“Judging Books by their Covers”


On Monday 9th March, Oxfam Books, Petergate, invites you to come and discover the fascinating history of book covers, in a lecture given by shop manager, John McKay, in the beautiful buildings of the York Medical Society on Stonegate.

John McKay has a phD from Birkbeck College, University of London, in contemporary Scottish literature. As well as managing Oxfam Books, John teaches courses on literature for the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York and is currently researching the relationship between book covers and their influence on reading patterns.

The twentieth century witnessed the rapid evolution of the book cover from a functional protective layer into a complex visual presentation. This lecture will attempt to provide an overview of the history of jacket design and how it has developed into a sophisticated marketing tool signposting many aspects of the enclosed text prior to reading, truly allowing you to judge the book by its cover.

Shop volunteer, Elizabeth Hatherell, says, “When you work somewhere that surrounds you with books, you suddenly begin to take more notice of them, and working with John has really opened my eyes to the importance of the book cover. This is going to be a wonderful evening for anyone who loves books and, on top of that, all the money is going to help provide books to children who really need them.”

Many of us live our lives surrounded by books and it can sometimes be easy to forget that this is a real privilege that many in the world do not have. At Oxfam Books, we feel that it is particularly important that children are given access to books and to education, which is why all proceeds from this event will be going towards buying school supplies for children who desperately need them.

This will be done through Oxfam Unwrapped, which asks for £8 to ensure that children are given everything they need to make the most out of school, (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/oxfam-unwrapped/teachers/school-supplies-ou9025in) and, as the UK government is currently doubling all donations given to Oxfam, with UKAid, each ticket bought will provide the full £8.

The talk will take place at the York Medical Society, at 7pm on Monday 9th March. Tickets cost £4 and include a complimentary glass of wine. They will be available to buy from Oxfam Books, Petergate, from Saturday 14th February, but there are a limited number so visit the shop soon to ensure you don’t miss out!

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Book of the Week: Where’s My Cow?

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In the spirit of half term, we have chosen a children’s book as our Book of the Week.

Fans of Terry Pratchett’s acclaimed Discworld novels will have met Sam Vimes before, in Thud!, Pratchett’s 34th Discworld novel, in which he is placed in charge of the investigation into the death of a dwarven demagogue, Grag Hamcrusher (no, I’m not 100% sure what that means either…). A side note in the book mentions that Vimes will always get home to read his son a story in the evening. And here is the story.

A parody on the traditional layout of a children’s book, this one follows Vimes as he attempts to adapt his son’s favourite book, Where’s My Cow? into something more relevant to his young life. He decides that it is silly to teach a boy growing up in a city about farmyard animals and that, in any case, the suggested method for finding the cow is rather inefficient (rather than asking every animal if it is a cow, it is much more reasonable to report the missing cow to the City Watch, who will “swing into action with keenness and speed”).

This book is guaranteed fun for children and adults alike, with Melvyn Grant’s vivid illustrations bringing the story to life and plenty of opportunities to pull silly faces and make funny noises.

For this and many more children’s books for all ages and abilities, to keep them quiet this week, pop into the shop and have a browse in our children’s corner.

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Book of the Week: Ian Fleming’s For your Eyes Only FIRST EDITION

This week we received a very exciting donation: a 1st edition, hardback copy of For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming, published by Jonathon Cape in 1960. This is the eighth book in the James Bond series and contains five short stories:
From a View to Kill
For Your Eyes Only
Quantum of Solace
The Hildebrand Rarity
Not only do these tales capture Fleming’s unique talent for intrigue and adventure, the book itself is fascinating and we are very lucky to have been given it.
21,712 copies were published and the jacket, designed by Richard Chopping, is famously the only one to depict Bond, albeit only his eye.
For Your Eyes Only cover
The red lettering on the front and spine of the book are notoriously fragile and, while that on the spine has faded, the lettering on the front, and on two pages inside, is clear and bright.
For Your Eyes Only binding
The binding is also a thing of beauty, with an image of an eye embossed on the front and gild blocking on the spine of the book.
For Your Eyes Only back
Fleming’s Bond books are very popular with collectors and to be truly collectible, a first edition Bond novel needs to be in its original dust jacket. For most of the books it is easy to tell a first edition jacket as it won’t bear any self-referential quotations from critics.
For Your Eyes Only title page inscription
Overall this book is in fantastic condition, a fact made even more impressive when one notices how well loved this book seems to have been. The previous owner has written an inscription on title page and any wear and tear to the dust jacket can be safely attributed to frequent re-reading and normal aging.
For more information, or if you would like to purchase this book, please visit our ebay page using the link below:

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(Audio)Book of the Week: The Wasp Factory


Following Burn’s night on the 25th January, we would like to use the coming week to celebrate another of Scotland’s greatest writers: Iain Banks.

