Category Archives: Bookshops I Love

Chapter One Books, Manchester

I had the pleasure of heading to Manchester earlier this week and after one of my meetings was cancelled last minute I decided to spend the time, before my train back, doing one of my favourite things and meandering around a bookshop. The bookshop I headed for was Chapter One Books in Manchester’s Northern Quarter which I fairly new and has moved into the city since I lived there for a year and a half.

IMG_1204

In a time where independent bookshops are in decline it takes a brave person (or in this case persons, as two sisters opened the shop) to take on a venture like this. On entering Chapter One Books you know that you are in safe hands as the whole place is absolutely stunning from the moment you enter, when you are greeted by a selection of cakes – my kind of bookshop, and then turn the corner to discover an almost magical world of books.

IMG_1208

I use the word magical as you feel like you are in a hidden book haven. There is a fountain and a tree hanging from the roof in what would be a rather industrial space which makes you feel like you are at once indoors and out, as well as being in a fairytale yet dystopian space, where only books have survived. It is marvellous. This is before you discover there are secret shelves all over the place hidden under balconies, which also conceal more shelves of books to discover.

IMG_1215

The space also seems to just keep going, every time you turn another corner there seems to be more space where shelves are hiding waiting for you.

IMG_1212

Or little places to sit and write, should you be a budding author…

IMG_1205

Or should you be the fan of stationery, which lets face it most of us book lovers are…

IMG_1214

Of course you are wondering what the sort of books are aren’t you? Well this is what I found so interesting, and loved about Chapter One Books, is that it feels like the selection of books has been really well crafted. (Yes, I held off the buzz word ‘curated’ though this would be true.) There are some of the well known and slightly obvious books (because every shop needs punters and to appeal to the passerby) yet they remain a small minority and tend to just be the really good ones surrounded with many more that you have yet to discover, and this said by an avid reader. With a limited space there are only a few authors who are there in abundance, in this case Atwood and Atkinson which thrilled me, but you can find a hardback of almost every book that is also in paperback which I liked. It felt like a den for collectors. I also loved the fact there were quite a few imported books which seriously tempted me. It is a collection clearly chosen by keen readers, books that you just really want to read if you haven’t before because of some of the better known pointers that you can gage your taste by. I picked up these two which caught my eye and I had never heard of but instantly felt I would love.

IMG_1222

So this was all utterly joyous. I am only annoyed at myself for not having the Bonbon coffee (carnation milk and coffee nom) but that just means I have to go back, which I shall be doing every time I find myself in Manchester from now on. So a big hoorah for Chapter One Books! If you are in Manchester at any point make sure you head there, or else.

7 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love, Random Savidgeness

Bookshops I Love; Foyles, Charing Cross Road

I cannot remember the first time I ever walked into Foyles because it has become so etched in my brain as a bookshop and I lived in London from the age of eighteen so have been visiting since sometime around then, yes even in those years when I thought books were rubbish. This is partly because I dated someone booky when I was not long to London and so would head there for their book fix and my cake fix. They would read in bed, I would listen to Steps or something even more embarrassing. Moving swiftly on a few years, Foyles then of course became a book haven once I became addicted to books and book shopping.

I have to admit I was skeptical about the Foyles move, even when I saw this video – be warned it is utter book porn and causes moments of utter jealousy. You see part of its charm in the old building on Charing Cross Road was that it felt like it had been there for ages, the books and shelves housing them having settled in their skin, the fact you may be stuck in that lift four hours and a day with your purchases (terrifying and thrilling all at once) and it had the history of events and meetings there for me over the years. Well, I bloody love the new one…

IMG_4863

A dream book shop to me is one that you want to spend hours and hours in and that is what the new store, which has taken over the former Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design site, is. In fact I was tempted to bring a sleeping bag to my second meeting there and ask if I could just move in for a while, there is still time. It is one of the airiest and most spacious feeling bookshops I have been in for quite some time and yet with its mezzanine levels keeps the quirkiness of its old former home. You want to spend hours  wandering the many floors looking for something particular or indeed just intent on browsing the shelves. I don’t know about you but I can happily spend at least half a day going through a stores fiction, crime, graphic novel and nonfiction sections. Easily.

