Wednesday 4 February 2015

Discover bookshopping heaven

I will never order a book unless I absolutely have to. Instead I'm happy to wait for serendipity to let me find the books in their natural environment. Which is why I waited 11 years to find this week's purchase.

Waiting more than a decade may seem a bit much, but sometimes it's good to take your time. My 'read one day' list is longer than my arm, written in the smallest print you can find and growing by the day, if I was to go out and buy every book the moment it was recommended/reviewed/randomly caught my attention I'd have a 'to be read' pile the size of Snowdon and a bank balance the size of... well, I wouldn't have one.

Instead I remember recommendations and keep my eyes open. It's led to some very happy meetings, including Stephen King in Whitstable, CS Lewis on the Isle of Wight and, finally, Julio Cortazar in London when, thanks to a Books are my bag bookshop crawl, I visited the new Foyles on Charing Cross Road.

Believe it or not, this is actually a bookshop I'd dithered about visiting. I'd adored the original London headquarters a few doors along the road and will never forget the first time I followed the fiction section as it snaked around the ground floor, taking a whole two hours to work my way from A to Z – how could a new Foyles be nearly so good? How foolish I was to doubt.

Housing four miles of shelves and 200,000 different titles, Foyles on Charing Cross Road is a bookshopper's paradise.

I joyfully roamed every floor: marvelling at Ray's Jazz; playing in the children's area and growing up in an extensive young adult section. I explored the world among languages; Manga; magazines; and so much more, before gravitating to fiction.

I didn't have time to browse every inch of this A-Z as on my previous first visit, but I'm pretty certain I could happily spend a whole day and only just manage to fully explore the range of books on offer. During that day of hardcore browsing I wouldn't even need to leave the bookshop at lunch time: a quick trip to the fifth floor cafe would help keep my strength up – I can happily recommend the stew, and the beer, and the tea and cake...

But back to the books and the completion of my 11-year search: My sister had read Hopscotch in its original Spanish and recommended it while helping me move house, warning me she didn't even know if it was available in translation. I didn't hold out much hope, but mentally noted the book and each time I found myself near translated fiction I remembered to have a look, always to no success. So imagine my joy and surprise when during my visit to Foyles I stumbled across not one but three copies of that long sought-after book. I couldn't believe my luck.

To add to my joy, Hopscotch wasn't the only elusive title I found that day, meaning I've since returned (more than once) to rehome a few more long-awaited friends.

Even now, having completed several visits to Charing Cross Road's Foyles, I still can't get my head around the sheer scale and beauty of this bookshopping heaven, but one thing's for certain: with so much variety and choice under one roof I really will never need to order a book.

107 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0DT
Tel: 020 7434 1574

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