The library in winter

“In winter some people go to the Caribbean. I like January, February in London. Pottering about. And travelling in my mind. Planning where I shall be going when the days get lighter.”

~Duncan Fallowell (English novelist, travel writer and critic)


I’ve been wanting some escape from this long, cold, crazy winter. We’ve been living under an ominous sounding “polar vortex”, which means an arctic air mass is bringing us temperatures that feel like -30 C and colder. That’s cold enough for schools to cancel outdoor recess, cold enough for the weather service to issue frost bite warnings. It’s like living inside a freezer.

We call these the “dog days of winter.” And this is when many of us escape to warmer climates. British author Duncan Fallowell has another idea of escape: to his home library in London. And what a lovely library it is.

You can escape with him in this ten-minute film by Director Sergey Stefanovich (from January 29, 2011). The short film features a fascinating commentary by the author in which he discusses:

  • why he’d rather spend time in his London flat than take a holiday somewhere warm
  • the meaning of life, his love of books, and a lobster pot

Enjoy, hopefully with a cup of something hot:

Quotable quotes from “The Library”:

The library in winter: “The library comes into its own in winter. Summertime, I like to get out, away, gone.”

About being a bibliophile: “I can’t stop acquiring books, it’s a kind of necessity but I’m not guilty about it. Books to me are like oxygen. I’m a fish swimming in an aquarium of the intellect.”

The importance of paper books: “…one does need grounding in the physical world, this is why the electronic books mean nothing to me. Because a book is a physical object too, and writing to me is a physical act, it’s a sculptural act as well as an intellectural act. The two come together.”

About writers & buying chips at Tesco: “Do you think writers are odd? I don’t know, I don’t subscribe to this idea that you have got to be odd to be a writer. You certainly have to have something to say that hasn’t been said before…Perhaps you have to be more normal than other people. For me what is odd is people who get terribly excited about buying oven chips in Tesco. That to me that is pure eccentricity.”

On being an insomniac: “When I bought this flat, I promised myself no books in the bedroom. I am a terrible insomniac, and I thought having books in the bedroom, and all the pyschological power that they embody, would not be good for a quiet night’s sleep. However, the books demanded to be incorporated into my domestic world and invaded my bedroom and there they are. And since I’ve been an insomniac since about the age of two, I can’t really blame it on the books can I?”

Books and freedom: “Open a book and you are opening a door. But all these books just remind me of worlds beyond worlds. They are an expression of freedom. As we know the first thing dictators do is control books, control what people are allowed to read.”

Whiffs of other worlds: “I’ve got loads of books of foreign literature just to give me whiffs of other worlds. I love that…I’ve always wanted to wander, and I can wander very conventiently in my library. See what other poeple are up to in entirely different places of entirely different cultures. How are they dealing with the problem of breathing in and out until you drop dead?”

About religion: “I’m not an atheist and I’m not a believer…it always comes down to one question…one thing I know is that we did not create ourselves.”

See more of Mr. Fallowell’s videos


  1. I spent a good couple of hours wandering a favourite bookstore the other day in the midst of this latest attack of the polar vortices. I think I need to pay another visit (I finished Wednesday’s purchase on the subway this morning) so the weekend gets off to a proper start. Great post, Booksy! Stay warm!

  2. I watched this fantastic video looking out my window at a frozen New Jersey landscape, covered with snow, feeling sorry for the birds trying to find food in the 19 degree weather. Perfect way to spend a wintry afternoon. Thanks for sharing.

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