Monday, 19 August 2013

On bookshops and my intentions

Books are my addiction.

If I see a bookshop I have to go inside, and walking inside means I inevitably leave with at least one book, generally two or three. From fiction to cookery, classics to sci fi, crime to chick lit, I love them all.

But it's not just about the subject, a book is a true sensory experience. Reading the story, savouring the words, hearing the pages turn, the scent of the paper and ink and feeling its weight in my hands. Each one is unique, with its creases and imperfections, markings in the margin or name inside the cover - recording the journey the book has taken with each individual reader, a memory that no e-reader can mimic.

And the bookshop it comes from is just as important a part of the reading process. Row upon row of books lining the shelves, with central tables drawing our attention to key themes or authors as we browse, looking for inspiration, or perhaps move with purpose on the quest for something specific.

Then there are the booksellers. Readers themselves, they can be a great source to tap when looking for your next big read - or struggling to find a gift for your Dad/friend/boss. These people help bring the personal touch that very few websites are able to claim.

But all is not well, the bookshop is in decline.

I'm not about to go into facts and figures about how many have closed and when, as I'd probably find it too depressing and that's not what this blog is about. Instead I'm going to - mostly - ignore the e-reader and internet shopping and focus on the positives.

Just a brief search of the internet reveals a wealth of bookshops to be enjoyed by the discerning reader, all with their own character and charm, all crying out to me to visit. And so we come to the purpose of my writing.

This blog is to be a celebration of the bookshop.

Every entry will be about a bookshop of some kind or another. Generally I plan to visit the bookshops (independent or part of a chain, so long as they're real I'll visit) to tell you what's special about them, or why I want to visit them, but given that time, money and geography will limit me somewhat I'm sure the odd (real) fictional bookshop will sneak in to ensure regular writing.

I hope you enjoy exploring the bookshops with me and maybe feel inspired to visit a few more yourself. Also, if anyone has a bookshop they want to recommend (preferably in the UK unless you want to pay for my travel) I'd love to hear about it with a view to hopefully visiting sometime.

Thanks for reading,
Erica.

23 comments:

  1. If you're ever in Northumberland then here's some recommendations. Barter Books of Alnwick, Forum Books of Corbridge and Cogito Books of Hexham. Look forward to the next chapter :)

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations, they are very welcome. A good friend has roots in Hexham so I'll have to try to invite myself up north for a visit.

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    2. I live in Corbridge...my heart is twinned with my local Indie bookshop :)

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    3. I don't have a local indie bookshop, which is why I'm stalking everyone else's. Although the two bookshops near me will be making an appearance on here at some point too.

      By the way, is the one in Alnwick the one that has a model railway in it? A friend has just recommended it and their description sounds wonderful.

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  2. I love this blog! Will be on the lookout. Does it have to sell only books?

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    1. Hi Sarah Jane, that's a good question.

      Essentially this will be about bookshops in all their guises and what makes each one unique, so I already have a couple of stores on my must-visit list that include interesting combinations of stock, and one that will probably be at least a little controversial to purists.

      I definitely think that what classes as a bookshop can - at times - be a bit fuzzy, so let me know your recommendation and I'll see how I feel about visiting it. I'd rather have too many suggestions than too few.

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    2. PS thanks for your kind words

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  3. Scarthin Books in Cromford, Derbyshire. 2nd hand and new, this is a veritable treasure trove of a place.

    http://www.scarthinbooks.com/

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    1. Thank you - it looks lovely, I have now added it to my list.

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  4. What a great idea! Looking forward to reading your entries.

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    1. Thank you, I'm hoping to visit my first bookshop this weekend.

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  5. Whoohoo Erica! Good for you, and thanks for taking up the bookstore cause.

    Of course I'm partial to the secondhand bookshop I run in the States (Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap) but that might strain your travel budget. May I recommend Common Grounds, a tiny coffee shop and used books store in Milnathort, Scotland? Also if you can get to St. Andrews there are no fewer than four gloriously different bookshops there. The one just off the market cross, in the dead end street across from the tourist office, specializes in antique books, and is stuffed in every nook and cranny with dust and ideas.

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    1. Hi Wendy,
      Your bookshop is definitely on my list of places to visit, but I need to save a few pennies if I'm to travel that far, so thanks for the recommendations closer to home. And thanks for the mention on your blog, it was a lovely compliment.

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  6. Erica, Fantastic Blog !
    You've inspired me to abandon the dreaded Amazon market place - absolutely no sport at all. I don't know about you but the real fun in visiting a good pre-loved bookshop is hunting down a much sought after treasure .... AND BLOODY WELL FINDING IT ( Rochester June 2013 - woo and indeed hoo ) as well as discovering new treats along the way. On my relentless hunt of obscure volumes of 18th and 19th century military costume reference works I've discovered, quite by accident, authors ranging from Peter Tinniswood to Plato via David Sedaris and Dennis Costanduros.
    No doubt about it I'm a second-hand bookshop addict, indeed my first port of call when in a new town is to plot a course to the nearest - via a good coffee shop and independent tobacconist on the way. Preferably a really dark, tatty and musty smelling one at that.
    With this in mind may I heartily recommend the Oxfam bookshop in Shrewsbury. In the six years I've frequented this wonderful place I've never left without at least three purchases per visit.
    Alas Charing Cross Road in the smoke isn't what it used to be, visited there last week for the first time in 20 years - not impressed.
    Does anyone know if Town and Gown in Tywyn (west Wales) is still open ?

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, I certainly hope I'll be visiting at least one or two bookshops just as you describe, and I'll certainly add Shrewsbury to my (nicely growing) visit list.

      A quick look at 192.com does list the Tywyn bookshop you ask about as being active, but I can't find it on Google Maps' streetview. However the internet has let me down on numerous occasions so I'll see if I can somehow pay the place a visit and let you know.

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  7. There are two great bookshops in Kew:

    New books: http://kewvillage.org/2012/08/kew-bookshop/

    Old books: http://www.qype.co.uk/place/57869-Lloyds-Of-Kew-Richmond#reviews

    Plus you could call in on any friends who may work nearby ;)

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    1. any friends... hmm... Dylan by any chance? I'll happily call in on you all (congratulations by the way) in between bookshopping - or you'd be welcome to come with me and show me round them both.

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  8. Busted.

    Happy to show you round. The second hand shop has an amazing tree trunk in the back of the shop. You kind of have to see it for that to make sense.

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  9. I'm an e-reader fan, but your blog has inspired me to walk into a bookshop next time I pass one. I have to admit that while I was travelling, it was lovely to pick up a book in a second-hand bookshop and read people's inscriptions on the cover. It was amazing to see where in the world it had been. I wonder where my copy of Ruth Rendell's Portobello is now :)

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    1. Ah thank you. Your comment has made my day as that's the aim of this blog.

      Did you leave your name in the book? I recently came into possession of a bookcrossing book that had travelled for about eight years, crossing Britain and ending up just one road away from where it started, so you never know, you may stumble across your book again.

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    2. It's great! I'd been meaning to read it for a couple of weeks and finally got round to it yesterday. Yep, I left my name and location in its cover. I picked it up in Bangkok and left it at a guest house on one of the Thai islands. It'd started out in Northern Ireland :)

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  10. Wenlock Books in Much Wenlock is simply brilliant, as is the owner, Anna. It isn't surprising that they've won the Independent Bookshop award before now. They have their own website, so you can see what's available before setting out on the journey. There's also a good secondhand shop in the village, so you can get two for the price of one.

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    1. Thank you. I'm always grateful for suggestions to help guide me in my visits - this one definitely sounds like a must-visit

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