IMG_4873

There is also a corking event space, which it is surreal to say I have spoken in of late, and I would recommend you keep your eyes on what the guys at Foyles have coming up. Like all great bookstores it too has the facilities to allow yourself to do that and keep watered/caffeinated and fed with its wonderful cafe which you can happily content yourself in for several hours as The Beard reliably informed me when I was in for a long meeting and left him very much in the non-reading much feeding crèche as I have renamed it.

IMG_4870

The view from which is also quite a sight to behold…

IMG_4866

There is even a gallery, which has different collections in at different times, to keep any book widow happy for a while. There is also a wonderful stationery and gift section which I was too busy fawning over to actually grab a snap.

IMG_4869

Highly important is that the new store is also the sort of store that I think will inspire future readers. I mean what child wouldn’t want to spend hours and hours reading Mr Men and playing with Peppa Pig (if you are reading Foyles make a crèche and seriously you will have families in all day, parents browsing above)…

IMG_4864

What I also love about Foyles, indeed it is one of the reasons I emailed them on the cheeky off chance they might want to work with the Green Carnation Prize, is that whilst it is now becoming a chain of stores and indeed the Charing Cross Branch is HUGE it feels like an independent you would find in a village somewhere off the beaten track where you might find books you didn’t think of buying but simply have to have. The staff really know their stuff and more often than not will recommend you something you might not have thought of trying…

IMG_4874

If you haven’t had the chance to go make sure you do on your next London trip, schedule in a few hours, as you can see I am a huge fan and heartily recommend it. Which of you have visited the new Foyles store and what have you made of it? Has it affected your bank balance as it did mine recently? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

15 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love

My Top Ten UK Bookshops (Currently)

I thought today, in honour of the Books Are My Bag initiative, I would share some of my favourite bookshops with you all. Obviously you will be heading to your local bookshop today and supporting them, if they are one of these then pretend I am there in spirit. Though actually if you are in my number one choice this afternoon it is quite likely that I will be there perusing the shelves and then head up for coffee and cake. So without further waffle or ado here are my top ten bookshops…

 

  1. Scarthin Books, Cromford, Derbyshire

Scarthin Books has been a constant in my life from roughly from birth. Coming from Matlock Bath, which is just up the road, we would often go for a walk (not every week) that took us up and down the hills with a wonderful reward halfway along. I used to love spending a good hour or so in the small corridor room under the stairs which was the children’s section whilst Gran and Mum explored the new and second hand books. Of course as I have grown up it has been a case of myself and Gran and/or Mum doing the same while someone waits upstairs eating a cake! Scarthin is a wonderful place, brimming with books and happy memories for me.

  1. Scriveners, Buxton, Derbyshire

Derbyshire is doing well with my selection so far, true there is the bias of my background and homelands BUT to only think it is that is to do both Scarthin and Scriveners a disservice. Scriveners is like a wonderful maze of second hand books over five floors. Yes you read that right, FIVE FLOORS. So that you have a good old browse there are even free refreshments and sofas, you need a good few hours to wander and I doubt you will leave empty handed. Two additional fascinating facts about Scriveners is that they print books in house and also have a ghost!

  1. Wenlock Books, Much Wenlock, Shropshire

I think if I was ever to own a bookshop, which is the dream of many of us isn’t it, then Wenlock Books would pretty much be it. They have a wonderful selection of new books downstairs which you feel are truly hand selected. There is also a wonderful array of bookish gifts (mugs, bags, etc) and stationery and then, if that wasn’t enough, there is a wonderful floor upstairs that are crammed with second hand books. Wonderful.

  1. The Book Barge, On The Canals of the UK

Floating along the canals of the UK, and possibly heading to Europe soon, is the lovely Sarah and her wonderful barge filled with books and even a house boat bunny on occasion. Here there are a mix of new and old books and it just feels like a wonderful haven bobbing up and down brimming with books. If the Book Barge is ever near your house then get yourself to it pronto! Sarah has even written a book all about running it which you will be hearing about here very soon!

