Walter Henry’s in Bideford #BookshopDay

Last Saturday was the Books Are My Bag annual Bookshop Day, a day during which all are encouraged to visit or otherwise support an independent bookshop. It is obvious that times are currently tough for both small businesses and their customers. If independently run bookshops are to remain in our towns and cities they need readers to use them for purchases.

As I was lucky enough to be in beautiful Devon for a long weekend break I had researched nearby bookshops. My holiday itinerary meant I couldn’t visit on the Saturday. This didn’t concern me as Bookshop Day can be any day a reader is in the vicinity of a bookshop.

Walter Henry’s in Bideford is on the town High Street, a short way up the hill from the river near the old bridge. The town itself is worth a visit. We enjoyed our wander around its picturesque narrow streets and riverside park.

Inside the bookshop we found plenty of interest amidst the calm oasis a bookshop provides.

I carry with me a list of books I wish to purchase when the opportunity arises but sadly was unable to locate these on the shelves. The friendly bookseller was happy to help, offering to order the titles for pickup within a few days. As we were visiting this was not a viable option.

She explained to us that stock was currently low. The summer season had finished and tourist numbers were negligible. With Christmas approaching this situation will soon be rectified.

With no obvious banners or flyers, I asked if they were taking part in Bookshop Day. It was confirmed that they were and the shop would be decorated appropriately that afternoon. I hope this initiative drew more customers in.

Of course, we couldn’t leave without making a purchase. Husband had found a book that proved ideal for our holiday. Over subsequent days we walked three of the routes included, learning salient facts about each location along the way.

Walter Henry’s Bookshop was well worth a visit for the ambience and friendliness as well as its contents. If you are in or close to Bideford in Devon, do seek it out.

(Twitter: Walter Henry’s Books)


London Bookshops #BookshopDay #BAMB

Today is National Bookshop Day, organised in conjunction with Books Are My Bag, a collaboration between publishers, bookshops and authors to celebrate these friendly, knowledgeable  havens and help keep them on our high streets. Bookshops are businesses – we need to use them or lose them.

Last Thursday, due to an event cancellation that came two days after I had booked my transport to London to attend, I travelled up to the capital to spend the day visiting the bookshops I am familiar with thanks to on line bookish friends – what better way to make use of a bus ticket now surplus to requirements. The sun shone as I walked a ten mile circuit enjoying the architecture and revelling in the opportunity to discover for myself why these bookshops regularly appear on my social media feeds.

Arriving in Victoria Coach Station around lunchtime I met up with my daughter and we made our way past Hyde Park and north to Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street.


Described as a bookshop for travellers, stock is organised by location. My daughter, a fantasy fiction fan, was unable to find an Out Of This World section but they seem to have Planet Earth well covered. The bookshop itself is gorgeous. I was pleased to discover many books from the independent publishers I read.


We then headed south to Piccadilly where we visited the UK’s oldest bookshop, Hatchards.


This is another gorgeous shop with a warren of rooms to explore over several floors. It proudly proclaims itself bookseller to the Queen. I wonder what she enjoys reading.

Just down the road from Hatchards is the huge flagship store for Waterstones.

This is Europe’s largest bookshop offering over eight miles of shelves. We could have spent a lot longer here than we had time for.


From Piccadilly I was left to my own devices for a few hours so headed to Charing Cross Road, a mecca for booklovers, to vist Foyles, the only bookshop visited that I had been to before.

As well as browing the shelves I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the cafe, surrounded by friends.


Suitably refreshed I set out on another stretch of my planned route, heading west through Bloomsbury to Persephone Books.


This small but perfectly presented bookshop, in a lovely location, fronts a publishing business that:

“reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers. All of our 122 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial.”

The books are so aesthetically pleasing I wanted to buy a stack just to admire them on my shelves. I can feel a new collector’s seed germinating.

To finish the day I had arranged to meet back with my daughter at Goldsboro Books in Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road.

This was the only part of the day that did not meet expectations. The bookshop provides signed first editions, fine quality books that will be future investments. It is not really a bookshop to browse. Having spent more time than was probably necessary ascertaining that there were no further rooms where more ordinary books were displayed I left regretting that I had not done a little more research.

With shops closing their doors for the day I met my daughter at Piccadilly, pleased that I had her company as I waited for the late bus I was booked on. Although not arriving home until the wee small hours, it was a fine way to spend a day.


One bookshop I did not visit was the Big Green Bookshop as I will be there next week when I travel up to the capital again for an event I hope will not be cancelled – Not The Booker Live.




Looking forward to #BookshopDay


Saturday 8th October is 2016’s Bookshop Day in the British Isles. I plan on visiting my local Waterstones and hope to pick up the specially designed Books Are My Bag Winnie-the-Pooh tote, and to fill it with some new books of course.

In previous years I have travelled to Bath, the closest city to where I live. I wrote this piece for the blog on their official online tourist information site, Visit Bath back in 2015.

Bath is for Bibliophiles!

Book lovers love Bath, and with good reason. Want to buy books? Find them in the impressive range of bookshops. Want to meet the authors? Order a ticket for one of the many events which happen throughout the year.

The Bath Literature Festival runs for ten days in early spring and offers audiences a chance to listen to and interact with many of the big names in books, as well as lesser known and local talent.

The Bath Kids Literature Festival, also a ten day event, runs in early autumn and offers a wide and eclectic range of lively book themed events to keep all ages entertained.

