Tag Archives: 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.

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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…

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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…

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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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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Bookshops I Love; Oxton Village Books

Whenever I choose a new abode I am known to base it on the amount of book shops and charity shops containing books in the vicinity. However there have been occasions where, without sounding ungrateful, I wouldn’t have normally chosen to live. My aunties was one such place, when 2010 ended in the most hideous of ways and I went to live with them, however fortunately no longer had I moved there than a charity shop of just books opened. Moving in with The Beard earlier in the year was another such time. The area is full of converted Georgian mansion houses, like the one we live in, and trees as far as the eye could see, and I couldn’t imagine a bookshop would be nearby. Well as it happens I was wrong, there was a gem waiting. This of course had nothing to do with me wanting to move in *cough*.

When I move somewhere new I do many ‘getting to know the area’ walks. This involves turning left or right in a randomly strategic (?) way and seeing what I discovered. Well after an art museum at the end of one road away, then a castle folly on another, I turned the road to Oxton Village and was walking to what could be seen when the words ‘BOOK SHOP’ appeared hanging above the post office. I blinked, looked again, blinked, looked harder and was thrilled to see I saw right. This was no mirage. It was closed though, or so I thought, as the post office team were on lunch and it shares the same spot.

I went home, memorising the route (which I now tread almost every other day) and within the hour I was walking back. Well I have to say that Oxton Village Shop is a real treat indeed. As you walk in they have shelves lining the entrance with discount books for 50p or £1, until you turn the corner and find the till (always manned by lovely staff that I am slowly but surely getting to know) and an array of new books and books of local interest greet you on your left, to your right there is a children’s section, travel section and other nonfiction. I admit by this time I was thinking ‘erm, where is the fiction’ until I saw a staircase leading to the basement. Well guess what awaited me…

The downstairs section of the shop is just full to the brim with second hand books, generally £2 each, and it is a really wonderful mix. You have classic novels and penguins…

There is a crime and thriller section, a historical section, memoirs and autobiographies and of course a large literary fiction section, contemporary and chick lit I then discovered were also upstairs, which I spent most of my time in.

I was completely smitten and got completely lost in this underground warren for quite some time and left with a wonderful Muriel Spark.

I have of course been back and bought a fair few books since, they somehow seem to have books I suddenly need for various things as well as gems I discover I never knew I wanted until I saw it (books about The Archers for example), and what has been really nice is the discovery that they accept donations, perfect, they have had quite a few from me I can tell you.

So I thought I would tell you about it. Oxton Village Books can be found on the internet here (where you can check your Bookoscopes lol) and if you happen to be in the area then it is found at 44 Christchurch Road, Oxton, Merseyside, CH43 5SF let me know if you pop and visit, I may be free for coffee ha! So where is your local bookshop, is it an indie or a chain?

P.S I do feel I should apologise for the lack of book reviews on Savidge Reads of late. This is all the Green Carnation Prize’s fault as we have had so many submissions, though I am not complaining, this year it has completely taken over my reading. Naturally I can’t talk about these books (and some are utterly brilliant so I am bursting to) until at least the longlist has been announced, maybe longer. There will be a report from Italy, more bookshops I love, general reading musings and other bookish bits in the interim though. I hope that is ok?

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A Good Bookshop Guide?

There are book reviews coming I promise, in fact there is a backlog of about ten which I really want to get on the blog, however you probably know me well enough by now that if there is a project in my head my full focus goes on that until I have cracked it. Yes, that’s right, I have another project that I want to start and this one involves a guide to bookshops.

You may have noticed in the last few weeks that I have been checking out bookshops in Liverpool and the area surrounding in Merseyside and the Wirral. When I find a new area I like to look at where I can get my hands on books, we all do don’t we? Since I visited one that had sadly closed down on Sunday and then saw three yesterday, including one where the Savidge family love of books might have started, I have been thinking wouldn’t it be a good idea if there was a really good guide to book shops. Not just the new ones but also the old ones too.

