Tag 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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)…

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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…

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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.

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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?

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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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