SLM Book Club: 84, Charing Cross Road | December 2020 Pick

(be sure to scroll along for Lindsay's gift guide for the bookworm on your list!)

December 4, 2020 | by lindsay blackburn

Let’s chat about 84, Charing Cross Road and all things bookish.

Although the 2020 holiday season is significantly different, with cancelled Christmas parties and events and a good reason to spend more time at home, there are still gifts to buy, cards to send, and memories to be made with our families. Life is busy. I will always find space in my schedule to read, but I adapt my reading life to fit my energy level and attention span. At this time of year, I tend to reach for shorter, easier reads and books that take place during the holidays.

With that in mind, this month I’ll be sharing a mini-book review, my December “To Be Read” (TBR) list, and gift-giving options for the readers in your life.

Book Review

84, Charing Cross Road is an epistolary novel (a book of letters) between Helene Hanff, a freelance television writer living in New York City and Frank Doel, a British bookseller. Their correspondence spans 20 years, 1949-1969, as Frank fulfills Helene’s orders for out-of-print books. Although the two never meet in person, we learn about their lives via their cross-cultural communication. Additionally, readers get a peek into the history of the time period.

The letters are delightful, due in part to the personalities of its writers.

Helene is a forthright, brash American. She can come across as demanding, although it’s meant in playful good humor. She is also generous. Since London is still rationing food and other goods, post-World War II, Helene sends Christmas packages to Marks & Company’s booksellers and their families. Eggs, canned meat, and women’s stockings were never more appreciated!

Frank’s tone is more proper and upright in his earliest letters, although he relaxes a bit over time. He is helpful in Helene’s requests for books, takes pride in his work, and seems to enjoy his days in the bookshop and time at home with his wife and young daughters (who grow up over the course of the book). The friendship between Helene and Frank is true and always platonic.

After you read the book, check out the film from Billings Public Library, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins as the lead characters, or watch it on Amazon. It’s worth it.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is charming, hilarious, and can be read in about one hour – a superb choice for the holiday season.

Bookish Holiday Gift Guide

My gift-giving recommendations for the bookworms in your life…or yourself!

  • Bookplate: If you have a friend who enjoys loaning out books, a Paper Source custom bookplate stamp would be a nice gift alongside a hardcover new release.
  • Shakespeare Insults Mug: I’ve owned this mug for a decade and it still gives me the giggles. Pair it with one pound of coffee beans or a tin of tea for the literary nerd in your life.
  • Book Light: Do you like to read before bed? I use this book light when I travel. Couples may appreciate it when one person wants to sleep and one is a night owl. A book light would be helpful for college students sharing a dorm room, too!
  • Bookish Tees: Represent your love for Little Women with this fun t-shirt. Inkwell Threads carries pretty bookish wearables. I’ve bought a tote bag for my library books and this sweatshirt, which I wear often on the weekends!
  • Book Quote Print: Like simple artwork? This digital download of a Ruth Bader Ginsberg book-related quote fits the bill. Order a print, frame it up, and gift it to a feminist reader in your life.
  • Grammar Pencils: We all know a person who would appreciate these pencils.
  • Book Sleeves: I own several sleeves to protect my books in style and Happy Go Lovely Book Sleeves are my favorite due to Rachel’s excellent craftsmanship. Peep my plaid sleeve in this post’s photo (above).
  • Wireless Speaker: I listen to audiobooks while I fold laundry, do dishes, and clean my house. While some readers prefer wireless earbuds, I’ve found that I use this inexpensive wireless speaker more often.
  • Bath Tray: Do you know someone who likes to read in the bathtub? I do! I bought this tray as a birthday gift recently and my friend raves about it.
  • Book Subscription: Treat yourself. Book of the Month is a subscription box for new, popular hardcover books. They offer 5 selections every month, members choose one (or more), and the books are shipped to your door! You can skip months, too. I’ve been a happy subscriber since July 2019. You can use my affiliate link above to receive your first book for only $9.99 (regularly $14.99).

Swing by Billings’ newest gift shop, Simply Local Marketplace, in Shiloh Commons for additional gift-giving options and visit This House of Books to locally buy the books on your loved ones’ Christmas wish lists.

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