Tag Archives: Scarthin Books

Independent Bookshop Week 2016 (And The Chance To Win A Book From One) #IBW2016

To turn away from all the dreadful news of late, lets head towards something that all of us book lovers, erm, love. Independent Bookshops. For today in the UK it is Independent Bookshop Week 2016, where e celebrate the wonderful independent bookshops up and down the country. So I thought that we could celebrate it here on the blog too. I have mentioned on many an occasion how much bookshops mean to me now and have meant to me over the years and how important I think they are in the world, so any chance to celebrate them is a good thing. I have found some of my favourite books in them, had wonderful conversations in them (with booksellers, friends, family and the occasional random stranger or two, sometimes with tea and cake) and have many many happy memories of my time in them. In fact my favourite picture of myself and Granny Savidge, who I miss going bookshopping with and chatting about books to dreadfully) was taken in my favourite independent, Scarthin Books.

Awww, the memories and the laughter… and the occasional string disagreement on an author or book. It was as much a treat going book shopping with my Gran in my early thirties as it was in my early years, just a slight shift of focus in the books I was looking at and hopefully the conversation. I have waxed lyrical about the bookshops I love and the books I have found in them in the YouTube (I know so modern) video below, if you are on YouTube do give this tag a whirl and let me know once you have or if you have already.

I won’t be heading to a bookshop today, as The Beard has gone away from a weekend working and so I am allowing myself a weekend in having a readathon by myself BUT you can be sure I will heading to some when I am in London later in the week. In fact myself and the lovely Jen Campbell are going to do lunch and Libreria (a bookshop I have been very intrigued by and not been to yet) which has lead my to an idea… If you answer the following questions by the end of Wednesday the 22nd of June I will choose one of you at random and buy you a book in Libreria based on your answers. I may even get you a tote bag if they do them. So the questions are…

a) What is your favourite bookshop. b) What is the last amazing book you were recommended or found browsing in a bookshop? c) What is your favourite book of all time?

Based on those I will try and find whoever wins a brilliant book and send it to you anywhere in the world? How does that sound? Right, I am off to stick my nose back in a brilliant book. Good luck.

Update – I belatedly picked a winner, well The Beard chose the number 20 at random so congrats to Marissa Gaudette who I will be getting a copy of Iain Pears’ Arcadia (based on her favourites) as soon as I get her address. 

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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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Savidge Reads Books, My Independent Bookshop

It has always been a dream of mine to have a bookshop that one day I could call my own. I think it is most bibliophiles dreams if we are honest, an excuse to fill up pretty much every space in a building we can with books before passing the right ones on to other lovely readers. Well now I do have my own bookshop of sorts Savidge Reads Books.

Savidge Reads Books

Apparently it lies in some unnamed city on a road called Fiction Street. No, I haven’t gone mad or all Second Life (is that what it’s called?) on you, fear not. I am just one of the many, many book lovers who has joined the initiative that Penguin Random House and Hive.co.uk have set up to encourage people to shop locally and support local books from local book lovers. I can hear you asking the question that I was asking when I heard about it ‘how on earth does it work and how on earth does another online retail site benefit local bookshops?’ Well check out this video here to see…

Basically, if you couldn’t watch the video, book lovers open a shop, choose some books to recommend, people buy them and Hive donate money from that purchase to a local bookshop of the sellers choice. Alas Scarthin Books (I was thinking of me and Gran’s joint favourite bookshop) aren’t listed but the wonderful Oxton Village Books down the road, now housed in the local museum and art gallery – cultural perfection, are and so I have nominated them.

My plan is that on the first of every month my bookshop window will change. I am going to recommend three different favourites (can you guess what they currently are?), three recent reads I have loved and reviewed in the last month and three books you might not have heard of or tried (despite my best efforts) and really, really should. I am hoping My Independent Bookshop will start allowing you to label shelves as that would show them off really nicely.

I am also thinking of a fourth shelf to use for some other books but am not sure what, contemporary favourites and then have a classic favs? A crime shelf? What do you think? I would (as always) love to know your thoughts, you may inspire me. So do go and have a gander, feel free to buy some of my wares and join (let me know if you have joined or do join please) and I will let you know in a month’s time when the new stock is in, as it were. This is going to be so much fun, and hopefully good for local bookshops!

