Wednesday, 17 June 2015

We're all going on a summer holiday...

How many of us are in desperate need of a holiday? Somewhere warm, interesting, relaxing and away from our daily lives. And how many of us can actually afford to go on that holiday?

This year, instead of sulking about not going anywhere 'other', I've decided to have a home holiday. I'm going to take a long weekend to myself, switch off my email, stock up on wine and good food* and ignore everyone except the cat. It sounds pretty dull, doesn't it? Well there's one other ingredient to make that home holiday special, and it comes thanks to a bookshop.


You see I recently visited my first outlet of Daunt Books, one of those well-known booksellers that's up there on the list of bookshops to visit before you die according to Buzzfeed or some other such list-generating website. Admittedly I didn't get to their flagship Marylebone shop – I'm saving that for another time – but if their Chelsea outlet is anything to go by it'll be worth the wait.

But what's any of this got to do with my holiday? Well, on top of being particularly classy, the bookshops are known for their travel and literary offerings, something that's perfectly emphasised here.

Entering from the middle of a long shop front, browsers can turn right for children's fiction, head forward for adult fiction (and possibly the best non-fiction set of bookshelves I've ever seen) or left for what can really only be described as the world. Bookcases are arranged by country, taking in travel guides, fiction and non-fiction and offering the best bookish introduction to the world you could wish for.

In this area fiction is shelved according to a range of criteria such as author's country of origin, setting, subject, etc, meaning some authors cropped up in multiple countries, while certain countries offered fascinating combinations. My particular favourite being Russia's great classics sharing a bookcase with Robert Harris' political thrillers. This also meant a wide selection of translated books were on offer, with more Saramago (Portugal) than I've seen in a long time. Other gems appeared in the form of one or two titles for the more unusual countries (if you're a British reader) such as Croatia or Borneo – both of which I'm tempted to return for – and a range of international titles from the bookshop's publishing arm.

So when I went up to the booksellers and asked for a holiday they didn't bat an eyelid. They instead asked what sort of thing I was after and came up with the goods. Several times.

Seeing my excitement at their varied offerings, combined with my reluctance to embark on a round the world trip, I was invited to take a chair and test the waters. An invitation I gladly accepted.

During my reading I was able to appreciate how good their suggestions were and further enjoy the atmosphere: the setting was beautiful and the staff were friendly and attentive. They were also remarkably patient as they politely explained to another shopper why her Waterstones card wouldn't be accepted (the chain's managing director happens to be this independent bookshop group's founder but the two are otherwise not related). The other thing of note was how busy it was given I was there at 7.30pm on a Saturday, hardly prime book-buying time although the bookshop is open until 9pm.

Having read a few opening chapters and dipped into pages at random it soon became clear that India would be my home holiday destination of choice, with Amitav Ghosh's A Sea of Poppies the method of my transportation... Now where's the suntan lotion?


Daunt Books
158-164 Fulham Road,
London, SW10 9PR
Tel: 020 7373 4997
@Dauntbooks

*take away menus

6 comments:

  1. I love your holiday destination and what a brilliant travel agent you had, so attentive and considerate and open all hours!! Have a wonderful week :)

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    1. Thank you! They were definitely a great travel agent.

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  2. Have a wonderful holiday! Please can we have an e postcard (when you get back of course!).

    We've just had a lovely holiday and were lucky enough to be able to go away to the North East for 2 weeks. One of the the best things was that, although we took the lap top, it was only turned on a couple of times (tide times for Lindisfarne were pretty crucial for our planning) and we were pretty much out of electronic contact. Didn't even turn the TV on for three days and I read 7 books. So enjoy your time out of the electronic rat race.

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    1. Your holiday sounds like my idea of heaven!

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  3. So pleased you have made it to Daunts Erica. They are without doubt my favourite book shops and I love the way they mix fiction and travel writing. The staff in Fulham road are always so helpful. You must get to Marleybone, you'll love it. A great review of a great book shop! Angie from http://changing-pages.com/

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    1. Thank you! I really did love the organisation by country, it made my think about the books in such a different way. And you're right - I must get to Marylebone soon.

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