Fiction Spotlight: Young Adult Fiction

-By Dan Kiernan, Bookseller


Towards the back of the barn we have a wall dedicated to Young Adult books. This location, which at first may seem oddly out of the way, has been chosen precisely because it is as far as you can be from the children’s area while still being in the shop. We used to have the two next to each other, but as there can be some confusion as to what distinguishes a kid’s book from a young adult one, we decided to keep them apart in order to give teens their own corner of the barn. Despite this, sorting books into this area can still be an issue. As with most definitions in the book trade, ‘Young Adult’ is not quite as clear-cut as you would expect.

downloadOn the surface, Young Adult is not a difficult tag to grasp: it is a marketing term used to define books aimed at 13-18 year olds featuring protagonists of the same age. The problem arises from the fact that this can be applied to many books of varying genre, tone and style (hence my reluctance to call Young Adult a genre). The age range also blurs the distinction. For example, in the first Harry Potter book our eponymous hero and his friends are 11, which would make it a kid’s book. Come Prisoner of Azkaban, however, the characters have turned 13, making this and the following books works of Young Adult fiction. Given this, where do we put the entire series? Keep Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets in kids with the rest in Young Adult, or choose one and put them all in there? Either parents might worry that their children are being exposed to something too dark for their age, or teenagers may feel they are being offered ‘kiddy’ books and not something that speaks directly to them.

The_Guardian_of_Education_vol_IThe concept of teenagers, as a group distinct from children or adults with their own needs and desires, is relatively recent phenomena, having only come about in the 1950’s: Young Adult fiction, on the other hand, has been around much longer. As early as 1802 Sarah Trimmer separates ‘Books for Children’ from ‘Books for Young Persons’ in her periodical The Guardian of Education, but publishers only cottoned on to Young Adults as a seperate market in the 1960’s. Since then we have been treated to a wide range of classics and curios of Young Adult fiction. To give you an idea of what you can expect to find on our back wall, here is a selection five individual books and series ranging from gritty realism to magical fantasy, with a few others in between.


The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton


This book is doubly Young Adult: not only are the characters teenagers but so is the author, having finished the book when she was just 16. Focusing on ‘Ponyboy’ Curtis, a member of the Greasers who finds himself in conflict with rival gang the Socs, this is a tale filled with violence, drinking, social dysfunction and ultimately redemption. The realness of the story was in stark contrast to the Young Adult novels of the time, which the author described as ‘Mary Jane went to the prom’, and conveys all the raw emotion of adolescence in candidprose. Stay gold.


The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold41kPmUFCoUL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_

Susie Salmon, a 14 year old girl in 1973 Pennsylvania is raped, murdered dismembered by her neighbour. A depresing start to a book for the young, but after this horrible circumstance her spirit passes to the other-side from where she observes her family and friends struggling with her disappearance. Eventually she tries to find a way to bring them closure and justice. This is a beautiful novel which tackles heavy themes in a gripping manner, and is decidedly agnostic on the nature of the afterlife, giving it a broad appeal.


A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett


Following the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans after their parents burn with the family home, these books offer precisely what they say on the cover as the children are chased by an evil relative trying to steal their fortune. The morbidity and gothic overtones are played mostly for absurdist laughs, though the story is not without its heartbreaking moments of anguish either. While the books become a little formulaic towards the end of the series (there are, unluckily enough, 13 in total), they are packed with wit and references that can fly right over the heads of younger readers, making them ideal to revisit as an adult.


The Girls Series by Jacqueline Wilson51KK98W71BL._SX289_BO1,204,203,200_

I struggled to pick a Jacqueline Wilson book for this list – her work reflects the harsh realities faced by so many young people and their families with such good humour and marvellous plotting that to pick just one of her books or series seems criminal. While Tracey Beaker is currently on everyone’s lips as a new installment has (at time of writing) just been published, I feel Girls deserves the spotlight. The books tell the story of Ellie and her friends as they navigate school, boys, and all the other dramas faced by teenage girls. Though aimed at girls, young men could easily learn a thing or two about how the other half think from these books, and are great reads regardless of your sex or gender.