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Dorothy Savidge; The Woman Books Built

On Wednesday this week we all said our final goodbyes to Granny Savidge Reads, aka Dorothy Savidge. I thought I would share the speech I gave as part of her eulogy with you all as it is fitting and also because it does show the importance of books in people’s lives. You can also hear Gran talking about books in an episode of The Readers that I recorded with three generations of the reading Savidge’s here. Thank you all so, so, so, so much for your comments, emails and tweets about Gran, the support has meant so much to me and my family. Savidge Reads will be back properly on August the 1st, I will leave this as a fitting interim post until then…

To say that my Gran, Dorothy, quite liked a book would be something of an understatement. She loved books. Gran once said that “one of the wonderful things about books is that despite reading being a solitary activity, in the main they can bring you together with other people”. Gran proved this often, with family, friends, neighbours, people in libraries younger than her whom she then founded book groups with, potential son in laws who liked Philip Kerr and random strangers on her travels. You name them, Gran could talk books with them.

The other thing she said recently was that “books can have the power to educate people and make you walk in their footsteps”. She would often read veraciously about places she was going to before she went and sometimes read a guide book so closely you would have to remind her she was actually in the place she was reading about. Yet Gran didn’t come from a bookish background, she was predominately a self taught reader.

Gran grew up in a house that only had three books, though a saving grace was that one of those was ‘Gone With The Wind’. Her father was away at war, her mum busy with all Gran’s siblings and so it was her eldest brother Derrick who would read Rupert Bear adventures to her and her younger brother Gordon from the Daily Express. However on his return from the war her father took Gran to the library often, it was there that she discovered the page turning addiction that is Enid Blyton and the adventures of the Famous Five.

From the library Gran progressed to Broadhurst’s book shop, which is still running, in Southport. Gran said “I couldn’t afford the books but I could sit in the corner and read, hopefully hidden”. She wasn’t as well hidden as she thought, thanks to a kindly bookshop owner though Gran was allowed to sit and read as she pleased from ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ onwards.

I don’t know much about Gran’s reading life when she was courting my Grandfather, Bongy, and had moved away from home to the suburbs of London. I do know that he influenced her reading, partly with his love of Anthony Trollope and how often he re-read ‘Barchester Towers’ which Gran soon caught. I also know that a discussion with Bongy made Gran read Hardy as, for some unfathomable reason, he mentioned there was a book in which a man sold his wife at a market like she was cattle’. Make of that what you will but it certainly made Gran read ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ even if out of incredulity.

Reading to her children Louise, Caroline, Alice and Matthew and helping them learn to read was something which gave Gran a great amount of joy. My mother, Louise, can remember hours with Peter and Jane and ‘This is Pat. Meet Pat the dog. Watch Pat run’ a little too well. It was the same with her grandchildren. I remember many an occasion cuddling up to Gran with a good story, even until quite recently. I still get that same feeling of excitement walking into a Waterstones as I did as a child. Trips to Scarthin Books with Gran have been a highlight of the last twenty years, or more, of my life.

Gran and I bonded over lots of things, books were a particularly constant source of conversation. She could be a book snob on occasion, only months ago asking if I had thought of reading ‘anything of any actual worth’ this year, scary. She often broke this snobbery though, sometimes by force like when she had to read all Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ trilogy as Bongy had done the awful thing of only allowing Gran to pack four books for a whole four weeks away… she unashamedly cried her way through the final book by the pool, secretly loving every moment of it.

Mainly her love of reading was infectious. I’ve Gran to thank for my love of Kate Atkinson, Andrea Levy, Margaret Atwood and many, many others. Sometimes her enthusiasm could also be overzealous. For example when I was about halfway through the aforementioned Margaret Atwood’s complex and lengthy tome, ‘The Blind Assassin’, Gran suddenly said ‘Oh that is the book where **** happens at the end isn’t it?’ Then the awkward silence followed before an ‘oops’.

