I hang out mainly with people who do a lot of activism and/or yoga, so consumerism gets a bad rap round our way. “Who needs possessions anyway?” my friends will say, knitting themselves jumpers out of yak milk. “Money’s not what’s important in life. The only things that truly bring happiness are love, and a purpose. The joy that’s brought through material things is false and hollow, fading away to leave nothing but the craving for more.”
But they are idiots! It is folly to dismiss money, or to claim it can’t buy you happiness. Money can buy you books, after all, which is the same thing. Come with me now on a tour of my top ten bookshops, past and present –
The Beverley Bookshop
My first bookshop love. I remember tripping down here with book vouchers from birthdays and Christmases clutched in my hot little hands. In reality an unremarkable small town bookshop, to me this was a magic cave of literary promise. Sadly, it is now a Millets.
The Beverley Old Bookshop
Super awesome secondhand book shop that kept me in dog eared Sweet Valley Highs throughout my early teens. This is a proper second hand bookshop, which books piled high everywhere you look, cascading out of things. Run by my Dad’s friend Colin, who employed me here throughout sixth form – BEST JOB EVER.
The Cut Price Bookshop, Beverley
My first ever taste of remaindered bookshops. WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S ONLY £2?!? I don’t care if I’ve already got it, I’ll take another copy.
Every Fringe, when I get overwhelmed with the noise and bustle and stress and heatbreak and flyering all the bloody time, I come to Blackwell’s Edinburgh. It repreents, more than any other bookshop I know, the deep calmness that can be offered by a roomful of paperbacks, all neatly stacked in order and waiting for you.
Similar to the Edinburgh branch, but my local. Features the biggest single room dedicated to bookselling in the WHOLE WORLD, the Norrington Room. Also, top staff. Also, host a load of interesting events – on Tuesday, a gin tasting (I got the last tickets though, SORRY!).
Shakespeare and Company, Paris
A bit of a classic on lists like this! There are beds among the stacks and it’s said if you promise to work in the shop for an hour a day and read a book a week, you can stay there for as long as you like.
*quits job, sells house*
The American Bookshop, Amsterdam
Books are so expensive in Amsterdam, but I forgive this place and love it all the same. It has a tree running up the middle of all three stories, and a kickass speculative fiction section. Adore.
The Last Bookshop, Oxford
My current favourite remaindered bookshop. Two books for a fiver! WOOF. And they’re really well curated, with a slant towards scifi, poetry and vaguely erotic historical fiction set in Victorian times, aka my favourite genres.
The Albion Beatnik, Oxford
A few years ago I had an interview at the Oxford University Press (it was my fourteenth. They never employed me. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME, WHAT MORE CAN I POSSIBLY GIVE YOU, IF YOU CUT ME DO I NOT BLEED INK?!? Anyway.). It was raining and I was miserable, because I ws pretty sure I’d cocked the interview up (I had). I dipped into this tiny little bookshop and it was warm, and there was jazz playing softly, and the proprieter frowned at me and said,
“Would you like a cup of tea? Maybe some cake?”
And then he wouldn’t even take any money for them because he was just “trialling the idea” of also being a cafe. Legend. Now, about 90% of poetry readings I do are held here (at night, he also sells wine).
Beerwolf Books, Falmouth
This is a book shop. That is also. A pub. Obviously, I need say no more.
*compulsory reminder that Amazon are dipshits and you should do your Christmas shopping locally if you can*
Enjoy your literary consumer spoils this Christmas, friends! What’s your favourite bookshop? Stick it in the comments.