Shattered Sea Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie


Well known in fantasy circles for his dark and un-PG First Law books, this series offers everything adults love about his work while being suitable for younger readers. Set in a fantasy world not so dissimilar from our own world, each book is told from the perspective of a different set of characters fighting to keep their kingdom independant. I’d like to say more, but the less you know going in to this series the more you will be rewarded as certain facts about the secondary world become more apparent. Full of ancient magic, action, romance and written in witty and melodic prose, this is a fantastic trilogy well worth anyone’s time, regardless of their age.


Come and visit our Young Adult section! We are open Monday – Saturday 9am-5pm and Sundays and Bank Holidays 11am-5pm. 


Visit Our Fully Refurbished Café!

Due to increasing success and popularity in our café, we have decided to refurbish, redesign and spruce it up!

We have been closed for one week, in order to complete this exciting project.

We have installed a brand new, more spacious kitchen in order to create more space for our staff members and provide an even better service for our customers, and new seating and study areas.

Here’s a sneak peek…

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In the meantime, our dedicated café staff continued to serve any visiting customers from a pop-up coffee shop amongst the chaos!

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We are reopening on Saturday the 14th of April (tomorrow!) and we are looking forward to welcoming back our lovely customers.

… and if you’ve never visited us before, now is certainly the perfect time for your first experience of the Full Stop Café!

Diversifying My Reading

-Emma Bilsborough, Retail Team Leader

I recently watched a Ted talk about a woman who spent a year reading a book from every country in the world. I thought it was brilliant, and it drew my attention to how limited my own bookshelves are. I decided to take up the challenge to diversify my reading list.

Now, generally my reading lists consist of various children’s books and fiction. This is on its own very limiting, but being around books all the time means I’m always a little overwhelmed with the options I have when I want to try something new. But this was more than just subject matter, this was about reading different cultures, reading translations, reading something that takes me away from my little world and opens my eyes to the worlds of others.

So, I turned to my fellow booksellers. I asked for recommendations for books from different cultures and countries that would broaden my horizons a little. Here’s what I got.

The Palace of Dreams, Ismail Kadare (Albanian, ‘Pallati i ëndrrave’)

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“At the heart of the Sultan’s vast empire stands the mysterious Palace of Dreams. Inside, the dreams of every citizen are collected, sorted and interpreted in order to identify the ‘master-dreams’ that will provide the clues to the Empire’s destiny and that of its Monarch. An entire nation’s consciousness is thus meticulously laid bare and at the mercy of its government…”

In the Country We Love, Diane Guerrero (Spanish, ‘En el pais que amamos’)

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Though Diane Guerrero was born and raised in America, this story tells us of how her parents were detained and deported when she was just 14, sitting in a class at school. It tells us about her struggles with raising herself, getting an education, while her parents were living in a country thousands of miles away from her.

Something to Tell You, Hanif Kureishi (Pakistani)

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“Jamal Khan, a psychoanalyst in his fifties living in London, is haunted by memories of his teens: his first love, Ajita; the exhilaration of sex, drugs and politics; and a brutal act of violence which changed his life for ever. As he and his best friend Henry attempt to make the sometimes painful, sometimes comic transition to their divorced middle age, balancing the conflicts of desire and dignity, Jamal’s teenage traumas make a shocking return into his present life.”

Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian)

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“The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer. When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili’s father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.”

Because I love children’s books, I had to find out what else I could be reading there too;

Refugee Boy, Benjamin Zephaniah (British)

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“Haunting, tragic and distressing in what it reveals about man’s inhumanity to man, Refugee Boy is also an affirming story of one boy’s amazing courage and several other individual’s goodness and integrity. Caught up in the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Alem’s life is in danger at home. To make sure he survives, Alem’s father brings him to Britain and abandons him to seek asylum and find a new and better life. The story of how Alem retains his dignity and independence in the most challenging of circumstances while also adapting to the demands of a new life is strongly told.”

