Thursday 17 November 2016

I believe in bookshops

This week we go to possibly the most out of my comfort zone bookshop I've ever visited. As bookshops go, this one was so far down my list of places to visit I'm not sure it was even on the list.

But it was Independent Bookshops Week and my boyfriend had heard about the place from a friend. My boyfriend was good enough to let me drag him around hundreds* of bookshops, the least I could do is let one of those bookshops be somewhere he'd suggested.

Which is how we ended up at a home of magic, esotericism and the occult, Treadwell's Books in Bloomsbury.

As we walked along Store Street, he admitted it wasn't his usual idea of a bookshop, but he also reassured me my reservations were unfounded: despite our complete lack of belief we'd still be made to feel welcome. I wasn't so sure but the least I could do was find out.

From the front the bookshop looks normal enough, which was some reassurance but not quite enough to make me feel at home. Yet.

Inside, the bookshop has its esoteric quirks but the thing that struck me the most was the walls of dark wooden shelves crammed with books. It's impossible to be uncomfortable when you find yourself in such a setting, especially one so well organised – the genres may have been different from what I'm used to but everything was very easy to find.

I'll admit, my own personal tastes and beliefs mean I wasn't one hundred per cent convinced by some of the sections but I could still appreciate the range of subjects and diversity of books collected under each genre. None of them were books I wanted to buy, but they were certainly informative and made me think.

Then, towards the back of the shop, I found some shelves I recognised.

Split into centuries; life and letters; and other "ordinary" categories, these books served a good purpose in giving this skeptic a place to comfortably loiter while I took in my surroundings.

The bookshop is medium-sized, stretching quite a way behind its small front. The dark shelves are perfect for the atmosphere and comfy chairs give plenty of places for browers to relax. At the time of our arrival there appeared to be an event of some kind downstairs, so we were unable to explore the second floor of the bookshop, but this did mean there were occasionally people passing through. Not only were these people friendly and welcoming, but their appearances were also a welcome reminder of how diverse and interesting book lovers can be: even lost among the subjects I was still very much at home.

While enjoying my observations I even found a purchase for myself, Dava Sobel's book about Copernicus: A more perfect heaven.

There was no need for Treadwell's to cater for the likes of non-believers such as myself, but the shelves I gravited towards emphasise the inclusivity of this fascinatingly unusual bookshop and are a reminder we don't have to share the same beliefs to be made welcome. Which is a lesson we should all take note of in these troubled times.

Treadwell's Books
33 Store Street, Bloomsbury,
London, WC1E 7BS
Tel: 020 7419 8507

*possibly a slight exaggeration


  1. OK - that's intriguing! I might be cautious myself about visiting this store, but how nice that you felt welcome.

    1. Caution is a natural feeling for this one as I admit I certainly wouldn't have gone in on my own. The safety of numbers is what helped me to step through the door though and I'm glad I experienced this.


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