and the store clerks said they had two soft cover and two hard cover editions. I asked them to put aside a copy of the hard cover ones and after school, my girls and I traveled all the way to Baker Street tube station. We exited in front of Madame Tussaud, walked past it and turned right on Marylebone High Street. After a stop for snacks and smoothies at the posh Natural Kitchen, there we were.
What a place.
Choosing The Right Edition of The Hobbit
Now choosing books can be a rather personal affair, especially if the book at stake is a keeper and possibly a future family heirloom. Since I wanted to keep this book forever and ever, soft covers wouldn’t do and I had two hardbacks to choose from. A cloth-bound HarperCollins Collector’s Edition with 1930s art and a pocket edition whose jacket was beautiful but the text inside was way too small. Cloth-bound it was going to be!
When you choose yours, I suggest you like at the different options and choose the one that best fits you. Some editions are annotated, others are part of boxed sets with The Lord of the Rings, others may be illustrated with stills from the movie. There’s a whole range you see.
Exploring The Bookstore
Once we knew what edition we were going to buy, I let my girls loose in the children’s section. They’d been begging to go since we stepped inside Daunt Books and as soon as I gave them the green light, they disappeared in piles of books. That left me ample time to explore at will. I went up the stairs, to the travel section. I browsed the calendars and the gardening section. I spent a bit of time in the children’s section, watching my girls absorbed in picture books and seated on small wooden stools. I was surprised to find a good number of cloth-bound books, something you rarely see in the US. They were gorgeous, almost works of art. I know I’ll be taking my mom when she visits. She’ll love the store. Apparently Daunt Books is a must-see for many tourists as well and I love that a bookstore can survive and thrive in a posh street lined by luxury brands.
Reading The Hobbit
The movie comes out in 2 weeks and there’s 276 pages in the edition we bought. That’s roughly 17 pages per day, a little bit more if we want to finish on time. We’re starting this weekend. It’s the start of a great reading adventure!