Sunday 25 November 2018

A good heart

First impressions are a big thing these days, with so many demands on our time and attention that we're often distracted from one shiny thing to the next, whizzing through life and hardly having time to stop and consider what's in front of us.

When I arrived at Borzoi Bookshop in the heart of Stow-on-the-Wold I'd been racing through an Independent Bookshops Week bookshop crawl, so I'd already visited a lot of other bookshops and could easily have been in too much of a hurry to appreciate how special this unassuming destination is. Set in a lovely historic building, the shop front is made up of welcoming red door and two simple windows which offer only a glimpse of the treats inside. It's a far cry from the large picture windows and colourful displays many bookshops rely on to lure in readers and I loved this contrast and the feeling of cosy history that came with it.

Borzoi Bookshop is more than 30 years old and was named for the breed of dog that was the original furry bookseller, which I thought was a nice touch. I don't know how the bookshop has changed in that time, but the space I explored had the feeling of somewhere that has been cherished for years – and continues to be loved today. The low ceilings added to the sense of history, while the good variety of new titles brings everything into the modern day. The combination was comforting and reassuring and exactly what I've come to hope for in a long-serving bookshop.

The first room is snug but still larger than expected, with Molie the (thankfully quite small) furry bookseller relaxing near the door and two human booksellers available to answer questions and keep everything in order. They welcomed me in and did an excellent job of greeting browsers or leaving them in peace as preferred, with me obviously choosing to dive into conversation. This was mainly with the booksellers, but also with the other customers who'd popped in to collect an order, ask about the publication date of various new books or simply see what they might read next. It was a perfect example of a well-loved bookshop set in the heart of its community.

Equally importantly, for all of the questions I heard asked the booksellers' knowledge was impeccable and satisfied children and adults alike. Further evidence of their bookish genius was found in the content of the bookshelves and in their recommendation of my next new book.

I'd commented on titles and publishers as I'd wandered around the maze of shelves – there's a lot to be discovered if you venture beyond the front room – and almost picked a book by myself but wasn't quite sure if it was right for me. A chat about what I've read previously and what I was looking for next saw the bookseller politely agree that maybe my choice wasn't the one for this time, instead gently steering me to some alternative titles. From the selection put forward, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee stood out and having since devoured the book I can confirm the booksellers' instinct was spot on.

It takes a lot of courage, confidence and tact to be able to help a browser change their mind – especially when their choice of book is not bad but more not for this time – and I was very impressed by how well the bookseller achieved this, and am very grateful they did!

Which really sums up my feelings about this delightful bookshop. Borzoi Bookshop is not the flashiest or the most glamorous of indies I've visited, but it has a good heart, great books and exceptional booksellers.

The Borzoi Bookshop
Church Street, Stow-on-the-Wold,
Gloucestershire GL54 1BB
Tel: 01451 830268

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