The Bookshop

Blackwell’s Book Gift Club

Anyone with bookish friends and family knows the joy of being handed a book you’ve never heard of, accompanied by a glowing recommendation, and discovering a real treasure. Sometimes the books you didn’t know you wanted are the books that grab you the most… Mark Forsyth’s essay The Unknown Unknown discusses ‘the delight of not getting what you wanted’ from a bookshop who can work magic in providing unknown, unmissable books.

The Blackwell’s Book Gift Club works on this very principle – we will choose a brand new book for you (or your favourite book-lover), and send it to you each month. It’s a little bit of literary magic in your letterbox!

Gift Club 1

We choose the most interesting and high quality books published during the year, so you’ll always receive a brand new hardback book, published within the last three months, and worth at least £16. Books will be sent out on the 1st of each month, and should be with you/your chosen recipient within five working days.

There are five categories to choose from:

1. Fiction

2. History

3. Politics, Philosophy and Culture

4. Science

5. ‘The Perfect Mixture’ – a selection of books from all categories

You can subscribe for 6 months or 12 months, and the prices are as follows:

12 months: £199 for the Fiction category, and £221 for the other four categories.

6 months: £99.50 for the Fiction category, and £110.50 for the other four categories.

If you would prefer to receive paperbacks, then for 12 months it’s just £120 for the Fiction category, and £150 for any other category, and for 6 months, it’s £60 for Fiction and £75 for the other categories.

Postage within the UK is free – if the subscription is a present for somebody else, we can send the payment details to you and the books to another address. Please email, with the subject ‘Book Gift Club’, for advice on international postage costs.

To leave you with some temptation, here’s a selection of some previous Gift Club choices…





Great news if you got the grades you required and you are off to Uni – exciting times ahead! If you didn’t get the grades you required don’t panic – there is sensible advice here. Good things can still happen.

We’ve been a University bookseller for over 135 years so we know a thing or two about the student experience. Our ‘student essentials’ page is a great place to start for all your bookish needs, from reading lists to study skills, wise words for young minds to great value textbooks.


Plato At The Googleplex

Publishing is, of course, a global industry. However there are still books that only appear on one side of the ocean. When we hear about books that sound interesting but are not going to be published in the UK we are happy to import them.

The only downside to this is that they are unlikely to receive any sort of review coverage which means that we have to give them a different treatment in the shop to help raise awareness.


An imported title that we are currently pushing hard is ‘Plato At The Googleplex’ by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein It has received a lot of coverage in the States (hence us hearing about it).

“This could be one of the best-ever demonstrations of the value and utility of philosophy. Richly insightful, beautifully written, it is at once introduction, exploration, and application, revealing the fascination and significance of philosophical ideas and their relevance to life.”

Read the Wall Street Journal review of the book here

Like all the best non-fiction this book will leave the general reader feeling a little bit more clever than before they picked the book up. It is excellent fodder for pub conversations and may, just may, change your perception of certain things. It seems right that the good people of this sceptred isle are allowed to benefit from it too.

The book has pride of place on display in our Philosophy Department, available for £19.99. Come and have a browse or call 01865 333669 to reserve your copy.


Students! A Very Warm Welcome to Oxford

OscarBlackwell’s has been selling books to Oxford students since 1879 – the year after Oscar Wilde graduated from Magdalen college with a Double First in Greats. It is safe to say that we know a fair amount about the book needs of students.

We know, of course, that finances are stretched and that the cost of buying the books you need can seem prohibitive. A large part of our summer months are spent working hard to make sure that the books thatbigonkey you have to buy are offered at the most affordable price we can manage. Please compare the prices in our shop with our competitors – both online and physical – you may be a little surprised and delighted 🙂 ‘Like’ our student Facebook page to keep abreast of our discounted textbooks.

