Friday 16 May 2014

A religious experience

Invitations have become an important part of my bookshopping journey.

Sometimes I have to wait weeks, or months, to follow them up, others it could be just days – as happened when a response to a vague Twitter posting about traveling north won me an invitation to meet a trio of bookshops in Lincoln.

The invitation had been extended by Unicorn Tree Books, and if I'm totally honest with you (sorry Unicorn Tree) if I hadn't been invited then I probably wouldn't have visited. You see, this particular destination advertises itself as a Christian bookshop. And although it also stocks a wide range of fiction books and art materials, religion makes me feel uncomfortable and therefore acts as a pretty good deterrent.

However, I had been invited and my British manners meant that at the very least I had to pop along and see. After all, if I didn't like the bookshop I didn't have to write about it. As if I'm not going to like a bookshop.

With walls built entirely of shelves (it's found inside a market building), this shop is 100 per cent books and a good reminder of how inclusive and welcoming such places are.

Picking up a copy of Nora Roberts' The Search, it didn't take me long to relax into my surroundings and introduce myself to the bookseller and thank her for her invitation. I may not have originally planned to visit but once inside I should have known it was inevitable I'd like what I found!

It was now time to do some exploring - and, unfortunately, climbing - to find my next destination, The Book Stop Cafe, at the top of the appropriately named Steep Hill. Exhausted before I'd made it even halfway up, I can't find the words to say how relieved I was to see the door of this cafe-cum-bookshop encouraging me to the top.

And I was even more relieved once a large slice of cake and a pot of tea was placed in front of me as I reclined on a sofa, casually browsing the shelves of local authors.

Refreshed and recovered from what had felt like a mountain climb, it was time to move on to the final bookshop of this visit, the very newly opened Lindum Books.

A gorgeous little new - in all senses of the word - bookshop, I soon lost the teacher friend I was with to the children's section, meaning I had plenty of time to explore every nook and cranny.

With the ground floor dedicated to new fiction of all shapes and sizes and upstairs secondhand, every budget is catered for. I'm not going to lie, the rooms weren't crammed with books and the option to lose yourself for hours, but it takes time to build up stock and Lindum Books are definitely going for quality over quantity.

Despite the occasional bare wall I still had a tough time narrowing down my choices and ended up having to ask the bookseller to help me to select Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible from among the shortlist I gathered. She certainly knows her books and gave some very confident, and welcome, comments during our friendly chat.

It will be good to see how this bookshop grows into itself and its community in the future and – along with the many bookshops I failed to visit – will be an excellent reason to return to Lincoln.

Because during my afternoon I walked past many more bookshops of all shapes and sizes and ages and subjects that I'd've loved to become better acquainted with had there been more time. Instead I'd had to keep things simple and choose one from each style: new and secondhand (and new). Throw in the bookshop cafe serving tea and cake and I had found my perfect trinity.

Unicorn Tree Books
35/40 Central Market, Sincil Street, Lincoln, LN5 7ET
Tel: 01522 525557

Book Stop Cafe
47b Steep Hill, Lincoln, LN2 1LU

Lindum Books
4 Bailgate, Lincoln, LN1 3AE
Tel: 01522 262374

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