Listing Herons – 7 December 2023

I am writing to you with a list of lists. Do not panic: I know that no one needs another to-do list. I’m at the stage where I have more than one list for listing where my lists are. The semblance of organisation that one gains from writing a list has completely evaporated. But this is a happy list of lists. Within it you’ll find: books.

We have each made a list of our favourite books that we read this year. Bearing in mind that we read several books per week, narrowing it down to twelve each has not been an easy task. And I am aware that the year is not yet over. I’m reading Tom Lake by Ann Patchett now; it doesn’t feel right to put it on the list when I’m only halfway through. But if the strict rules, which, incidentally, I imposed, can be broken then please consider this the thirteenth on my twelve-dish menu.

Thinking of baker’s dozens leads me to the Booker’s dozen which has now been narrowed to one: my list does include the winner, Prophet Song by Paul Lynch. I read it in the urgent frenzy demanded by its form – no paragraphs, though enough section breaks for a sharp intake of breath at each shattering moment – and it is an onslaught of shining prose and threatening narrative.

We have also had fun deciding on our favourite children’s books that we read this year. Yet, even as I type, the guests on Front Row are discussing the same thing and have more suggestions. Something in the air, I think: well worth listening to.

Finally, I thought it would be fun to share your favourite books of the year judging by our bestsellers… It would appear that those frequenting the Clifton Arcade have really excellent taste.

Tomorrow is our poetry performance and party at The Lansdown (I have refrained from including an inventory of my favourite pubs or of the twelve most delectable cocktails). We look forward to seeing lots of you there. Details attached.

Our events page for 2024 is already buzzing too.

Lists can be so rich in the content indicated but rather poor in the detail so do come in and chat to us about why we’re so excited about our choices. And of course there are always things missing from a list. Joan Didion writes in The White Album about her packing list, a list made by someone who ‘prized control’, and yet admits that there is something missing from her careful catalogue: a watch. So if you’d like to come in to argue about what’s missing from our books of the year, you’re quite welcome to do that too.

May your weekend be full of the good kind of lists: booklists; cocktail menus; hot chocolate menus… that’s all I can think of.

Christmas opening hours:

We are open as normal right up until Christmas Day.

We’re closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Otherwise all opening hours remain the same. On 17th December, there will be a choir singing in the Clifton Arcade so, if you like your shopping harmonious, come and soak up the atmosphere.