***As usual, here's an introduction to my National Bookshop Day bookshop crawl. I'll write about individual destinations in more detail over the coming weeks***
If books are my bag, bookshops are my home, heaven, place of worship, and everything else that indicates a great place to hang out.
So you can probably imagine how excited I was to discover Saturday, 8th October, was named the first ever National Bookshop Day. Ignoring the fact I believe every day should be bookshop day, I knew it was important to celebrate this one in style. I couldn't just wander around the capital greedily collecting up as many bookshop experiences as possible. Instead I set about roughly planning a route, taking in a limited selection of destinations hosting events between my home in Kent and a bookshop birthday party being thrown in the north of the country.
The route wasn't particularly well plotted – it certainly wasn't as direct as a motorway – but it ensured the maximum amount of bookshop parties in relation to distance travelled.
Then I got a call from the BBC. A few months previously I'd emailed their Saturday Live show telling them how I spend my weekends visiting bookshops, and now they were inviting me to share the experience with other listeners.
If there's one thing I love more than visiting bookshops it's knowing other people are visiting bookshops. Even knowing there were a string of places I wanted to visit, there was no way I could pass up on this opportunity, especially on National Bookshop Day.
Of course, rather than doing the sensible thing and thinking about how I'd rearrange my plans, I then spent the next week in a state of over-excitement, bouncing off walls and failing to engage my brain. Which led to a hasty bit of planning the day before, trying to work out what and where my boyfriend and I could go to celebrate bookshop day.
All bookshops are great, but there's a lot to be said for taking the time to plan, as I discovered at the start of our bookshop crawl.
Destination number one (after recovering from all the Radio 4 excitement and navigating a spaghetti junction of tube stations) was up a hill, past Dick Whittington's cat in Highgate. The first thing that struck me was that this wasn't the bookshop I'd intended to visit. There was no orange bunting or balloons and everything was simply business as usual.
Highgate Bookshop proved that with its friendly atmosphere and extensive selection of books. My lack of organisation may mean I mixed its name up with somewhere else, but the experience was still one to enjoy, especially because it saw me go home with Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell.
Next up was a bookshop I'd meant to get to as the final stop of last year's bookshop crawl, if I'd not become so engrossed in the east.
As the sister to one of my semi-regular haunts, Queens Park Books is somewhere I've long wanted to visit and was pleased to discover it felt familiar as soon as I walked inside. Small and stylish, I enjoyed my first splashes of Bookshop Day celebrations and it united me with a title that's long been on my must-buy list: Jenny Colgan's Resistance is Futile.
The bookshop is also notable for being attractive to pandas, but more on that in my proper write-up.
Offside Books as I know it on Twitter. A tiny space with big personality, the comfy sofa and chatty bookseller meant it didn't take long for us to appreciate the community aspect of this bookshop. I bought 10:04 by Ben Lerner.
Heading back into town, we took a brief break from bookshops to pop into independent record shop Sister Ray. It's usually hard to distract me from books, but as the lack of good music shops on the average high street is part of what made me so determined to tell people about bookshops, this diversion seemed appropriate. It's not pictured here, but I showed my support by purchasing Portishead by Portishead.
Gosh! Comics. Once upon a time, I wouldn't have even considered including anywhere with the word comic in a bookshop crawl. As my full write-up will explain, I'm glad I now know better.
There was a great buzz to this bookshop, which was crammed with readers of all ages browsing through a broad range of graphic novels and comics.
Thanks to a friend's recommendation, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson was my book of choice here.
Foyles. How he's gone so long without visiting is beyond me, but it did give me the opportunity of re-living my first visit through his eyes. It was great watching his reaction to the wide range of titles on offer and gave me an excuse to buy one final book: Pushkin Press' Browse: The world in bookshops.
9 Highgate High Street, Highgate, London, N6 5JR
Tel: 020 8348 8202
Queens Park Books
87 Salusbury Road, Brent, London, NW6 6NH
Tel: 020 7625 1008 @QPBooks
The Community Bookshop/Offside Books
92 Willesden Lane, Kilburn, London, NW6 7TA
Tel: 020 3609 1150 @OffSideBooks
1 Berwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DR
Tel: 020 7636 1011 @GoshComics
107 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DT
Tel: 020 7437 5660 @Foyles