Tag Archives: Waterstones Deansgate

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?


Filed under Bookshops I Love

Tales from the Mall – Ewan Morrison

Do you ever feel like the fates are telling you to read a certain author? I ask because a few weeks ago I felt I was bombarded with subliminal, well not so subliminal that I didn’t notice them, messages that I should read Ewan Morrison. One was a conversation with a friend about a new-to-them author called Ewan Morrison who I really should read, a few days later an advance copy of ‘Close Your Eyes’ by Ewan Morrison (with the quote ‘If Ewan Morrison was a woman, Close Your Eyes would be destined for the shortlist’) popped through the door. Then at a meeting with Waterstones Deansgate I was asked if I would like to host an evening of the literary salon ‘Bad Language’ with guess who as the headline act… Ewan Morrison. (It is on tonight.) I took the hint and so soon enough ‘Tales from the Mall’, the book he will be discussing, arrived. Having read it I am thrilled everyone was ‘book pushing’ Ewan Morrison on me as it is something quite quirky, different and rather brilliant.

Cargo Publishing, paperback, 2012, non-fiction & fiction, 336 pages, kindly sent by Waterstones Deansgate

The title of ‘Tales from the Mall’ sort of sums up just what this book is about, well, I should highlight the sort of. This is not your conventional collection of short stories as with ‘Tales from the Mall’ Ewan Morrison gives his readers a mixture of short fictions, historical facts and the retelling of stories from real people, what these all have in common is they centre on the cultural phenomenon of malls (or shopping precincts as some people might call them) and the people who work in them and frequent them.

I really enjoyed how the book worked with this mixture of the real and the fictional. One minute you might be reading the fictional tale of women threatening to kill other women over a pair of shoes, separated families using the mall as a ‘middle ground’, etc, then you find yourself learning about the history of malls and how they came to be, then you will read Morrison’s retell, almost journalistic and fictional, a member of staff’s stories of cross dressers in the car parks or attempted suicides. There are also pictures thrown in along the way too and it all comes together to make the fictional seem real and the factual seem rather surreal. They say real life can be stranger than fiction don’t they? It all merges into a wonderful blend.

I had an inkling that I would like the short stories because of the subject matter; I didn’t expect them to be quite as affecting as they were. In each short story I found myself getting full immersed in each of the characters worlds. ‘Redacted’ is a short story, though I enjoyed every single one, is a short story that will really stay with me for a very long time because of the way it twisted and turned and I followed its narrator feeling everything he felt. I am being a bit cloak and dagger as I wouldn’t want to spoil it and with short stories you can invariably end up writing something as long as the story you want everyone to read.

On top of Morrison’s brilliantly written tales you also get these facts and ‘true life tales’. I was fascinated throughout. Who knew I would be interested in why malls ended up where they did, what ‘The Gruen Transfer’ was and why they are the shapes that they are… but I did. I also found the retold tales of staff throughout these malls (from both the UK and America) really fascinating. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t want to know all the bonkers and bizarre things that real people actually do and get up to. It’s like being in the CCTV room yourself, and if you are as nosey and fascinated by other humans behaviour as I am it proves an absolute treat. My only slight quibble is the lay out. I loved the idea of a map, like a mall, at the front (as shown above) and all the pictures but sometimes it seems quite crammed and I started to get an occasional sense of information overload. But then that’s like a mall isn’t it? And I don’t think this book is designed to be read in one greedy gulp, though I sort of wanted to because of its bite size nature. I know that’s nothing to do with Morrison’s writing but I had to mention it.

‘Tales from the Mall’ is a quirky and rather unusual read but all the better for it. The way that fiction, facts and real people’s real stories retold merge creates this wonderful mix of the real and surreal and captures humans and the way that they behave. I haven’t encountered a book that does this in quite this way before. It’s fascinating, funny (often darkly) and at times really affecting. I am really glad that people pushed me in the direction of Ewan Morrison, now I am hopefully going to be pushing him on you.

Have you read any of Ewan Morrison’s other books? I had ‘Menage’ once but discovered it was the third in a trilogy so didn’t read it, oops. As I mentioned I have ‘Close Your Eyes’ on the TBR and I will be reading that very soon. I also wondered if any of you have read other collections that merge fiction, facts and true tales. I would love to read more books that do this, so please let me know of any recommendations.


Filed under Books of 2012, Cargo Publishing, Ewan Morrison, Non Fiction, Review, Short Stories

What Were You Doing On World Book Night?