Malala’s Magic Pencil, Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani)

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“As a child in Pakistan, Malala made a wish for a magic pencil. She would use it to make everyone happy, to erase the smell of garbage from her city, to sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as she grew older, Malala saw that there were more important things to wish for. She saw a world that needed fixing. And even if she never found a magic pencil, Malala realized that she could still work hard every day to make her wishes come true.”

Little People, Big Dreams Series, Various Authors

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This series is brilliant. Written for young children, it tells the stories of various men and women from all over the world who were influencial and inspirational. With the stories of people like Maya Angelou, Frida Kahlo, Simone de Beauvoir and Rosa Parks, it’s the perfect series to read to your little ones (or if you’re like me, read for yourself).

I can’t wait to get started on these recommendations – I hope some of you will check them out too!

NOT TO BE MISSED Upcoming Events at the Bookbarn!

We’ve got two very exciting events coming up at Bookbarn!

Firstly, on Monday the 7th of May (bank holiday), we are hosting a very special one-off book kilo sale. 

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We’ve got such a large amount of books filling our warehouse, that we’ve decided to be generous with some of them!

At only £2 per kilo, there’s ample opportunity to find some real treasures.

Secondly, On Saturday the 12th of May, we’re having a May Fayre!

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For the last two years, Bookbarn International has hosted a Winter Fayre. A cosy evening filled with craft stalls, tasty food and a great opportunity for Christmas shopping, the fayre has been very successful. This will be our first May Fayre.

The lead up to summer is always filled with lots of fun events in the west country, and we decided we wanted to join in. The event will run from 11am – 5pm on Saturday the 12th of May.

If you have any questions about either of the events or wish to have a stall at the fayre, please contact us on 01761 451777, or email us at

Belated World Book Day Celebrations

This Tuesday we finally hosted our World Book Day 2018 celebrations with a local primary school. A team of two teachers and 18 children from Farrington school crossed the fields in wellies to come and spend the morning with us. The teachers settled in to enjoy a cup of coffee in our café, and the children headed off to get lost in our shelves.

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We planned a scavenger hunt for the children, which rewarded them with a free book if they could find everything on the list. All the students succeeded, and left with free books all round. Our staff members wanted to have a go – the words ‘free books’ are like kryptonite to booksellers – but as they put the books out on the shelves, it seemed a little bit like cheating.

We’ve recently reorganised our shop, which included making a better area for Young Adult readers. Farrington School were the first to test it out and judging by the smiles on their faces and the arms full of books – we think they approved!

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It’s important for us to encourage reading in children and young adults, and hearing the Farrington students shouting “we love Bookbarn!” as they left us was brilliant.


We love hosting events like this; so if you think your school would enjoy a visit to the Bookbarn, contact us on 01761 451777, or email

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Bookbarn

by PR & Marketing Manager Janey Thornton
Whether you drive past us every day, visit at the weekend or only manage to see us once every few months, Bookbarn has now been around for quite a while! For the curious among you, we’ve compiled a list of 10 things you may not know about us. Let us know if you already knew them, or if they come as a surprise!

1. In November 2017, a member of staff found a book signed by Winston Churchill in an old banana crate. It sold at auction a month later for £2,000.

2. Bookbarn holds a Winter Fayre every year in November. Last year we welcomed over 300 visitors, as well as 28 local craftspeople who came to sell their wares.
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  3. During the war, the building used to be a cold store for foods like sugar.
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4. We employ 45 local people! A lot of our staff have interesting backgrounds – we have ex-museum curators, musicians, playwrights and more. 
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5. In 2014, Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams modelled at Bookbarn as part of our Out of Print fashion show.
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6. Bookbarn CEO Fenna Leake met her partner of nearly 7 years when she first started working at Bookbarn International. He now works as Food technician in Bristol.

