Thursday 9 January 2014

An amateur adventurer

I've been visiting bookshops for a few months now, but the new year feels like a new start for my bookshopping adventure as a year of journeys to far flung bookshops stretches ahead of me. Already I'm planning visits north and west and mid, wondering how excessive it would be to go on holiday to meet a bookshop and just generally getting excited about all the bookshops in my future.

This idea probably played a significant part in how my next visit worked out, with what was meant to be a brief stop off at one bookshop on the way to my sister's instead taking me on a journey of more than 200 miles, two countries and three bookshops, in one day.

But I'm jumping ahead, because as I left the M4 to explore new (to me) country lanes my only thought was of Rossiter Books in Ross-on-Wye - would it be worth the drive? And would I even be able to find it with my poor navigational skills?

Thankfully, the answer to both of those questions was yes. Whether it's because Rossiter Books is in an easy to discover location or I have a bookshop homing device in my brain I couldn't say, but I drove into the town and my destination appeared in front of me, as did an empty parking space a matter of seconds later. This visit was meant to be.

On entering Rossiter Books my first thought was of surprise. I'd seen the three large windows on my way in, but as they're quite dark from the outside I'd not realised just how full of light the space would be. It was a beautiful and warming experience on a cold winter's day and one I'd very much like to replicate in my own home some day.

The bookshop was empty when I arrived, giving time for the bookseller and I to chat about what I might like to read next. One of his recommendations, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, immediately captured my attention but before buying I wanted to take time to enjoy my surroundings and explore a little. As more customers appeared a friendly buzz filled the shop and before I knew it I was engrossed in Chris Hadfield's An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. With signed copies available at cover price how could I not revise my choice of purchase?

Pausing to admire the selection of book-related goodies I also found myself unable to resist a Penguin tote bag of The Amateur Adventurer by Gandar Dower - given my endeavour it seemed appropriate.

As I got back on the road with my book and bag - and Rossiter loyalty card - by my side I really did feel like I was on an adventure, or some kind of pilgrimage, and before I knew it I found myself wishing I'd bought the two books instead of one.

This thought grew as I crossed the border into Wales and suddenly I realised I was on the road to Monmouth, home of Rossiter Books' sister bookshop of the same name. It would've been rude not to pop in and say hi, and pick up the book I'd left behind...

A smaller version of its big sister, this bookshop's large windows were hard to miss and seemed to glow golden on the gloomy winter day. Thankfully it also stocked the book that almost got away and so I was able to happily explore, being particularly pleased to discover another adventurer, Paddington Bear, taking a break from his travels to rest next to a couple of Arthur Ransome's titles in the well-stocked children's section.

Another pleasant discovery in Monmouth had taken place before I even entered Rossiter Books, as I unexpectedly discovered its next door neighbour was also a bookshop. And so I ended my trio of visits by exploring Stephen's Bookshop.

An unusual place, this initially appeared to be a good quality secondhand bookshop but also stocked a variety of new fiction, an 'airplane shelf' of battered pound books to leave behind once read, DVDs and computer games and a tempting selection of sweets. It was also a bit of a rabbit warren with the small shop front giving no hint at the length of bookshop corridor waiting to be explored.

Here I picked up a book by an author I've wondered about reading ever since Lata in A Suitable Boy praised their work: P G Wodehouse. I look forward to my first encounter with his writing in The Adventures of Sally - and yes, the adventurous title did help in my selection.

Three books happier, my mini bookshop adventure drew to a close as I finally got back on the road for my original destination, safe in the knowledge that while the day's bookshopping was over, stretching out before me is my own amateur adventure.

Rossiter Books
The Corn Exchange, 7 The High Street, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 5HL
Tel: 01989 564464
5 Church Street, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP25 3BX
Tel: 01600 775572

Stephen's Bookshop
3 Church Street, Monmouth, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP25 3BX
Tel: 01600 713701


  1. Soooo glad you went back for Harold - it's a wonderful story! And when you have read it you can listen to the 2 songs by the Bookshop Band based on the book - How Not to Woo a Woman has become an audience favourite! Here are the Vimeo links in case you are interested:

    1. Oh thank you! I'm very interested in the links - but should I wait until I've read the book before I click on them? I don't want to listen to any spoilers?

    2. You should be able to listen - they perform their songs at Mr B's before the author does a talk about the book. As a lot of people at the event won't have read it, they are careful not to give spoilers.

      By the way - you need to come to Bath and visit Mr B's!

    3. I've just had a listen and once again confirmed my love of the Bookshop Band. I'd so love to see them play.

      And I'd also so love to visit Mr B's! I'm trying to arrange a long weekend to visit during the summer but it seems such a long way away!


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