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.
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.
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?