In Praise Of Proper Book Shops

It is, as I’m sure you will all agree, a terrible thing for a book lover to live in a town where there is no Proper Book Shop. We do have The Works (which closed down some years back, then re-opened) but, without wishing to be rude, it is not what I would call a Proper Book Shop. Consequently, when I go anywhere that does possess one I’m like a child let loose in a sweet shop – and one of my favourite places is Ledbury, where my mother lives, which boasts two excellent independent stores, just a few yards away from each other, and they both seem to be thriving. I find it amazing that Tamworth, with a population of around 70,000, has no book shop, while Ledbury (population 9,636 in the 2011 Census) should have two.

Generally my book buying revolves around second-hand shops, but I like to support independent book stores when I can, and the years since my parents retired to Ledbury I’ve spent many happy hours browsing (and buying) in both shops, and when my daughters were young they would spend hours curled up on the floor in each shop, immersed in books they couldn’t put down.

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Ledbury Books and Maps: One of Ledbury’s two wonderful book shops.

First port of call as I turn into the High Street is always Ledbury Books and Maps which, as the name indicates, sells books and maps (all new). They stock a good selection of poetry, ‘literary’ fiction and classics, as well as a range of popular non-fiction, and they have a brilliant section for children. There is classical music playing gently in the background, and the staff are friendly, polite, very knowledgeable about books, and incredibly helpful – and books I’ve ordered from them have usually arrived at the shop the following day, or the day after that, which is pretty impressive. And, of course, they also sell maps, and a lot of books about this corner of Herefordshire, neighbouring Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, and the Welsh Marches, many of them written by local authors.

The Tree Counties Bookshop is good for books and art supplies.

A little further along the road is the Three Counties Book Shop, where the staff are equally pleasant and helpful. The stock is broadly similar, without the maps, but with a very nice area for children, and there is an excellent art department with paints, brushes, sketchbooks and so on (where my mother always used to get her supplies). At the rear (the shop goes back quite a way) are shelves stacked with ‘sale books’ on every subject imaginable – art, sewing, gardening, cookery, history. And if that makes it sound a bit like a discount store, be assured it isn’t, because most of these volumes are a step up from those on offer at ‘cheap’ book stores.

Does anyone else have a favourite book shop? And if so where? 

4 thoughts on “In Praise Of Proper Book Shops

  1. What lovely bookshops! I love The Works for craft and art supplies and the like, but like you I wouldn’t call them a proper bookshop. We are lucky enough to have a decent Waterstones. They aren’t all good, but this one is well stocked and carries some less obvious titles, and the staff are pretty good. If I’m travelling farther afield, Norwich’s Book Hive is marvellous!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My favourite home away from home is Fuller’s Book store, a family run independent store here in Hobart. I mention it quite a bit in my blog posts from time to time. In 2020 it will be 100 years old. They sell new books. Down the street is a wonderful second hand shop run by Richard and Mike called Cracked and Spineless. Both shops have web and fb pages. Cracked and Spineless fb page is pretty quirky and caters for the younger crowd in Hobart around the University.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really something for a book shop to have been in business that long. And I love the name of the other shop – Cracked and Spineless is just brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

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