No matter what was going on in our lives, good, bad or indifferent, we could talk books and did so several times a week. She was always up for recommending something or have something recommended to her. Though I have recently noticed that a copy of a Barbara Cartland novel I bought her as a slight joke over a decade ago is still looking rather pristine.
It was the challenge of wanting to try new books and her love of discussion and bookish debate that led Gran to book groups. Some might say that joining three was slightly excessive, not for Gran. It seems she was a popular member of the groups whether she co-founded them or simply joined them. “Her opinion on a book was always looked forward to, even if sometimes with baited breath” her fellow member Jim told me. She was often seen as something of a book encyclopaedia, often called upon to name an author or book title that had slipped someone else’s mind. Invariably Gran would know exactly what they meant.

In the last few months I know it was hard with Gran not being able to read so much. I tried reading her new favourite series to her, unlike her big brother Derrick I didn’t do the voices and so in the end we had to settle with the audio book or episodes of The Archers.

Books still brought her joy in other ways during this time. Be it talking with friends and family about books or recommending them. We had marvellous discussions with nurses at various hospitals about books including a lengthy one at the Whitworth where we discussed what happened to the books in our heads. Did we just see the words, hear voices or watch a film playing in front of our eyes? There were also all the friends who visited who she had made through books and via book groups and all the laughter and smiles that they brought with them.

Gran’s reading legacy will live on through her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren when they arrive one day. Also through all the friendships that she made through books and reading and the book groups she started and joined. She loved getting any book recommendation, so on behalf of Gran, when you can, go and pick up one of her favourite authors, Graham Greene.

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Bookshops I Love; Scarthin Books

Being a book lover I am naturally drawn to bookshops, but there are some book shops that I am drawn too more than others and some that almost won’t let me leave them. I originally intended to do a series of posts on book shops  I love that are local and ones that I go back to again and again all over the place, or ones that I fall in love with from the very first visit. I have had a good old rummage and now have added them all to the category ‘Bookshops That I Love’. I thought in part to mark the occasion and in part because I have just been to it, I would treat you to a tour of my very favourite book shop ever!

When I was a young whippersnapper, before those dreaded teenage years when I shunned it, I was an avid reader. I have been told wherever I was you could be sure that if a book wasn’t in my hand one would be by my side or very near by, I would take them everywhere, in fact I might have even read more than The Bookboy or The Girl Who Read Too Much (both have new posts coming soon) though I think they will both carry on reading unlike myself who stopped aged around 15. The one place I naturally loved going when I still lived in Derbyshire, and when I went back every summer break when Mum took me to University with her, was Scarthin Books in Cromford.

It is a place that if you don’t know exists you might not spot, yet if you know about it then it’s like an Aladdin’s cave of treasure for any book lover. In fact the sign on the door couldn’t put it any better…

What I love most about Scarthin books is the selection that it has. Not only do you have special shelves for book award nominees from around the world, a big new crime section and a new fiction so big it has to have sliding shelves to fit them all…

…There are also endless amounts of all sorts of second hand books too including some rare volumes.

I can still remember the excitement of the children’s section which was down a long corridor, which has now become a non fiction section – the children’s section is now a huge room upstairs, and even used all the space under the stairs. I can actually remmebr hurrying here to see if a new ‘Worst Witch’ adventure had come out every time I arrived, I didn’t understand books don’t actually take just 5 minutes to write.

And it’s not just under the stairs that you will find books, every staircase is used to its full potential too.

And they lead not only to rooms which have seating throughout for you to take stock of all you want to buy, or possibly to sit down because you might faint from the excitement of so many books…

The have also very recently added a café, even turning the entrance way and door itself into more book shelves.

Where you can have a nice pot of tea and some cake surrounded by cookery books in the grape filled conservatory (that is Gran below checking on something… or looking for more books) or you can go outside and take tea in the garden which I meant to investigate but a delicious lemon drizzle cake stole my attention.

Even your other half who may not love books as much as you might just find pleasure inside Scarthin involving coffee and cake.

And you can even take a mug home with you, and the catchphrase doesn’t lie…

So if you do ever go to Derbyshire then do visit because it’s an independent book shop quite unlike any other. You can also picture a young Savidge Reads running through it with glee, or even his mother who apparently helped out when she was 6 years old with Gran on some weekends. Or you could just picture me last weekend wandering around in complete awe and being rather frustrated I couldn’t buy a thing!

Have any of you been to Scarthin already? What’s your very favourite book shop? Do you have any childhood memories of particular book shops that you loved visiting, are they still going strong?

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