  1. Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London

I have always been a big fan of Foyles and when I was part of a London bookshop I would a) meet my other book group members before and b) buy the next book afterwards in the South Bank branch. I also loved spending hours on the old Charing Cross Road branch. I was slightly apprehensive about the ‘new’ one, but when I went there for a GCP meeting last month I fell in love. It is airy, spacious, has thousands of books, a wonderful cafe – let’s face it I could move in. Expect a tour on the blog in the next few weeks!

  1. Gays The Word, London

I remember when I first moved to London I went and hunted Gays The Word down. It was a place of legend. As a young gay man I used fiction as a way to discover ‘people like me’ and try and understand it all and indeed myself. I was too scared to go in and so looked at it, walked past, turned around, walked past and looked in again. I finally went in a year later. Since then I have always popped in and since becoming close friends with the lovely Uli there make sure I pop in on every trip back. They have brilliant events, often with booze  – booze and books are a wonderful mix, and it is like the history of LGBT writing opens before your eyes when you walk through the door.

  1. Persephone Books, London

I am quite cross that I didn’t discover this gem until not long before I left London, especially as I was such a fan of the books however for some bonkers reason I didn’t connect the two. Perspehone Books of course only stock Persephone Books and there is something rather magical about that in itself. Now whenever I go back I make sure that I pop in and if I am lucky Nicola Beauman is in and we have a coffee and a natter. I always end up buying at least two or three books, how could you not?

  1. Waterstones Deansgate, Manchester

I wanted to include Waterstones because whilst they aren’t independent they are a place that I have spent many happy times and indeed have been a wonderful place to head to in unhappy times. Waterstones were always a treat, like Thorntons, to visit when myself, Mum and Gran went on shopping trips. They were the reward after wandering around a museum, cathedral, art gallery or three hour tour of John Lewis. I would be allowed to pick three books and that was my treat. In adulthood I have spent many hours wandering them with Polly, competing as to who has read the most. Deansgate is extra special to me because when I left London is was a haven and the place I would meet most of my mates. I also got to read Rebecca, well the first chapter, to an audience for World Book Night there, have been to some of my mates book launches there, even had (hope The Beard isn’t reading) a few dates in there and ran a literary salon there for a while. Books and brilliant memories, with the odd splash of something sparkly. Lush.

  1. White Horse Bookshop, Marlborough, Wiltshire

When I was a youth, and in my early teens, I lived in Marlborough in Wiltshire. The library was the place that we headed the most, however as a treat when I had been extra good (which in my teens wasn’t very often, the telly got banned once) I would be allowed to go and get a nice new pristine book from the White Horse Bookshop which spans over a few floors. I haven’t been in quite a few years but I heard from Naomi Woods, when she was at the Marlborough Literature Festival, that it is still wonderful.

= 10.  Lingham Booksellers, Heswall, Cheshire

Now I have a joint pair of books at number ten and that is because they are both local to me and very, very different in delightful ways. Linghams won the independent bookseller of the year last year and as soon as you walk in you know why. There are the latest must reads, unusual staff picks (from some of the most friendly and knowledgeable staff) and they have some corking events. They also do their own line of wonderful bookish gifts and I have a very special ‘one off’ purple Linghams bag which I am most proud of. Happy, knowledgable, friendly staff and a good selection are always a winner.

= 10. Oxton Village Books, Oxton, Cheshire

Finally there is the wonderful Oxton Village Books which used to be in the post office, and when I saw had closed down I almost physically wept, yet now resides in the wonderful Williamson Art Gallery and Museum which is roughly three minutes walk from my house. They only deal with second hand books inside BUT you can order new ones through them. They are my number one destination when I am looking for something slightly older or just fancy a browse and also when I have a good few bags of books that were sent unsolicited that I don’t want – well after my mother gets first dibs obviously, in case she is reading this. The owners are wonderful and it feels like the perfect addition to such a cultural spot. Lovely stuff.

So those are the bookshops I would highly recommend. Obviously I have not been to every bookshop in the land, though wouldn’t that be marvellous? I could write a Rough Guide to British Bookshops.  I have missed a few of my other favourites, but eleven seemed a cheat enough, I could also have mentioned any of the Daunt Bookshops, which are wonderfully organised by country which is a brilliant idea; I could also have mentioned the lovely Review Bookshop in Peckham which is run by the lovely Evie Wyld… There are so many!

