+44 7879 440170 helen@unlikelygenius.com

Is there anything more fabulous to do with your day than browse in a bookshop? I think not.

I could really just leave it there, you will possibly not persuade me otherwise, but I will explain why bookshops are indeed one of my favourite things.

As an avid reader, I can happily while away whole days accompanied by a good book, a beautifully drawn character and a new culture or a world that is poles apart from mine. I can browse book shelves for hours, even my own at home, when choosing my next book to read. Sometimes I may not even be reading the blurb of a book but just drooling over book cover designs and wistfully reflecting on books I have read and enjoyed. Or in bookshops, often stroking the covers and coveting books I already own but now have a new, prettier cover design.

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”
― Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy: A Delightful Account of a Lifelong Love Affair with Books

Salts Mill Bookshop

Visiting bookshops is an activity I like to do on my own, as I don’t like to be rushed (as I often feel when I have the man in tow, tutting and sighing). Though he reads a fair bit, he doesn’t see the fascination with bookstores and how I can spend so much time in there. Wherever we go, if I spy a bookshop, I have to go in. Preferably finding a place to park the man whilst I do so.

To me, bookshops are as important a tourist attraction as any other sight in a new city. And it doesn’t matter if the books are in another language, I can still wonder at their beauty and soak in the calming atmosphere of the store. And wherever and whenever I am in a store, I have to buy a book. Or 3. The book is then not only enjoyable for the experience of reading it, but also as a reminder of my travels. Better than any tacky souvenir you can find.

Bookstores are a safe haven, filled (well, usually sparsely populated) with like minded individuals, and a whole stratosphere of new worlds to explore at your fingertips. I really have to reign in my urge to point out books that I have loved to anyone nearby as I browse and ask for their recommendations. Maybe I should, they may appreciate it. Book lovers do usually like to discuss their fabulous finds. If they look at me like a crazy woman, that’s nothing new.

Though I do own a Kindle, I have very much returned to print books this last 2 years. There is something much more intimate and enjoyable about a physical book. And browsing Amazon for a book cannot compare even a fraction to a cosy bookshop with the smell, the touch and the beautiful, intriguing cover designs.​

Being a very visual person, I also find that having a book with a cover design sometimes helps me to remember the story more after the book is complete, and to remember that I have read it. I will purchase what I call my ‘trashy books’ electronically – for example crime books – that I will only read once and unless they are particularly astounding, I will not be bothered about keeping afterwards. But in terms of most other books, there is something lovely about that reminder of a good book read, sitting there on my shelves, in the room my chap has named my ‘nest’. I rarely re-read a book, as there is so much out there still to be discovered, but I will keep the books regardless.

Barter Books in Alnwick

The post would not be complete without the addition of some of my favourite bookshops.

  • Salts Mill Bookshop, Saltaire. One floor of design books, one floor of fiction, in a beautiful Grade II listed mill in a UNESCO heritage site. With a great cafe next door (I highly recommend their pizza and burgers) and surrounded by the artwork of David Hockey. And their kids books section is unbeatable for fabulously illustrated books. Can there be a better combination than this? And it’s only 30 minutes from my house. Heaven.
  • Jaffé & Neale, in the Cotswolds, UK. A double bonus with 2 branches, or treble if you consider that I found one of my favourite books ever here (Deep by James Nestor). Plus you can buy cake and drink coffee whilst you browse. Quadruple yum.
  • The Grove Bookshop, Ilkley. A small but lovely independent bookshop which just always has a warm and welcoming feel. The staff are friendly and helpful and can order in any book, usually within 24-48 hours. And they are part of the Ilkley Literature Festival every year. A great event.
  • Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini. A cave-like treasure trove, which I explored and pilfered like a pirate. Except I paid. This haphazard, eclectic cave was an absolute joy and housed many a rare book as well as your standard fare.
  • Barter Books, Alnwick. The old railway station, now converted into the largest second hand bookshop (I think?) in the UK. A fabulous place to while away a couple of hours, with model trains circling your head, a log fire and so many rare and limited editions of books. This is the one place my chap never moaned despite having spent nearly 2 hours there, and he actually came away with more books than me.

 

Other noteworthy bookish experiences:

  • Madrid for its culture of cafes with a bookshop attached, where again you can have a brew (or a beer) and browse books, and they are open late into the evening. Lovely stuff.
  • When working in an academy school I developed literacy initiatives, often involving getting writers into the school. These not only inspired the students, but often me. I was really captivated by their process, character development and passion for their work.
  • Literature festivals: I have attended Ilkley literature festival a couple of times, attending talks by gems such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Anthony Horowitz. Really inspiring talks all round, and something I need to source more of.

 

#Write 52: Week 6
​Theme: A few of my favourite things