The Giving Tree

“To quote the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein: Once there was a tree…../and she loved a little boy. Well, our giving tree is a tree that likes to give to boys and girls of Oxford who are less fortunate than most and our tree, just like the one in the book, (and with your wonderful help), gives and gives to make sure children all over Oxford wake up on Christmas morning with a smile on their face and present to open.  There’s nothing better than the gift of reading and what better way to share that gift with a child who really needs it.”

Ben Titchener, Children’s Department

Our wonderful Christmas Giving Tree 2014 has launched! Huge thanks to authors Jo Cotterill, Susie Day, Robin Stevens and Sally Nicholls for giving it such a fine launch – you can read Jo’s account here.


This is a scheme which invites customers at Blackwell’s to choose and donate books which will then be wrapped up by staff in our Children’s Department and delivered by The Children’s Society to disadvantaged children who may otherwise go without this Christmas. The Giving Tree is something we have got behind for three years now and the people of Oxford have been wonderfully generous in making Christmas better for the recipients of Giving Tree gifts.

We are only too aware that many children and young people may not have the opportunity to visit bookshops such as ours. More to the point they may not even have access to books at all. We want to help change that, and The Giving Tree has proven to be a brilliant way to do so.

Children represented by The Children’s Society choose a book they would like as a present. We then hang their wished-for title on a tag on our Tree ready to be picked off by our customers to buy for the child. There is also the option of buying a book not specified by a particular child but which you have fond memories of or feel would make the perfect gift, which will then be presented to an appropriately aged recipient. Comedian David Mitchell has already got involved by donating a copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which he loved as a child.

The Children’s Society has helped changed children’s stories for over a century. We expose injustice and address hard truths, tackling child poverty and neglect head-on. We fight for change based on the experiences of every child we work with and the solid evidence we gather. Through our campaigning, commitment and care, we are determined to give every child in this country the greatest possible chance in life.
3.7 million children live in poverty in the UK. With your help, we’re working to improve children’s lives.

So this Christmas, while shopping for gifts and treats, why not take a moment to buy a present for a child less fortunate than most? Even if you are not able to get to the shop, you can participate in the Giving Tree online!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest info.

Student Welfare Week – Beat those Fifth Week Blues

If you are reading this and are, or have been, a student at Oxford, then the term ‘Fifth Week Blues’ needs no introduction. For the rest of you: Fifth Week Blues describes the feeling of misery, stress and generally being overwhelmed that inexplicably seems to hit every student in the fifth week of term.

Colleges try to combat Fifth Week Blues with a lot of TLC for students, and since Blackwell’s loves students, we thought we’d show them some love as well! We’ve designed a Student Welfare Week full of relaxation, fun, and laughter to put a smile on student faces all week long.

Firstly, we’re going to be running a Student Lounge in the Norrington Room. Comfy chairs, a space to relax, loads of fun activities… You can sit and read a book or a newspaper, play a game with friends (Dreaming Spires, anyone?) and even get back to childhood with some giant dot-to-dots and colouring in!

We’ve also laid on some fab comedy and music events:

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On Monday 10th at 1.30pm, we have a special performance from the Oxford Gargoyles, Oxford University’s finest jazz a capella group, ahead of their sold out Christmas events on 27th and 29th Nov (visit their website for more details)! Full of charm and glamour, the Gargoyles are entertainment at its finest.


Then on Tuesday 11th at 12.30pm, join us for a smorgasbord of light-hearted improvised comedy with the marvellous Oxford Imps. Hugely successful on the Oxford comedy scene and beyond, the Imps are here to help you laugh away the blues…The Imps have a weekly show at the Wheatsheaf pub on the High Street, Mondays at 8 (and visit their website for more info)

Finally, on Wednesday 12th at 3pm, renowned comedy writer and actor John Finnemore, best known for his Radio 4 comedy shows “John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme” and “Cabin Pressure”, as well as his appearances on “Miranda”, joins us for an afternoon of shaggy-dog tales and brilliant humour. There’s nothing like a giggle to make you feel better! Check out his blog to see what he’s up to.

Perhaps most exciting of all, we’re pioneering bibliotherapy sessions. Put your feet up and have a five-minute consultation with one of our skilled booksellers, and let us prescribe you a book that suits you perfectly. Plus, you’ll get 10% off whatever we prescribe!

So if you’re feeling the Fifth Week Blues, pop into the shop and take a look at our Student Welfare fun! Don’t forget to join the Facebook event to keep updated.

Matchbook Books!

It seems that there is a new genre in town – the ‘matchbook’. Two examples have caught our eye, firstly a new collection of 30 short ‘entertainments’ by Michael Frayn and the second issue of Matchbook Stories from Cypriot indie publisher Books Ex Machina. Both are charming ‘amuse bouche’ that delight with their wit and style, both in content and design.

Perfect as presents – especially to yourself! Both are now available in the shop priced £12.99.

Harry Leslie Smith and Owen Jones in conversation with Melissa Benn

There is no doubt that one of the surprise personalities of the year has been Harry Leslie Smith, 91 year old survivor of the Great Depression and veteran of the Second World War. Whatever your politics, his memoir, Harry’s Last Stand, is an incredibly affecting book. On Tuesday October 28th you have the chance to see Harry in person.