Just a little taster of our textbook offers:


Visit our online shop page to see more

secondhandIn addition to the discounts we offer on new textbooks it is always worth checking our secondhand stock, located on the 2nd floor of the shop. Not only can you benefit from cheaper prices here but you may also benefit by selling your books back to us at the end of your course. You must hurry though, stocks are limited and sell out fast. You can call them on 01865 333633 to see if they have the book you require

Other ways that you can save is by taking advantage of our 342 promotions that run throughout the year – at the start of term both the Oxford Worlds Classics and Very Short Introduction series published by OUP are part of this offer. Our 342 promotion is entirely ‘mix and match’, buy any stickered stock and the cheapest is free – this means for example that you could pick up the Very Short Introduction to Game Theory, NW the new Zadie Smith paperback, and a Lever Arch File and get the cheapest item free.

rewards_panelOn top of all of this we also have a Reward Card which enables you to collect points every time that you spend – collect 100 points and you receive a £5 discount on your next purchase. Do sign up when you are in the shop…

And there is more! Come and visit our stand at the Fresher’s Fair and we will give you a card that not only entitles you to a one-off 20% discount (this discount doesn’t apply on nook ereaders & tablets, gift cards or stamps and is ‘best discount applies’) but will also enter you into a fantastic Prize Draw where you could win one of these lovely prizes: £500 Blackwell Gift Card, 5 x A Years Subscription to VSI Online, 5 x 12 return trips to London courtesy of the Oxford Bus Company, a £50 M&S voucher and other prizes besides…

I hope that you can see that the shop is genuinely competitive on price, but we are also aware that students are looking for value in addition to the cheapest prices. We believe that we can offer you an unparalleled experience in a range of different ways;

reading listsWe work throughout the year with the Colleges and academics to make sure that we have the right books in the right place at the right time. Reading Lists at Oxford can appear to be dauntingly long and some books are very difficult to source – our booksellers are on hand to offer expert advice on these and all sorts of other book queries

For the first two weeks of term we are setting up a ‘Student Lounge’ in the Norrington Room – you are encouraged to stay as long as you like, take advantage of our free wifi, compare and contrast books from your reading list to make the most informed decision, meet other students and listen to some world class academics talk about what inspires them about their subject. So far we have the following people confirmed:

margaretmacmillanMargaret MacMillan, Wednesday 9th October at 3pm

Warden of St Antony’s College, on History & Politics


armandArmand d’Angour, Thursday 10th October at 3pm

Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Jesus College, on Greek and Latin Classics


francesashcroftFrances Ashcroft, Friday 11th October at 3pm

Fellow of Trinity College and is a director of the Oxford Centre for Gene Function, on Women and Science


Tim Harford, Friday 11th October at 4.30pm

Economist and journalist,  author of four economics books and longtime columnist for the Financial Times, on Everyday Economics


NigelDaveEdmondsNigel Warburton and David Edmonds Tuesday 15th October at 3.30pm for Nigel, 4.30pm for Dave

of the insanely popular Philosophy Bites podcasts


ArchieBrownArchie Brown
, Wednesday 16th October at 3.30pm

Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of St Antony’s College, on ˜Why did Communism end in Europe and mutate in Asia?’

marcusdusautoyMarcus du Sautoy, Thursday 17th October at 2.30pm

Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and a Professor of Mathematics and Fellow of New College, on the Wonder of Mathematics

tariqramadanTariq Ramadan, Thursday 17th October at 3pm

Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, on why the study of Religion is so important


herringjJonathan Herring, Friday 18th October at 3pm

Tutor and Fellow in Law at Exeter College



These talks are absolutely free to attend – visit us at the Fresher’s Fair to collect a leaflet with the dates and times of the individual talks. Hearing world-class experts talk about their passion for their subject is always inspiring, whether you share their passion for the subject or not. You are very welcome to attend any, or all, of these talks and celebrate learning and life!

Our year-round events programme is something of a jewel in the crown of the shop – you can see ourFaustus in the Norrington Room current events listing here on our online Shop Page. We host a huge variety of events from local poets to star names – we have even had Creation Theatre put on full-blown performances in the shop over the past few years  and truly believe that there is something for everyone…

Muhammad Ali '3 time World Champion' 6.4.92

One day in June 1992 we even had Muhammad Ali in the shop – you just never know who you might bump into

We always look to put book promotions in front of customers to challenge and reward – for example this start of term we have ‘Wise Words for Young Minds’, ‘Books to Change Your Perception’, ‘Campus Novels’ and a fantastic selection of some of the best non-fiction in our ‘Ideas’ 342 promotion. You will not be short of required reading in your time at Oxford but our aim is to be much more than a ‘textbook supermarket’ – and a fantastic resource for Christmas shopping before you head home at the end of the year!