Iain Banks was born in Fife in 1954, the only child of an Admiralty officer and his wife, a professional figure skater. He studied English literature, philosophy and psychology at the University of Stirling, before taking on a series of jobs after he graduated. Despite this, he had always wanted to be a writer, completing his first novel at the age of 16, and continued to write while he worked. However, it was not until he was 30 that his hard work began to pay off and his first novel, The Wasp Factory was published by Macmillan in 1984; following its success, he was able to write full-time and fulfill the dream he had cherished since he was 11.

The publication of The Wasp Factory was followed the next year by Walking on Glass.  As well as being a prolific novelist, Banks also became famous for his series of science-fiction books, which he published under the name of Iain M Banks, the first of which was Consider Phlebas, published in 1987. By the time of his death, in June 2013, he had published 26 novels and his 27th, The Quarry, was published posthumously. Also due to be published in February 2015, is a selection of his poems, collected by the poet Ken MacLeod, Bank’s friend and collaborator.

The Wasp Factory is the dark and shocking tale of 16 year-old Frank, who lives with his father in north-east Scotland, and whose life is controlled by a series of self-imposed private rituals, some of which involve torturing animals, and who has committed several murders. The book is written so that the reader is sucked into Frank’s strange world and becomes complicit in his actions. We have been lucky enough to receive a copy of the audiobook, brilliantly read by Peter Capaldi, which is now available to buy on Ebay (see link below).


We also have the audiobook of Bank’s A Song of Stone, also narrated by Capaldi. The story follows brother and sister, Abel and Morgan, whose country is in the depths of a civil war; they decide to leave the safety of their castle and join a group of refugees, but are intercepted by a band of outlaws. This, too, is available to buy on Ebay (see link below).



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Book of the Week: Zoom!

Simon Armitage was born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and grew up in the nearby village of Marsden. He studied Geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic before completing his MA at Manchester University and has been Professor of Poetry at Sheffield University since 2011.

Known for his modern, unstuffy poetry, his use of slang and his sardonic wit have helped him bring adolescent experiences to life, and his works are often featured in the national curriculum. His lively writing style also comes through in his writing for radio, stage, television and film. He is the author of four stage plays including Mister Heracles and Jerusalem and has presented several television films for BBC4 on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Arthurian Literature and on the Odyssey, sailing from Troy in Turkey to the Greek island of Ithaca.

His first novel, Little Green Man, was published by Penguin in 2001, and his second, The White Stuff, was published in 2004. His other prose work includes the memoir All Points North, which was the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year, and Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock-Star Fantasist, in which he documents his life-long passion for popular music and his role as lead singer with the band The Scaremongers. The Scaremongers released their first album, Born In A Barn (Corporation Pop Records) in 2009; the same year they featured on BBC 2’s Culture Show and played Latitude Festival.

A local man of many talents, Armitage began his poetry career publishing several limited edition pamphlets with small and local poetry presses, all now highly collectible. These included Human Geography, The Distance Between Stars, The Walking Horses, Around Robinson, and Suitcase.

His first full-length collection of poems, Zoom!, was published in 1989 by Bloodaxe Books and Oxfam Books, Petergate is fortunate enough to have been given a signed copy of this early volume. This copy is in excellent condition and can be purchased in store or online on the Oxfam website: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/books/poetry-drama-criticism/zoom-hd_100442376

Signed Page Zoom!


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Calling Avid Readers- new loyalty cards at Oxfam Books!

On Monday 12th January Oxfam Books, Petergate, will launch a loyalty card scheme. The scheme only applies to fiction paperbacks purchased from the Oxfam shop on Low Petergate and will entitle customers to a free paperback book for every six that they buy.

If you are an avid reader and regularly buy books from us, this is our way of thanking you! Customers can pick up their free loyalty card from the shop, which they can then present for a stamp every time they purchase a fiction book. Simply collect six stamps and enjoy a free book!

Shop Manager, John McKay said, “We have many loyal customers who regularly buy their books from us and this is an excellent way for us to thank them and give something back to the people of York.”

The scheme starts on Monday 12th January so pop in and collect your loyalty card from Oxfam Books, Petergate.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!

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Oxfam Pops Up at The Fossgate Social

“We’re popping up so you can pop in.”

On Thursday 28th and Friday 29th August Oxfam Books will be setting up shop at York’s new favourite haunt, The Fossgate Social. For two days only, Oxfam Petergate will be selling their books to the general public in a very special location: the latest addition to Fossgate’s food and drink scene.

Enjoy a cappuccino or a craft beer while browsing a hand picked selection of books as a one off by the local bookshop for summer 2014. There will also be live music from local musicians over both the days.  

Lindsay Rose, Oxfam Books Volunteer said “We just want as many people as possible to get their hands on our great selection of books and help raise as much money for Oxfam as we can. We are big fans of The Fossgate Social here at the shop and thought it was the perfect atmosphere and setting for a pop-up event like ours.”

Running from 11am – 4pm on Thursday 28th and Friday 29th August, pop in to the Oxfam Pop Up at Fossgate Social for a drink, some live music and lots of literary gems.

Event page

Article in York Press.

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