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.