7. The Full Stop Cafe is fully vegetarian

 Not everyone realizes that our on-site cafe is vegetarian. Cafe manager Beki has been vegetarian her whole life – whilst Chairman William and his wife Joy are also both vegetarian. Thank goodness books are herbivores, too, or we’d be in a real pickle. You can read more about the Full Stop Cafe and the fabulous food they have on offer here.
8. Our Darwin Rare Books Room used to be our Orders Packing Room
Back in 2015, orders placed online through sites like Amazon, eBay and ABE were packed and sent off to customers around the world in what is now the lovely Darwin Rare Books room.
9. We’ve provided books for many TV and film production companies – like the BBC and Pinewood Studios. Our most recent project has been providing books to go on the set of Series Five of Luther. 
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10.  We’ve also been the site of many photo shoots – including one for the wonderful Bookshop Band, who have performed for us on a few different occasions.


To find out more about us, just click here.

Mothers in Literature

As we approach mother’s day, and start remembering how important our mothers are and how much we should shower them with praise, we thought it’d be a nice idea to think about some notable mothers in literature.

Molly Weasley, the Harry Potter series (J K Rowling)

 “[Harry’s]’s not your son,” said Sirius quietly. 

He’s as good as,” said Mrs. Weasley fiercely. 

molly weasley

Naturally, we had to begin with the mother of all mothers – Molly Weasley. Mother of seven biological children and one honorary child, Mrs Weasley’s mothering knows no bounds. She is affectionate and wise and also, she killed Bellatrix Lestrange as quickly as we could say Expelliarmus. She also managed to carry on being a wonderful mother during a war, the estrangement of one son, and the loss of another. We are definitely members of the Molly Weasley fan club.

Mrs Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.”

mrs bennet

Mrs Bennet does a wonderful job of making us laugh, despite actually being rather materialistic and shallow. She wants what she believes is best for her daughters, which is to be married off to respectable and rich young men. Her relationship with our heroine, Elizabeth, is tumultuous, but settles when Elizabeth gets her happily ever after with Mr Darcy. Despite Mrs Bennet’s stranger personality traits, she is a loving and caring mother.

Madame Thénardier, Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)

“Ah! by the way, you don’t forget that I’m going to turn Cosette out of doors to-day? The monster! She breaks my heart with that doll of hers! I’d rather marry Louis XVIII. than keep her another day in the house!”

Les Miserables - Vintage Postcard

We said notable mothers, not good ones, right? Madame Thénardier is the mother of five children, including lovely Eponine and Gavroche. However, she only really loves her daughters. Her two youngest sons are a different matter, and she shows them no affection, even selling them at one point. Come on, Madame Thénardier, how could you not love Gavroche?! She also takes on the care of Cosette, Fantine’s daughter, who she is just as terrible to. She is a conwoman, a terrible mother, and a pretty terrible person.

Ma, Room (Emma Donoghue)

“I’m your mother…that means sometimes I have to choose for the both of us.”

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Firstly, if you haven’t read Room, please go ahead and do so immediately. It is a wonderful story built entirely on a Mother’s love for her son. Ma, who we see through her son Jack’s eyes, is a complex and wonderful character. Locked in a tiny room for years, we as readers are able to see Ma’s pain through the story that Jack tells us. However, despite her intense struggles, she is still a caring and kind mother, constantly sacrificing her own health and safety for that of her child. Even in their bizarre circumstances, she still provides Jack with routine, does her best to treat him as a normal child.

Daenerys Targaryen, A Song of Ice and Fire (George R R Martin)

“I am the blood of the dragon. I must be strong. I must have fire in my eyes when I face them, not tears.” 


We couldn’t leave the Mother of Dragons off of this list now, could we? Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, and so on and so on, gives up the option to have a child in order to protect her husband, and is rewarded with three baby dragons. She raises these dragons as her own, fiercely protects them, and loves them as only a mother could. Her dragons, in return, protect her, fight for her and respect her.


