Thursday 26 November 2015

In booksellers we trust

Blackwell's High Holborn has a lot to answer for. It's one of the places where my teenage self fell in love with bookshopping; it's where I first realised how big and wide the world of bookshops is; and it introduced me to John Wyndham.

Taking them one at a time, I've already explained the first in my post about the bookshop's original incarnation, which also included a little about the second (it was thanks to Say What You See that I first found myself wanting to meet so many different bookshops). Which leaves us with John Wyndham.

But as he wasn't even the author I was visiting the bookshop to buy you'll have to be patient. On the occasion of my 'official' visit I was hunting down The Dinner by Herman Koch. Picked out by a book club I'm a member of, instinct had told me it was about time I visited Blackwell's High Holborn to find it. Instinct was correct.

The new incarnation of this bookshop may be smaller than in its previous life, but the quality of books on offer hasn't been diminished. Where in the past there was a round wall of fiction, today we have islands to wander through, the 'more than books section' I've spent a small fortune in over the years also remains and – should you need an energy boost – there's now a Benugo cafe within the bookshop.

Most important of all, Blackwell's High Holborn continues to be a bookshop that's perfectly stocked to meet my needs. I'm sure it wasn't the only place to have had the book I was looking for on that particular day (I'm ashamed to admit the visit in question took place a few months ago), but part of the joy of counting a whole host of bookshops among your 'friends' is knowing their different personalities and who to turn to when.* And as with my everyday friends, such knowledge builds trust.

Which leads us to John Wyndham.

He's not an author I'd previously been interested in, but when the bookseller behind the @BlackwellsHH Twitter account told me I should read three particular books I took him at his tweet. I took the next opportunity to return to the bookshop, where I picked up The Day of the Triffids.

The bookseller was right, it was a brilliant read and swiftly became one of my top ten favourite books. Before I knew it I'd also read The Midwitch Cuckoos and now The Kraken Wakes is at the top of my TBR pile.

Blackwell's High Holborn isn't my local bookshop, but as a result of any number of booky conversations it's long been somewhere I've trusted to understand my reading needs and make recommendations accordingly. Which is what all good bookshops should be – if you take the time to get to know your local you'll understand what I'm talking about.

50-51 High Holborn, Holborn, London, WC1V 6EP
Tel: 020 7292 5100.

*Yes, I'm aware that sentence probably makes me sound a little crazy, but every bookshop is a product of its booksellers and the very nature of their jobs means all booksellers have great personalities. Fact.


  1. "Part of the joy of counting a whole host of bookshops among your 'friends' is knowing their different personalities and who to turn to when."

    YES. That makes perfect sense. If I do a bookshop crawl with a set wishlist, I do often have an idea of which shops I want to go to for which books, and I'm not always sure I could pick out the logic, but yes, it does feel like certain books are appropriate to certain shops, booksellers, or whatever. So I don't think that sounds crazy at all.

    1. Thanks Katie, I'm glad someone else understands!


Thank you for your comment. I've unfortunately recently been targeted by spammers, so I've had to put a limited amount of moderation on comments for the time being. If you're a human, your comment will be uploaded soon.

Best wishes,