Bookshops I Love; The Book Barge

As someone who doesn’t really like boats and really doesn’t like books set on them, you might be surprised that when I heard The Book Barge was coming to Manchester I was both excited and intrigued. I had heard about it on the Guardian book podcast a while back and thought the idea of having a book shop on a narrow boat that travelled around the country actually sounded like a rather lovely jaunt. I also love books and the idea of bartering for books intrigued me, so armed with a bag of M&S lunchtime treats I headed to the Quay to find out more.

Well, I was smitten. A moored boat that only wobbled slightly as I clambered, yes clambered – I don’t have naval ready legs, on and was decked out with lots and lots and lots and lots and lots (is that enough lots to tempt you?) of books was like a quiet and calm haven.

Then as I got to chat to Sarah (which you can hear on this week’s episode of The Readers podcast)who I became equally smitten with, as she is just lovely, I discovered it wasn’t quite the delight you might think. I doubly noticed this when I realised there was no toilet on board let alone a bathroom… or even a kitchen. Just lots and lots and lots (here come those ‘lots’ again) of books.

This is where the bartering comes in, as Sarah travels the country (at a ridiculously speedy 4 miles-per-hour) if she is in need of a shower, a meal, something fixed, or even a haircut, she will swap these for a book, or maybe two if it’s something specific or slightly more costly. This idea would fill me with dread; you could end up in a loonies house after all, but Sarah said she could spot them (I hope I imagined a small knowing squint aimed at me) a mile off and that most bookish people tend to be rather lovely.

Well one trip wasn’t enough and I ended popping abck a few times, including to one of Paul Magrs signings and also bringing Carol Birch and Jane Harris on board before Bookmarked, which Sarah then came to. In fact as the time went on I was even more thrilled with the Book Barge as not only did I leave with a wonderful old copy of ‘Trilby’ by George Du Maurier and ‘Fun Home’ by Alison Bechdel (which Rebecca Makkai had recommended we all read) but I have found a lovely new friend in the lovely Sarah and might just be spending a weekend on the Barge on its final voyage home after it visits Leeds and Nottingham. Do, if you can, pop and see Sarah (she is ace), preferably armed with an M&S picnic and grab a few books. She will be heading to Europe next year too.

Oh and before it combats the channel’s choppy waters, the Book Barge has quite a test coming… Polly of Novel Insights and I will be taking it over in the spring for a bit! How exciting is that? I am not sure Polly and Sarah are quite aware of what I have signed them both (and myself actually) up for!!

You can find out all about the Book Barge on it’s website here.

P.S I didn’t take either of these photo’s I will be replacing them later as mine are still on my phone. Oops.

21 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Bookshops I Love, Random Savidgeness

21 responses to “Bookshops I Love; The Book Barge

  1. gaskella

    Oh Wow! Hey Abingdon is on the Thames, I wonder if I can entice her this-a-way… What a lovely shop – not sure whether I could cope without some basic facilities though.

  2. What a wonderful, wonderful idea. I would even give up having a toilet in the neat vicinity to give up my job and sell books on a boat and travel! I thought I recognised this little barge from Barton Marina 😀

  3. Jo

    That sounds just wonderful oh how I wish I was near it.

    Perhaps someone could start a bus one, for those who may be near the sea but no locks, canals or rivers.

  4. A friend of mine alerted me to the existence of the Book Barge and as we’re both in Canada, we can only dream of clambering aboard and making ourselves at home. We love the idea!

    This is so cool; I’m glad you posted about this, and I hope you post more about your experiences on board in the spring!

    PS. I have wanted one of those Penguin deck chairs for a long time… Oh, I can’t wait to come again to England and see if I can get near the barge!

  5. I read about this on another blog and thought it a beautiful idea! What an adventurous way of earning a living.

  6. novelinsights

    I’m so excited about our trip in the spring, and even more so now I’ve seen how beautiful it is inside. I’m going to have to brush up on my bartering skills!

  7. Wow! This sounds like such a fun idea – floating book shop! I’m glad you mentioned it as I had never heard of it before. What a cool way to make a living – sailing around and selling books all over the world – WOW!

  8. How amazing is that? I always envy people who have different lifestyles from the norm. Looking foward to you and Polly’s adventure in Spring!

  9. That sounds crazy – I love books, but they is just sooooo crazy! Now I know my limits 🙂 I could never go without those necessities.

  10. Pingback: Fun Home – Alison Bechdel | Savidge Reads

  11. Pingback: Fiction Uncovered 2012 | Savidge Reads

  12. Pingback: The Book Barge: Part II « For the love of bookshops

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