We’re sure that raising children is just like raising Dragons, sometimes, so be sure to tell your mum, or whoever your mother figure is, how much you appreciate them this mother’s day. You could even treat them to a cream tea here at the Bookbarn, if you’re feeling generous.

What Bookbarn Staff Are Reading This Weekend

In this week’s blog post, we offer you a brief foray into the reading habits of Bookbarn’s booksellers – a rare breed of bookseller known for being nocturnal and drinking inordinate amounts of tea.

Pippa Slaytor – Bookseller

Currently reading: The Bees by Laline Paull (2014) and The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (2017)

The Bees

I was inspired to read this book as it was being hailed the 21st Century dystopian/feminist novel- who can resist such a description? It won the Baileys women’s prize for fiction in 2015 and I have only read brilliant books from their winners and shortlists (The Power by Naomi Alderman won in 2017 and that book is life-changing!)

At the moment I am almost at the end and struggle to put it down to go to sleep or work. Truly it is creating the same sense as when I read Animal Farm by George Orwell but with a beautiful feminine and modern twist.

The Keeper of Lost Things 

A slightly less intense novel than The Bees, The Keeper of Lost Things thus far is an incredibly charming story and one very relatable to those who collect memories and things. This book was recommended to me by a friend  who said whilst commuting it transported her to another place: I put trust in such a  recommendation.  I plan to get stuck in this weekend on a lazy morning with a cup of tea.


Diane Newland – Bookseller

Spontaneous Evolution by Bruce Lipton & Steve Bhaerman (2008)

Having been immersed in the Arts for most of my life, it still comes as a surprise to find myself drawn to anything resembling Science, even if it has occurred through a deep love of nature, as well as a long and ongoing spiritual inquiry.

Spontaneous Evolution, Our Positive Future by Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaerman, is just one of the books I have recently bought which describes the beautiful similarities and connections between the scientific and the spiritual, with the scientific evidence which illustrates this. I have only just started reading it, but the ideas excite me, they combine many ongoing personal threads of fascination with our bodies, our consciousness and our Universe, and I at last get an inkling of the beauty and creativity in science.
This book challenges us to evolve, on a personal as well as global level, and this means involving our hearts as much as our minds. The question is, will we do so?


Janey Thornton – Retail, Customer Relations & PR Manager

The Penguin History of the USA – Hugh Brogan (2001)

I’m obsessed with the US, and this weekend I’ll be carrying on with The Penguin History of the USA by Hugh Brogan. It’s a hefty text, and I can only read about 20 pages at a time, but I’m gradually wading my way through it! I can highly recommend this book – even if you’re not normally interested in history. It contains a lot of insights into the people who made the United States, and how 17th century mindsets affect its character as a country to this day.

The most interesting aspect of the book so far (but also the most difficult to read) has been the section describing conflicts between the English, French and Spanish colonialists and the Native American Indians. I’m hoping to have this book finished in the next few weeks – I typically read fiction, and I’m doing my best to absorb all the information Hugh Brogan has crammed in to this beast!


Lauren Thompson – Customer Care Team Supervisor

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (2012-2015)

I’m currently reading a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, called ‘Nimona’. It originated as a web comic, published bi-weekly on the authors website over the span of two years and has now been compiled into a really lovely looking book. The setting for the story is a wacky combination of traditional medieval fantasy with high-tech SciFi aspects. The title character, Nimona, is a shape-shifter who turns up at Balister Blackheart’s evil lair, demanding to be his apprentice. Blackheart, the-moustache-twiddling-baddie, is the nemesis of Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, chivalrous knight, and the sworn enemy of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. The villainous duo discover that the Institution is all not they appear to be and make it their mission to take them down.

Stevenson has created truly intriguing characters and plays with many of the archetypes usually found in comics. The banter among them will make you laugh aloud, however for a comedy, the relationships between the characters are also surprisingly complex and compelling
In summary the story is about a not-so-evil villain, fighting against a not-so-good hero with the help of his boisterous shape-shifting sidekick. The story is fun, the artwork quirky and the world captivating. Full of comedy and adventure, it makes a great read!