So which bookshop will you be heading to? Which is your local favourite and do you have any other favourites that you think readers of this blog should visit? Have you any titles you have in your site that you might end up popping in your Books Are My Bag bag?

9 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love

The American Book Center, Amsterdam

No matter what city I find myself in, anywhere in the world, the moment I have some Wi-Fi (in the unlikely case that I haven’t researched this thoroughly before getting there) the first thing I try and locate are the nearest bookshops. I don’t care if they have English titles or not, if there is a bookshop in the vicinity and I can find it then that is where I am headed. I was told, by my lovely friend Adem who I met up with for an afternoon of wandering and cake hunting, that in Amsterdam THE best bookshop in the whole of the city was also in the heart of it and that was The American Book Center, and so off we toddled.

L1020561

It is not often that the moment I walk into a bookshop I am left completely speechless and yet with a treasure trove like The American Book Center I found myself very much dumbfounded – the books literally go on forever as soon as you walk in…

138

Amazingly though, even though the bookshop is choc-a-block it manages to be light and airy throughout. I also loved the way that, with some wonderfully places tree bark/trunks the bookshop both feels it has the outside inside and pays homage to what books are after all made of.

I love a bookshop that is literally brimming with books and, like all the best bookshops, The American Book Center is one of such bookshop without it ever feeling cluttered or two much, even as you walk up the first flight of stairs there are books to admire and peruse as you make your way up…

139

And, to maximise on space, and look stunning, the books go from the very floor of the bookshop to the ceiling three stories up…

140

Once up the stairs the shop gets even better as books are EVERYWHERE yet whilst the bookshop does become something of a maze (in a good way) it never feels claustrophobic and because of the gaps between the shelves light gets through and it feels very open all at once.

144

And the shop just goes on and on, it is like a labyrinth of literature and one that I would love to get lost in all day – which I nearly did…

143

What was also really lovely about the place was the staff! Initially Adem and I simply couldn’t find the English language section of the book shop at first (not that I minded because I do love looking at foreign editions of books and their covers, don’t you?) and so we had to ask and the staff couldn’t have been better. We had a good chat as we meandered to the right place, talking about which books were big in Amsterdam and the Netherlands and also which books were big in the UK. We even had a chat about reviewing vs blogging and about why on earth the UK is so slow at translating books. Amazing.

So if you are ever in Amsterdam then make sure you head to The American Book Center, and that you leave yourself a good amount of time to have a wander around.

The American Book Centre is located at Spuistraat 12, 1012 XA Amsterdam (nearest tram stop is Spui) you can visit their website here.

12 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love

A Bookshop Crawl with Kerry Hudson…

So as I have mentioned already, today is the day of the Books Are My Bag initiative which I am a big fan of. I thought it would be nice to do something book shop themed today and a post the lovely Kerry Hudson had written for me for Independent Bookshop Week (which I had planned to post back then but couldn’t as Gran was so poorly) and her book launch seemed perfect. So I will hand over to the lovely Kerry who also loves an Indie book shop as much as I do…

It was complete coincidence that the paperback of my debut novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma, came out during Independent Bookshop Week but it’s very fitting that it did. For the last year Tony Hogan has found its way into people’s hands largely thanks to word of mouth and personal recommendations. Thanks to Indies like Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace and Dulwich Books in…um…Dulwich, reading the book, loving it, blogging about it and hand-selling copies. Yes, getting buy-in from the chains and wholesalers, the Goliaths, is important but I think we all know and understand the power that the Indie’s, the Davids of the bookselling world, have.

That is why, to launch my paperback, I cycled around the capital. On a tiny red bike. On a day hotter than the surface of the sun. Delivering 80’s goodybags filled with gliders, Sherbet Dib-Dabs, Wham Bars and Vimto lollypops to some of London’s finest Independent Bookshops.

my trusty steed

I began my tour close to home at Broadway Books. Broadway Books is right by Regent’s Canal and is great for cult classics and local author books and, vitally, have one of the best fish and chip shops in East London a few doors up. If anyone can tell me what is nicer than sitting by a canal, eating a bag of chips and reading a great book I’ll call them a liar.