Sorry for a belated World Book Night post, I meant to post last night but I was rather shattered after the wonderful event that Waterstones Deansgate, in the heart of Manchester, put on last night. It was a night of book readings and book swapping… And quite a lot of booze!


This was all good with me as I needed some Dutch courage before I got up as the sixth person to read, naturally I was reading from Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ which I was giving some copies of away. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous. I’m glad I did it though.


I also ended up getting my hands on a book myself. I loved Roald Dahl as a child but interestingly I have never read his adult novels or short stories, and now I will.


So what did you get up to?


Filed under Random Savidgeness, World Book Night

Books By The Bedside #2

I meant to blog all weekend I really did, alas I just got to busy with other fun stuff. As I had intended to post something about what we are all reading at the moment I thought that I would back date a post, that’s allowed isn’t it? So here we have the return of ‘Books By The Bedside’, a peripheral view of what I am reading at the moment and planning on reading very soon, also a series I planned to make more regular, whoops!


At the moment my main read, and book of contention if I am being honest, is ‘Mary Barton’ by Elizabeth Gaskell. Yes, I am still reading it. It’s a bit like wading through treacle (we’ve all been there). Despite a murder happening, which I thought might spice it up a bit, Mary has almost instantly worked out who it is so now we know. If it wasn’t the first choice for ‘Manchester Book Club’ I would have given up by now. But, like the characters in the book actually, I have the grim determination to see it through to the end against all obstacles… Like boredom. Shall we move on?

I am combating the above book with a favourite thanks to pure timing. Monday is World Book Night and not only will I be giving away copies of ‘Rebecca’ I will also be reading it at an event at Waterstones Deansgate from 6.30pm. I’ve been dipping into Daphers for some favourite sections! I do bloody love this book.

The two books I am planning to read are ‘Home’ the latest Toni Morrison novel, which will also be my first foray into her work, for a review in We Love This Book, I am intrigued to see how great she is. I know lots of people who love her work. It’s fairly short but I am hoping packs a punch. I will then be reading ‘The Last Werewolf’ by Glen Duncan, described by one of my favourite book lovers Marieke Hardy as a ‘very silly book’ and a ‘cock forest’. It’s also the first of The Readers Summer Book Club choices so I best crack on.

It’s rather a small pile of books for me I admit, but at the moment I am splitting my weeks between Manchester and Liverpool (more on the lovely reason for this soon), so only so many books I can lug about.

Anyway… Which books are you reading and keen to read? Have you read any of the above, or other works by the authors? Do let me know as always.


Filed under Books By The Bedside

Simon’s Bookish Bits #31

Though it’s all still a bit shiny and new on Savidge Reads 3.0, I didn’t want to get rid of all the old features and so, as a special little treat today, I thought I would dust off my ‘bookish bits’ and bring them out for an airing. If you are new to the site this is a feature I would do occasionally, read as totally randomly, when I had a few bits and bobs that I wanted to talk about and yet didn’t really warrant/deserve their own post all to themselves. So what bookish bits and bobs do I have for you today?

Well first up is the joyous news that I have my World Book Night (which seemed ages away and now is suddenly upon us next Monday) books. The thrill of being able to pass on books is always one I love, but when you are giving lots and lots of your favourite EVER book away it takes it to a whole new level. Yes, that’s right; I am giving away Rebecca by good old Daphers.

That isn’t all I am doing. On World Book Night itself I will be part of a big event at Waterstones Deansgate in the heart of Manchester where I will be reading ‘Rebecca’ to any poor passing soul lucky person who pops in. I am alongside some great local authors such as Sam Mills, Rodge Glass, Chris Killen, Joe Stretch, Socrates Adams and many more. Do come along, details below, apologies it’s a little grainy but it’s a picture from the tinterweb.

Oh and speaking of World Book Night, if you are giving books away (wherever in the world you may be) and would like to record an mp3 about the title you have chosen and how you are giving it away we are doing a special episode of The Readers next week so email them to bookbasedbanter@gmail.com or you can now leave a voicemail by calling ‘bookbasedbanter’ on Skype. So techno!

In other news I am having a major book sulk. I feel a bit bad doing this (sorry Lucy) but I am reading ‘Mary Barton’ by Elizabeth Gaskell for The Manchester Book Club and I am really, really struggling. I am almost halfway (Lucy text me and said ‘it gets better after about 250 pages’, 250 pages!!!) So I was wondering if any of you had any tips on getting through it, and could at least agree with Lucy and say that yes, indeed it does get better. I like the story, though it’s like every other story of its time in the mid 1800’s to be honest, but all the politics and the trade unions rubbish is getting me down. There is about to be a murder though and you know how I like those, so maybe things will pick up and the book will get some pace. Is this just not her finest work? Or are all Gaskell’s books this bogged down in death and misery and too much intricate detail (something I never normally complain about)?