 

You see like most book lovers I do like to spend my time perusing lovely new bookshops as well as spending hours trying to find gems in all sorts of second hand shops (as the pictures above show, and thanks to The Beard for showing the excitement a random second hand bookshop finding can bring) as well as charity and clearance bookshops of course. So why is there not a guide for bookshops available in book form?

The answer is that there might be… somewhere. Though I would have thought in the years that I have been blogging that if such a book existed then someone might have just put me in the direction of it, or said book/guide could have crossed my path. Nothing has as yet, though now some of you might send me the link to one. I have found websites here and there, but all seem to simply give the details, and maybe a picture, but no sense of what the shop itself might be about, its atmosphere etc. So I thought, as I do the ‘Bookshops I Love’ posts maybe I should do one, or try to, and went off to a nearby bookshop in search of some material that could inspire me. I came back with these…

One book I have been familiar with for a few years, possibly since childhood though not for all the wrong reasons, is ‘The Good Pub Guide’. This is like a bible for pub lovers, like my family are (every time we were in a new area or town this book would come out at some point be it a day trip or a ten mile walk in the countryside), as it lists all the pubs in all the counties in the UK. It gives you some details about the country and then all the pubs; where they are, the food they do, the atmosphere, the prices etc. What could be a better format for a bookshop guide?

The reason that I also pulled Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’ off the shelves in the shop was that this is the book in which he wittily captures British life (I haven’t read it but this is what I have heard) and what my idea was, if I could pull it off, would be to describe the area the book shop is in and the other people who peruse it. This could be done by sitting in cafes for a while, or merely ear wigging my way around the shelves. What could be a better way for me to spend my time?

I would of course also mention the staff, for example the horrid woman in one of the Southport bookshop’s who yesterday only stopped scoffing her second cream cake in a row, in the slightly hidden office where she was lurking, to shout ‘IF YOU WANT TO TAKE PICTURES THEN ASK’ across the store. She then sneered a ‘hello’ at every customer who came in after so at least I knew it wasn’t me, but it did stop me from picking up any books for purchasing sadly, there were some gems but I didn’t buy to spite her – just being honest.

I am hoping that something which is a mix of the two might not only make a good proper guide, but also be something that’s quite fun and also embraces the love of bookshops of all kinds… So that is what I am planning to do, the research is obviously going to be very difficult for me, ha. So what do you think?

I will write more once the website is up and I have had a crack at writing a few!

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This Could Be Where It All Started…

Today I visited a bookshop in Southport that, if the Savidges could dish them out, should have a blue plaque above the door for services to readers and reading…

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The reason for this is that ‘Broadhursts of Southport’ was were Granny Savidge Reads would go in as a child “I couldn’t afford the books, but I would sit in the corner and read, hopefully hidden”. So the love of reading that’s been passed down to me, via Mum of course, could have started here.

Alas it was closed today, though fortunately two other bookshops in Southport weren’t, so I couldn’t have a good wander around. However I will have to go back, maybe with Gran, as I am thinking of writing a ‘Good Bookshop Guide’ of the UK, I don’t think such a thing exists shockingly!?!

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Much Wenlock (A Town of Books)

What could be more perfect on my birthday than visiting a wonderful olde-worlde village brimming with history, antique shops, delis, tea rooms and book shops? Well actually going with my book loving Gran, mother and little teenage sister as it happens. Fortunate really as that is what I ended up doing on my 30th Birthday back in March. Knowing that if you read this blog it would be something that you would enjoy I took pictures along the way so you could do the jaunt with me, be warned though there are pictures of very tempting book shops and their contents ahead…

I didn’t know very much (pun not intended) about Much Wenlock before we took the thirty minute drive from my mother’s tiny village on my birthday morning. My 13 year old sister soon told me that it was the town which started the Olympics, which I refused to believe until my mother told me to ‘listen to your little sister, you might learn something sunshine’ and I learnt it was true. I have since found out it is the birth place of Mary Beard (who I am officially obsessed with at the moment) so it has grown on me favourably even more. The first thing I did notice was how quintessentially English it looked. To me this is the perfect stereotypical English country town in all its glory…

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One of the reasons we had headed that way was that my mother and I had had the idea that maybe for my 30th we should get something from an antique shop that I could keep forever as a memento, and we found a brilliantly bonkers little store on one street which was literally crammed with delights…

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Sadly nothing was quite what I was after, so we came away fruitless, though I was tempted by an owl…

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So next came the bookshops, first of which was Wenlock Books a tardis of a store which has both new books and old.