Broadway Books

Next a cycled off to Pages of Hackney, located in hyper-hip Clapton they have a great stock of new books upstairs and a selection of secondhand books, a comfy sofa and (sometimes) a very cute pug downstairs. My next hop took me to chic Exmouth Market and Tales of Clarkenwell, a calm, stylish indie where Peter told me that they’re opening a Toronto branch soon, or maybe that they already have…I was a little sun-addled at that point. To be honest.

Village BooksIt was time to head South, first to Village Books in Dulwich. On the way I ask directions from a local who beams at me ‘that’s an amazing bookshop’ and it is indeed. As I sign books Kate, a bookseller who clearly loves her job, tells me how each of the booksellers have customers who appreciate their personal taste and so come to them specifically for recommendations. Dulwich is very pretty and just as well because I get hopelessly lost making it to my next destination, Dulwich Books. They’re expecting me, and have busted out the leg-warmers and eighties tunes in preparation. Dulwich Books and their very active bookgroup were some of the earliest Tony Hogan…supporters and it’s amazing to be able to say thank you to them in person.

I resist the the lure of their kids section beanbags, buy myself an ice-cream up the road and carry on my way to…Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace. I love what Jonathan and Justine, who’ve been trading for twelve years, have done with the shop. So much care has been taken with the curation of the collection of books, they have regular author talks and Jonathan runs a subscription scheme ‘Flight Club’ where subscribers are sent a mystery book that Jonathan feels people will especially enjoy. I leave Jonathan with the bag of sweets and Lloyd Cole crooning sweetly to his customers and hop on the tube down to my final stop, Clapham Books. Clapham Books has the most incredible shop interior with a kind-of-glass-pagoda-ceiling (go see it, you’ll know what I mean). As we had a chatter they told me they’ve been doing two book events a week for a while and I confess to them which well known author scares the pants off me…nope, my lips are sealed! I leave them saying I’m ‘off for a giant beer’.

Clapham Books

That day I only visited a fraction of the amazing Independent Bookshops in London and if you consider how many more there are across the UK it is hugely heartening. So what’s so special about Indies? What I find special is that every single shop is as unique as their owner and staff and that they are run and staffed by people with a huge passion for getting books to readers, but they can only continue if we, the book buying punters, put our hands in our pockets and support them.

These bookshops are doing something incredible in the current climate. They are striving, staying creative, loving books and reading, hand-selling debuts like mine, that otherwise nobody would know about, and staying in business where many other businesses couldn’t. Indie bookshops, clever hardworking booksellers, I salute you!

Here, here. I couldn’t put it better myself – hence why I am off to mine today for Books Are My Bag and seeing what new books might end up in my bag. A big big, in fact a HUGE, thanks to Kerry for doing the post today, especially now she is on the path to stardom both being short listed for the Polari First Book Prize and also winning the debut novel category for the Scottish Book Awards (which makes her eligible to be the overall winner if the general public vote her to be, which I think they should here from October the 1st – put it in your diaries) when she is the next Mantel we will remember these days fondly.

5 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love, Bookshops We Love, Bookshops You Love, Kerry Hudson

Books Are My Bag

Earlier this year, though it feels oddly like last year, I said I would love to start an initiative which would ‘Celebrate The Bookshop’. I was going to start work on it again now everything has calmed down a bit, however I soon discovered that someone/others were on the case and had started an initiative themselves. I could have cried and wept that a project I was super passionate about was already being created by some clever and marvellous souls but then I thought ‘who cares who starts it as long as we have something celebrating bookshops we must all celebrate it too’ – plus with a prize, two podcasts and a blog I think really I would have been over stretching myself, ha!

The initiative in question is ‘Books Are My Bag’ the aim of which is… “to celebrate bookshops. This collaboration between publishers, bookshops and authors and is the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. For many people bookshops conjure fond images of book readings, in-store cafes and delight at the discovery of a new author. In fact, 56% of all book buying decisions are made by consumers in a bookshop and high street bookshops (both chains and independents) still account for almost 40% of books bought by consumers. Yet, many high street bookshops are under threat.