Five Of The Best Book Covers Of All Time

by PR & Marketing Manager Janey Thornton

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but it’s safe to say we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Book cover design is an art often overlooked by the general public, but important in its own right. It requires clear understanding of a text and the ability to accurately represent that understanding, transferring it to imagery.  For this week’s post, I’ve explored some of the most iconic book covers ever designed – and the people who created them.

The Bell Jar (Faber & Faber 1966) – designed by Shirley Tucker



Arguably one of the most distinctive book jackets ever made, the cover for Sylvia Plath’s dark novel The Bell Jar is a bold and simplistic representation of Plath’s main theme – the depression engulfing her novel’s protagonist Esther Greenwood.

The cover’s designer Shirley Tucker worked as a book jacket designer at the publishing company Faber from 1959 to her retirement in 1987. Before then, she had studied graphic art at the Royal College. You can hear her recollecting her time spent working on The Bell Jar in the video below.


IQ84 by Haruki Murakami (Knopf Doubleday 2010) – designed by Chipp Kidd


Simplicity strikes again in this cover by the wonderful New York city-based designer Chipp Kidd. Kidd is one of the most prolific book cover designers in American history, having first joined the Knopf design team in 1986. He averages 75 book covers a year and has previously designed covers for Bret Easton Ellis, Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, David Sedaris and Donna Tartt.

He discusses his work on IQ84 in the video below.

Jaws by Peter Benchley (Bantam Books 1974) – designed by Roger Kastel


Arguably one of the most famous images in popular culture to come out of the 20th century, Roger Kastel’s design for the novel Jaws was so eye-catching it was adopted for the film adaptation.

Kastel designed his first book covers for Simon Schuster in the 1960s, fresh off the back of serving in the Korean War. This itself is plain in the dark, moody nature of his covers made during that time.

His career took off big time, however, in the 1970s after Jaws was published and he attracted the attention of every major publishing house in New York.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (Penguin 1972) – designed by David Pelham


David Pelham worked as Penguin’s Fiction Art Director from 1968 to 1979. He had not been expecting to design the cover for Anthony Burgess’ bizarre and shocking ninth novel, but found himself lumped with the project after the designer he had given the job to ‘submitted a very poor job very late.’

Forced to come up with a cover design literally overnight, Pelham chose to depict the novel’s protagonist Alex on the front cover with a cog for an eye – an allusion to the book’s title, and also a play on the fact Alex wears black mascara.

Agatha Christie Paperback Editions (Fontana 1962-1982 ) – by Tom Adams 


Commissioned in 1962 to produce a cover for the paperback edition of Agatha Christie’s Murder is Announced, Tom Adams went on to design Christie covers for twenty years.

Unlike Christie’s more conservative publishers in the US, PocketBooks, her UK publisher Fontana encouraged Adams’ creativity when it came to his covers – resulting in some of the most wacky and weird book covers designed in that period.

The creative freedom given to him by Fontana resulted in one of the most impressive and iconic series of covers ever created by a single designer – iconic in their haunting and dramatic eeriness, and totally capturing the spirit of Christie’s writing.

2018-02-21 09_58_31-Edit Post ‹ Our News, Events, Offers & More! —

For more information about Bookbarn International, you can click here to visit our website.

We also offer a bulk buying service, called Books By The Yard, which you can visit here.

WIN a delicious hamper packed with tasty treats!

Here at Bookbarn, we love a good quiz.

Our next trivia quiz, ‘Let’s Get Quizzical’ will be held on Thursday 22nd February at 7pm – and this time, the competition gets serious!

That’s because the prize for the winning team is an entire hamper jam-packed with delicious and decadent treats fit for a king or queen.

It’s also our Retail Manager Janey’s last time co-hosting the quiz, as she is set to emigrate to New Zealand in March. We hope to see you there answering her questions one last time!

Entry to the quiz is just £2 per person. To book, you can call us on 01761 451 777 or email

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To learn more about us, you can visit our website here.