March 5, 2013 10,325

A drove of bullocks: a compilation of animal group names by Patrick George


With a name so silly and enticing, how could anyone who cares about words ignore this book? Crisp, stylish graphics accompany little-known words for groups of animals (we all know that lions are a pride, but what about a kaliedoscope of butterflies, or that cockroaches came in appropriately-named “intrusions”?). Kids will enjoy learning something their classmates most likely won’t, and adults will chuckle at the witty illustrations.

PatrickGeorge, Paperback, RRP £9.99

March 5, 2013 10,351

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Both one of my all-time favourite books and films, cult-classic The Princess Bride deserves its status. A low-fantasy tale with R.O.U.S.s (that’s rodents of unusual size), sword fights, dashing heroes and painfully useless damsels in distress, you will most likely want to finish it, watch the film, then make everyone you love do likewise. You may also find yourself quoting both for the rest of your life.


Bloomsbury, Paperback, RRP £7.99


March 5, 2013 10,480

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

This year’s Man Booker Prize Winner Bring up the Bodies continues to follow Thomas Cromwell’s rise in King Henry VIII’s court and the part he played in the last bloody days of Anne Boleyn. It’s the sequel to Hilary Mantel’s previous Man Booker Prize Winner, Wolf Hall, and the second book in the planned trilogy of Thomas Cromwell’s rise and fall.
 Fourth Estate (HarperCollins), Hardcover, RRP £20



July 4, 2012 14,973

Hats for Spring and Summer, 2012

With approaching weddings, graduations, and warm summer holidays, hats are flying off of our shelves. Here’s just a small selection of what we have available at the Madhatter (click to enlarge):


December 5, 2011 15,133

Richard recommends

The true pleasure of working in a bookshop is that it can feel like the best of book group the working day long. You get to know your neighbours through the lens of the books that they love. They inspire you to read the books that have moved them. My book list is now so long it is an impossible task to keep up. But I am reading more than ever before because all the recommendations really do make me hungry to read what’s on offer. So here are some of the books that I have truly enjoyed reading in the last few days.

The Hare With Amber Eyes by Emund De Waal

I was moved to read this when overhearing a visitor to Madhatter Bookshop telling her friend about why it was the best book she’d read in ages. She spoke enthusiastically about being plunged into modern history through the eyes of a sprawling banking family whose incredible wealth was originally founded on cornering the grain market in Odessa.  The story moves between London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, St Petersburg and across the decades from the mid 19th century to the present day.

There is something in this sweep that takes you in, the woman said, so that you see how events connect, why art matters and how this all has a bearing on our own sense of who we are. She then bought her friend a copy of the book to take away. The next day, another woman came in and ordered four copies to give as presents to her dearest friends. With recommendations like that, how can you resist?

The Hare With Amber Eyes is indeed marvelous. There is something in the way De Waal talks about his family that immerses you in their lives through his voice, preoccupations and concerns. For me the really remarkable thing about the prose was the way in which De Waal makes the physicality of objects so real, rich and tactile through his descriptions. You really feel his eye and hand as a potter in the way he talks about holding, touching or carrying something – or in the way he sinks in to the presence and reality of a building. There are moments when you feel yourself at home in a world of polyglot nouveaux riches and aristocrats, high finance, high art, hidden inheritances, magnificent wedding gifts and personal loss and cultural tragedy.

De Waal worries that he may make his subject matter thin. Thin it is not. To me it felt like being tensed between the warp and weft of many different threads, coarse and fine, burr and silk – all meshing together to wrap you in the sensibility of how art and history matter to us all. The woman I overheard was absolutely right, this is a truly remarkable meditation on what shapes and makes us.

De Waal’s perspective also illuminates in a very powerful way what it is to be English. There he is, the scion of a banking dynasty that planted family members in every important capital in Europe, the son of an Anglican clergyman whose grandparents were Jewish and Catholic, an artist scholar, a passionate connoisseur with no pomposity and a desire to deal plainly with a set of most extraordinary facts and objets d’art. In telling us about his family history, De Waal allows us to think about the nature of our own culture refracted as it is through his discourse on the cultures that shaped both his clan and the art treasures they commissioned or collected over the years.

Oh, and did I mention the netsuke figures which are the true stars of the whole story? The way De Waal talks about these figurines makes you truly appreciate why the art of Japan is so very very fine and so very unlike so much of our own.


The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

November 28, 2011 8,525

Sunday is Washing Day

Come to our Washing Lines signing from lunchtime on!

Washing Lines is a wonderful anthology of poetry celebrating  the presence of washing in our lives. Edited by two local washing aficionadas, Janie Hextall and Barbara McNaught, Washing Lines has garnered national repute. The anthology has been acclaimed in Tatler among others and warmly approved by critics such as Sebastian Shakespeare.  Janie Hextall and Barbara McNaught will be signing copies of their self-published book, Washing Lines, from lunchtime on in Madhatter Bookshop, 122 High Street, Burford, on Sunday 4 December. Come and get a copy for a gift that will always be warmly remembered!

Janie and Barbara met six years ago at a Cotswold poetry reading group and quickly found that they had a love of washing drying in the breeze in common. The traded emails about the poems they found celebrating this passion. Over the course of time the idea of publishing an anthology took root. Washing Lines was launched at the Woodstock Literary Festival on September 17 and has simply gone from strength to strength every week since.

Janie says that she and Barbara take obsessive measures to indulge their passion of coming across washing lines on a daily basis. They each travel by train to get glimpses of washing lines in people’s back gardens. They each carry a camera so they can snap any interesting or picturesque washing line that comes into their view. They each have albums full of photos of washing of every kind blowing in the breeze. Barbara is also a collector of wood engravings, some of which she and Janie used to illustrate their book.

Washing Lines is truly a work of love and dedicated passion. It took Barbara and Janie three years to track down the copyright approvals for each of the fifty or so poems in the anthology. However, they have struck up friendships and a wealth of literary correspondence along the way. Washing Lines includes poems by Ruth Moose, Maura Dooley, Richard Wilbur, Gillian Clarke, Carl Little, Pablo Neruda and the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney among many others.

Washing Lines sees washing lines as links to childhood, memory, love and loss. Above all, for many of the poets, washing on the line symbolises that heart and home are in good health, that love is at work in the household in a deeply practical, immediately physical and very visual way. Not surprisingly, washing on the line stirs intense reflection and emotion in men as well as women. Washing lines, the anthology makes us very aware, are not the domain of women alone.

Intriguingly, washing lines are not without their politics. It is not unusual for some people to dry their underwear inside pillow cases or sheets, for example, either to preserve their own sense of privacy or in respect of their neighbours’ modesty. In some parts of the US drying washing outdoors is prohibited by law. Washing Lines has joined the cause to promote the “right to dry” citing, in an afterword by Alexander Lee, founder of the Project Laundry List, that washing lines could save up to 10% of a country’s energy consumption.

So washing lines, it turns our,  are emotionally satisfying, clean, green an powerfully poetic. Come along on Sunday 4 December for a book signing that will wring your heart and gladden your soul. We promise you will never look at washing line s as common-or-garden objects again. And, we hope the event will refresh, renew and reinvigorate your joy of poetry along with your everyday washing!


November 25, 2011 13,551

Fab new hats just in

Hurry, hurry, hurry! We have a wonderful new set of winter hats just in. This collection offers some extraordinarily attractive hats to see you through a cold, wet winter with inimitable style. But do hurry. Our hats sell out fast and there really is nothing quite like them. Once they are gone, they are gone and it’s a case of having to wait for the next hand made batch to come our way.