Thursday 16 April 2015

Bookshopping before football

I am a hypocrite. Were you to ask, I would tell you I dislike sport, find it boring to watch, painful to participate in and – when it comes to football – am horrified by the vanity of overpaid players and the ignorance of thuggish fans. However, when invited to watch pretty much any sport live I will jump at the chance.

Which is why, one sunny Saturday afternoon, I found myself leaving the tube at Upton Park and making my way to West Ham United's football stadium, surrounded by a sea of football fans who definitely weren't thuggish.

I was there because my friends (who also aren't ignorant thugs) found themselves with a spare ticket and invited me along to a game. I'm fascinated by live sport so I immediately said yes, then they mentioned there's a bookshop around the corner from the stadium and I couldn't get on the train quick enough.

Newham Bookshop is just a few minutes past the football stadium when walking from the tube, and even though I arrived more than an hour before the game the street was already filled with claret and blue. As was the bookshop, which enjoyed a steady stream of customers during my far-too-brief visit - I could've happily stayed all day.

The bookshop's made up of two units in one, split into children and adult, with the teenage fiction cleverly placed in the walkway between the two. Knowing I was pushed for time I'm sorry to say I spent very little of it in the children's area, which was crammed with books and colour and definitely merits a return visit for closer inspection. For now, I kept myself busy in the grown up world.

Two words are all that's needed to describe this bookshop: rummaging heaven. It must easily be the most filled bookshop I've ever visited. Shelves line the walls, with piles of books at the front of each individual shelf and also bookcase, meaning glancing at what's in front of you only reveals half the story.

This really is a bookshop to get stuck into: looking behind books and delving into the piles. Which also means it's a shop for conversation. I found myself volunteering to help a fellow browser as he struggled to extract a book from the bottom of a pile, jumping to his aid to support the volumes on top (our combined efforts saved the display), and so we were soon chatting about books, the upcoming football match and the world in general. It was a conversation I later repeated and extended with one or two other customers as we helped each other out.

My description is probably making it sound like this is a bookshop to spend a lot of time in, but equally it's so well-stocked you could dash in, grab a book and leave within minutes – as many bookshopping football fans did. I'd easily spotted several titles from my must-buy list upon entering the shop but took my time because I wanted to be sure I enjoyed the full experience of delving below the top few spines.

And my dedication paid off. Ever since reading Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse I've been searching for another of her works and here, under a pile of classics, I found The Unmade Bed. At the same moment my friend joined me in the shop, ready to collect me to go to the game (after she'd looked at the sport books first, naturally). The game was a 1-1 draw, but rummaging around in Newham Bookshop was (obviously) a big win for me.

Newham Bookshop
745-747 Barking Road, Upton Park, London, E13 9ER
Tel: 020 8552 9993

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