BOOKS ARE MY BAG aims to halt this process by celebrating the nation’s love of bookshops, calling on book lovers to show their support by visiting and purchasing a book from their favourite bookshop on Saturday 14th September. Bookshops nationwide will be throwing a Big Bookshop Party on Saturday 14th September to mark the launch of Books Are My Bag – a nationwide campaign that will celebrate high street bookshops.”

Now just how bloody brilliant does this sound? Bookshops, book sellers, publishers and authors all uniting on Saturday this week. I am very excited and with less than a week to go (and it being Books Are My Bag’s launch tonight) I thought now was an ideal time to tell you.

As I am going to urge you (because I do love book shops and as you might have guessed from a recent post I think we should all be using them) to pop to this page on their site which will tell you if your local bookshop is doing something special on the day and get yourself down there. You can also nominate your local bookshop for something lovely with ‘Make Your Mark’ more details here.

Right well, with all this happiness and joy I think it is time for a song. Don’t fear it is not a video of me singing some joyous overture to bookshops (though there is an idea), it is those crazy kids the lovely Bookshop Band with a special version of their song ‘A Shop With Books In’ – they call it the Books Are My Bag Version, I like to think of it as the Books Are My Bag Remix!

I will be heading to my local(ish) bookshop Linghams on the day, and am also planning on a special post or two for the day too. Will you be heading to your favourite bookshop and if so where is it?

8 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love, Bookshops We Love, Bookshops You Love

Bookshops I Love; Linghams Booksellers, Heswall

As its Sunday which I think is the most leisurely day of the week, I thought that I would take you on a leisurely stroll around my almost but not quite local independent bookshop. This is the lovely Linghams in Heswall which might not be just down the end of the road, but is (pretty much) directly opposite The Beard’s new lovely food shop. Handy, right?

I always find with bookshops, particularly independent ones, which while browsing and mooching is welcomed to a point there comes a time when you might have browsed too much. Let me just add here that this isn’t the case in any of the bookshops that I feature in this series of posts. In the case of Linghams I think you would be perfectly happy, well I would be, to spend the day inside the shop – and I don’t think the staff would mind if you did either – and these are the sort of bookshops that are real gems. Firstly obviously there is the selection of books…

As well as an extensive fiction selection, more of in a moment, they also have a wonderful children’s section (sorry about the blurring)…

And a delightful cafe which myself, The Beard and his friend Abby all enjoyed some absolutely delicious Thai fishcakes and chips in for lunch. Absolutely scrummy.

We couldn’t quite decide if we thought that the live piano playing was a great thing or slightly annoying, but we went with it and it does add a certain ambience to the place which for the (good) hour we were there was constantly buzzing. Lovely. It’s the sort of shop that makes you want to, well, shop.

I don’t know about you but I always have a little list of criteria when I go into an independent and also an ‘allowance’ when I am in a store, this of course has a limit (because I could frankly go crazy) yet I only spend if I love the store. That’s natural isn’t it? Well the books that I had on my ‘allowance’ list on this visit were ‘Swimming Home’ by Deborah Levy, pre Man Booker longlisting, and ‘The Shadows in the Streets’ by Susan Hill as it was somehow a book in the series I had missed. Alas they didn’t have Levy, but before Booker long and short listing it was tough to get hold of anywhere (libraries, high street chain bookshops and even a certain online place) but I did find the Hill which I snapped up.

I also desperately wanted a book bag, I seem to collect them unsurprisingly, but alas they didn’t have any colours I fancied. (Ok, I admit it I have been hankering after a purple one.) Yet the other day The Beard came home with a rather special gift…

A one off purple Linghams book bag, which no one else has and that the lovely people at the shop had made especially. I was really chuffed and will be wearing it with pride when I next go to Heswall to fill it up.

Linghams Booksellers can be found at 248 Telegraph Road, Heswall, Merseyside, CH60 7SG and you can visit their website here.

2 Comments

Filed under Bookshops I Love