Harry will share the stage at The Sheldonian Theatre with Owen Jones, political commentator and author of the bestselling ‘Chavs‘ and, now, ‘The Establishment‘. The discussion will be moderated by Melissa Benn.

Tickets cost £5 and can be obtained by visiting our Customer Service Department at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Broad Street, Oxford or by tel: 01865 333623 email:

An Exciting Announcement – James Ellroy on Monday 17th November!

We are thrilled to announce that we will be hosting an event with James Ellroy here at Blackwell’s Bookshop on Monday 17th November at 7pm.

James Ellroy’s crime-writing is hard as granite, uncompromising and mesmerising and a talk from him is a near-indescribable experience! He is the author of numerous novels including ‘LA Confidential’, ‘The Black Dahlia’ and ‘American Tabloid’.

His new epic and ambitious new novel, ‘Perfidia’ is set in Los Angeles as America stands on the brink of World War II. It’s been described in The Guardian as “an epic and bizarrely transcendental novel that represents an extraordinary achievement by any measure…a sustained farrago of social, moral and human chaos”.

Please do book tickets quickly because we anticipate that this will be a very popular event.

Tickets cost £5 and are available from our Customer Services Department in the Norrington Room. Telephone 01865 333623 or email

Stand on the Shoulders of Giants – FREE talks from leading academics

For the start of term we are, once again, excited and honoured to be able to present a series of talks from some world-class academics. Each talk is free to attend, seats are limited so please arrive early to ensure a place – talks begin at 3pm each day.

Monday 13th October, 3pm
Will Hutton Political Economist and Principal of Hertford College, Oxford
“What Does Studying Economics Teach Us?”

Tuesday 14th October, 3pm
Adam Roberts, Senior Research Fellow, Balliol College, Oxford
“Tackling Political Violence in Politics and International Relations”

Wednesday 15th October, 3pm
Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford and Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford
“What Does Studying History Tell Us?”

Thursday 16th October, 3pm
Danny Dorling, Halford MackinderProfessor of Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
“What Does Studying Inequality Teach Us?”

Friday 17th October, 3pm
Marianne Talbot, Director of Studies in Philosophy at the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education
“What Does Studying Philosophy Teach Us?”  

Keep up to date with all our author events on our shop page

A Crash Course in Being an Oxford Fresher

Freshers’ Week is nearly upon us, and floods of students will soon be making their ways up to Oxford for the new academic year. This year I won’t be one of them, but with four years of Oxford studenting under my belt, I’ve got some pretty good tips for how to make the most of Freshers’ Week, and your time here in general.

And you know what? These five handy hints make pretty good sense for most other people too.

5) Get enough sleep

Both before you get to Oxford, and once you’re here, make sure you’re getting at least some sleep each night. As someone with a deep love of a warm duvet, I can’t overstate how important those few hours are to keep you smiling through Freshers’ Week. More importantly, good sleep is your first defence against the dreaded Freshers’ Flu. Trust me.

4) Don’t get too much sleep.

Come on, I’m not saying be tucked up in bed before 9 like a granny! So much great stuff happens in Freshers’ Week after dark – some organised stuff, like bops, and fancy dinners, and so on, and also those wonderful nights where parties in someone’s room trail off into painting each others’ faces while discussing the historical accuracy of Disney films. Oxford is at its most whimsical after dark – just see where the night takes you.

3) Say hi – to everyone.

When I was at school, my mum always told me it was important to have three people on side – the school nurse, the secretary, and the dinner lady. These three people look after you more than anyone else. As a fresher, I’d argue that there are four important people to win over – the college nurse, the hall staff, the librarian, and the porters. But there’re more – the chaplain, your tutors, the maintenance staff… What I’m saying is, say hi to everyone. Be nice to everyone. It’s not just your fellow freshers you need to charm – colleges are a big old support network, so make friends with everyone you can! It might make things a lot easier for you.

2) Say yes – to everything.

Freshers’ Week can be overwhelming, especially once you hit the Freshers’ Fair and experience about 40,000 societies vying for your attention. Say yes to everything (within reason). So you didn’t plan on joining the kickboxing society, learning to dance the tango, performing pantomimes or enjoying Greek cooking? So what? Try everything once, and you’ll be surprised what you end up loving. You can decide later what you want to keep in your life.

1) Don’t stress.

Okay, this one’s cheesy, I know. But Freshers’ Week is supposed to be fun. As long as you’re going to the compulsory stuff, and learning your way around Oxford and its weirdnesses, you’re doing okay. As long as you’re enjoying yourself, you’re doing okay. It’s one of the best and most exciting bits of Oxford life – I wish I could do it all over again. So go have fun, and don’t stress.

And of course, a bonus tip – make sure you have a look at our amazing upcoming events. Blackwell’s is a treasure of Oxford, and where else will you get the opportunity to meet your favourite author, listen to bands, learn new things and grab some guilty pleasure novels to go along with your tutor’s recommended reading list?