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London A-Z tops most stolen book list


The Times has a list of Britain’s most stolen books. Apparently, the most stolen book is the London A-Z.

“I’ve been in bookselling for 20 years and the London A-Z is the most stolen book in the world,” says Patrick Neale, who worked at a Waterstone’s in London before setting up Jaffé & Neale bookshop in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. “A-Zs were like porn – you had to keep them under the till.”

Now there have been many times when I’ve been lost and I’ve wandered into petrol stations, picked up the A-Z, found out where the heck I was supposed to be going and then put it back on the shelf. However, it would appear people in need of directions are also in need of morals.

In cities it seems that drug addicts are often the culprits, looking for books to sell on quickly in exchange for money for their next fix. Some authors may even have encouraged addicts and others to lift their books. In Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, Renton explains to a sniffy judge that he stole books from Waterstone’s because of his growing interest in existentialism. “So you read Kierkegaard. Tell us about him, Mr Renton,” says the judge.

“I’m interested in his concepts of subjectivity and truth, and particularly his ideas concerning choice; the notion that genuine choice is made out of doubt and uncertainty, without recourse to the experience or advice of others,” answers Renton.

His friend Spud admits that he stole to fund his heroin habit. Renton receives a suspended sentence. Spud is jailed for ten months.

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Richard Davies

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