These annual extravaganzas generate a buzz which is fun to be a part of, but literary events are happening in Bath all year round. Thanks to the efforts of two of the city’s fabulous independent bookshops there are a variety of both small gatherings and larger fixtures to appeal to all interests.


Topping and Company Booksellers (pictured above) offer the quintessential bookshop experience, with shelves and tables overflowing with tempting choices, and friendly, knowledgeable staff always available to help guide customers to their next great read.

Regular events offer access to a range of authors, with the cost of tickets refundable against the cost of the book being discussed. Some of these are intimate affairs are held within the shop, while others are staged in larger venues nearby.


Mr Bs Emporium of Reading Delights (pictured below) offers not just a range of carefully chosen books in their three floored warren of a shop, but also the option to buy someone you love the gift of a Reading Spa or a Year of Books. These include a consultation with a bibliotherapist to ensure that each recommendation will delight the recipient.

Mr B's

Where better to find a bath full of books than in a Bath bookshop? Meander through their various rooms and look out for the quirky displays: a customer toilet that has been decorated by the Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell; a stairway papered with Tintin comics; a ceiling decorated with book themed tote bags. The shop is a relaxing haven for booklovers. Take a comfy chair by the fire, pour yourself a complimentary cup of coffee, and check out that book you know you want to buy.

Mr B's

Mr B’s events are often intimate gatherings, enabling the audience to enter into discussions and interact with the author; some of them are even free to attend. They are held in various locations, including the shop’s own bibliotherapy room, with larger gatherings scheduled at alternative venues.

All of these events may be booked online. If you are planning a trip to the city then check out what is going on while you are here. You may just be tempted to make this the primary reason for your visit.

Jackie Law is a wife, mother, hen keeper and writer who lives in a small village east of Bath. She is an avid reader and publishes book reviews and other related posts on her blog. She is easily distracted, especially by Twitter, where you can follow her: @followthehens.    


When I wrote this piece I had yet to discover the delights of Waterstones which I now know is another beautifully laid out bookshop that hosts excellent author events. It has friendly, welcoming staff and a coffee shop with free wifi.


The central shopping area in Bath is compact for a city, giving visitors the chance to easily explore all three of these booklover’s oases.

Which bookshops will you be visiting this weekend?

Books Beyond Words


Today I received a very special book in the post, Ginger is a Hero, by Beth Webb. I plan to review it in the next couple of days but first wished to talk about its provenance.

It tells a story but there are no words, only pictures. People who cannot read, or who don’t like written words, are often very good at reading pictures. This book is published by a small, not for profit organisation called Beyond Words who publish books and provide services for adults with learning disabilities.

Each of their books tells a story, but they also let the reader tell their own story – the one they see in the pictures. This can tell a lot about a person’s inner world and their understanding of situations. There is plenty to talk about and each story explores feelings and reactions as well as giving information.

For someone who struggles with words there are barriers to getting the right health or social care and support. Even when a person with a problem reaches someone who can help, like a doctor, a social worker or a therapist, there can be communication problems and anxieties on both sides. By telling the story in pictures, each Beyond Words title gives people the chance to work together to explore different types of situations.

Ginger is a Hero is the first in a new Beyond Words series called Page Turners. These stories are designed to be read for fun, alone or with others. Ginger is a cat who befriends a young neighbour, much to the annoyance of the elderly lady Ginger lives with. Who wouldn’t want to read a story about a typically obdurate but adorable cat?

Everyone should have a right to read and enjoy books. With this new Beyond Words series readers who struggle with words are offered the opportunity to enjoy stories, as those of us avid readers of words can do.

As we celebrate the joy provided by books through initiatives such as Books Are My Bag, Super Thursday and National Poetry Day, may we remember that our education and abilities are privileges.


Waterstone’s in Chippenham, Wiltshire


Write about your favourite, local book shop they said. Tell us why you love it, let us celebrate these havens on the high street. Living where I do in rural Wiltshire there are not a lot of outlets to choose from.

There are two market towns within five miles of my home. The nearest has just the one, small, religious book shop. The only other book retailer closed down years ago meaning charity shops are now the stockists of general books to buy, second hand and reliant on the discarded tastes of donors.

The second nearby town also boasts a religious book shop. The high street has a branch of WH Smith’s but with limited floor space given over to books. A discount store exists but lacks that special ambience which will tempt the dedicated bibliophile to enter. Thankfully this town also has a small branch of Waterstone’s, formerly an Ottakar’s. Locally this would be my book shop of choice.

When my children were younger I would take them here after birthdays and Christmas. Eagerly clutching their book tokens they would peruse the shelves at the back of the shop, seeking out the adventure and fantasy tales that they favoured. The amount on the token would never be quite enough for all the titles they coveted. They would spot the exciting new releases from their favoured authors, hard backs with piggy bank emptying price tags. Sadly returning them to the shelves they would repeat my mantra, ‘wait until it comes out in paperback’, before selecting more affordable alternatives and hurrying home to read, often cover to cover in a sitting.

The staff have always been friendly, helpful and knowledgeable but it is the welcoming feel and smell of the book shop that draws me in. So many worlds encapsulated within covers to be discovered. Walking past the tempting tables piled high with enticing works I would struggle to leave empty handed. So many books, so little time.

In the nearest city fifteen miles away there are fabulous book shops, independents and chains, which hold many exciting events: visits from authors for talks and signings, bookish promotions of every kind.

Our little Waterstone’s simply sells books. I am grateful that it exists.