Category Archives: Bookshops We 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.

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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?

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Bookshops You Love #1; Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath by Jennifer Entwistle

Yesterday on the blog I mentioned that I am looking at some new bookish guest posts over the next few months. I have already asked you all if you would like to take part in ‘Other Peoples Libraries’ (and thank you for all the responses, wow, keep them coming) however it is today’s post that started it all and highlights the other series I want to start which is ‘Bookshops You Love’ along the line of ‘Bookshops I Love’ but by you. This is all thanks to Jennifer, a reader of this blog and listener to The Readers Podcast (she was a guest on the Bleakly Hall Summer Book Group Show panel), who saw me mention Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights bookshop before she came to the UK from Boston and so took some pictures as she went around and did a little report email for me which she has allowed me to share as I thought it would make a great start to a new series. So without further ado I will hand you over to Jennifer…

Hi Simon,

I just wanted to thank you again for telling your readers about Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights.  I read it just in time for my weekend in the Cotswolds and I made sure to find Mr’ B’s when we got to Bath.  It was everything the name implies so I took some photos (you aren’t the only one who likes to photograph bookstores…)

This is me outside – I didn’t realize that man was there….hopefully he is another book lover racing in to Mr. B’s….

One of my favorite things about independent bookstores is that they make recommendations.  At Mr B’s they give out Golden Monkeys.  This is a shot of the Golden Monkey Hall of Fame where they had their all time favorite recommendations.

They have some fabulous ideas for catering to book lovers – a “Reading Spa” where you pay a set price to talk to a bookseller for an hour and then they hand pick a stack of books for you.  And a small room where you can pay a few pounds to sit for 30 minutes with music playing on a headset and read in peace.  The booth is that door with the windows and these chairs are where you have your book chat.  Coffee and tea are available over on that shelf on the left.  Don’t you want to spend a few hours there?

For better or worse – this is what I was doing just before I went into the store…which meant that I as very liberal with my wallet and appreciative of the two loos available to customers.    I didn’t take a picture of my purchases but I did walk out with a stack of books in my Mr B’s canvas tote bag.

On a side note – you may recall that I was your bookclub guest for Bleakly Hall and I mentioned I was moving to Eton because my husband has a 2 year work assignment in England.  Well, these pictures are from a 3 week visit that I just made to see him but I’m back in the states going through the last steps of getting my work permit and plan to be back “permanently” in a few weeks.  So I love the bookstore posts because they give me destinations for when I’m exploring England over these next two years.   Any thoughts on a Readers Meet Up sometime??  We’ve had some great book nights out with local BOTNS listeners here in Boston and obviously at Booktopia.

THANK YOU (and Gavin) for all the time and effort you put in the podcast and the blog.   I know it’s a lot of work but there are many of us out here who really appreciate it.

Jennifer

Well actually THANK YOU Jennifer for doing that and thinking of me and allowing me to share it with everyone. What a gem of a bookstore, I will have to go and visit. Now, if you would like to do something similar either in a random book shop you find on a trip, one you get recommended to visit or, most importantly, a local independent then do let me know in the comments below or, again like yesterday, by emailing me via savidgereads@gmail.com Oh and as to a ‘Readers Retreat’, I am working on it!

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