Books are our passion but we also stock a wide range of functional stationery and a gorgeous selection of gifts, many with a book theme such as

Music ShopIn addition to the main bookshop we have a specialist Music Shop that stocks printed music, CDs, music books and musical instruments – perhaps it is time to learn the Ukulele 🙂 Across the road from us is our Art & Poster shop – many, many people fall utterly in love with this wonderful shopArt and Poster. Look out for Jonny’s magnificent windows – they will put a smile on your face year-round. For the start of term ALL posters are in a 342 offer, perfect for brightening your room 🙂

On the first floor we have a very popular Caffe Nero, which has a magnificent view of the Sheldonian Theatre – many a tutorial takes place here!

Oxford is a very special place to study and we recognise that we have a role to play for undergraduates, postgraduates and academics. We have been doing it for a very long time and plan to be doing it for a long time more. We would love you to befriend the shop, we think you will like us…

As Richard Ovenden, interim Bodley’s Librarian, recently said “We are so lucky in Oxford to have Blackwell’s, both civic amenity & cultural institution!”

TwitterIconWe are a very social shop you can follow us on Twitter, like our main Facebook page, or our Student FBFacebook page, we are on Pinterest and, of course you can subscribe to this blog to ensure that you always know what is going on at Blackwell’s

Do come and play!

Bookselling before the Internet

It is so easy to forget that there was bookselling going on before the Internet Age. For you nostalgic delectation here is a small insight into how it was done – STOCK CARDS!


Stock Card

We had boxes and boxes of these in every department and would use them to look up whether we stocked a book and also to place orders.

It was a simpler time 🙂

You can see from this card that we sold 362 copies of this Penguin edition Propertius: The Poems (the reorder quantities continue on the back of the card), it went into a reprint in November 1989 and that we initially subscribed 80 copies!

Our world has changed…

Book of the Year for one of our booksellers

Ray has impeccable taste in contemporary fiction (he was the first of our booksellers to wax lyrical about New Finnish Grammar) and an unshakeable belief that the most worthwhile books are subversive. Here he shares with you the book that has rocked his world most this year:

This year there has been a veritable banquet of books that make reading more than worth it. If you don’t know what they are you haven’t been paying attention, but there is one particular book that has made it to these shores from the US I feel so evangelical about I want to run around screaming “YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE INCOMPLETE”, in Billy Graham style.

A monumental debut, shining with a searing razor-edged intelligence, ‘ A Naked Singularity ‘ by Sergio de la Pava fizzes like a roman candle.

naked singularity

Casi, the main character of this book, is a New York public defender of Columbian descent, who describes his day-to-day existence and the people he is involved with, including clients, colleagues, family and flatmates. With an astonishing immediacy, de la Palma throws you into the murky waters of the US legal system at street level. It’s almost a soap opera for the thinker… but there’s a twist.

This being a big book, in every sense of the word, the author takes you into the grit of life in a way that is enthralling, engaging and compelling. He sparks up philosophical, scientific, social, cultural and political discourse until halfway through an almost 700 page book when it changes gear and becomes something more. This impacts on the adrenaline, heightening the novel to a level that carries you through to the end like a surfer riding the perfect wave.

Quite simply, it’s one of those books you want everybody to read and to tell everybody else to read. Or maybe…. just keep it to yourself?

This is not just the best book of 2012, it is an important book, a book which tackles brilliantly not just the moral dilemmas and ideas thrown up, but how we read what we read. I cannot find superlatives big enough to celebrate this novel. I just wanted to punch the air in victory at this guy’s achievment when I finished it.

An endnote… This powerful opus had to be self-published for almost 4 years as no publisher would pick it up. I suspect they cowered at their inability to define the genre it belongs to. More fool them, but all power to the University of Chicago Press for their insight. It would have been an act of almost criminal injustice to let this novel sink into obscurity. It’s just way too good for that, trust me.


Something for the weekend – 30th November

So it is the end of term and Christmas shopping has started in earnest. Here are just a smidgen of some books (and the odd non book) that we are loving. We would love to see you over the weekend – and if you are popping in, do visit our Children’s Book Tree

This slideshow requires JavaScript.