Saturday, 22 July 2017

A Few of our Favourite Bookshops...

They say there's no friend as loyal as a book, and I'm not going to argue. The best thing about friends, I think, is that they understand you as an individual -- and all of the Novel Points of View team have their favourites. Here they are.

‘The choice of my favourite bookshop has been made very easy because a) there is only one bookshop close to where I live and b) it’s an absolutely fabulous one! It’s the Argyll Book Centre in Lochgilphead, which is just off the (quiet) main street of this small Argyll town. What I like most about it is the broad selection of books, from local history to geology, from literary fiction to romance, and from serious biographies to children’s picture books. It has what a good independent bookshop should have – a feeling of welcome. It is also impossible to walk in there and walk back out without buying a book … or three. For anyone holidaying in this lovely part of the world I would thoroughly recommend it.’


Wadebridge Bookshop
My favourite bookshop would have to be Wadebridge Bookshop in Cornwall. It has been a bookshop for as long as I can remember, although it has changed owners over the years. Small and perfectly formed, you can purchase any book from them as they are happy to order it in if it is not on their shelves. They are such a dab hand at hunting down books that they even run an out of print service and pride themselves on being able to locate most out of print books. 

Wadebridge Bookshop also offers excellent discounts for teachers, students, reading groups and their regular customers. They have an extensive range of Cornish titles – including those from local artists, Cornish language poetry and study books, maps, walking guides and Cornish culture and history. I am happy to say that they are also very supportive of local writers. In a time when most shops look the same in every town, Wadebridge Bookshop remains a unique jewel, where they have more books at their fingertips than their mere bookshelves can hold.

Here's Linda with Matthew and her first Choc Lit publication
The Torbay Bookshop here in Paignton gets my vote for favourite bookshop. It’s been a winner in Best Independent Bookseller lists more than a few times. Over the years – about twenty or so – I’ve got to know the owners Matthew and Sarah Clarke very well. I knew them as a reading customer long before I ever became a writer. But when I did, they very generously offered me a launch evening and a Saturday book-signing as each book came out (I’ve had six, or it might be seven, such evening and daytime events there now) and even provided wine and chocolate for my guests. Did I say they are also a chocolate franchise? How good can you get – books and chocolate! And then there is the guest list of other people the Torbay Bookshop has held book-signings for – Kate Adie, Sir Patrick Moore, Lesley Pearse, Micahel Morpurgo, Marcia Willett, Colin Dexter, Kate Furnivall, Brian May, and Francesco da Mosto amongst many, many, others ..... and then there was me!

Rae -  
Choosing a favourite local bookshop would be much like choosing a favourite child – 
impossible - and so instead I’ve picked a bookshop, or perhaps I should say bookstore, that I’d dreamt of visiting for a long time. Last year, I was lucky enough to find myself browsing the 18 miles of shelving (heaven for any booklover!) of the independent bookstore, TheStrand, in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City.

Here’s Rae, browsing some of the trolleys of discounted books
parked beneath the famous strawberry red canopy.
Opened in 1927, The Strand was named after the London street where writers like Thackeray and Dickens once gathered and book publishers thrived. Selling new, used and rare books, with over 200 employees, The Strand is also a popular spot for shooting movies, having appeared in Six Degrees of Separation, Julie & Julia and Remember Me – starring Robert Pattinson, who played a Strand employee.

My first glimpse of the delights to come was when I spotted cute little kiosks, selling second-hand books, located on the edge of Central Park. But it was the main store I really wanted to see.

Spread over three floors, The Strand is a wonderful rabbit warren of a bookstore, with books literally filling shelves from ceiling to floor. It offers interesting quiet nooks, where, even in New York City, it’s possible to find a little hiding corner to enjoy discovering a new read. One of my favourite sections was the Banned Books table, a sobering reminder of the importance of freedom of speech.

And finally, a book recommendation from one of the books I purchased (I’ve no intention of confessing how many I actually bought!) - A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash.


Here in France, bookshops where I can browse and buy English language books are few and far between. Sad to say without Amazon I’d be in a book desert. So I’m going back in time again with my choice! My favourite bookshop was without question the much missed Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth.

Not sure how to describe the ambience this particular bookshop had and why it was so special to a lot of people. It wasn’t particularly big unlike the mammoth Waterstones etc that we’re used to these days but it was well laid out with a separate room for children’s books (which I was thrilled to be involved in organising and in charge of at one stage). Christopher, the owner, was not a fan of the ‘pile them high, sell them cheap’ school of thought so there would be a couple of copies of the latest ‘must have‘ novel out on the shelves and the rest would be in a nearby pile behind the scenes, ready to replace sold copies.  

Upstairs, open wooden steps which I’m sure Health and Safety would ban these days was a  - I was going to describe it as modest gift shop - but it was more than that. Tapestries, cards, local pottery etc etc it was a real treasure trove of different things from around the world - not just China! If I remember correctly the local history books were up there too at one stage.

The whole shop was very much part of the community at the time and was always busy. The outcry when it closed was huge. Petitions were signed but to no avail and it was Dartmouth’s loss when it closed. 

Happily there are now two bookshops in the town - the Community Bookshop which keeps the premise of the Harbour Bookshop alive with links to Christopher, and  the Dartmouth Bookseller a small independent bookshop in the centre of town. I shall be visiting both in August - can’t wait!


The wonderful window of Penrith's Hedgehog Bookshop
I've had many a long chat with the proprietress of the Hedgehog Bookshop in Penrith, and I've confided more than one secret - but I don't think I've ever told her that she's twice saved my bacon. My husband is a difficult man to buy for, and when asked what he wants for his birthday he always says: 'nothing'. Which is fine, except that I like to give him something, so I always give him books.

The past couple of years, we've been in Penrith, in Cumbria, for his birthday. On both occasions I've arrived presentless and been forced into an emergency dash to the good old Hedgehog. The first time I was completely hopeless. I rushed in, described to the owner (I don't know her name, but let's call her 'Jane') my husband's peculiar and catholic interests, and within minutes she'd rounded up a perfect selection. Last year I was a bit more organised and at least had an idea of what I wanted. I went in with a list of books, one of them published that very day -- and Jane had them all. 

The shop is a sequence of Aladdin's caves, each one filled with treasures. The collection of local interest is particularly fascinating, and I never leave the place without a new book on a subject I didn't know was so fascinating. (Ley lines. Stone circles. The drowned village of Mardale Green. The secret places of Cumbria. that sort of thing.)

Jane loves books so much that she won't let them out of the shop unless they're wrapped in brown paper, to protect them on the perilous journey to their forever home. I've adopted dozens of her pets - and I'll be acquiring many more.  


  1. Interesting that each bookshop was chosen for very different reasons. I love the sound of Torbay Bookshop, Linda - wine and chocolate, as well as books -heaven! : )

  2. I love book shops. There is such a wide variety on show that I often find myself tempted to buy books that I would not normally consider.

  3. There is a really, rally, sad post script to my post on this blog - the Torbay Bookshop is closing its doors at the end of August. Matthew and Sarah have tried their hardest to find buyers and sell it as a going concern, and despite excellent trading figures that has not borne fruit. They want to do other things while they still have age and energy on their side. They will be sorely missed and I feel privileged to have them in my life.

    1. Oh that's so sad, Linda. They sound like a couple who had lots of brilliant ideas of how to promote an independent bookshop - not an easy thing to achieve.