Finally, do you know of any good second hand book shops in Liverpool, the Wirral and around that sort of area? I am off there all weekend (rumours I am moving to Liverpool can neither be confirmed or denied) this weekend and would like to find some. I did discover the wonderful Reid of Liverpool as you can see here, but more would be a jolly lovely find, the centre of town would be lovely but so would the outskirts and further afield, so if you know of any let me know! Lovely!

Right that is all from me today, I will play comment catch up tomorrow I promise (rude of me to have not done sooner). What is going on in your bookish worlds? Don’t tell me what you are reading right now, I want to hear all about that on Saturday!


Filed under Book Thoughts, Simon's Bookish Bits

Sue Johnston on Sunday – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 11

I think one of my all time highlights of the year was getting to meet one of my icons and I still cannot quite believe I did. I remember seeing that Sue Johnston was coming to Waterstones Deansgate to discuss her memoir and my instant thoughts were ‘she has a memoir… and she is coming here woohoo’. This was then followed by ‘oh I wish I could meet her, and imagine if I could interview her!’ I dropped large hints with Waterstones about this but someone else was doing it… and then they pulled out, and in I came, hoorah.

That's my very nervous face...

Well after being so nervous I didn’t think I would be able to talk (she has been a constant institution in some of my very favourite shows like Brookside, back in the 80’s, and then in Waking the Dead, Jam and Jerusalem and The Royale Family) we started chatting away over a glass or three of wine before we went out to talk in front of her fans (and my Gran and aunty)  and she was wonderful. She was really friendly, very funny, warm, interested in everything and anything and she LOVES books so we chatted about those a lot happy to chat about anything just like I had hoped.

The event was great and I could have talked to her for hours and hours more. We had a very funny moment of both standing and sitting and sitting and standing alternately which made us look like a comedy double act and the whole thing was over far too soon. BUT we might be working on something bookish together next year if all goes well and I pitch it right, but my lips are sealed for now.

You will have seen ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’ was one of my most enjoyable reads of the year, and I am always rather sceptical about autobiographies, its very funny but also heartbreakingly sad and so of course I want to share it with you. So if you would like to be in with a chance of winning one of three copies, anywhere in the world then simply tell me, what your favourite autobiography you have read is ever and why. You have until 11am GMT on the 14th of December 2011. Good luck!


Filed under Book Thoughts, Give Away, Random Savidgeness

Joan Bakewell – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 8

I’ve started doing the looking back over the year thing, oh dear, be warned. Anyway… One of the best things of 2011 was starting Bookmarked (which is on a hiatus till next year), and also doing some of the solo ‘in conversation’ events with authors at Waterstones Deansgate. The last one I did (and I will be reporting on a few more) was with the wonderful Joan Bakewell. I was very, very nervous, she is a national treasure after all.

Dame Joan Bakewell is known for being incredibly clever, in fact one of the things that shocked me when we met, she was a little breathless after being stuck in a the madness of Manchester’s Christmas lights being turned on or some such, was that she greeted me with ‘Hello Simon, so lovely to meet you,  so you are a blogger and journalist…’ it seemed I wasn’t the only one that evening who had been doing their research. We sat and had a glass of wine and my nerves vanished as we just had a chat together before going out to see her audience (which included Granny Savidge Reads who befriended Joan over reading habits afterwards) and talk as Joan had said with a laugh ‘about anything you like, I am too old to care you know.’

Well we pretty much did. We discussed her latest novel ‘She’s Leaving Home’ (another review that was deleted in the great computer wiping virus) which I have to say I enjoyed very much. We talked about the main themes of it and how it deals with changes in women’s roles in society (almost touching on feminism) in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the music scene in Liverpool at that time which was thriving and the relationships between mothers and daughters. That was just what was covered in talking about the latest book. We then discussed ‘All The Nice Girls’ and writing a debut in her 70’s and what’s to come. There was politics, her thoughts on Katie Price (a mix of confusion and admiration at how she has used her body to make so much money and how she clearly has brains) and her role as ’voice of older people’ for the Government. I was fascinated I don’t know about anyone else.

Anyway, that all surmounted to the fact that today I am giving away two copies of her latest novel ‘She’s Leaving Home’. All you have to do is tell me your favourite book this year about mother and daughter relationships. You have until 11am December the 12th. Good luck.


Filed under Book Thoughts, Give Away, Random Savidgeness