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You walk into the stores ground floor and are hit with a level of book porn which is almost too tempting for its own good frankly…

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And thats before you go upstairs…

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Where there are nooks and crannies of bookish delights awaiting you in secret corners.

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I chose something suitably apt as my memento of my visit there.

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Next up was Much More Books which is a solely second hand store just down the road.

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You walk in and are hit with that always welcoming scent of old books needing a new home and the possibility of finding real gems on every shelf.

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I made my sister spend her pocket money on this…

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How could I not? It was on a very impressive Penguin shelf. The sea of orange is always so tempting.

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I grabbed a rare piece of Daphne Du Maurier’s non-fiction which I had never heard of and seemed like it simply had to be bought by me and no one else.

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I didn’t buy, and am slightly kicking myself for not doing so, a copy of a very rare Daphne Du Maurier short story/novella ‘Happy Christmas’. It wasn’t the fact it was a lot of money, it was more the fact that it was a Christmas book and I don’t read those at any other time of year.

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I am hoping that someone (Mum, Gran, The Beard… anyone?) might just get me a copy for Christmas this year. Hint, hint.

So I came away with two treats, Gran with three, but my sister and mother did the best coming away with a whopping six books each! Well done them! Eventually, though it took a while, we were rather booked out and so we left (via a tea room, Abbey and a deli) and headed home for champagne. What a wonderfully bookish birthday treat!

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Bookshops I Love; Reid of Liverpool

So while I was in Liverpool earlier in the week how could I not try and hunt down a good independent bookshop? I mean you have to when you go away to a new city/suburb/street don’t you, it’s only right and proper, in fact it would be rude not to.

With only a limited amount of time I couldn’t visit all the three that I wanted to, I did manage to find my first destination of choice and that was a second hand book shop on a wonderfully Dickensian, actually make that Victorian as I don’t really know my Dickens as we know, street… Reid of Liverpool.

It just tempts you from the outside doesn’t it, and its promise is fulfilled when you walk through the doors and are greeted by endless books.

What is quite quirky, though what could drive a quick browser to distraction, is that really there is no order to the books at all. Fiction and nonfiction are mixed together so if you are after a specific book you could get frustrated but I love walking along the shelves and seeing what gems I might locate and in what order. So I was in heaven.

Of course I couldn’t leave empty handed, again it would have been rude not to, and I did find not one gem but two, which are now back at Savidge Reads HQ waiting to be read at some point.

‘The Girl from the Fiction Department’ was a book I had never heard of before but grabbed me from the title which called out to me from its spine on the shelf. I thought it was fiction but discovered it is actually ‘a portrait of Sonia Orwell’ George Orwell’s second wife. I know nothing of her at all, I have discovered from the blurb that ‘portrayed by many of her husband’s biographers as a manipulative gold-digger who would stop at nothing to keep control of his legacy. But the truth about Sonia Orwell – the model for Julia in nineteen eighty-four – was altogether different. Beautiful, intelligent and fiercely idealistic, she lived at the heart of London’s literary and artistic scene before her marriage to Orwell changed her life forever. Burdened with the almost impossible task of protecting Orwell’s estate, Sonia’s loyalty to her late husband brought her nothing but poverty and despair.’ Now doesn’t that sound like a brilliant book? I don’t think it’s in print anymore. I also love how the cover is designed to look like its battered when actually pristine.

The ‘Selected Works of Djuna Barnes’ is a book I have been seeking out for ages; well actually that is not 100% accurate. I have been searching for ‘Nightwood’ since I read about it in Kate Summerscale’s ‘The Queen of Whale Cay’. Now my searching has paid off and I have an omnibus of three of her works, let’s hope I like her.

Anyway I thought that Reid of Liverpool was quite a find. If you are ever in the city do pop in. You can find more details about it here.

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