Transcript / LoLT: Stanfords Travel Bookshop and Two New Books — 08 March 2024

Transcript / LoLT: Stanfords Travel Bookshop and Two New Books — 08 March 2024

Friday, 8 March, 2024

This is a transcription of ‘LoLT: Stanfords Travel Bookshop and Two New Books — 08 March 2024’

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David: What would you do if you had an extra hour in your day? — Would you crack open that book you’ve been meaning to read? Would you go for a run? Would you spend a little more time with your favorite people?

David: A lot of us spend our lives wishing we had more time. Who doesn’t? I know I hear that clock ticking. But time for what? How do you decide to use the hours we have? What do you squeeze into your day, and why?

David: The best way to get to the bottom of that is by figuring out what’s important to you, and then prioritize. Therapy can help you find what matters to you, so you can do more of it.

David: If you’re thinking of starting therapy, give BetterHelp a try. It’s entirely online. It’s designed to be convenient, and to work around your schedule. You fill out a questionnaire, you get matched with a therapist, and off you go.

David: Learn to make time for what makes you happy, with BetterHelp. Visit BetterHelp dot come slash StrongSense today to get 10% off your first month. That’s BetterHelp H-E-L-P dot com slash StrongSense.


[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, a gripping novel that’s equal parts delicious and disturbing.

David: A travel book about exploring your hometown.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: I’ve been listening to the audiobook of a new novel. It’s called Piglet, written by Lottie Hazell. The story is stuffed full of glorious food descriptions — and the narrator Rebekah Hinds has a warm, buttery British accent. It’s fantastic, and I’m going to try to explain why I love it without giving anything away.

Melissa: Our heroine is Piglet. She was given that nickname by her family when she was a kid, and it stuck. But she’s grown up now, and she’s doing very well for herself, thank you very much.

Melissa: She’s engaged to a dreamy fiance named Kit — he comes from a posh family. The couple has just moved into a new house in Oxford, and Piglet has a dream job: she works as an editorial assistant for a cookbook publisher in London. Delicious life, right?

Melissa: But just 13 days before their picture-perfect wedding, Kit confesses a betrayal, and Piglet’s happiness shatters. The wedding is still on, but you have to wonder if Piglet and Kit are careening toward the worst wedding ever. And maybe even the worst life ever. As the days tick down, Piglet is ravenous for food, for love, for all things she wants in her life.

Melissa: The story opens with two back-to-back dinner parties that are rendered so vividly, I could see the instagram-ready bowls of food on the table and smell the aromas in the air. I could also feel the undercurrents of tension in my guts. It’s an unsettling vibe, but also very compelling. You want more.

Melissa: The way these characters talk to each other — and particularly the conversations between Piglet and her parents — phew… it’s all so real. It kinda makes me lose my breath sometimes. And I 100% recommend the audio — being told this story is heightening the emotion.

Melissa: There’s a scene set in a bridal boutique that is so blackly funny, it’s a tragedy, and then it comes all the way back around — because when it’s so so so bad, you have to laugh and cry at the same time.

Melissa: The writing has the sparkle of a Nora Ephron rom-com and the sharp agony of the TV show Fleabag, plus gorgeous food writing, a deep understanding of female friendship, and class-related snobbiness.

Melissa: I’m loving this book so much, I texted a friend yesterday and said, ‘Please please read this book so I can talk to you about it.’ It’s Piglet by Lottie Hazell, and it’s out now.

Melissa: The author Lottie Hazell has a PhD in Creative Writing, and her research was focused on food-writing in 21st-century fiction. She’s also the co-founder and lead designer of an indie board game company. It’s called Birdwood Games, and they make Dog Park, which is a board game about collecting and walking your favourite dogs. I feel like Lottie and I, should we ever meet, would have a lot to talk about.

David: Alastair Humphreys has had many, many adventures. He’s walked across India and Iceland and around Spain. He’s rowed across the English channel. He crossed the Bearing Strait and went from Alaska through about a third of Russia. He’s run 150 miles – or 240 kilometers – across the Sahara desert, part of it with a broken foot. His list of things I would never do goes on for quite a while.

David: In 2012, National Geographic named him Adventurer of the Year. He’s written a shelf full of books about his trips. But his most recent adventures have been a little more modest. At some point, Humphreys realized he didn’t know his hometown well. Like most of us, I suspect he knew the things he knew- how to get groceries, get to the dentist, and get to friends’ homes. But only a little beyond that.

David: So he decided to fix that. He ordered a custom map of his home outside of London. He put his house in the middle of a 20 by 20-kilometer square. (That’s about 12 and a half miles to the side.) And he decided to visit a new point on that map every week for a year. He’d bike out and see what was going on. Make some notes. Take some pictures. Do some research. Identify some plants. Try to learn what’s in his backyard.

David: He wrote a book about that experience. It’s called ‘Local: A Search for Nearby Nature and Wildness.’ The book came out in January. The reviews have been great. They talk about Humphreys’ writing and his sense of humor. He ends up exploring suburbs, cemeteries, woods, and waterways. If you’re interested in starting a neighborhood adventure, you might enjoy this. It’s ‘Local: A Search for Nearby Nature and Wildness.’ by Alastair Humphreys.

David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

David: In a couple of weeks, we are headed to London. We will spend a few days there, see some shows, visit a museum, and eat some things. A bacon sarnie is in my future, and I couldn’t be happier. [ Mel on what a bacon sarnie is. ] I expect we’ll tell you more about that trip after we’ve been there.

David: While we were getting ready for that — poking around London on Google Maps and such — I reminded myself of a store I’ve been wanting to visit. It’s called Stanfords. They describe themselves as ‘the UK’s leading specialist retailer of maps, travel books and other travel accessories.’

David: So, maybe you hear that, and you’re thinking of a dark, small, musty place crammed full of ancient charts and grouchy old salespeople who are still angry about the invention of GPS. This is not that.

David: Stanfords is a clean, well-lighted place for maps. The main store has two stories. There are maps, of course. There’s a wide selection of globes: tiny, inflatable, celestial, and floor-standing. You can realize your dream of having a globe on a floor stand for about fifteen hundred dollars.

David: There are guidebooks, books about travel, blank journals, and fiction with a strong sense of place. In one of the pictures of the interior, I saw a book called “How to Swear Around the World.” They have toys and games with a travel theme. One of the reviewers described it as the best museum shop you’ve ever been in.

David: Standfords has been around for 170 years now. Previous customers have included the British explorer David Livingston — who famously got lost, so I wonder if he’s the best spokesman for a map shop. Ernest Shackleton has shopped there. Florence Nightingale, and Bill Bryson. Michael Palin started his series, ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ at Stanford’s.

David: Stanfords also has a small cafe, and they’re well-known for their hot chocolate. I love the idea of being in London, getting an idea for a trip, running down to Stanfords, grabbing the appropriate maps, getting a cup of hot chocolate and maybe a sandwich to stuff in your coat pocket, and going off on your next adventure.

David: Of particular interest to our listeners — Stanfords sponsors a travel writing award. The shortlist for 2024 has been announced. There’s also a list of previous winners on Wikipedia. We will point to both.

Melissa: Visit for more Stanfords in London, their awards, and the books we talked about today.

David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of Sandro Gonzalez/Unsplash.

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